As the “Pharisees, which believed” said that Paul was not a true apostle, so also they said that the gospel which he preached was not the true gospel. And as the first verse of the epistle is in defense of his apostleship as true, so chapters 1:6 to 2:14 is in defense of the gospel that he preached as the true, and the only true, gospel.
In Defense of the Gospel | Galatians 1:6 to 2:14
Therefore he writes: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him who called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but [“simply a contrivance of some people to disturb you.” —Fenton] there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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” (Gal. 1:6-9).
And as those “false brethren” had reported that he preached, and was ever ready to shift his ground, only to please men, he now interjects the words, “Well, am I NOW trying to be plausible to men, or to conciliate God himself? Had I still been trying to be a man-pleaser, I should not have been what I am—a slave of Christ” (Farrar’s Translation, Gal. 1:10).
Again, he turns to the defense of the gospel, which he preached, “Not I declare to you, brethren, as to the gospel preached by me that it is not a mere human gospel. For neither did I myself receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Ibid, Gal. 1:11, 12).
And that he could not possibly have received it from merely man, he proves by the fact that “you have heard of my former behavior in the days of my Judaism, how I persecuted beyond measure the church of God, and strove to root it out, and outran in Judaism many of my own age and nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:13, 14 -Conybeare and Howson’s Translation). That is to say: As when he was a Pharisee, he was ahead of many of his own day and nation, was more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers than were others, and was far beyond them in persecuting the church of God, and in striving to root it out as wild boars uproot a vineyard, —since all this was true, there was no mere man from whom he could have possibly received what he was now preaching.
But the false brethren were saying that even though he had not received his gospel merely from man, at the very most he had received it only from the true apostles, and not from the Lord direct, as had the true apostles. This he confutes by a series of indisputable facts: —
1. Gal. 1:15-17: “But when he who set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace thought good to reveal his Son in me that I should preach him among the Gentiles, immediately I did not confer with mere human teachers, nor did I go away to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned to Damascus” (Farrar’s Translation/. And these very false brethren who had now disconcerted the Galatian Christians, knew that at Damascus he had preached the gospel, and confounded the Jews who dwelt there, “proving that this is very Christ,” that this he had done many days at Damascus; and that he was driven away from Damascus by the Jews who sought to kill him—all this before he had ever met personally a single one of those who were apostles before he became an apostle.
2. Gal. 1:18-20: “Next, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to visit Kephas, and I stayed at his house fifteen days; but not a single other apostle did I see, except James, the Lord’s brother. Now in what I am writing to you, see, before God, I am not lying” (Ibid).
3. Gal. 1:21-24: “Next I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was quite unknown by person to the churches of Judea which were in Christ, only they were constantly being told that our former persecutor is now a preacher of the faith which once he ravaged. And they glorified God in me” (Ibid).
4. Gal. 2:1-5: “Then fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. At that time I went up in obedience to a revelation and I communicated to the brethren in Jerusalem the glad-tidings [the gospel] which I proclaim among the Gentiles; but to the chief brethren I communicated it privately, lest perchance my labors, either past or present, might be fruitless. Yet not even Titus (a Greek), my own companion, was compelled to be circumcised. But this communication [with the apostles in Judea] I undertook on account of the false brethren who gained entrance by fraud, for they crept in among us to spy out our freedom (which we possess in Christ Jesus) that they might enslave us unto their own yoke. To whom I yielded not the submission they demanded; no, not for an hour; that the truth of the glad-tidings might stand unaltered for your benefit” (Conybeare and Howson’s Translation).
In this citation of fact there are several facts, each of which disproves the charge that he had received his gospel from the apostles at Jerusalem: —
(a) He communicated to them the gospel, which he preached, instead of their having communicated it to him.
(b) And this he did, not especially to teach the apostles anything, but because of the false reports of the false brethren, so that the apostles might understand the truth of the matter.
(c) He took Titus with him, whom, with him, the apostles received, and did not compel him to be circumcised: thus the apostles at Jerusalem themselves utterly disregarded the claim of the “Pharisees, which believed,” that “except ye be circumcised . . . ye cannot be saved.”
(d) He gave not an hour’s subjection to the demands of the false brethren; this in the very presence of the apostles at Jerusalem; and the apostles did not require him to yield.
(e) Not only did the apostles not require him to yield anything, but “James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,” actually gave to him and Barnabas “the right hands of fellowship” (Gal. 2:9).
(f) And more than this, those who were the chief in reputation, he says, “added nothing to me”—“gave me no new instruction” (Gal. 2:6).
All this was positive and conclusive confutation of the claim that he had received his gospel from the apostles. But he does not stop even here: that which is already conclusive, he makes overwhelming by the citation of—
5. “When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them, which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter, before them all,” “If you, being born a Jew, art wont to live according to the customs of the Gentiles, and not of the Jews, how is it that you constrain the Gentiles to keep the ordinances of the Jews? We are Jews by birth, and not unhallowed Gentiles; yet, knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we ourselves also have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:11-16).
When he had publicly withstood Peter to his face, and had called him back to the truth of the gospel, and through him James; for it was the “certain men which came from James” who caused Peter to swerve, nothing more needed to be said, and indeed what more could be said, to settle it forever that the gospel which he preached was not received from men, nor from the Lord through men, not even through the first apostles, but from the Lord himself direct.
Thus in the book of Galatians is set forth the only true gospel, in its perfect purity, direct from the Lord himself by the hand of Paul. And whosoever misses this perfect gospel in the book of Galatians misses the whole book of Galatians.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | September 5, 1899]