I tend to skim over the opening and closing passages too quickly, so I try to slow down and reflect on what is being said.
Galatians 1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: 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.
Note how Paul immediately establishes his credentials. Apostles had to have met face-to-face with Jesus, and Paul did this. His conversion story is recounted three times in the book of Acts (chapters 9, 22 and 26). He also gives a brief version of the Gospel: “the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us.”
The next passage is very powerful and should strike fear into false teachers everywhere. Adding to or subtracting from the real Gospel is a very bad idea.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by 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.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
I use the previous verses when speaking to Mormons. I start by asking if they think Galatians is authoritative as part of the Bible. Then I ask if their “gospel” (the Book of Mormon) is the same as Paul’s or different. If they say it is the same, then I point that the Book of Mormon is redundant and unnecessary. If they say it is different, then I point them to Paul’s warning.
Verse 10 is a good memory verse, as we face the daily challenge of pleasing men or God:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
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 advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
Paul had perhaps the most dramatic conversion experience ever. He went from a full-time job of persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist for Christianity of all time. His life has at least two great lessons for us:
1. If someone as awful as Paul can be redeemed, there is hope for us. Jesus’ sacrifice covers all our sins if we will only repent and believe.
2. If an outstanding Jew like Paul still needed Jesus to be saved, then so does every other human on the planet. Consider Philippians 3:4-6:
“. . . If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
Paul had all that going for him but He still needed Christ.
Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.