Galatians 1: Bible Chapter Summary

Exploring the First Chapter in the New Testament Book of Galatians

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The Book of Galatians was likely the first letter written by the apostle Paul to the early church. It's an interesting and exciting letter for many reasons, as we'll see. It's also one of Paul's more fiery and passionate epistles. Best of all, Galatians is one of the most densely packed books when it comes to understanding the nature and process of salvation.

So, without further ado, let's jump into the first chapter, an important epistle to the early church, Galatians 1.

Overview

Like all of Paul's writings, the Book of Galatians is an epistle; it's a letter. Paul had founded the Christian church in the region of Galatia during his early missionary journeys. After leaving the region, he wrote the letter we now call the Book of Galatians in order to encourage the church he planted -- and to offer correction for some of the ways they had gone astray.

Paul began the letter by claiming himself as the author, which is important. Some New Testament epistles were written anonymously, but Paul made sure his recipients knew they were hearing from him. The rest of the first five verses are a standard greeting for his day.

In verses 6-7, however, Paul got down to the main reason for his correspondence:

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah.
Galatians 1:6-7

After Paul left the church in Galatia, a group of Jewish Christians entered the region and began denouncing the gospel of salvation Paul had preached. These Jewish Christians were often referred to as "Judaizers" because they claimed that followers of Jesus must continue to fulfill all the regulations of the Old Testament law -- including circumcision, sacrifices, observing holy days, and more.

Paul was completely against the message of the Judaizers. He rightly understood that they were attempting to twist the gospel into a process of salvation by works. Indeed, the Judaizers were attempting to hijack the early Christian movement and return it to a legalistic form of Judaism.

For this reason, Paul spent much of chapter 1 establishing his authority and credentials as an apostle of Jesus. Paul had received the gospel message directly from Jesus during a supernatural encounter (see Acts 9:1-9).

Just as importantly, Paul had spent most of his life as a gifted student of the Old Testament Law. He had been a zealous Jew, a Pharisee, and had dedicated his life to following the same system the Judaizers wanted. He knew better than most the failure of that system, especially in light of Jesus' death and resurrection.

That's why Paul used Galatians 1:11-24 to explain his conversion on the road to Damascus, his connection with Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem, and his earlier work teaching the message of the gospel in Syria and Cilicia.

Key Verse

As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!
Galatians 1:9

Paul had faithfully taught the gospel to the people of Galatia. He had proclaimed the truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again in order that all people might experience salvation and the forgiveness of sins as a gift received through faith -- not as something they could earn through good works. Therefore, Paul had no tolerance for those who attempted to deny or corrupt the truth.

Key Themes

As mentioned above, the major theme of this chapter is Paul's rebuke of the Galatians for entertaining the corrupted ideas of the Judaizers. Paul wanted there to be no misunderstanding -- the gospel he had proclaimed to them was truth.

Additionally, Paul reinforced his credibility as an apostle of Jesus Christ. One of the ways the Judaizers attempted to argue against Paul's ideas was to discredit his character.

The Judaizers often tried to intimidate Gentile Christians on the basis of their familiarity with the Scriptures. Because the Gentiles had only been exposed to the Old Testament for a few years, the Judaizers would often bully them with their superior knowledge of the text.

Paul wanted to make sure the Galatians understood that he had more experience with the Jewish law than any of the Judaizers. In addition, he had received a direct revelation from Jesus Christ regarding the message of the gospel -- the same message he proclaimed.

Key Questions

One of the major questions surrounding the Book of Galatians, including the first chapter, involves the location of the Christians who received Paul's letter. We know these Christians were Gentiles, and we know they were described as "Galatians." However, the term Galatia was used both as an ethnic term and a political term in Paul's day. It could refer to two distinct regions of the Middle East -- what modern scholars call "North Galatia" and "South Galatia."

Most Evangelical scholars seem to favor the "South Galatia" location since we know that Paul visited this region and planted churches during his missionary journeys. We don't have direct evidence that Paul planted churches in North Galatia.

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O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 1: Bible Chapter Summary." ThoughtCo, Feb. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/galatians-1-bible-chapter-summary-363216. O'Neal, Sam. (2017, February 4). Galatians 1: Bible Chapter Summary. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/galatians-1-bible-chapter-summary-363216 O'Neal, Sam. "Galatians 1: Bible Chapter Summary." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/galatians-1-bible-chapter-summary-363216 (accessed May 24, 2018).