Galatians 1, No Other Gospel

INTRODUCTION: Paul traveled through the province of Galatia and established churches, but the exact geographic boundaries of that ancient central Asia Minor region are not clear in scripture. Later Paul wrote a general letter to the Galatian churches to address what he had heard about them drifting from the basic teaching of the gospel that he had presented to them in person. No specific individuals or cities are mentioned in this letter. The first century church struggled greatly over the principal that Christ broke down the "middle wall of partition" between Jews and Gentiles so all could become one in Christ with no other conversion requirements. Ephesians "3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me on your account: 3 That by revelation he made known to me the mystery; (as I wrote before in few words, 4 By which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of his power."

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the Revised Webster Bible.


A - SOME GENERAL PASSAGES ABOUT GALATIA

Acts "16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit allowed them not. 8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, beseeching him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them."

Acts "18:18 And Paul [after this] tarried [there] yet a good while, and took his leave of the brethren, and sailed from there into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn [his] head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they desired [him] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. 22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 And after he had spent some time [there], he departed, and went over [all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples."

1 Corinthians "16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye."

COMMENTS: Acts chapter 16 begins the details of the second missionary journey of Paul as he left the church at Antioch, but this time with Silas as his chief companion, while Barnabas went to Cyprus with John Mark. This second missionary journey has the first mention of the region of Galatia, with no clearly identified churches that were started there as they traveled through that province as well as others. After that Paul and his companions were deterred from continuing into Asia, and they were called of the Lord to go into Macedonia for the first time. Churches were established at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea; then Paul spent a brief time in Athens. After that he was in Corinth longer than a year and six months, before he sailed to Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila. Those two remained in Ephesus as Paul went on to Caesarea and then to Antioch to greet those churches. After he had spent some time at Antioch, "he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples." There is one reference in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians when he instructed them to make a collection for the saints, as he had similarly instructed the churches in Galatia.


B - THE SALUTATION OF PAUL TO THE GALATIANS

Galatians 1 "1 Paul, an apostle, (not from men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2 And all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace [be] to you and peace from God the Father, and [from] our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5 To whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen."

COMMENTS: Paul identifies himself not just by name, but immediately he emphasizes that he is an apostle because of a direct call by the Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised Christ from the dead. His apostleship was not appointed to him from other men, neither came to him on his own account. It was important to firmly assert his authority to speak of spiritual matters in this letter. Paul similarly opens Romans, both letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, both letters to Timothy, and his letter to Titus declaring that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will or commandment of God. Paul included greeting from others in his company at the time of writing, and he addressed his letter to multiple churches of Galatia. The personal opening could easily be seen as a prayer that he desired to see them have Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. He reminded them that Christ gave himself for the sins of the believer, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. These elements in the opening of this letter could set a good framework for a prayer of thanksgiving by any Christian.


C - PAUL SAID THE GALATIANS WERE STARTING TO FOLLOW ANOTHER GOSPEL

Galatians 1 "6 I marvel that ye are so soon turning from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so I say now again, If any [man] preacheth any other gospel to you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

COMMENTS: Paul immediately begins to draw the attention of the Galatians to the seriousness of what he has heard about the churches there. They must not listen to others who change the simple gospel of grace in Christ that Paul had taught. He made a very strong statement, and underscored it by writing it twice: that anyone, even an angel, who preaches a gospel different from that which Paul had preached, should be accursed! This is certainly not a mild statement, and give testimony to the extreme importance Paul has applied to the need of rejection of the errant teaching of those in their midst who troubled them and would pervert the gospel of Christ.


D - THE GOSPEL IS FROM GOD NOT FROM MEN

Galatians 1 "10 For do I now seek the favour of men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my former manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called [me] by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither did I go to Jerusalem to them who were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus."

COMMENTS: Paul tells the Galatians that he has not offered his teaching in an effort to please men or find favor with them. If his motivation had been to please men, then he would not have been serving Christ. Paul said that the gospel that he preached did not come to him from other men and it was not taught to him, but he received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Paul reminded the Galatians of their knowledge of his reputation in the religion of the Jews before he was converted by Christ. By his own words "beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it." Paul said that he had made great progress in the exercise of the Jews' religion above many his equals in his own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers. Paul then gives all glory to God as he wrote that the Lord had separated him to be called by grace even while in his mother's womb. The Lord's plans for Saul were so far ahead of Saul's plans for himself that they were already ordained before Paul had even begun to learn anything as an infant. When it pleased God, he reveal his Son in Paul, that he might preach the Lord among the Gentiles. Paul then asserted that he did not confer with men of flesh and blood like himself, nor did he go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him; but he went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Through Paul's statement he acknowledges that there were others who were apostles before him, but he did not go to them to receive from them any further authority or blessing to preach the gospel at Damascus.


E - PAUL'S VISIT WITH PETER AND JAMES IN JERUSALEM

Galatians 1 "18 Then after three years I went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw no other of the apostles, except James the Lord's brother. 20 Now the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 And was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23 But they had heard only, That he who persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me."

COMMENTS: The record in Acts has no mention of Paul going into Arabia when he was at Damascus, and it does not provide the time span that Paul spent at Damascus that we find from Galatians. Acts "9:17 And Ananias went, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight immediately, and arose, and was baptized. 19 And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 20 And immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 21 But all that heard [him] were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them who called on this name in Jerusalem, and came here for that intent, that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ." When Paul wrote to the Galatians of going to Jerusalem and that he had stayed with Peter for fifteen days, he does not even mention the role of Barnabas at that time. He further stated that the only other apostle he saw there was James, the brother of the Lord. Paul did not describe the threat to his life at Damascus before he went to Jerusalem, the threat to his life that preceded his departure from Jerusalem, or that from Jerusalem he went to his home city of Tarsus in Cilitia. It should be noted here that the events Paul has just described probably took place some decades before the writing of this letter, and many other very dramatic events had been experienced by Paul throughout that lengthy intervening period so he probably included only the details that were essential to his purpose. Paul then asserted a vow before God in this letter, that there was no lie in what he has been writing. Paul then continues that afterwards he went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia) Paul was from Tarsus of Cilitia, see Acts 21:39), and he stated that he was not known in person to the churches of Judaea which were in Christ. Those churches had heard only, That this man who had persecuted Christians to destroy the faith in times past, had become one who preached Christ and thus brought glory to the Lord.


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Thank you Lord that I can personally experience the grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who has given himself for my sins to deliver me from this present evil world according to the will of God. All glory is due to you my Savior forever, and to none else. I am thankful beyond description for my salvation in Christ by grace through faith that you have given to me as you opened my heart and mind to the truth of the gospel. Since this letter is scripture by the apostle Paul, it now provides trustworthy guidance to strengthen my faith in the pure gospel message as it did originally for the Galatians. The dramatic conversion that Christ made in Paul's life from one who persecuted Christians even to the point of death, to one who was determined to spread the gospel to others no matter what the personal cost might be to himself, provides inspiration through the writing of much scripture for the church of Jesus Christ. I praise you Lord Jesus for the way you continue to work by your Spirit in me and in other Christians throughout the world. Hallelujah, amen.

Galatians, Chapter 2 - Gentile Circumcision
Galatians, Chapter 3 - Faith Came before the Law
Galatians, Chapter 4 - Heirs of God
Galatians, Chapter 5 - Liberty in Christ
Galatians, Chapter 6 - New Creation in Christ

Published 24 October 2012