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Galatians 1:1-5 (Notes & Questions)

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Opening Questions

Question 1 - If a close Christian friend of yours was almost persuaded to join a cult, how would you respond?
Question 2 - When members of a cult knock on your door and invite you talk about their beliefs, what do you usually do, and why?
Question 3 - How do you “test” the truth of what you hear from public figures, your pastor and other Christian teachers?
Question 4 - Do you think there is still a problem in the church with false religious teachers adding other things to the doctrine of salvation by grace? If so, what are some examples?

Introduction to

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

Paul’s greeting to the Galatians is different from his greetings to other churches. He was writing under heavy stress and strain. False teachers and critics had arisen in the church who were criticizing and attacking him. They were questioning his call to the ministry and his authority as God’s messenger. Some were even questioning the very gospel itself. Therefore, the usual affection expressed toward churches and individuals is missing. From the very first sentence his writing is abrupt. He assails the Galatian churches with words straight to the point: he is a true minister of God, a true apostle and messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. He is commissioned by God alone (v. 1).

2. He is recognized as God’s man by Christian believers (v. 2).

3. He wishes the very best for other believers (v. 3).

4. He declares the work of Christ (vv. 4–5).

Verse 1

The spiritual atmosphere is charged. It is sultry, sweltering. A storm is threatening. The sky is darkening. In the distance one can see flashes of lightning; one can hear faint muttering sounds. When each line of verses 1–5 is read in the light of the letter’s occasion and purpose (see Introduction III B, pp. 16–19) the atmospheric turbulence is immediately detected. The apostle, though in perfect control of himself, for he is writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is greatly agitated, deeply moved. His heart and mind are filled with a medley of emotions. For the perverters there is withering denunciation springing from holy indignation. For the addressed there is marked disapproval and an earnest desire to restore. For the One who has called him there is profound reverence and humble gratitude.

Verse 1

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

Minister—Call—Apostle: the minister of God is called and commissioned by God alone. There were those in the church who questioned Paul’s call and ministry, questioned if he had really been called by God to be a minister. They were set on destroying Paul’s ministry. Why?

⇒ Because he had lived such a terrible life before his conversion: he had been the savage persecutor of believers (see Ga. 1:13; see notes—Ac. 8:1–4; 9:1–2 for more discussion).

⇒ Because he was not one of the select officials of the church; that is, he had not been taught by the Lord Himself when the Lord was on earth. This was one of the basic qualifications for being recognized as an apostle (see Ga. 1:17–18; see DEEPER STUDY # 5, Apostle—Mt. 10:2 for more discussion).

⇒ Because he had not been appointed by the official or mother church, that is, the home church of the apostles, the church in Jerusalem (see Ga. 1:17–18).

⇒ Because he by-passed the religious forms and rituals of the official church (see Ga. 4:9–10; 5:6; 6:12–15).

⇒ Because he preached a different message than the official church: that a person is not saved by ritual and works, but by the love and grace of God demonstrated in the death of Jesus Christ

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

Paul answered his critics in no uncertain terms: he was an apostle (apostolos). The word apostle means a person called and sent forth on a very special commission (see DEEPER STUDY # 5, Apostle—Mt. 10:2 for more discussion). The apostle …

• is like an ambassador who is sent forth to represent the Person who called and appointed him

• is like a very special messenger who is called and sent forth to proclaim the message of the Sender

• is like a very special minister who is called and sent forth to serve as the Leader wills

• is like a very special servant who is called and sent forth to do the bidding of the Master

raised him from the dead—implying that, though he had not seen Him in His humiliation as the other apostles (which was made an objection against him), he had seen and been constituted an apostle by Him in His resurrection power (Mt 28:18; Ro 1:4, 5). Compare as to the ascension, the consequence of the resurrection, and the cause of His giving “apostles,” Eph 4:11. He rose again, too, for our justification (Ro 4:25); thus Paul prepares the way for the prominent subject of the Epistle, justification in Christ, not by the law.

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible A. Salutation (1:1–5)

His style is proper, a bit curt, and immediately evidences a defense of his apostolic origin. Clearly, Paul perceives himself to be under attack as he writes. He wastes no time in rising to his own defense.

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible A. Salutation (1:1–5)

The attacks against him appear to revolve around the origin of his apostleship and, with it, the basis of his authority. Obviously Paul’s claim to the same apostolic authority as that of the original disciples of Jesus (2:6–10; 1 Cor. 9) is one which could be verified only by himself (cf. Acts 9 for the story of his conversion). Throughout Paul’s ministry, the uniqueness of his calling, with its lack of objective proofs, provided ammunition for those who disagreed with his approach (cf. 1 Cor. 5, 9; 2 Cor. 10–13; etc.).

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible A. Salutation (1:1–5)

Here in the opening words of the epistle, Paul defends the source of his apostolic calling (v. 1). The key ingredient is that his apostleship is a divinely appointed position and is in no way a product of human decision (“not from men nor by man,” i.e., by human agency). Paul appears to be referring to his conversion experience, and the belief that Jesus appeared to him personally. Thus, Paul lists Christ first as the one through whom the commissioning was made, with God the Father as the ultimate source of the appointment by his action of raising Jesus from the dead (v. 1).

Elsewhere he even stresses the fact that the risen and exalted Savior had appeared to him just as truly as to Cephas (1 Cor. 15:5, 8; cf. 9:1). The Savior had assigned to him a task so broad and universal that his entire life was henceforth to be occupied with it.

But here is an Introduction which really introduces, for the words not from men nor through man but through Jesus Christ and God the Father can only mean: “My apostleship is genuine; hence, so is the gospel which I proclaim, no matter what the Judaizers who disturb you may say! I am a divinely appointed emissary.”

The implication is clear: since Paul and his message are backed by divine authority, those who reject him and his gospel are rejectors of Christ, hence also of the Father who sent him and who raised him from the dead. The detractors oppose the very One whom the Father had honored; the very One upon whose work of redemption the Father, by the act of raising him from the dead, had placed the seal of his approval, thereby designating him as the complete and perfect Savior, whose work does not need to be, and cannot be, supplemented; the very One who from his exalted position in heaven had called Paul to be an apostle!

That lesson would seem to be this, that even though it is true that Paul alone—not Paul plus these brothers who are with him—authored this letter (note constant recurrence of first person sing.: Gal. 1:6, 10–17, etc.), nevertheless, before composing and sending it he thoroughly discussed with all the brothers the matter with which it was to deal. So unanimous was their agreement with Paul’s proposed method of handling this difficult situation that the apostle writes in the name of all. Moral: when it becomes necessary to send someone a letter of sharp reproof, discuss the matter with others who also have the welfare of Zion at heart, if such can be done without violating any confidences or of coming into conflict with the principles established in Matt. 18.

Why does Paul describe himself as this sort of apostle? Certainly not in direct opposition to the apostles at Jerusalem, for they did not owe their commission to humans any more than he did. They too could have claimed that they were appointed by Christ, in accordance with the will of God the Father. Rather, Paul’s aim is to show that his apostolate stands or falls with theirs, for it rests on exactly the same basis. It is extremely unlikely that any of the Jerusalem apostles ‘stood on their dignity’ as against Paul, but it is highly likely that some of their more enthusiastic followers did so, on their behalf.

To put it in modern terms, the validity of Paul’s apostolate is being questioned. He replies by showing that, put in this way, the question is invalid since, in asking it, the questioners implicate themselves also. If the Jerusalem apostolate and Paul’s apostolate to the Gentiles, and, indeed, Peter’s apostolate to the Jews, have all one and the same source, how can such a question even arise?

Verse 2

2. all the brethren—I am not alone in my doctrine; all my colleagues in the Gospel work, travelling with me (Ac 19:29, Gaius and Aristarchus at Ephesus: Ac 20:4, Sopater, Secundus, Timotheus, Tychicus, Trophimus, some, or all of these), join with me. Not that these were joint authors with Paul of the Epistle: but joined him in the sentiments and salutations. The phrase, “all the brethren,” accords with a date when he had many travelling companions, he and they having to bear jointly the collection to Jerusalem

That lesson would seem to be this, that even though it is true that Paul alone—not Paul plus these brothers who are with him—authored this letter (note constant recurrence of first person sing.: Gal. 1:6, 10–17, etc.), nevertheless, before composing and sending it he thoroughly discussed with all the brothers the matter with which it was to deal. So unanimous was their agreement with Paul’s proposed method of handling this difficult situation that the apostle writes in the name of all. Moral: when it becomes necessary to send someone a letter of sharp reproof, discuss the matter with others who also have the welfare of Zion at heart, if such can be done without violating any confidences or of coming into conflict with the principles established in Matt. 18.

Verse 3

deliver us from this—Greek, “out of the,” &c. The Father and Son are each said to “deliver us,” &c. (Col 1:13): but the Son, not the Father, gave Himself for us in order to do so, and make us citizens of a better world (Php 3:20). The Galatians in desiring to return to legal bondage are, he implies, renouncing the deliverance which Christ wrought for us. This he more fully repeats in Ga 3:13. “Deliver” is the very word used by the Lord as to His deliverance of Paul himself (Ac 26:17): an undesigned coincidence between Paul and Luke.

world—Greek, “age”; system or course of the world, regarded from a religious point of view. The present age opposes the “glory” (Ga 1:5) of God, and is under the authority of the Evil One. The “ages of ages” (Greek, Ga 1:5) are opposed to “the present evil age.”

Now this grace and this peace have their origin in God our (precious word of appropriation and inclusion!) Father, and have been merited for believers by him who is the great Master-Owner-Conqueror (“Lord”), Savior (“Jesus”), and Office-Bearer (“Christ”), and who, because of his threefold anointing “is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25)

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

Grace (charis) means the undeserved favor and blessings of God. (See notes—Ro. 4:16; DEEPER STUDY # 1—1 Co. 1:4; DEEPER STUDY # 1—Tit. 2:11–15.) The word undeserved is the key to understanding grace. Man does not deserve God’s favor; he cannot earn God’s approval and blessings. God is too high and man is too low for man to deserve anything from God. Man is imperfect and God is perfect; therefore, man cannot expect anything from God. (See note and DEEPER STUDY # 1, Justification—Ga. 2:15–16 for more discussion.) Man has reacted against God too much. Man has …

• rejected God

• rebelled against God

• ignored God

• neglected God

• cursed God

• sinned against God

• disobeyed God

• denied God

• questioned God

Man deserves nothing from God except judgment, condemnation, and punishment. But God is love—perfect and absolute love. Therefore, God makes it possible for man to experience His grace, in particular the favor and blessing of salvation which is in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

Peace (eirene) means to be bound, joined, and weaved together with God and with everyone else. It means to be assured, confident, and secure in the love and care of God. It means to have a sense, a consciousness, and a knowledge that God will …

• provide

• guide

• strengthen

• sustain

• deliver

• encourage

• save

• give life, real life, both now and forever

A person can experience true peace only as he comes to know Jesus Christ. Only Christ can bring peace to the human heart, the kind of peace that brings deliverance and assurance to the human soul.

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

The point is this: not everyone in the church was experiencing the grace and peace of God. Some had fallen from the grace of God, no longer trusting Christ to save them; they depended upon their own works and goodness to make them acceptable to God. As a result they did not have peace of heart. Some had even fallen into all forms of sin and shame (Ga. 5:19–21). Others had become extremely critical and divisive, standing against Paul and any who supported Paul. Note: Paul wished the very best for the churches of Galatia—even for the false teachers and critics. He wanted everyone to experience …

• the grace of God by coming to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord

• the peace of God as they walked through life confronting all its struggles and trials

Thought 1. Every minister should wish the very best for all believers, even for his critics and enemies. It might be difficult, but his very call to the ministry is to proclaim the grace and peace of God.

Thought 2. Believers must guard against falling from grace, guard against trusting their own works and goodness to save them and to make them acceptable to God.

Verse 4

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

This verse is one of the great summaries of the gospel, that is, of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note four significant points.

a. The message of the gospel is that Christ “gave Himself for our sins.” Christ died as our substitute. He took the place of the sinner before God. Two things show this.

1) The word for (huper) means instead of, in place of, as our substitute, in behalf of our sins.

2) The phrase gave Himself (dontos eauton) means that He sacrificed Himself for us. He gave His life for the sinner’s life. Jesus Christ …

• offered Himself to God as the sacrifice for our sin

• offered Himself as the sin-offering, the offering that was to stand as the substitute for our sin

• accepted the judgment and condemnation of sin for us

• bore the punishment of God’s justice against sin for us

Note that “our sins” are not listed or described. This means that Christ died for all our sins: big sins as well as little sins, known sins as well as unknown sins, terrible sins as well as mild sins, sins of the flesh as well as sins of the spirit.

Galatians–Colossians (King James Version) A. God’s Minister and His Authority—Paul, 1:1–5

The purpose of Jesus’ death was “to deliver us from this present evil world.” Note that the present world or age is said to be evil. It is evil in at least three senses:

⇒ The present world is sinful: it causes men to ignore, neglect, deny, and curse God. It also stirs and excites ungodliness, unrighteousness, immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, ill will, cruelty, back-biting, gossip, slander, pride, boasting, inventions of evil things, disobedience to parents, misunderstanding and false understanding, the breaking of covenants, and the destruction of true love and mercy. (See Ro. 1:29–32.)

⇒ The present world is corruptible: it keeps both man and his world from being healthy and from living eternally. The present world of corruption causes man and his world to suffer and experience disaster, accident, disease, distress, sorrow, and calamities. It causes everything to age, deteriorate, waste away, decay, and die.

⇒ The present world causes man to die and face the judgment of God who is perfectly holy. Therefore, the present world dooms man to face the holiness of God as an unholy, sinful, and corruptible creature. The world dooms man to an eternity of death and judgment—dooms him to be separated from God forever.

But note the point: this was the very purpose for Jesus’ death. He died to deliver us from this present evil world. The word deliver (exeletai) means to rescue and to pluck out. Jesus Christ died to rescue and to pluck us out of this present evil world. How? As stated above, “He gave Himself for our sins.” He delivers or rescues us from both the power and the fate of the world. The believer experiences both abundant and eternal life now and forever.

gave himself—(Ga 2:20); unto death, as an offering. Found only in this and the Pastoral Epistles. The Greek is different in Eph 5:25 (see on Eph 5:25).

Evangelical Commentary on the Bible A. Salutation (1:1–5)

Rather, the use of the term age is similar to other references Paul makes to the distinction between the wickedness of the fallen world around the believer, and the newness of life afforded by the inbreaking of the rule of God into one’s life by redemption (see 1 Cor. 1:20; Eph. 2:2; 6:12).

The reason is that the atmosphere continues to be loaded. The greatness and magnanimity of Christ’s act of self-surrender is stressed in order to underscore the grievous nature of the sin of those who teach that this supreme sacrifice must be supplemented by law-works. Christ surrendered himself to sorrow and scorn, to the curse of eternal death during his entire sojourn on earth but especially at Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. He laid down his life for his sheep. No one took it from him, but he laid it down of his own accord, voluntarily (John 10:11, 17, 18). He did this motivated by love incomprehensible; hence, “for our sins,” that is, to deliver us from the pollution, guilt, and punishment adhering to the many ways in which, by inner disposition, thought, word, and deed, we miss the mark of existing and living to the glory of God Triune.

The aeon, then, refers to the world viewed from the standpoint of time and change. This is especially true when the adjective present is added, as here. It is the world or transitory era which is hastening to its close and in which, in spite of all its pleasures and treasures, there is nothing of abiding value. Over against this present world or age is the coming world, the glory-age, that will be ushered in at the consummation of all things (cf. Eph. 1:21; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:12).

Thus, what Christ’s death has done is to transfer the Christian from one age to the other, from the sphere of Satan’s power to that of God. While still living physically in this present evil age, therefore, we enjoy already the life of the age to come. This is for Paul the victory of the cross. But it is just possible that the Judaizing heresy that was troubling the Galatians also made great play of the Greek word aiōn, ‘age’, as the later Gnostics certainly did. In that case, Paul would be deliberately using a word familiar to his opponents, and showing how even this is caught up into the wonder of the Christian gospel. There are two ways of defeating an opponent which are used by Paul. One way is to show that the ideas propounded are incompatible with revealed Christianity; the other way is to show how they are not only embraced but also transcended within the gospel.

But lest he should, even unintentionally, give the impression that atonement was the unaided activity of God the Son, Paul hastens to add that all this was ‘in accordance with the will of the God who is also our Father’ (for there is only one article for both Theou, God, and Patros, Father). Here is no possibility of an unreal antithesis between a harsh Father and a loving Son. The action of the Son was the very proof of the Father’s love, as John 3:16 makes clear. Christ came to fulfil the Father’s will, and thus to reveal him.

Question - What do you think God’s purposes are in rescuing us from “the present evil age”?
Ephesians 1:6 ESV
to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:10 ESV
as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 2:4 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
,
Ephesians 3:10–11 ESV
so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Verse 5

When the apostle contemplates the Father’s marvelous love revealed in delivering up his own dear Son, the Only-begotten, for our salvation, his soul is lost in wonder, love, and praise, so that he exclaims: to whom be the glory16 forever and ever. Amen. When the wicked infiltrators minimize God’s work of redemption, Paul will magnify it, calling upon all men to do this with him. So marvelous is this work that it is worthy of never-ending praise; hence, “to whom be the glory forever and ever,” literally: to the ages of the ages. With a solemn “Amen” he reaffirms his personal gratitude as again and again he ponders God’s great undying love, the unfathomable depth of his grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.
Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, p. 35). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Scripture references from study guide

ESVThey have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
ESVTo this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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