Pauline Studies | Galatians 1 Bible study

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Chapter 1



1.1-2. From Paul, an apostle (not from men, nor by human agency, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead) and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia.


Letters written at this period of time began with the writer identifying himself, in this case Paul, the apostle. Right at the beginning of the letter he establishes that he is an apostle (special messenger), who had been given authority by God. He was appointed by God and not by himself or any man or organisation but through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses the resurrection of Christ as the deciding evidence of his divine authority. Although he uses this title in other of his letters he emphasises it here because his apostleship was being challenged. He includes those who are helping him in the ministry at the time of writing. Galatians is the only letter Paul specifically addresses to a group of churches.


1.3. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,


Grace was the traditional greeting to the Gentiles and Thayer gives a full definition of it when he says it is “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues”. The usual Jewish greeting Peace or here soul peace is that peace between God and man brought about by the reconciliation that Chrsit made upon the cross (Ephesians 2: 14 - 15). Although this is Paul's opening greetings to them he makes it quite clear that the source is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.    


1.4-5. who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever! Amen.  


Paul inspired by the greeting goes on to describe how Jesus Christ yielding Himself up to atone for our sins and to save and sanctify us. To rescue us from the present evil age and world order that is in opposition to God. This is in accordance with the plan and purpose of God (Math. 20: 28). This is a very important verse in the letter for by it Paul makes it very clear that there is no other name given under heaven or any other way whereby we can be saved except through Jesus Christ (Acts 4: 12).  

He ends this part of his letter by bursting forth in praise to God for all that He has done for us and giving Him all the glory.


Only One Gospel

1.6 - 7. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel — not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ.


Paul does not give thanks for these churches as he did for the others he had written to, particularly the Thessalonian believers and with good reasons. He was completely astounded that they had so soon turned away, become renegades, turncoats, from following the Lord Jesus Christ who had called them out of darkness into light and that they had rejected the Gospel of grace and turned to another. This other gospel, whatever it may have been was in fact not another because there is and only can be one Gospel and that is the Gospel of Grace, the Good News of God's free forgiveness of sinners based on Christ's death and resurrection. “In grace alone is deliverance from sin possible" (J. Wesley). Men had crept in unawares to pervert the gospel of Christ (Jude 4, Acts 15: 1).


1.8 - 9. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!


No true messenger sent from God could preach any other Gospel. In fact he states that even if he or any of his fellow-workers should come, or an angel and give any other gospel message than what is the truth revealed in Christ then they would be accursed (Gr. Anathema), that is cut of from God. Paul feels so strong about this that he repeats it.


1.10. Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!  


He poses them a question - should he set out to persuade men to win their favour or to please God? Should his main purpose be to but all his strength and effort to become popular with men? If this was so than he could not be a servant of Christ's (Titus 1: 1). In his solemn charge to Timothy he makes it quite clear what every preaching and teacher should do (2 Timothy 4:1 - 4).


Revelation from Christ

1.11 - 12. Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.


In order to make it quite clear to the Galatian churches that the gospel message that Paul preached was not something that he had received from any human source or angelical being for that matter but was a direct revelation from Jesus Christ; he relates how he consulted with no man (Eph. 3:3 - 5).


1.13 - 14. For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.  


To support this Paul reminds them that before he came to know Jesus Christ as his Saviour that he excelled more than any other in the Jewish religion. Embracing it as the full truth, and only religion and thus he set out to destroy all who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it could have only been a divine revelation that could have changed him and to cause him to forsake his beliefs and to become a zealous Christian missionary.


1.15 - 16. But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being,  


It was God who had given him life and it was in God's time and by God's grace that the revelation of who Jesus Christ is was given to him (Acts 9: 1 - 6). It was God's plan and purpose that he should preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9: 15).  


1.17. nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.


After his conversion he did not go to Jerusalem to confer with the twelve apostles but went into Arabia then went back to Damascus.


Going to Jerusalem

1.18 - 20. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.


After three years he then went to Jerusalem in order to meet Peter and the only other apostle he saw was the Lord's brother James. He relates all this so that he can establish beyond any shadow of a doubt that he received the revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ and that he was taught by no man but Christ alone. He calls on God as his witness that what he is saying is true.


1.21 - 23. Afterward I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They were only hearing, "The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy."


Paul's place of birth was Tarsus which was in Cilicia so after his vist to Jerusalem he went home. He was completely unknown throughout the whole of Judea as being a Christian. All they had heard was that whereas before he persecuted the Church of Christ now he was preaching faith in Jesus Christ!


1.24. So they glorified God because of me.


They gave praise and glory to God as the One who had wrought this work of grace in his life. Amen.




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