NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER ONE
Like all of Paul’s writings, the Book of Galatians is an epistle – a letter. Paul founded the Christian congregations of believers in the region of Galatia during his early missionary journeys. After leaving the region, he wrote the letter we now call the Book of Galatians in order to encourage the congregation he planted – and to offer correction for some on the way they were easily being led astray from the Gospel that he brought and taught them.
Paul began the letter by claiming himself as the author, which is important. Some Final Covenant epistles were written anonymously, but Paul made sure his recipients knew they were hearing from him. He begins Chapter One by asserting that he was appointed by the Anointed One, not the other Apostles or the Jerusalem Council. Paul claimed that this fact alone made him, unlike the other Apostles. The first five verses are a standard greeting for his day.
Paul was writing this letter to the congregations of believers in Galatia because there was a huge problem about men claiming to be teachers for the Lord. Their true intention, however, was to steer the people away from the Scripture and insert alternate books and teachings. These false teachers wanted to discredit Paul’s word in order to continue their selfish mission of corrupting the congregation of the Anointed One.
In verses six and seven, however, Paul got down to the main reason for his correspondence: I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of the Anointed One, said Paul, and are turning to a different gospel – not that there was another gospel, but there are some who were troubling them and wanted to change the good news about the Messiah with the bad news of the Law.
Paul also mentions that he was disappointed in how easily these false teachers were able to sway people away from the Scripture. Paul then made it clear that any person, whether they are a priest, an apostle, or even an angel, that spoke of any other word than the Word of the Lord were to be promptly told to leave without any goodbyes. As an obedient servant of God, he saw it as his duty to please God and not mankind.
This all happened because after Paul departed from Galatia, a group of Jewish Christians entered the region and began denouncing the Gospel of salvation Paul preached. These Jewish Christians were often referred to as “Judaizers” because they claimed that followers of Jesus must continue to fulfill all the regulations of the First Covenant Law – including circumcision, sacrifices, observing holy days, and more.
Paul’s Gospel was being put on trial by those that questioned his authority as an Apostle. Paul continued to defend his Gospel by saying that its words were sent to him by the Lord and not by man. He wrote how God’s grace saved his soul and called him to preach the Scripture to the Gentiles. He claimed that he had very little interaction with the other Apostles.
Paul was completely against the message of the Judaizers. He rightly understood that they were attempting to twist the Gospel into a process of salvation by works. Indeed, the Judaizers were attempting to hijack the early Christian movement and return it to a legalistic form of Judaism.
For this reason, Paul spent much of chapter one establishing his authority and credentials as an Apostle of Jesus. Paul had received the Gospel message directly from Jesus during a supernatural encounter on the road to Damascus and then later in the Arabian wasteland.
Just as importantly, Paul spent most of his life as a gifted student of the First Covenant Law. He was a zealous Jew, a Pharisee, and dedicated his life to following the same system the Judaizers wanted. He knew better than most the utter failure of that religious legal system, especially in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
That’s why Paul used this letter to explain his conversion on the road to Damascus, his connection with Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem, and his earlier work teaching the message of the Gospel in Syria and Cilicia. After his conversion, he did not consult with anyone else but traveled into Arabia. Then after three years, he traveled to see Peter in Jerusalem, but only stayed for fifteen days. The only other Apostle he spoke with was James, the brother of Jesus. Paul then moved to Syria and Cilicia, remaining out of sight to the congregations of believers in Judea. The people of Judea only heard of Paul’s teachings, which was enough to make believers out of most of them that he was for real.
Paul faithfully taught the Gospel to the people of Galatia. He proclaimed the truth that Jesus the Anointed One died and rose again in order that all people might experience salvation and the forgiveness of sins as a gift received through faith – not as something they could earn through good works. Therefore, Paul showed no tolerance for those who attempted to deny or corrupt the truth.
Additionally, Paul reinforced his credibility as an Apostle of Jesus the Anointed One. One of the ways the Judaizers attempted to argue against Paul’s ideas was to discredit his character. The Judaizers often tried to intimidate Gentile Christians on the basis of their familiarity with the Scriptures. Because the Gentiles had only learned about the First Covenant for a few years, the Judaizers would often bully them with their superior knowledge of the text.
Paul wanted to make sure the Galatians understood that he had more experience with the Jewish Law than any of the Judaizers. In addition, he received a direct revelation from Jesus the Anointed One regarding the message of the Gospel – the same message he proclaimed to them. This was something the Judaizers were unable to do. So one question the Galatians might ask these intruders was this: When did you meet Jesus the Anointed One? When did He call you to be an Apostle to the Gentiles? Where did you spend three years learning more from the Great Teacher about His Word, His Mission, and His desire to save the world? I’m sure, that if they did, they’d only hear excuses and alibis. – Dr. Robert R Seyda