Galatians Chapter 1
The letter to the Galatians
This letter was written by the Apostle Paul and is said to have been written about 57 AD, from Ephesus or Corinth at the close of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Paul visited Galatia (part of Asia Minor, present day Turkey) during his 1st missionary journey. It is said that many of these people by the 3rd century had migrated to present day France.
You can read in Acts chapter 14 about Paul’s time in Galatia where they first wanted to make Paul a god, then right afterwards some Jews were trying to kill him.
This letter to the churches of Galatia was Martin Luther’s favorite. The emphasis is on justification by grace through faith in Jesus. Not only is the sinner saved by grace through faith, but the saved sinner lives by grace. Grace is a way to live and a way of life. Paul’s work in Galatia was extremely successful with many accepting Christ. Sometime later some Jewish leaders came in teaching that Gentiles could not be Christians without keeping the laws of Moses. Paul wrote this letter to address this, emphasizing that a person is justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ, nothing less and nothing more.
Chapter 1 Salutation and Occasion for the letter
1:1 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) 1:2 and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 1:5 to whom be glory forever and ever! Amen.
1:6 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 — 1:7 not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. 1:8 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! 1:9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! 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!
Paul opens this letter as he does many others praying Grace and Peace for the recipients. The unmerited love of God and the comfort of fellowship and hope in God. He also gives his authority to write to them. He’s an Apostle chosen by and taught by Jesus.
In Ephesians 4:12–13 he also wrote “(Jesus) gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ. Contrast this with the Jewish leaders deceiving the churches there.
In our day, how do you determine if a teacher or preacher is trustworthy?
Verse 4 certainly seems to fit today doesn’t it? Don’t we need to be rescued from this present evil age?
How had the Galatian church shocked Paul v6? Has anything changed? Doesn’t the world today mock and discount the gospel of Jesus as not being enough? People occupy themselves in various rituals in an attempt to remove their guilt and feel good about themselves. They want to save the planet, clean the air, make sure everyone has the right to do whatever and live however makes them feel good.
People who teach there are ways to justification with God other than through faith in Christ are condemned to hell. There is only one way to be justified with God and that’s Grace through Christ. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:6? I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is where you’ll run into trouble with the average American today. According to polls most American’s don’t believe Jesus is the only way. Most are ok with you believing in Jesus, just don’t say he’s the only way to eternal life. They don’t accept that. Do you believe Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only gate?
1:11 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 1:12 For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ. 1:13 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. 1:14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.1:15 But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased 1:16 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, 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.
Paul says these guys don’t have anything on him. He was chief among the Jews. But God opened his eyes and understanding to the truth of the gospel. These people who where misleading the church were living in the past, trying to live in the old covenant. Paul says God changed all that with the birth, life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus. Paul was not only a teacher but an example to the church of that day and the church of today. He’d lived both sides of the fence, the legalistic way to pleasing God and the way of Grace through Christ. Why do you think it so difficult for people to accept that Jesus and what he did is enough?
What was your journey like to faith in Jesus? When did you turn to Christ and from what previous pursuit of fulfillment? What were you pursuing before God opened your eyes and mind to Christ?
1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. 1:19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 1:20 I assure you that, before God, I am not lying about what I am writing to you! 1:21 Afterward I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 1:22 But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 1:23 They were only hearing, “The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy.” 1:24 So they glorified God because of me.
His visit to Jerusalem he mentions in verse 18 is recorded in Acts 9:23–30. He highlights in Galatians 1:18–24 the fact that his Apostleship was from God, not from men. It was 3 years after his conversion before he went to see the Apostle Peter(Cephas). He was changed and taught by Jesus, not humans. He understood he was saved by Grace, he didn’t earn it, he was persecuting the church when God called him.
What does verse 23 say about what the churches of Judea knew about Paul and what was their response? That was his reputation. He was a changed man and made a complete turnaround and was committed to Christ.
Because of the false gospel being spread in the churches in Galatia, Paul apparently felt that to begin his letter he needed to remind the church of his integrity and authority to teach them over again the true gospel which they were erring from. Isn’t it odd that people who come with false doctrines seem to be accepted more readily that one teaching the true gospel? I suspect in the case of these churches of Galatia, knowing all God had done for them through Jesus, they naturally wanted to do things to earn their new hope. It’s human nature I guess. When someone does something for us, we naturally want to return the favor in some way. This probably made them susceptible to the false teaching. The thing is we can’t earn our salvation, and trying to do so is following a false gospel. I think the universal church understands grace vs works today. Of course God expects us to do good, the bible is clear, it’s our duty as Christians and we do it out of thankfulness for the grace extended to us by God, not to earn our salvation. Works don’t discount sin. The sin had to be paid for by our sinless Lord.
Pauls ministry was powerful because the transforming grace of God was evident in his life. May that same grace be evident in our lives! Paul had integrity, living what he believed. The gospel is from and by God. Nothing can be added. What about us, how are our lives transformed? Is the gospel of Christ the lens by which we view all other things? Do our responses, decisions, resources, gifts, time, talent, money reflect our transformation? Do we make time in our lives to read the bible daily and study it. Do we have regular talks with God? Or do we let the things of this world crowd some of those things out? Our treasure is where our heart is right? Matt 6:21.
For my grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8