Greetings from Paul
(Read Galatians 1:1-3)
Paul begins the letter by claiming his authority as an apostle. The false teachers undermined his authority by claiming that Paul was a self-appointed apostle and not one of the twelve apostles of Jerusalem. So, Paul defends himself against their false charge by pointing out that he is divinely appointed by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1; Acts 9:15). The false teachers said that Paul could not be an apostle because he had not seen the risen Jesus. Paul says that he was called by the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8). Jesus' resurrection was God's Amen to Christ's divinity and his "It is finished" statement. His mission and message were divine and not human. Paul knew nothing about Apostolic Succession. Paul was born in Tarsus in Cilicia of Jewish parents (Acts 22:3; Phil 3:5). Soul was his Jewish name. He was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:27-28). He studied under the renowned Pharisee, Gamaliel. Paul was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). He tried to destroy the church. But on the road to Damascus, he met the risen Christ and got saved. Paul does not include normal thanksgiving in the introduction of this letter. But he does pray that God will bestow grace and peace upon his readers (Galatians 1:3). Paul joints fellow workers in sending greetings. Local church is the assembly of born-again believers. Paul prays that God will give grace and peace to his readers. Grace is the Greek greeting word and peace the Hebrew greeting. Grace is the sum of unmerited blessings extended by God in Christ Jesus to believers. Christ is the embodiment of grace and truth (John 1:14). The peace is available only because of Jesus' death and his forgiveness of sin (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The peace Christ provides cannot be found anywhere else (John 14:27; Romans 5:1). Have you found the peace God offers through Jesus Christ by receiving Him as Lord and Savior?
The Purpose of Christ’ Sacrificial Death
(Read Galatians 1:4-5):
Christ died to rescue us out of the present evil world (Galatians 1:4). By His atoning death Christ purchased us who had been enslaved to sin. Christ came to set us free from this evil world system and its deceptions. The word “evil” not only means evil in its nature but also in its influence. Satan is the god of this age, and he controls the world system. Christ alone can set us free from Sin and Satan. The death of Christ was not an accident, but it was according to the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). Paul praises God for His life transforming salvation. In the doxology, Paul gives glory to God forever and ever (Galatians 1:5).
There is Only One Gospel
(Read Galatians 1:6-10)
Paul marvels how quickly the Galatians departed from the gospel of grace into a different gospel. They listened to false teachers who distorted the gospel of Christ. They taught that; Galatians should obey the law in order to be accepted by God (Galatians 5:2-6). Paul worries that this transfer from grace to law already began. Their defection is not only from the gospel of grace but from God himself who called them. Their salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ. Paul fervently condemned the false teachers. They preached a different gospel than what Paul preached. It looks to be gospel but not the gospel Paul preached. Paul was concerned that Galatians were fooled by this perverted gospel. The truth of the gospel never changes. God cannot tolerate the perversion of his gospel (1 John 2:2; Romans 3:26). Paul pronounces curses on those who pervert the gospel. Paul has already warned Galatians about false teachers while he was with them. Therefore, their defection from the gospel was inexcusable. The unlearned and unstable men always try to pervert the gospel (2 Peter 3:17). The believers should content for the once for all given Word of God (Jude 3). The false teachers tried to discredit both Paul and his ministry. He denies their charges. His ultimate loyalty was to God. Paul never tried to please men and sought human approval. He knew that if he tried to please men, he would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10). Pray that God would strengthen us to stand up for the gospel. We are accepted and approved by our faith in Christ alone.
Paul’s Apostleship and the Message
(Read Galatians 1:11-17)
Paul insists that his apostleship and message came from God (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul calls Galatians brethren because they have the same heavenly Father. Man has nothing to do with Paul’s apostleship. Prior to his encounter with Christ, he tried to persecute the church (Acts 9:1-7). He was zealous for the traditions of Judaism. After Jesus revealed himself to Paul, he understood that the gospel is the fulfillment of the Jewish law (Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 10:4). Paul also received his revelation during his stay in Arabia (Acts 9:5-17). Thus, Paul became a new man with a new message. He was very religious but lost in sin. He had great zeal for Judaism but not according to knowledge of righteousness (Romans 10:2). Paul’s misguided zeal for Law blinded him but the grace of God found him. Only the Holy Spirit enlightens our understanding of Christ. Christ commissioned him to declare the gospel of grace to the gentiles. Paul was prepared to preach the gospel even prior to his birth (Galatians 1:15). The believers are chosen and prepared for every good work (Ephesians 2:10). We are saved to serve. Salvation is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Paul did not preach the plan of salvation but the person of salvation. Christ was the sum of Paul’s message (Acts 9:15). Paul had no need of man’s approval because he knew that he was chosen by the Lord (Acts 26:14-19). His apostleship did not come from the confirmation of other apostles but from Christ (Galatians 1:17). The believers are given the full approval of God to preach the gospel. Paul spent considerable time alone with God in Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Spending time alone with Christ prepares us for his worship and service.
Paul’s Visit to Jerusalem
(Read Galatians 1:18-24)
Paul is trying to explain that he did not learn the gospel from the apostles in Jerusalem. He did not meet Peter (Cephas was the Aramaic name of Peter) until three years after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:26-30). Paul stayed with Peter only fifteen days. Paul preached the same gospel other apostles embraced. Paul’s visit was interrupted because Jews sought to kill him. The Lord appeared to him and told him to depart from Jerusalem to Gentiles (Acts 9:29; 22:17-21). The purpose of his visit was to become personally acquainted with Peter. Only other apostle he met at that time was James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. God does not reveal conflicting messages. The Bible is not a book of contradictions. After this visit to Jerusalem, Paul went to the province of Syria and Cilicia and ministered there for about six years. The churches in Judea didn’t know Paul personally. All they knew was that Paul preaches the very faith he tried to root out before his conversion and glorified God. God does all things well. The gospel of Jesus Christ has always been the same.