Galatians Devotionals

Unique Credentials
Gal 1:1,2
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:

If people don't respect you, they're not going to listen to you. Thus in many of Paul's letters from the outset he establishes his credentials and often throughout his letters he'll remind his readers of his authority and his background with them. This is particularly the case in Galatians where he is in competition with false teachers over the hearts and minds of the Galatian Christians.

Why should we listen to Paul over that of the opinions of other preachers and theologians down through history? One relatively unique credential he had was being called as an apostle directly by Jesus Christ, his testimony of that event being affirmed in the book of Acts. And this in contrast to the lesser credentials of those who may be called by men - like missionaries sent out from a church. But in fact his opponents of the group of the circumcision didn't even have those credentials. For while they may have come from the church in Judea, apparently they had not been officially sent.

Notice also that despite his credentials, Paul also speaks of his letter coming from a fellowship of brethren - these also giving credence to his claims.
A Gospel Presentation
Gal 1:3-5
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.

Consider the content and emphasis of this brief presentation of the gospel message.

vs 1 spoke of the resurrection of Christ from the dead - which is always included in a gospel presentation. (1Cor 15:3,4) giving physical evidence affirming its truth. Here he speaks of Jesus Christ as Lord - who died for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. The gospel has to do with deliverance from sin. Through Christ's blood we are delivered from the guilt which sin incurs to our account. But also having been justified we will be delivered from the evil inherent in this present age. Perhaps Paul reminds them of this fact because the Christians were getting too caught up in the things of this age and had lost perspective on eternal things.

Col 3:1,2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
A Different Gospel
Gal 1:6,7
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

This is primarily what Galatians is about - defending the true gospel from false imitations.There are many who through denominational allegiance and indoctrination have been trained to gullibly accept whatever they hear rather than subjecting the ideas to scrutiny, as John instructed, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 In fact one of the tests of right doctrine is to compare it against the standard set by the apostles, as John also said, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6 Thus we'll find in Galatians the apostle Paul contrasting his gospel with that of the false teachers.

I bet that many of the Galatians hadn't realized that they were turning away to a different gospel. That's the way it often is. Of those Christians who believe a false gospel even today, most think that they are believing the gospel testified to by the apostles. Most don't realize they've been led astray. Paul uses words here like "I am astonished" and "quickly deserting" to wake them up.
Let them be Anathema
Gal 1:8,9
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!

Obviously once again Paul is trying to wake Christians up to the seriousness of this matter. The gravity of his words and the fact he repeats this curse twice shows just how seriously he takes this matter. Getting the gospel right is an extremely serious matter upon which the eternal souls of men hang. And thoses who teach and preach will be judged more strictly as James says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."James 3:1 For false teachers not only condemn themselves, but drag others along to hell as well, much like Jesus said of the Pharisees, "woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Mt 23:13 And the false teachers Paul was referring to were much like the Pharisees in their doctrine. "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mt 16:6
Pleasing Men
Gal 1:10
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.

Some preachers are just too concerned about their popularity to say what needs to be said. But if you examine the rhetoric of Jesus and Paul, among others, you find that they didn't seem to care about issues of popularity. They weren't trying to please people. They didn't seem to care whether what they said would "turn people off" because they knew that those who appreciate the truth would listen.

If your objective is to please people; if your objective is to make people like you; then you're not being a servant of Christ.
Gal 1:11,12
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.

Paul was not taught the gospel from the other apostles. He was not only called uniquely and personally by Jesus Chris, he was also taught directly by Jesus Christ. The other apostles had been witnesses to Jesus' ministry and Jesus' teachings while on earth. Thus the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain a great deal of historic content. While Paul preached the same gospel as they, his content was primary theological - propositional truth told him by the resurrected Christ.

The reason why he brings this up is to pit himself against the circumcision who might falsely claim that they had second-hand knowledge of their gospel through Peter and John from the church at Jerusalem, whereas they may claim that Paul had no such contact with them. This will be an on-going subject for many verses.
Paul's Past Life
Gal 1:13,14
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.

You would think to bring up his sinful past - particularly his persecution of the church would have been counter-productive in his defense against these false teachers. But in fact by this he shows that he knows where they are coming from, having had the same zeal as they for things like circumcision and the legalistic keeping of the law.

So before criticizing your opposition, show that you know where they are coming from, that have some experience dealing with them, or at least have studied their point of view.
Revealing his Son in me
Gal 1:15-17
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.

Paul was not an after-thought in God's plan. From birth God had set Paul apart, preparing him for his ministry even prior to his conversion. And after he was called in Acts 9, Jesus began to dwell in him, of which he'll also mention in Gal 2:20 saying "Christ lives in me." His revelation of the gospel - his gospel message - came from Christ who dwelt in him. He didn't have to go somewhere else to learn of Christ. He didn't have to go to Jerusalem to have the other apostles tell him about Christ. For wherever he went, Christ was with him. In fact he started to preach his gospel in Damascus - prior to even meeting to other apostles.

He says this not only to contrast his credentials with that of the false teachers who had no personal relationship with Christ, but also this was an important contrast his his gospel with that of the circumcision - namely that the gospel is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as Jesus also mentioned in his prayer in John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." And in his invitation in Rev 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Paul's Brief Visit
Gal 1:18-20
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.

This event probably corresponded to what was recorded in Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabus went to deliver a gift to the saints in Jerusalem.

Essentially he's saying that after 3 years preaching the gospel given to him prophetically, then he had a short visit to Jerusalem - of the apostles only seeing Peter. James, though a major player had not been one of the Twelve, but was worthy of note, being the half-brother of Christ, growing up with him, and being one of the church leaders in Jerusalem. This is to say that they had no impact on his gospel - as he will go into further detail later about this trip.
An Unprecedented Conversion
Gal 1:21-24
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.

Once again Paul establishes the fact that he didn't get his gospel second-hand through the churches of Judea. Furthermore the fact that he was preaching the faith that he once denied indicates that he seriously must have scrutinized the faith, being well aware of all the possible objections. People that come to faith under those circumstances often end up having well thought out convictions concerning those ideas of which they had formerly been hostile.

Though it's a shame that the churches of Judea hadn't taken to Paul. After all one of the reasons why they didn't know him personally was because, despite the fact they praised God for his conversion, they were reluctant to know him. And they were suspicious of his doctrine due to their prejudice against Gentiles - (yes, against Gentile Christians). They could have learned a lot from Paul. The Christian life can be like that. One can miss out on a blessing because of some unjustified prejudice one may hold against some other Christian.

Denominational Gullibility
One thing that resulted in the Galatians going astray was their gullibility. They listened to the wrong people without scrutinizing their dogma, whereas in Acts 17:11 the Bereans were commended for even scrutinizing Paul's doctrine. But even to this day many Christians gullibly accept whatever they hear without scrutinizing what is said in light of the Bible. They figure if such and such post-Biblical theologian or preacher said it, it must be true. Allegiances are made to one theologian over another, one denomination over another, institutional Christianity disallowing any scrutinizing of doctrine by individual Christians who are taught rather to play the role of stupid gullible sheep. And thus is the origin of many denomination divisions.

The Jerusalem Council
Gal 2:1,2
Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.

The event Paul refers to in this and following verses is found in Acts 15. That is "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question."Acts 15:1,2

But what does Paul mean when he says he just intended to meet with the leadership, "for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain."? For we note Paul was quite confident of his convictions. And as we noted from chapter 1, Paul didn't feel he needed the other apostles to validate his gospel. For if that had been the case, he would have gone to them years ago prior to his preaching of the gospel. Rather he was concerned as to whether or not these kinds of false teachers were among the reputable leadership of the church at Jerusalem. And if so, he was concerned about their power. And indeed he had cause for concern, for in that case it would mean that Peter, John and James, who were the heads of the Jerusalem church, had failed to deal with them. And why? Likely because Peter, John and James were afraid of the popularity of those guys. (Very common, even among the apostles, to fear issues which threaten one's popularity) In fact Paul gives an instance of this in the case of Peter later in this chapter.

Thus if Paul was going to Peter, James and John to deal with the false teachers within their own church, he was going to have to get them together in private, where their flesh would be more free from the pressures and power of popularity inherent in public meetings. Now the issue would be as to whether the false teachers had power in the private meeting - which leads to the next verse.
Resisting False Brothers
Gal 2:3-5
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

Now if Titus were to be convince by the false teachers, indeed Paul would have run in vain, having wasted his time discipling that guy. But in fact these false teachers had no power, no influence, no effect at all in the private meeting. Their argument was completely uncompelling and had no effect on Paul's presentation of the gospel. They were powerless. Often bad theology is just not scrutinize because it's propagated solely through popularity. Remove the popularity issue, examine it in private, and alot of bad theology just falls apart and indeed often ends up looking quite foolish.

Another interesting thing about these verses is that here he speaks of "false brothers". Notice the parallel section in Acts 15:5 where it says, "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'" In Acts they are called "believers" because Luke is writing in an historical sense of their public affiliation, whereas Paul called them "false brothers", identifying their actual status. So throughout history to this day there are those who associate themselves with the Christian community, they are referred to as "Christians" or "believers", they may even hold positions of leadership in a church, and yet are false brothers. This was the case in the early church.

Gal 2:6 As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message.

While the Christian community throughout history has been obsessed with "celebrities", there should be no one person who is reckoned more important than another. And everyone should be subject to scrutiny. Religious elitism has been the norm for all sects - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic. All have their celebrities they treat as if infallible. Consequently you will find aspects of the gospel which have been corrupted in all these denomination sects as the opinions of their celebrities are not allowed to be scrutinized in light of scripture.

Paul didn't allow such a thing in his ministry. No matter how "important" a person is thought to be by their followers. Later Paul even rebuked the apostle Peter for his man-fear of such "important" people. There should be no room for pride in the Christian community. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." And God opposes the proud." Nonetheless the history of Christianity, even in the church at Jerusalem, is full of proud Christians, adding on their own regulations to the gospel, whether it be padeobaptism, ceremonial works, or the like.
An Illegitimate Division of Ministries
Gal 2:7-9
On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. (For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.) James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

This was one of the purposes of Paul's mission to Jerusalem - to receive affirmation by the church leaders there so as to lend supporting evidence against the circumcision. Paul needed no affirmation for himself, for he knew his calling and was confident of his gospel. But the endorsement of James, Peter and John would provide evidence of that fact to the Galatians. And it would discredit the circumcision who may have falsely claimed that they had been sent by the Jerusalem church.

However this idea that Paul alone was to be an apostle to the Gentiles while everyone else, like Peter was to go to the Jews, was contrary to what Jesus commanded, not to mention what Peter himself mentioned at that very meeting when he said, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe." Acts 15:7 You would think it was Paul speaking, but it was Peter!

Furthermore Jesus told Peter and John, "go and make disciples of all nations" Mt 28:19, the word "nations" here and "Gentiles" in the Galatians verse being the same Greek word"ethnos". And furthermore he told them, "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 But Peter and John settled into a Jerusalem ministry most likely because of prejudice against Gentiles. (Even despite the fact that Jesus gave Peter the vision to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 10 saying that "What God has cleansed you must not call common", referring to the Gentiles.)

So why did Peter give up his commission to the Gentiles at this time? I think it was simply prejudice. Seems to me it was because of prejudice against Gentiles that they had overlooked what harm was being done to Gentile Christians by those who were likely members of their own church. It wasn't until years later that circumstances (and no doubt the Spirit of God) forced them to overcome their prejudice.

And I find it interesting that while they gave Paul and Barnabus the right of fellowship, no mention was made of Titus who was also present. But he was a Gentile.
The issue here is law and grace..The true gospel is based entirely upon the grace of God. Any group who promotes legalism or the keeping of the law of Moses (by the letter) is the object of these dire warnings made by Paul.
Remember the Poor (Jews)
Gal 2:10
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

The last time Paul and Barnabus visited Jerusalem was in Acts 11 where it is written, "for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." Acts 11:26-30

If the famine was to be over the whole Roman world, then why direct their gifts to the brothers in Judea? First of all Judea was almost entirely dependent upon rainfall for water. So the land was particularly prone to suffer during famines. And Jewish Christians had it especially difficult, being persecuted by unbelieving Jews. Thus Jewish Christians were generally among the poorest. And having become accustomed to receiving financial support, I have the impression, I don't think that James, Peter and John had poor Gentile Christians in mind by this instruction, but rather they were simply trying to secure more contributions for their own church. For while they had reluctance in receiving Gentile Christians, they had no reluctance receiving their money.

And Paul was eager to raise financial support for their church, as were the Gentiles Christians. Paul writes in Rom 15:25-27 "But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things."

The generosity of the Gentiles no doubt became another element in helping Jewish Christians, like James, Peter and John, to overcome their prejudice and reluctance to fellowship with them.
Confrontational Ministry
Gal 2:11
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.

Sometimes you just have to opposed fellow Christians to their face, even if they be the apostle Peter (or your institutional church leader). This is part of appropriate Christian ministry. What checks and balances did Peter have in his life to maintain his humility and to help keep him free from the hypocrisy of which institutional leaders are particularly prone? Who dared correct Peter when he screwed up? Paul dared, knowing full well that he was risking Peter's endorsement of his ministry.

Paul brings up this incident
1. to show the clarity and confidence of his conviction on this matter
2. and to provide an example to for the Galatians to follow - namely to oppose the circumcision to their face.

Doesn't matter who they are. If people are clearly in the wrong on this matter, they need to be confronted. (And yes, expect to be rebuked - if not crucified - in return.)
Gal 2:12, 13
Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

At least at this stage of his Christian life, Peter was a man-pleaser. He was afraid of what other people thought of him. And his fears controlled his behavior. Remember what Paul said ealier in his letter. For after saying, "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!", he went on to say, "Am I now tryingto 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." Gal 1:9,10 Here he again puts that principle into practice. Paul is not trying to win the approval of Peter, nor of the circumcision. He's not afraid of men.

You know, sometimes Christians are reluctant to say the things which need to be said, because they're afraid they'll lose the approval of men. Ever happen to you? These study guides are an example of applying Paul's principle. For I have consciously endeavored to say what has to be said regardless of whether people will be please by it or not. And I hope others follow this example.What Peter was doing was endorsing an unjustified prejudice against Gentile Christians. And the fact it was "Peter", a highly respected apostle of the faith, others were more easily led astray. When you treat other Christians with unjustified prejudice, you may not realize just how serious that is. John learned this lesson and wrote, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:14,15
The priority in the Christian life is to love fellow Christians without prejudice.
So get upset when you see Christians treating fellow Christians with prejudice.
Justified by Faith Alone
Gal 2:15,16
"We, who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’, know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Actually Peter himself made a similar argument in favor of the Gentiles when he spoke up in the Jerusalem council dealing with this very matter. For he said, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:7-11

So if God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile, as Peter himself realized, then why was Peter making a distinction between the two in actual practice. This was the hypocrisy that Paul was pointing out. For Paul said virtually the same thing as Peter did in the Acts 15 passage above. They had no difference on the theology. But in practice Peter was acting hypocritically, not acting in line with the very things he himself said.

Fellowship with Christians and fellowship with God go hand in hand. If a person rejects fellowship with other Christians upon the basis of customs or culture, such a person is likewise communicating that fellowship with God is a function of customs and culture.
Destroying Hypocrisy
Gal 2:17,18
"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker."

It's often a problem for those who reckon themselves to be "good people" from an allegedly "moral culture" to come to Christ. Back then it was the religious elite among the Jews, and so also today along with Muslims and many others from cultures that reckon themselves morally superior to others. For such people to be justified in Christ they have to come to the realization that they are sinners. And not simply that they are innocent victims of Adam's sin. No, each one has actively been involved in committing sin. Such an admission is too humiliating for many such people.

Prior to this Paul said, we are 'Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’, and yet they're no better off, for the fact is that all do sin to a greater or lesser degree. The fact that Paul is convicting Peter of sin at this time was not to promote further sin. Peter was trying to rebuild what he destroyed, which is to say he was acting hypocritically. Paul was out to destroy his hypocrisy altogether.

Being justified in Christ may mean that you will have to destroy certain ideas. If you do so, don't look back. "Remember Lot’s wife!"Luke 17:32

Paul writes, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." 2Cor 10:5