It is a well known fact: as soon as the truth
is proclaimed, Satan will be there to edit it into something
more palatable. Paul encountered this with the churches in
Galatia, and this letter is his response to just that problem.
Gal 1:1-5 NASB Paul, an apostle
from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ
and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus
who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from
this present evil age, according to the will of our God and
to whom be
the glory forevermore. Amen.
The phrasing of the opening in this letter
seems somewhat confusing. It is a part of the style of writing
of Paul’s time; letters tend to be short when you know you can
run out of paper. Paul begins with proclaiming that he is an
apostle – and telling us how he became one:
· It was not by a
committee vote. We often entrust sensitive decisions to
committees, thus ensuring that a reasonable compromise
might be reached. The Gospel does not come from
compromise, but from truth.
· Nor was it an appointment by
a particular individual. This tells us much about the
nature of the church. It is not a top down
hierarchy of appointments; it is a church whose leaders
are servant leaders. They rise by being of service, as
seen by the Spirit. Whoever would be the greatest must
be the least.
· It was through Jesus Christ,
and God the Father. And if you by chance have forgotten
how this authority came about, he tells you of the power
behind the authority: the power that raised Christ from
“We preach Christ crucified.” It is the
center of the Gospel message, and it is the center of Paul’s
· It is an act of power – and
the Apostle shares in this power. To him is granted the
power to heal the sick, for example – so that the Gospel
message will be seen for what it is.
· It is an act of grace – and
the Apostle is the ambassador of grace.
So Paul introduces himself as author of the
letter. But note that the letter is also from the brethren who
are with him. No one in the service of the Lord performs solo,
not even the Apostles. Paul recognizes this, and courteously
includes those who are with him.
Paul has some drastic things to say to the
church at Galatia – he intends to call them back to their first
love. So he places before them the core of the message:
· He puts before them the
central doctrine of the faith: the atonement.
· He then tells them that the
purpose of the atonement is – their rescue! Like the
Coast Guard, the atonement has a purpose – but not a
· Rescue from what? From the
present evil in the world. Christians are to be in the
world, not of the world – and that can happen only
through the atonement of Christ.
· This is no accident, but the
will of God from the beginning – and great glory for
Paul intertwines his apostleship with the
thought of the atonement. In so doing, he proclaims the nature
of truth for the Christian:
· It is truth which is
revealed – and corroborated by our own experience.
· It is revealed by those whom
God has chosen – and he chooses those not by their
merits, but by His own method. The Gospel is carried by
unlikely characters – so that we will pay attention to
the Gospel and not the character.
A Different Gospel
Gal 1:6-12 NASB I am amazed that
you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of
Christ, for a different gospel;
which is really
not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want
to distort the gospel of Christ.
But 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
As 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! (10)
For 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.
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was
preached by me is not according to man.
For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but
I received it
through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Does it happen?
It comes as a surprise to the average
churchman that the question could even be asked: is there
something wrong with the Gospel as preached at my church? One
reason we are reluctant to ask this is due to humility; so few
of us are graduates of a specialized Bible college. We proclaim
ourselves to be a Bible believing church; how could we go wrong?
Let me give you a few current examples:
· The “Prosperity Gospel.” A
fine method of missing the entire point, this message
proclaims that God wants you to be rich. And you get
that way by sending in contributions. And that’s what’s
· Consider also the schism
developing within the American branch of the Episcopal
church – dividing those who are “modern” (homosexual
priests and bishops, gay marriages) and “old fashioned.”
· For one you’ve seen in this
church, the “Temple of the Spirit” movement. The body is
the Temple of the Holy Spirit – therefore you should eat
organic foods and join a health club.
What would induce a “Bible believing” church
to move to such heresy and wickedness? Here are a few
· We want to be approved in
the eyes of the world. We want people to think we
are hip, with it, the church of what’s happening now. So
every time we encounter a little scriptural difficulty,
we merely explain that it’s “cultural” – true in Paul’s
time, false in our own. This is usually accompanied by
the modest statement that, after all, the matter is not
really of first importance now, is it?
· Sometimes, it’s a matter
of maintaining control. It’s easy to paint those who
object as being old fashioned and unable to comprehend
bold new ideas (“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”)
This is particularly common when the old guard is not
quite large enough to win a vote at the elders’ meeting.
Plead for the unity of the church; doctrine is not that
· Alternately, it’s a way
to be viewed as a Scripture expert. Finding some
passage to justify your actions takes some doing. There
are those who have attempted to justify themselves in
The history of the church is full of such
things. We need to be on our guard.
Paul’s answer to this problem is short and to
the point. He reminds us:
· His authority came from God.
The Gospel he preached came from God, not Paul’s
imagination. Therefore, it doesn’t matter who has
decided to give us the revised version; it’s the wrong
· The matter is so important
that the man who does such a thing is to become an
anathema to the church. That is, he is to be thrown out
and pronounced to be under a curse for the way he
misused the things of God.
· This applies to those who
teach a “gospel” which is either directly contrary or
distorted from the truth.
It is just possible that Christ considers
true adherence to His teachings to be of some importance.
Gal 1:13-24 NASB For 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
and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries
among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my
But when God, who had set me apart
from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was
to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the
Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before
me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to
Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become
acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.
But 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.) (21)
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
I was still
unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;
but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now
preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy."
And they were glorifying God because of me.
The power of the Gospel
Paul never hesitated to use his own life as a
bad example – which turned out to be a glory to God. It would
seem that the faith of many is weak because they have never
encountered anyone like Paul. But consider the change Jesus made
it this man’s life:
· His root philosophy of rules
and regulations disappeared; he went from Pharisee and
persecutor to Apostle and persecuted. If nothing else,
this should convince you that his conversion was
· Often unnoticed is this:
Paul did not begin the new life by making a big splash,
but retreated into Arabia – to learn in humble solitude.
He then went to Damascus, waiting many years before
approaching the Apostles in Jerusalem.
· Only after such a period of
humbling does he seek out Peter; then only to validate
what God has told him.
We sometimes forget that in the Gospel there
is the power of God.
Not according to man
There is a theme in this chapter: handle the
things of God in God’s way. To do this, one must sometimes
ignore what others might think. It’s not that it’s needful to
become defiant; it’s just that the approval of men is
· Paul, you will note, never
really does seek approval from the other Apostles. They
never act to him like masters. Rather, both seek the
approval of God for their actions.
· Paul also knows that he must
wait – for God’s timing, not for man’s. Three years in
Damascus is no great price to pay for this.
And all this? All this goes to the glory of
God, who turns our enemies into friends. We sometimes forget
just Who’s in charge around here.