Perverting the Gospel of Christ 

Galatians, Chapters 1 and 2

 Lorraine Day, M.D.

Why did Paul write to the Galatians? 

Many Israelite Christians believed, among other things, that a number of the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were still binding on the New Testament church.  Following Paul’s successful campaign in Galatia, they insisted that non-Israelite converts to Christianity (incorrectly translated “Gentiles” by the Bible translators), abide by certain Old Testament rites, especially circumcision. 

They also argued that Paul was not an authentic apostle because he was not one of the original twelve, and that out of a desire to make the message more appealing to “Gentiles” he had removed from the gospel certain legal requirements. 

Paul responded by clearly establishing his apostolic authority and thereby substantiating the gospel he preached. 

Galatians stands as an eloquent and vigorous defense for the essential truth that man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ and that he is sanctified not by legalistic works, such as circumcision, but by the obedience to God’s Holy Word that comes from faith in God through the power and grace of Jesus Christ. 

Unfortunately, most Christians believe the “works” that Paul speaks of in his writings pertains to keeping the Ten Commandments.  Christians believe that the Ten Commandments were “done away with at the cross.”  But Jesus said, 

“If you LOVE Me, keep My commandments.”  John 14:15 

In his writings, Paul is talking about the ordinances, including the rite of circumcision, that no longer must be kept.  He is not talking about the abolition of the Ten Commandments.  They are everlasting. 

And when we are one with God, with Jesus living in our heart, we WILL keep the Ten Commandments as the Result of Jesus changing our heart. 

We do not keep the Ten Commandments in order to “be” saved.  We keep the Ten Commandments because we “are” saved, when Jesus Christ has come into our life and changed our heart.  It is then, and only then, that we have an intense desire to follow God’s law – because we love Jesus Christ, and want to do what He wants us to do. 

When Jesus is living in you, and making every decision in your life, you will automatically be keeping the Ten Commandments. 

Again, Jesus says,

“If you LOVE Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:14


Galatians, Chapter 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;) 

Paul gets right to the point.  He states he received his commission directly from the risen Lord.  He was given his commission without the intervention of Peter or any of the other disciples.

2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the ecclesias of Galatia: 

3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 

4 Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil eon, according to the will of God and our Father;

 5 To whom be glory for the eons of the eons, Amen.

6 I marvel that ye are so soon turning away from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto a different gospel: 

7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 

8 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 an anathema. 

9 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 an anathema. 

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 

11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not according to man. 

12 For I neither receive it from man, neither was I taught it (by man), but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

13 For ye have heard of my conduct in times past in the religion of the Judeans, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it: 

14 And I progressed in the religion of the Judeans, above many contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (ancestors). 

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, 

16 To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen (unbelievers) immediately, I did NOT confer with flesh and blood: 

Saul of Tarsus was called outside the land (on Paul’s way to Damascus).  Hence he found his sphere of service among the nations (unbelievers).  He was not seeking God at the time God called him, but was God’s most implacable human enemy.  He is saved by a display of grace, which had hitherto been unknown.  Hence his gospel is the exponent of the unadulterated grace of God.  His first meeting with Christ was after His ascension and glorification. Paul recognizes Him as the Son of God, and, as such, he immediately proclaims Him. Concordant Commentary, p 280 

17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and I conferred not with flesh and blood; 

The natural course for one in Saul’s case would be to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and submit to them what he had received from the Lord and seek their patronage and fellowship in its proclamation, or, indeed, ask their opinion and permission to promulgate it.  

But what did he do?  He went into the desert where no human influence was at work.  He waited three years before telling Peter about it, and then he does not even form the acquaintance of the twelve or of the ecclesia.  They actually did not know him personally, though they were glorifying God for the great change in him.  All of this shows conclusively that Paul did not, at that time, derive his doctrine from Peter or the twelve.  Ibid. 

18 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia and returned again unto Damascus. 

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and remained with him fifteen days. 

19 But others of the apostles saw I none, except James, the Lord’s brother 

20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 

21 Afterwards, I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 

22 And was unknown by face unto the ecclesias of Judea which were in Christ: 

23 But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. 

24 And they glorified God in me. 

Galatians, Chapter 2 

1 Then fourteen years later, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up in accord with a revelation and submitted to them the gospel that I am heralding among the nations (unbelievers), but privately to those of repute, lest somehow I should be racing or run in vain. 

Paul’s method in Jerusalem seems to have taken into account the low spiritual state and prejudices of the Israelite believers.  It would have been practically impossible to impress the whole company with the character and divinity of his commission to the nations, so he singles out the leading brethren and seeks to show them how God has committed a distinct work to him.  Peter and James seem to have grasped the essential points which he wished to impress upon them.  Peter had had some preparation for this change through the vision given him in connection with the proselyte Cornelius (Acts 15:7-11) Ibid. p 281 

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek was compelled to be circumcised: 

Titus was taken along as a test case.  If circumcision was essential, then he must submit to it.  If it was not essential, then he was to be a living proof that it was not necessary. 

4 And that because of false brethren who were smuggled in, who came in by the way to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they shall be enslaving us –

 5      to whom, not even for an hour do we simulate by subjection, that the truth of the gospel should be continuing with you.

 6      But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were it makes no difference to me: God shows no partiality to any person) for to me those of repute submitted nothing. 

 7      But on the contrary, perceiving that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the Uncircumcision, according as Peter of the Circumcision (for He who operates in Peter for the apostleship of the Circumcision operates in me also for the nations (Uncircumcision) 

At the private meeting with those of repute Paul obtained the fullest recognition of his apostleship.  James, Peter, and John, who were recognized as the chiefs, acknowledge his commission.  This puts Paul on a par with Peter, the chief of the Circumcision apostles.  

8      (For he that worked effectively in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same worked effectively in me toward the nations - Unbelievers – heathen) 

9      And knowing the grace which is being given to me, James and Peter and John, who are supposed to be pillars, give to  me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship that we, indeed are to be for the nations, yet they for the Circumcision – 

10  only that we may be remembering the poor, which I endeavor also to do. 

11  But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was to be blamed. 

Paul’s third meeting with Peter is most conclusive.  At his first meeting he tells Peter of his commission.  At his second he gets Peter’s recognition.  At his third he towers far above him and withstands him to his face.  Peter had been taught not to call anyone common or unclean who had the witness of God’s spirit, so that, when he first came to Antioch, he ate with the uncircumcised.  But he was afraid of the Circumcisionists, and changed his attitude when James and the others came down from Jerusalem.  What prestige these men had, who could intimidate the very chief of the apostles! 

12  For before the coming of some of those from James, he ate together with those of the nations.  Yet when they came, he shrank back, and severed himself, fearing those of the Circumcision. 

13  And the rest of the Judeans also play the hypocrite with him, so that Barnabas also was led away with their hypocrisy. 

14  But when I perceived that they are not correct in their attitude toward the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of all, “If you, being inherently a Judean (an Israelite), but are living after the manner of the nations, and not as the Judeans, why compellest thou the nations to live as the Judeans (Israelites)? 

Peter’s double dealing did not deceive Paul, though he seems to have dragged all the rest of the Israelite Christians in Antioch with him, even Barnabas.  Paul is left alone as the champion of the truth.  He has far more cause to fear Peter than Peter has to fear his misguided subordinates, but Paul does not flinch.  He exposes Peter’s inconsistent conduct. Ibid. 

The manner of the Gentiles:  It had taken a miracle to convince Peter that non-Israelite Christian converts (“Gentiles”) should be admitted to Christian fellowship on an equality with the Israelite Christians.  Since that experience, Peter had evidently felt free to associate with “Gentiles,” contrary to Israelite customs.  His apparent silence, when rebuked, implies that he recognized the error of his hasty move and the seriousness of its implications for the future of the gospel believers 

Why compellest thou?  Peter’s sudden change of attitude would require the “Gentiles” to comply with the demands of the Pharisaical Israelites that they be circumcised and observe the other Israelite ordinances if friendly relations between them and the Israelite Christians were to continue.  Paul here points out the inconsistency resulting from this attitude of Israelite Christians toward the “Gentiles” in the group of believers. 

15  We who by nature are Judeans, and not sinners of the nations, 

We who are Judeans by nature, and not sinners of the “Gentiles”:  “Gentile” sinners was probably a common Israelite term reflecting a certain measure of contempt for the unregenerate “Gentiles” as being a lesser breed, without the law.  The present day Jews, who are the “spiritual” but NOT the physical descendants of the Pharisaical Israelites, feel the same way about non-Jews.  The Jews hold all “Gentiles” in contempt – calling them “goyim” a derogatory term meaning: subhuman, or lower than beasts. 

16  Knowing that a man is not being declared righteous by works of the law, except alone through the faith of Christ Jesus, we also believe in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh at all be justified. 

The works of the law:  Literally, “works of law” (see on Rom 2:12).  Paul here refers not so much to the ritual observances of the ceremonial law alone as to the Israelite concept that a man could save himself by meticulously keeping “the law,” which consisted of moral, ceremonial, and civil precepts.  

In the same way today, orthodox Jews believe they are saved by keeping the thousands of rules in the Talmud. 

17  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the dispenser of sin?  God forbid. 

The Israelites believed that salvation could be attained by one’s own efforts, through compliance with the requirements of “the law,” and by virtue of a meritorious life in which a surplus of good deeds would cancel out evil deeds. 

18  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 

If I build again the things which I destroyed:  That is, the ritual observances of the traditions of the Israelites as a means to salvation.  For an Israelite to accept Christ was a tacit admission that in and of itself the religion of the Pharisaical Israelites could not save a man. 

A transgressor:  For a converted Israelite (to Christianity) to return to the practices of Phariseeism as a means of salvation would be to admit the inadequacy of Christ to save a man by faith alone.  Furthermore, it would be an admission that he had done wrong to turn away from Phariseeism in the first place, and, by doing so, he had made himself “a transgressor” of the ritual law. 

For I through the law am dead to the law:  By personal experience in seeking salvation through compliance with the requirements of the legal system, Paul had proved to his own satisfaction the inefficacy of that system.  Furthermore, he now saw that the law pointed the sinner to Christ. 

19  For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 

By saying he was “dead to the law” he meant that he had nothing more to do with the law.  Formerly Paul had expected to be justified by careful compliance with all the law’s requirements.  This had been the objective of his life.  Now that the law’s true purpose had become clear to him he realized that he could expect no help from that source. 

20  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me. 

Crucified with Christ:  Paul considered himself as dead to sin, to the world, and to man-devised methods of attaining to righteousness, as if he had actually been crucified.  These methods no longer appealed to him, and in his heart there was no response to them. 

Nevertheless I live: While dead to some things, Paul was very much alive to others.  Jesus spoke of this new life as a more abundant life (see John 10:10).  Since Jesus is the source of life, there can be no true appreciation of life apart from Him. 

Christ liveth in me:  This is the secret of a successful Christian life – Christ abiding within and living out in us the same perfect life that He lived here on earth. 

21  I am not repudiating the grace of God, for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died for nothing. 

If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain:  If grace is not needed, the gospel has no value or appeal.  Paul argues that if, by the works of the law – by our own efforts – one may obtain all the benefits that come through the gospel, there was no need for Jesus to die on the cross. 

The logic of this conclusion must have been apparent to Peter and to all who were following his example. 

(Excerpts from the SDA Commentary)