Galatians 1 Commentary


Rebuke to the Galatians (1:1-10)

At the outset Paul reminds the Galatians that his call to be an apostle did not come from any human source or through any human agency. It came direct from God. The gospel that God called him to preach is the good news that by the grace of God and through the death of Christ, people can be saved from their sins (1:1-5).

Paul is amazed and angered to hear that many of the Galatians are turning away from this, the only true gospel. Instead they are believing the Judaistic teaching that they must keep the law to be saved (6- 7). He twice pronounces the curse of God on all who preach contrary to the one true gospel (8-9). The Judaisers had accused Paul of not preaching circumcision, to make it easy for Gentiles to join the church. He preached to please people, they claimed. Can they still say so, after hearing him use such severe language as this? This is not the language of a person trying to win someone’s favour! No; Paul’s aim is to please Christ, not his hearers (10).

Paul’s gospel came direct from God (1:11-24)

Again Paul emphasizes that the gospel he preaches was not of human invention and came from no human source. He received it through the direct work of God in him (11-12). He supports this claim by pointing out that his preaching of this gospel has nothing to do with his religious background. He had been brought up a strict Jew, opposed to Christianity, educated in the law and obedient to the traditions (13-14).

Nor did any of the apostles, leading Christians, or existing churches have any part in helping Paul form his gospel. To demonstrate this, he gives a brief account of his movements during his first few years as a Christian. He begins by pointing out that after his conversion he did not go to see the church leaders in Jerusalem, but went away to the loneliness of Arabia, and then returned to Damascus (15-17; see Acts 9:1-25).

The first visit Paul made to Jerusalem as a Christian was fully three years after his conversion. Even then he stayed only fifteen days. During that time he met only one of the original apostles (Peter), along with James the brother of Jesus (18-20). Some at Jerusalem got to know him a little (see Acts 9:26-29), but elsewhere in Judea no one knew him personally. But they all knew of his conversion, because without his fiery leadership the persecution had died down. After this short time in Jerusalem he went to the provinces of Syria and Cilicia (21-24; see Acts 9:30-31). (For a summary of references in Acts and Galatians to Paul’s early years as a Christian see Appendix.)

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