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, To the churches of Galatia:
Paul begins his letter by declaring his authorship and apostolic authority as being one sent and called by God. He emphasizes the fact that he was chosen by God for his role, having formerly been a severe persecutor of believers with no desire to repent. Christ came to him, chose him, and revealed Himself to him so that he would follow Him. This was not man’s doing ultimately as Paul did what he wanted to do until he met Christ. Christ changed his life when he appeared to him on the Damascus road demonstrating that He was alive, having been raised from the dead by God the Father.
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.
Paul gives his common greeting of wishing the believers grace which we need in order to function everyday. We are those dependent upon the gracious empowerment and provision of God. This grace is through the Father and the Son, Who gave up His life and rescued us from the snare and bondage of sin and death so that we could live forever with Him. We are no longer doomed to perish along with this present age, but we have overcome the world in and through Christ. Our salvation is ultimately by the will and plan of God. We must choose to respond to His call, but He does initiate the work of grace in the heart and mind of a believer. Yet Christ has died for all, for this was the plan of God from the beginning. His desire is that none would perish, but sadly some reject His call to repentance. Christ is now exalted at the right hand of God where He will receive glory forever and ever. This is a great reason to rejoice, and the resurrection of Christ is what makes Christianity legitimate (1 Corinthians 15:17).
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!
After having reminded the believers of their salvation in Christ by the grace of God, Paul quickly begins to rebuke them for altering the gospel of God. They are abandoning the gospel of grace through faith in Christ for something altogether different. These believers hadn’t known Christ all that long, and yet so quickly were they being deceived. They were not being shirked out of their salvation, but they were going to struggle to live in light of the fact that they had experienced the grace of God. Paul makes the point that there really are no other gospels. There is not a plurality of messages that are true or that lead to eternal life. There is only one, though there are many false gospels. Yet some were developing false gospels for the sake of disturbing the believers and distorting the message of Christ. Such disturbing results in doubt and unsettling in the heart. The word for distort literally means to turn around, implying that the false teachers were completely undoing the truth of the gospel, even though it may have still sounded like a true gospel. Either someone believes the gospel or they don’t. Either they have the message correct or incorrect. There is only one true gospel. The gospel is not something that changes, but it is something that stays the same. Indeed, how one defines the gospel is how we can know if they are a true teacher or false teacher. Paul declares boldly that any who alter the gospel from how it was originally given ought to be accursed. This word for accursed is a strong word implying no hope of redemption or a thing doomed to destruction. Paul knows how dangerous a half gospel, an incomplete gospel, or a modified gospel can be. It can leave a person in danger of the condemnation of their souls. Thus, even if an angel from heaven were to appear and alter the gospel, we should know that this messenger is not of God. The gospel is not something to be trifled with. Thus, Paul repeats himself almost verbatim, emphasizing the seriousness of believing, protecting, upholding, and preaching the same gospel which he and the apostles received from Christ.
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.
Paul describes himself as a bond-servant, one who willingly serves His Master, Jesus Christ. Thus, he is not seeking his own will, but the Father’s will. This means that it would make no sense for Paul to be seeking some selfish gain or men-pleasing by saying what he is saying. In fact, it should be obvious that he has given up all that made him powerful and popular for the sake of suffering for the gospel and Christ. Thus, he has no ulterior motive, and he is speaking the truth.
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.
The gospel that Paul is preaching is not a gospel originated from man, modified by man, or invented by man. It is a gospel received straight from Jesus Christ Himself. No teacher gave this message to Paul, but Paul received it by direct revelation from Christ. Since it has come straight from God, it makes no sense to listen to what some man or angel claims to believe if it is contrary to what Christ has already said.
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.
Paul refers to himself as the chief of sinners. He knew what was formerly in his heart and who he used to be. He, more devoutly than any other Jew, persecuted the Christians. He was trying to uphold the Old Testament principles of the Law and deny Christ as having fulfilled it. He had Christians jailed, persecuted, beaten, and more. He wanted this movement of the early church squelched before it did any damage to Judaism. Paul’s passion was clear to his fellow Jews, making it clear that he was quickly becoming one of the leaders of preserving the Jewish 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.
Paul understood that God had chosen him from before the foundation of the world, even though he did nothing to seek God. On his way to persecute Christians, Christ stopped him and changed his heart. Paul understood that it was the grace of God which, purposed from before his even being born, was responsible for his present ministry to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. After encountering Christ and having his vision restored, he did not immediately go and meet with the apostles. He preached Christ in the synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:19-22) and then spent some time in the wilderness in Arabia.
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.
Paul had three years of time to process what had happened in his encounter with Christ. Likely, it was during this time that Christ spoke to him, revealing the mystery of the gospel as it pertained to God’s plan for the Gentile world. He needed to have his mind refreshed and turned upside down. He had been the one turning the gospel around, and now God had to turn his mind around, transforming it according to God’s ways. After three years of being alone, away from his countrymen and out of contact with the apostles, he finally went up to Jerusalem. At this point, he met Peter, whom he visited with for fifteen days. The only other apostle that he met was James, the half-brother of Christ, not the son of Zebedee.
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.
Acts 9:31 reports of how all of the churches in the regions near Judea, Galilee, and Samaria were rejoicing because of how the church was advancing. Paul had been sent out to Tarsus in verse 30, and likely at this time he ministered in Syria and Cilicia. He assured his readers that he is telling the truth that even at this point he was still unknown by sight to the Jerusalem churches. Only through word of mouth had it been known that Paul the persecutor of the church had been converted.