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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Galatians 1

 

 

Verses 1-24


St. Paul maintains the Validity of his Apostleship and the Truth of his Gospel

1-5. The Apostle sends greetings from himself and the brethren with him to the Churches of Galatia, reminding them at the same time that his apostolic authority was not of human but of divine origin.

Paraphrase. '(1) I, Paul,—no self-constituted or humanly appointed missionary, but an Apostle divinely called by Christ and by God, who raised Him from the dead—(2) send greetings to the Churches of Galatia, in which all the brethren who are with me join. (3) May all spiritual blessings be yours from God and from Christ, (4) who offered Himself a living sacrifice for our sins, in order to save us from the spiritual bondage of this world and its lusts. (5) May all praise and glory be ascribed to Him eternally. Amen.'

1. An apostle] The title is used in the technical sense, and is introduced by St. Paul to assert his equality with the Twelve which had been challenged. It is always used by him in letters to Churches where his authority was questioned or to which he was unknown in person (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1); whereas in the cases where the Churches were thoroughly devoted to him he drops it altogether (Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Not of men, as source, neither by (RV 'through') man, as medium. Sanday suggests the illuminative analogy of the Sovereign as the fount of honour, and the ministry as the channel through which the honour is conferred. But by (RV 'through') Jesus Christ, and God the Father] Both his conversion (Acts 9:4-6; Galatians 1:15) and his call to missionary work (Acts 13:2 cp. Acts 22:21) were directly from God and Jesus Christ.

Who raised him] It is the risen Christ from whom St. Paul derives his authority.

2. All the brethren which are with me] Some think this refers to the Apostle's travelling companions. Others hold that it includes the whole Church. If the letter was written from Antioch, it would thus convey the greeting of the Church which was the Mother-Church of the Galatian communities, as from it St. Paul proceeded to them. If it was written from Ephesus, it would inform them of the interest of that Church in their welfare.

Unto the churches] There is no commendation of them, as is usual in his letters (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3).

4. Who gave himself up to death for our sins] cp. 1 Corinthians 15:3 on account of them, to atone for them, and to rescue us from their power. That he might deliver (recover) us from the evil which characterises this present evil world (age), according, etc.] connect with 'gave himself.'

5. (The) glory due to Him for His gracious action in salvation. Amen] = truly, may it be so.

6-10. A sharp rebuke for their speedy departure from the truth (of salvation by grace) under the influence of false teaching. There is but one true gospel; all rival teachings, whether proclaimed by man or angel, are false. Hence the Apostle's boldness and confidence.

Paraphrase. '(6) I am surprised that you should so soon have deserted the truth which I taught you for a spurious gospel. (7) This perversion is due to false teachers. (8, 9) But if we Apostles even—yes, if an angel from heaven—should proclaim any teaching contrary to the doctrine of salvation by grace and faith, I pronounce a curse upon him. (10) I make this strong assertion—and I repeat it—in the knowledge that in my teaching I am not seeking man's favour, but obeying God's will in the service of Christ.'

6. So soon] after their conversion; or better, after the Apostle's last visit. Him that called] that is, God. Another gospel] RV 'a different gospel'; a (pretended) gospel of a different kind (from mine), that is, false.

7. Which is not another] i.e. in addition to the true one, since, in the nature of the case, there can be but one. But there be] RV 'Only there are'; these heralds of a different doctrine are Jewish Christians who believe that observance of the Mosaic Law is necessary to salvation, and are misleading you through misconceiving and misrepresenting the gospel.

8. Accursed] the strongest possible form of condemnation: cp. Acts 23:14; Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22.

9. We] the epistolary plural, as also in Galatians 1:8 on repetition it becomes the emphatic 'I.' Said before] in his personal teaching when with them. Now again] emphatic and solemn repetition.

11-17. The gospel which St. Paul preached not of human origin. Twofold proof of the fact: (1) the Apostle's whole course of life until his conversion was intensely Jewish, and only by a divine revelation was he made a messenger of Christ; and (2) after his conversion he remained aloof from the men from whom he might have been supposed to receive his message.

Paraphrase. '(11, 12) I solemnly assure you that the doctrine which I have taught was not a human product or derived from any human source, but that it came to me by revelation from Christ Himself. (13, 14) In proof of this, consider how unlikely it is that I, an intense Jewish zealot and a fierce persecutor of the Church, should have been transformed into a preacher of Christ by any merely human means. (15, 16) But when God, who had chosen me from my birth and graciously called me, disclosed Christ to my heart and designated me as His messenger, I did not resort to human authorities in order to learn what my message was to be; (17) I did not visit the primitive Apostles to learn anything from them, but went away into the seclusion of Arabia, and thence returned, not to Jerusalem, but to Damascus.'

11. Certify] RV 'make known'; urge and impress upon you. The gospel] the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. Not after man] not human, but divine, in origin and character.

12. I neither received it of man, any more than the original Twelve received it from man (but from Christ); but I received it through (RV) the revelation of Jesus Christ] His conversion was a disclosure to him of the Messiahship and Saviourhood of Christ.

13. Ye have heard] a notorious fact. Beyond measure] Saul killed, as well as disturbed (Acts 19:24; Acts 22:4).

14. Profited] RV 'I advanced': cp. Acts 22:3. Saul was more devoted than most of his compeers to the customs and traditions of his people and his sect (the Pharisees).

15. Who separated] God determined upon him as an Apostle from the time of his birth: cp. Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5. And called] in his experience on the Damascus road.

16. To reveal, etc.] to disclose in my consciousness—to my soul—the real meaning and saving power of Christ. That I might, etc.] This revelation carried with it this result. St. Paul seems to have been absent from Jerusalem during the ministry of Christ, and to have had no direct knowledge of Him before the vision on the road to Damascus.

17. Neither went I, etc.] I did not visit the seat of apostolic influence, as might have been expected. Arabia] This is not mentioned in Acts, as St. Luke does not deal with St. Paul's private life except in so far as is necessary to explain movements in prosecution of his work. The Apostle retired to the wilderness in the neighbourhood of Damascus (which was at that time subject to the king of Arabia) for thought and prayer. Perhaps it was there that he saw some of those visions and revelations of the Lord to which he refers in 2 Corinthians 12. Damascus] see also Acts 9:25; 2 Corinthians 11:22-23, and notes.

18-24. It was a long time before St. Paul saw any of the original Apostles. When he did at length visit Jerusalem he saw only Peter and James. Then he departed to regions remote from Jerusalem. The Judæan Christians did not even know him by sight.

Paraphrase. '(18, 19) After my conversion my course was such as to prove my independence of human teachers. It was three years before I visited Jerusalem; then I went to interview Peter, and my stay was a short one. Of the other Apostles I saw only James. (20) I solemnly assert the truth of these statements. (21) I next travelled through Syria and Cilicia to my native province. (22-24) Up to this time I was personally quite unknown to the Judæan believers; they had merely heard that I, the fierce persecutor, had now become a preacher of the gospel, and they gave thanks to God for my conversion.'

18. After three years] a long time (though it probably does not mean, 'at the end of three years,' but rather, 'in the third year'), during which he could not have received instruction from the original Apostles. To see] RV 'to visit Cephas' (Peter)—to make his acquaintance and hear his story. Fifteen days] So short a sojourn could not have served for a course of instruction in the gospel. Acts 9:26-30 must be read in the light of the first-hand information given here by St. Paul.

19. James] here called an Apostle in the secondary sense: cp. 1 Corinthians 15:7. Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Paul were also Apostles, though not of the Twelve.

20. To this solemn iteration he is moved, no doubt, by the thought of the aspersions of his enemies.

21. St. Luke says (Acts 9:30) that he went from Jerusalem to Cæsarea (Roman capital of Judæa) and Tarsus—a more specific statement. By Syria and Cilicia is meant the Roman province of that name in which Tarsus was situated.

22. Unknown] though he had preached in and about Jerusalem (Acts 9:28), since his labours there had been among the Greek-speaking Jews.

The Churches.. which were in Christ] not merely 'the Christian Churches' as opposed to the Jewish; but the Churches whose members were in a living relation to Christ, who fulfilled the command, 'Abide in me.'

23. They had heard only] that was all the knowledge they had of me. Preacheth the faith] proclaims the necessity of trust in Christ as the sole essential to salvation.

24. They glorified, etc.] They considered Saul's conversion not as a great gain to the Church, but as a great victory of grace. In me] in my case.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Galatians 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/galatians-1.html. 1909.

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