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Bible: What Does Galatians 1 Teach Us About Heresy?

Updated on September 15, 2016

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The Galatian Heresy/ Paul's Autobiography

The Epistle to the Galatians

In his greeting, Paul finds it necessary to announce to all the Galatian churches he planted that he received his apostleship through the mediation of the Son of God (Jesus) and through the authority of the Father Who resurrected Christ; no human authority conferred it upon him nor did he acquire it through any human agency (vv. 1-2).

He prays that they would receive grace and peace from the same Son and Father: the Son Who sacrificed Himself to pay for their sins and save them from perishing eternally with the rest of humanity, and the Father Who decreed their salvation and to Whom belongs eternal glory (vv. 3-5).

His “Amen” concludes a concise summary of the message of this epistle.

The Galatian Heresy

Expressing amazed disbelief, Paul immediately addresses the Galatian heresy: professing believers have turned their backs on the God who graciously called them to salvation in Christ, and they have reverted to a heteros gospel, a “different gospel,” a gospel of a different value.

The apostle does not recognize this message as the true one, but as one trouble makers who wanted to distort the Lord’s word have substituted for it (vv. 6-7).

In response to this state of affairs, the apostle forcefully condemns anyone who preaches a salvation message other than the one he preached to them.

Whether the preacher is a member of the apostolic band or an angel from heaven, he should be devoted to destruction.

Because Paul feels so strongly about this issue, he reiterates this directive to anathematize the one in error (vv. 8-9).

The Galatians should recognize that Paul does not preach the man-pleasing message of “easy believism”; instead, they should see that his fervent command against the gospel’s distortion proves that he is a slave of Christ (v. 10).

The apostle discloses to his Galatian brethren that his message originated through “the revelation of Jesus Christ”; men neither passed it down to him, nor did any mere human being teach it to him (vv. 11-12).

[If someone did not teach the gospel to him, then Paul acted as a passive recipient of its content.]



The Place Where the Church Meets for Worship


The Apostle Paul's Autobiography

Paul now begins an autobiographical account that includes the following stages:

(1) His pre-conversion persecution of the Church (vv. 13-14);

(2) His conversion experience and three-year discipleship training in Arabia (vv. 15-17);

(3) His introduction to Church leadership and fourteen-year growth period (vv. 18-23);

(4) His defense of the gospel against Judaizers, and his apostolic commission to the Gentiles (2:1-10); and

(5) His confrontation of Peter and Barnabas (vv. 11-21)

Paul relates how he, as a zealous Jewish militant, sought to destroy the Church, and how his success in performing this cruel activity enabled him to move up the religious ladder even faster (vv. 13-14).

The apostle asserts, however, that God had planned a different role for him—the one whom He had set apart from birth and called to salvation through grace (v. 15; cf. Jer. 1:5).

After indicating that God revealed Christ “to” him—the NKJV says “in”—and purposed that Paul should take the gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle adds that he first traveled into Arabia where he spent three years alone with the risen Savior, and did not go to Jerusalem to discuss theology with other apostles there (vv. 16-17).

[Ryrie suggests reasonably that this episode in Paul’s life took place between Acts 9:21 and 9:22 (333).]

After this wonderful, though undoubtedly intense period, Paul left Damascus, visited with Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days, and met James, Jesus’ half-brother (vv. 18-19).

[In a parenthetical aside, Paul swears to the Galatians that he is telling them the truth (v. 20).]

From Jerusalem, the apostle traveled in Syria and Cilicia (v. 21).

He notes that church people in Judea did not recognize him, though they were hearing testimonies that their former persecutor now preached the gospel.

Paul concludes that they were praising God for saving him (vv. 22-24).

© 2013 glynch1


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