Galatians - Introduction and Chapter 1
Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland
WRITER. Paul, 1. 1.
TIME OF WRITING. Between 2 Cor. and Romans, possibly A.D. 57.
PLAGE OF WRITING. Greece, possibly Corinth. Acts 20. l-.'i.
THEME. A defence of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, without any admixture of the works of the law.
Chs. 1, 2. Personal—The apostle's commission—The will of God.
Chs. 3, 4. Doctrinal—The believer's justification—The work of Christ.
Chs. 5, 6. Practical—The Christian's conduct—The way of the Spirit.
CHAPTER I Apostolic Salutation (Verses 1-5)
Verse 1. Paul was an apostle, one sent from The Lord, whom he had seen on the road to Damascus (I Cor. 9. 1 ; Acts 1. 22 ; 26. 17). No body of men had commissioned him, as the Judaizers claimed to have been sent from Jerusalem. Nor was his commission through any single man acting for such a body, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Only one preposition here suggests the unity of God and Christ in Paul's ordination. The Father had raised Christ from the dead, of which fact an apostle must be a witness. This was the occasion also of his giving apostles (Eph. 4. 11).
Verse 2. All his colleagues in the work of the gospel joined him in saluting a number of churches in North Galatia, a place with few important towns. Thus, this is largely an epistle to a peasant community, easily led astray by false teachers.
Verse 3. Paul joins the Greek and Hebrew salutations from God the giver, and Christ the medium of grace and peace (Jn. 1. 17; 14. 27).
Verse 4. This grace and peace are evident in the voluntary act of Christ, His giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He gave Himself to deliver men, to raise them up for Himself, free them from the evil tendencies in the world, this present state of affairs controlled by Satan. This age is set in contrast with the future age controlled by Christ, It expresses not so much duration but moral characteristics. It is one in which man toils for Ins daily bread (Gen. 3. 17). It will be followed by the age of peace, as God our Father has planned for us.
Verse 5. To God should be given the honour due to Him, unceasingly.
The Reason for the Epistle (Verses (5-10)
Verse 6. Paul was astonished, so soon after their conversion, at the unexpected news of their having removed themselves from God the Father. God had effectually called them to salvation through His grace, in that Christ had suffered to bring them to the Father. They had gone over to a different ' gospel,' so named by those who had brought it.
Verse 7. Paul denies that it has any relationship to the message he had preached. It is not another of the same kind ; it is totally different. but some wanted to stir up trouble for them, subverting their souls (Acts IS. 24). In that feature their message was different from Paul's, for his built them up. It was the gospel of Christ, which announced Christ, and Christ alone, as the remedy for sins.
Verse 8. Though he, who preached the gospel of Christ to them' or an angel, the highest class of messenger, announced as glad tidings anything other than that which was preached to them at (he first, Paul considers such lit to be devoted to destruction (Dout. 7. 2(i). This passage suggests that those who pervert the gospel of Christ are by Cod marked out for destruction.
Verse 9. He warned them (either when with them, or here, v. 8), and he repeals it, that if any man (lesser than the two groups mentioned in v. 8) preached any other gospel he too would be devoted to destruction.
Verse 10. He gives his reason for writing so strongly. Am I now, in this epistle, seeking to win over to my way of thinking men (to realize the danger in which they place themselves), or God (to punish men) ? Is what I have just said such as would please men, as my adversaries say that I am all things to all men ? If I were still pleasing men, as I did before conversion, I should not be a bondslave of Christ, whom alone as His slave I must please (Tit. 2. 9).
Paul's Call as a Preacher of the Gospel (Verses 11-17)
Verse 11. Paul explains why he as the servant of Christ is not compelled to please men. His call was not " from man," v. 1. His gospel was not of human origin, nor does it consist of human precepts, received from men, as for example, from the Judaizing party (2. 12).
Verse 12. I (emphatic), as well as other apostles, did not take my orders from a mere man, v. 1, nor did the gospel come to me in the natural way of instruction, bin. by a direct unveiling of the mind of God to me. This was either on the road to Damascus, v. 16, or in Arabia (1 Cor. IS. 3).
Verse 13. As a proof of v. 12 he refers to his past record. Ye have heard how 1 lived relative to others, especially in the practices of the Jews, as ordained by the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23. 2, 3). Ye know that beyond limits I put to flight God's called-out ones. " Church of God " here denotes a local gathering wherever found. I laid it waste by delivering its members Up to prison (Acts 8. 3), and to death.
Verse 14. I was still making progress in Judaism, beyond many of equal age among my countrymen, burning more with zeal for the things handed down from one generation of Pharisees to another (Mark 7. 3-13).
Verse 15. But a change took place. God thought it good to mark me off for a special work, from the rest of mankind. He did so from birth, so that no merit of mine came into it. Compare Jer. 1. 5. He called me at conversion to salvation, and to service. All was due to divine favour and choice.
Verse 16. It pleased God to unveil His Son to my inmost soul before I was able to preach Him to others. Or, " in me " may mean " in my case." Thus God revealed the Lord to me, so that I saw Him as well as the other apostles. The latter is the more probable explanation (1 Cor. 9. 1). God did this that I might preach Christ among the Gentiles. I did not receive instruction from others as to my gospel message, because I did not lay before any living man what I intended to preach. Flesh suggests the body, and blood the life. Thus by this expression is meant living man.
Verse 17. At that time I did not go to Jerusalem, the centre of apostolic authority, to them who had been appointed apostles by the Lord on earth. Instead, I went into Arabia, after Acts 9. 19.
Paul's First Contact with the Apostles (Verses 18-24)
Verse 18. With a view to making the acquaintance of Cephas, Paul three years after his conversion went up to Jerusalem to visit him. Note the use of the Aramaic name that Jesus gave Peter (John 1. 42). He stayed with him for fifteen days (Acts 22. 17-21).
Verse 19. I saw none of the other apostles except James. This may mean either the Lord's cousin, the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10. 3), or the James of Acts 15. 13. The latter is the more probable, in which case the word apostle is used in its wider sense (2 Cor. 8. 23).
Verse 20. Concerning this visit to Jerusalem, and his contact with the apostles, Paul by a solemn protestation asserts the truth of his statements.
Verse 21. Then he went preaching the gospel, which he could not have learned in the fifteen days at Jerusalem, into Syria and Cilicia, far away from the apostles, who were still centred in Judaea.
Verse 22. He was still unknown personally to the churches of Judaea. These were not Jews practising Judaism, but companies united to Christ as Head.
Verse 23. All they knew of Paul was the report that ' The Pursuer,' a name apparently given him by the believers before his conversion, was announcing the good tidings of faith in Christ, whereas he had once laid waste those who did so.
Verse 24. And they held a good opinion of God through His calling me. They were unlike the false teachers, who had come from Judaea to decry Paul, saying that he was not an apostle.
[To be continued)