Galatians 1:1-24 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does Paul identify himself in verse one (printed below?) How would you define the term he uses to describe himself?

Paul, an apostle—not sent by men nor through any man, but sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Galatians 1:1)

In verse one Paul identifies himself as “an apostle.” That is to say, a special messenger or ambassador who has been commissioned to represent someone else and who is completely identified with the one whom he represents (note John 13:16,20). Paul declares that he was “not sent by men nor through any man.” In other words, Paul was not appointed by the church nor by the original apostles to be their apostle, nor was he ordained by them on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the contrary, he was “sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Paul was ordained directly by Christ Himself (note Acts 26:15-18) in accordance with the will and purpose of God the Father (as Paul explains in Galatians 1:15-16).

2. How does Paul describe the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in verse 4 (printed below?)

…the Lord Jesus Christ (4) who gave himself for our sins, so that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Galatians 1:4)

Paul declares that our Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins.” The Lord Jesus offered Himself upon the cross of Calvary as the one perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God so that through faith in Him we may be justified before God; that is to say, through faith in Christ we may be accepted as just, or righteous, before God (note Galatians 3:13 and 1 John 4:10). Paul goes on to write, Christ gave himself for our sins “so that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” The purpose of Christ’s atoning work is to deliver us out of the realm of sin and make us holy before God; in other words, to sanctify us, setting us apart for God and making us holy like God (note Titus 2:13b-14). All of Christ’s work of redemption is “according to the will of our God and Father.” Salvation is accomplished by the person and work of Christ and it is by the initiative of God the Father (note 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

3. What has caused Paul to be astonished? See verse 6 (printed below).

I am astonished that you are so quickly turning away from the one who called you by grace, and turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6)

In verse 6 the apostle expresses his astonishment that the Galatians were so quickly and easily forsaking the One who called them. Note: the Galatians were not merely forsaking a doctrine and teaching, but were forsaking their relationship with God. The Galatians were turning to a “different gospel” that in fact was no gospel at all (verses 6-7). These churches had been exposed to a heretical teaching which they were accepting as a substitute for the true gospel preached by the apostle Paul. But this teaching was no gospel—it was no good news at all; on the contrary, it was a depressing and deadly counterfeit.

4. What does Paul say about the gospel he preaches? See verses 11 and 12 (printed below).

Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that I preached is not of human origin; (12) for neither did I receive it from a man, nor was it taught to me. On the contrary, I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)

In verses 11-12 Paul testifies that the gospel is “not of human origin.” Paul “did not receive it from a man;” this is a reference to oral tradition: the ancients passed down the wisdom of the ages to their students who were said to “receive” it and would then commit it to memory. Nor was Paul taught the gospel; the first century world had its own centers of learning (note, by way of example, Acts 17:18b-21), but the gospel was not some new religious concept circulating around the academic centers of the day. The good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is not in any sense a human creation, invention, or conception. On the contrary, Paul declares that he received the gospel “through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

5. How does Paul describe his former life and conversion in verses 13-16 (printed below?)

You have heard about my former way of life in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God with great intensity and tried to destroy it. (14) I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries from my own country, being extremely zealous for the traditions of my forefathers. (15) But when God, who appointed me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased (16) to reveal his Son to me, so that I might preach him to the Gentile nations, I immediately refrained from conferring with mortal men. (Galatians 1:13-16)

In verses 13-14 Paul presents a brief autobiographical sketch of his past life. His devotion to the religion of the Jews (i.e.; his life as a Pharisee) and his hostility against the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ were well known facts. This being the case, it becomes very evident that he did not receive his apostolic commission from the church nor was he taught by the original apostles. On the contrary, it took an act of God’s sovereign grace to turn Paul from the religion of the Jews to the salvation found in Jesus Christ alone (note Galatians 1:15-16). Note: from the very way he phrases it, it is evident that Paul had a deep awareness that he had been saved to serve God, and to do so in the capacity of being an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.