Galatians 1

The Word Made Fresh

1From Paul, an apostle not commissioned by any human authority, but rather sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; 2and from all the believers who are with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3May grace and peace be among you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave his life that our sins might be forgiven, and we be freed from this present wicked age. That was according to God our Father’s will; 5to him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

6I am shocked that you are so quickly leaving the one who called you in Christ’s name and have turned to a different gospel. 7Of course, there is no other gospel, but some are confusing you by twisting the gospel of Christ. 8If anyone, including us ourselves or even a messenger from heaven, should ever try to teach you a different gospel than what we have taught, he should be condemned! 9I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if anyone tries to convince you of a different gospel than the one you received, let him be condemned.

10Do you think I’m trying to win your approval, or God’s? Am I trying to please everyone? If I’m still trying to please people I am no longer Christ’s servant.

11I want you all to know that I preached a gospel that didn’t come from others. 12Indeed, it didn’t come to me from people. I wasn’t taught it. I received it through a direct revelation of Jesus Christ.

13I’m sure you’ve heard of my early life as a Jew. I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was promoted in Judaism beyond others who were the same age as me because I was much more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15But God had set me apart even before I was born, 16and chose to reveal his Son to me so that I might tell the Gentiles about him. I never sought anyone’s advice about this, 17and I didn’t go to Jerusalem where there were already apostles before me, but I went instead into Arabia. I returned to Damascus later.

18Three years passed before I went up to Jerusalem to visit with Cephas. I stayed with him for fifteen days, 19but I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20I swear to you before God that I’m not lying. 21Then I traveled to Syria and Cilicia, 22still unknown to the churches of Christ in Judea. 23All they knew was that someone told them, “The one who was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy!” 24And they glorified God because of me.


Here are the ways Paul begins each of his letters:

Romans: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the good news of God…”

1 Corinthians: “From Paul, who by God’s will was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and our brother Sosthenes…”

2 Corinthians: “From Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia.”

Galatians: “From Paul, an apostle not commissioned by any human authority, but rather sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.”

Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”

Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…”

Colossians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…”

1 Thessalonians: “Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy…”

2 Thessalonians: “Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy…”

1 Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus ‘by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…’”

2 Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus…”

Titus: “Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness…”

Philemon: “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother…”

1-5: As you can see, the greeting in the letter to the Galatians is markedly different, and in the very first verse Paul seems to take on a defensive and argumentative tone. He wants to insist from the beginning that his ministry is directly commissioned by God, not by any human authority. Galatia was a Roman province in central Asia Minor (Turkey) established in 25 B.C. by Caesar Augustus. Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra, three towns in the south of the province, are mentioned in Acts (14:1-23) as places Paul visited and perhaps established churches, but the letter is not specifically addressed to any of these, or to others which Paul might have started. There is no way to satisfactorily correlate the account of Paul’s travels in Acts with references in the letters to various places and events.

6-9: This is the place in the letter where we expect Paul to give thanks for his readers (see, for example, Romans 1:8-15; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9), but instead the letter takes an unexpected turn as Paul immediately begins accusing them of “turning to a different gospel.” We will learn later that the “different gospel” is that other preachers have convinced many of them that they must be circumcised if they are to be saved (see 5:3, 6). Paul has insisted from the beginning that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation.

10-12: Now there follows the question of authority: who has the authority to determine which position is correct? Paul insists that the gospel he proclaims comes directly from Jesus Christ, and thus his authority should not be questioned.

13-17: He recounts the story of his own conversion, emphasizing that he knew as much about Jewish traditions as anyone, but his encounter with God’s Son led him to proclaim the gospel. Again, he insists that his teaching came from no human source but directly from God. By the way, Paul’s three-year sojourn in the wilderness of Arabia is mentioned only in verses 17-18. That part of his experience was left out of the account in the book of Acts.

18-24: Following his hermitage in Arabia Paul says he went to Jerusalem where he met with Cephas (Peter) and James, then was off to Syria and Cilicia. His point is that the gospel he has proclaimed was not compromised by contact with other sources in Judea.


Paul’s journey to accepting Christ is the stuff of legend. Those who grow up in a Christian home may not be able to recall a specific time when they accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior; it was simply part of their upbringing. Neither route is better than the other – they both lead to the same Lord. Spend some time today recalling moments in your journey to faith.