Compiled and Written
Paul opens up immediately, probably in contrast to those who
claimed differently, that he was an apostle, one sent out, not by
the authority of human men, nor through the workings of any human
organization, but directly through Jesus Christ, and God the
Father. He sends greeting from all the brethren who were with
him, unto the churches (plural) in Galatia. He wishes them grace,
favor, and peace, from god the Father and from Jesus the Lord.
In mentioning Christ he give emphasis again (he certain did
it when among them in preaching the Gospel) that it was He who
died for our sins, so we could be delivered from the present evil
world. It was then as he told them when among them, that sins
could not be forgiven through anything in the Old Covenant, or
even the Old Covenant as a whole, whichever laws you obeyed, for
as he had no doubt explained to them before, the forgiveness of
sins, being justified, cannot be earned through following any
set of laws, as they were now being told by some who had come
among them, ones that he was now going to speak against in no
uncertain manner (verse 1-5).
He told them that he marvelled, he was astonished, at how
SOON they had been led astray into another "gospel" or "good
news" - some were preaching to them what they considered good
news, which was not really "gospel" or good news, but was a
perversion of the gospel of Christ. They probably taught that
people could still acknowledge Jesus as a prophet of God, but not
that it was through His death and shed blood that individuals
are justified or forgiven their sins, but rather through obeying
all the Old Covenant regulations including circumcision.
Paul here pulled no punches, he laid it all down on the
table, and said to them that if anyone, even an angel from
heaven, came and preached any other "good news" to them, that was
DIFFERENT than what he had preached to them, then that individual
should be cursed. He repeated it, just to make the point really
hit home to them, anyone preaching differently than his preaching
should be cursed. And he told them that he was not out to please
men or gain their favor per se, for if he preached to please men,
what they wanted to hear, then he would in many respects be
displeasing to God, and would not be a true servant of Christ
He restates that his preaching the good news did not come
from men's minds or a theological organization of man's devise.
He had not been taught the good news he preached from a
theological school of men, but DIRECTLY from the REVELATION of
Jesus Christ. He does not go into any detail as to the HOW of
this revelation, only that it did happen, that he was taught the
good news directly by Jesus (we may get some information as to
the WHEN this happened in the following verses).
He reminded them that they had heard about his past life in
the "Jews' religion" (what we often call Judaism today) and how
he had persecuted the Church of God. He did profit in certain
human ways in the Jews' religion, even above many of his equals,
for he was more zealous in observing the traditions of the
fathers of the sect of Judaism he belonged to, than others. We
find in other letters of Paul that he was a Pharisee and
belonged to that particular sect of Judaism (see Acts 26:5 and my
studies called "Jesus and Paul - Pharisees?")
Verse 15 and 16 are interesting for it makes Paul a chosen
vessel by God from the womb of his mother. Some modern
translations put it like this: "But God had special plans for me
and set me apart for His work even before I was born He called me
through His grace, and showed His Son to me that I might tell the
Good News about Him to those who are not Jewish.
Paul possibly found this out when being taught personally by
He goes on to tell them that at his conversion he did not
advise or help in religious matters from anyone. He tells them
that he did NOT go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles
before he was converted to Christ. But he went right away to
Arabia and later back to Damascus. It is more than likely that
this is the time he was taught by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It was after 3 years that he went up to Jerusalem and met with
Peter for 15 days, but did not meet with any other of the
apostles, except with James, the physical brother of Christ.
He tells them after this he went to areas of Syria and
Cilicia, and none of the churches in Judea had met him, they
only heard about him, and they praised God, for he that had at
one time persecuted Jesus' followers was now preaching the same
faith that he once tried to destroy (verses 11-24).
All of this first chapter of the letter of Galatians is to
lay a solid foundation as to the truth he had taught the
Galatians and the truth he would once more present to them in
the remaining dialogue of his letter to them.
Paul further lays a foundation of his authority in Christ
and the correctness of what he had taught them, that his teaching
was well known by the apostles at Jerusalem. He tells them that
14 years had passed after his first visit to Jerusalem with two
of the apostles, Peter and James. He says he went because God
showed him that he should go. He took Barnabas and Titus with
him. He met with the believers and in private told the leaders
there what he taught and preached to the non-Jewish people. He
did not want his work to be wasted, by being out of line (though
he knew he was not being taught of Christ personally, yet some no
doubt would say he was simply making that claim, when it was not
so). He tells them that Titus even being a Greek was not
compelled by those leaders in Jerusalem to be circumcised. He
goes on to say that those leaders, after hearing from him and
what he taught and preached, did not change anything in the Good
News he proclaimed. All admitted that he had obviously been given
by God the task of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles just as
Peter had been given by God to preach to the Jews.
He names James, Peter, and John, who all understood that God
had indeed given Paul this special commission to the Gentiles,
and so they fully accepted him and Barnabas. Those men agreed
that he and Barnabas (and others like Titus) should go to
those not Jewish and they (Peter, James, John) to the Jews. All
they requested was that Paul would remember (help and serve) the
poor, which he tells them he was already doing (verses 1-10).
He yet further proves his authority in Christ, by relating
to them the fact of the time when Peter came to Antioch, where
Paul was living, and how he openly corrected Peter to his face,
because he acted incorrectly and hypocritically when certain Jews
came from Jerusalem, sent by James to Antioch. Paul was showing
them that he had the right to correct any person or apostle IF
they were in serious error that was contrary to the truth
and Gospel of Christ.
The reader can find all the DETAILS about all I've skimmed
over in the first two chapters of Galatians in most of your
in-depth multi-volumed Bible Commentaries.
WE NEED NOW GET TO THE MAJOR SECTIONS OF THE LETTER OF
GALATIANS CONCERNING THE LAW, JUSTIFICATION, AND THE WAY TO
FROM BARNES' NOTES ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
CHAP.2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me....
Paul introduces this case of Titus undoubtedly to show that
circumcision was not necessary to salvation. It was a case just
in point. He had gone up to Jerusalem with express reference to
this question. Here was a man whom he had admitted to the
Christian church without circumcising him. He claimed that he had
a right to do so; and that circumcision was not necessary in
order to salvation. If it were necessary, it would have been
proper that Titus should have been compelled to submit to it. But
Paul says this was not demanded; or if demanded by any, the point
was yielded, and he was not compelled to be circumcised. It is
to be remembered that this was at Jerusalem; that it was a case
submitted to the apostles there; and that consequently the
determination of the case settled the whole controversy about the
obligation of the Mosaic laws on the Gentile converts. It is
quite evident from the whole statement here, that Paul did not
intend that Titus should be circumcised; that he maintained that
it was not necessary; and that he resisted it when it was
Yet on another occasion he himself performed the act of
circumcision on Timothy, Acts 16:3. But there is no inconsistency
in his conduct. In the case of Titus it was demanded as a matter
of right and as obligatory on him, and he resisted the principle
as dangerous. In the case of Timothy, it was a voluntary
compliance on his part with the usual customs of the Jews, where
it was not pressed as a matter of obligation, and where it could
not be understood as indispensable to salvation. No danger would
follow from compliance with the custom, and it might do much to
conciliate the favour of the Jews, and he therefore submitted to
it. Paul would not have hesitated to have circumcised Titus in
the same circumstances in which it was done to Timothy; but the
circumstances were different; and when it was insisted on as a
matter of principle and of obligation, it became a matter of
principle and of obligation with him to oppose it......
CHAP.2:4 ... To spy out our liberty which we have in Christ
Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.
In the practice of the Christian religion. The liberty
referred to was, doubtless, the liberty from the painful,
expensive, and onerous rites of the Jewish religion. See
chap.5:1. Their object in spying out the liberty which Paul and
others had, was, undoubtedly, to be witnesses of the fact that
they did not observe the peculiar rites of the Mosaic system (all
and everything in the Old Covenant, and especially circumcision
and other rituals - Keith Hunt) to make report of it; to insist
on their complying with those customs, and thus to secure the
imposition of those rites on the Gentile converts (insistence
that the whole Old Covenant be practiced and performed as before
in past centuries - Keith Hunt). Their first object was to
satisfy themselves of the fact that Paul did not insist on the
observance of their customs; and then to secure, by the authority
of the apostles, an injunction or order that Titus should be
circumcised, and that Paul and the converts made under his
ministry should be required to comply with those laws ...
End Quote from Barnes
Although the CONTEXT would suggest that the bondage Paul here
talks about would be that of CIRCUMCISION (having to be
circumcised in the flesh to be saved (as these false teachers
taught) and the liberty that of, not having to be physically
circumcised to acquire justification. There is I believe a deeper
truth here implied by Paul.
Can physical circumcision really be looked upon as bondage?
Millions still practice it today for health reasons and think it
not a bondage. As for the sacrificial system and rites that
Israel had, did they not comply with the instructions God gave to
Moses? Yes they did. Was their system any more demanding than
some of our denominations? Were the Israelites really under heavy
bondage to sacrifice when the populous as a whole did not have to
practice it daily, but only when they went up to Jerusalem? Was
the Priesthood under great bondage in performing the duties of
the Tabernacle? Not any more than those who enjoy a good living
working in our "Animal Slaughter Factories."
The liberty Paul here says Christians have as opposed to those of
the circumcision part, must be understood in the light of their
teaching as contrasted to that of Paul's teaching. Namely, the
WAY TO JUSTIFICATION. They taught justification by ones OWN
EFFORTS and deeds, WORKS of law - the way to EARN salvation. Paul
taught that way was death and indeed bondage, as NONE could be
justified by observance of ANY law - law makes no provision for
grace, it only states a penalty for its violation. As all have
sinned (Rom.3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23).
It would be bondage indeed that "neither our fathers nor we were
able to bear" (Acts 15:10) to try to justify oneself through
physical circumcision or ANY OTHER work of ANY law which DENIED
the need for the justifying work of Christ's death on the cross.
But yet this is what was being taught by those of the
circumcision party, and Paul says to those Galatians who would
believe their teaching, they would be brought into bondage.
What greater bondage could there be than for weak fleshly man to
suppose he could somehow earn his forgiveness with God by the
performance of anything!
The bondage mentioned here by Paul cannot possibly be referring
to the 10 Commandments as such. Having liberty to disregard them
and being in bondage if you try to keep them. Never does Paul
refer to the 10 Commandments as "bondage." The opposite is true.
Paul calls them "holy, just and good" they are "spiritual" and he
said "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom.
James was inspired to say that the 10 Commandment law was "the
law of LIBERTY" (James 2:12).
When we have REPENTED of our sins (which is the breaking of the
law of God - 1 John 3:4; Rom.7:7) and have set our heart and
attitude to obey the Lord and His commands, we have truly found
liberty. For only such individuals will have met the condition to
come under God's grace through Jesus Christ (Psalm 103:17,18; Ex.
20:6). See this fully explained in my in-depth study called
"Saved by Grace."
These false teachers were coming into the churches of Galatia and
contradicting the teaching of Paul. They "down played" the
sacrifice of Christ, while admitting He (Christ) was a good man,
a preacher of God, but did not uphold the truth that forgiveness
of sins and justification with God could ONLY come through the
life and death, shed blood on the cross, of this man called Jesus
Christ, and by accepting Him as personal Savior. These false
teachers were teaching people that it was by observing the WHOLE
Old Covenant, as it had been practices for centuries, that was
the way to justification with God, and especially having to be
TO BE CONTINUED