Paul is willing to lay a curse on those who pedal a false gospel. He is also willing to consider the confused Galatians fellow Christians. This begs the question of how serious the situation really was. After all, as sad as it may be, legalism is common in the Church. Even today, there are many who have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ yet insist upon an essential place of works in the operation of salvation. Now, it is one thing to insist the Christian must express the new creation through obedience. Indeed, this is fundamental Christian doctrine (Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:46-49, Philippians 2:12-13 and so on). It is another thing altogether to say works of any kind contribute to the new birth. Later in the letter, we will see that the false gospel peddled by the Galatian Judaizers made works part of the salvific event itself. A fundamental error of that sort puts one's salvation in doubt.
However, Paul had brought the true gospel to the people in Galatia and they had responded to that true gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must assume along with Paul that they had not abandoned the genuine gospel just yet. Yes, Paul says he is amazed they have so quickly turned away from the truth. However, the fact he calls them brethren reveals his hope if not confidence they had not yet left the true faith.
To reinforce this, Paul reminds them the true gospel did not spring from human intellect. For it is man's understanding that insists upon a human contribution to salvation. That is why all false religions preach a form of works salvation.
Moreover, regardless of the source, no one taught the gospel to Paul. Instead, it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12b). At first glance, this appears easy enough to understand – in the English translation anyway. The Greek is not so easy to interpret.
A literal translation of the phrase in the Greek says, but through revelation Jesus Christ. Thus, the question: is "Jesus Christ" subjective or objective genitive? That is to say, is this a revelation made by Christ to the apostle or a revelation of the Christ made to Paul by God? It would be foolish to suggest Paul had no knowledge of the message or the "text" of the gospel prior to his Damascus road experience. It was precisely because he knew the content of the gospel that he set about to violently crush Christianity prior to his salvation encounter. No, the revelation was not the content of the gospel but the context. In other words, on the way to Damascus, Jesus the Christ was revealed as the reigning king and fulfillment of all of God's promises to his people. This was revealed to Paul by the power the Holy Spirit and he understood that everything Israel had ever hoped for found its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. "Paul's story focuses on a moment when Jesus who is already enthroned in heaven suddenly became visible to his naked eye on earth, a moment when God's future arrived in the present, so that now, from Paul's point of view, it is a past event through which everything has changed" (N. T. Wright, Commentaries for Christian Formation: Galatians, emphasis added).
Paul fleshes out the ramifications of this revelation in the rest of the letter. It is the out-working of this revelation that delivers us from the present evil age and heralds the dawn of the new age of the Son of Man.
Entire Site Copyright © 2022 By David Eric Williams