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
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.
of—Greek, "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
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
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
2. all the brethren—I am not alone in my
doctrine; all my colleagues in the Gospel work, travelling with me
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
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
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
5:25 (see on Eph 5:25).
for our sins—which enslaved us to the
present evil world.
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
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
according to the will of God and our
Father—Greek, "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
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,
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
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 pervert—Greek, "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
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
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
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
brethren—He not till now calls them
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
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
conversation—"my former way of
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
the church—Here singular, marking its
unity, though constituted of many particular churches, under the one
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. profited—Greek, "I was
becoming a proficient"; "I made progress."
my equals—Greek, "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
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
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 not—Greek, "I had
not further (namely, in addition to revelation) recourse to … for
the purpose of consulting." The divine revelation was sufficient for me
flesh and blood—(Mt 16:17).
17. went I up—Some of the oldest
manuscripts read, "went away."
to Jerusalem—the seat of the
into Arabia—This journey (not recorded
in Acts) was during the whole period of his stay at Damascus, called by
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
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
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.
returned—Greek "returned back
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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