Galatians 1:15-24 – God appointed Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles.

SUMMARY

Paul continues to defend his message against the distorted gospel:

God has set Paul apart even from his mother’s womb and called him to preach God among the Gentiles (1:15-16), making Paul uniquely the apostle to the Gentiles (1:16; 2:2, 7-9).

After he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul did not consult other people (1:16-17). Rather, he went away to Arabia. Only three years later did he visit Peter and James (1:18-24). In other words, he did not get his message from men, but that he “received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1, 11).

Galatians chapter 1 is, therefore, mostly a defense of Paul’s call and message. 

GALATIANS 1:15-24

1:15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 1:16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

1:18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas (NIV – Peter), and stayed with him fifteen days. 1:19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 1:20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 1:21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 1:22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 1:23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 1:24 And they were glorifying God because of me.


APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES

By claiming to be the apostle to the Gentiles (1:16; 2:2, 7-9), Paul continues to defend against the distorted gospel.  He claims the right to prescribe what the Gentiles must do and must not do.

The purpose of the historical review above is also to defend the gospel which he preached to the Galatians.  He claims that he did not get his message from men, but that he “received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1, 11).

OVERVIEW OF GALATIANS 1

The following issues in Galatians 1 are particularly relevant to the main issue in the letter to the Galatians:

Paul himself preached the gospel to these churches (1:8).  After he left some Christians (1:7) preached a dangerously (1:8-9) distorted gospel (1:6-7).  Paul wrote this letter specifically to correct that distortion.  Paul defends his calling and his message.  He claims that:

He is “an apostle” (1:1), which means to be sent by God.

God, through His grace, set him apart even from his mother’s womb and called him to preach Him among the Gentiles (1:15-16).

He has not been sent from men but through Jesus Christ and God the Father (1:1; 11-12).

The gospel which he preached he did not receive from man, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1:11-12).

He did not see or consult other people (1:16-19) in the first years after God stopped him on his way to persecute the Christians at Damascus.

Chapter 1 is, therefore, mostly a defense of his call and message. 

What is also important, as background to the letter, is that the Judaism of his day has degenerated into a religion of regulations pertaining to external deeds (the Traditions of the Elders), where the internal issues of the heart and mind, namely faith, hope and love, were under-emphasized.  The focus on external deeds promoted a culture of self-righteousness, where people strive to earn justification by their own efforts, and helped to develop a culture where people criticize each other.

TO: Galatians Table of Contents
TO: Summary of Galatians chapters 1 to 3
NEXT: Galatians 2:1-10

Galatians 1:10-12 – Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ.

SUMMARY

Paul taught “freedom” from circumcision and from the Law, which he calls “a yoke of slavery” (5:1-3).  For that reason, he was accused of “trying to please men” (1:10). He continued to defend his gospel by claiming that he received it from God:

Paul received the gospel that he preached not from other people; he received it directly from Jesus Christ (1:11-12).

After God stopped Paul on his way to persecute the Christians, he did not consult other people (1:16-19). 

When he visited Jerusalem, “those who were of reputation, contributed nothing to me” (2:6).

GALATIANS 1:10-12

1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. 1:11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 1:12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

SEEKING THE FAVOR OR MEN

The defensive stance which Paul assumes in this verse implies that he was accused of “seeking the favor of men” (1:10) by his gospel.  This is perhaps the very first indication in the letter of what the distortion was.  Paul taught “freedom” from “circumcision” and from “the whole Law,” which he calls “a yoke of slavery” (5:1-3).  Apparently, he was, therefore, being accused of “trying to please men” (1:10).

NOT ACCORDING TO MAN

He continues to defend his gospel by claiming that he received it from God.  The NIV is perhaps clearer:

The gospel I preached is not of human origin.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

This is the main message of the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians; namely that he did not receive his message from people (1:11, 12).  He was not “sent of men” (1:1).  In 1:15-20 he explains what happened in the years after God stopped him on his way to persecute the Christians; how he did not “consult with flesh and blood” (1:16) and he “did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (1:19). In chapter 2 he recalls a visit to Jerusalem and said: “those who were of reputation, (namely James, Peter Cephas and John – 2:9) contributed nothing to me” (2:6).

Rather, he claims that he was sent through God (1:1) and received his message through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1:12).

TO: Galatians Table of Contents
TO: Summary of Galatians chapters 1 to 3
NEXT: Galatians 1:13-14

Galatians 1:6-9 – Some want to distort the gospel of Christ.

SUMMARY

The distortion of the gospel of Christ (1:7) which the Galatians accepted, fairly soon after Paul founded those churches (1:6), was “contrary to what we have preached to you” (1:8). The following indicates that this was a serious distortion:

If the Galatians continue on their path, Paul has labored “in vain” and the Galatians have also suffered “in vain” (3:4; 4:11). “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (5:2).

Paul normally starts his letters with words of praise or thanks to the churches. But, in this letter, he does not do that.

GALATIANS 1:6-9

1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 1:7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 1:8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 1:9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

DISTORT THE GOSPEL

After a relatively short introduction (1:1-5), compared to some of his other letters, Paul gets right down to business and immediately expresses his disappointment in the Galatian Christians for accepting a distorted gospel (1:7). It will be important to find out in what way the gospel was distorted.

ACCURSED

Galatians is the angriest of all of Paul’s letters, which means that we are dealing here with a very dangerous distortion of the gospel. This “different gospel” (1:6), which was “contrary to what we have preached to you” (1:8) and “contrary to what you received” (1:9), distorted the truth of the gospel (1:7; 2:5, 14). That this distortion may result in eternal loss can be seen from the following:

Did you suffer so many things in vain (3:4)?
Perhaps I have labored over you in vain (4:11).
Christ will be of no benefit to you (5:2).

Paul normally starts his letters with words of praise or thanks to the churches he is writing to. Paul even gave praise to the carnal Christians at Corinth.  But in this letter, he does not do that, which is an indication of the danger inherent in this distortion.

TO: Galatians Table of Contents
TO: Summary Galatians chapters 1 to 3
NEXT: Galatians 1:10-12

Galatians 1:1-5 – Jesus Christ gave Himself according to the will of God.

Lamb of GodExcerpt: Paul was not sent from men but through Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus from the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins according to the will of our God and Father, so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.

SUMMARY

Paul himself preached the gospel to the churches in Galatia, but after he left, some men arrived and preached a dangerously distorted gospel (1:6-9). Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians to correct that distortion. His defense included the following:

He himself was “an apostle;” not sent by men but by God (1:1; 11-12).

The gospel which he preached he did not receive from man, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1:11-12).

Christ is the basis of our salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins “so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.” For that reason, and for no other reason, we have “eternal life” (6:8).

Another important point which Paul makes in these verses is that Christ gave Himself “according to the will of our God” (1:4). In other words, Christ did not die to pacify God and to convince the Father to accept us. His death for us was God’s will.

GALATIANS 1:1-5

1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 1:4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 1:5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

NOT SENT FROM MEN

Paul himself preached the gospel to these churches (1:8), but after he left Galatia, some men arrived preaching a very dangerous (1:8-9) distortion of the gospel (1:6-7) to the churches in Galatia (1:2).  Apparently, they said that Paul obtained his version of the gospel from other men; not directly from Christ, as the disciples did. 

They also apparently called into question Paul’s apostleship and, therefore, his authority. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to correct that distortion, and he starts by claiming that he was “not sent from men … but through Jesus Christ” (1:1), which means that he is an apostle. This is an important part of his defense of the message he preached and is emphasized in 1:11-12.

Paul was given a message that differed greatly from the average Christian understanding of his day. Through supernatural revelations (1:11-12), he was given a message that would change Christian thought.  Today, we have become used to his teachings, but in his day, Paul’s teachings were extremely controversial.

GRACE

Grace (1:3) is God’s goodwill and work toward us.  By definition, we do not deserve grace.  Grace is what God gives even though we do not deserve it.  

GOD AND LORD

Paul always opens his letters with greeting from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3).  He does not mention the Holy Spirit and refers to the Father alone as “God.” In Galatians, “God” is always identified as the Father (e.g. 1:1, 4).

GAVE HIMSELF

The Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself“ willingly (1:3-4), firstly by becoming a human being (Phil. 2) and by even allowing people to kill Him. This act of grace is the basis of our salvation: “so that He might rescue us from this present evil age.” Because of what Christ did, we may have “eternal life” (6:8). This was God’s plan from eternal ages. If He did not give Himself, this present life would have been all that we may have.

WILL OF GOD

This was “according to the will of our God and Father” (1:4).  We sometimes teach our children to love Jesus and to fear the Father.  We also sometimes think that Christ died to pacify God and to convince the Father to accept us. Paul’s message is the opposite: Christ’s death for our benefit was the will of the Father and initiated by the Father:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

TO: Galatians Table of Contents
TO: Summary Galatians chapters 1 to 3
NEXT: Galatians 1:6-9