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CHAPTER 1

Ga 1:1-24. Superscription. Greetings. The Cause of His Writing Is Their Speedy Falling Away from the Gospel He Taught. Defense of His Teaching: His Apostolic Call Independent of Man.

Judaizing teachers had persuaded the Galatians that Paul had taught them the new religion imperfectly, and at second hand; that the founder of their church himself possessed only a deputed commission, the seal of truth and authority being in the apostles at Jerusalem: moreover, that whatever he might profess among them, he had himself at other times, and in other places, given way to the doctrine of circumcision. To refute this, he appeals to the history of his conversion, and to the manner of his conferring with the apostles when he met them at Jerusalem; that so far was his doctrine from being derived from them, or they from exercising any superiority over him, that they had simply assented to what he had already preached among the Gentiles, which preaching was communicated, not by them to him, but by himself to them [Paley]. Such an apologetic Epistle could not be a later forgery, the objections which it meets only coming out incidentally, not being obtruded as they would be by a forger; and also being such as could only arise in the earliest age of the Church, when Jerusalem and Judaism still held a prominent place.

1. apostle—in the earliest Epistles, the two to the Thessalonians, through humility, he uses no title of authority; but associates with him "Silvanus and Timotheus"; yet here, though "brethren" (Ga 1:2) are with him, he does not name them but puts his own name and apostleship prominent: evidently because his apostolic commission needs now to be vindicated against deniers of it.

ofGreek, "from." Expressing the origin from which his mission came, "not from men," but from Christ and the Father (understood) as the source. "By" expresses the immediate operating agent in the call. Not only was the call from God as its ultimate source, but by Christ and the Father as the immediate agent in calling him (Ac 22:15; 26:16-18). The laying on of Ananias' hands (Ac 9:17) is no objection to this; for that was but a sign of the fact, not an assisting cause. So the Holy Ghost calls him specially (Ac 13:2, 3); he was an apostle before this special mission.

man—singular; to mark the contrast to "Jesus Christ." The opposition between "Christ" and "man," and His name being put in closest connection with God the Father, imply His Godhead.

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.

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 [Conybeare and Howson].

the churches—Pessinus and Ancyra were the principal cities; but doubtless there were many other churches in Galatia (Ac 18:23; 1Co 16:1). He does not attach any honorable title to the churches here, as elsewhere, being displeased at their Judaizing. See First Corinthians; First Thessalonians, &c. The first Epistle of Peter is addressed to Jewish Christians sojourning in Galatia (1Pe 1:1), among other places mentioned. It is interesting thus to find the apostle of the circumcision, as well as the apostle of the uncircumcision, once at issue (Ga 2:7-15), co-operating to build up the same churches.

3. from … from—Omit the second "from." The Greek joins God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in closet union, by there being but the one preposition.

4. 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).

for our sins—which enslaved us to the present evil world.

deliver us from thisGreek, "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.

worldGreek, "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."

according to the will of God and our FatherGreek, "of Him who is at once God [the sovereign Creator] and our Father" (Joh 6:38, 39; 10:18, end). Without merit of ours. His sovereignty as "God," and our filial relation to Him as "OUR Father," ought to keep us from blending our own legal notions (as the Galatians were doing) with His will and plan. This paves the way for his argument.

5. be glory—rather, as Greek, "be the glory"; the glory which is peculiarly and exclusively His. Compare Note, see on Eph 3:21.

6. Without the usual expressions of thanksgiving for their faith, &c., he vehemently plunges into his subject, zealous for "the glory" of God (Ga 1:5), which was being disparaged by the Galatians falling away from the pure Gospel of the "grace" of God.

I marvel—implying that he had hoped better things from them, whence his sorrowful surprise at their turning out so different from his expectations.

so soon—after my last visit; when I hoped and thought you were untainted by the Judaizing teachers. If this Epistle was written from Corinth, the interval would be a little more than three years, which would be "soon" to have fallen away, if they were apparently sound at the time of his visit. Ga 4:18, 20 may imply that he saw no symptom of unsoundness then, such as he hears of in them now. But English Version is probably not correct there. See see on Ga 4:18; Ga 4:20; also see Introduction. If from Ephesus, the interval would be not more than one year. Birks holds the Epistle to have been written from Corinth after his FIRST visit to Galatia; for this agrees best with the "so soon" here: with Ga 4:18, "It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you." If they had persevered in the faith during three years of his first absence, and only turned aside after his second visit, they could not be charged justly with adhering to the truth only when he was present: for his first absence was longer than both his visits, and they would have obeyed longer in his "absence" than in his "presence." But if their decline had begun immediately after he left them, and before his return to them, the reproof will be just. But see on Ga 4:13.

removed—Translate, "are being removed," that is, ye are suffering yourselves so soon (whether from the time of my last visit, or from the time of the first temptation held out to you) [Paræus] to be removed by Jewish seducers. Thus he softens the censure by implying that the Galatians were tempted by seducers from without, with whom the chief guilt lay: and the present, "ye are being removed," implies that their seduction was only in process of being effected, not that it was actually effected. Wahl, Alford, and others take the Greek as middle voice. "ye are removing" or "passing over." "Shifting your ground" [Conybeare and Howson]. But thus the point of Paul's oblique reference to their misleaders is lost; and in Heb 7:12 the Greek is used passively, justifying its being taken so here. On the impulsiveness and fickleness of the Gauls (another form of Kel-t-s, the progenitors of the Erse, Gauls, Cymri, and Belgians), whence the Galatians sprang, see Introduction and Cæsar [Commentaries on the Gallic War, 3.19].

from him that called you—God the Father (Ga 1:15; Ga 5:8; Ro 8:30; 1Co 1:9; 1Th 2:12; 5:24).

into—rather, as Greek, "IN the grace of Christ," as the element in which, and the instrument by which, God calls us to salvation. Compare Note, see on 1Co 7:15; Ro 5:15, "the gift by (Greek, 'in') grace (Greek, 'the grace') of (the) one man." "The grace of Christ," is Christ's gratuitously purchased and bestowed justification, reconciliation, and eternal life.

another—rather, as Greek, "a second and different gospel," that is, into a so-called gospel, different altogether from the only true Gospel.

7. another—A distinct Greek word from that in Ga 1:6. Though I called it a gospel (Ga 1:6), it is not really so. There is really but one Gospel, and no other gospel.

but—Translate, "Only that there are some that trouble you," &c. (Ga 5:10, 12). All I meant by the "different gospel" was nothing but a perversion by "some" of the one Gospel of Christ.

would pervertGreek, "wish to pervert"; they could not really pervert the Gospel, though they could pervert Gospel professors (compare Ga 4:9, 17, 21; 6:12, 13; Col 2:18). Though acknowledging Christ, they insisted on circumcision and Jewish ordinances and professed to rest on the authority of other apostles, namely, Peter and James. But Paul recognizes no gospel, save the pure Gospel.

8. But—however weighty they may seem "who trouble you." Translate as Greek, "Even though we," namely, I and the brethren with me, weighty and many as we are (Ga 1:1, 2). The Greek implies a case supposed which never has occurred.

angel—in which light ye at first received me (compare Ga 4:14; 1Co 13:1), and whose authority is the highest possible next to that of God and Christ. A new revelation, even though seemingly accredited by miracles, is not to be received if it contradict the already existing revelation. For God cannot contradict Himself (De 13:1-3; 1Ki 13:18; Mt 24:24; 2Th 2:9). The Judaizing teachers sheltered themselves under the names of the great apostles, James, John, and Peter: "Do not bring these names up to me, for even if an angel," &c. Not that he means, the apostles really supported the Judaizers: but he wishes to show, when the truth is in question, respect of persons is inadmissible [Chrysostom].

preach—that is, "should preach."

any other gospel … than—The Greek expresses not so much "any other gospel different from what we have preached," as, "any gospel BESIDE that which we preached." This distinctly opposes the traditions of the Church of Rome, which are at once besides and against (the Greek includes both ideas) the written Word, our only "attested rule."

9. said before—when we were visiting you (so "before" means, 2Co 13:2). Compare Ga 5:2, 3, 21. Translate, "If any man preacheth unto you any gospel BESIDE that which," &c. Observe the indicative, not the subjunctive or conditional mood, is used, "preacheth," literally, "furnisheth you with any gospel." The fact is assumed, not merely supposed as a contingency, as in Ga 1:8, "preach," or "should preach." This implies that he had already observed (namely, during his last visit) the machinations of the Judaizing teachers: but his surprise (Ga 1:6) now at the Galatians being misled by them, implies that they had not apparently been so then. As in Ga 1:8 he had said, "which we preached," so here, with an augmentation of the force, "which ye received"; acknowledging that they had truly accepted it.

accursed—The opposite appears in Ga 6:16.

10. For—accounting for the strong language he has just used.

do I now—resuming the "now" of Ga 1:9. "Am I now persuading men?" [Alford], that is, conciliating. Is what I have just now said a sample of men-pleasing, of which I am accused? His adversaries accused him of being an interested flatterer of men, "becoming all things to all men," to make a party for himself, and so observing the law among the Jews (for instance, circumcising Timothy), yet persuading the Gentiles to renounce it (Ga 5:11) (in order to flatter those, really keeping them in a subordinate state, not admitted to the full privileges which the circumcised alone enjoyed). Neander explains the "now" thus: Once, when a Pharisee, I was actuated only by a regard to human authority and to please men (Lu 16:15; Joh 5:44), but NOW I teach as responsible to God alone (1Co 4:3).

or God?—Regard is to be had to God alone.

for if I yet pleased men—The oldest manuscripts omit "for." "If I were still pleasing men," &c. (Lu 6:26; Joh 15:19; 1Th 2:4; Jas 4:4; 1Jo 4:5). On "yet," compare Ga 5:11.

servant of Christ—and so pleasing Him in all things (Tit 2:9; Col 3:22).

11. certify—I made known to you as to the Gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man, that is, not of, by, or from man (Ga 1:1, 12). It is not according to man; not influenced by mere human considerations, as it would be, if it were of human origin.

brethren—He not till now calls them so.

12. Translate, "For not even did I myself (any more than the other apostles) receive it from man, nor was I taught it (by man)." "Received it," implies the absence of labor in acquiring it. "Taught it," implies the labor of learning.

by the revelation of Jesus Christ—Translate, "by revelation of [that is, from] Jesus Christ." By His revealing it to me. Probably this took place during the three years, in part of which he sojourned in Arabia (Ga 1:17, 18), in the vicinity of the scene of the giving of the law; a fit place for such a revelation of the Gospel of grace, which supersedes the ceremonial law (Ga 4:25). He, like other Pharisees who embraced Christianity, did not at first recognize its independence of the Mosaic law, but combined both together. Ananias, his first instructor, was universally esteemed for his legal piety and so was not likely to have taught him to sever Christianity from the law. This severance was partially recognized after the martyrdom of Stephen. But Paul received it by special revelation (1Co 11:23; 15:3; 1Th 4:15). A vision of the Lord Jesus is mentioned (Ac 22:18), at his first visit to Jerusalem (Ga 1:18); but this seems to have been subsequent to the revelation here meant (compare Ga 1:15-18), and to have been confined to giving a particular command. The vision "fourteen years before" (2Co 12:1) was in A.D. 43, still later, six years after his conversion. Thus Paul is an independent witness to the Gospel. Though he had received no instruction from the apostles, but from the Holy Ghost, yet when he met them his Gospel exactly agreed with theirs.

13. heard—even before I came among you.

conversation—"my former way of life."

Jews' religion—The term, "Hebrew," expresses the language; "Jew," the nationality, as distinguished from the Gentiles; "Israelite," the highest title, the religious privileges, as a member of the theocracy.

the church—Here singular, marking its unity, though constituted of many particular churches, under the one Head, Christ.

of God—added to mark the greatness of his sinful alienation from God (1Co 15:19).

wasted—laid it waste: the opposite of "building it up."

14. profitedGreek, "I was becoming a proficient"; "I made progress."

above—beyond.

my equalsGreek, "Of mine own age, among my countrymen."

traditions of my fathers—namely, those of the Pharisees, Paul being "a Pharisee, and son of a Pharisee" (Ac 23:6; 26:5). "MY fathers," shows that it is not to be understood generally of the traditions of the nation.

15. separated—"set me apart": in the purposes of His electing love (compare Ac 9:15; 22:14), in order to show in me His "pleasure," which is the farthest point that any can reach in inquiring the causes of his salvation. The actual "separating" or "setting apart" to the work marked out for him, is mentioned in Ac 13:2; Ro 1:1. There is an allusion, perhaps, in the way of contrast, to the derivation of Pharisee from Hebrew, "pharash," "separated." I was once a so-called Pharisee or Separatist, but God had separated me to something far better.

from … womb—Thus merit in me was out of the question, in assigning causes for His call from Ac 9:11. Grace is the sole cause (Ps 22:9; 71:6; Isa 49:1, 5; Jer 1:5; Lu 1:15).

called me—on the way to Damascus (Ac 9:3-8).

16. reveal his Son in me—within me, in my inmost soul, by the Holy Spirit (Ga 2:20). Compare 2Co 4:6, "shined in our hearts." The revealing of His Son by me to the Gentiles (so translate for "heathen") was impossible, unless He had first revealed His Son in me; at first on my conversion, but especially at the subsequent revelation from Jesus Christ (Ga 1:12), whereby I learned the Gospel's independence of the Mosaic law.

that I might preach—the present in the Greek, which includes the idea "that I may preach Him," implying an office still continuing. This was the main commission entrusted to him (Ga 2:7, 9).

immediately—connected chiefly with "I went into Arabia" (Ga 1:17). It denotes the sudden fitness of the apostle. So Ac 9:20, "Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogue."

I conferred notGreek, "I had not further (namely, in addition to revelation) recourse to … for the purpose of consulting." The divine revelation was sufficient for me [Bengel].

flesh and blood—(Mt 16:17).

17. went I up—Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "went away."

to Jerusalem—the seat of the apostles.

into Arabia—This journey (not recorded in Acts) was during the whole period of his stay at Damascus, called by Luke (Ac 9:23), "many [Greek, a considerable number of] days." It is curiously confirmatory of the legitimacy of taking "many days" to stand for "three years," that the same phrase exactly occurs in the same sense in 1Ki 2:38, 39. This was a country of the Gentiles; here doubtless he preached as he did before and after (Ac 9:20, 22) at Damascus: thus he shows the independence of his apostolic commission. He also here had that comparative retirement needed, after the first fervor of his conversion, to prepare him for the great work before him. Compare Moses (Ac 7:29, 30). His familiarity with the scene of the giving of the law, and the meditations and revelations which he had there, appear in Ga 4:24, 25; Heb 12:18. See on Ga 1:12. The Lord from heaven communed with him, as He on earth in the days of His flesh communed with the other apostles.

returnedGreek "returned back again."

18. after three years—dating from my conversion, as appears by the contrast to "immediately" (Ga 1:16). This is the same visit to Jerusalem as in Ac 9:26, and at this visit occurred the vision (Ac 22:17, 18). The incident which led to his leaving Damascus (Ac 9:25; 2Co 11:33) was not the main cause of his going to Jerusalem. So that there is no discrepancy in the statement here that he went "to see Peter"; or rather, as Greek, "to make the acquaintance of"; "to become personally acquainted with." The two oldest manuscripts read, "Cephas," the name given Peter elsewhere in the Epistle, the Hebrew name; as Peter is the Greek (Joh 1:42). Appropriate to the view of him here as the apostle especially of the Hebrews. It is remarkable that Peter himself, in his Epistles, uses the Greek name Peter, perhaps to mark his antagonism to the Judaizers who would cling to the Hebraic form. He was prominent among the apostles, though James, as bishop of Jerusalem, had the chief authority there (Mt 16:18).

abode—or "tarried" [Ellicott].

fifteen days—only fifteen days; contrasting with the long period of three years, during which, previously, he had exercised an independent commission in preaching: a fact proving on the face of it, how little he owed to Peter in regard to his apostolical authority or instruction. The Greek for "to see," at the same time implies visiting a person important to know, such as Peter was. The plots of the Jews prevented him staying longer (Ac 9:29). Also, the vision directing him to depart to the Gentiles, for that the people of Jerusalem would not receive his testimony (Ac 22:17, 18).

19. Compare Ac 9:27, 28, wherein Luke, as an historian, describes more generally what Paul, the subject of the history, himself details more particularly. The history speaks of "apostles"; and Paul's mention of a second apostle, besides Peter, reconciles the Epistle and the history. At Stephen's martyrdom, and the consequent persecution, the other ten apostles, agreeably to Christ's directions, seem to have soon (though not immediately, Ac 8:14) left Jerusalem to preach elsewhere. James remained in charge of the mother church, as its bishop. Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, was present during Paul's fifteen days' stay; but he, too, presently after (Ac 9:32), went on a circuit through Judea.

James, the Lord's brother—This designation, to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee, was appropriate while that apostle was alive. But before Paul's second visit to Jerusalem (Ga 2:1; Ac 15:1-4), he had been beheaded by Herod (Ac 12:2). Accordingly, in the subsequent mention of James here (Ga 2:9, 12), he is not designated by this distinctive epithet: a minute, undesigned coincidence, and proof of genuineness. James was the Lord's brother, not in our strict sense, but in the sense, "cousin," or "kinsman" (Mt 28:10; Joh 20:17). His brethren are never called "sons of Joseph," which they would have been had they been the Lord's brothers strictly. However, compare Ps 69:8, "I am an alien to my mother's children." In Joh 7:3, 5, the "brethren" who believed not in Him may mean His near relations, not including the two of His brethren, that is, relatives (James and Jude) who were among the Twelve apostles. Ac 1:14, "His brethren," refer to Simon and Joses, and others (Mt 13:55) of His kinsmen, who were not apostles. It is not likely there would be two pairs of brothers named alike, of such eminence as James and Jude; the likelihood is that the apostles James and Jude are also the writers of the Epistles, and the brethren of Jesus. James and Joses were sons of Alpheus and Mary, sister of the Virgin Mary.

20. Solemn asseveration that his statement is true that his visit was but for fifteen days and that he saw no apostle save Peter and James. Probably it had been reported by Judaizers that he had received a long course of instruction from the apostles in Jerusalem from the first; hence his earnestness in asserting the contrary facts.

21. I came into … Syria and Cilicia—"preaching the faith" (Ga 1:23), and so, no doubt, founding the churches in Syria and Cilicia, which he subsequently confirmed in the faith (Ac 15:23, 41). He probably went first to Cæsarea, the main seaport, and thence by sea to Tarsus of Cilicia, his native place (Ac 9:30), and thence to Syria; Cilicia having its geographical affinities with Syria, rather than with Asia Minor, as the Tarsus mountains separate it from the latter. His placing "Syria" in the order of words before "Cilicia," is due to Antioch being a more important city than Tarsus, as also to his longer stay in the former city. Also "Syria and Cilicia," from their close geographical connection, became a generic geographical phrase, the more important district being placed first [Conybeare and Howson]. This sea journey accounts for his being "unknown by face to the churches of Judea" (Ga 1:22). He passes by in silence his second visit, with alms, to Judea and Jerusalem (Ac 11:30); doubtless because it was for a limited and special object, and would occupy but a few days (Ac 12:25), as there raged at Jerusalem at the time a persecution in which James, the brother of John, was martyred, and Peter was m prison, and James seems to have been the only apostle present (Ac 12:17); so it was needless to mention this visit, seeing that he could not at such a time have received the instructions which the Galatians alleged he had derived from the primary fountains of authority, the apostles.

22. So far was I from being a disciple of the apostles, that I was even unknown in the churches of Judea (excepting Jerusalem, Ac 9:26-29), which were the chief scene of their labors.

23. Translate as Greek, "They were hearing": tidings were brought them from time to time [Conybeare and Howson].

he which persecuted us in times past—"our former persecutor" [Alford]. The designation by which he was known among Christians still better than by his name "Saul."

destroyedGreek, "was destroying."

24. in me—"in my case." "Having understood the entire change, and that the former wolf is now acting the shepherd's part, they received occasion for joyful thanksgiving to God in respect to me" [Theodoret]. How different, he implies to the Galatians, their spirit from yours!

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