Galatians 1:1

In sending an Epistle to an apostate people, Paul does not indulge in unmeaning compliments. These Celts in Asia had been showing some of their proverbial fickleness, and going back from the doctrine of justification by faith to a ritualism whose development must be self-righteousness. It is needful for their recovery from apostasy that the authority of the apostle and the truth of the gospel should be put before them in unmistakable terms. Hence we find Paul plunging at once into the needful expositions of his own apostleship and of the gospel of Christ with which as an apostle he was charged. In this salutation we have the following lessons distinctly taught: -

I. PAUL'S APOSTLESHIP WAS RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM JESUS CHRIST. (Ver. 1.) Doubtless he had merely human hands laid upon his head at Antioch (Acts 13:3), but the imposition of the hands of the brethren was not the conveyance of authority, but simply the recognition of authority as already conveyed. The "ordination" at Antioch was the recognition by the Church of' authority and mission already conveyed by the Lord to the apostle. Accordingly in this instance before us Paul claims an apostleship directly from the hands of Christ. He was an apostle "not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Revised Version). No intermediate hands conveyed the authority to him; he was conscious of having received it directly from the fountain-head. This gave him confidence consequently in dealing with the Judaizing teachers. It mattered not to him what parade of authority these teachers made; he stood as a rock upon his own commission with all its hallowed associations. And should this not instruct every true teacher as to the source of his authority? It is a mistake to imagine that men can do more than recognize God-given authority. It is from Christ directly we must each receive our office. Church officers, in putting their imprimatur upon any of us, merely recognize a Divine work which they believe on due evidence to be already there.

II. THE DESIRE OF THE APOSTLE FOR THE GALATIANS' WELFARE. (Vers. 2, 3.) The deep longing of Paul and those associated with him in his captivity for these apostate Galatians was that grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ might be theirs. "Grace," the gratuitous, undeserved favour which wells forth from the Divine heart, when it is received into the sinner's soul, produces "peace which passeth all understanding." It was this blessed experience Paul desired for the Galatians. They may have traduced his office and his character, but this did not prevent him entertaining the deep desire that into "truths of peace" they, like himself, should be led. And indeed we cannot wish people better than that grace and peace from heaven should be theirs. To live in the felt favour of God, to realize that it is at the same time quite undeserved, produces a peace and a humility of spirit beyond all price!

III. THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED WAS THAT OF THE SELF-SACRIFICE OF CHRIST, (Ver. 4.) Jesus, he asserts, "gave himself for our sins." The foundation of the gospel is self-sacrifice. But we must always remember that self-sacrifice, if for the merest trifle, may be moral madness. In self-sacrifice as such there is no necessary virtue. A man may lose his life in an utterly unworthy cause. Hence the necessity for the self-sacrifice of Christ must be made out before its real virtue is established. This necessity appears when we consider that it was "for our sins ' he gave himself. For if our sins had been removed at some meaner cost than the blood of the Son of God, we should be disposed to say that sin is after all a light thing in God's sight, a mere bagatelle to him. But inasmuch as it required such a sacrifice to take away sin, its enormity is made manifest to all. Christ laid down his life, then, in a noble cause. Surely to take away sin, to remove from human hearts their heavy burdens, to bestow on men peace and deliverance from all fear, was a worthy object in self-sacrifice. We stand before the cross, therefore, believing that the sacrifice upon it is of infinite value and efficacy. He was no martyr by mistake as he died upon the tree, but the most glorious of all heroes.

IV. CHRIST'S AIM IN SELF-SACRIFICE WAS OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD. (Ver. 4.) The world is the totality of tendencies which oppose themselves to God. To love such a world is incompatible with love to God the Father (1 John 2:15). It is, moreover, made up of "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Now, it is to this world that the ritualist falls a prey. This was the danger of the Galatians. The revival of rites and ceremonies, which had been fulfilled and therefore done away in Christ, pandered to the lust of the eyes and to the pride of life. Hence Paul proclaims at the outset that one purpose of the gospel of self-sacrifice is to deliver its recipients from the power of this present evil world which is constantly trying to bring us into bondage. The religion of Christ is freedom. He means to deliver us from bondage. It is our own fault if we are not delivered.

V. THE FINAL END OF THE GOSPEL IS ALWAYS THE GLORY OF THE FATHER. (Ver. 5.) Hence the doxology with which the apostolic desire closes. It is with doxologies that the dispensation of grace must end. Heaven itself is the concentration of the doxologies which have been gathering upon earth; the full concert after the terrestrial rehearsals. And it is here that the safety of the whole dispensation may be seen; for if the glory of some imperfect Being were contemplated, his designs would of necessity run contrary in many cases to the real good of others. But God the Father is so perfect that his glory always consists with the real good of all his creatures. Doubtless some of his creatures will not believe this, and will insist on suspecting and hating his designs. In consequence they must be exposed to his righteous indignation. But this is quite compatible with the fact that the Divine glory and the real good of all are meant to harmonize. Happy will it be for us if we join in the rehearsals of his glory here, and are promoted to the chorus full-orbed and like the sound of many waters above. But even should we insist on discord, our own discomfort alone shall be secured; discords can, we know, be so wedded to harmony as to swell and not diminish the effect of the full orchestra. And God will secure his glory even in our poor despite. - R.M.E.

Paul, an apostle, not of men.
According to the custom of the age, the apostle begins with a short description of himself and his correspondents, connected with a wish for their happiness. Paul was above the affectation of singularity. In the form of his Epistles, he follows the ordinary custom of his country and age; and he thus teaches us that a Christian ought not to be unnecessarily singular. By readily complying with innocent customs, we are the more likely, when we conscientiously abstain from what we account sinful customs, to impress the minds of those around us that we have some other and better reason for our conduct than whim or humour. Yet the apostle contrives to give, even to the inscription of his letter, a decidedly Christian character; and shows us that, though we should not make an ostentatious display of our Christianity, yet, if we are truly religious, our religion will give a colour to the whole of our conduct: even what may seem most remote from direct religious employment will be tinged by it. The manner in which the apostle manages the inscription of this and his other letters, is a fine illustration of his own injunction, "Whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17). He shows his Christianity even in the mode of addressing his letters.

(John Brown, D. D.)

The two threads which run through this Epistle — the defence of the apostle's own authority, and the maintenance of the doctrine of grace — are knotted together in the opening salutation. By expanding his official title into statement of his direct commission from God (verse 1), St. Paul meets the personal attack of his opponents; by dwelling on the work of redemption in connection with the name of Christ (verse 4), he protests against their doctrinal errors.

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

1. For the founding;

2. For the continuance of the Christian Church, which must perpetually rest upon the foundation of the apostolic doctrine.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

1. To have the Divine vocation is in all circumstances necessary.

2. To be certain of its possession is often important.

3. To appeal to it may often be right and proper. How independent of men, and at the same time how dependent on God, the minister of the gospel is, and knows himself to be I Even so the Christian generally is what he is, not from men, although through men, for neither natural descent nor outward fellowship makes him such — but through Jesus Christ and the Father.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

1. Its justification.

2. Its limits.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

All through Jesus Christ l

1. Humbling truth; for then nothing is through us.

2. Exalting truth; all is through no less an one than Christ, and thereby through the highest of all, viz., God.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

In the church we ought to listen to God alone, and to Jesus Christ whom He has appointed to be our teacher. Whoever assumes a right to instruct us, must speak in the name of God or of Christ.


n: — Behold the peculiar prerogative of St. Paul above the rest of the apostles. They were called by Christ in the day of His humiliation, but he was called by Christ when sitting at His Father's right hand in heaven. As his call was thus very extraordinary, so his gifts were answerable to his call.

(W. Burkitt.)

The appearance of the apostle against the Galatians.

1. In the full dignity of his office; at the same time, however, associating the brethren with himself.

2. With the full love of his heart, at the same time conceding nothing of the truth.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

What means Paul by this boasting? I answer: This commonplace serves to this end, that every minister of God's Word should be sure of his calling, that before God and man he may with a bold conscience glory therein, that he preaches the gospel as one that is called and sent: even as the ambassador of a king glories and vaunts in this, that he comes not as a private person, but as the king's ambassador; and because of this dignity — that he is the king's ambassador — he is honoured and set in the highest place; which honour should not be given him if he came as a private person. Wherefore, let the preacher of the gospel be certain that his calling is from God.


The word ἀπόστολος in the first instance is an adjective signifying "despatched" or "sent forth." Applied to a person, it denotes more than ἄγγελος. The "apostle" is not only the messenger, but the delegate of the person who sends him. He is entrusted with a mission, has powers conferred upon him .... With the later Jews, the word was in common use. It was the title borne by those who were despatched from the mother city by the rulers of the race on any foreign mission, especially such as were charged with collecting the tribute paid to the temple service. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the "apostles" formed a sort of council about the Jewish patriarch, assisting him in his deliberations at home, and executing his orders abroad. Thus in designating His immediate dud most favoured disciples "apostles," our Lord was not introducing a new term, but adopting one, which from its current usage would suggest to His hearers the idea of a highly responsible mission. At the first institution of the office, the apostles were twelve in number, but in the New Testament there is no hint that the number was intended to be limited to twelve — any more than there is that the number of deacons was intended to remain seven. The Twelve were primarily the Apostles of the Circumcision, the representatives of the twelve tribes. The extension of the Church to the Gentiles might be accompanied by an extension of the apostolate As a matter of fact, we do not find the term apostle restricted to the Twelve with only the exception of St. Paul. St. Paul himself seems in one passage to distinguish between "the Twelve" and "all the apostles," as if the latter were the more comprehensive term (1 Corinthians 15:5, 7). It appears both there and in other places (Galatians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 9:5) that James the Lord's brother is styled an apostle. On the most natural interpretation of another passage (Romans 16:7), Andronicus and Junias, two Christians otherwise unknown to us, are called distinguished members of the apostolate, language which indirectly implies a very considerable extension of the term. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6, again, where in reference to his visit to Thessalonica, he speaks of the disinterested labours of himself and his colleagues, adding, "though we might have been burdensome to you, being apostles of Christ," it is probable that under this term he includes Sylvanus, who had laboured with him in Thessalonica, and whose name appears in the superscription of the letter. The apostleship of Barnabas, at any rate, is beyond question. St. Luke records his consecration to the office as taking place at the same time with, and in the same manner as, St. Paul's (Acts 13:2, 3). In his account of their missionary labours again, he names them together as "apostles," even mentioning Barnabas first (Acts 14:4, 14). St. Paul himself also in two different Epistles holds similar language (Galatians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 9:5). If, therefore, St. Paul has held a larger place than Barnabas, in the gratitude and veneration of the Church of all ages, this is due not to any superiority of rank or office, but to the ascendency of his personal gifts, a more intense energy and self-devotion, wider and deeper sympathies, a firmer intellectual grasp, a larger measure of the Spirit of Christ. It may be added also, that only by such an extension of the office could any footing be found for the pretensions of the false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13; Revelation 2:2). Had the number been definitely restricted, the claims of these interlopers would have been self-condemned. But if the term is so extended, can we determine the limit to its extension? This will depend on the answer given to such questions as these: — What was the nature of the call? What were the necessary qualifications for the office? What were the duties attached to it? The facts gathered from the New Testament are insufficient to supply a decisive answer to these questions; but they enable us to draw roughly the line by which the apostolate was bounded.

1. The rank of an apostle. The first order in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28, 29; Ephesians 4:11).

2. Tests of apostleship.(1) Having seen Christ after His resurrection (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8, 21, 22). This knowledge was supplied to St. Paul miraculously.(2) Possessing the powers of an apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 12:1, 2). These "signs" our modern conceptions would lead us to separate into two classes. The one of these includes moral and spiritual gifts — patience, self-denial, effective preaching; the other comprises such powers as we call supernatural.

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

Wert thou wiser than Solomon and Daniel, yet until thou art called, flee the sacred ministry, as thou would'st hell and the devil; then wilt thou not spill the Word of God to no purpose. If God needs thee, He will know how to call thee.


There is something very grand in the conversion of a man who has been so fierce an enemy as St. Paul was; it makes us feel that the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation: for no other power would be equal to the task of taming so fierce a spirit, and yet of losing none of its power, but turning it to edification instead of destruction.

I. WHY WAS ST. PAUL CALLED TO BE AN APOSTLE? St. Paul asserts his apostleship: for the reason that his call and commission were made after the ascension of our Lord, and after the number of the apostles would appear to have been completed. Judas proved unworthy of his sacred trust. The twelve felt that their body was incomplete. St. Peter urged the selection of another; Matthias was chosen. I venture to say that St. Peter was wrong in this instance. The assembled disciples had no power to elect such an apostle; and Matthias was not in the full sense an apostle of Jesus Christ. When he was chosen, the Holy Spirit was not yet poured out; the eleven were not yet endued with power from on high for the discharge of their sacred office. St. Peter might therefore be wrong in this instance, however unintentionally he might have erred. It did not belong to any human assembly to choose those who could only be chosen by Christ Himself. The peculiar characteristic of the apostolate was that each one was personally called by Christ Himself; this was their authority and glory. The body of the disciples had not this power; therefore Matthias was not duly called to the apostleship. Nothing is afterwards heard of him in the sacred writings. If it is objected that we hear little of the other apostles after this date, we have at any rate heard of them before, and have known that they were called by Christ. Hence St. Paul was the new twelfth apostle; and was not called of men as was Matthias. Nobly has he filled the trust betrayed by the Traitor. The dignity, and sanctity of the pastoral office: when the Blessed Trinity ordain and commission the minister, he will go forth with power; but if only of man little more will be heard of him.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH HE WAS CALLED AND INSTRUCTED. Though the voice of Jesus addressed him, this was not the means used for directing his soul to peace. God sent a man to instruct him. To us men is committed the word of grace. To "the Man Christ Jesus" was committed the glorious ministry of the gospel.

(A. J. J. Cachemaille.)

I. THIS SALUTATION EMBRACES A VINDICATION OF APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY. The Church sometimes fails to understand and estimate the honour which Christ bestows upon His chosen servants.

II. THIS SALUTATION EMBRACES A DEFENCE OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE. "Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father."

1. Christ's work was voluntary. "He gave Himself."

2. Christ's work was vicarious. "He gave Himself for our sins."

3. Christ's work was redemptive. "That He might deliver us from this present evil world." The idea here expressed is that of rescuing from danger.

4. Christ's redemptive work is in harmony with the will of the Father. There is no separation, much less antagonism, between the will of the Father and of the Son in saving.

5. Christ's redemptive work secures the highest praise of God. "To Him be glory for ever and ever."

III. THIS SALUTATION EMBRACES A PROFOUND DESIRE FOR THE BESTOWAL OF HIGHEST BLESSINGS. "Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." The greetings men offer each other are determined by the views they entertain of life. They wish each other health, long life, success, enjoyment. But Christians acknowledge another and a higher life. "These two words comprehend whatever belongs to Christianity. Grace releaseth sin, and peace makes the conscience quiet." — Luther.This desire for the highest welfare of the Galatians was the harmonious out-flow of the unselfish love of Paul and his fellow-labourers. "And all the brethren which are," etc. Lessons:

1. It is sometimes necessary for God's servants to defend their office and teaching.

2. We learn the Spirit we should cherish toward men. We can desire for others no greater blessings than grace and peace.

(Richard Nicholls.)

1. Its ministers are divinely commissioned.

2. Its blessings are divinely secured.

3. Its end is the Divine glory.

(J. Lyth.)

Observe —

I. That as Paul puts his call to the apostleship in the forefront of the Epistle, SO EVERY MINISTER MUST HAVE A GOOD AND LAWFUL CALL.

II. That as Paul says, "Not of man," etc., SO EVERY LAWFUL CALL IS FROM GOD.

1. God only can call.

2. The Church can only consent and approve.


1. Are God's ambassadors.

2. Need divine help.

3. Require human obedience.

IV. That Paul indicates THREE KINDS OF CALL.

1. Human and not Divine — false teachers.

2. Divine though human — ordinary ministers.

3. Wholly Divine — apostles.

V. That as the property of an apostle is to be called immediately by Christ, it follows that THE APOSTOLIC OFFICE CEASED WITH THOSE WHO FILLED IT.

(W. Perkins.)

Who was Paul? Had he sat at the feet of the Master? Had he even seen Christ, or received his commission direct from Him? These questions were asked often and openly, as we gather from Paul's eagerness in all his Epistles to reply to them. More than once he goes thoroughly into the matter (1 Corinthians 9.; 2 Corinthians 11.; Ephesians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:1.; Titus 1:38), and the superscriptions and subscription of his letters show how he felt the need of thus vindicating himself from false imputations.

(E. Reuss, B. A.)

The true apostle is like the tree which grows out of the soil and brings forth out of its own inherent vitality living fruit and foliage. The false apostle resembles the artificial tree which is stuck in the soil, and can only bear such painted leaves and fruit as are affixed by the hand of man. Hence the anxiety of Paul to show that man had nothing to do with making him an apostle.

Though you have a straight line of apostolical ancestors, if your work is poor, you are not in the line of the succession; and if your Church does not make full-grown men, it is not. I do not care about the pedigree of my grapes if my vineyard bears better fruit than yours. You may say that yours came from those which Noah planted — but "by their fruits shall ye know them." And the tests of all churches, doctrines, usages, governments, is this: What are their effects on the generations of men.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It was essential to their office that —

1. They should have seen the Lord, and been ear and eye-witnesses of what they testified to the world.

2. They must have been immediately called and chosen to that office by Christ Himself.

3. Infallible inspiration was also essentially necessary to that office.

4. Another qualification was the power of working miracles.

5. To these qualifications may be added the universality of their commission.

(J. McLean.)

See what a plenty of wisdom is in Christ, who is the great doctor of His Church, and gives saving knowledge to all His people. The body of the sun must be needs full of brightness that enlightens the whole world. Christ is the great luminary; in Him are hid all the treasures of knowledge. We are apt to admire the learning of Aristotle and Plato. Alas l what is this poor spark of light to that which is in Christ from whose infinite wisdom both men and angels light their lamp.

(T. Watson.)

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