Bible Commentaries
Galatians 1

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Paul: See brief biography in foreword.

an apostle: The word "apostle" refers to one sent forth on a mission. Since the term can be used generally, it is important to consider: Who is the sender? This point is emphasized because there are men called "apostles" other than The Twelve and Paul (see Acts 14:4; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:6). These men, including Paul, are considered apostles because they have been sent by the churches. The church today is hesitant to call one she sends forth an apostle, but the Holy Spirit sees no reason not to use the word since it does not give the one sent any more authority or power than the sender gives him. Today some churches call the one they send a preacher. If they send him to a foreign country, they may call him a missionary, a term not found in the Bible. A preacher sent overseas is no more a missionary from a scriptural standpoint than one the church sends across town to start a new congregation. We need to call Bible things by Bible names. If we are not willing to call them "apostles," let us refer to them as "preachers" or "evangelists." Even if the term "apostle" begins to be used, it does not put the one sent on par with The Twelve or Paul. It means only he is sent by someone. The word "elder" is used in the same fashion, that is, with the ordinary meaning of "older men" (1 Timothy 5:1) as well as with an official usage (Acts 14:23).

(not of men: Since this verse contains the subject matter for the first two chapters, it is necessary to study each of the phrases in order to understand them in the same sense the writer is trying to convey to his readers. The reader, then, will be better prepared to comprehend the theme. Paul’s apostleship has been questioned and the gospel he preaches perverted evidently by false teachers who have successfully discredited him in the minds of some of his readers. Who sends Paul to the Galatians? Who commissions him and gives him his authority? He immediately informs them he is not sent "from men" as this phrase is properly rendered in The Revised Version. The church in Antioch sends Paul (Acts 13:1-3), but his being sent forth to preach does not originally come from the prophets and teachers at Antioch. Nor does it come from any of the apostles and, especially, it does not come from any group in Jerusalem. In fact, no human agent is involved when Paul is first sent by Jesus. This fact is expressed in the next phrase, "neither by man." His apostleship comes from the highest of authorities (God and Christ) as he affirms in the next few words.

but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father: Paul states his original "sending forth" by Jesus in his own words in the presence of King Agrippa (Acts 26:13-19). His apostleship by Jesus Christ is probably questioned by some because he is not of the original twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 gives an explanation of Paul’s being sent by Jesus at a later date than The Twelve. God also has a part in this sending forth of Paul. In Jesus’ prayer for the apostles, He says to the Father:

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them (John 17:9-10).

Whatever belongs to or is done by Jesus also belongs to or is done by God or by His consent. Acts 1:16-26 relates the qualifications of an apostle and the method for the selection of Matthias.

who raised him from the dead;): The writer immediately brings their minds back to Jesus as the one who sends him by pointing to God’s power that is active in the resurrection (Ephesians 1:19-20; Colossians 2:12). At that time, He is begotten of God (Acts 13:33-34). Paul concludes that by His resurrection He is "...declared to be the Son of God with power,..." (Romans 1:4). Verse 5 of Romans states the truth that Paul wants the Galatians to know also: "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name." His apostleship has come from the highest authority, even from Him who declares "...All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). It is by this authority that he has preached the faith to the Galatians. Paul’s mentioning the resurrection of Jesus is not an incidental happening because this epistle has much to do with a sinner’s justification and his maintaining that state. Romans 4:25 gives the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and our justification.

Verse 2

And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

And all the brethren which are with me: Paul must rank as among the greatest of the apostles, though, on occasion, he himself attempts to refute this idea (1 Corinthians 15:9). However, 2 Corinthians 11:5 must be connected with this thought. But as great as he is, he seems to have felt the need of being surrounded by capable men to assist and encourage him. In Exodus 17:10-13, the history of one of Israel’s battles with the Amalekites is recorded. Moses is the great commander of the Israelite army; and as long as Moses holds up his hands, Joshua and the army prevail against Amalek. When Moses lets down his hands, Amalek prevails. Thus, when Moses’ arms become tired, Aaron and Hur hold them up, keeping them steady until the going down of the sun. Moses is a great leader, but he needs the Joshuas, the Aarons and the Hurs about him. Paul is a great leader, but he understands the need of having great men of faith and ability around him: Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Timothy, Titus, and a host of others (Acts 20:4; 2 Timothy 4:9-13). It is not known who all is included when Paul sends this greeting from "all the brethren."

unto the churches of Galatia: Some students of the Bible once believed Paul’s journeys to different cities in Galatia are not recorded in the scriptures; and, therefore, it is not possible to ascertain the specific location of these churches. Now it is generally accepted that the Roman Province of Galatia was much larger than had been believed and includes some of the areas Paul visits on his first journey into Asia Minor, recorded in Acts 13:13 to Acts 14:26. This belief seems to be the case, and the area includes those churches established in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Those churches are visited by Paul and his companions again on his second journey as recorded in Acts 15:41 to Acts 16:6. On his third journey, he again travels to those churches as mentioned in Acts 18:23. It is easy to see the difficulties involved in determining the exact boundaries of Galatia in the first century. We have superior cartographic abilities today; and, yet, on a map of the Middle East printed in February 1991 some of the boundaries between nations have the comment written by them "alignment approximate." So, we should not be surprised at differences of opinion about the boundaries of Galatia in the middle of the first century. Since these churches are composed of members he has helped to convert on his first journey from Antioch in Syria, we can well understand the great emotions he must have experienced when he first hears of their departure from the gospel he has preached unto them. Someone is attempting to destroy a part of his first works (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Verse 3

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ:

Paul uses this same greetings in each of his epistles with the exception of the letter to the Hebrews. In both epistles to Timothy and in the one to Titus, Paul adds the word "mercy." Perhaps Paul understands the work of a preacher from his own experiences in persecution, suffering, and trying to set the various churches in order and feels the need of adding this word, indicating preachers are going to need the mercy of God to do their work.

Grace: This word refers to favor. God with His Son has favored us with Their power, plans, and patterns for bestowing all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). It is only through these divine plans or patterns that we can receive them today as it is with the Galatians Verse6 indicates they are going to another kind of plan other than the divine one. This change is just as wrong for them then as it is today. Each person must look diligently lest he "fail of the grace of God" (Hebrews 12:15).

peace: "Peace" comes as a result of not frustrating "the grace of God" (2:21). So many do not have peace with God, their fellowman, or even themselves because they see no value in the plans God has provided for their lives.

from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ: God as our Father and Jesus as our Lord are the sources of grace and peace (see 2 Corinthians 5:19-20; Ephesians 2:14; Philippians 4:6-7; see Luke 2:14 in The Revised Version).

Verse 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:

Who gave himself: This central part of the gospel is referred to as "good news" when joined to the next phrase "for our sins" by anyone who has thought about it seriously. There is controversy as to whether it is the Romans or the Jews who cause Jesus to be crucified. In the final analysis, however, it must be admitted that neither of them could have done their work if Jesus had not voluntarily surrendered Himself to them (see John 10:17-18; 1 Peter 2:23-24; Matthew 26:47-56).

for our sins: All have sinned (Romans 3:23). It is on account of the sins of the people who had lived, were living, and would live in future years that Jesus sheds His blood. The blood of Jesus flows backward to Adam’s day and is for the remission of their sins (Hebrews 9:15). This action is necessary "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4; Galatians 4:5). The blood Jesus offers is efficacious because of His eternal Spirit and the fact that He is without spot, that is, without sin (Hebrews 9:14). The blood of Jesus is for Paul and the Galatians. It is "for our sins" as Paul writes to these people. It was shed for our sins today, for we are to proclaim "the Lord’s death till he come" (1 Corinthians 11:26). It is, therefore, called a "whosoever will gospel" (John 3:16). When Jesus sheds His blood, He ratifies the New Testament or covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:16-17); and a part of that covenant says, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus truly gives Himself so we could be forgiven and escape the penalty for our sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38).

that he might deliver us: This deliverance is from something into something. The author explains this point further when he writes:

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

Redemption has two parts to it: (1) The price paid and (2) the actual deliverance. The price paid is the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This price is paid for all men, giving it a universal application. All men, however, have not been delivered from the guilt and consequences of their sins. This deliverance is conditional upon the sinner’s acceptance of God’s plans and provisions for deliverance and subsequent obedience. Colossians 1:14 explains the redemption is in Christ. It follows, then, that the sinner must get into Christ Jesus in order to be redeemed by His blood. The writer carefully explains in Galatians 3:26-27 that they are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Chapters 3-5 in this epistle develop the thoughts found in this verse as Paul admonishes the Galatians in the way to maintain the correct relationship with Christ. A correct standing with God could be established and sustained only through Christ.

from this present evil world: In Acts 2:40, Peter admonishes the people to "Save themselves from this untoward generation." That seems to refer to the people who live in the period of time when Jesus is crucified. The phrase in this verse, however, is written to a people geographically far removed from Jerusalem and separated by several years in time. It includes everything evil in the world or age. The age under consideration does not stop with the death of that generation. That age will last until the end of time. It is characterized by evil, that which:

...causes labor, pain, sorrow, malignant evil; it is used (a) with the meaning bad, worthless, in the physical sense,...; in the moral or ethical sense, ’evil’ wicked;... (Vine 211).

Here it describes all the evil things that are in the world. It does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice takes us away from this earth. His death delivers us from the power of things that are evil. "World" refers to the age in which they are living and the one we are still living in today--the Christian Age, which is preceded by the Patriarchal and Mosaical Ages. These come to an end when Jesus dies on the cross (Colossians 2:14-16), preparing the way for the beginning of the Christian Age--the last age, spoken of in the scriptures as the last days (Hebrews 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3). The New Testament does not speak of another age after this one on this earth.

According to the will of God and our Father: The individual who desires to go to heaven and live forevermore with the Father cannot overestimate the value of doing all things in agreement with His will, a necessity if a person is going to maintain a harmonious relationship with Him. There are some important things to notice about the will of God:

1. The will or desire of God for each individual has been written down in the book we commonly call the New Testament. The Old Testament preceded the New. Even Jesus is represented as obeying and thereby fulfilling the will of God and taking away the Old Testament. "...Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second" (Hebrews 10:9). Thus, the will of God for an individual today is not in the Old Testament but in the second or New Testament.

2. An individual may be religious, call upon the name of God, and invoke the name of Christ on his wonderful works; but, if these things are not in harmony with the will of God, he will still not be in the proper relationship with God to enjoy His blessings (Matthew 7:21-23). Cornelius is a great and good man, but he needs to hear "words" (the will of God) before he can be saved (Acts 11:13-14).

3. Jesus considers the will of God so important that He fears something might happen that would not be in keeping with that will. In the last day of His life, He agonizes to such an extent that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). His prayer is heard because He has this fear (Hebrews 5:7). There are a few who have this "fear" that Jesus possesses; but even in the first century, there were those who sinned "wilfully" (Hebrews 10:26), or they voluntarily sinned and thereby manifested they had "counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing" (Hebrews 10:29). With respect to worship, there are those who have not the "fear" of Jesus toward the will of God in this matter. Like those in Colosse, they offer "will worship" (Colossians 2:23), worship that comes from their own will instead of the will of God. Such worship is vain (Matthew 15:9). When Samuel addresses Israel, he exhorts them saying, "And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain" (1 Samuel 12:21). From this passage one must conclude that anything that is "vain" is without profit and cannot deliver insofar as being freed from the bondage of sin is concerned. God’s will is profitable, and it can deliver (John 8:31-32). It is no wonder Jesus made the doing of God’s will a part of His model prayer (Matthew 6:10). Paul is chosen by God that he should know the will of God (Acts 22:14), a mystery to the human race for centuries but now has been revealed to us (Ephesians 1:9). It can now be read and understood by us (Ephesians 3:3-4). We must, however, not only know the will of God but do it in order to receive the promise (Hebrews 10:36). In Romans 12:2, it is suggested that by our doing the will of God we prove or demonstrate it.

4. Another aspect of the will of God is His providential will, which is under consideration in James 5:15 : "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." It is difficult, if not impossible, to know when God is working providentially in our lives so long as we live in this life. Joseph does not realize what is happening in his life when he is betrayed by his brethren, sold as a slave, falsely accused of immorality, and imprisoned. The important thing is his trusting in God through all these bad things and keeping the proper relationship with God so he can be used to fulfill the will of God. When God’s will has been accomplished, then Joseph can see that, indeed, God has providentially used him and so he declares to his terrified brothers:

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5).

When he was in the pit and imprisoned, Joseph did not realize God could use these circumstances to accomplish His will. Neither can we know today how God may be providentially using circumstances in our lives. The important thing for us to do is to trust in God in good times and bad times and keep ourselves in the proper relationship with God so that we can be His instrument to fulfill His will. That is the reason James teaches that when we are going to do something we should always say, "if the Lord wills." This idea must have been in Paul’s thoughts when he writes, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Of course, we must always remember that all things in our secular as well as our spiritual lives must be in harmony with the revealed will of God recorded in the New Testament.

Verse 5

To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

To whom be glory for ever and ever: There are some important things to remember in this doxology. The author of the plan for deliverance must receive the honor for it. Man could not have provided it. If we desire to honor God for this spiritual blessing and all others, we must be, as is Paul, in the church that Jesus built and purchased with His own blood (Ephesians 3:21; Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28). This requirement has been true throughout all time and ages. The idea of honoring God outside the church is foreign to the New Testament.

Amen: This word is added to emphasize the unchanging truth of Paul’s praise and honor. So let it be.

Verse 6

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.

I marvel: Paul is as astonished at their turning away from God’s word as Jesus is with some of His own personal family members in Mark 6:6. They have heard His teachings and have seen Him perform miracles but still do not believe. So He marvels at them. Galatians 4:13-19 indicates Paul has a close relationship with the Galatians similar to the one that Jesus has with His family. Paul considers them as his children in the faith. Now they are turning away from him and the gospel by which they have been saved by.

that ye are so soon: "So soon" indicates how quickly they have decided to turn from the true gospel. There has not been time for them to get the truths together and evaluate them properly. McGarvey believes that approximately three years have passed since Paul’s last visit with them (McGarvey 250). This fact, however, would not necessarily mean they immediately, upon his leaving, begin their departure from the truth.

removed: The Revised Version has "removing," indicating the Galatians are in the process of leaving the truth but have not completed it. Paul must have taken hope from this fact, so he is writing this epistle in an attempt to reverse the process. If it had been impossible for them to fall from grace, Paul would not have needed to write this epistle. He well understands the weakness of the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:27; Galatians 5:4). If they had not been with God, how could they be removing themselves from Him?

from him that called you: Paul has simply been the instrument God has used to call them out of the evil world into the church. He seems to fill the role of "the mouth of the Lord" prophesied in Isaiah 62:2 and fulfilled in Acts 11:26. This idea corresponds with 2 Thessalonians 2:14 where God is spoken of as calling the Thessalonians by the gospel that Paul and the others have been preaching. The invitation of God and Jesus is open to all. The church or the body of the saved is made up of those who have answered the call (see Revelation 22:17).

into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: "The grace of Christ" here means the gospel of Christ. In Titus 2:11-12, Paul uses "grace" in this fashion and goes on to explain that "grace" not only brings the offer of salvation but teaches also. This idea can be seen in this verse in the contrast between "grace of Christ" and "another gospel" (see the comments on grace in verse 3). "Another gospel" does not mean Paul believes there are two or more gospels. "Gospel" means good news or good message (Vine 275). How could it have been "good news" when they were attempting to place a yoke on the Gentiles that the Jewish fathers had not been able to bear? (Acts 15:10) There can be only one gospel. He quickly explains this fact in the next verse.

Verse 7

Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Which is not another: There cannot be a different kind in spite of the fact that some have come with a different message than Paul has delivered to them. They have degraded Paul with their words by saying he is not a real apostle (see 2 Corinthians 11:4-5).

but there be some that trouble you: Those who are troubling the Galatians are the false teachers. In Acts 15:24, the word trouble is again used. They trouble the faithful with "words," apparently with the idea of the "subverting of their souls." How are their souls to be subverted? Is it not by unfaithful words? It is important for faithful church teachers to see to it that sound doctrine is spoken from the congregation’s pulpit. There are still false teachers who desire to plunder and carry away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-31).

and would pervert the gospel of Christ: Souls are "subverted" with "words" that are "perverted." To "pervert" the gospel means "to transform into something of an opposite character" (Vine 469). In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, Satan and his fellow workers are said to be transformed into angels of light and ministers of righteousness, so it is no wonder their messages also contain changes. The "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25) permits no changes, and he who attempts additions or subtractions has changed the character of the gospel to that which is imperfect. Revelation 22:18-19 contains warnings about such practices and the condemnations attached to such attempts (see also 1 Corinthians 16:22; John 12:48; John 14:23-24).

Verse 8

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

But though we: Paul always seems to emphasize the right of people to examine the scriptures to see whether he or the other apostles are declaring the truth. He is willing to be "checked out." The ones staying with him or traveling with him are to be scrutinized as well (Acts 17:11). See Peter’s remarks in 2 Peter 2:1-2, John’s in 1 John 4:1, and Jesus’ in Revelation 2:2 where the Savior commends such practices.

or an angel from heaven: Paul does not stop with mere men because he may have been remembering they had, on his first visit, received him as an angel of light (4:14). While angels do not have the work of preaching the gospel assigned to them, there may be occasions where someone thinks he has heard an angel from heaven. In the scriptures, there seems to be a ministry for angels directed toward those who are "heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). But this ministry does not include preaching the gospel (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). Acts 10:3-6 gives us an example of this principle in action. An angel does not preach directly to Cornelius but arranges for an "earthen vessel"--Peter--to tell Cornelius what he has to do to be saved (Acts 11:14). Even Jesus acts within the perimeters of this principle in the conversion of the writer of this epistle. Saul asks Jesus the most important question man is capable of asking, "What wilt thou have me to do?" The answer to that question has already been deposited into "earthen vessels" or gospel preachers and teachers; thus, while Jesus well knows the answer, He will not reveal it to the trembling and astonished man. Instead, He tells him, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). In this case the "earthen vessel" is Ananias. The answer to "What wilt thou have me to do?" is, "...arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). In other words, today, if we hear the true gospel preached, it will be from a human being and not from an angel or divine being. Anyone who is lost and in a situation similar to Saul’s should hear the same answer. If not, that person will have heard a perverted "gospel." It is not surprising when someone says an angel has appeared to them and has told him what to do to be saved. Paul warns of such appearances in 2 Corinthians 11:14 : "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light."

preach any other gospel unto you: Paul is referring to a gospel different from that which he had announced to them.

than that which we have preached unto you: When Paul first announces the glad tidings, he teaches the correct information the Galatians need to deliver them from their sins and consequent punishment. Paul knows he had not been mistaken in the things he taught. Therefore, if they turn to another kind of announcement or doctrine, they will be lost. It is essential that sound doctrine be taught today as Paul taught it then (1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). Because many will follow the false teacher’s pernicious ways and be lost, the faithful are to treat the perverter in the following way:

let him be accursed: The Revised Version uses the word "anathema," and the word is transliterated in 1 Corinthians 16:22 in the King James Version. The false teacher has fallen into the disfavor of God and is in danger of eternal judgment of Him to whom God has committed all judgment. He is to be rejected if he will not repent (Titus 3:10). It is interesting to note that in 1 Corinthians 12:3, it seems some of the false teachers have called Jesus Himself "accursed." They are attempting to get people to return to the law of Moses for their justification. When they claim "anathema" on Jesus, they place themselves in the position of those the writer of Hebrews refers to:

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6).

The extreme danger is listening to and following them in this error, thereby placing themselves in the same condemnation with their new teachers. Solomon says:

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity. Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools (Proverbs 19:27-29; see also James 3:1).

The second most dangerous thing a congregation can have in its midst is a false teacher. The most dangerous thing is a member who will listen to him. Divisions, heartaches, and lost souls come from such things. Let him be accursed! (See Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 16:17; 2 John 1:9-11.)

Verse 9

As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Paul almost repeats the former verse and evidently does it for emphasis, though there are some new points to consider.

As we said before, so say I now again: Some distinguished scholars interpret this passage to refer to what Paul may have instructed them when he last visited them (Acts 18:23). Others consider it as referring to the previous statement in verse 8. One thing seems sure and that is the "strengthening of the disciples" at Galatia included exhortations and admonitions concerning this type of false teachers. When he went to Galatia the last time, he already had a wealth of experience with them (Acts 17:1-13). It also seems necessary to Paul to repeat what he has just written much as we do today when we want people to understand us when we deliver an important statement.

If any man: Here he leaves out the angels. He deals with a similar problem at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). Some are saying they are of this man or that man. In 3:1-4 of the same epistle, Paul tells them they are immature and carnal in such behavior. No man is to be followed unless he is following Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1-2).

preach any other gospel unto you: Again Paul supposes an impossibility but presents it to their minds because they believe they have received another gospel. Believing it does not make it right, however, and this epistle is written to them so they could know the "truth of the gospel" (2:5). The question might be asked, "How much can a teacher change the gospel and still be acceptable?" Not any! And if he will not learn "the way of God more perfectly" as Apollos did in Acts 18:26, his mouth must be stopped (Titus 1:11). If God knew every "jot and tittle" of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:18), surely He knows every word of the New Testament. Because God possesses this knowledge, the principles taught in Revelation 22:18-19 apply to all of the New Testament for it is "the perfect law of liberty"; and any change makes it imperfect (James 1:25). No new revelations have occurred since the Apostle John died. Those who claim the Lord spoke to them and gave them instructions not found in the New Testament are mocking God and denigrate "the faith which was once delivered to the saints" (Judges 1:3).

than that ye have received: Here is another difference in these two verses. The gospel is "preached" in the preceding verse but "received" in this one. This word indicates they have taken the gospel from Paul. He has not forced them to receive it--they have received it voluntarily. Paul has preached it. They have received it. However, they are not currently standing in it. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 helps in understanding the ideas Paul is attempting to teach them. The gospel must be preached, received, stood in; and then it becomes the agency that Jesus uses to save us (Romans 1:16). If we receive something else and stand in it, we will be lost. The truth of the gospel will then condemn us "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Romans 2:16). Thus, the gospel is a two-edged sword that will save or condemn (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Those who trifle with it, whether in the preaching of it or the hearing of it, will receive appropriate condemnation. An important responsibility is, therefore, imposed on any person who hears the gospel (see Luke 12:47-48).

let him be accursed: (See verse 8.) By repeating this condemnation, there could be no doubt in the Galatians’ minds that Paul has not made a mistake in writing it the first time.

Another Gospel

No! There could not be another gospel. Man is continually trying to alter the genuine. Before the New Testament was completed by inspired men, other epistles had been written that were not acceptable. Luke informs Theophilus:

...Many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us... (Luke 1:1).

John was not yet written. Matthew and Mark could not be accurately described as "many." Though many were writing epistles, the Holy Spirit required the physician to write "The Gospel According to Luke." This is the one God wanted. Similarly, in 2 Thessalonians, it is suggested that letters had been written as if they had come from Paul or the other apostles, and they contained false doctrine.

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand (2 Thessalonians 2:2).

These letters are indicted as being spurious and false. They are "another gospel" whether they come by spirit, word, or letter.

Once the canon of scripture was completed, false teachers again took up the task of promoting "another gospel." A collection of some of these writings during this time period is called "The Apocryphal Gospels." This title describes the writings as being of doubtful authorship or authenticity. The various letters are falsely attributed to some Biblical characters, including apostles. They are kept out of the New Testament because they are not accepted as being God breathed. They are "another gospel."

History records influential religious books and creeds coming from the Far East, the deserts of the Mid-East, and even "another testament of Jesus Christ" from the Western part of the world. Until the coming of the Lord, such books and creeds will be written.

All of them have in common inferior writings, contradictions, and information that contradicts history and the word of God. Otherwise, there would be no need for them. Such books, creeds, and false teachers have troubled the people of God for almost two thousand years. It is no wonder Paul twice writes about one who brings such messages, "Let him be accursed" (1:8-9).

Verse 10

Paul’s Desire to Please God
and Proofs of Apostleship

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men?: So far, we have seen that the false teachers in Galatia have attempted to pervert the apostleship of Paul and the gospel that he has preached to them. This epistle is dedicated to the defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s being an apostle sent by Christ to preach that gospel. The word translated "persuade" means "to apply persuasion, to prevail upon or win over, to persuade" (Vine 469). At least some of the false teachers seem to think Paul has, in some way, rejected his former teaching about whether or not a person has to obey the law of Moses in order to be justified. They could have used such examples as Paul’s having Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3), his entering into the temple with other Jews in the purification rite in Acts 21:26, or words that Paul writes to Corinth in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. If they had done so, that would have been an example of taking actions and statements out of their contexts and using them for their own selfish purposes. Paul, in this last reference, concludes, "And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you." In other words, he is not continually changing his position in reference to the gospel anytime he finds himself in a different situation, even though such tactics would have saved him much suffering. His desire to be approved by God is so great that he would do everything possible, short of violating the gospel, to gain that approval (2 Timothy 2:15).

for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ: (See 2 Thessalonians 2:4-6.) When Paul, as Saul, is persecuting the church, he is pleasing men. If that had been his desire, he would still be trying to destroy Christianity, for that had been pleasing to those he formerly served (Acts 9:1-2). He has reached unparalleled heights in pleasing men (Philippians 3:4-7). These advantages have been given up for Christ. As a result, he has suffered the difficulties listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Who would have endured such things if they are attempting to please men? "Servant" indicates the special relationship he has with Christ; and from this relationship, he receives strength to endure all things (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Verse 11

But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

Here "certify" means "to make known" (Vine 94; see The RV). It has the force of guaranteeing or removing all doubt in writing, which he is doing as he begins recounting the events of how he received the gospel from Christ and of the impossibility of any man (including the other apostles) having written him what to preach or having instructed him in the gospel. This revelation begins on the road to Damascus and continues from time to time during his life (2 Corinthians 12:1). He does not receive it all at once, for he says in 1 Corinthians 13:9, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." This passage must not be interpreted to mean that Paul would not know all the truth in a given situation. John 14:26 indicates all truth would be revealed to all the apostles and prophets.

Verse 12

For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The plan of God for revealing His will to the appropriate men is as follows: 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 explains that the will of God was in the mind of God, and no man knew it. However, it is revealed by the Holy Spirit who does know the mind of God. Jesus promises His apostles that:

...when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13).

For this reason they are immersed in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and immediately begin preaching the gospel to the people without having to learn it from any man. Paul belongs to this class of apostles, though he is "as of one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Jesus is authoritatively behind each revelation of the Spirit. In each revelation the Spirit is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14); thus, it can be truthfully said that God "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..." (Hebrews 1:2). And, even though Christ does not write a single book or epistle in the New Testament, it can still be said:

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37).

Thus, in the final analysis, the New Testament is the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Verse 13

Paul’s Lack of Opportunities
to Learn His Message From Others

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church Of God, and wasted it:

For ye have heard: Paul’s (Saul’s) reputation is well known by the Jewish people. Since Ananias has heard of it (Acts 9:13-14), one can imagine that Paul’s zeal against the church is a topic of conversation among the people even after his conversion. Paul, himself, does not try to keep his former life a secret, and the Galatians probably hear of it from him first.

my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion: The apostle has been "an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee" (Philippians 3:5), which is the largest and strictest of the Jewish sects. "Conversation" simply refers to his manner of life during that time. This English word is used again in Philippians 3:19 but with a different significance. It is translated from a different word and means "citizenship" (Vine 103). The way the word is used in these and other passages should not be confused with the current meaning we attach to the word which is simply "talk." Paul was zealous in the religion of the Jews. Specifically, he seems to have in mind the traditions of the Jewish fathers he writes about in the next verse.

how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: A divine principle is that a person reaps what he sows in the physical and spiritual sense (6:7). Paul admits the truth of this statement in 2 Corinthians 1:8 in describing the way the Jews are now persecuting him. His persecution of the church indicates he has earnestly pursued Christians in an evil sense or according to his present belief, intending to do evil. His wasting the church suggests his desire to ruin it completely (Hogg & Vine 38) (see Acts 9:21). In Acts 22:4, Paul tells the Jews, "And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women." If he could have, with one sweep of the hand, obliterated the church, he would have done it.

Verse 14

And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation: The Revised Version has "advanced" instead of "profited." Instead of "equals," it has "own age." He has grown more in that religion and has been promoted more than others of his own age (see Acts 22:3-5).

being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers: In Acts 21:20, it is said of some of the Jewish believers that they are "zealous of the law." The author has surpassed them and all his contemporaries in this matter, and he had seemed especially interested in surpassing all in his zeal for the traditions or interpretations of that law. "Traditions" refer to those things passed or handed down from the fathers (Vine 639). These are the interpretations of the scribes and Pharisees and have assumed an importance over and beyond the law itself (Matthew 15:3-9). Later on in Paul’s ministry, he uses this same word to describe the commandments of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). In these passages "a handing down" is still in the mind of the apostle, but the words handed down originate with Jesus through the apostles and from them to the members of the church (2 Timothy 2:2). For this reason they are not the doctrines and commandments of men (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 14:37).

Verse 15

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace.

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb: When the time and conditions are suitable and acceptable to God, Saul--as Paul is then named--is born. Because of this statement, Paul can be grouped with a number of special servants for special times in God’s scheme of things. There are Isaiah in Isaiah 49:1, Jeremiah in 1:5 of his book, and John the Baptist in Luke 1:15, to list a few. All of these and others God has chosen by the time they are born for special works. God does not predestinate them to be saved, although if they please God, they will be. Paul is constantly striving against sins of the flesh (1 Corinthians 9:27), a fight that would not have been necessary had he been personally predestinated to salvation. In a broad sense, everything and everyone is created for Jesus and His glory (Colossians 1:16).

and called me by his grace: Paul is born for and called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ in a special way, according to God’s plan. Thus, his being an apostle pleases God whether it pleases the false teachers or not (see Romans 1:1). The word "called" is all Paul uses to describe what happened on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). Verses 10-18 of Acts 9 describe the events that lead him into salvation (see Acts 22:16).

Verse 16

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.

To reveal his Son in me: From a personal standpoint, Paul, at one point in his life, could have written 2 Corinthians 4:3 about himself and the condition he is in: "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:" In order to qualify him to be an apostle and enable him to preach the gospel, Jesus has to be revealed to him in a special way different from the other apostles. Peter, in giving the requirements of an apostle, says:

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).

They have personally walked with, listened to, and conversed with Jesus during this stated time. All of these requirements have to be accomplished in Paul by special revelation so he can be a witness even of His resurrection. The phrase "reveal his Son in me" not only includes all those things the original twelve see but also all the messages of Jesus to man (see Acts 22:14-15). In a similar statement, Philip preaches "Jesus" to the eunuch in Acts 8:35-36. In proof that "preaching Jesus" includes telling about the commandments of Jesus, "...the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" When Jesus is revealed to Paul, the message includes the words of Jesus. It is impossible to separate Jesus from His words and still please God. The two go hand in hand so much that he immediately writes his job description in the next clause.

that I might preach him among the heathen: Paul knows what he is to preach and to whom he is to preach it so much so that he writes Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to "Preach the word...." That is what he has done, and he wants this young man to follow in his steps. Specifically, the heathen spoken of are the Gentiles, but Paul’s preaching is not limited to them (Acts 9:15-16). This word "heathen" certainly describes the Galatians when Paul first preaches Christ to them (Acts 14:11-13).

immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Paul does not consult with any man concerning the things he teaches. We have already seen that he has to confer with flesh and blood regarding what he has to do to be saved (Acts 9:6; Acts 22:10-16). Ananias, however, does not tell him what to preach. Though "flesh and blood," that is, men, do not tell him what to preach, he is able to preach the truth immediately (Acts 9:20-22). His counsel has been with the Lord.

Verse 17

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me: Paul continues giving proof that his apostleship is not "from men," not even from the apostles who are in Jerusalem. In fact, shortly after his conversion, he goes in the opposite direction from Jerusalem. This is a providential happening from the past that God is now able to use to show that Paul’s gospel is from Christ and not from any man or group of men.

but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus: Arabia includes the countries immediately east of the land of Palestine and also the great peninsula that includes Mt. Sinai (Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary 41). It is interesting that Paul uses Arabia and Mt. Sinai together in 1 Corinthians 4:25. The area Paul goes to is probably east and perhaps south of Damascus. He goes there, no doubt, to proclaim the word of God. Those who think he goes there to meditate and learn about the gospel he is to preach seem to forget the immediate abilities that an inspired man has (see Luke 21:14-15). We must remember, too, that Paul is able to preach immediately (Acts 9:19-22). When he returns to Damascus, the hatred the Jews have for him is manifested so ferociously that he, with the brethren assisting him in avoiding the ambuscade, has to leave the city secretly (Acts 9:23-26). From there he travels back to Jerusalem for the first time since he has left on his journey to further his persecution of the church of Christ. This visit is the subject of the next verse.

Verse 18

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem: The "three years" corresponds with "many days" in Acts 9:23. The time count probably begins at his conversion mentioned in verse 16, giving an approximate length for his stay in Arabia. McGarvey believes Paul is converted in A.D. 37 and that the "three years" could be three full years or one full year and a part of two others (McGarvey 255). When a Jewish person visits Jerusalem, he always seems to be going "up" to Jerusalem regardless of the direction he is coming from. When one visits Jerusalem, he cannot help noticing the lowlands surrounding the hills and mountains on which the city is built. Jerusalem is approximately 400 feet higher in elevation than Damascus. Literally Jerusalem is higher than most of the country about it. The city also holds such a high and lofty position in the history of God’s dealing with the Hebrew people that they are probably all prone to speak of going up to Jerusalem when they visit there.

to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days: Acts 9:26-29 tells us about the acts of Paul during this short visit. Perhaps the "fifteen days" he mentions help prove he does not have time to learn how or what to preach. The time is too short. His visit to Jerusalem is cut short by persecution and by the message from the Lord mentions in Acts 22:17-21. "To see" comes from a word that "denotes ’to visit’ in order to become acquainted with..." (Vine 662). At the time of the writing of this epistle, the word does not have the meaning of asking questions in order to learn something new. The "coming in and going out at Jerusalem" refers to all the things the apostles are accustomed to doing in Jerusalem, the things they do in their everyday lives (Acts 9:28; see also John 10:9 for the use of "in and out"). The next verse indicates he is not spending his time learning. He is busy preaching what he already knows--what the Lord has revealed to him--and needs no assistance from the other apostles to gain more knowledge.

Verse 19

But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

But other of the apostles saw I none: The other apostles are probably not in Jerusalem at that time and are, no doubt, fulfilling the great commission and the words of Jesus found in Acts 1:8.

save James the Lord’s brother: Two of the original twelve apostles are named James. One is the son of Zebedee and the other the son of Alphaeus. This James is distinguished from the other two by having his fleshly relationship with Jesus stated. He is probably the author of The Epistle of James. He is not an apostle of Jesus Christ but may have been an apostle of the church in Jerusalem, meaning only that he has been assigned some mission by them. See Mark 6:3 for a list containing the names of the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Some claim they are just cousins of Jesus. The context in Mark 6 completely refutes the idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary that some claim to believe.

Verse 20

Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

This affirmation is necessary because the events he is writing about contradict what the Galatians have heard from the false teachers. In verse 13, the Galatians have heard about Paul’s former position in the Jewish religion and his persecution of the true church. Perhaps they hear this information from him while he is with them. Evidently, he has not told them the details of his journeys after his conversion or the contacts he has made with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. The purpose of his writing is to establish his credentials as an apostle separate and apart from the original twelve. Paul is not the one lying.

Verse 21

Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

The reason he has to leave Jerusalem is not stated here but is apparent in Luke’s history of it in Acts 9:29-30. "...they went about to slay" Paul. The Jews attempt to take his life; and to protect him, the brethren take him to Caesarea and send him to his home town of Tarsus, the chief city in Cilicia (Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3). We have no record of his work there, but we know there are brethren and churches there as a result of someone’s labor (Acts 15:23; Acts 15:41). Knowing Paul’s zeal and willingness to preach the gospel, we cannot imagine his just sitting around doing nothing while there. His interest in the salvation of the hometown folks is probably as keen as his desire for the people of his own race to be saved (Acts 9:1-4).

Verse 22

And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ.

Paul is well-known by those in Tarsus, but his stay in Jerusalem is so brief that not many would know him if they see him, further proof that he does not receive his messages from the church there. The phrase "which were in Christ" is important. These words indicate the churches in Judea are all in the right relationship with Jesus Christ and all have a common salvation and faith (Judges 1:3). Each member has been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3). A church is "in Christ" when its members have obeyed Him, have been saved from their sins, and have been added to the church (Acts 2:47). They then continue to obey Him as their head in worship and service and in living holy lives. This statement is recorded in the days before denominations came into being. It was simply Christ’s church then, or the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18).

Verse 23

But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

The churches in Judea have heard the same thing about Paul as the Galatians have (verse 13). Paul’s purpose in persecuting the church is to destroy the faith or system of religion that he, at that time, earnestly believes is contrary to the will of God (Acts 22:1-4; Acts 23:1). The gospel system is called "the faith" because faith comes by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). The effect is put for the cause. In other words, the churches in Judea hear Paul is preaching the truth, but they have not had the time or opportunity to tell him what to preach.

Verse 24

And they glorified God in me.

Instead of their claiming a part in Paul’s conversion and then sending him out to preach, they glorify God. The Judean churches praise God for changing Paul and making an apostle out of him (see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Galatians 1". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.