No other epistle begins with such force. After a short salutation, Paul immediately confronts the problem facing the Galatians and denounces preachers of the false gospel.
(“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” 1:8)
Did You Know...?
Galatia (1:2): “The term occurs three times in the NT. In 2Ti 4:10 the reference is uncertain. In 1Pe 1:1 it refers to the northern area of Asia Minor occupied by the Gauls. Here Paul probably uses the term to refer to the Roman province of Galatia and an additional area to the south, through which he traveled on his first missionary journey (Ac 13:14-14:23).” [ref]
- Salutation (1:1-5)
- Curse to Those Who Pervert the Gospel (1:6-10)
Paul was not among the original twelve apostles. Why does he call himself an apostle?Hide Answer
According to Paul, he was an apostle because he had been called by Jesus Christ and God the Father (1) to preach the gospel among the Gentiles (16). Although he had never been with the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry, he had seen the risen Lord just as the other
apostles had (1Cor 9:1; 15:1-8). At the time of Paul’s conversion, Christ also revealed to him that He had called him to be His witness (Acts 9:10-16; 26:15-18). Thus, Paul stated in his epistles that he had been called to be an apostle (Rom 1:1; 1Cor 1:1). This is the same mission as that which was entrusted to the Twelve (Acts 1:21-22). In short, the clear calling by the Lord and the mission to be Christ’s witness qualified him as one of the apostles. His apostleship was further attested to in Luke’s writings (Acts 14:4,14).
The Lord Himself also confirmed Paul’s apostleship. It was on this basis that Paul went to great lengths to defend his apostleship in 2 Corinthians. He considered the Corinthian believers themselves to be the evidence that proved he was a minister of the gospel (2Cor 3:1-3). He also cited the signs of an apostle from God through signs, wonders, and mighty deeds (2Cor 12:11-12). Because of all the marvelous work of the Lord through Paul, it was clearly evident that the Lord had called him to be an apostle.
Why does Paul stress the divine origin of his apostolic call?Hide Answer
The Judaizers attempted to discredit the true gospel that Paul had preached by claiming that he was not a true apostle. In response, Paul reinforces the message of the true gospel by arguing that it was God, not any human being, who appointed him to be an apostle. For this reason, any gospel that was different from the gospel he had preached would be a false gospel.
How is the opening of this letter different from the salutations in Paul’s other epistles? Why?Hide Answer
In lieu of the commendations and thanksgiving that are common among Paul’s other epistles, Paul just plunges into the heart of the matter after a short benediction. In fact, even as early as the first verse, Paul has begun to defend his apostolic call.
What fundamental Christian doctrine is found in verse 4?Hide Answer
Salvation through Christ’s atonement in accordance with God’s redemptive plan.
What does it mean that the Lord Jesus Christ delivers us from the present evil age?Hide Answer
Through God’s saving grace and power, believers have been delivered from the corruption in the world to be partakers of the divine nature (2Pet 1:2-4). We have been freed from the bondage of sin that controls the lives of unbelievers and have been given a new life in Christ (1Jn 5:18-19). We also have the hope of being delivered from all evil and preserved for the heavenly kingdom (2Tim 4:18).
What clues do you see in this paragraph that convey the great urgency in Paul?Hide Answer
1. The use of strong language, such as “marvel,” “so soon,” “be accursed.” 2. The repetition of the warning and curse in 8 and 9.
Account for this urgency.Hide Answer
Seeing that the Galatians were on the verge of falling away from the grace of Christ, Paul had to take drastic measures to awaken them from the delusion of the false gospel.
What is the “different gospel” that had misled the Galatians?Hide Answer
Based on Paul’s defense of the gospel in Galatians as well as the recordings in Acts (Acts 15:1), we can infer that the false gospel that had misled the Galatians advocated salvation by observing Old Testament laws, including circumcision.
How does this other gospel pervert the true gospel?Hide Answer
While the false gospel appeared to be only a slight variation of the true gospel (because it did not deny the saving works of Christ but added the necessity of works to faith), it had actually undermined the role of Christ in salvation. The perversion was so serious that it had in essence completely nullified the necessity of Christ’s atonement (cf. 2:21)
What does Paul call the preachers of the false gospel (7; cf. 5:10, 12)? Why?Hide Answer
“Those who trouble you.” They had taken away the liberty the believers had in Christ and put them under the bondage of the law.
Why should preachers of other gospels be accursed?Hide Answer
The effect of the false gospel is so great that those who accepted such message turned away from God and His grace (1:6; 5:4). Hence, anyone who spreads such message is guilty of leading people to destruction and deserves condemnation.
In verse 8, Paul does not exclude himself from his own curse were he to preach a different gospel (“even if we…”). What does this tell us about the nature of the true gospel?Hide Answer
The true gospel does not originate from or depend on any individual, including the preacher himself. Even if the preacher of the gospel turns away from the truth and preaches a different gospel, he will be accursed. Therefore, we should not let our faith rest on men but solely on Christ. Man may change, but God’s word endures forever.
Have you ever encountered a “different gospel”? What was the message of this gospel?
How do you know which gospel is the true gospel?Hide Answer
The true gospel is revealed to us through the Scriptures. It was first spoken by the Lord and passed down to us through the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:19-20). This gospel is also confirmed by the Lord through signs and wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit(Heb 2:3-4). Therefore, to know if the gospel message we have received is from the Lord, we need to see whether it is in complete accord with the teachings of the Lord and the apostles, and whether the Lord confirms this gospel message just as He did in the apostolic church, through pouring out the promised Holy Spirit and through signs, wonders, and miracles.
How does Paul’s insistence on the one true gospel also confirm the teaching that there is only one true church?Hide Answer
Paul did not tolerate the preaching of a different gospel within the church, since the body of Christ shares only one faith (Eph 4:5). Thus, individuals or congregations that believe and uphold a different gospel from what the apostles preached cannot be part of the body of Christ.
Paul reminds us of an important attitude in verse 10. What is this attitude and why is this attitude necessary for the bondservants of Christ?Hide Answer
As servants of Christ, we are serving God, not men. It should be our aim to please our Master, to whom we have to give an account (2Cor 5:9-10). We must be faithful in carrying out God’s word, even if doing so runs contrary to men’s opinion.
In what ways do you sometimes please men rather than God?
How do you resolve the apparent contradiction between this verse and Rom 15:2 as well as 1Cor 10:33? In what situations should we please men? In what situations should we not please men?Hide Answer
The Scripture teaches us to please our neighbors or brothers in order to save them and build up their faith. Doing so does not mean compromising God’s word in order to please men. Rather, we are to restrict our personal freedom and become more empathetic to others’ needs (cf. Rom 14:20-21; 1Cor 8:1,9-13; 9:19-23). But when pleasing others involves actions that are contrary to Biblical teachings, we must choose to please God rather than man.