Galatians
1-5 Greeting and Blessing 6-12 There Is Only One Gospel 13-24 Paul, a Unique Apostle
Greeting and Blessing

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, 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.

V11Paul, 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),. Paul begins with an extensive emphasis on and defense of his apostleship. In the former part I have already said that there were some people who wanted to undermine his apostleship. That really was smart, because, if the Galatian believers started to doubt his apostleship, they would also start doubting the message he had brought. For instance, they said that Paul was not a real apostle because he did not belong to the twelve apostles who were with the Lord Jesus on earth. Therefore Paul states very clearly how it is with his apostleship.

In fact Paul’s apostleship is a higher one than that of the twelve. The twelve were called by the Lord Jesus to be His apostles when He was on earth; but He called Paul to be an apostle when He was in heaven. The source, the origin of his apostleship was not on earth, but in heaven. That is what Paul means when he says “not from men”. In Acts 9 you can read how that happened.

But he adds something: “Nor through the agency man.” What he means by that is, after being called by the Lord, he was not appointed by any man to be an apostle nor officially confirmed in his apostleship. People had nothing at all to do with his call and confirmation as an apostle – it all happened “through Jesus Christ and God the Father”.

So in the first verse he immediately emphasizes the independency of his service to any men. What Paul says of himself here implies an important point. Every believer has received a gift of the glorified Lord (Eph 4:77But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.). The habit that has taken root in almost the whole of Christianity to appoint people in an official or unofficial way in the service of any gift or to send them out, is against the instructions the Scripture gives here.

In these five introductory verses the Lord Jesus and the Father together are mentioned three times. In this is shown the Divinity of Christ and His being one with the Father. But They are clearly distinguished in Their work. The first time (in verse 11Paul, 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),) you see that the Lord Jesus died and that the Father raised Him. The addition “who raised Him from the dead“, emphasizes again that we have to do with an accomplished work of redemption accepted by God. When the law regains a place in the life of a Christian, it indicates a denial of God’s work of redemption.

V22and all the brethren who are with me,. There is something else they put at stake. Paul doesn’t stand alone in defending the truth. A number of brothers who are with him completely agree with him. It had to become clear to the Galatian believers that by opening their minds to this deceit they were denying the common faith of the saints.

V33grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,. On the whole it is becoming clear from the start how serious the situation was in the churches in Galatia. The wish of the apostle that they should receive “grace” and “peace” is also found in other letters. But here that wish is the more important because grace is clearly opposite to the law and peace is clearly opposite to the curse of the law. In this wish the Lord Jesus and the Father are mentioned the second time, only in the reverse order. Grace and peace is only found in Them (and not in the law). They are the source. In verse 11Paul, 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), the emphasis is on the Father; now the emphasis is on what the Son did.

V44who 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,. It’s touching to see how Paul makes himself one with the Galatians when he says that the Lord Jesus gave Himself for our sins. He doesn’t say your sins or my sins. Above all it is touching that the Lord Jesus gave nothing less than “Himself”. Only He and His work are able to direct the hearts of wandering believers to the right goal.

Our sins are gone. But that is not the only thing. His work didn’t only have the goal of saving us from our sins – however great that might be – He also wanted to “rescue us from this present evil age”. ‘Evil age’ means: all evil influences and inclinations which are present in this world and by which satan keeps people under his control.

Among God’s children there is far too little awareness of the radical separation between the believer and the world in which he lives. This radical separation is the result of what the Lord Jesus did on the cross. He who opens his heart to something of this world is tearing down the work of Christ. Below in this letter you will see that by reintroducing the law it causes you to behave yourself as if you still belong to this ‘evil age’, while the purpose of the work of the Lord Jesus was to pull you out of it. Every believer who is aware of this will be on his guard that nothing of this influence will be allowed into his life.

Added to this is the fact that the Father wants it this way. In the goal – indicated by the word “that” – of what the Lord Jesus did, you see for a third time the Father and the Son together. The Father wants to have a nation for Himself, a nation that will give Him glory forever and ever. The law – and everything that is associated with it – is completely opposite to this. He who allows the entrance of the law into his life again loses sight of the Father’s will.

V55to whom [be] the glory forevermore. Amen.. So you see how Paul in these first verses has already shown the Galatians the position of the Christian in a most simple way. This position goes from the will of the Father, via the work of the Lord Jesus to the eternal glory. God and the Lord Jesus want us to enjoy that now. Paul links into that and commits himself to it in this letter. The word “amen” at the end of these introductory verses testifies to it. Let us agree wholeheartedly with it.

Now read Galatians 1:1-5 again.

Reflection: What do you learn in these verses about the Father and the Son?


There Is Only One Gospel

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 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. 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.

V66I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;. Paul is very indignant of the fact that the Galatians are about to accept a false gospel. As is shown by the salutation of other letters it was his habit to start a letter with a few words of praise and thanksgiving. Here that is out of question. The seriousness of the matter orders that he goes straight, without any detours, to the occasion of his letter. It concerned nothing less than abandoning God Himself. God had called them. In that calling they had recognized the grace of Christ. Now people arrived with “a different gospel, which is [really] not another”. Paul was perplexed that they were so easily persuaded and so quick to listen to that gospel.

V77which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.. When he says "a different gospel", he means a gospel that is a mixture of law and grace. This was a gospel other than that which he had preached. Because there is only one gospel, there is no such thing as "a different gospel". A gospel, in which law and grace are brought together and are connected together, is no gospel at all. Anyone who opens his mind to it will be confused. It is a perversion, a falsification of the gospel of Christ and is radically opposed to the gospel he preached.

V88But 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!. To reinforce his words and indicate how serious this case was, he even calls out a curse over himself, or over an angel, if he or an angel would bring a different gospel which was contrary to what he had been preaching. It’s not how eloquent the preacher is, or how important or well-known he is, but it is about what he says.

This is still a very important criterion. If you hear someone say something about the Bible, do not be impressed by the person speaking, but listen to what he says. The content of his preaching has to fit with what the Bible says and you have the responsibility to test it. The pure gospel doesn’t tolerate anything alongside it. It is complete, absolute and final. Nothing can be mixed with it and nothing can be added.

V99As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!. Paul reminds them of the gospel they had received, and had accepted once and for all. For the second time and thus more emphatically, he calls out a curse on those who brought this pernicious doctrine. Nothing less than eternal damnation will be the part of him who so affects the work of Christ.

This is not about ignorant and erring ones. It concerns people who consciously teach that man must add his own works to the work of Christ. They didn’t deny the work of Christ, but said that God in Christ had done His part and that the Galatians had to accomplish their part too.

V1010For 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.. Paul preached a gospel without compromise. He didn’t say things to flatter people in order to win their favor. His only intention was to please God. If his goal was pleasing people, he “would not be a bond-servant of Christ”. Before his conversion he was only pleasing men and wanted to be popular, but being popular and pleasing Christ exclude each other. You'll notice that yourself if you want to share the gospel with someone. Christ was not popular; neither are His followers.

V1111For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.. From verse 1111For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. Paul explains the unique character of his message and his apostleship. In verse 11Paul, 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), he has already spoken about his apostleship, but now he adds more details. What is striking in verse 1111For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. is the word “brethren”. It shows that he knows he is still associated with them and that he draws a distinction between the Galatians who are being deceived and the deceivers themselves. This also applies to us! We too can serve a brother or sister only if we are aware of our family ties in faith with him or her.

Paul, prior to showing them the true source of the gospel he preached, mentions three sources which as an origin of the gospel are put aside. First he says that it “is not according to man”. This means that the gospel is not adapted to the natural or carnal man; it also means that it has not risen in the heart of any human being. It shows indeed that it stems from the heart of God.

V1212For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but [I received it] through a revelation of Jesus Christ.. Secondly, he says: "I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it.” That he did not ‘receive it from man’ means that men did not have any mediating role; they didn’t entrust that gospel to him. Indeed, he received it from God Himself. Thirdly, he was not ‘taught’ by men, which means that no one lectured him this gospel. It is indeed God Himself who showed him the rich content of the gospel. You and I and most other Christians have received it and were taught of it by other men. Paul received it directly from the Lord.

The point here is that the gospel doesn’t come from the area or the environment of men. The good news didn’t originate in the brain of a man. Even Peter hadn’t informed him about it, nor had it originated from the Old Testament. Its true source was “through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. That ‘revelation’ may refer to what happened on his way to Damascus, when the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to him. That ‘revelation’ also may refer to what the Lord Jesus showed him: the content of the gospel. In any case, the glorified Lord is the true source of his gospel. When Paul saw Him, he saw the entire content of the gospel, for Christ is the gospel.

Now read Galatians 1:6-12 again.

Reflection: What assurance do you have that the gospel you have accepted is the only pure gospel?


Paul, a Unique Apostle

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. 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.

In verse 1313For 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; and the following verses Paul proves that his gospel and apostleship do not have a human but a divine source. In verse 1313For 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; he testifies of his hatred against the Christians as a Jew; in verse 1414and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. he talks about his fanatical zeal as a Jew; in verses 15-1615But when God, who had set me apart [even] from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, God enters his life; and in verses 16-2416to 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.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. he stresses that his apostleship is independent of that of the twelve apostles. He says something about his life before, at and after his conversion.

V1313For 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;. His “former manner of life in Judaism” made him a persecutor and destroyer of the church of God. With this testimony Paul condemns the tendency of the Galatian believers to return to that which had taken Paul on that way. It has always been the case and it still is that a man, who falls back into legalism, becomes a persecutor of one who wants to live by grace.

V1414and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.. Behind the terrorist acts of Paul was his fanaticism for the Jewish religion. Even before his conversion he knew that a combination of law and grace is impossible. Then, he was only looking from the side of Judaism and the law. He had a thorough knowledge of Judaism. He knew all of Judaism to which the Galatians wanted to return. It should be clear to his readers, that what a man such as Paul had been before his conversion, he would never be convinced by any other man now that he was teaching something wrong – not even by the apostle Peter.

V1515But when God, who had set me apart [even] from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased. His conversion could only be the work of God's grace. Therefore we read “when God … was pleased”. God’s intervention in his life had not been sought by him, neither had he deserved it. His salvation came only from God.

Everything he had been before his conversion – his ancestry, education and occupations – it was all in preparation for the special calling which he would receive by God's grace. An excellent example of God's plan is displayed here. God knew what he would do with this man. That does not mean that God wanted the sins of Paul or caused them. God is never the Author of sin. God is above it. He can use someone because of his past for a task that fits with that past. He did this with Paul and He still does this with people today. He also wants to do it with you!

V1616to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,. The starting point for Paul's service is the revelation of God's Son in him. It does not say ‘to’ him, but “in” him. This shows the inner and intimate connection that is created at the conversion between the believer and the Lord Jesus and continues to exist thereafter. That connection is reflected in the words Paul heard at his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:44and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”). He persecuted the believers, members of the church of God, but that meant he was essentially persecuting the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus and the church are one.

The name “Son” contains all the richness of the gospel. That name was the subject of his first sermon (Acts 9:2020and immediately he [began] to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”). There is a Person preached, not a doctrine. This Person is the eternal Son. Therefore, the preaching cannot be limited to Israel, but also the nations must hear about Him.

V1717nor 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.. After his conversion Paul did not visit the ‘spiritual top’ in Jerusalem. He sought the loneliness in Arabia, probably a desert, to be alone with God. He wanted to be instructed by God for the ministry he had to exercise. Anyone who wants to serve the Lord needs his or her ‘Arabia’. It was so with Moses, David, Elijah and others in the Bible. This is also true for you. You get your gift and task from the glorified Lord. You will be taught by Him by reading His Word and talking to Him in prayer. If there really is a service of the Lord, the church will recognize that.

As it was with Paul and others in the Bible, it is quite different than going into the service of the Lord after a course at a Bible school or at a theological faculty which is completed with a degree. After his conversion Paul was three years in Arabia and Damascus ‘at school’ with God.

V18-1918Then 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.. Only after that he goes for a short visit to Jerusalem to see Cephas (i.e. Peter, see Jn 1:4242He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).). Of the other apostles he has only seen James, the Lord’s brother. Everything indicates that recognition, training or a task given by the twelve is out of question.

V2020(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.). Now that he is at this point in the story of his life, Paul strongly confirms his story. He does so to emphasize that everything he has told them is the pure truth.

V2121Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.. Then he mentions a stay in Syria and Cilicia, where he may have spent ten or more years. He probably mentions this fact to indicate that he spent a long time without having any contact with the apostles in Jerusalem.

V22-2422I 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.. Neither had he had contact with the Judean “churches …which were in Christ”. These churches had not seen him, but they had heard of the gospel work that he (undoubtedly) had done in Syria and Cilicia. Therefore they glorified God. In this way they agreed that he preached the pure and genuine message of the gospel.

Here, once again, is a lesson for the Galatians (and us): the result of the truth of the gospel is that God is glorified. This is opposite to the result of a gospel that is mixed with the law: by that man is glorified.

I hope that God, rather than us, will be glorified in all things you and I may do for the Lord.

Now read Galatians 1:13-24 again.

Reflection: Revelation and order belong together. In what manner does the Lord show Himself to you, and what is the impact of that on your task?


Read more