Scripture reading – Galatians 1
Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to believers living in Galatia (modern Turkey). Ancient Galatia was due north of the isle of Cyprus, and was a thriving Roman province in the 1stcentury. The Greeks referred to the people of that region as “Gauls,” a name derived from the Latin word, “Gallia.” They were believed to have been Celtic, a Germanic tribe of western Europe. Major cities of the southern region of Galatia included Antioch of Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.
Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship
Judging by the subject matter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we find false teachers had infiltrated the churches. Those heretics called into question Paul’s credibility and authority as an apostle, and were undermining the doctrine of grace that is central to the Gospel. Paul had two objectives in writing the epistle: The first, a defense of his apostleship. The second, a defense and declaration of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.
Paul commenced the letter introducing himself as its author, and boldly declaring his apostleship was “not of men, neither by man” (1:1b). In other words, he did not look to a council of men for his office. Paul proclaimed his apostleship was from God, and wrote: “Paul, an apostle…by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised [having raised] him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c).
Four Qualifications of an Apostle (1:1-2)
The Scriptures reveal a man had to meet four qualifications to be an apostle. The first, he had to have seen the LORD after His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 1 Cor. 9:1). Secondly, he had to receive His calling from Christ Himself (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:6; 22:10; Galatians 1:1). The third qualification was that his teaching had to be divinely inspired (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 9:15; 22:14; 1 Thess. 2:13). Finally, he must evidence the power to perform miracles as a sign of his apostleship (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 14:8-10; 16:18; 10:10-12; 1 Cor. 12:8-11).
Paul met the four requisites of a man divinely appointed as an apostle. Not only had he been commissioned “by Jesus Christ” (1:1b), he was called by “God the Father, who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c). He had the witness of “all the brethren” (1:2), which were traveling with him. Though not named, it is certain the believers in Galatia were aware of those men who labored with Paul.
The Recipients of the Epistle (1:2b)
In the custom of formal letters of his day, Paul introduced himself as the author, and addressed the intended recipients of the letter: “unto the churches [assemblies or congregations] of Galatia” (1:2b). The letter served as a general message to the believers of “the churches of Galatia,” and would have been read publicly, and shared with each of the assemblies of believers.
The Historical Context (1:6-9)
Having formally greeted the Galatian believers, Paul moved to address the provocation of the letter, stating: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (1:6). Like a loving shepherd, Paul was concerned some believers had been so easily led astray. Not only had some lost confidence in his authority as an apostle, but there were some who even defected from the faith and followed “another gospel” (1:6b). Yet, it was not another gospel, but a contradiction of the gospel of grace Paul had preached (1:7a).
Who were those false teachers? They were known as Judaizers, men of Jewish descent who troubled the congregations, and perverted the “gospel of Christ” (1:7b). They were men who taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul was not opposed to believers following the Law and Commandments (Acts 15:20-21, 29); however, he was passionately opposed to teachers who contradicted the “gospel of grace.” Paul declared, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (1:9).
Paul’s Spiritual Authority and Biography (1:10-24)
We have followed Paul’s life through the Acts of the Apostles: From his zeal as the persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2), to his dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and his salvation (Acts 9:3-22). Galatians 1:11-17 fills in the blanks in Paul’s personal testimony, and gives us how he was taught, not by man, but by the Lord Jesus in the desert of Arabia for three years (1:17-18a). He writes he “went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (1:18-19).
Closing thoughts (1:20-24) – Rather than look to man for his authority, Paul looked to the LORD and the authority of His Word. The first chapter of our study concludes with Paul’s transition from the persecutor of the Church, to becoming its greatest preacher (1:21-24). Though he was known best among the believers in Asia Minor, his reputation as a preacher of the faith proceeded him to “the churches of Judaea” which he once persecuted.
Paul’s life and testimony should inspire believers of which, Paul writes, “glorified [magnified] God in me” (1:24).
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