Because it is sometimes difficult to follow the flow
of a letter like this, we have added a synopsis of each chapter
& passage to help clarify where Paul is going with his writing.]
Read Galatians: Galatians
is the classic text about the distinction between living according
to self-centred desires by following religious rules, and living
according to the leading of the Spirit having received a new life
by faith in the work of Christ on the Cross. In chapter
1, Paul emphasizes that anything less than the Gospel
of faith in Christ is no gospel at all. Having gone on, and continued
in chapter 2 to explain his background, he declares
that his gospel is not man-derived but given by Christ. In chapter
3 he confronts the Galatians with having back-pedaled
and reverted to living by human endeavour. Thus it is no longer
by faith in Christ and so he goes to some length to reiterate
the basics of salvation by faith in Christ that means we are now
children of God. In chapter 4, he explains we
are now inheritors of the promise of salvation so we no longer
have to conform to the dictates of the Law. In chapter
5 he emphasizes that we are now free in Christ to live
by the Spirit the Christ-characterized life, with some details
of how to live this life being seen in chapter 6.
letter is an antidote to anyone who is trying to impress God by
‘being good' by following rules instead of receiving the Spirit-filled
and Spirit-led life, by faith. As
a letter with a lot of detail and theology developed from the
Old Testament, it is perhaps read carefully one chapter at a time,
seeking to fully understand the points Paul is making in each
Synopsis: Paul immediately confronts the problem, that
the Galatians appear to have abandoned the gospel, by emphasizing
that the gospel he preached did not have human origins but came
directly from Christ and it was only a few years later that he
made contact with some of the Jerusalem leaders.]
There is no other Gospel
Paul's Calling & early experience
Synopsis: As usual with Paul's letters he identifies
himself as an apostle but emphasizes that he is one by God's calling.
He needs to establish his credibility in what he is going to say.
His 'grace & peace' greeting is fuller than usual, emphasizing
the work of Christ.]
identifies himself and his calling) Paul,
an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ
and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the
brothers and sisters with me,
the churches in Galatia:
grace & peace for his readers, knowing this is what God, through
His work through Christ, wants for them) Grace
and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil
age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory
for ever and ever. Amen.
There is no other Gospel
Synopsis: He immediately ploughs in with his concern
that they appear to have abandoned the Gospel with a substitute
upset by the news that the Galatian Christians have been succumbing
to a lesser confusing gospel) I
am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called
you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different
gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people
are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the
gospel of Christ.
(may he [or
anyone] be cursed if they preach a different Gospel) But
even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other
than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching
to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under
(I'm not trying
to win human approval) Am
I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or
am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please
people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
In what follows, on into chapter 2, before Paul tackles the subject
of the Jewish Christians returning to follow the Law, he seeks
to establish his credibility as (a) having been called by Christ
to preach the unchanging Gospel to the Gentiles, and (b) having
been accepted by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Only
then, in chapter 3, can he challenge them over what they have
Paul's Calling & early experience
Synopsis: My gospel didn't have human origins but came
directly from Christ, I didn't confer with church leaders until
some years later.]
I preached didn't come from me) I
want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached
is not of human origin.
(it came directly
from Christ) I did not receive
it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by
revelation from Jesus Christ.
(you know what
I used to be, a Christian persecutor) For
you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely
I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.
(I was a devout,
ambitious Jew) I
was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people
and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
(but when God
revealed Jesus to me, that all changed. I was called to bring
this Gospel to the Gentiles) But
when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me
by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might
preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to
consult any human being.
(I didn't consult
any Christians, I went off into seclusion) I
did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before
I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
later, and only then, I went up to Jerusalem and saw only two
of the leaders) Then
after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with
Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other
apostles—only James, the Lord's brother.
(I am speaking
the truth) I
assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
(I then travelled
out of Israel) Then
I went to Syria and Cilicia.
(so no Christians
in Judea got to know me) I
was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.
heard that I had changed) They
only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is
now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
24 (and they
praised God for what He had done) And
they praised God because of me.
to Chapter 2