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Galatians 1

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Verse 1

Gal 1:1

Galatians 1:1

Paul, an apostle—Those who taught that the Gentiles should be circumcised because Paul opposed it, called in question his apostleship, especially disparaged him as not equal to Peter, and on this relied upon his never having seen Jesus in the flesh, hence, could not be sent of him.

(not from men, neither through man,—During his personal ministry Jesus selected and qualified certain ones to bear wit­ness of both what he did and taught to the world. Hence when he sent them out to do this work they were called apos­tles. Paul was not one of the original twelve, but he firmly asserts that he was an apostle.

but through Jesus Christ,—Jesus appeared unto Saul when on his way to Damascus and said unto him: “Arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things where­in thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gen­tiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an in­heritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18). This call was to do exactly the things that he had qualified and sent the twelve to do, and he had given him precisely the same commission. Hence, Paul said that he was an apostle, sent not of men, nor through men, but sent through Jesus Christ.

[Christ was in this act the mediator, declaring the supreme will. In another place Paul styles himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God.” (Ephesians 1:1). His ap­pointment took place by a divine intervention, in which the ordinary sequence of events was broken through. Long after the Savior in his bodily presence had ascended to heaven, when in the order of nature it was impossible that another apostle should be elected, and when the administration of his church had for several years been carried on by human hands, he appeared once more on earth for the purpose of making a minister and a witness. This interposition gives to Paul’s ministry an exceptional character. While the mode of his election was in one respect humiliating, and put him in the position of “the child untimely born,” the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8-9), whose appearance in that capacity was un­looked for and necessarily open to suspicion; on the other hand, it was glorious and exalting, since it so richly displayed the divine mercy and the transforming power of grace.]

and God the Father, who raised him from the dead),—[It was the risen Jesus that he saw, and that he was conscious of seeing in the moment of vision. The revelation that arrested him near Damascus in the same moment convinced him that Jesus was risen, and that he himself was called to be his ser­vant. These two convictions were inseparably linked in Paul’s memory. As surely as God the Father had raised Jesus from the dead and given him glory, so surely had the glorified Jesus revealed himself to him, his persecutor, to make him his apostle. He was not less truly than Peter and John a witness of his resurrection. The message of the resurrection was the burden of the apostleship.]

Verse 2

Gal 1:2

Galatians 1:2

and all the brethren that are with me,—The brethren who were with him joined in this letter so far as to approve its end and purpose. Those with him were doubtless his fellow la­borers who accompanied him in his work. [Not that Paul’s authority rested upon its recognition even by these good men. His reference to them merely suggests that they who reject it separate themselves from this band of noble workers.]

unto the churches of Galatia:—Galatia was an extensive territory, with a number of cities in which Paul had preached and established churches.

Verse 3

Gal 1:3

Galatians 1:3

Grace to you—This is a prayer that the favor of God may attend them, with which Paul introduces his letters generally. It is an expression of kindness to the Christians to whom he was writing, and that God would regard them with favor and compassion.

and peace from God the Father,—Reconciliation and har­mony with God and with all that are in peace and harmony with him.

and our Lord Jesus Christ,—The mission of Jesus Christ is to bring “peace among men in whom he is well pleased.” (Luke 2:14). To the faithful Philippians it was promised. “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). The harmony, union, and peace with God brings a peace and quietness of mind in the midst of all the trials and disappointments of earth. Just before his violent death on the cross, Jesus said to his sorrowing disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” (John 14:27). Jesus had a peace and quiet of soul arising from his union with God and his trust and confi­dence in him that nothing could disturb. The same he be­stowed upon his disciples that their hearts might not be trou­bled and filled with fear. This peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ lifts the disciples above the trials and disappointments of this life and enables them to abide se­renely in all the promises of God. Every Christian may attain this soul-satisfying comfort by an earnest trust in and faithful walk with God.

Verse 4

Gal 1:4

Galatians 1:4

who gave himself for our sins,—Jesus gave himself up to a life of toil, tears, privation, sorrow, and death to obtain the forgiveness of sins, that he might deliver us from the evils of this world—a deliverance from the power and control of evil, raising us above the evils while we are yet in the world. Jesus said: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them from the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15).

that he might deliver us out of this present evil world,—[A world of bad passions, corrupt desires; a world full of ambi­tion, of the love of pleasure; and love of riches; a world where God is not loved and obeyed; a world where men are regard­less of right and truth and duty—where they live for them­selves, and not for God; in short, that great community which in the scriptures is called the world in contradistinction from the kingdom of God. It follows, therefore, that his followers constitute “a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14), not predominated by the feelings of the world. If there is not a separation, then the purpose of the Redeemer’s death in re­gard to us has not been affected, and we are still a part of that great and ungodly community.] There is no deliverance from the evils of the world until we are delivered from our sins. Sin is the cause of the evil of the world.

according to the will of our God and Father:—Christ came to deliver from sin that we might be delivered from evil in ac­cordance with the will of God the Father. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). This is all spoken to show that Paul was sent by Jesus, and Jesus was sent of the Father. So he was an apostle of Jesus Christ and God his Father.

Verse 5

Gal 1:5

Galatians 1:5

to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.—He as­cribes to Jesus, the Redeemer, glory for ever and ever, as the author of the whole plan of salvation of which Paul was an apostle. The self-sacrifice and self-denial of Jesus to save man will bring to him glory and honor forever.

Verse 6

Gal 1:6

Galatians 1:6

I marvel—The change which is taking place among the Galatian Christians is so utterly inconceivable to Paul that he marvels. [The whole truth concerning the gospel plan of sal­vation had been so clearly set before them, their reception of the truth had been so hearty, his own personal influence over them had been so strong, that the change seemed like some unaccountable fascination. (Galatians 3:1).]

that ye are so quickly removing—Their defection from the truth was not yet complete and would continue, unless they were brought to a better state of mind by this epistle. Whether or not this was the case it is not known. The word quickly may mean either that their action had been hasty, taken without due consideration, or but little time had elapsed between the acceptance of the gospel and their defection. On the whole, it seems the more probable that the reference is to the time rather than the manner of their defection; then soon after the arrival of the false teachers is more likely than so soon after their conversion. Paul may have intended to hint that he had not found them so ready to accept the true gospel as the false teachers had found them ready to accept a perver­sion of it.

from him that called you—From God to whom Paul attrib­utes the call to salvation. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). In harmony with the words of the Lord Jesus (John 6:44; John 6:65) the calling of men out of darkness is always referred to God the Father (Romans 8:28-30). These words reveal the gravity of the situa­tion in which they were placing themselves.

in the grace of Christ—The grace of Christ is the instru­ment of the divine calling inasmuch as it is through the preaching his love and the gift that the unbeliever is at first attracted and won over to the faith. The grace of Christ is expressed in these words: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). His grace is his voluntary self-surrender to humiliation and death, from no other prompting than his own love for man.

unto a different gospel;—It seems that the Judaizers ex­plained that theirs was a gospel with a difference.

Verse 7

Gal 1:7

Galatians 1:7

which is not another gospel:—Paul replied that what they preached differed so greatly from the true gospel that it was no gospel at all. He could not even allow them the name gos­pel. [Paul preached salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), they preached salvation by the law through works, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses or they cannot be saved (Acts 15:1; Acts 15:5); the two are incompatible, and are antagonistic to that end (Romans 11:6). Thus at the very beginning he closes the door against compromise, and throughout the epistle this attitude is main­tained. Obedience to their teaching puts in bondage (Galatians 2:4) and entanglement (Galatians 5:1), and could not result in justification (Galatians 2:16), or freedom (Galatians 5:1); it made Christ to be of no profit (Galatians 5:2), and the death of Christ, which is the essence of the gospel, a superfluous thing of no account (Galatians 2:21); and so far from bringing blessing it puts him under a curse (Galatians 3:10); and all who accepted it fell away from grace (Galatians 5:4).]

only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.—Those who troubled them with false teach­ings perverted the gospel of Christ. Christ died to redeem all nations from sin. It was a perversion of the gospel to claim that they could not be saved by Christ save through keeping the Jewish law. It was turning them from a sole reliance in Christ back to the Jewish law.

Verse 8

Gal 1:8

Galatians 1:8

But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.—Paul’s claim was that the gospel as he had preached it was complete, absolute, and final, and if he himself, or even an angel from heaven, should preach an­other gospel than that he had preached, let him be anathema—accursed.

Verse 9

Gal 1:9

Galatians 1:9

As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye re­ceived, let him be anathema.—He repeats it to emphasize its truth and importance. To insist that a man must be circum­cised and keep the law of Moses was such a perversion of the gospel as to destroy its nature, and to call down upon him doing it the condemnation of God.

Verse 10

Gal 1:10

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?—It seems that he had been ac­cused of being a time-server who sought to ingratiate himself by becoming “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22); in proof of this accusation they could point to the circumcision of Timo­thy as an effort to gain Jewish favor, and to his repudiation of the law as an attempt to conciliate the Gentiles, in admitting them to salvation in Christ without circumcision.

if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.—In this he reaffirms a truth set forth by Jesus: “How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the 6nly God ye seek not?” (John 5:44). This clearly teaches that they who seek honor from men cannot believe in Jesus. Men seeking to be popular with the world cannot be true faithful believers in, and servants of, Jesus Christ. [That popularity with men and the service of Christ are incompatible Paul knew from actual experience im­mediately after he entered the service of Christ, for his former friends took counsel to kill him (Acts 9:23), and even at the time of writing persecution had not ceased (Galatians 5:11).]

Verse 11

Gal 1:11

Galatians 1:11

For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gos­pel which was preached by me,—[This was the turning point in Paul’s life. If the Galatians were to understand his teach­ing, they must know why he became a Christian, how he had received the message of the gospel which he brought to them. He felt sure that they would enter more sympathetically into the gospel he preached if they were better acquainted with how he received it. They would see how well-justified was the authority, how needful the severity with which he wrote. Accordingly he begins with a brief relation of the circum­stances of his call to the service of Christ, and his career from the days of his Judaistic zeal, when he made havoc of the faith, till the well-known occasion on which he withstood Peter, the chief of the twelve, to the face because he separated himself from the Gentile Christians, “fearing them that were of the circumcision.” (Galatians 2:11-14). His object in this recital seems to be threefold: to refute the misrepresentations of the Judaizers, to vindicate his independent authority as an apostle of Christ, and to unfold the nature and terms of the gospel, so as to pave the way for the argument which follows, and which forms the body of this epistle.]

that it is not after man.—[Not according to man, but it was revealed to him by Jesus Christ. This initial revelation made to him was of inestimable importance to him. It made him an apostle in the august sense in which he claimed the title (Galatians 1:1). This accounts for the vehemence with which he defends his teaching and for the awful sentence which he has passed upon his impugners. The divine authorship of the gospel he preached made it impossible for him to temporize with perverters, or to be influenced by human favor or disfavor in its administration. Had his teaching been “according to man,” he might have consented to compromise; he mighty reasona­bly have tried to humor and accommodate Jewish prejudices. But the case is far otherwise.]

Verse 12

Gal 1:12

Galatians 1:12

For neither did I receive it from man,—[The pronoun I is emphatic, suggesting a contrast with the Judaizers, who most likely claimed to come from the apostles who had “companied” with the Lord and had been directly commissioned by him before his ascension. But while Paul thus glorifies his ministry (Romans 11:13), when speaking of himself personally he uses very different language: “I am the least of the apos­tles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I perse­cuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9). ]

nor was I taught it,—He continues to clear the ground of all possible alternatives before declaring the means whereby he learned the facts and truths of the gospel and their mean­ing as applied to the needs of man.

but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.—He received and was taught by a direct communication of the mind of God through Jesus Christ. When on his way to Da­mascus Jesus Christ appeared unto him, and arrested him by the brightness above the brightness of the noonday sun, and said unto him: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest;" and that he had appeared unto him to make him a minister and a wit­ness of the things which he saw, and the things in which he would appear unto him. Showing that he yet intended to ap­pear unto him in fitting him for the work in which he had called him. From Christ and by that revelation, and others in which he appeared unto him, he received the gospel which he preached. The enemies of Paul, because he had not seen Christ in the flesh, denied that he was a true apostle, and that he received his knowledge secondhand, in a corrupted and perverted state, therefore he was not to be trusted as an apos­tle.

Verse 13

Gal 1:13

Galatians 1:13

For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past—They had most likely heard from Paul when he first preached the gospel to them. The reason why he now refers to his past life is to show that he had not obtained his knowledge of the gospel from any instruction which he had received in his early life, or any acquaintance he had formed with the apostles.

in the Jews’ religion—[This refers not to the religious beliefs, but to religious practices and to those not as they were instituted by God, but to the system of Jewish faith and wor­ship in its perverted form as one of blind attachment to rites and traditions, bigotry, and self-righteousness. To what ex­tent the religion of the Jews partook of this character in the time of Christ appears not only from his constant exposure of their formalism and assumption, but especially in the fact that it occurs more frequently than otherwise as synonymous with opposers of Christ and of his teachings. Of the spirit of Juda­ism, Paul, before his conversion, was a signal example. He declares that his persecution of the church was a fruit of this spirit, and that in the violence of his zeal he outstripped all his associates as a zealot for the traditions of the fathers.]

how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and have havoc of it:—He refers to his fierce and bitter per­secution of the church of God, of which Luke says: “Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), followed them to strange cities and de­stroyed them so far as lay in his power. Before the mob in Jerusalem who were seeking his life he said: “I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prison both men and woman.” (Acts 22:4).

Verse 14

Gal 1:14

Galatians 1:14

and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen,—He was diligent and faithful in the service, and was promoted in its positions of honor more readily than his equals in ability and family rela­tions. He is said to have been a member of the Sanhedrin when yet young. If so he was advanced for ability and zeal to the work that pertained to those of advanced years.

being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fa­thers.—He was entrusted with important labors because he was diligent, faithful, and zealous in the traditions of his fa­thers.

Verse 15

Gal 1:15

Galatians 1:15

But when it was the good pleasure of God,—God had respect for Paul on account of his sincerity, earnestness, and his conscientious zeal in doing what he thought was the ser­vice of God. He persecuted the church, but he did it believ­ing he was doing God’s service.

who separated me, even from my mother’s womb,—Even from his birth Paul was set apart by God for the work to which he was appointed. The same is said of Isaiah 49:1 : “Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name;” of Jeremiah 1:5; and of John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). Paul uses simi­lar language regarding himself. (Romans 1:1). It is an essential part of his argument here that from his birth it was God’s choice that made him an apostle.

and called me through his grace,—God did not save him while persecuting his people, but revealed to him the divine truth that he might deliver him from his sin. Jesus appeared to him and convinced him of his wrong course and put him in the right way. Paul with a grateful heart accepted it as a kindness from the Lord. He recognized that he was a sinner, the chief of sinners, in bitterly persecuting the church of Christ, and thus he obtained pardon because he did it igno­rantly in unbelief.

Verse 16

Gal 1:16

Galatians 1:16

to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles;—God calls his servants to reveal in their lives the life of his Son. Paul especially became a self-denying fol­lower of Jesus, and like his Master did suffer all things to make known Christ Jesus to the world. Christ thus was re­vealed in him, and he was imbued with this spirit, by which he could preach Christ to the world. This is the construction placed on this passage by some expositors, but Macknight translates it: “To reveal his Son to me, that I might preach him to the Gentiles.” This was the purpose for which Jesus told Paul that he appeared to him: “For to this end have I ap­peared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18). To Ananias he said: “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16).

straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:—He nei­ther consulted his own fleshly feelings or ties, nor with kin­dred or others, but at once without reference to any earthly interest or feeling began the work to which he was called.

Verse 17

Gal 1:17

Galatians 1:17

neither went I up to Jerusalem—The usual term, as Jeru­salem was not only the religious capital of the Jews, but situ­ated on high hills so that travelers from every direction, ex­cept from Bethlehem, had to ascend.

to them that were apostles before me:—He asserts his direct call from God, and he had no need to go to those who were apostles before him. He went about his work under the direction given by God. “And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20).

but I went away into Arabia;—This was a country of the Gentiles contiguous to the east of Damascus; here, doubtless, he preached as before and after (Acts 9:20-22) at Damascus. Thus he shows the independence of his apostolic commission.

[Some expositors claim that the purpose of Paul’s sojourn in Arabia was not for the purpose of preaching, but that he might have time for meditation on his new relation to Christ, which appears to be so utterly at variance with his restless activity and zeal as to be wholly incredible. The addition to this conjecture, that he went as far as Mount Sinai, more than four hundred miles away, whither Elijah had retired before him, instead of confirming this conjecture, weakens it; for Paul knew that Jehovah had said to him, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” and that he had ordered him back to his work. (1 Kings 19:9-18). In the absence of all evidence for this con­jecture, we should be governed in judging of the purpose of the pilgrimage by what we know of Paul’s habits during the remainder of his life; and by that standard we should con­clude that he was the last man to waste any precious mo­ments, not to speak of a year or two in meditation in the des­ert, while the cause to which he had been called was now struggling for its very existence.]

and again I returned unto Damascus.—[He did not go to Jerusalem to consult the apostles after his visit to Arabia, but returned to the place where he first saw the light, and preached there, showing that he had not received his commis­sion from the other apostles.]

Verse 18

Gal 1:18

Galatians 1:18

Then after three years—The date is probably to be reck­oned from the great turning point in his life—his conver­sion. If the visit to Arabia was short, most of this time would be spent at Damascus, probably after his return there. Luke says: “When many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel together to kill him: but their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night that they might kill him: but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket.” (Acts 9:23-25). “After many days” corresponds to “after three years,” which evidently means three years after his conver­sion.

I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas,—It was quite natu­ral that he should wish to form the personal acquaintance of Peter, to whom the Lord had given “the keys of the king­dom.” Paul’s object was to show that he was independent of human instruction and direction and fully equal to the older apostles. It was in this, his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, that “he assayed to join himself to the disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damas­cus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:26-27). It is probable that Barnabas was acquainted with him prior to his conversion.

and tarried with him fifteen days.—He was hurried away by a message from the Lord, who said to him: “Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not re­ceive of thee testimony concerning me.” (Acts 22:18). The mention of the brief duration of the stay is intended, espe­cially in contrast with the three years of absence from Jerusa­lem, to show how impossible it was to regard him a disciple of the twelve, learning all that he knew of the gospel from them.

Verse 19

Gal 1:19

Galatians 1:19

But other of the apostles saw I none,—On this visit to Jerusalem, he saw none of the apostles besides Peter.

save James the Lord’s brother.—[This James is called “the Lord’s brother” to distinguish him from the two apostles of the same name. “Brother” is not “cousin,” but a younger son of Mary and Joseph. Compare the words, “and knew her not till she had brought forth a son” (Matthew 1:25); “and she brought forth her firstborn son.” (Luke 2:7). The cousin theory of the Roman Catholic Church is exegetically untena­ble, and was suggested chiefly by the doctrinal ascetic bias in favor of the perpetual virginity of Mary and Joseph.]

Verse 20

Gal 1:20

Galatians 1:20

Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.—He avers with earnestness that the things in these matters are true. Sometimes we wonder at the earnestness of Paul in these seemingly unimportant de­tails as to his movements. But the point made against him was that he was not an apostle, but had received what he knew and taught from the twelve. He is showing that he had no opportunity to learn from them, that he had only a few days’ interview with Peter during the eighteen or twenty years of his early labors, but was entirely under the immedi­ate direction of the Lord who sent him.

Verse 21

Gal 1:21

Galatians 1:21

Then I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.—We learn from the parallel narrative that he was first conveyed se­cretly by the disciples to Caesarea; there he took ship ana sailed for Tarsus. (Acts 9:30). He here was found somewhat later by Barnabas and taken to Antioch, where he remained a year. (Acts 11:25-26). Antioch was the chief city of Syria, which became the center of his operations among the Gentiles. (Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:26; Acts 15:35-41; Acts 18:22).

Verse 22

Gal 1:22

Galatians 1:22

And I was still unknown by face—In Jerusalem itself Paul had not time to receive instruction from anyone, still less was this the case with the other Christian communities in Judea. At the same time, so far were they from manifesting any opposition to his teaching that their one thought was joy to hear of his conversion.

unto the churches of Judaea—Judea is here distinguished from Jerusalem. The phrase is noticeable as pointing to the spread and early establishment of the church at a date not more than ten years from the ascension of Jesus. Until this time the churches in Judea did not know Paul by sight.

which were in Christ:—The churches in different sections had a common faith, and were called by a common name, and stood in the same direct and personal relation to Christ as their head. It was his presence diffused among them which gave them unity.

Verse 23

Gal 1:23

Galatians 1:23

but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc;—He who had so violently persecuted them was now preaching the faith in Christ, which he once sought to destroy.

Verse 24

Gal 1:24

Galatians 1:24

and they glorified God in me.—Praised and honored God because he had changed the bitter persecutor into an earnest, self-denying apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They claimed no part in the conversion, but glorified God for it.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Galatians 1". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/galatians-1.html.
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