Summary: Controversy tore the early church. Judaizers taught that Gentile Christians had to submit to Jewish ritual laws & traditions in addition to believing in Christ. Paul confronted this issue.
GALATIONS 1: 1-5
A family, carefully executing their escape plan, dashes for the border at midnight...a man standing outside prison walls, gulping fresh air, awash in the new sun...a young woman with every trace of the ravaging drug gone from her system...they are FREE! With fresh anticipation, they can begin life anew.
Whether fleeing oppression, stepping out of prison, or breaking a strangling habit, freedom means life. There is nothing so exhilarating as knowing that the past is forgotten and that new options await. People yearn to be free.
Galatians is a trumpet blast for freedom in Christ. Martin Luther considered Galatians the best book in the Bible. It has been called “the battle-cry of the Reformation,” the great charter of religious freedom,” the Christian declaration of independence,” etc.
The book of Galatians is the charter of Christian freedom. In this profound letter, Paul proclaims the reality of our liberty in Christ-freedom from the curse of the law and the power of sin, and freedom to serve our living Lord.
Most of the first coverts and early leaders in the church were Jewish Christians who proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah. As Jewish Christians, they struggled with a dual identity: their Jewishness constrained them to be strict followers of the law; their newfound faith in Christ invited them to celebrate a holy liberty.
This controversy tore the early church. Judaizers-an extremist Jewish faction within the church-taught that Gentile Christians had to submit to Jewish ritual laws and traditions in addition to believing in Christ. As a missionary to the Gentiles, Paul confronted this issue many times.
Galatians was written, therefore, to refute the Judaizers and to call believers back to the pure gospel. The Good News is for all people-Jews and Gentiles alike. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus and nothing else. Faith in Christ is intended to bring true freedom (5:1).
I. THE BACKGROUND
II. THE AUTHORITY
III. THE RECIPIENTS
IV. THE RESCUE
Verse 1 begins with the author and his calling. Paul, an Apostle.
Paul and Barnabas had just completed their first missionary journey (Acts 13:2 - 14:28). They had visited Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, cities in the Roman province of Galatia (present-day Turkey). Upon returning to Antioch, Paul was accused by some Jewish Christians of diluting salvation to make it more appealing to Gentiles. These Jewish Christians disagreed with Paul’s statements that Gentiles did not have to follow many of the religious laws that the Jews had obeyed for centuries. Some of Paul’s accusers had even followed him to those Galatian cities and had told the Gentile converts they had to be circumcised and follow all the Jewish laws and customs in order to be saved. According to these men, Gentiles had to first become Jews in order to become Christians.
In response to this threat, Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian churches. In it, he explains that following the Old Testament laws or the Jewish laws will not bring salvation. A person is saved by grace through faith. Paul wrote this letter about A.D. 49, shortly before the meeting of the Jerusalem council, which settled the law versus grace controversy (Acts 15).
II. THE AUTHORITY, 1.
Paul immediately establishes why he should be listened to among all the voices clamoring for attention. Paul, an Apostle -not from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Fathers, who raised Him from the dead.
Paul was called to be an apostle by Jesus Christ and God the Father. There is no higher caller or higher calling. Paul is saying that his apostleship is genuine and hence the gospel he proclaimed is also. The Judaizers were saying he was not truly an apostle therefore his message was not authoritative, not truly of God. Their charge or insinuation was that men, the men at Antioch or the real apostles in Jerusalem, had commissioned Paul. They wanted to undercut him and therefore his message so that they could claim more authority for themselves and their message, that they were on equal footing with Paul.
The statement here is clear, Paul and his messages are backed by divine authority; the commission and authorizing of Jesus Christ and the Father who raised Him from the dead. If they opposed him they were in actuality opposing the very One whom God had honored; the very One whose work of redemption the Father had approved. By the act of raising Jesus from the dead, God had placed the seal of approval which designated Him the complete and perfect Savior, whose work does not need to be, cannot be, added to. This is the One Who from His exalted position in heaven called Paul to be an apostle.
The first part of verse 2 adds, and all the brethren who are with me. The implication is that through Paul’s ministry and the blessings of God upon it, many brethren were with him. Paul’s apostleship was authenticated by Paul bringing in and establishing many brethren in Christ Jesus. They were with him because the gospel he preached had won them. The Judaizers or legalists would not have won anyone in Galatia to the Lord, they simply steal the loyalty of those won by others.