Apostolic Address and Greeting
"Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through
Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),"
False teachers were at
work in the Lord's church. Certain Jewish Christians were
sneaking around behind Paul and subverting his teachings by
attacking his validity as an Apostle based on the fact that he was
not an eyewitness of Jesus during his earthly ministry. Jesus
did appear to Paul on his trip to Damascus on the day of his
conversion, nevertheless, Paul's opponents were neglecting that fact
and using whatever means they could to discredit him in the eyes of
the members of the congregations he was working with.
With this said, Paul
begins his letter by immediately declaring who he is and stating his
position as an apostle if Christ. He then goes on to say that
his appointment was not from men, nor through men in any way.
His position as an apostle came directly through Jesus Christ and
God the Father. Paul's authority to write this epistle came
from the highest source and he wanted his readership to understand
that immediately. And as an apostle acting under the authority
of Jesus Christ and God the Father, what he was about to communicate
to them was the word of God and coming directly from the top.
He was not acting under the authority of men, nor did his gospel
come from men, including the original twelve apostles. Paul's
teaching was coming directly from the head of all authority and he
wanted to make sure his readership understood that first.
"and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of
Paul's reference to the brethren who were with me was probably meant
to convey the assurance that Paul was not just a lone voice out
there crying in the wilderness with no approval. While himself
an apostle and speaking under the direct authority of Jesus Christ,
it still serves to reinforce one's position when it is known by the
readership that there are other Christians who put their stamp of
approval on it. Paul's reference to the brethren who were with
him infers their support of his epistle.
"unto the churches of
The recipients of this
letter were all the Christians in all the congregations that were in
the Roman province of Galatia. At the time of this writing
this included all of the original Galatia and including parts of
Paphlagonia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, and Isauria.
Some of the Galatian congregations are mentioned in scripture being
Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. It is not known with any
certainty exactly how many congregations there were not the
identities of them all, but Luke made mention of the extent of
Paul's missionary work in Galatia in Acts 18:23, "And after he
[Paul] had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the
country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the
disciples." Paul's evangelical work in Galatia was if a
In view of the scale of
Paul's work in Galatia, it can be inferred that the addressing of
this epistle to all of the congregations in Galatia is an indicator
of just how broad the scope of the Judaizing influence really was.
The crisis threatening the church was not in any way confined to a
small number of Christians. This problem was far reaching and
was affecting a considerable number of Christians. Left
unchecked, this Judaizing movement threatened the very existence of
the Lord's church on a world wide scale.
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus
It was customary for
Paul to pray for God's favor to be extended to his readership.
This was expression of kindness on the part of Paul and served to
comfort his readership with the reassurance of God's grace.
Grace is sometimes defined as God's beneficial disposition towards
man. Grace is a comprehensive Biblical term which represents
all that God did in reaching down to fallen man with an alternative
to the condemnation man faced because of his sin. Man did
nothing to deserve God's grace, can never earn it and can never
repay the cost God incurred as a result of His grace. The
personal cost to God was quite simply more than man can hope to
repay. God's grace is given freely and flows from His vast
capacity for love and mercy.
God's grace is also one
of the most misunderstood results of God's loving and merciful
nature. It is supposed by many in the religious world claiming
Christ as savior that the fact that God's grace can not be earned,
payed for, nor deserved releases man from the obligation to obey
God's will. If God's grace were not conditional upon obedience
to His will, then every person who ever lived on the face of the
earth would be saved whether a believer or not and Paul completely
wasted his time in even writing this epistle. If there were no
conditions attached to the reception of God's grace, then the
churches in Galatia were in no danger from the Judaizers and the
Judaizers were in no danger either which is abundantly denied by the
inspired words of the beloved apostle Paul in this very epistle.
Paul flatly stated in Galatians 5:4 that those who sought
justification through the law, meaning the law of Moses, fall from
grace. The Hebrew writer instructed his readership to be
diligent lest they "fail of the grace of God". If God's
grace were not conditional, it would not be possible to fall from or
fail of it and any warning against such a thing would be nonsense.
"peace from God the
Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ"
The Greek word rendered
ďpeaceĒ (eirŽnŽ) is the equivalent of the Heb. shalom, a greeting
exchanged by Jewish people from of old. Shalom stands for
well-being, wholeness and prosperity in every realm of life.
Paul extends his hope of peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Peace with God is recognized as being synonymous with fellowship
with Him. Those who are in Christ and walking in the light
(living faithfully) are not in rebellion to God and therefore at
peace with Him. It is Paul's earnest wish for God's peace to
be with the churches of Galatia.
"who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of
this present evil world, according to the will of our God and
Jesus being quoted here
in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd layeth
down his life for the sheep". The fact that Jesus gave his
life as a willing sacrifice in order to pay the penalty of death for
our sin is the single most important event in the entire plan of
redemption. Without that sacrifice, no man has any hope
whatsoever for reconciliation to God. It is our sin which
separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). God is absolutely just
(Isaiah 45:21), and his righteous nature demands a just penalty for
our transgressions against Him. The wages of sin is death
(Romans 6:23), there is no other penalty, there is no less penalty
than death. Since our sin renders our lives forfeit, our lives
are worthless as a sacrifice, even if we were to repent and live our
lives perfectly. Jesus, who was innocent, willingly sacrificed
His life to pay the penalty we owe for our own transgressions.
He offered His life for ours, thereby paying our sin debt.
Jesus taught this during
His earthly ministry, (Matthew 20:28; 26:28, Mark 10:45, Luke 22:19,
John 10:11; 10:17-18).
And this fact was
testified of by the inspired writers (Romans 4:25, Galatians 2:20,
Ephesians 5:2, 1 Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter
2:24; 3:18, 1 John 2:2; 3:16, Revelation 1:5).
Of significance here is
the fact that Paul made this sacrifice a personal thing in Galatians
2:20 when he penned the words "and gave himself up for me".
The sacrifice offered by Jesus was indeed for all of mankind, but it
was also for each individual as well. And when we consider the
enormity of Christ's sacrifice we must keep in mind that while the
scope of His sacrifice was as big an human kind, it was also as
specific to each and every one of us. Christ died to save
mankind and we must never lose sight of the magnitude of that
sacrifice. Christ also died to save each and every one of us
and we must never lose sight of the fact that He died for each one
of us specifically. His death for us was personal, His
sacrifice for us was personal, and our sin made it necessary for Him
to die if we are to have a hope of reconciliation to God the Father.
Christ died for Paul. He died for the serial killer and the
rapist. He died for the rich and poor alike. He died for
you and He died for me. It was our sin that put Him on the
cross. We are as responsible for the death of Christ as those
who screamed "crucify Him" the night of His murder. We
are as individually responsible for His death as the ones who spat
on Him and mocked Him. We are as guilty of His murder as those
who drove the spikes through Him into that cross.
And it is a gracious and
loving God who accepted the death of His Son at the hands of man for
the sins of man. Likewise it is a merciful, gracious and
loving God who accepted the death of His innocent Son at the hands
of each one of us in order to pay the penalty we owe. We
sinned and incurred the penalty of death. Jesus who knew no
sin died at our hands and God accepted that sacrifice as payment for
our transgression. When we as individual Christians come
to the realization that it for us personally that Christ died, we
are on the path to understanding the awfulness of sin and the
overwhelming love it took for Jesus to do what He did on that cross.
Paul understood it and
made that distinction when he made it personal. 2 Corinthians
9:15, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift."
"according to the will of our God and Father"
Paul makes sure his
readership understands that God the Father is the one who is the
supreme authority in the affairs of the Godhood. It is
recorded that Jesus Christ is in authority over all things to the
church (Ephesians 1:22), and over all the earthly powers (Colossians
1:16-17) as well. Jesus Christ's authority is supreme, both in
Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18) but God the Father is the head
over Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3). Therefore all things
are according to the will of God the Father through Jesus Christ who
Himself is God (Acts 20:27).
(be) the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
To God be the Glory from
everlasting to everlasting. And He is worthy of the glory.
We serve a God who is absolutely just, right and fair. He is
holy, incapable of sin, incapable of being tempted, incapable of
failure. He is omnipotent, and omniscient and last but
certainly not least, He is love indescribable.
God's absolutely just
nature demands punishment for sin and only one punishment. The
wages of sin is death. There is no partiality with God when it
comes to sin.
merciful nature compelled Him to take pity on fallen man. God
wanted to provide man with a way to be forgiven but God's absolutely
just nature would not allow Him to forgive man's sin without the
penalty. The penalty of death is owed for sin, therefore the
penalty of death had to be paid. So God, wanting to be
merciful and give man a chance to be forgiven, came up with a plan
where He would pay that penalty Himself. This was accomplished
by one of the members of the Godhead taking on the form of man and
coming to earth to live as a man. He gave up His heavenly
abode and willingly came down here to live with sinful man. In
the end, He was rejected and murdered and God the Father accepted
the murder of His Son at the hands of men as the penalty all mankind
owed for sin. That single sacrifice of God the Christ is the
single most important event in all of man's history. That
willing sacrifice came about as a result of God's enormous capacity
for love and mercy. Without that selfless sacrifice, all
mankind from Adam until the end would be doomed to everlasting
separation from God.
God did not have to do
this. He would have been well within His rights to have simply
let mankind perish. Mankind did nothing to deserve God's
gracious offer of redemption, cannot earn it and certainly cannot
pay for it in any way. God could have simply washed His hands
of the whole affair and left mankind to his well deserved fate.
But God did not do that, rather, God sacrificed of Himself so that
man could have a chance for redemption.
God deserves and is
worthy of our
respect, our honor and our reverence. He is deserving of glory for
what He accomplished for our behalf. Even though we live
forever in His presence and hail his glory throughout eternity we
will never have honored Him sufficiently for what He did for us.
And on the other side, those who fail of His grace, even though they
endure the fiery condemnation of Hell for all eternity, they will
never, with their suffering fully pay the just penalty for their
sin. God deserves our best, both in the life and the one to
come. He is worthy of our highest esteem and honor. Let
us glorify Him with our obedient service and praise. Paul rightly puts the
honor and glory where it is due.
Paul's Vigorous Rebuke
Because of Their Apostasy (Gal 1:6-10).
"I marvel that ye are
so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ
unto a different gospel"
Paul wastes no time in
getting to the point of his epistle. He is distressed and
astounded at the ease of the apostasy of the Galatian Christians.
It is obvious that Paul has been informed of it while away from the
area and chose to write them a letter about it. Judaizers
intent on binding the old law on Christian converts had been going
behind Paul's back and teaching the Gentiles that it was necessary
for them to be identified as a Jew first in order to be a Christian.
They felt that the way to Christ was only through the Jews and that
Gentiles had to undergo the steps of proselytization before becoming
a Christian. Circumcision was the outward provable mark of
Jewish identity so it was this which was used to refer to the
conversion process of Gentile to Jew. There were more
requirements than just circumcision, but this term was used to
represent all of what the Judaizers were requiring of the Gentile
When one considers the
political and social state of a Gentile convert to Christianity, it
is easy to surmise why they would be quick to accept such a thing.
People of Jewish descent had a nationality with which to associate
themselves. They had a support group so to speak.
Gentiles who became Christians were ostracized from society and
rejected by the Jewish Christians at large. It would be the
equivalent today of a black family in a predominantly white
congregation who did not have the support, encouragement and
fellowship of their white brethren and found themselves rejected by
their own nationality because of their faith. The Gentile
Christians were the victims of racial prejudice and were struggling
for their place in God's kingdom. They had no support or place
in a pagan, worldly society because of their faith and no support
from the Jews who were recognized as the bloodline from whom Jesus,
the Messiah came. Jesus Christ was a Jew. The Gospel was
carried to the Jews first, therefore the Jews felt like they had
exclusive rights to Jesus and that it was under their supervision
and control how a Gentile came to their Messiah.
him that called you"
Removed from God who
called them (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). The significance of
this statement cannot be over emphasized. Paul is soon going
to pronounce a curse on those who would pervert the gospel of Christ
but here is the consequence to the one who would fall for such false
teaching. This statement here is the equivalent of being
removed from God.
Through Christ, all
Christians are reconciled to God (Romans 5:10) and have fellowship
with Him (1 John 1:3). To be removed from "him that called
you" is to forfeit reconciliation and lose fellowship with God.
There can be no worse fate than this for the Christian.
There is a doctrine in
the denominational world that teaches that once one is saved, they
cannot so sin that it is possible to lose their salvation.
This doctrine is better known as 'Once Saved, Always Saved'.
Proponents of this doctrine need to answer the question on how one
could lose one's reconciliation and fellowship with God and yet
remain in a position where they can inherit eternal life with God
the Father in heaven. This is not the only statement in this
epistle that strikes at the heart of this doctrine, but it is
significant that it occurs in the first sentence following Paul's
This statement was
obviously meant to help set the tone in the minds of the readers as
to the seriousness of the situation that was before them.
Being removed from Him who called you is a 'snap to attention' type
statement aimed at focusing the attention of the readers upon the
personal consequences they faced.
"unto a different
The gospel being
preached by these apostates was not the gospel Paul preached to
them. It was a different gospel. We will see very soon
that God's curse is in store for those who would change the gospel
from what it originally was. The application for us today is
that any gospel which is more or less than the gospel of Christ is a
gospel other than the one delivered originally and that Christians
are responsible for making sure they are adherents of the right one.
"which is not another (gospel) only there are some that trouble
you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ."
Paul's wording here
means that this "different gospel" is not "another gospel".
There is no such thing as another valid gospel.
"only there are some
that trouble you"
These are the apostate
Judaizers who are going behind Paul and teaching Gentile Christians
that Paul is wrong, and that they are not Christians unless they
observe the parts of the law of Moses which identifies them as Jews
in order to be a real Christian. These apostates were calling
into question the Gentiles conversions to Christ, thus eroding the
faith they had through the teachings of Paul.
The Galatians were
troubled because of the false doctrine they were being led to
believe. False teachers bring great trouble to those who
accept their erroneous teachings. Their victims may not even
be aware of the danger they are in until it is too late.
"and would pervert
the gospel of Christ"
Any departure from the
gospel of Christ is a perversion of it. Whether adding the
commandments of men such as the Judaizers here were doing, or taking
away from it, making it incomplete. The application for us
today is that the gospel of Christ can be perverted. And when
we look out into the denominational world we have today which is
saturated with all kinds of different gospels, we can see that such
is indeed the case.
The warnings and curses
which Paul places on both those who would change the gospel and
those who accept and follow after these perversions should be
adequate. Sadly this is not the case. Division,
perversion and distortion of the gospel of Christ continues even in
the face of sound Biblical warnings against it.
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any
gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be
The churches in Galatia
had already been preached the gospel. The congregations,
however many there were, had already been established and were
serving the Lord. Paul is authenticating the original gospel
that had been preached by himself and others laboring with him.
And if anyone of them preaches one that is different, more than or
less than the original, then they are "anathema". The
KJV translates this as "cursed". The word "anathema"
is a transliteration of the original Greek word and it carries the
meaning of being condemned and rejected or thrust out by God.
The NIV translates this as "eternally condemned".
Paul emphasized his
point here by writing that even an angel preaching another gospel
would be accursed. Angels hold a special status in the minds
of God's children. They filled a role in the mediation of the
old law (Acts 7:53, Hebrews 2:1-2, Galatians 3:19) and are thus
recognized as holy messengers of God. Paul is making the point
that not even an angel has the authority to change anything in the
gospel from that which they first heard from him. The gospel
they received from him at the beginning was the authentic one.
And anyone changing that in any way, even if it were an angel from
heaven, will be anathema, cursed, thrust out, eternally condemned.
It is important to keep
in mind here that the apostates who were teaching this different
gospel considered themselves Christians. They were Jewish
converts to Christ who were trying to bind tenants of the Mosaic law
on their Gentile brethren. These apostates were believers in
Christ to a degree. They believed in Christ as the Messiah and
the Son of God. They had faith in who Christ was, but their
faith did not lead them to lay aside the traditions of the old law
and follow after the true gospel of Christ. Paul pronounced
the curse of God upon them for their error.
The doctrine of
salvation by faith alone cannot stand up to a critical textual
examination of the book of Galatians. If Salvation were
available by faith alone then these apostates would have been in no
danger, yet this is not the case. They were cursed by God and
it is recorded for us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the
writing of Paul. Salvation is either by faith alone or it is
not. There is no middle ground on this. If anything in
addition to faith is necessary in order escape eternal condemnation,
then salvation is not by faith alone. Preaching another gospel
causes one to be condemned, therefore it is necessary to teach the
one true, authentic and original gospel to be saved. It is
important that students of God's word think the outcomes of their
conclusions out to their logical results. If there are any
accountable acts in addition to belief which one may engage in which
are either necessary for salvation, or will result in condemnation,
then salvation cannot be by faith alone. The conclusion is
that faith must be perfected by obedience to the will of God in
order to be a saving faith. Faith alone cannot save.
doctrine which this verse defeats is the doctrine of OSAS (Once
Saved Always Saved). This doctrine states that once one
converts and becomes a Christian, they can never so sin as to lose
their salvation. If this doctrine were true, Judaizing
teachers who had come to Christ initially would not be rejected or
thrust out by God. Proponents of the OSAS doctrine almost
universally believe in salvation by faith alone. Their
argument would be that these Judaizers were never saved in the first
place. If this were true, then as believers in Christ they
were not saved by faith alone. They were believers in Christ
to a degree, but their faith was not perfected/completed by works of
obedience (James 2:22), and therefore dead (James 2:20; 26).
"As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth
unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be
It is exceedingly
important to take notice of Paul's usage of the words "As we have
said". This epistle is likely not the first time these
congregations have heard of this pronouncement of condemnation for
these apostate teachers and their unholy doctrine. Paul is
reiterating the former statement with the reminder that they had
been told this before and to emphasize the importance of it.
Paul is using very
strong language here in his condemnation of these apostates.
Similar strong language regarding another group of apostates in the
first century is used by Jude in his epistle and also Peter in
chapter 2 of his second epistle. Peter prophesied of an
apostasy to come while Jude was dealing with one head on.
Some of the strongest
words of condemnation in all the Bible are used by the inspired
writers when handling apostasy. God exhibits no tolerance
whatsoever for this kind of behavior in the inspired record.
We today can be assured God's attitude toward this has not changed.
There is no indication whatsoever that God's intolerance of this has
in any way altered. When we
look out into the so called religious world today, we see thousands
of groups of people claiming Christ as their savior and each
teaching a variant form of the gospel of Christ. There is no
reason to believe that God's displeasure over the activities of
false teachers in the first century has in any way diminished.
Rather, there is every reason to believe that it has not changed and
that many many people who call on the name of the Lord to a degree
will be disappointed at their judgment. The importance of this
cannot be overstated. It is vitally important that those who
wish to be children of God teach and obey only the gospel delivered
in the first century. The only way to accomplish this is to
reject all manmade creeds, catechisms and teachings of men (Mark
7:7), and turn
to the holy scriptures as the only source of authority for what we
do and teach, adding nothing to and taking nothing away, ordering
our lives according to what is written and striving to
be and live only as God would have us live.
"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I
striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not
be a servant of Christ."
The only source for any
gospel other than the one originally received has to come from men.
Paul is drawing a contrast here between the wishes of men and the
will of God. The two are not in harmony. One cannot
please men and please God at the same time. Paul is building a
case here to set this different gospel the Galatians were succumbing
to as something which came from man and not God.
Jesus had some teaching
regarding the serving of God or man in Matthew 6:24 where He said, "No
man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love
the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye
cannot serve God and mammon." Luke recorded a parallel
account of this in Luke 16:13. James, the brother of Jesus had
some straightforward teaching on the issue Paul is dealing with as
well: James 4:4, "...know ye not that the friendship of the world
is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the
world maketh himself an enemy of God".
Paul is not concerned
with pleasing men, or in modern terms, being politically correct.
Paul's main thrust here to draw a definitive contrast between the
"other gospel" being propagated by men and the one true gospel he
originally taught them and is standing firm on. Paul ends this
statement by saying to please men means he cannot be a servant of
Christ. There is no middle of the road here. Paul says
he cannot set on the fence on this issue and by implication neither
can anybody else either. Those who teach or follow the
commandments and doctrines of men are not the servants of Jesus
Jesus taught in Matthew
15:9, "in vain do they worship me, Teaching (as their) doctrines
the precepts of men". Paul wrote in Colossians 2:22, "(all
which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and
doctrines of men?" And to Titus in 1:14, Paul wrote, "not
giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away
from the truth".
"a servant of Christ."
The word in the original
language for "servant" is "doulos (doo'-los), which has a
literal meaning of a slave, or someone in a voluntary or involuntary
state of subjection or subserviency. A bond servant in the new
testament times could be someone who owed a debt they were unable to
pay and were therefore placed in the service to their creditor until
such time that the debt is satisfied. Paul referred to himself
on other occasions as a bond servant of Christ (Romans 1:1, Titus
1:1) as well as Epaphras (Colossians 4:12). James, Peter and
Jude all three referred to themselves as bondservant or slaves of
Christ in the opening line of epistles written by them (James 1:1, 2
Peter 1:1, Jude 1).
Jesus Christ took the
form of a bondservant or slave when He humbled Himself, left Heaven
and became like men, becoming obedient to the will of God, even to
the point of His death. Christ is pictured here as a
bondservant because He voluntarily placed Himself in service until a
debt was paid. The debt Jesus Christ paid was the penalty men
owed for his transgressions against God. Jesus paid a debt for
us that we are incapable of paying. He purchased us with His
blood (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12, 1 Peter 1:18). Paul,
Peter, James, Jude and Epaphras rightfully felt they owed Jesus
their lives for what He did for them. They understood that
they had sinned and deserved to die. They understood that
Jesus was innocent and they were guilty. They understood that Jesus
shed His blood and died in order to pay the penalty they owed for
their sin. They understood that they owed Jesus their lives
because of His free will sacrifice. They understood that they
were to offer their lives back to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans
They understood that
Jesus paid a debt they could not afford. They understood that
because of sin, their lives were forfeit and that nothing they had
to offer could pay the debt. They understood that they owed
Jesus their very lives because of what He did for them. They
understood that nothing they could offer would repay the debt they
owed Jesus. So they they freely offered the only thing they
had to give back to Him who gave everything for them. Jesus
took the form of bondservant for them, so in return, they took the
form of a bondservant to Christ.
A bondservant remained
in service until the debt was repaid. In our case, our very
lives were forfeit; we had nothing to offer that would satisfy the
debt either before or after conversion to Christianity. There
is nothing man can do to earn, deserve or merit God's offer of
salvation in any way. This circumstance does not change after
one becomes a Christian. Christians likewise can do nothing to
repay God what it cost Him to provide salvation. Mankind did
not deserve the hope we have in Christ, nor can it be earned.
Christians cannot reimburse either God the Father or God the Son for
the sacrifice that was given in their behalf. The only thing a
Christian has to return back to a loving God who gave so much, is
his life in service. Since it was God who gave us life, the
sacrifice of that life back to Him in service cannot repay the debt.
A Christian is only returning what was given to him in the first
place. A bondservant of Christ will serve Christ in obedience
to His will. Since salvation can never be deserved or
reimbursed, the term of service is for life.
The Divine Origin of Paulís Gospel
"For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which
was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but
(it came to me) through revelation of Jesus Christ."
Paul is telling his
readership here that the original gospel preached by him at the
first did not originate with men, neither was it taught to him by
men. The Judaizers working behind Paul were trying to
discredit him by telling the Gentiles that Paul had received his
teaching from the other Apostles and that they had given him his
commission to go forth and spread the gospel but that Paul was
leaving some important things out that they had to do. The
Judaizers were telling the Gentile Christians that Paul didn't know
what he was talking about as far as conversion to Christianity is
concerned and that they were not in the body of Christ after all.
Paul is telling them
that the gospel he preached was not taught to him by any man, but
that he received it from Jesus Christ by direct revelation.
The Judaizers were telling them Paul was taught by men, Paul is
denying that and claiming to have his information from the head of
the kingdom of God Himself, Jesus Christ.
There is a practical
application for us today in this text. The religious division
today is a result of the same thing Paul was battling with in the
first century with the Judaizers. The Judaizers were trying to
bind the teachings and doctrines of men on the Gentile Christians
thereby departing from the faith delivered by Jesus Christ.
Today we similarly have those who advocate the teachings and
doctrines of men in the church. The result in the first
century was that people were being led away from Christ. The
result of this today is no different. The Bible teaches only
one faith (Ephesians 4:4-5), yet we see many different ones.
Paul's remedy for this was that he appealed directly to the highest
authority for his source of doctrine. Today, we have the
inspired writings of men who got the gospel directly from the
source. We can go to the source through the writings of Paul
and others. We don't need the teachings of men where they
conflict with what the scriptures teach. We can go to the
scriptures to validate what men teach and we are obligated to do
that very thing.
Paul appealed directly
to the source for his authority. Today, we can appeal directly
to the source for our authority. The remedy for apostasy today
is exactly the same as it was in Galatia for the readers of Paul's
letter. Reject the teachings of men and go straight to the
teachings of Jesus Christ through the inspired scriptures.
Paulís Former Life in Judaism
"For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews'
religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God,
and made havoc of it:"
Paul's authenticity as
an Apostle was being challenged by the Judaizers working behind him.
Paul begins his defense by laying down some initial facts that will
be important in his overall defense. Paul is going to deliver
a conclusive treatise against the teachings of the Judaizers and in
order to do that, he must establish himself as an authentic Apostle
and independent of their influence in every way.
Paul begins his defense
by revealing some of his former life as a persecutor of the Faith he
was now trying to advance. The church was already in existence
when Paul converted to the Faith and he was initially opposed to it
and zealously tried to destroy it from existence. Paul wanted
his readership to know that he did not have his beginnings in the
faith of Christ from other men.
"and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age
among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the
traditions of my fathers."
Paul was an
over-achiever concerning the law of Moses. Scholarship places
Paul's birth in Tarsus somewhere near the year 5 AD. He became
a Pharisee in roughly 31 AD which would make him in his late
twenties. Paul is about to lay out a number of facts which
will serve to establish him as a genuine Apostle of Christ.
The overall goal of this epistle is to conclusively establish the
fact that the old law of Moses is set aside completely and that the
law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) is the true Faith. Paul needs to
establish himself, not only as a genuine Apostle of Christ, but also
as an authority on the law of Moses as well. Paul wants his
readership to know that he is an authority on both the law of Moses
and the Faith of Christ so that when he sets them in opposition to
one another, his readership is aware that he knows exactly what he's
talking about. Who better to write an epistle which
conclusively abolishes the old law than a former Pharisee of the
Paulís Conversion/Calling and
Its Immediate Results (1:15-17).
"But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me,
(even) from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,"
Paul is continuing to
build a defense of his authenticity as an apostle. He is now
pointing out to his readership that it was God who directly chose
him for this purpose and not men. Paul's appointment as an
apostle was in the mind of God before he was even born.
Similar language is used by Isaiah in 49:1, "Jehovah hath called
me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention
of my name".
Scripture teaches us
that the entire plan of redemption for mankind was in the plan of
God since before the world was even created and time began (Romans
16:25, Ephesians 1:4; 3:9; 3:11, Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:9,
Titus 1:2, Revelation 13:8). Paul's appointment as an apostle
of Christ was not a spontaneous spur of the moment decision by man
or God. Paul was preaching the gospel to them in a capacity
that had been predetermined before his birth by God Himself.
"and called me
through his grace"
Paul wrote much
regarding God's grace. Grace is defined as an undeserved
beneficial disposition, or unmerited favor, towards something or
someone. In this case, God called Paul through His favor of
Paul arising from a beneficial disposition towards him. Paul
had done nothing whatsoever at this point to earn God's grace.
Rather, he had been diligently and fervently pursuing the
persecution of Christians with the goal of destroying them from the
face of the earth.
God extended His grace
to Paul while Paul was on his way to persecute and possibly kill
Christians in Damascus. This is a very important point in
understanding God's grace. If salvation were available on the
merits of God's grace alone, then Paul would have been saved at the
moment Jesus appeared to Him on the road to Damascus. Paul had
to first make a proper response to God's grace before anything good
for Paul would manifest itself for him.
Advocates of salvation
by grace alone through faith alone will argue that Paul had to have
faith. The immediate point to make clear is that if faith is
required, salvation is not by grace alone. The very term
'grace alone through faith alone' is a contradiction in terms.
These two conditions cannot coexist. Grace is not alone if
faith, or anything else is required.
Moving on to the next
issue, is faith alone. If salvation were by faith alone, then
Paul would have been saved at the moment He accepted that it was
Jesus Christ who had appeared to Him. At that meeting, Jesus
identified Himself to Paul and blinded Him for emphasis.
Paul's whole world was turned upside in a moment of time. Paul
was so upset he spent the next three days without food in Damascus
(Acts 9:8-9). It cannot be reasonably denied that Paul had
faith in Jesus Christ during that period of time. Then Ananias
laid his hands on Paul (formerly Saul), and his sight was restored
(Acts 22:13). Paul had been blinded and then had his eyesight
restored to its former state miraculously. One cannot
reasonably deny that Paul had faith in Jesus Christ at this time
If Paul were saved by
faith alone, his sins should have been forgiven at that moment in
time, yet we see that Ananias gave Paul a very important
instruction. Acts 22:16, "And now why tarriest thou? arise,
and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name."
One must ask the question, if one is saved by faith alone, why did
Paul still have sins to be washed away? The answer is he
couldn't be be saved. Salvation is absolutely dependent upon
the forgiveness of one's sins. Where there is no forgiveness
there can be no salvation. Paul had faith, yet before he was
baptized, he still had sins to be washed away.
The means of this
forgiveness of sins was said to be obtained through baptism in the
text. Paul was instructed to be baptized and wash his sins
away. If salvation were obtainable through faith alone, then
baptism nor anything else would not have been required for Paul's
sins to be washed away. Advocates of faith alone
salvation sometimes draw a connection between the washing away of
Paul's sins and "calling on His name". They argue that
sins are washed away by calling on the name of Jesus. That
does not help their case at all, rather it contradicts it in that if
salvation were obtainable through faith alone, then calling on the
name of Jesus would be as unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins as
baptism would be. Salvation by faith alone is either true or
false. Salvation by faith plus anything at all cannot be by
Proponents of faith
alone salvation must argue that Paul could have walked out of that
meeting with Ananias in Damascus that day without baptism and be
able to expect a home in heaven with God. Many many years
later, Paul wrote this to the Christians in Philippi.
Philippians 3:11-14, "if by any means I may attain unto the
resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am
already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold
on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren,
I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing (I do),
forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to
the things which are before. I press on toward the goal unto the
prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
The truth is, there must
be a response to God's calling. Paul said he was called
through God's grace. Paul had to answer that calling. Paul had
to provide a proper response. God's grace was extended to Paul
while he was yet a sinner. God called Paul through grace when
He reached down from heaven to Paul with instructions. Paul
answered that calling and obeyed those instructions by faith.
It is by faith that anyone obeys God's call and it is by obedience
that their faith is made complete.
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is
barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he
offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the
scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and
it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the
friend of God. Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only
by faith. And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified
by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out
another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so
faith apart from works is dead."
"to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the
Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before
me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus."
Paul's adversaries had
gone behind him to the Galatian churches and discredited his
teaching by telling them he was not a real apostle and that what he
was teaching was a perversion of the gospel he had received from the
other apostles in Jerusalem. Here he is telling his readership
that God's Son, Jesus, was revealed directly to him so that he could
preach Him among them. Paul's mounting defense is to point out
to his readership that he got his gospel straight from the highest
source and he did not consult anyone else as to what he was
He did not consult the
other apostles beforehand, never even having gone to Jerusalem at
the beginning of his ministry. Paul did not receive his
commission from the other apostles but was acting under the direct
authority of God, thus affirming to his readership that what he had
taught them was authentic. Anything other than that, either
more or less, did not come from him and was the product of man's
interjections into God's will.
Upon receiving his
commission directly from Jesus Christ, instead of seeking out the
other apostles, Paul went directly east into the land of Arabia
where he began preaching the gospel to the gentiles immediately.
Paul later returned to Damascus where he converted to Christianity
and preached there for a period of time.
Paul's purpose for
revealing this information is to demonstrate that he had received
his commission directly from Jesus Christ and that he was acting
independently of the Jerusalem church. His adversaries had
made the claim that he was not a genuine apostle and that he was
acting under the direction of the Jerusalem church and preaching a
gospel that was not authentic. The Judaizers were going behind
Paul directly to the churches and interjecting their Judaizing
practices into their faith system by whatever means necessary in
order to achieve their ends. A big part of their strategy
hinged on their ability to discredit Paul. If they could
achieve that, the rest was a matter of simply teaching them their
Paulís First Visit to
"Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas,
and tarried with him fifteen days."
Up to this point, Paul
had been in Damascus preaching the gospel. Paul left Damascus
under less than favorable conditions. He was forced to flee
for his life. This corresponds with Luke's account in Acts
9:22-26, "But Saul [Paul], increased the more in
strength, and confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving
that this is the Christ. And when many days were fulfilled, the Jews
took counsel together to kill him: but their plot became known
to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night that they
might kill him: but his disciples took him by night, and let
him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when
he was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the
disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he
was a disciple".
It was three years after
Paul's conversion and he was growing very proficient at confronting
the unbelieving Jews and they were going to
kill him at their first opportunity. Paul's disciples snuck
him out of Damascus and it was at this time he decided to go to
Jerusalem for the first time. Paul was known by reputation in
Jerusalem as a persecutor of the church and a man to be feared.
When he tried to meet with the Christians there, they were afraid of
him so Barnabas took him to the apostles and vouched for him.
Peter had a rather large house in Jerusalem and it makes sense that
Paul would have stayed with him.
"But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's
The accusations of the
Judaizers against Paul was that he was not an apostle and that what
he was teaching was delivered to him by the twelve apostles that had
walked with Jesus during his ministry on earth. Paul is
building the case that he never had an opportunity to learn from
them. He was only in Jerusalem for a few days and that after
three years of preaching the gospel beforehand. And when he
did come to Jerusalem for the first time he only saw Peter and
James. This James is identified as the Lord's brother and he
was not one of the original twelve so the only original apostle Paul
saw in Jerusalem was Peter.
"Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before
God, I lie not."
The case against Paul by
the Judaizers was that he was a phony going around teaching an
inaccurate gospel received under the authority of the original
twelve. Paul's defense of himself is a direct contradiction to
what the Galatian Christians had been told by the Judaizers.
Paul is reinforcing his defense by affirming in writing that the
things he is writing are the truth before God. Such a
statement is not to be taken lightly. Paul invokes the name
and authority of God in the verification of his claims. A
modern day equivalent would be the addition of 'so help me God' to a
statement. Such is the force of the declaration Paul made
In Acts 9:28-29 we get
an inspired look at Paul's activities while in Jerusalem at this
time. Paul was not setting at the feet of Peter in his house
being instructed. Paul was busy evangelizing and getting
himself in trouble with the unbelieving Gentiles. Paul was
with the disciples there working, teaching and evangelizing from the
start. Paul did not come to Jerusalem to learn the gospel.
Paul already knew the gospel when he arrived there and busied
himself with the disciples there in the spreading of it. And
so zealous and effective was his presentation of it that in just
fifteen days, he was in danger of being killed and was escorted to
Caesarea where he then set out for Tarsus, the city of his birth.
the Jerusalem Visit (1:21-24)
"Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia."
In Acts 9:30 we learn
that after leaving Jerusalem under threat of death, Paul was
escorted by the disciples to Caesarea where he then headed for
Tarsus. That was a journey by ship.
Tarsus was the
birthplace of Paul, and was a city in Cilicia (Acts 22:3).
When Pompey subjected Tarsus to Rome it became capital of the Roman
province of Cilicia, the metropolis where the governor resided. In
66 BC, the inhabitants received Roman citizenship. For a time,
it was called Juliopolis in order to seek the favor of and to
flatter Julius Caesar. It was in Tarsus that Cleopatra
and Mark Antony met and was the scene of
the great feasts they gave during the construction of their fleet in
41 BC. Tarsus was a grand city with palaces,
marketplaces, roads and bridges, baths, fountains and waterworks, a
gymnasium on the banks of the Cydnus river, and a stadium. Tarsus
was later eclipsed by nearby Adana, but remained important as a port
and shipyard. Present day Tarsus is part of the Adana-Mersin
Metropolitan Area, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Turkey
with a population of 2.75 million. Tarsus District forms an
administrative district in Mersin Province and lies in the core of
the «ukurova region in the Mersin province of Turkey.
Upon leaving Jerusalem
after having spent time with only one of the original apostles, Paul
is making the point here that he did not seek out nor see any of the
other original twelve. He went from Jerusalem straight back to
working as an evangelist elsewhere.
"And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which
were in Christ:"
Not only did Paul not
spend time with any of the original twelve apostles, but he never
got around to visiting any of the faithful congregations in Judaea.
The reason for this being that not only did Paul not have the
opportunity to learn the gospel from Peter, he also did not have the
opportunity to learn it from any of the Judean congregations as
well. Paul is laying out a complete case for his independence
from the Jerusalem church. He did not receive the gospel he
was preaching from them in any way shape or form. He is
presenting the proof of this by telling them that what they had
heard from the Judaizers regarding his teaching could not have been
"but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth
the faith of which he once made havoc;"
Paul was known only by
his reputation to the churches in Judaea. He was the former
nemesis of the Lord's church who had converted and was now preaching
the faith. Paul's use of the words "the faith" are
significant in this context. He was battling the influence of
those who were teaching a perversion of the one true faith.
Paul here affirms in this sentence that there is only one faith and
that those in Judaea knew that he was preaching it and only it.
Paul's use of the words
"the faith" refer to the system of faith under which all Christians
are amenable to Jesus Christ. The faith of Christ is never
just a mental assent of the facts of who He is and what He did for
mankind. Rather "the faith" is a reference to a system under
which all who claim Christ as savior must live in accordance to
God's divine will. Those who fail to obey God's will are not
faithful, therefore do not exhibit "the faith" as it is
specified in scripture.
"and they glorified God in me."
The Judean Christians
praised and gave glory to God because of Paul's conversion to "the
faith". Paul's reputation as a persecutor of the church was
well known and he was feared greatly among the Christians.
What a testament to the power of the gospel it must have been to the
Christians of the day when they discovered that an arch enemy of the
church such as Paul converted and became one of them. It is no
wonder they glorified God, doubtless out of both profound amazement
and relief. In either event, God was glorified because of
Paul's conversion. God is glorified among men when He is
Greetings from Paul, an
apostle. I was chosen to be an apostle, but not by any group or
person here on earth. My commission came from Jesus Christ and God
the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Greetings also from
all those in God's family who are with me.
To the churches in
I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will be
gracious to you and give you peace. Jesus gave himself for our
sins to free us from this evil world we live in according to the
will of God and our Father. The glory belongs to God forever and
I am amazed that you are
already turning away from He who called you into the grace of Christ
and are following a different gospel than the one we preached among
you. This different gospel is not another valid one because
there is no other. But there are those who have come among you
and have brought you great trouble because they have corrupted the
We preached you the only
true gospel message. So if any of us, even if we were an angel from
heaven, teaches you a different message, let him be eternally
condemned. I said this before. Now I am proclaiming it
again; anyone who tells you another way to be saved will be
Now do you think I am trying to get people to accept me? No, God is
the one I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I
seek only to please the people with my teaching, I would not be a
bond servant of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, I want to
assure you that the Gospel message I taught you was not made up by
anyone. I did not get my teaching from any other person,
neither did I learn it from other people. Jesus Christ himself gave
His gospel to me. He is who revealed to me what I have been
teaching among you.
Now you have heard about my former life in the Jewish religion. I
persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy his people. I was
becoming a leader in the Jewish religion and advancing faster than
most other Jews my own age. I tried harder than anyone else to
follow the traditions we got from our ancestors.
But God had special plans for me even before I was born, so he
graciously chose me for His purpose. He wanted me to teach the
message of Jesus Christ to the non-Jewish people. After this
happened, I did not waste any time neither did I seek the advice of
anyone else about it. I did not go to Jerusalem to see those
who were apostles before me, instead I went away to Arabia and then
back to the city of Damascus.
It was three years later
when I first went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and I stayed with him
only fifteen days. While I was there, I saw none of the other
apostles, only James the brother of the Lord. You must believe
what I am saying for I am telling you this by the authority and
approval of God. This is exactly what happened, I am not trying to
Then after my visit to Jerusalem, I went to Syria and Cilicia.
And still the Christians in Judea didn't even know what I looked
like. All they knew was what people there were saying, that
"our former enemy is now preaching the same system of faith he tried
to destroy." And because of this, they gave glory to God.