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Galatians 1



Salutation Greetings The Salutation Salutation Address
1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-5 1:1-2 1:1-5
There is No Other Gospel Only One Gospel The Galatian Apostasy The One Gospel A Warning
1:6-9 1:6-10 1:6-10 1:6-9 1:6-10
1:10     1:10  
How Paul Became An Apostle Call to Apostleship Paul's Vindication of His Apostleship How Paul Became an Apostle God's Call
1:11-12 1:11-17 1:11-12 1:11-12 1:11-24
1:13-17   1:13-17 1:13-14  
  Contacts at Jerusalem      
1:18-24 1:18-24 1:18-24    

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Verses 1-5, basically the prologue to Galatians, is one sentence in Greek.


B. Paul's usual note of thanksgiving (cf. Romans, I and II Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and 2 Thessalonians) is absent. This reflects the tension between Paul and this group of churches.


C. Verses 6-10 establish the theological theme of the entire book. It could almost be said that these few verses contain all of the theological elements which Paul develops in the letter.


D. Galatians 1:11-2:21 forms an autobiographical section where Paul defends his Apostleship and, by that, his gospel. This is very similar to 2 Corinthians 10-13.


E. Galatians 1:11-2:14 divides into the following areas:

1. Paul was not dependent on the Apostles in Jerusalem, 1:11-24.

2. Paul was recognized by the Church in Jerusalem, 2:1-10.

3. An example of Paul's equality, 2:11-14.


F. The main body of this letter is contained in 2:15-6:10. It can be divided as follows:

1. Paul defends the doctrinal truths of his gospel, 2:15-4:20.

2. Paul defends the implication of his gospel, 5:1-6:10.



 1Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

1:1 "Paul" Saul of Tarsus is first called Paul in Acts 13:9. It is probable that most Jews of the "diaspora" had a Hebrew name and a Greek name. If so, then Saul's parents gave him this name but why, then, does "Paul" suddenly appear in Acts 13? Possibly (1) others began to call him by this name or (2) he began to refer to himself by the term "little" or "least." The Greek name Paulos meant "little." Several theories have been advanced about the origin of his Greek name.

1. the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bow-legged, bushy eye-browed, and had protruding eyes is a possible source of the name, deriving from a non-canonical book from Thessalonica called Paul and Thekla

2. passages where Paul calls himself the "the least of the saints" because he persecuted the Church as in Acts 9:1-2 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15).

Some have seen this "leastness" as the origin of the self-chosen title. However, in a book like Galatians, where he emphasized his independence and equality with the Jerusalem Twelve, this option is somewhat unlikely (cf. 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11; 15:10).

▣ "an apostle" "Apostle" comes from one of the Greek words "to send" (apostellō). Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be with Him in a special sense and called them "Apostles" (cf. Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13).

Paul asserted his apostleship in all of his letters except for Philippians, I and 2 Thessalonians, and Philem. This introductory paragraph is one of the strongest affirmations of his apostleship found in any of his letters, due to the situations in the churches where false teachers tried to refute his gospel by attacking him personally.


NASB"not sent from men, nor through the agency of man"
NKJV"not from men nor through man"
NRSV"sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities"
TEV"did not come from man or by means of man"
JB"who does not owe his authority to men or his appointment to any human being"

This underscores one of Paul's major emphases, that his apostleship originated from a divine, not human, source (cf. vv. 12,16). The false teachers may have alleged that Paul received his gospel from: (1) the Twelve in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 9:19-22); or (2) the Mother Church, but he had subtly changed this gospel that he had been given. Paul defended himself in this regard because the gospel itself, not his credentials or reputation, was at stake (cf. 2 Cor. 10-13).

▣ "but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" Note Paul's bold assertion that he received his revelation and the content of the gospel from the resurrected, glorified Jesus Himself (cf. 1:12). Although Paul did not fit the criteria of apostleship found in Acts 1:21-22, he believed he was called by the Lord to perform this specific task (i.e., Apostle to the Gentiles).

"Jesus" means "YHWH saves" (cf. Matt. 1:21). It is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua. When this term is used alone in the NT, it emphasizes the humanity of Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).

"Christ" is equivalent to the Hebrew term, Messiah or Anointed One (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH below), which emphasizes the OT promise of the uniquely called, divinely inspired, coming One to bring in the New Age of righteousness.

"Jesus Christ" and "God the Father" are linked by one preposition which was the NT author's way of asserting the full deity of Christ; this occurs both in v. 1 and v. 3 (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1; 3:11; 2 Thess. 1:2,12; 2:16).

God is Father, not in the sense of sexual generation or chronological precedence, but interpersonal relationship and leadership, as in a Jewish home.



▣ "who raised Him from the dead" Paul emphasizes that it was God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. It was both the Father and the Son who gave him the gospel. Paul may have been asserting that he was called by the Risen Lord while the Twelve in Jerusalem were called by the still-human Lord, although this may be reading too much into the phrase.

In most passages, it is God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead and thereby gives Him the divine stamp of approval on His ministry (cf. II Cor. 4:14; Acts 2:24; 3:15; 10:40; Rom. 6:4; 1 Pet. 1:21). In Rom. 8:17 it is God the Spirit who raises Jesus from the dead. However, in John 10:17-18, God the Son asserts that He laid down His own life, and took it up again. This shows the fluidity between the work of the persons of the Trinity.


1:2 "and all the brethren who are with me" It is unfortunate for modern Bible students that Paul did not name his companions, which would have confirmed one of the two theories concerning the recipients of the letter. The Northern Theory focuses on ethnic Galatia while the Southern Theory focuses on the Roman administrative province of Galatia. Paul did not mention whether it was Barnabas (first journey) or Timothy and Silas (second journey). The name "Barnabas" occurs three times in Galatians implying the first journey and, therefore, the early date.

Paul uses "brethren" often in this letter (cf. 3:15; 4:12; 5:11; 6:18), possibly because his message to these churches was so pointed, stern, or even combative. Paul often introduced new subjects by beginning with "brothers."

▣ "to the churches of Galatia" Again, the exact location of these churches remains undetermined. Some assert that it is Northern Galatia (cf. 1 Pet. 1:1), and make the date of this epistle in the middle 50's a.d. Acts 26:6 and 18:23 are interpreted as evidence that Paul preached in this area. Others interpret Galatia as the Roman province of Galatia, which encompassed a much larger area referred to in Acts 13 and 14 and would thereby refer to the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas. This would make the date in the late 40's a.d., just before, but not identical with, the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15.


1:3 "Grace to you and peace" The normal Greek epistolary greeting was the word charein. Paul characteristically changed this to the similar sounding Christian term charis, or grace. Many have suggested Paul combined the Greek greeting of "grace" with the Hebrew greeting "peace" [shalom]. Although this is an attractive theory, it may be reading too much into this typically Pauline introductory phrase. Theologically it is interesting to notice that grace alone precedes peace.

▣ "the Lord" The Greek term kurios is similar in meaning to the Hebrew term adon. Both were used in the sense of "sir," "master," "owner," "husband," or "lord" (cf. Gen. 24:9; Exod. 21:4; 2 Sam. 2:7; and Matt. 6:24; John 4:11; 9:36). However, it also came to refer to Jesus as God's Sent One, the Messiah (cf. John 9:38).

The OT usage of this term comes from the later reluctance of Judaism to pronounce the covenant name for God, YHWH, which is the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). They were afraid of breaking one of the Ten Commandments which said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain." Therefore, they thought if they did not pronounce it, they could not take it in vain. So, they substituted the Hebrew adon [Lord] which has a similar meaning to the Greek kurios [Lord]. The NT authors used this term to describe the full deity of Christ. The phrase "Jesus is Lord" was the public confession of faith and baptismal formula of the early church (cf. Rom. 10:9-14).


1. This is the name which reflects deity as the covenant making God; God as savior, redeemer! Humans break covenants, but God is loyal to His word, promise, covenant (cf. Ps. 103).

This name is first mentioned in combination with Elohim in Gen. 2:4. There are not two creation accounts in Genesis 1-2, but two emphases: (1) God (i.e., Elohim) as the creator of the universe (the physical) and (2) God as the special creator of humanity (i.e., YHWH). Genesis 2:4 begins the special revelation about the privileged position and purpose of mankind, as well as the problem of sin and rebellion associated with the unique position.

2. In Gen. 4:26 it is said "men began to call upon the name of the Lord " (YHWH). However, Exod. 6:3 implies that early covenant people (the Patriarchs and their families) knew God only as El-Shaddai. The name YHWH is explained only one time in Exod. 3:13-16, esp. v. 14. However, the writings of Moses often interpret words by popular word plays, not etymologies (cf. Gen. 17:5; 27:36; 29:13-35). There have been several theories as to the meaning of this name (taken from IDB, vol. 2, pp. 409-11).

a. from an Arabic root, "to show fervent love"

b. from an Arabic root "to blow" (YHWH as storm God)

c. from a Ugartic (Canaanite) root "to speak"

d. following a Phoenician inscription, a causative participle meaning "the One who sustains," or "the One who establishes"

e. from the Hebrew Qal form "the One who is," or "the One who is present" (in future sense, "the One who will be")

f. from the Hebrew Hiphil form "the One who causes to be"

g. from the Hebrew root "to live" (e.g., Gen. 3:20), meaning "the ever living, only living One"

h. from the context of Exod. 3:13-16 a play on the imperfect form used in a perfect sense, "I shall continue to be what I used to be" or "I shall continue to be what I have always been" (cf. J. Wash Watts, A Survey of Syntax in the Old Testament, p. 67

The full name YHWH is often expressed in abbreviation or possibly an original form

(1) Yah (e.g., Hallelu - yah)

(2) Yahu (names, e.g., the "iah" in Isaiah)

(3) Yo (names, e.g., Joel)

3. As with El, often YHWH is combined with other terms to emphasize certain characteristics of the Covenant God of Israel. While there are many possible combinations terms, here are some.

a. YHWH – Yireh (YHWH will provide), Gen. 22:14

b. YHWH – Rophekha (YHWH is your healer), Exod. 15:26

c. YHWH – Nissi (YHWH is my banner), Exod. 17:15

d. YHWH – Meqaddishkem (YHWH the One who sanctifies you), Exod. 31:13

e. YHWH Shalom (YHWH is Peace), Jdgs. 6:24

f. YHWH – Sabbaoth (YHWH of hosts), 1 Sam. 1:3,11; 4:4; 15:2; often in the Prophets)

g. YHWH Ro‘I (YHWH is my shepherd), Ps. 23:1

h. YHWH Sidqenu (YHWH is our righteousness), Jer. 23:6

i. YHWH Shammah (YHWH is there), Ezek. 48:35


1:4 This series of phrases illuminates three major aspects of Paul's gospel message. Paul expanded the introduction to show the centrality of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. The three aspects are:

1. His substitutionary death on our behalf (cf. Rom. 4:25; 5:6,8; I Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:14,21)

2. His introduction of the New Messianic Age—this is an aorist middle verbal form which means "He, Himself, once and for all, plucked us out" of this present evil age

3. His mission was in obedience to the eternal, redemptive plan of God. He came to die (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isa. 53:4,10; Mark 10:45; John 3:16; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:20 and Rev. 13:8). See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN at Gal. 1:7.

"Wicked" is placed in an emphatic position which conveys the idea that "this is an evil, godless age" (cf. John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2-7). The concept of the two Jewish ages—a current evil age and the age to come, which will be brought in by God's Messiah—can be seen in Matt. 12:32; 13:39; 28:20 and other passages in the NT. Although Jesus has ushered in the New Age, it has not yet been fully consummated.

▣ "who gave Himself for our sins" The word "gift" is a metaphor for God's initiating, free grace toward sinful humanity.

1. Jesus gave Himself, cf. Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:19; Gal. 1:4; 1 Tim. 2:6

2. God gave His Son for the world to be saved, cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:10

3. Jesus is the gift of God, cf. John 4:10; Rom. 5:15; 2 Cor. 9:15

4. justification by grace through faith in Christ is the gift of God, cf. Rom 3:24; Eph. 2:8


NASB, NIV"rescue us"
NKJV"deliver us"
NRSV"to set us free"
TEV"to deliver us"
NJB"to liberate us"

This is an aorist middle subjunctive. In Acts 7:10,34 it is used of the Exodus. Jesus is the new Moses/new Exodus! In the context of Galatians this means that Christ's death brings believers forgiveness of sin (cf. Isaiah 53) potentially to all humans. It is God's will that sinful mankind be saved (cf. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

▣ "this present evil age" See Special Topic following.


▣ "according to the will of our God and Father" See Special Topic following.


1:5 "to whom be the glory forevermore" Typically Pauline, this doxology breaks into the context because of the majesty of God. Often the pronouns in Paul's writings have ambiguous antecedents. Most of the time, in these occurrences, the masculine singular pronouns refer to God the Father.

▣ "the glory" In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod, BDB 217) was originally a commercial term (which referred to the use of a pair of scales) which meant "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness (Shekinah cloud of glory during the wilderness wandering period) was added to the word to express God's majesty. He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold. God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jer. 1:14; Matt. 17:2; Heb. 1:3; James 2:1).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous:

1. it may be parallel to "the righteousness of God"

2. it may refer to the "holiness" or "perfection" of God

3. it could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but which was later marred through willful disobedience (cf. Gen. 3:1-22)



"forevermore" Literally "unto the ages of the ages."


"Amen" This is a form of the OT Hebrew term for "faith" (emeth, cf. Hab. 2:4, see Special Topic at Gal. 3:6). Its original etymology was "to be firm or sure." However, the connotation changed to that which is to be affirmed (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). It was used metaphorically of someone who was faithful, loyal, steadfast, trustworthy (cf. Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 102-106). Here it functions as a close to a doxology to God the Father (cf. Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 16:27; Eph. 3:21; Phil. 4:20).


 6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed! 10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

1:6 "I am amazed" Instead of a thanksgiving—so common in Pauline writings—Paul observed with astonishment (the verb is found only here and 2 Thess. 1:10 in Paul's writings) that the Galatians had been too easily wooed away from the pure, simple, majestic gospel of justification by grace through faith by the false teachers.

▣ "so quickly" Two senses are possible: (1) so soon after they accepted the gospel that Paul preached, or (2) so soon after the false teachers came.

▣ "deserting Him" This verb is present tense, indicating the Galatians were in the process of turning away. "deserting" is a military term for revolt. Note the emphasis is on the personal element of turning away from God Himself by rejecting Paul's gospel. It can be a present passive verbal form, but the larger context (cf. 3:1ff. and 5:7) implies a present middle form. This emphasizes that although the false teachers instigated the deserting, the Galatians willingly participated in it.

▣ "who called you by the grace of Christ" The phrase "called you" usually refers to an action of God the Father (cf. Rom. 8:30; 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:9). This is significant because of the textual problem with the addition of the phrase "of Christ." It is not found in the papyrus P46, F*, or G, but it is found in the papyrus P51, and the uncial manuscripts א, A, B, K and F2. "Of Jesus Christ" is found in MS D. This may be an early addition to clarify that it is the Father who calls us through Christ. It must be stated again: God always takes the initiative in human salvation (cf. John 6:44,65; Rom. 9; Eph. 1:3-14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE at 1 Thess. 1:4 and SPECIAL TOPIC: CALLED at 2 Thess. 1:11.

▣ "for a different gospel" "Different" [heteros] is sometimes used in the sense of "another of a different kind," (cf. 2 Cor. 11:4). In verse 7 allos (i.e., "another of the same kind") is used; it can be translated "another of the same kind in a series." However, in Koine Greek these terms were becoming synonymous and a distinction should not be insisted upon too strongly. But, in this context, Paul obviously used both for contrast.


NASB"which is really not another"
NKJV"which is not another"
NRSV"not that there is another gospel"
TEV"there is no ‘other gospel'"
NJB"Not that there can be more than one Good News"

There are not two gospels, though the one true gospel is often perverted. The KJV translation of 2:7 has been often interpreted as referring to two gospels, one for the Greeks and one for the Jews. This is an unfortunate and untrue inference, although it may have been a statement of the false teachers.

NASB"only there are some who are disturbing you"
NKJV"but there are some who trouble you"
NRSV"but there are some who are confusing you"
TEV"there are some people who are upsetting you"
NJB"it is merely that some troublemakers among you"

"Disturbing" refers to a purposeful action like a military revolt (i.e., this context has several military terms). "False teachers" is plural in 5:12, but possibly only the leader of the false teachers is actually meant because of the use of the singular in 5:7 and twice in 5:10. They are called "agitators" in 5:12. Many assume the Judaizers of Galatians are synonymous with the converted Pharisees or priests of Acts 15:1,5,24. They emphasized the necessity of becoming a Jew before one could become a Christian. The Judaizers' emphasis on the Jewish Law can be seen in:

1. the necessity of circumcision (cf. 2:3-4; 5:1; 6:12-15)

2. their keeping of special days (cf. 4:10)

3. a possible inclusion of keeping the food laws which is implied in Paul's confrontation with Peter (cf. 2:11-14)

This was probably the same group of false teachers mentioned in 2 Cor. 11:26 and 1 Thess. 2:14-16. Their problem was not that they denied the central place of Christ in salvation, but that they also required the Mosaic Law, which confuses grace and human performance. The New Covenant does not focus on human merit (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

The theological and practical problem of how to relate the OT and NT remains even today. Here are some possible options suggested through the years.

1. ignore the OT

2. magnify the OT

3. continue the ethics, but not the cultus of Israel

4. read the NT through the eyes of the OT categories

5. read the OT through the new message of Jesus

6. see it as a promise (OT) and fulfillment (NT)

I have struggled with this issue! It seems to me the OT is surely revelation (Matt. 5:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:15-16). One cannot understand the Bible without Genesis. The OT surely reveals God in marvelous ways, however, it seems to me that Judaism mishandled the Mosaic covenant by emphasizing the human aspect of covenant! I prefer to emphasize the divine universal aspect (i.e., Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6) with a mandated covenantal human response!

The NT universalizes the national promises to Israel whereby the original intent of God to redeem fallen mankind, made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) is fully realized! One God, one world, one way to restored fellowship (i.e., Isaiah's message)!


NASB"and want to distort the gospel of Christ"
NKJV, NRSV"and want to pervert the gospel of Christ"
TEV"and trying to change the gospel of Christ"
NJB"want to change the Good News of Christ"

"To distort" is an aorist infinitive meaning "to reverse," possibly another military term. Although morality is a significant element of the gospel, it always follows salvation. It does not precede it as the Judaizers asserted (cf. Eph. 2:8-9 & 10). Paul's gospel was Christ, then Christlikeness; their gospel was works righteousness (Mosaic Law) and then God's righteousness in Christ.

1:8 "but even if" This third class conditional sentence with an aorist middle subjunctive which shows a hypothetical situation (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3-4). Paul asserted that if he, or an angel from heaven, should preach a different gospel, they should be judged and separated from God.

NASB"he is to be accursed!"
NKJV"let him be accursed"
NRSV"let that one be accursed"
TEV"may he be condemned to hell"
NJB"he is to be condemned"

"Curse" (anathema, cf. Matt. 18:7; Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22) may reflect the Hebrew word herem which was employed in the sense of dedicating something to God. Herem developed a negative connotation from its use in the case of Jericho being dedicated to God for destruction (cf. Joshua 6-7). God's curse is a natural result of His people breaking a covenant (cf. Deut. 27:11-26). However, Paul specifically used this term to show the seriousness of the false teachers' gospel by consigning them to God's wrath

Syntactically, vv. 8 and 9 are parallel. However, the third class condition sentence of v. 8 shows potential action (i.e., hypothetical), while the first class condition sentence of v. 9 shows current, assumed action (i.e., the preaching of the false teachers).


1:9 "as we have said before" This is a perfect active indicative plural, which refers to the previous teaching and preaching of Paul's mission team.

▣ "a gospel contrary to that which you have received" The verb "received" (paralambanō, aorist active indicative) is a technical term in rabbinical writings for passing on "the Oral Tradition," indicating Paul was passing on the gospel tradition (cf. v. 12; 1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 2:13; 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:6)), but the context is emphatic that he did not receive this tradition from other humans (cf. v. 12).

To become a Christian one must receive (cf. John 1:12) or to put it another way, believe (cf. John 3:16) the gospel. Christian conversion has three aspects, all of which are crucial (all three correspond to the three uses of pistis - pistellō, see note at 1:23-24):

1. welcome Jesus personally (a person to believe in)

2. believe the NT truths about Him (truths about that person to affirm)

3. live a life like His (a life to live like that person's)

It must be clarified that the central elements of Paul's gospel came from Jesus directly (cf. v. 12). Paul contemplated and developed them for several years before he went to visit the Mother Church and its leaders in Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 1:18; 2:1). However, Paul also learned much about the words and actions of Jesus from those who knew Him in the flesh:

1. those he persecuted witnessed to him

2. he saw and heard the defense of Stephen (cf. Acts 7:58)

3. Ananias witnessed to him (cf. Acts 9:10-19)

4. he visited with Peter for 15 days (cf. 1:18)

Additionally, Paul also quotes many creeds or hymns of the early Church in his writings (cf. 1:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 5:14; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 3:16); and mentions Christian traditions several times (cf. 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Paul was speaking in very specific terms and in a guarded sense because of the accusations of the false teachers.

1:10 "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God" This is a development and continuation of the theme which began in 1:1. Paul's strong words to the false teachers proved that he was not trying to please men which they had apparently alleged. Possibly Paul was being criticized for his statement that he became all things to all men similar to 1 Cor. 9:19-27; Acts 21:17-26. This was misinterpreted as:

1. compromising with pagan culture

2. his preaching two gospels, one for Jews and another easier one for pagans


▣ "If" Verse 10 is a second class conditional sentence which expresses a statement "contrary to fact." Amplified, the sentence would read: "If I were still trying to please men, which I am not, then I would not be a bond-servant of Christ, which I am." See Appendix One, VII.

▣ "I were still trying to please men" There has been much discussion about the word "still." Does this imply that he never appealed to men or that it was a confession that as a zealous Pharisee in his earlier days he did attempt to please men (i.e., Pharisees, cf. 1:14)?

▣ "I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" This is an allusion to Christ's teaching that one cannot serve two masters (cf. Matt. 6:24). "Bond-servant" may have been used by Paul to refer to

1. Jesus as Lord and Paul as slave

2. an honorific title of leadership from the OT used of Moses (cf. Deut. 34:5; Jos. 8:31,33), Joshua (cf. Jos. 24:29; Jdgs. 2:8), and to David (cf. 2 Sam. 7:5; title, Psalm 18)


 11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

1:11-2:14 This is a literary unit in which Paul defends his apostleship, so as to defend his gospel.


NASB"For I would have you know, brethren"
NKJV"But I make known to you, brethren"
NRSV"For I want you to know, brothers and sisters"
TEV"Let me tell you, my brothers"
NJB"The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realize this"

The KJV translates this as "I certify to you," a technical rendering of the phrase (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; 15:1; 2 Cor. 8:1).

1:11-12 "the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man" This begins a phrase which repeats the twin disclaimers of 1:1. Paul claimed that his message does not have a human origin (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). He further asserted that he did not receive it from any human. The word "receive" was used of students being taught in rabbinical schools. The gospel was contrary to the teachings Paul received as a rabbinical student in Jerusalem. It was taught to him by a revelation from Jesus Christ, both on the road to Damascus and in Arabia (cf. Eph. 3:2-3). He stated this three times in verses 11-12!

The word "gospel" and the verb "was preached" are both from the compound term

1. eu, "good"

2. angelion, "news" or "message"

Paul uses them together in 1 Cor. 15:1.

1:12 "a revelation of Jesus Christ" This may be either subjective genitive case (emphasizing Jesus as the agent of the revelation, i.e., opposite "from men") or objective genitive case (emphasizing Jesus as the content of the revelation, cf. v. 16).

1:13 "you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism" It is not certain how these churches heard.

1. it was common knowledge

2. Paul shared with them

3. the false teachers had alluded to his former conduct

"Judaism" seems to refer to Pharisaism (cf. Acts 26:4-5). After the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by the Roman general Titus, the Pharisaic party moved to the city of Jamnia. The Sadducean element was completely eliminated and Pharisaism developed into modern rabbinical Judaism. Paul mentioned something of his life as a zealous Pharisee in Phil. 3:4-6.


NASB"how I used to persecute beyond measure"
NKJV"how I persecuted"
NRSV"I was violently persecuting"
TEV"how I persecuted without mercy"
NJB"how much damage I did to it"

This imperfect tense verb is used in Acts 9:4, referring to his repeated activity described in Acts 8:1-3; 22:20; and 26:10 (cf. 1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:13). These are the same general contexts in which Paul shared his personal testimony.

For "beyond measure" (hyperbole), see Special Topic following.


▣ "the church of God" Ekklesia is a compound Greek word from "out of" and "to call." This was used in Koine Greek to describe any kind of assembly, such as a town assembly (cf. Acts 19:32). The Church chose this term because it was used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, written as early as 250 b.c. for the library at Alexandria, Egypt. This Greek term translated the Hebrew term qahal which was used in the covenantal phrase "the assembly of Israel" (cf. Num. 20:4). The NT writers asserted that they were the "divinely called out ones" who were the People of God of their day. They saw no radical break between the OT People of God and themselves, the NT People of God. We must assert that the Church of Jesus Christ is the true heir to the OT Scriptures, not modern rabbinical Judaism.

Note that Paul mentioned the local churches in 1:2 and the universal Church in 1:13. "Church" is used in three different ways in the NT.

1. house churches (cf. Rom. 16:5)

2. local or area churches (cf. 1:2; 1 Cor. 1:2)

3. the whole body of Christ on earth (1:13; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 3:21; 5:23-32)


▣ "and tried to destroy it" This verb phrase is imperfect tense, meaning repeated action in past time.

1:14 "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries" This refers to Paul's fellow rabbinical students in Jerusalem. No one is more enthusiastic than a first-year theology student! The Jewish zeal for the Law was/is actually devotion and zeal without knowledge and truth (cf. Rom. 10:2ff.). Paul was trying to please his Jewish contemporaries!

▣ "being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions" Here is the use of the term "traditions" which was a technical term for "the Oral Tradition." The Jews believed that the Oral Tradition, like the written Old Testament, was given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Oral Tradition was meant to surround, protect, and interpret the written Old Testament. Later codified in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds, it resulted in formalism and folklore instead of a vital faith relationship (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). See note on "traditions" at 2 Thess. 2:15.


NASB"But when God"
NKJV"But when it pleased God"
NRSV"But when God"
TEV"But God"
NJB"Then God"

Many reliable ancient manuscripts, instead of having the term "God," use the Masculine pronoun "he," (cf. manuscripts P46 and B). Theos [God] does occur in manuscripts א, A, and D. "He" was likely original and scribes later added theos to clarify the ambiguous pronoun. See Appendix Two.

▣ "who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace" Paul is alluding to the call of some OT prophets, particularly Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 1:4-5, or the Servant of YHWH, Isaiah 49:1,5). He felt a divine call to the ministry (cf. Rom. 1:1). This is another way of asserting that his authority and apostleship were not from men (cf. vv. 1, 11-12). The concept of being "called" by God is emphasized in Paul's personal testimony (cf. Acts 9:1-19; 13:2; 22:1-16; and 26:9-18). Some of the strongest biblical passages on election can be found in Paul's writings (cf. Romans 9 and Ephesians 1).

It is interesting that Paul's "through His grace" seems to be synonymous with "Holy Spirit." The terminology is common in Paul's writings (cf. Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 2:8).

Grace reflects the unchanging character of God and the spirit makes the contact between the Holy God and sinful mankind (cf. John 6:44,65).


NJB"to reveal His Son in me"
NRSV, TEV"to reveal his Son to me"

"To reveal" [apocaluptō], translated "revelation" in verse 12 typically means "a clear manifestation or unveiling." Apparently this occurred on the Damascus road and later in Arabia (cf. v. 17).

The phrase "in me" has been much debated. Some believe it means that God revealed Jesus to Paul while others think it means that God revealed Jesus through Paul. Both are true. The Revised English Bible translation combines both possibilities ("to reveal His Son in and through me"). The larger context seems to fit the first option best, but in v. 16 the second option fits best.

▣ "that I might preach about Him among the Gentiles" The phrase "in me" is paralleled by "in the Gentiles." God called Paul to call the heathen (cf. Acts 9:15; 22:15; 26:16-18; Rom. 1:5; 11:13; 15:16; Gal. 2:7,9; E ph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:7). We derive the English word "ethnic" from this Greek word for "Gentiles."

NASB"I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood"
NKJV"I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood"
NRSV"I did not confer with any human being"
TEV"I did not go to anyone for advice"
NJB"I did not stop to discuss this with any human being"

This seems to refer to Paul's private study time in Arabia (cf. v. 17). We are not sure how long he studied or how long he remained in Arabia. It was probably the Nabatean kingdom, which was very close to the city of Damascus, just to the southeast (cf. 2 Cor. 11:32). From verse 18 it seems that he could have stayed for as long as three years (but not necessarily). Paul's basic purpose for mentioning this (it is omitted in the book of Acts) was to show that he did not receive his gospel from the Apostles in Jerusalem, nor was he officially sanctioned by the Church in Jerusalem, but from God and by God (cf. vv. 1,11-12).

"Flesh" has sexual connotations. See Special Topic below.


1:17 "to those who were apostles before me" Paul certainly recognized the leadership of the original Twelve, but also asserted his equality to them.

 18Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother. 20(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." 24And they were glorifying God because of me.

1:18 "Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem" Paul freely admitted that he visited Jerusalem. The emphasis of this sentence is that Paul had no contact with Jerusalem or the Twelve until three years after his conversion. The book of Acts records five visits by Paul to Jerusalem, but Galatians only records two. It is very difficult to know which of the visits recorded in Acts are similarly recorded in the book of Galatians or if there were additional visits. Most people believe that this visit mentioned in v. 18 is equal to the visit recorded in Acts 9:26-30. See Introduction, Date and Recipients, C.

▣ "to become acquainted with" This is a Greek phrase from which we get our English word "history." Paul went (1) to get to know Peter or (2) for the specific purpose of learning from Peter the teachings of Jesus. Yet Paul did not stay with Peter the entire time (cf. Acts 9:28-30). He was preaching in the area and probably just spent the evenings and the Sabbath with him. This verse also emphasizes that he only stayed for fifteen days, which is much too short a stay for extended instruction. However, from the Pauline terminology and theology so obvious in I and 2 Pet., Peter may have learned more from Paul than Paul did from Peter.

NKJV, TEV"Peter"

Cephas (Aramaic for "rock") is found in MSS P46, P51, א*, A, B. Peter (Greek for boulder) is found in MSS אc, D, F, G, K, L, and P. Paul uses "Cephas" in 2:9,11,14.

1:19 "But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother" This Greek sentence is very ambiguous. The context implies that James was an apostle, but this meaning is not certain. It (apostles) could refer to Peter in v. 18. James seems to be an "apostle" in the same sense as Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4, 14); Andronicus and Junias (cf. Rom. 16:7); Apollos (cf. 2 Cor. 4:9); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25); or Silvanas and Timothy (cf. 1 Thess. 2:6; Acts; 18:5). This James was identified as the Lord's half-brother (cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), in order to differentiate him from James the Apostle, part of the Inner Circle, who was killed very early (cf. Acts 12). For several generations the church in Jerusalem had a physical relative of Jesus as their leader. Several biblical passages (cf. Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; and James 1:1) indicate that James was a very important leader in the Church in Jerusalem. See SPECIAL TOPIC: JAMES, THE HALF-BROTHER OF JESUS at 2:9.

For "apostles" see Special Topic: Send at 1:1.

1:20 "I assure you before God that I am not lying" Paul knew the seriousness of oath-taking and still felt that it was important to assert his truthfulness by oath (cf. Rom. 9:1; 1 Tim. 2:7). Paul also employed God as a witness to his truthfulness elsewhere (cf. Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23; 4:2; 11:31; 1 Thess. 2:5,10). Paul was certain of the divine origin and content of his message.

1:21 "Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia" Syria and Cilicia were Roman provinces but the smaller province of Cilicia was not totally independent (cf. Acts 15:41). This may be the reason it was mentioned second, even though in chronology it is first, Paul's work was in Cilicia first, for it was the area in which Tarsus, his hometown, was located. This seems to be recorded in Acts 9:30. Paul's time in Syria is recorded in conjunction with Antioch which was the capital of the Roman province of Syria. This period is recorded in Acts 11:25-26.

1:22 "but I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea" The word "unknown" in Greek is reflected in the English cognate "agnostic." "Knowledge" [gnosis] in this case has the alpha privitive which negates it. This is somewhat surprising because Paul was a famous persecutor of the Church, however, not all of the churches knew who he was, and he did not seek recognition from the churches of Palestine for his ministry.

▣ ""churches" See Special Topic at 1:2.

1:23-24 Although Paul did not seek affirmation from these early Jewish Christian churches, they gave it to him (cf. v. 24) when they heard about his ministry among the Gentiles. This is another point in his argument against the Jewish "Christian" false teachers who said that he did not have proper authority.

▣ "the faith" This term may have several distinct connotations. For the most part the presence or absence of the article does not help clarify which meaning.

1. OT background means "faithfulness" or "trustworthiness," therefore, it is used of our faithing the faithfulness of God or our trusting in the trustworthiness of God

2. in our accepting or receiving God's free offer of forgiveness in Christ

3. in the sense of faithful, godly living

4. in the collective sense of the Christian faith or truth about Jesus (cf. Acts 6:7 and Jude vv. 3 & 20)

In several passages, such as 2 Thess. 3:2, it is difficult to know which sense Paul had in mind. Here, option #4 is best.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is unique about Paul's opening remarks to the churches of Galatia?

2. List the three phrases which describe the person and work of Christ found in verse 4.

3. Why was Paul so appalled at the action of the Galatian churches?

4. Who were the false teachers and what was the basic content of their message?

5. What does the term "accursed" mean?

6. How does Paul prove that he is not a man-pleaser?

7. Why does Paul repeat the emphasis he made in 1:1 again in verses 11 and 12?

8. How were the false teachers using Paul's previous life against him?

9. Why did Paul go to Arabia?

10. Explain some of the possible charges that the false teachers were making against Paul and how he answered them in 1:10ff.


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