Galatians 1

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Verse 1: Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— (NRSV)

  • ”Paul” in Greek literally means “small,” and we know some people in Corinth mocked his appearance (George 74). It is interesting how when God renames people it often isn't a powerful name, but a diminutive.
  • Apostle can mean one of the original 12, or in a more general sense anyone who is sent (Bruce 72). Paul is not claiming to be among the 12, but equal because he has been sent by God.
  • There are two sides mentioned here with reference to commissioning, human and divine. Not by man, but through God. Notice that Jesus is on the divine side of things.
  • ”through Jesus Christ and God the father” is an odd phrasing. It is one preposition for both of them, which indicates Paul was assuming unity between them (George 74).
  • Paul is claiming not to be man's apostle, but God's, and God's through Jesus.
  • In Greek, this is a string of genitives, all relying on “apostle” as the root, indicating that this is how Paul is an apostle.
  • “Raised” is a participle acting in apposition to God, further defining who God is. This God is the one that raised Jesus. Not perfect, but aorist, indicating Paul didn't care about theology now so much as getting things set straight.
  • “From the dead” is genitive adjective of space, indicating from the place of the dead, or possibly from dead people. It is plural, probably indicating “place of the dead.”
  • Paul's lengthy defense of his calling probably indicates that his opponents had been talking abut how he was commissioned by no one.

Verse 2: and all the members of God's family who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: (NRSV)

  • ”Me” is an emphatic pronoun, emphasizing that though the other senders are important, it's mainly about Paul.

Verse 3: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, (NRSV)

  • ”Grace and peace” is the standard opening for Paul and appears at all of his letters (George 74).
  • The normal Greek way of starting a letter was with “rejoice”, a very similar word to “grace.” The normal way of starting a Hebrew letter was “shalom” or “peace” (Bruce 74).
  • Paul is wishing/blessing them with the grace and peace that is God's. It is not anyone else's but God's
  • Again, Jesus is on the divine side of the equation of where things come from, associated with God the father.

Verse 4: who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (NRSV)

  • ”Gave” is a participle acting in apposition again, further defining who Jesus is. This is the Jesus who gave himself.
  • ”hyper”, meaning “over” or “on behalf of” gives the idea of an exchange almost. Jesus gave himself on behalf of our sins.
  • The word translated as “set free” is more literally “removed.
    • This is about deliverance, a rescue or emancipation from this evil (Lightfoot 73).
    • Jesus removes us from this evil age, but not all action is his, we have a say in it too.
    • This is a middle voiced verb, that means that the subject (Jesus) is involved in the action, but not solely responsible. In this case, we are probably the rest of the equation.
    • ”remove/free” is also subjunctive so it is only a possibility not a certainty. He provided so that we might be removed, but it isn't a certainty unless we act as well.
  • “Present” age is actually a participle verb in the perfect tense. This means it isn't really present so much as just past but still affecting us.
    • This isn't an evil age, that age is over, but is still making this a bad place to live.
    • We are already rescued through Jesus' death, but still deal with the effects.
  • The word used here as “according to” usually means “against,” but here is used distributively, as a piece of God's will not the whole thing, and especially not against.
  • Though it is clear that Jesus voluntarily sacrificed himself, it was in agreement with what God wanted.

Verse 5: to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (NRSV)

  • Glory goes to God forever, literally “age upon age” or “eon on eon”

Verse 6: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (NRSV)

  • The surprise is apparently not that they fell away, but that it happened so soon. It is unclear whether this is time since being presented with an opposing view, or whether it is time since Paul left (George 74).
  • Literally, they haven't “deserted” but “changed”. The word is “metatithemi” and deals with changing places or altering something.
  • The same calling attributed to Paul is also given to these people. This calling is given to all the recipients of this letter, not just the leaders.
  • This could be moving away from Paul and to someone else or from one gospel to another.
  • The word for “other” here is not the normal one, indicating not just competing theories but different kinds (Matera 45).
  • Interesting that Paul still uses "gospel" to describe the other group, so he probably still considered the other group to be believers, just not the best of ones.

Verse 7: not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ (NRSV)

  • ”Other,” translated here as “another” sometimes indicates some connection between the objects. Similar, but not the same. There is definitely a connection between Paul's gospel and the one they believe in, but they are very different.
  • ”Wanting” is more active than a desire, it is more of an action of involvement too. They are trying their best to bring their will to fruition.
  • ”Metastrepsai” means to turn, with negative connotations dealing with perverting something. Here those implications are probably meant to be understood. This isn't a good change.

Verse 8: But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! (NRSV)

  • ”Proclaim” is more literally "might preach" and is a subjunctive verb, meaning possibility that this happens.
    • Of course it isn't likely, but Paul is making a point as to how strongly he feels about this.
    • Paul is also showing that he isn't being hardnosed just because it isn't him, if it happens to him, condemn him.
  • ”Accursed” is literally ”anathema,” which is a word we still use today. It means to dedicate to evil, or to curse something.

Verse 9: As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! (NRSV)

  • "To say again" is in the perfect tense. That means that the effects still last, take what he said to heart.

Verse 10: Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (NRSV)

  • Paul doesn't use a rhetorical phrase here. He is apparently actually asking them a question that he wants them to work through, not expecting that they will already know it.
    • Paul is trying to get his credentials in order, so that they will admit he is serving God.
    • Perhaps he is also trying to convince people that whoever got them on this track was serving man, not God.

Verse 11: For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; (NRSV)

  • Brothers here is not indicating specific disciples but all believers reading this
  • Again Paul uses an emphatic pronoun, distinguishing himself from other people. This is possibly indicating that other people's gospels are from man.
  • Paul literally says the gospel proclaimed "under" me.
    • Here it probably ties in with it the gospel coming “down from” someone. There is a hierarchy implied here. It comes down from someone, through Paul, and down to more people. He preached to those “under” him.
    • It can also be referring to authority, that more people than just Paul were preaching but no gospel preached under him was from men.
  • ”Human origin” does not really contain the idea here, that it does not belong to people, come from people, or really interpreted through people (George 74).
  • The word translated “of” is literally “down from”. The gospel has not come "down" from a man. He is holding Jesus in apposition to humanity, once again Jesus is not portrayed as merely human, but something more.

Verse 12: for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (NRSV)

  • ”Of Jesus Christ” could be either from Jesus or about Jesus, as it is an unclear use of the genitive.
    • Either this is the revelation that Jesus gave, from Jesus, or it is the revelation that Paul received about Jesus.
    • From=subjective genitive, about Jesus=objective genitive.
    • The definition of revelation in this instance changes depending on which of these two options is considered correct. It can mean either a divine appearance (from) or an unveiling/revealing of content (about).
  • The emphasis here is that Paul got his message from Jesus himself, and the others did not, so Paul's must be the superior message (George 74). It is less about the message, but how people got the message that separates Paul from the other teachers.

Verse 13: You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. (NRSV)

  • ”Life” is not actually mentioned here. “Previous behavior” would be more literal. The wording carries an emphasis on ethical behavior (Matera 58).
  • Paul was not just persecuting people, he was “above excess” persecuting them. This is the same word we get “hyperbole” from. It is emphasizing how much he was into persecuting people.
  • Both "pursue" and "destroy" are imperfects, past actions with continuous aspect. Paul kept hunting them and kept killing them. This wasn't a one time event. This is also not the normal of “destroy” indicating ravishing idea was intentional.
  • God's church is a genitive of possession. It is an actual entity that can be hurt.
  • Word for destroy means to despoil, or ruin (Lidell 661) or an attempt to annihilate (Louw 1:232).
    • There are also some implications of rape/ravishing, though those are missing from the best lexicons. It would make sense, though, as the church is a feminine noun, and Paul is talking about succeeding in doing horrible things to her.
    • Most translations make it so Paul is attempting to destroy the church, but it is an indicative verb without any attempt to make it less powerful than that. That means it actually happened.
    • Instead, it says he was continually destroying/ravishing the Church.
    • Hurting the Church as it obviously wasn't completely destroyed
  • There is a contrast here between the “then” of this verse, referring to Paul's past life, and the “when” in verse 15, talking about Paul's new life in Christ.

Verse 14: I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. (NRSV)

  • The word translated as "advance" can also have implications of progressing under attack.

Verse 15: But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased (NRSV)

  • Paul has been using his own story to prove the effectiveness and long lasting power of this gospel he carries. Here the reversal in Paul's life begins.
  • "God" and "set apart" seem to be in apposition, describing further which God.
  • "Setting apart" is a participle, with a continuous aspect. It doesn't seem that this was a one time shot that God called while he was in the womb as much as that God had been calling ever since the womb.
  • "Calling apart" has negative connotations now, how about calling to something special"?

Verse 16: to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, (NRSV)

  • "To Reveal" is an infinitive of reason. The reason God is calling is so that we might know Jesus and then go out and witness.
    • Reveal is about illumination, light shining on something, as well as mental illumination.
    • This seems to be indicating that Jesus shines in Paul, not so much that Paul got saved, because this revealing involves showing others.
  • By not conferring with any human, but Jesus revealing himself, Paul is equating Jesus with God at a very early time.
  • In Greek, “so that” is a purpose statement. The reason why God revealed himself to Paul is for the purpose of preaching.
  • ”Proclaim” is both a middle voice and subjunctive.
    • This means the subject is involved, but is not doing it all, and that it is a possibility not a certainty.
    • The Jesus who is revealed in us allows us to have a shot at telling the gospel as our own story, not as someone else's.
  • The way this is set up we don't preach the gospel, we preach Jesus, and we can do this because Jesus has been revealed through what we do and who we are. And it isn't all us doing it, Jesus preaches too, see the middle voice above.

Verse 17: nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. (NRSV)

  • Going “up” to Jerusalem was the standard way of talking about going to Jerusalem.
  • It doesn't say what Paul would have done with the apostles, presumable talk with them as indicated with "flesh and blood" of the previous verse.
  • Instead of going up Paul went out. Divine word is enough, or should be enough for anyone, according to this verse
  • There is some question about where “immediately belongs in this verse. If goes with Arabia, then it contradicts Paul's own account in Acts 9. But if it is connected with going to Jerusalem, it fits in well (George 74). So Paul did no immediately go to see the leaders.
  • Arabia has some connections with the desert and spiritual meetings with God before, but probably this is simply a reference to preaching to the Gentiles, and how Paul did it immediately (Bruce 96).

Verse 18: Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; (NRSV)

  • This is definitely a sequence, first Paul got the message, then he left to carry it out, and finally he consulted with men.
  • Time was reckoned inclusively, so that this didn't have to be three full years, but in the third year (Bruce 97).
  • Cephas is used here instead of Peter, which is Aramaic, for “rock” indicating how much Aramaic was used in this book. Peter means rock in Greek.
  • ”To know/visit” more specifically means to seek information through talking (Matera 66).
    • The action is implied within the verb. To investigate or learn from Peter I believe is here implied. Definitely not chatting with Peter about the wind, this was a seeking of knowledge to use.
    • This is an infinitive of purpose, to talk with Peter was the point of going to Jerusalem and nothing else distracted him from that.
  • ”To” visit could be indicating space, time, or association, but all of them indicate the same thing. Paul was learning from Peter, right with him, for fifteen days.

Verse 19: but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother. (NRSV)

  • In the Greek there are two negatives in this verse. In effect, it reads “I did not see anyone that was not James.”
  • James is here identified as Jesus' brother. The genitive being one of relationship or kinship.
  • There is some question about where “apostle” goes in this sentence. Paul is either saying that he didn't see any apostles other than James, or that he didn't see any apostles, although he did see James (George 74).
  • James is not one of the 12. James the brother of John is a disciple, not James the brother of Jesus.
  • James became the chief leader of the Jerusalem church, and a proponent of circumcision, one of the chief things Paul is fighting against in this letter. Paul here is making clear that his discussion was with Peter but that he did meet James and they didn't have any problems.

Verse 20: In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! (NRSV)

  • ”But” is here indicating emphasis most likely, possibly addition. He is trying to drive home that he really did go to see Peter.
  • ”Behold” shows up in front of “before God” but is dropped from this translation, but is used as an interjection to reinforce even more what Paul is saying.
  • ”Before” usually refers to physical proximity in front of an object. He really sees what he says as being made in God's presence. That's closeness.
  • Apparently Paul's journey was very secret as he has to defend his statements about going quite forcefully. Paul does not swear here, though, he just says that basically God is his witness.
  • This was evidently a sticking point with Paul's critics, that they saw a different account of his relationship with the other apostles.

Verse 21: Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, (NRSV)

  • This is a continuation of sequences of events from verse 17 and 18. “epeita,” an unusual form of “then” appears both here and in verse 18. Also in Chapter two verse 1. It is a sequence of events in chronological order.
  • This seems to be the end of the sequence, possibly where Paul's readers would have known about his actions form here out.
  • In Acts 9:30, Paul is mentioned as leaving Jerusalem because people were trying to kill him (Matera 67).

Verse 22: and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; (NRSV)

  • Literally it says ”to the face,” which is a dative of reference, limiting how he was known. So he was not known by face.
    • By face would indicate personally or intimately, no one could recognize him.
    • This is not that no one knew anything about him, or had heard of him, but that they didn't know him face to face.
    • Instead they only had a story about him.
  • ”In Christ” is Dative modifying what type of churches didn't know him. This was possibly an indication that Jewish churches would know him, as well as that the Christian churches had already separated from the synagogues.

Verse 23: they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (NRSV)

  • Both ”hearing,” a present participle, “was” an imperfect verb, both imply continuous or iterative aspect. This was a wildly spreading rumor almost, the talk of the town. The people kept hearing about it all the time.
  • ”Chasing” and “ravishing/destroying” are the same root words used in verse 13. Paul is referring back to what he was previously doing and how everyone knew it, and that it had changed.
  • There is a ”that” here which acts much like in the gospels, and indicates the beginning of a quote. This explains the use of "us" by Paul when referring to chasing down the Christians. It isn't Paul speaking, but a quote from someone else.
  • Paul again uses a “now” and “then” parallels to indicate time, but this time uses it within the quotation to refer back to the previous paragraph.
  • ”Evangelize/proclaiming” is here in middle form. Perhaps this is referring back to the idea of Jesus working through him and being known through Paul found earlier in verses 15 and 16.
  • ”Destroy” again has the connotation of “raping/ravishing” and is imperfect, indicating that Paul didn't try to hurt the church, Paul succeeded repeatedly.

Verse 24: And they glorified God because of me. (NRSV)

  • This verse literally means “and they were glorifying the God in me.” Referring to God's work in Paul, that God was in and with Paul.
  • ”In” is here the key word. It is probably either a preposition of agency or of space.
    • Agency means how it came about, so God glorifying “because” of Paul.
    • Space is location, that God is in us working in and with us and being made known through us and our actions.
    • This could also be praising the work that God had done in Paul, instead of God in Paul.

Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

Called to Change13-16No matter what, God is always urging us to be transformed, and to follow God's call on our lives.Transformation
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Free of Evil3-5We can be free of evil and live in grace and peace, we can be sanctified.SanctificationAdultsGeneralMessage Idea