Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
- Paul identifies himself as an apostle who was appointed by Jesus himself and God the Father.
- God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
- The letter also was coming from all those that were with Paul.
- The letter was sent to the churches of Galatia.
- Paul’s greeting starts with a pray of grace and peace to the Galatians from God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- Jesus is Lord.
- Jesus gave himself for our sins.
- Jesus gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present age.
- The present age is evil.
- Jesus giving of himself was according to the will of the Father.
- Glory will be to the Father forever and ever.
- Paul is surprised at how quickly the Galatians deserted Christ.
- Jesus called the Galatians in grace
- The Galatians were turning to a false gospel.
- There is only one true gospel.
- The Galatians were being deceived by some who were distorting the gospel.
- If anyone, regardless of who they are, even an angel from heaven, preaches a gospel that is different to the gospel preached by Paul and his companions, they are accursed.
- Paul is emphatic that any one that preaches a gospel different to the gospel Paul originally preached to the Galatians is accused.
- Paul does not seek the approval of men rather he is seeking the approval of God.
- If Paul tried to please men he would not be a servant of Christ.
After Paul left Galatia the Judaizers moved in. This was the reason that Paul wrote to the Galatians. The Judaizers perverted the Gospel. According to the Judaizers justification came not from faith in Christ Jesus alone, but from faith in Christ plus obedience to the Law of Moses. They claimed they were teaching the true Gospel. They were correcting Paul’s incomplete understanding of the Gospel. In addition, Paul should not be held in high esteem, he was not a true apostle. They had been trained by the true apostles and were apostles themselves. They were descendants of Abraham and true ministers of Christ. They claimed they were able to perform miracles. Paul had turned to Christ must later then they had. Therefore, Paul’s understanding of the Gospel could not be as complete and mature as their understanding. They claimed Paul had not seen Christ. But they had. And of course Paul had persecuted the Church. For all these reason the Judaizers led the Galatians astray.
Paul devotes the first two chapters of Galatians to his defense and to the defense of his office and Gospel. He wastes no time getting to his defense. In verse 1, he states very clearly he was an apostle appointed by Christ not by man. The gospel Paul proclaims is such a part of Paul’s being that he cannot even get past the open salutation without proclaiming God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the heart and soul of the Gospel which Paul proclaimed.
Paul opens his letter as he does with all his letters, with a greeting that proclaims grace and peace to the recipients of the letter. It is through God’s grace that our sins are forgiven. It is by the law that our conscience and sin torment us. But it is the forgiveness of Christ that gives us peace. The contrast here is stark. It was this very Gospel of the grace of God that the Galatians had forsook for the Law of Moses, the law which brings only condemnation with no peace.
Paul refers to the present world/age as evil. Even when we are at our best we are at our worst. There is no good in us. It is Christ who gave himself so that we may be delivered from this age. We cannot deliver ourselves because there is nothing good in us. We rebel against God. It is only because of the grace and mercy of the Father that Christ gave Himself as an atonement for our sins.
In his greeting Paul starts his defense. Mainly that justification is by the will of God. We are not delivered by our own will, or works, rather it is by the mercy and love of God. Only when we understand this will we understand the mercy of God. We deserve justice but we receive mercy. Only once we realize this will we realize, He loved us as wretched sinners so much that He gave us His only-begotten Son to die for us.
Paul says he is astonished at how quickly the Galatians have abandoned the Gospel. Paul finds it beyond belief that the Galatians would trade the sweetness of Christ for the bitterness of the law. Paul’s anger however, is not towards the Galatians. Rather Paul’s anger is directed towards the false teachers.
Paul accentuates the point that the Galatians had been taught correctly. They had been called by grace to Christ. However, they now were substituting another gospel. Though Paul is quick to point out there is no other gospel.
Anything that adds to, or subtracts from the grace God has bestowed on us through the death and resurrection of Christ is another Gospel and those who teach it deny the sufficiency of Christ. Everyone who teaches a works based righteousness teaches heresy. The false teachers that denied Paul’s authority were offended by the very idea that gentiles, former idol worshipers, would be granted the same station as God’s people, without having done anything to deserve it. The Jews had kept the law. They were God’s covenant people. These gentiles were not entitled to the same grace as Israel. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 20 with the parable about the laborers in the vineyard. The laborers who worked only an hour received the same pay as those who worked all day. When those who worked all day complained the master of the vineyard said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:15) God’s grace is not for those who deserve it. None of us deserve it. Praise God for His grace!
Why would Paul call the Galatian churches, churches? The Galatians had denied the grace of Christ for the Law of Moses. The answer is this: Although the Galatians had fallen away from the correct doctrine. Not all the Galatians had become perverted. There were some who clung to the right view of the Word and the Sacraments. These means of grace cannot be contaminated. They remain divine regardless of men’s opinion. Wherever the means of grace are found, there is the Holy Church, even though Satan reigns there.
Paul maintains there is no other Gospel other than the one he preached to the Galatians. The Gospel he preached was not his own invention. It was the good news from God Himself as revealed in the scripture. No wonder Paul pronounces a curse on anyone who proclaims a different Gospel. This curse is no mere, off the cuff, statement. Paul is emphatic about. Anyone, including himself that proclaims a different Gospel is cursed. Anyone who adds requirements for salvation to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of their credentials, or twists the gospel into another form is under God’s condemnation.
Paul is not seeking approval from anyone except God. It would have been easy for Paul to have said, “Well you still have the Gospel basics. You just added some things to it.” Once you add to the Gospel it is no longer the Gospel. Paul was unwilling to find a way they could all agree. If Paul was seeking approval from any man He would not be seeking approval from God.
There is no other Gospel than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is so easy and tempting to allow ourselves to add to the Gospel of Christ. You can’t smoke and be a Christian. You can drink, dance or go to movies. We cannot believe Christ it all that needed to be done.
It is difficult for us to believe that we can be the recipients of God’s unmerited favor. We try to explain it. It must be because of something we did or would do. Why would God give us His grace? We try to make it so that we are responsible for at least part of our salvation. God would not give such great forgiveness unless we had done something to deserve it. The reason others have not received it is they either way not or would not. In other word we deserved it and they did not.
But that is another Gospel. Salvation is by God’s grace alone. We add nothing to it. And if we try, we deny His great grace.