Greeting.* 1a Paul, an apostle* not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead,b 2* and all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: 3grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4* who gave himself for our sins that he might rescue us from the present evil age in accord with the will of our God and Father,c 5to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.d
II. Loyalty to the Gospel*
6e I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you* by [the] grace [of Christ] for a different gospel 7(not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8f But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!* 9As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed!
III. Paul’s Defense of His Gospel and His Authority*
His Call by Christ. 11h Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. 12For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.*
13* For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it,i 14and progressed in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my race, since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.j 15But when [God], who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleasedk 16to reveal his Son to me,l so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,* 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia* and then returned to Damascus.
18* Then after three years* I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.m 19But I did not see any other of the apostles,n only James the brother of the Lord.* 20(As to what I am writing to you, behold, before God, I am not lying.)o 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.p 22And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”q 24So they glorified God because of me.
* [1:1] Apostle: because of attacks on his authority in Galatia, Paul defends his apostleship. He is not an apostle commissioned by a congregation (Phil 2:25; 2 Cor 8:23) or even by prophets (1 Tm 1:18; 4:14) but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.
* [1:2] All the brothers: fellow believers in Christ, male and female; cf. Gal 3:27–28. Paul usually mentions the co-sender(s) at the start of a letter, but the use of all is unique, adding weight to the letter. Galatia: central Turkey more likely than the Roman province of Galatia; see Introduction.
* [1:6–10] In place of the usual thanksgiving (see note on Rom 1:8), Paul, with little to be thankful for in the Galatian situation, expresses amazement at the way his converts are deserting the gospel of Christ for a perverted message. He reasserts the one gospel he has preached (Gal 1:7–9) and begins to defend himself (Gal 1:10).
* [1:6] The one who called you: God or Christ, though in actuality Paul was the divine instrument to call the Galatians.
* [1:10] This charge by Paul’s opponents, that he sought to conciliate people with flattery and to curry favor with God, might refer to his mission practices (cf. 1 Cor 9:19–23) but the word still suggests it refers to his pre-Christian days (cf. Gal 1:14; Phil 3:6). The self-description slave of Christ is one Paul often uses in a greeting (Rom 1:1).
* [1:11–2:21] Paul’s presentation on behalf of his message and of his apostleship reflects rhetorical forms of his day: he first narrates the facts about certain past events (Gal 1:12–2:14) and then states his contention regarding justification by faith as the gospel message (Gal 2:15–21). Further arguments follow from both experience and scripture in Galatians 3; 4 before he draws out the ethical consequences (Gal 5:1–6:10). The specific facts that he takes up here to show that his gospel is not a human invention (Gal 1:11) but came through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12) deal with his own calling as a Christian missionary (Gal 1:13–17), his initial relations with the apostles in Jerusalem (Gal 1:18–24), a later journey to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1–10), and an incident in Antioch involving Cephas and persons from James (Gal 2:11–14). The content of Paul’s revealed gospel is then set forth in the heart of the letter (Gal 2:15–21).
* [1:13–17] Along with Phil 3:4–11, which also moves from autobiography to its climax in a discussion on justification by faith (cf. Gal 2:15–21), this passage is Paul’s chief account of the change from his former way of life (Gal 1:13) to service as a Christian missionary (Gal 1:16); cf. Acts 9:1–22; 22:4–16; 26:9–18. Paul himself does not use the term “conversion” but stresses revelation (Gal 1:12, 16). In Gal 1:15 his language echoes the Old Testament prophetic call of Jeremiah. Unlike the account in Acts (cf. Acts 22:4–16), the calling of Paul here includes the mission to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles (Gal 1:16).
* [1:17] Arabia: probably the region of the Nabataean Arabs, east and south of Damascus.
* [1:18–24] Paul’s first journey to Jerusalem as a Christian, according to Galatians (cf. Acts 9:23–31 and the note on Acts 12:25). He is quite explicit about contacts there, testifying under oath (Gal 1:20). On returning to Syria (perhaps specifically Damascus, cf. Gal 1:17) and Cilicia (including his home town Tarsus, cf. Acts 9:30; 22:3), Paul most likely engaged in missionary work. He underscores the fact that Christians in Judea knew of him only by reputation.
* [1:18] After three years: two years and more, since Paul’s call. To confer with Cephas may mean simply “pay a visit” or more specifically “get information from” him about Jesus, over a two-week period. Cephas: Aramaic name of Simon (Peter); cf. Mt 16:16–18 and the notes there.
* [1:19] James the brother of the Lord: not one of the Twelve, but a brother of Jesus (see note on Mk 6:3). He played an important role in the Jerusalem church (see note on Gal 2:9), the leadership of which he took over from Peter (Acts 12:17). Paul may have regarded James as an apostle.