Galatians Chapter 1 – Another Gospel

By Norman McNulty

The following is based on the audio message delivered by Norman McNulty. The original audio message can be accessed at Audioverse on the following link: Galatians - Another Gospel.

The book of Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to the believers in Galatia. This was a church he had already visited. And as we would quickly see, some problems had come to this church. Therefore, he felt the need to write a letter to them, and specifically in Galatians 4:9, He says, “My little children, of whom I travail and birth again, until Christ be formed in you.”  So here you see that the apostle Paul was actually pouring out intercessory prayer on behalf of this church.

And so he is letting them know because of some of the problems that have come into your church, I am interceding for you, I am praying for you as if was in labor for you until you have the true experience of the gospel. And so with that setting in mind, we’ll see the action that he took, that is in addition to praying for this church, he also took action and wrote them a letter to spell out where exactly they were going off-track.

Now when we look at the book of Galatians, this is one of the gospel-centered epistles in the New Testament. In the book of Romans he is explaining the gospel, but in the book of Galatians, in addition to explaining the gospel, he is countering a false gospel, which is why he is interceding for this church.

So let’s get into chapter 1 and let’s see what Paul has to say:

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

So Paul as he addresses this church he says I am an apostle on the authority of Jesus Christ and God the Father. So what I am about to say to you is based on the authority of God. This is not just the word of man that I am going to share with you. This is the word of God. So if this was true for the church of Galatia that this was the Word of God, it’s also the word of God for us.

Galatians 1:2,3 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Every time we start of an epistle we can so often times read that introduction and not think about Grace and peace. But we should really thank the Lord that there is grace for us and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Always know that you have that when you start reading the Bible.

Galatians 1:4,5 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: 5To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

If you notice what Paul has done, he has basically explained in a brief nut shell the gospel. That is, Jesus Christ he gave himself for our sins. He is our Saviour. And if we accept that sacrifice, we will be delivered by Him from this present evil world. That’s the gospel.

Paul is saying:

I am an apostle on the authority of God
This message is from Jesus
He is your Saviour (so you are to listen to him).
And His purpose is to deliver you from this present evil world.
Galatians 1:6,7 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

So this church had been given the clear teaching of the Bible by Paul when he had visited this church. And now other teachers have come in and they are turning into a different gospel. So Paul says I marvel that you turn to another gospel so quickly.

And he reminded them about the true gospel (verse 4), which is not another gospel.

Galatians 1:8,9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Do you realize that there is a true gospel and there are false gospels? And under the inspiration of God, Paul says if someone is teaching you a gospel that is not the true gospel, under the inspiration of God, he says let him be accursed. Because do you realize if you are being taught a false gospel, it can lead you to eternal death? And so this is a life or death matter and Paul is dealing with a life and death situation with these people.
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Notice what Paul is saying here. When I teach the gospel, my purpose of teaching the gospel is not to please man. The gospel is not designed to be a people-pleasing gospel that will fit your carnal desires. The purpose of the gospel is to please God in teaching what is truth so that you can accept that Gospel and receive salvation.

The problem so many times with the Christian world today is, you will hear people come out and say, just accept Jesus as your Saviour, don’t worry about anything else and He will save you in your sins. And that gospel message at the end of the day is a people pleasing gospel, but is not a Bible-based gospel. You will see as Paul develops the gospel in the book of Galatians, remember that famous verse, “I am crucified with Christ?” Now is that a people pleasing gospel?

The question then is, what is this “other gospel” that the Galatians have been deceived by? In chapter 5, you will see some of the things he is contending with,

Galatians 5:1-3 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

Now this was what was happening in the church of Galatia, Paul came in, he teaches a clear gospel, which is that Jesus came into this world, He gave himself up so that you can receive forgiveness of sins and accept Him as your Saviour and have power over sin and be delivered from this present world. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the ceremonial law; He is the embodiment of the law. Accept him. Follow Him. Then certain Jews who professed to follow Jesus came and said, “you know what, what Paul said was good, but he doesn’t have it all down, we have a better version of the gospel, what you need to do is, yes, accept Jesus as your Saviour, but you also need to be circumcised to receive salvation. If you are circumcised you will have salvation.”

What these Jews were saying was all you have to do is to perform an outward action, make an outward profession and that will give you salvation. You do a simple act of circumcision. You will have salvation.

In modern times, people says just accept Jesus, accept that you have this outward covering, and you have salvation. In both instances, the thing that is left out, which is really the heart of the matter is Galatians 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Are you crucified with Christ? Has your heart been circumcised? Have you surrendered your life completely to Jesus? And the gospel that Paul was teaching--the real gospel, is being crucified, being fully surrendered, giving your life to Jesus 100%. But the Judaizers that were coming into the Christian faith were saying, “Well that’s ok, but in reality, just do this outward act of the flesh and that’s actually salvation.” In reality, it’s easy to do an outward action without a heart change. Today you can do similarly. You can do the outward act of baptism which is a good thing to do, but have no heart change. The real gospel that Paul was trying to teach the Galatians is, “If you are not crucified with Jesus, you are not in a saving walk with Jesus. And I marvel, after I explained it so clearly to you that you turn to another gospel that will lead you away from salvation.”
Galatians 1:11,12 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

If you study Paul’s epistles, it shows that Paul had visions which tell us that Jesus Himself explained the teaching of the gospel to Paul, and Paul then goes on to explain clearly to us in the book of Galatians and Romans and other epistles. And we can be thankful for that. Now Paul, after telling the Galatians, if anyone teaches another gospel let him be accursed, he then explains some more qualifications to say, “I know something about those Jews who are trying to tell you that you need to be circumcised. Starting in verse 13…

Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. If anyone understood the Jewish law that was preached by them, that they said would bring salvation, Paul says He knew that so-called gospel. And so if anyone can recognize this false gospel that Judaizers were coming in with, it was Paul, because Paul was steeped in the Jewish religion. And now by the understanding of Christ, he had a full revelation of the complete gospel that did away with the ceremonial law and the Jewish customs and how Christ fulfilled all those things, and the acceptance of Christ and the living of His life was the real gospel. So, Paul is saying, if anybody knows what the Jewish religion is all about, I do. So he is explaining that to the Galatians.

Galatians 1:14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 

Paul was at the top end of the spectrum of the Jewish religion.

Galatians 1:15,16 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Notice this. Paul was able to preach the gospel with power because Jesus Christ the Son was revealed in him. And if we wonder sometimes why the gospel doesn’t have power, it’s because we might preach the theory of the truth but Christ isn’t being revealed in us, and in the way we demonstrate our lives to others. But Paul could say “the Son was revealed in me so that I could preach to others.”

Galatians 1:17-24 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.  19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. 20Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God,  I lie not. 21Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24And they glorified God in me.

In the closing verses, he explains after his conversion experience, he went into Arabia, then he went back to Damascus, and he finally came back to Jerusalem. We know that Paul had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus where he went from being a zealous Jew to being a converted Christian.

So the book of Galatians is an epistle that clearly describes the gospel. But Paul is also contending against a false gospel, specifically a false gospel that Jewish Christians were bringing in, and because of that problem that had come into this church, Paul, as he says in Galatians  4:19, was offering intercessory prayer, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”

He is praying to the Lord to help them experience the gospel, not a false gospel where they think that they can be circumcised and be saved, but the true gospel where Christ is formed in their lives. And so, as we think about the world around us, may we have a spirit of intercessory prayer for those that we may see, who do not have this experience, so that Christ will be formed in them and in us, and that we will be a living demonstration of the gospel of Christ to the world around us.

About the author: Norman McNulty is a neurologist working as a missionary at the Adventist hospital in Trinidad. He enjoys studying, teaching, and preaching about church history, Daniel and Revelation, and other biblical topics in his free time. He has been involved in several young adult ministries in the United States before going abroad as a missionary. He is married to Joelle.