Gal 1:1-5 Paul set the stage for why it is so astonishing that the Galatians walked away from the truth! Salvation is by faith in what Christ did on their behalf. Christ gave himself for their sins to rescue them from the present evil age. He did it not because of anything they did, or because they deserved it or earned it. He did it “according to the will of our God and Father,” (Gal 1:4-5) according to the plan He made before the world began.
Gal 1:6-10 Paul expresses his astonishment in them for leaving all that and following the false teachers. He then prepares them to begin refuting the teaching that was causing so much confusion.
Galatians 1:11-24 Commentary:
Galatians 1:11-12 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
The false teachers were throwing them into confusion (Gal 1:7) by claiming their message had more authority than Paul’s. In fact, because these false teachers were “following the law” they undermined the authority of Paul’s gospel in claiming their message was from God, and Paul’s was not, because it did not include the law.
Paul reminds the Galatians that his gospel was not something he made up. It did not come from men in any way. “I didn’t hear it from man nor did any man teach it to me! Paul makes it clear, I received it directly from Jesus Himself!”
Galatians 1:13-14 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
What happened back in Acts? Let’s go back and read the story again of when we first were introduced to this man. His name was Saul. Let’s read Acts 7:51-8:3. This was Paul’s “previous way of life.” He intensely persecuted the church. He tried to destroy it. He was extremely zealous for the traditions of the fathers… or in other words, the law and the Jewish system.
He was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews his age. He was gaining authority and becoming a leader. In Acts 9 we saw him carrying out the wishes of the high priest himself. (Acts 9:1-2)
Galatians 1:15-17 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me
Paul says that God had a plan for him from the beginning. He says he was “set apart from birth and called.” Paul referred to God’s plan for all of us back in Gal 1:4. God’s plan, since before the foundation of the world, (Eph 1:4) was that he would give the life of His Son up for all of us and our sins.
We talked about how “He let us sin! He let us mess up His perfect creation, knowing that it would cost Him the life of His Son!” In Paul’s case it was more than just “letting him steel, or lie, or follow his own selfishness.” Paul persecuted the church! He ravaged the church. He dragged people from their homes and put them in prison. He was the authority behind the stoning of Stephen! God knew all of that would happen. It was part of his plan for the life of Saul the persecutor to make him into Paul the apostle. God has a plan for each of our lives!
God called Saul, by his grace! (Acts 9:4-5) Saul’s calling was a literal voice from God! But that isn’t the case with most of us. God calls us through the working of the Holy Spirit, behind the scenes in our lives most of the time. Through a person who witnesses to us. Through a message we hear on the radio, or in a church. Through the acts of a loving friend who is a Christian. God’s desire is for everyone to come to know him. (2 Peter 3:9) (Rom 10:11-12)
When Paul responded, he received the Holy Spirit. He received the resurrected life of Jesus in Him. Paul knew it immediately, and it drastically changed his life. God revealed to Paul Christ in him.
This is the case in each of our lives. Once we believe, Jesus is revealed in you. Every time you are convicted of a sin, every time you feel the tension of giving in to temptation or not, Jesus in you is revealed. Every time you open up God’s Word, and you are encouraged, or challenged, or strengthened by the words you read, that’s God revealing His Son in you!
so that I might preach him among the Gentiles
God did not “call” Paul to preach to the Jews. That was the apostles job. Their work was to try and convince the Jews who Jesus was. But for Paul, God was sending Him to the gentiles. That’s basically everyone who was not a Jew.
I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Paul is laying out the source for his authority. The false teachers were probably discrediting even the apostles, because they also were preaching contrary to the Pharisical law. So, to make the argument that his authority came from the apostles, while for the Jews that would have been a pretty strong argument, Paul says, “I did not consult them, I didn’t receive counsel from them, nor any other man!
Instead of going up to Jerusalem to receive teaching and instruction from the apostles, Paul went out into the desert and was taught by Jesus Himself for the next few years. (Read the account in Acts 9:20-31. This was a time of peace for the church. (Acts 9:31)
Gal 1:18-19 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother
The chronology is a little fuzzy here. But in comparing this passage with the Acts account, it seems like the time in Arabia is between Acts 9:25 and Acts 9:26. We don’t really know if he spent that full 3 years in the dessert, or if some of that 3 years was spent in Damascus. Whichever the case, he waited for 3 years to go to Jerusalem after his conversion.
Paul is adamant to clearly state that he did not go in order to receive his teaching. He went to get acquainted with Peter and to see James. He only stayed 15 days.
Gal 1:20-24 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Paul only spent 15 days with Peter and James. He “swears” by an oath (“I assure you before God”) that what I am writing is not a lie. I am telling you the truth. What I am writing and preaching came directly from Jesus Himself!
In fact, I spent so little time with the apostles in Jerusalem, the churches there don’t even know me, except by reputation. I am only known to them as, “The guy who used to persecute us, but is now preaching the same message.” It’s awesome that the testimony of my life encourages them, and they are praising God for me. But, I assure you, we have never met.
Why is this written?
- Paul is defending his authority. He is making the clear point that because His message came directly from Jesus Himself, and it changed his life, it is reliable, trustworthy, and He can preach with authority!
What is God saying to me through this passage?
- A teacher may be sincere and still be sincerely wrong.
- It’s only through the authority of scripture that we can know the truth.
- Beware of people who say we need more than simple faith in Christ to be saved.
From this passage, what am I realizing that I need to become more aware of?
- God desires to reveal Jesus in me. How am I hindering Him from doing that?
What do I need to do as a result of what I have read?
- Thank God that I am free from the burden of having to earn God’s love and approval.
- Remember all He has done for me, and out of love for Him, be available for God to reveal Jesus through me.
What’s the first step?