Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Galatians 1

Verse 1

GALATIANS CHAPTER 1

Galatians 1:1-5 After saluting the churches of Galatia,

Galatians 1:6,7 Paul testifieth his surprise that they should so soon

have forsaken the truth of the gospel which he had

taught them,

Galatians 1:8,9 and pronounceth those accursed who preach any other gospel.

Galatians 1:10-12 He showeth that his doctrine was not concerted to please

men, but came to him by immediate revelation from God,

Galatians 1:13,14 to confirm which he relateth his conversation before his

calling,

Galatians 1:15-24 and what steps he had taken immediately thereupon.

The term apostle, in its native signification, signifieth no more then one sent; in its ecclesiastical use, it signifies one extraordinarily sent to preach the gospel; of these some were sent either more immediately by Christ, (as the twelve were sent, Matthew 10:1 Mark 3:14 Luke 9:1), or more mediately, as Matthias, who was sent by the suffrage of the other apostles to supply the place of Judas, Acts 1:25,26, and Barnabas, and Silas, and others were. Paul saith he was sent not of men, neither by man, that is, not merely; for he was also sent by men to his particular province. Acts 13:3; but he was immediately sent by Jesus Christ, ( as we read, Acts 9:1-43 and Acts 26:14-17, of which also he gives us an account in this chapter, Galatians 1:15-17), and by God the Father also, who, he saith, raised Christ from the dead. By this phrase the apostle doth not only assert Christ's resurrection, and the influence of the Father upon his resurrection, (though he rose by his own power, and took up his own life again, and was also quickened by the Spirit), but he also showeth a specialty in his call to the apostleship. As it differed from the call of ordinary ministers, who are called by men (though their ministry be not merely of men); so it differed from the call of the rest of the apostles, being made by Christ not in his state of humiliation, (as the twelve were called, Matthew 10:1-42), but in his state of exaltation, after he was raised from the dead, and sat down on the right hand of God.

Verse 2

He writeth not only in his own name, but in the name of all those other Christians that were with him in the place where he now was (whether Rome or Corinth, or some other place, is uncertain); with whose consent and privity probably he wrote, possibly at their instigation, and whose common consent in that doctrine of faith which he handleth, (as well as in other things about which he writeth), he here declareth. Some think that the apostle forbears the term saints, or sanctified in Christ Jesus, & c., commonly used in his other Epistles, because of that apostacy for which he designed to reprove them; but it is implied in the term churches. Galatia was a large country, and had in it many famous cities; it was neither wholly Christian, nor yet such as to the major part; but there were in it several particular congregations of Christians, which he calleth churches; every congregation of Christians using to meet together to worship God, being a church, a particular church, though all such congregations make up but one universal visible church. Nor, being guilty of no idolatry, though corrupted in some particular points of doctrine, and those of moment, doth the apostle deny them the name of churches, though he sharply rebuketh them for their errors.

Verse 3

A common, as well as religious and Christian, form of salutation; Paul’s mark in every Epistle, and used by him without any variation, (except in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, where he only adds mercy &c.), the want of which, as also of his name, offers some grounds to doubt whether he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Paul had used it in the beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, and both the Epistles to the Corinthians: see the notes on Romans 1:7 1 Corinthians 1:3 2 Corinthians 1:2. It teaches us, in our common discourses, whether epistolary or otherwise, to speak to our friends like Christians, who understand and believe that the grace, mercy, and peace from God, are the most desirable good things.

Verse 4

Which Christ, though he was put to death by Pilate and the Jews, yet he was not compelled to die; for he laid down his life, no man took it from him, John 10:17,18. Sometimes it is said, he died for our sins, as Romans 5:8; sometimes, that he gave himself, ( meaning, to death), as in Ephesians 5:2,25 1 Timothy 2:6 Titus 2:14: he was given by his Father, and he gave himself by his own free and spontaneous act.

For our sins, must be interpreted by other scriptures: here is the defect of a word here, which the Socinians would have to be remission; others, expiation (of which remission is a consequent). Both, doubtless, are to be understood, and something more also, which is expressed in the following words of the verse. Remission of sins is granted to be the effect of the death of Christ, but not the primary and sole effect thereof; but consequential to the propitiation, mentioned Romans 3:25; the redemption, Ephesians 1:7; the sacrifice, Hebrews 10:12: both which texts show the absurdity of the Socinians, in quoting those texts to favour their notion of Christ’s dying for the remission of our sins, without giving the justice of God satisfaction. And though some other texts mention Christ’s dying for our sins, without mention of such expiation, propitiation, redemption, or satisfaction; yet they must be interpreted by the latitude of the end of Christ’s death (expressed in other scriptures) relating to sin. Which is not only expiation, and remission, but the delivery of us from the lusts and corruptions of

this present evil world. The apostle here deciphers this world, by calling it present and evil: by the first, he hinteth to us, that there is a world to come; by the latter, he showeth the sinful practices of the greatest part of men, (for by world he means the corruption of persons living in the world), they are evil; and this was one end of Christ’s death, to deliver his saints from their evil practices and examples; thus, 1 Peter 1:18, we are said to be by the blood of Christ redeemed from a vain conversation received by tradition from our fathers. This (he saith) was done according to the will of God; the Greek word is yelhma, not diayhkhn: the will of God is his decree, purpose, or good pleasure, so as it signifieth both his eternal purpose, (according to Ephesians 1:4), and his present pleasure or consent. I see no ground for the Socinian criticism, who would have us understand by it, God’s testament, or present will for things to be done after death; the word importeth no more than God’s eternal purpose, as to the redemption of man by the blood of Christ, and his well pleasedness with his undertaking and performance of that work; this God he calleth our Father, not with respect to creation so much as adoption.

Verse 5

To which Father, (yet not excluding the Son), for do great benefits bestowed upon us, be honour, and praise, from age to age, and to all eternity. The term Amen, being always used in Scripture either as a term of assertion, to aver the truth of a thing, or as a term of wishing, may here be understood in either or both senses; the apostle using it either to assert the glorifying of God to be our duty, and a homage we owe to God; or to signify his hearty desire that this homage may from all hands be paid unto him.

Verse 6

The apostle here beginneth the matter and substance of his Epistle, with a reprehension of this church; which in, some things is much qualified, in other things much aggravated. His expressing his reproof by the word marvel, hath in it something of mitigation, and signifieth his better hopes concerning them. The term removed, also, mollifies the reproof, the apostle thereby rather charging their apostacy upon their seducers, than upon them who were seduced; though they were not to be excused for their so yielding to the temptation, and that in so short a time, either after their first conversion, or after the first attempts upon them to seduce them; and herein was the aggravation of their guilt, that they very little resisted the temptation, but were presently overthrown by it. But it was a greater aggravation of their guilt, that they suffered themselves to be removed from him that called them. Interpreters doubt whether this be to be understood of God, or of Paul; and if of God, whether of the First or of the Second Person. That which inclineth some to think that Paul meant himself, was his instrumentality in the conversion of these Galatians; and his complaints of them in this Epistle, for their deserting his doctrine, and alienation from him; but then the substantive to the participle must be understood, and the call must be understood of the external call only, by the ministry of the word. It therefore seemeth rather to be understood of God; the apostles generally ascribing calling to God, Galatians 5:8 1 Thessalonians 5:24 2 Thessalonians 2:14 1 Peter 1:2,15 2 Peter 1:3. Nor doth it seem proper to refer the action to Christ, because the apostles ordinarily ascribe calling to the First Person in the Trinity, calling us by Christ, as Romans 8:30 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14,16 2 Timothy 1:9 1 Peter 5:10; besides, the grace of Christ is here made the term to which they are called. And though this would supply the participle with a substantive in the text, without understanding one, yet it seems both too remote, and also to alter the sense of the text; making it to run thus, from Christ that called you unto grace, instead of

him that called you into the grace of Christ. By which grace the apostle doubtless means not the doctrine of the gospel only, (though that be sometimes called grace), but all the benefits of the gospel, justification, reconciliation, adoption; which are all properly called the grace of Christ, as being the purchase of his blood.

Unto another gospel; that is, to the embracing of other doctrine, differing from the doctrine of the gospel, though it be brought to you by seducers under that notion; showing you another pretended way of salvation than by the merits of Jesus Christ, whereas God hath given no other name under heaven, neither is there salvation in any other, Acts 4:12.

Verse 7

Which is not another; another doctrine it is, but another doctrine or glad tidings of salvation, or another gospel of Christ, it is not; for there is no other. In and by the new notions they bring they do but

trouble you, and pervert the true doctrine of the gospel; though they use the name of Christ, and of his gospel, they do it falsely; for by making the works of the law, and the observance of them, necessary to be by you observed in order to your salvation, they quite destroy and pervert the glad tidings of salvation; viz. that we are saved by Christ alone and faith in him, and by a righteousness without these works.

Verse 8

Ver. 8,9. The apostle, by this vehement expression, doth no more suppose it possible that a heavenly angel should publish to them any other way of salvation than what he had published, than that he himself might so contradict his own doctrine. He only by it declares his certainty of the truth, which he had delivered to them; it was not to be contradicted either by man or angel; and further teacheth us, that additions to the doctrines of the gospel make another gospel; God neither allowing us to add to, nor to diminish from, Divine revelations; for of this nature were the corruptions crept into this church. These seducers owned Christ and the doctrine of the gospel: only teaching the Jewish circumcision, and other ceremonial rites, as necessary to be observed in order to people’s salvation, they made the pretended gospel (which they taught) to be another gospel than that which Paul had preached, and which believers in this church had received. In saying let him be accursed, he also saith that he who doth this shall be accursed; for the apostle would neither himself curse, nor direct others to curse, whom he did not know the Lord would curse, and look upon as cursed. These two verses look dreadfully upon the papacy, where many doctrines are published, and necessary to be received, which Paul never preached, nor are to be found in any part of Divine writ.

Verse 9

See Poole on "Galatians 1:9"

Verse 10

For do I now persuade men, or God? There is an emphasis in the particle now, since I became a Christian, and was made an apostle; while I was a Pharisee I did otherwise, but since I became an apostle of Jesus Christ, do I persuade you to hear what men say, or what God saith? Or (as others) do I persuade the things of men, their notions and doctrines, or the things of God? Or do I in my preaching aim at the gratifying or the pleasing of men, or the pleasing of God? The last is plainly said in the next words,

do I seek to please men? Which must not be understood in the full latitude of the term, but restrainedly, do I seek to please and humour men in things wherein they teach and act contrary to God? It is the duty of inferiors to please their superiors, and of all good ministers and Christians, to please their brethren, so far as may tend to the advantage of their souls; or in civil things, so as to maintain a friendly and peaceable society; but they ought not to do any thing in humour to them, by which God may be displeased. In which sense it is that the apostle adds:

For if I pleased men, that is, in saying as they say, and doing as they do, without regard to pleasing or displeasing of Christ,

I should not show myself

the servant of Christ; for his servants we are whom we obey, and our Lord hath taught us, that no man can serve two masters, that is, commanding contrary things.

Verse 11

He calls them brethren, though some of them were revolted, because they owned Christ, and makes known or declares to them, (so the word is translated, Luke 2:15 John 15:15 17:26), that the doctrine of the gospel, which he had preached unto them, was no human invention or fiction, nor rested upon human authority, but was from God, immediately revealed to him: and herein he reflecteth upon the false teachers that had seduced them, and, in order to that, vilifled him, as being but a disciple to some other of the apostles, yet teaching otherwise than they taught. I would have you know (saith he) that it is otherwise; the gospel which I preached

is not after man. He fully openeth his own meaning in this phrase, in the next words.

Verse 12

Not of man, as my first and sole instructor, not only at second-hand, from Peter, James, or John, as the false teachers had suggested, nor was I taught it otherwise than by the immediate revelation of Jesus Christ.

Revelation signifieth the discovery of something which is secret (as the gospel, and doctrine of it, is called a mystery hid from ages). It may be objected, that Paul was instructed by Ananias, Acts 9:17. But this prejudiceth nothing the truth of what the apostle saith in this place, neither do we read of much that Ananias said to him in a way of instruction; it is only said, that he laid his hands on him, and he was filled with the Holy Ghost. When, or where, he had these revelations, the apostle saith not; probably while he lay in a trance, blind, and neither eating nor drinking for three days, Acts 9:9. Others think it was when he was caught up into the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2. Certain it is, that St. Paul had revelations from Christ, Acts 22:17,18 26:15-18. Revelation signifies an immediate conveying of the knowledge of Divine things to a person, without human means; and in that Paul ascribes the revelation of the gospel to Jesus Christ, he plainly asserts the Divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 13

It will be no difficult thing for you to believe, that I had never preached the gospel without a Divine revelation of the truth of it, if you do but reflect upon my former conversation; for you cannot but have heard, that I was born a Jew, educated in the Jewish religion, and was a zealous defender of it, so as I persecuted the Christians beyond measure. This unmeasurable persecution is expressed by Luke more particularly, Acts 8:3: He made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison; and Acts 9:1: He breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, & c. He wasted the church like an enemy that useth fire and sword, and all means to destroy. The word here used is eporyoun, which signifies to make a devastation; the word used in Acts 8:3 is elumaineto both words signify the most ruinating hostile actions. And this he saith was his conversation, or constant practice, so as they might reasonably think that something more than human had made a change in him, that he should now be a preacher of that doctrine, which he had before so abominated as that his whole business was to root out those that professed it.

Verse 14

The word here used, and translated profited, may be interpreted either of his own personal proficiency, and going on in the Jewish religion, or of his propagating of it, and making that to go on, which seemeth to be the sense of the same word, 2 Timothy 2:16. And it is observed, that active verbs in the Greek in imitation of the Heb. con. Pihil., sometimes signify to do an action oneself, sometimes to make others do it; and Paul’s wasting the Christian church had a rational tendency to uphold and propagate Judaism, the propagation of which was the end designed by it; this he saith he did above others of his countrymen, that were his equals in years. By this also he lets them know, that his persecuting the Christian church was not a passionate act, or for a gain to himself, but from an erroneous judgment, he verily thought that he ought to do what he against Jesus of Nazareth, and his disciples. He that he was

more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the fathers; by which he understands not only the rites of the ceremonial law, but the whole body of their constitutions, which the rulers of that church had made, under the notion of sepimenta legis, hedges or fences to the laws of God, to keep men at a distance from the violation of them; and other constitutions also, of which they had innumerable. Paul was a Pharisee, (the son of a Pharisee, Acts 23:6), bred up at the feet of Gamaliel (one of the doctors of their law); this was the strictest sect (for ceremonies) of their religion: and this his zeal for traditions, is that which he calleth a progress, or profiting in the Jewish religion, and was a cause of the propagation of that religion.

Verse 15

Here are two acts predicated of God, with relation to Paul: the first is a separating of him from the womb; the same was said of two of the great prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Isaiah 49:1 Jeremiah 1:5. The apostle here is not speaking of God’s decree, predestinating him to eternal life, but of his determining him to the work of an apostle. God predetermineth men to the stations they shall take up in the world; especially such who are to take up stations wherein they are to be eminently useful and serviceable to him. The second act predicated of God is his calling of Paul: this is an act in time, and lieth much in the preparing of persons for the work allotted to them, and in inclining the heart to it. Thus God called Paul, fitting him for the work of the ministry, and inclining him to it; to which he added his immediate command from heaven, that he should go and preach the gospel. Both these acts of God are ascribed to his good pleasure and grace, nothing but his mere free love and favour moving him, either to separate, or to call Paul to this high and great employment.

Verse 16

When it pleased God to discover Christ his Son (by an eternal generation) to me, whom neither naturally, nor from any instruction in my education, was acquainted with any thing of Christ, but, according to the common prejudices of those of my own country, looked upon him as a mere man, and an impostor; and also revealed to me the end of that discovery, not only that I myself should receive and embrace him, but that I should publish him amongst the heathens (where he intimates the specialty of his separation and call); I, saith he, immediately advised with no mortal man living, (for that is signified by flesh and blood, Matthew 16:17 1 Corinthians 15:50), but resolved with myself to address myself to that work and employment to which I had such a special call from God.

Verse 17

As Jerusalem was the place for the oracle of the law, under the Old Testament; so it also was for the gospel upon the first publication of it. There the disciples were; they returned thither after they had seen Christ ascend to heaven, Luke 24:52; from thence they were not to depart, but to wait there for the promise of the Father, Acts 1:4. There the Holy Ghost came down upon them, Acts 2:1-47 there they continued till the persecution scattered them; there was the college of the apostles. Paul saith, that, upon his conversion, he did not go up thither, nor till three years after (as he tells us in the next verse); but he went into Arabia, amongst the heathens, and the most wild and barbarous heathens, for such were the Arabians. Luke, in the Acts, tells us nothing of this. From hence it was easy to conclude, that Paul had not his commission from the other apostles that were before him, for he saw none of them till he had been a preacher of the gospel to the wild Arabians three years. And then he

returned to Damascus: the word is upestreqa, which is by some observed to signify his being compelled to return, (as they judge), by some persecution raised amongst the heathens; but of this the Scripture saith nothing.

Verse 18

These three years were spent partly in Arabia, partly at Damascus, whither he returned; and he, being there, was not idle, but, as Luke informs us, preached Christ in the synagogues, confounded the Jews, proving that this was the very Christ, which made the Jews take counsel to kill him: here it was that he escaped them, by being let down over the wall in a basket, Acts 9:20,22-25. Then he went to Jerusalem, where his conversion, and call to preach the gospel, was not heard of, (possibly in regard of the remoteness of Arabia, where he had spent most of those three years; or in regard of the troubled state of the church at Jerusalem at this time), insomuch that the disciples were afraid to admit him to join with them, until Barnabas had given testimony concerning him, Acts 9:27. He tells us here that he stayed there but

fifteen days; during which time Luke tells us, Acts 9:29, he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians.

Verse 19

The apostles were at this time scattered, either through the persecution, or for the fulfilling of the work of their apostleship; so as probably there were at this time no more of the apostles at Jerusalem, except Peter, and James the less, the son of Alpheus, who is here called the brother of our Lord, as is generally thought, according to the Hebrew idiom, who were wont to call near kinsmen, brethren. Upon another journey which Paul made to Jerusalem, he saw others (as we shall hear in the next chapter); but that was several years after this his first journey thither.

Verse 20

Whether those words, before God, make this sentence an oath, is not material to determine; they are either an oath, or a very serious asseveration. If the apostle designed to call God for a witness, to the correspondence of his words with the truth of the things he had spoken, they make up an assertory oath, which was lawful enough (though privately taken) in so serious a matter as this, where the apostle is vindicating his apostleship from some acts, of which probably he had no witnesses at hand to produce; but they may be understood (by the supplement of, I speak, or, I say this) only as a form of serious assertion, to confirm the truth of what he asserted. He minds them, that he was sensible of God’s presence in all places, and particular taking notice of the things spoken; as being spoken before him, who knew that what he spake was truth.

Verse 21

After that I came from Jerusalem, I came into the country of Syria; probably not to Damascus, the chief city of Syria, (where he had so narrow an escape in a basket), but into the country parts of Syria; for Syria lay in the way between Judea and Cilicia. It appeareth by Acts 9:30, that Paul was designed for Tarsus, his native place; where we are also told, that the brethren conducted him to Caesarea, which stood upon the confines of Syria. It is probable that he stayed some time at Tarsus; for there Barnabas found him, Acts 11:25,26, and brought him to Antioch; so that Paul had but fifteen days at Jerusalem to converse with the apostles, and in that time he saw none of them, but Peter, and James the son of Alpheus.

Verse 22

To be in Christ, signifieth:

1. Their being Christians indeed; they having received Christ by a true and lively faith, and given themselves to the obedience of his precepts. In this sense the apostle saith: If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.

2. Their being Christians in name, by baptism and outward profession. These churches are said to be in Christ in this latter sense.

We have a parallel text, 1 Thessalonians 2:14. They do not judge improperly, who think that by Judea here is not meant the province, but the whole country of Judea; which comprehended not Judea only, but Samaria and Galilee. John Baptist and our Saviour (who both mostly preached in Galilee) had prepared their due matter for gospel churches. Peter, and John, and Philip, preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans, Acts 8:25,40. Of all these churches Paul speaks, telling us he was personally unknown unto them; so far he was from learning the Christian doctrine from the apostles or them.

Verse 23

Though those churches in the country of Judea had never seen Paul’s person, yet they had heard of him:

1. That he had been a persecutor of those which professed the doctrine of the gospel, which he here calleth the faith, it being the object and the means of faith.

2. That there was such a change wrought in him, as that he was now become a preacher of that doctrine, for the profession of which he had formerly wasted and destroyed, the churches of Christ.

Verse 24

And they praised God on his behalf, for working so great a change in him.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Galatians 1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/galatians-1.html. 1685.