Welcome to the book of Galatians. If you read the background information, then you have a firm grasp of the motive behind this letter. If you haven’t I encourage you to go back and read that first as it is very important. This first chapter is primarily Paul establishing his authority for the Galatians because of the damage done by the false teachers. Without further ado, lets dive right in!
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia. 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. 5 To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
You may notice Paul starts his normal greeting, but then adds a point to the end of it. Paul points out that he is an apostle, and then defends his claim by pointing out that it was not man that made him an apostle, but God. There may be some confusion here as the term apostle is used in 2 senses. For most people the word apostle is only associated with the 12 apostles of Jesus who founded the early church. To be sure the Bible does use it this way referring specifically to the 12 disciples who Jesus empowered as the Apostles, but it also uses the term apostle generically. Used generically an apostle was one who had been taught by Jesus and had seen Him resurrected from the dead. Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Paul was an apostle and it was because Jesus choose to appear personally to him. He goes into a little more detail when he says this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
Having made a point of his apostleship he then finishes the greeting, include all that are with him. He is writing to the churches in Galatia and prays for grace and peace from God for them. He reminds them that Jesus died to save them from their sin and that it was according to God’s will. As such God deserves the glory and honor forever.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! 9 As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him! 10 For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.
Having already defended his apostleship and reminded the Galatians of what Christ had done for them, Paul wastes no time or words but hits right at the problem. He is shocked by how easily the Galatians have moved have from what he had presented to them. Some believers from the church in Jerusalem were insisting on circumcision and were adding it as a requirement to salvation. Paul cannot stand this and tells them that there is no other gospel, and that if anyone teaches them something different than what they had already received that they should not listen to them, even if it were angels or Paul himself. If anyone teaches a different gospel then a curse should be on him. God will hold those who twist His words and messages in severe judgement. That is why Paul teaches the gospel, for God’s approval and not man’s. As he points out, if it were just about the approval of man he would not bother to suffer as he does.
11 Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not based on human thought. 12 For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard about my former way of life in Judaism: I persecuted God’s church to an extreme degree and tried to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, because I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Now I am not lying in what I write to you. God is my witness. 21 Afterward, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I remained personally unknown to the Judean churches in Christ; 23 they simply kept hearing: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
He continues his last thought by telling the Galatians that his gospel was not based on human thought. He did not receive it from men nor was he taught by men. He received his gospel from Jesus Himself. This is referring back to what he said in his greeting, the fact that Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. This is why he was an apostle. Then he gives his testimony, including his education and persecution of the church. He met Jesus and went into the desert. He only consulted people after 3 years and they did not say anything about it. At this point, few knew who Paul was, but had heard that the one who persecuted the church was now preaching for it. Because of this the people gave glory to God as He deserved.
So What Do I Do With This Now?
All the information is great, but what do I do with it now?
1 Remember that the Gospel is from God and we should not seek to add anything to it.
2 Continue to grow in the faith we have been given and do not be thrown off track by those who teach something different than what the Bible teaches.
3 Those who teach and preach must remember the added responsibility and accountability of this privilege, and seek to honor God’s words or they will come into judgment for misleading others.
I know this first chapter is hard to truly apply, but that is because of what Paul is doing. The false teachers questioned his authority and so Paul is presenting his case for apostleship before he rebukes them further. This argument continues into chapter 2 so keep that in mind as we continue. Letters must be read as a whole and the rest of this letter holds more direct application.
You made it! Another chapter done! Again, I know this was an odd chapter. It was more information about Paul than anything else, but as we progress you will see why it is important. Keep up the good work and check in on Sunday for chapter 2!