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Galatians 1:1-12

Galatians 1:1-12

Paul introduces himself in this letter as an apostle, in most of his authentic letters Paul uses this designation. Timothy George writes concerning the term apostle, “As the noun form of the verb apostellein, meaning “to send” or “to dispatch,” an apostle is literally an envoy or ambassador, one who has been sent in the service of another.”[1] Paul understands himself as an ambassador of God, it is God’s business that has consumed his entire life. In contrast to the other letters of Paul, in Galatians the title apostle takes the form of an apology since Paul justifies his apostleship, he presents his apostleship as from God, as opposed to the one from men. F.F Bruce states concerning Paul’s calling, “his commission was received directly, without mediation, from the risen Christ. The occasion of his receiving it was his Damascus-road experience in which, as he says below in vv 15f., ‘God … saw fit to reveal his Son in me’.”[2]

On the road to Damascus Paul encountered the risen Christ, and this fact is related to Paul’s commissioning.[3] Jesus Christ is equated with God the father, for Paul Jesus and God stand on the same pedestal. This fact is repeated in verse 3. Bruce says, “Such language bespeaks the exalted place which the risen Christ occupies in Paul’s thinking… God and Christ are completely at one in the bestowal of salvation: the grace which lies behind this salvation is indiscriminately called ‘the grace of God’ (2:21) and the grace of Christ’ (1:6), and the peace which this salvation produces is indiscriminately called ‘the peace of God’ (Phil. 4:7) and ‘the peace of Christ’ (Col. 3:15).”[4] Paul evangelical conversion and his call to ministry are inseparable.

Paul offers Grace and Peace from God who is the father and the Lord Jesus Christ who is further identified as the one who gave himself and by so doing rescued us from the present evil age. Jesus did not just forgive our sins, but rescued us from the realm in which evil is the order of the day. Even though we are live in this age, we live in it as the rescued ones. The salvation Jesus offers, was not an accident of history but something that was in line with the will of God. This fact makes Paul praise the Lord v.5.

Unlike some of his letters, where the greeting is followed by thanksgiving, in Galatians Paul immediately introduces the main concern of writing his letter. There cannot be any further delay. P.T Obrien sees the gospel mentioned in most Pauline thanksgiving sections and for him Galatians in no exception, “Because the Galatians have departed from the gospel of Christ there can be no thanksgiving; instead, a curse is pronounced on anyone who brings another message’ (Introductory Thanksgivings, 141 n. 1)”[5].

The issue Paul raises with the Galatians is that they are deserting the gospel, in its place they are embracing a different gospel, which is not a gospel at all. For the apostle Paul, there is only one gospel, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter how similar a teaching is to the gospel, it cannot become the gospel. Anything that enslaves people, is not good news of Jesus Christ. He identifies those who are causing confusion in verse 7, even though he does not reveal them by name, these people are Judaizers who insist that Galatians must become Jews before they can become a Christian. The issue of circumcision is top on the agenda for these Judaizers. For Paul, those who present another gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ are to be eternally condemned, whether it is the apostle Paul and companions or angels. This message of condemnation is repeated in verses 8 and 9. The repetition shows the seriousness of the issue at hand, God does not tolerate those who mislead his children. In the Gospels, Jesus says, it is better for one to have a millstone tied to his head and be thrown into the sea than the punishment of those who cause others to stumble (Matthew 18:6).

In verse 10, Paul makes it clear that he is not after the approval of men, it is often said that the Judaizers thought Paul was trying to be a populist by offering a gospel without demands, completely misunderstanding Paul’s proclamation of freedom. Paul responds to his rhetorical questions, by saying if I were trying to do that I would not be a servant of Christ. Servant of God can only please God and not men. As in verse 1 Paul says in verse 10 that just as he was not sent by men so the gospel he proclaims has its origin in God. He was not taught the gospel, but he received it by the revelation of Jesus Christ v.12. In this passage Paul has introduced the subject which the book of Galatians will expound, in fact Galatians 1:1-12 is the entire letter in a nutshell.

[1] Timothy George, Galatians (vol. 30; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 78.

[2] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982), 72.

[3] Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 73.

[4] Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 74–75.

[5] Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 80.

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