Galatians 1

Lesson Two

Galatians 1:1-5 (ESV)

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The book begins by identifying the writer, the apostle Paul, and the ones to whom the letter was written, that is a group of churches in a region known as Galatia (Galatians 1:1-2).   Galatia was a Roman governed region located on the northeast side of the Mediterranean Sea.  This area is located in present day Turkey. Paul pronounces a blessing upon these Christians which includes both grace and peace (Galatians 1:3) and  reminds them of the source of these blessings.  The source is “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3-5).  An interesting observation regarding the introduction is to notice how brief it is compared to most of Paul’s books such as Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.  By comparison, Paul begins abruptly and to the point, an approach he continues throughout the book.

Galatians 1:6-7 (ESV)

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Paul immediately goes to the heart of the problem.  To Paul’s amazement, shortly after hearing and accepting the gospel of Christ, the churches in Galatia were leaving that gospel and going on to something else.  The “something else” was a distortion of the gospel of Christ.  What was it?  As we study through the book, we will see that the distortion is centered around the concept that one can work his/her way into heaven rather than getting there by believing in Christ.  The term, “not that there is another one” (Galatians 1:7) is probably an interesting play on words.  The word “gospel” means “good news.”  Paul is saying that there isn’t any “good news” other than Christ’s gospel because anything else only leads to condemnation from God.  Therefore, what someone thinks is good news may, in reality, be very bad news instead!

Galatians 1:8-10 (ESV)

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul continues with a strong statement regarding inspiration when he states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).  Paul knew where the gospel that he had preached had come from.  He says that he “did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).  The fact that Paul repeats the same statement twice is an indication of how important the statement is.  This is a common technique used often in the Bible to place emphasis: repeat the same thing.  Since Paul knew that his message was a revelation from God, neither he, nor anyone else, had the right to change it.  As a matter of fact, he states that even he would be accursed if he changed the original message.  To understand why this is true, consider the following summary of Paul’s view of the Scriptures:

*  Paul believed that the Scriptures are inspired and furnish a person with everything she/he needs to live for God (see II Timothy 3:14-17, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 1 Corinthians 4:6).

*   Paul believed that the Scriptures can be understood by those who read them (Ephesians 3:1-6, 2 Corinthians 1:13 and 1 Corinthians 2:13).

*   Paul believed that a person of God would acknowledge that the Scriptures are from God (1 Corinthians 14:37 and Acts 17:2-3).

*   Paul believed that the Scriptures were inspired so completely that each word must be taken seriously (Galatians 3:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 4:1-2).

*   Paul believed that one should do his/her best to handle (use) the Scriptures in the right way, just the way they are written (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

Compare the attitudes of others to those of Paul:

*   Jesus: Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 4:4,6,7,10 (“It is written….”), Matthew 5:21,27,31,33,38,43 (“You have heard that it was said….”), Mark 12:24-27 (Jesus believed that even the verb tense was inspired!)

*  Peter: 1 Peter 3:15-18

*  John: 1 John 1:1-4 and Revelation 22:18-19

Galatians 1:11-17 (ESV)

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

Paul wanted his readers to know what he knew: “the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel” (Galatians 1:11).   He reasoned, “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).  The word revelation means “making known.”  Paul was saying that the way he received his gospel (the way it was made known to him) was by receiving it directly from Jesus Christ, as opposed to any human being teaching him.  Although Paul called himself, “the least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9), he understood that his message was valid because he had received it through revelation.  He commended the church in Thessalonica because they understood and accepted this (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

At this point, Paul shares a brief autobiography to help his readers understand why his assertion is true.  He began his life as a nonbeliever in Jesus Christ.  As a matter of fact, he persecuted the church and was rewarded with advancement in Judaism for doing so (Galatians 1:13-14).  However, in the midst of persecuting Christians, Paul, who had been set apart before he was born, was called by God’s grace and Jesus Christ was revealed to him (Galatians 1:15-16).  The student may read about Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-19, Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:12-23.  To confirm the fact that Paul did not receive his message from a human being, including any apostle, he asserts, “I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Galatians 1:16b-17).  The events recorded here and over the next few verses is not recorded in the book of Acts.  They probably took place about the same time as Acts 9:19-22. The events in Acts 9:23ff. would have been later.

Galatians 1:18-24 (ESV

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they glorified God because of me.

Galatians 1:18-24 records Paul’s first trip to the city of Jerusalem which was home to the other apostles.  This did not happen for about three years after his conversion and he only stayed fifteen days (Galatians 1:18).  During the time he was there he saw Cephas (another name for Peter) and only one other of the apostles, James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19).  Although he was not one of the original twelve, James, Jesus’ brother, was very influential in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15).  After spending a short time in Jerusalem, Paul went to preach the gospel in Syria and Cilicia (Galatians 1:21).  Paul had limited contact with the church in Jerusalem and the surrounding area (Judea) to the point that they could only deal in hearsay.  They knew him as someone who had persecuted them in the past and was now preaching about Jesus  (Galatians 1:22-24).  His message is clear:  He did not learn the gospel which he preached from the apostles nor any other human being. 

Discussion/Thought Questions:

  1. In Romans 1:1 Paul described himself as (a) a servant, (b) called and (c) set apart.  How would it affect your life if you considered these to be descriptors of yourself?
  2. Describe someone who has been a spiritual encourager for you (Romans 1:12).  What are some of his/her characteristics that affected you?
  3. Paul felt an obligation to share his faith with everyone: the Greeks, Jews, Barbarians and Romans.  Do you feel personally obligated to share your faith?  Why or why not?
  4. Consider the results of failing to acknowledge God: (a) confusion, (b) callousness, (c) intellectualism and (d) idolatry.  Do you know anyone whose life mirrors these qualities?  How does she/he relate to God or does she/he?
  5. Paul lumps all sin from murder to being disobedient to parents and gossips to haters of God as being equal.  Is this fair?  Why or why not?

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