“The Jews’ religion” (v.13) was originally God’s religion. When He gave it to the people of Israel, it was pure and undefiled (James 1:27). But it got so defiled by their dis-obedience that Paul couldn’t bring himself to call it God’s religion. And before Paul got saved, he was part of that defilement, for he “persecuted the church” (v.13).
Many Bible teachers say there’s only one church in the Bible, “the church, which is His Body” (Eph.1:22,23). But the people of Israel were a church in the wilderness (Acts 7:37). Paul persecuted a church we call the kingdom church. We call it that because the Lord promised to give Peter the keys to it (Mt.16:18,19). The keys were keys ofknowledge (cf. Lu.11: 52), i.e., a knowledge of the gospel. That’s what determines who gets into God’s church in any dispensation.
Paul “wasted” that church by killing its members (cf. Acts 22:4). And the reason he’s reminding the Galatians about it is to disprove the legalizers who were saying his gospel was “of men” (Gal.1:11,12). Paul’s message was all about Jesus Christ, and anyone who could have given him a message about Christ was afraid to go near him (cf. Acts 9:13). That proved his message wasn’t of men. The proof that his message was ofGod came when Paul started preaching his gospel, and had to go from being one of the persecutors to being one of the persecuted! Only God can talk a man into that!
We see more proof that Paul’s message was of God when we learn he was making money in the Jews’ religion (Gal.1:14). Only God can make an unsaved religious leader leave his cash flow to preach a message that left him usually broke.
Paul was in the business of persuading men to be Christians (cf. Acts 26:28), but the word “now” (v.10) implies he used to try to persuade God of something. Back when the Lord was trying to persuade him that He was setting aside the law that said certain meats were unclean, Paul probably did what Peter did and tried to persuade Him it wasn’t so (Acts10:14).
Once Paul was persuaded “we are not under the law” (Rom. 6:15), he taught that to the Galatians. But some troublemaking legalizers persuaded them they were under the law, prompting Paul to tell them: “this persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you” (Gal.5:8). God had called them into grace, not law (1:6), so it must have been men who called them to the law—unsaved men—unsaved Jewish men. At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, saved Jewish men recognized that Paul had been given a new message of grace for the Gentiles. But unsaved Jews refused to acknowledge that dispensational change.
So the Galatians now had a choice. They could either go back to pleasing God by accepting this dispensational change, or go on pleasing those unsaved legalizing men. And Paul could have chosen to please those men too. Going back to the law would have stopped the persecution he was getting from them. But he knew what verse 10 says, that if he yet pleased men he couldn’t be the servant of Christ.
That word “yet” means Paul used to please unsaved Jewish men. Before he got saved, he knew Jesus matched the prophets’ description of the Messiah, but he also knew if he acknowledged the Lord that he’d be put out of the synagogue by those unsaved Jewish men (Jo.9:22). So when his conscience pricked him about it, he kicked against those pricks (Acts 9:5) to please those unsaved men. But Paul knew you can’t be the servant of Christ unless you accept the dispensational change that God made from law to grace.
Men who object to grace tell us, “You’re just trying to please men by telling them they can eat bacon and don’t have to tithe like the law says.” Then they remind us that the law is Scriptural and start quoting it. When they do that to you, do what Paul did and remind them that he wrote new Scripture.
The word “certify” (Gal.1:11) means to put something in writing, i.e., a certificate. So with this epistle, Paul was giving the Galatians a certificate that said his new message of grace was not after man (v.11). He told them that in person when he was there with them in Galatia, but now he was putting it in writing—writing that became new Scripture after their prophets identified it as Scripture (cf. ICor.14:37).
Now when you try to help Christians who think they are under the law, be sure to call them “brethren” as Paul does eleven times in this epistle. He only called the Ephesians brethren twice, but he wanted to be sure the Galatians knew that he knew they were still saved, they’d just “fallen from grace” (Gal.5:4) instead of standing in grace (Rom.5:1,2). That is, instead of standing “in the liberty” wherewith grace has made us free from the yoke of the law (Gal.5:1).
Paul received his message “by revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal.1:12). “Revelation” is the noun form of the word reveal. The Lord revealed Himself to Paul in person over a period of decades (IICor.12:1) and gave him the grace message.
And Paul gave it to Timothy, who gave it to others, who gave it to us. May we adopt Paul’s attitude in I Thessalonians 2:4 and speak his gospel, “not as pleasing men, but God.”
Finally, Paul wasn’t contradicting himself when he claimed he wasn’t a men-pleaser and then said, “I please all men in all things” (ICor.10:33). In the context there, Paul didn’t change the truth of grace back to the law to please men. He let the truth of grace change him so as not to offend others with the truth of grace. May we adopt that attitude as well!
“Him that called” the Galatians (1:6) could have been Paul, for to be removed from the apostle of grace would mean being removed from grace (cf. II Tim. 1:15). But it is always God who calls men to grace (Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 1:9; 7:15; I Thes. 2:12; II Tim. 1:9) with the gospel (II Thes. 2:14). When men believe it, they become “the called” (Rom. 1:6).
Being called “into the grace of Christ” means being saved by grace (Eph. 2:8). But God expects those who are saved by grace to “stand” in grace (Rom. 5:1, 2). One of the opposite meanings of the word stand is to remove (1:6 cf. Isa. 46:7).
Once our study of Galatians reveals all that it means to stand in grace, you too will “marvel” that anyone would remove themselves from it “so soon” (1:6). Now, Paul knew from his familiarity with the Old Testament that it is the natural tendency of man to depart from God’s truth in any dispensation. He just thought it wouldn’t happen until “the latter times” (I Tim. 4:1). So what did they leave grace for?
Well, notice Paul doesn’t say they left it for a false gospel. They left it for “another” doctrine, and the only doctrines that aren’t false are Bible doctrines. He meant the gospel of the kingdom the Lord preached (Mt. 4:23) and sent the 12 to preach (Lu. 9:1, 2), the one that included the law (Mt. 23:2, 3; 28:19, 20). Paul preached grace, not law (Rom. 6:14, 15).
But if they left grace for the law, why would Paul say the other gospel they fell for was “not another” gospel (1:7)? Well, gospel means “glad tidings” (Isa. 61:1 cf. Lu. 4:18), and while the law was good news for Jews who were under it, it was bad news for the Galatians who weren’t! We know they fell for the law because Paul says “there be some that trouble you” (1:7). That’s the word James used at the Jerusalem Council to describe those who put Gentiles under the law (Acts 15:19, 24). Saved Jews left the council determined not to trouble Gentiles with the law, but unsaved Jews bound the Galatians with the law, thereby perverting the gospel (1:7).
Paul includes himself in warning of men who might teach the law (1:8), for he knew the persecution he was enduring might prompt him to quit preaching the grace that was causing the persecution (cf. I Cor. 10:12). Plus, someone wrote the Thessalonians a letter to say the Tribulation was at hand and signed Paul’s name to it (II Thes. 2:2), and that could happen to the Galatians about the law as well.
Only a fallen “angel from heaven” would teach the law to Gentiles. Fallen angels live in heaven, and will until Revelation 12:7-9. We have no power to curse a fallen angel to hell, but he’s going to hell anyway, so Paul says to just “let him be” accursed (cf. I Cor. 14:38), or “removed” from God.
A saved man who teaches the law can’t be cursed to hell, but cursing is the opposite of blessing 30 times in the Bible (e.g., James 3:10). “Any” who preach the law (Gal. 1:9) lose the “blessedness” of grace (Gal. 4:15). The Galatians went from being willing to give others what they had (4:15) to envying what others had (5:26). Sounds like a curse to me!
Of course, it was perfectly legit for James to continue to preach the law, for he taught it to “Jews” (Acts 21:12) just as he said he would (Gal. 2:9). But he also quit teaching the law to Gentiles—also just as he said he would (Acts 15:19).
I entitled this message “A Fool and God’s Grace Are Soon Parted” because Paul called the Galatians “foolish” (3:1) to leave grace for law, blessedness for cursing. When they were deciding whether to trade grace for law, the angels who Paul says are always watching us were probably crying, “Don’t trade!” as audience members cry on “Let’s Make a Deal.” But they couldn’t hear those angels, and men still can’t hear them. So when Christians are thinking of trading grace for law, it’s up to us to cry, “Don’t trade!” Amen?
Paul doesn’t always introduce himself as “an apostle” (1:1), but he did to the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1) because they were doubting his apostleship I Cor. 9:1, 2). He wouldn’t have had to write things like that if they weren’t doubting his apostleship. And the Galatians must also have been doubting it, or he wouldn’t have to say it wasn’t “of men, neither by man.”
“Of men” means that men weren’t the source of his apostle-ship, as it does when the Lord asked Israel’s leaders if John’s baptism was “from heaven, or of men?” So Paul was saying men weren’t the source of his apostleship. But “neither by man” is talking about instrumentality, not source. That is, God didn’t use men to make him an apostle. Later he answers that by saying he didn’t get it from the 12 (Gal. 1:17).
Now the Corinthians doubted Paul’s apostleship because he didn’t look or sound like they thought an apostle should look and sound (II Cor. 10:10). But the Galatians doubted it because he had taught them what he taught the Romans, that we are saved by grace without the law (Rom. 3:21-28). But after he preached that for a few years, the Jews were alarmed, and got together in what is called “The Jerusalem Council” to decide if Paul was a legitimate apostle sent by God, and if his new message of grace was also from God (Acts 15:1-6).
Saved Jews like James recognized Paul’s apostleship was le-git (Acts 15:19), as did the leaders of the 12 (Gal. 2:9), and ever after that they quit telling Gentiles they had to keep the law to be saved. But unsaved Jews didn’t agree with the council, so they kept telling Gentiles that, including the Galatians. Those legalizers were probably telling them Paul’s apostleship was of men—the men of the Jerusalem Council, who mistakenly made him an apostle. But they didn’t make Paul an apostle, they just “saw” that he “was” one (Gal. 2:7).
They were probably also saying that God the Father would not have sent Paul to be an apostle to preach grace not law, for He’s the One who gave Moses the law. And they were probably also saying Christ wouldn’t have made him an apostle to preach grace not law, for Christ sent His apostles out to preach law, not grace (Mt. 23:1-3; 28:20)!
They may also have pointed out that Paul wasn’t made an apostle until after Christ had died, prompting Paul to say he was made an apostle by Christ and “God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (1:4). He told the Romans that he received “grace and apostleship” from Christ after He rose from the dead (Rom. 1:3, 4), and sent him to preach grace to “all nations,” not law, like He sent the 12 to preach to “all nations” (Mt. 28:20).
Galatia was not a city, it was a “region” (Acts 16:6), and regions had many cities (cf. Deut. 3:4). Galatia was kind of like it’s own “country” (Acts 18:22, 23), and so may have had many “churches” (Gal. 1:2). If Paul was writing this letter of correction all of them, that shows how widespread the apostasy from grace was, even before Paul died.
But while Paul burned when people angered him like this (II Cor. 11:29), he offered the Galatians grace and peace (1:3), because that’s what God offers us when we anger Him. Paul’s flesh wanted to judge them and declare war on them for this apostasy, but offered them the opposite of judgment and war instead. This is similar to what we should do when men anger us, and to what God the Father did when He got good and mad at our sins. He sent His Son to die for them.
Galatians 1:4 says the Lord “gave Himself” for our sins to deliver us “from this present evil world,” not just the future evil world of hell. He did die to delivers us “from all iniquity” (Tit. 2:14), but also to “purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” now, in this present evil world. Today it is God’s grace that teaches us how to deny ungodliness (Tit. 2:11, 12).