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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Galatians 1

 

 

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Verses 1-5

Galatians 1, 2 (roughly). Paul Vindicates his Independence.

Galatians 1:1-5. Paul's apostleship, denied by his enemies, is due neither to human initiative nor human mediation, but directly to God and Christ, the latter being viewed—in accordance with the fundamental doctrine of Christianity—as the risen One. Greetings are sent not from any church but from a group of friends; possibly Paul wrote while on a journey. The supreme greeting proceeds from God and Christ, but the latter is now viewed as the crucified One; behind externals, Paul feels that the Atonement itself is challenged by Judaizing. These introductory verses state the doctrine of atonement in vague outline; Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:4, Galatians 5:24, Galatians 6:14 do something towards defining it further.


Verses 6-10

Galatians 1:6-10. Most of Paul's letters open with thanks to God for the Christianity of the readers. Nothing of that kind is possible here! Quickly—not "soon" after their conversion; that were no wonder; but with indecent haste and levity, such as one laments in George Eliot's abandonment of faith—they are turning away from God who called them towards a different gospel which is no gospel at all. (Some doubt whether this paraphrase is grammatically warranted, but reach a similar sense—"unto a different gospel which is nothing else than that some would trouble you," etc.) What he had said (on his second and third visits, probably; Acts 16, 18) he now repeats; neither Paul nor "an angel" should be listened to if his words subvert the old teaching. It had carried its credentials with it. They must adhere to it not because it was Paul's, but because it was God's and they knew it as such. If his enemies say that he is a "persuasive fellow" and "pleases men," he protests that God and Christ are the lodestars governing his behaviour. (In a different sense he tells us elsewhere how Christ-like it is to please others; Romans 15:2 f., 1 Corinthians 10:33.) "Persuade" God is hardly what he means; he allows the word to stand because of the charge against him that he "persuades" men.


Verses 11-17

Galatians 1:11-17 begins a historical narrative proving Paul's independence of any human authority in his apostolic work. He learned by a revelation from heaven, not in any sense from "flesh and blood": cf. Matthew 16:17. All natural human tendencies inclined him towards different beliefs. He was born and grew up in "Judaism" and was the best Jew of them all. But the God who predestinates had other thoughts for him. From his very birth onwards—the words partially echo Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 49:1—a Divine plan was shaping his life to undreamed-of issues. At last God spoke to him in that powerful "call" which dead souls hear, and "revealed His Son" within him

Galatians 1 :2 Corinthians 4:6 is the best commentary on these words—in a blaze of heavenly glory. And he learned at once—this must be the meaning—that he, the Jew saved by that crucified Messiah whom he had been persecuting, was to preach the message of mercy among Gentiles furthest away from God and goodness. Did he as a preliminary consult Church authority? Far from it! Either he consulted God in solitude, or (according to another view of Galatians 1:17) without delay, and without human authorisation, he began preaching Christ to the Gentile population of "Arabia," i.e. the Nabatean Kingdom (p. 33). We note that Acts knows nothing of this. The two visits to Damascus implied by "returned" (Galatians 1:17) most probably appear as one (Acts 9:19-25); our first proof of the strange but certain fact, that Luke had access to no collection of Paul's letters when writing Acts.


Verses 18-24

Galatians 1:18-24. Not till he had been three years a Christian and a Christian preacher did he come in contact with the earlier apostles; and then but slightly. He visited "Cephas" at Jerusalem, spending a fortnight with him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7?); and he also met James, the brother of Christ (the Gr. may mean either "this one other apostle" or "this important non-apostolic personage": no real difference to the argument). Evidently stories had been put about that Paul had been instructed by the apostolic college. There is no truth in them! After the one brief and limited contact, he pursued his own career in his native province of Cilicia and at Antioch (compare Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25 ff.), favourably heard of in Judan churches, but not known (Galatians 1:23). The narrative of Acts again fails to tally at points with Paul's first-hand evidence. We may well accept the statement that Barnabas did much for Paul at Jerusalem and at Antioch; but one doubts whether Paul's preaching at Jerusalem (Acts 9:29; Acts 22:18) can be historical. It is far-fetched to hold, with some, that the church at Jerusalem may have known him but not provincial churches in "Juda"! More likely "Juda" includes Galilee (Luke 4:44 mg.*) than excludes the capital. Provincial Jewish churches have no independent importance in Paul's argument. (Yet possibly 1 Thessalonians 2:15, "drave out us," implies some preaching to Jews at home; unless it is Silas who is here speaking.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Galatians 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/galatians-1.html. 1919.

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