For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.
- Paul wanted the Galatians to know that the Gospel he preached came directly from God.
- Paul referred to the Galatians as brothers.
- Paul was not taught the Gospel.
- Paul did not receive the Gospel from any man.
- The Gospel Paul preached was God’s gospel not man’s gospel.
- Paul received the gospel as a revelation directly from Jesus.
- Paul reminded the Galatians of his prior life in Judaism where he persecuted the church.
- Paul persecuted the Church violently.
- Paul tried to destroy the church.
- Paul advancing in Judaism beyond his peers.
- Paul was zealous for the traditions of his fathers.
- God had set Paul apart before he was born.
- Paul was called by God’s grace.
- God revealed the Son to Paul.
- God revealed the Son to Paul so Paul would preach among the Gentiles.
- After Paul’s conversion he did not immediately consult with anyone.
- After Paul’s conversion he did not immediately go to Jerusalem.
- After Paul’s conversion he did not immediately go to the apostles.
- Paul admits there were apostles prior to him.
- After Paul’s conversion he immediately went to Arabia and Damascus.
- Paul when to Jerusalem three years after his conversion.
- Paul went to Jerusalem to visit Cephas.
- Paul stayed in Jerusalem 15 days.
- The only apostles Paul saw while he was in Jerusalem were James the brother of Jesus and Cephas.
- Paul swears to God that he is not lying.
- When Paul left Jerusalem he went to Syria and Cilicia.
- When Paul when the churches at Syria and Cilicia, he was unknown to the churches.
- The only thing the church knew about Paul was, he once tried to destroy the church and now he is preaching the gospel.
- The churches glorified God because of Paul.
This passage is Paul’s chief defense. Here Paul swears he did not receive the gospel from man but rather from directly from Jesus Christ Himself. Paul does not simply claim his gospel is the gospel of Christ, the false teachers did that. Paul is claiming his gospel is from Christ. Paul’s account is supported by Luke in Acts 9. Christ does not tell Paul to go see Ananias to learn the gospel. Rather Ananias is to give Paul instruction on what he is to do. Ananias was to baptize Paul, to lay hands on him and recommend him to the church. Paul did not receive instruction of the Gospel from Ananias.
Paul points out that he once was more zealous for the traditions of the Pharisees than the false teachers are for their false gospel. Again this claim is support elsewhere in scripture. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes about how well he kept the law: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for 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; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4b-6) Paul is saying, when he compares himself to others, the best of the best and the most holy of holy men, he comes out on top. By implication he is saying, “Let these false teacher show how they live the law better than I had. The fact they make so much of the law, should have put you on your guard against these false teachers. If anyone ever had reason to glory in the righteousness of the law, it was me.”
Paul writes, “but when He … was pleased to reveal His Son” Paul points out we do not deserve God’s grace nor do we earn it. It occurs at a place and time of God’s choosing not of ours. Paul had been an enemy of Christ. He had shed the blood of the Christians simply because they were Christians. Why was Paul called? Because of his cruelty? No! God, who shows mercy to whomever He pleases, was pleased to show mercy to Paul. God not only pardoned Paul but pardons us of our iniquities. But God is not satisfied simply redeeming us. He overwhelms us with blessings and spiritual gifts. And yet we remain ungrateful.
In verse 16 we are told the doctrine which Paul preached. It was the revelation of the Son of God. This is different from the doctrine of the Law. The Law is tyrannical. It constantly threatens with damnation. If you do this or misbehave you will be punished. But the Gospel of Christ is one of forgiveness. Christ came to forgive the sins of the world. This is truly gospel, good news. Rather than judgment we receive forgiveness.
Paul points out, he did not immediately go up to Jerusalem. And when he did go to Jerusalem, he met briefly with only two of the apostles. Paul is denying that he received instruction in from the other apostles. And therefore, Paul is denying, he is less than the other apostles. He also is claiming that since these false teachers are claiming their authority rested with their calm that they had been directly taught by the other apostles, he is above the false teachers. Since he is equal with the other apostles and these false teachers, by their own assertions are under the authority of the other apostles. Why is it important that Paul’s statue be affirmed? To convince the Galatians that the Gospel he preached was from God.
The false teachers had so debased Paul that is was necessary for Paul to swear an oath that he was telling the truth.
Paul conclude this section by saying that the churches in Syria and Cilicia glorified God because of him. That is my unending pray that God would use me to glorify Him.
These false teachers I am sure were sincere. But that does not make them right or even good. They did what we all do. Given the opportunity we will always default to the law. We make up rules and regulations to follow. But by making us play a part, any part, of our salvation thinks too highly of ourselves and too little of God. Luther writes, “When I first took over the defense of the Gospel, I remembered what Doctor Staupitz said to me. ‘I like it well,’ he said, ‘that the doctrine which you proclaim gives glory to God alone and none to man. For never can too much glory, goodness, and mercy be ascribed unto God.’ These words of the worthy Doctor comforted and confirmed me. The Gospel is true because it deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness and turns over all honor to the Creator alone. It is safer to attribute too much glory unto God than unto man.” Even if we claim God offers it and we must accept it for it to be effective in our lives robs God of His glory.
The grace of God is beyond comprehension. We try to understand the mind of God. It seems unfair that he would choose some and not others. The question presupposes righteousness in us. Rather we should recognize we are completely unworthy and we are chosen because of grace and grace alone.
This is the gospel and when we preach a different Gospel we are accursed.
Paul ended the section by pointing out that God was glorified because of him. What a privilege to be use of God to bring Him glory. That is our chief end. That is why we were created. May God be glorified today because of you.