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 (Gal 1:15-16), making Paul uniquely the apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 1:16; 2:2, 7-9).
After he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul did not consult other people (Gal 1:16-17). Rather, he went away to Arabia. Only three years later did he visit Peter and James (Gal 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” (Gal 1:1, 11).
Galatians chapter 1 is, therefore, mostly a defense of Paul’s call and message.
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 (Gal 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 (Gal 1:8). After he left some Christians (Gal 1:7) preached a dangerously (Gal 1:8-9) distorted gospel (Gal 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” (Gal 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 (Gal 1:15-16).
He has not been sent from men but through Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal 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 (Gal 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.