Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Galatians 1 (web)

Justification by Faith Defended

Paul Credentials

I. His Apostleship

1:1 Paul, an apostle
(not from men, neither through man,
but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),
1:2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the assemblies of Galatia:
1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
1:4 who gave himself for our sins,
that he might deliver us out of this present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father--
1:5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
1:6 I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him
who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel;
1:7 and there isn't another gospel.
Only there are some who trouble you, and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

1:8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed.

1:9 As we have said before, so I now say again:
if any man preaches to you any gospel
other than that which you received, let him be cursed.
1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?
For if I were still pleasing men, I wouldn't be a servant of Christ.
 

Paul's Gospel of Grace given by Divine Revelation

1:11 But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the gospel which was preached by me,
that it is not according to man.

1:12 For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it,
but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
1:13 For you have heard of my way of living in time past in the Jews' religion,
how that beyond measure I persecuted the assembly of God, and ravaged it.
1:14 I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
1:15 But when it was the good pleasure of God,
who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,
1:16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles,
I didn't immediately confer with flesh and blood,
1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me,
but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus.
1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter,
and stayed with him fifteen days.
1:19 But of the other apostles I saw no one,
except James, the Lord's brother.
1:20 Now about the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I'm not lying.
1:21 Then I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
1:22 I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ,
1:23 but they only heard:
"He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy."
1:24 And they glorified God in me.

Discussion Questions

Is Paul's gospel merely his own opinion, his own interpretation of what Jesus said, or did he receive his gospel directly from Jesus?
If Paul didn't receive his gospel by divine revelation, would that make him a liar?
How dangerous is it to preach a gospel contrary to Paul's gospel?
Do you know or have you heard of people today that preach a gospel contrary to Paul's gospel?
Have you run across "liberal theology" or "the Jesus seminar" people who propose that much of the gospel accounts were merely manufactured by man and they themselves manufacture they're own gospel? Were there such people in Paul's time as well?
What should you attitude be towards those who pervert the gospel of Christ?
What benefits would Christians get if they simply didn't care what others thought of them?
In vs 11-24 what facts does Paul offer to affirm that his gospel was not man-made?
Why does he try to make this point?

Commentary

Unique Credentials

Gal 1:1,2 Paul, an apostle— sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—  and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:

If people don't respect you, they're not going to listen to you. Thus in many of Paul's letters from the outset he establishes his credentials and often throughout his letters he'll remind his readers of his authority and his background with them. This is particularly the case in Galatians where he is in competition with false teachers over the hearts and minds of the Galatian Christians.

Why should we listen to Paul over that of the opinions of other preachers and theologians down through history? One relatively unique credential he had was being called as an apostle directly by Jesus Christ, his testimony of that event being affirmed in the book of Acts. And this in contrast to the lesser credentials of those who may be called by men - like missionaries sent out from a church. But in fact his opponents of the group of the circumcision didn't even have those credentials. For while they may have come from the church in Judea, apparently they had not been officially sent.

Notice also that despite his credentials, Paul also speaks of his letter coming from a fellowship of brethren - these also giving credence to his claims.



A Gospel Presentation

Gal 1:3-5 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Consider the content and emphasis of this brief presentation of the gospel message.

vs 1 spoke of the resurrection of Christ from the dead - which is always included in a gospel presentation. (1Cor 15:3,4) giving physical evidence affirming its truth. Here he speaks of Jesus Christ as Lord - who died for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. The gospel has to do with deliverance from sin. Through Christ's blood we are delivered from the guilt which sin incurs to our account. But also having been justified we will be delivered from the evil inherent in this present age. Perhaps Paul reminds them of this fact because the Christians were getting too caught up in the things of this age and had lost perspective on eternal things.

Col 3:1,2  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.


A Different Gospel

Gal 1:6,7  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ

This is primarily what Galatians is about - defending the true gospel from false imitations.There are many who through denominational allegiance and indoctrination have been trained to gullibly accept whatever they hear rather than subjecting the ideas to scrutiny, as John instructed, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 In fact one of the tests of right doctrine is to compare it against the standard set by the apostles, as John also said, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6 Thus we'll find in Galatians the apostle Paul contrasting his gospel with that of the false teachers.

I bet that many of the Galatians hadn't realized that they were turning away to a different gospel. That's the way it often is. Of those Christians who believe a false gospel even today, most think that they are believing the gospel testified to by the apostles. Most don't realize they've been led astray. Paul uses words here like "I am astonished" and "quickly deserting" to wake them up.



Let them be Anathema

Gal 1:8,9  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Obviously once again Paul is trying to wake Christians up to the seriousness of this matter. The gravity of his words and the fact he repeats this curse twice shows just how seriously he takes this matter. Getting the gospel right is an extremely serious matter upon which the eternal souls of men hang. And thoses who teach and preach will be judged more strictly as James says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."James 3:1 For false teachers not only condemn themselves, but drag others along to hell as well, much like Jesus said of the Pharisees, "woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Mt 23:13 And the false teachers Paul was referring to were much like the Pharisees in their doctrine. "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mt 16:6



Pleasing Men

Gal 1:10  Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Some preachers are just too concerned about their popularity to say what needs to be said. But if you examine the rhetoric of Jesus and Paul, among others, you find that they didn't seem to care about issues of popularity. They weren't trying to please people. They didn't seem to care whether what they said would "turn people off" because they knew that those who appreciate the truth would listen.

If your objective is to please people; if your objective is to make people like you; then you're not being a servant of Christ.



Man-made

Gal 1:11,12   I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Paul was not taught the gospel from the other apostles. He was not only called uniquely and personally by Jesus Chris, he was also taught directly by Jesus Christ. The other apostles had been witnesses to Jesus' ministry and Jesus' teachings while on earth. Thus the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain a great deal of historic content. While Paul preached the same gospel as they, his content was primary theological - propositional truth told him by the resurrected Christ.

The reason why he brings this up is to pit himself against the circumcision who might falsely claim that they had second-hand knowledge of their gospel through Peter and John from the church at Jerusalem, whereas they may claim that Paul had no such contact with them. This will be an on-going subject for many verses.



Paul's Past Life

Gal 1:13,14  For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

You would think to bring up his sinful past - particularly his persecution of the church would have been counter-productive in his defense against these false teachers. But in fact by this he shows that he knows where they are coming from, having had the same zeal as they for things like circumcision and the legalistic keeping of the law.

So before criticizing your opposition, show that you know where they are coming from, that  have some experience dealing with them, or at least have studied their point of view.



Revealing his Son in me

Gal 1:15-17 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Paul was not an after-thought in God's plan. From birth God had set Paul apart, preparing him for his ministry even prior to his conversion. And after he was called in Acts 9, Jesus began to dwell in him, of which he'll also mention in Gal 2:20 saying "Christ lives in me." His revelation of the gospel - his gospel message - came from Christ who dwelt in him. He didn't have to go somewhere else to learn of Christ. He didn't have to go to Jerusalem to have the other apostles tell him about Christ. For wherever he went, Christ was with him. In fact he started to preach his gospel in Damascus - prior to even meeting to other apostles.

He says this not only to contrast his credentials with that of the false teachers who had no personal relationship with Christ, but also this was an important contrast his his gospel with that of the circumcision - namely that the gospel is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as Jesus also mentioned in his prayer in John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." And in his invitation in Rev 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."



Paul's Brief Visit

Gal 1:18-20  Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles— only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

This event probably corresponded to what was recorded in Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabus went to deliver a gift to the saints in Jerusalem.

Essentially he's saying that after 3 years preaching the gospel given to him prophetically, then he had a short visit to Jerusalem - of the apostles only seeing Peter. James, though a major player had not been one of the Twelve, but was worthy of note, being the half-brother of Christ, growing up with him, and being one of the church leaders in Jerusalem. This is to say that they had no impact on his gospel - as he will go into further detail later about this trip.



An Unprecedented Conversion

Gal 1:21-24  Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me.

Once again Paul establishes the fact that he didn't get his gospel second-hand through the churches of Judea. Furthermore the fact that he was preaching the faith that he once denied indicates that he seriously must have scrutinized the faith, being well aware of all the possible objections. People that come to faith under those circumstances often end up having well thought out convictions concerning those ideas of which they had formerly been hostile.

Though it's a shame that the churches of Judea hadn't taken to Paul. After all one of the reasons why they didn't know him personally was because, despite the fact they praised God for his conversion, they were reluctant to know him. And they were suspicious of his doctrine due to their prejudice against Gentiles - (yes, against Gentile Christians). They could have learned a lot from Paul. The Christian life can be like that. One can miss out on a blessing because of some unjustified prejudice one may hold against some other Christian.



Denominational Gullibility

One thing that resulted in the Galatians going astray was their gullibility. They listened to the wrong people without scrutinizing their dogma, whereas in Acts 17:11 the Bereans were commended for even scrutinizing Paul's doctrine. But even to this day many Christians gullibly accept whatever they hear without scrutinizing what is said in light of the Bible. They figure if such and such post-Biblical theologian or preacher said it, it must be true. Allegiances are made to one theologian over another, one denomination over another, institutional Christianity disallowing any scrutinizing of doctrine by individual Christians who are taught rather to play the role of stupid gullible sheep. And thus is the origin of many denomination divisions.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Jul 29,2015