From Persecutor to Preacher: Paul’s Personal Testimony in Galatians 1

I. Introduction (1:1-5)

Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and greets the Galatians with a message of grace and peace.

In the Bible, an apostle is generally defined as a person who is sent out on a mission or commission, usually by God or Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel and establish the church. The term “apostle” comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “one who is sent out.”

Many epistles in the New Testament are greeted with the words “grace and peace” because they reflect important aspects of the Christian faith and message.

First, “grace” is a fundamental concept in Christianity, referring to the undeserved favor and kindness that God shows towards humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, for example, often emphasizes the importance of grace in his letters, such as in Romans 3:24-25, where he writes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” By greeting his readers with “grace,” he is reminding them of this central message of the gospel.

Second, “peace” is another important concept in Christianity, reflecting the inner calm and assurance that believers have through their faith in Christ. In John 14:27, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” By greeting his readers with “peace,” the author of an epistle is reminding them of this promise of inner peace and security in Christ.

Overall, the greeting of “grace and peace” serves as a reminder of the core message of Christianity, which is based on God’s grace towards humanity and the peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

I can remember a specific moment in my life where God demonstrated grace and peace to me. I was in college, living for the pleasures of this world rather than God. I was drinking quite often, labeled myself an atheist, and rejected Christians who would tell me about the love of Jesus.

Thankfully, God never gave up on me. He kept sending missionaries and evangelists my way, and it wasn’t until my life became very dark and depressing that I started to think about whether or not God had a plan for me.

I knew my drinking and partying got out of hand and I didn’t want to fail in school or get kicked off the swim team. So I decided to leave my old friends behind and move-in with some guys who were believers. Looking back, I am amazed how these Christians took a heathen like myself and let me move in. Overtime, I began reading the Bible and believing in the goodness and grace of the Lord. Throughout the process, I continued experiencing the grace and peace of Christ, and he hasn’t left me ever since!

II. Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship (1:6-24)

Paul expresses his shock that the Galatians have turned away from the gospel that he preached to them, and he denounces the false teachers who have been misleading them.

Paul denounces these false teachers who were promoting a distorted version of the gospel that he had preached to the Galatians. While the identity of these false teachers is not specified in the letter, some scholars have suggested that they were likely a group of Jewish Christians who had come to Galatia and were insisting that Gentile converts to Christianity needed to follow Jewish customs and practices, such as circumcision and observance of the Jewish dietary laws, in order to be fully accepted into the Christian community.

However, there are scholars who maintain that the dietary laws are still to be kept by Christians today for reasons such as health, obedience to Torah, holiness, and cultural continuity.

The argument for health is based on the notion that food restrictions in Leviticus 11 were designed to protect people from diseases that can be transmitted through animals. For example, avoiding pork and shellfish can help prevent trichinosis and other infections.

One Christian author who makes this argument is Dr. Josh Axe, a nutritionist and author of several books on health and wellness. In his book “Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It,” he writes:

“The Bible provides us with a detailed list of dietary laws that were given to the ancient Israelites. These laws were designed to protect the people from harmful toxins and pathogens that can be found in certain animals. For example, the prohibition against eating pork was likely based on the fact that pigs can carry parasites that can cause illness in humans” (p. 36).

Some Christians argue that keeping the dietary laws is a form of obedience to God’s commands. They believe that God gave these laws for a reason, and that following them shows reverence for God and His word. This argument is based on the idea that God’s commands are meant to be followed, even if they don’t always make sense to us.

One Christian author who makes this argument is Tim Hegg, a Messianic Jewish scholar and author of several books on Jewish-Christian relations. In his book “The Letter Writer: Paul’s Background and Torah Perspective,” he writes:

“By maintaining the laws of kashrut [dietary laws], the Jewish people obey God’s commandments and maintain their identity as His people. As followers of Yeshua [Jesus], we are grafted into this identity and called to maintain the same obedience” (p. 73).

Other Christians argue that following the dietary laws is a way to pursue holiness and set themselves apart from the world. By abstaining from certain foods, they can demonstrate their commitment to God and their desire to live a holy life. This argument is based on the idea that holiness is a central value in the Bible, and that dietary laws are one way to express this value.
One Christian author who makes this argument is D. Thomas Lancaster, a Messianic Jewish author and teacher. In his book “The Holy Epistle to the Galatians,” he writes:

“The laws of kashrut are a vital part of the Torah’s instructions for holiness. They teach us how to separate ourselves from the unclean practices of the world and how to sanctify ourselves for God’s service. By following these laws, we demonstrate our commitment to holiness and our desire to please God” (p. 56).

Finally, some believers argue that keeping the dietary laws helps maintain a connection with the Jewish roots of the faith. They believe that the dietary laws are an important part of Jewish culture and tradition, and that following them can help Christians better understand the history and context of the Bible. This argument is based on the idea that the Bible is rooted in Jewish culture and that understanding this culture is important for understanding the Bible.

It’s clear that Paul was speaking out against the Judaizers and focusing on the simplicity of the gospel, but exactly what these Judaizers taught or believed is still up for debate as you can see there are arguments in favor of keeping the dietary laws for several reasons. I believe Paul wanted to focus intentionally on the gospel.

The gospel is the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead, and who offers eternal life to all who believe in him. It is a message of God’s grace and love, and of the hope and peace that come through faith in Jesus Christ.

Moreover, Paul defends his own apostolic authority, arguing that he received his message directly from God through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul recounts his own personal history, including his conversion on the road to Damascus and his subsequent ministry among the Gentiles.

Paul also stresses the importance that his apostleship was not conferred upon him by any human authority, but rather on Jesus Christ himself. For he states in Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”Finally, Paul defends his apostleship in Galatians 2:9 when he writes that these apostles “perceived the grace that was given to me” and “gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.”

In summary, Galatians 1 serves as an introduction to the letter, focusing on Paul’s claim to apostolic authority and the origin of his gospel. Paul emphasizes the divine source of his message and his independence from the other apostles, while also acknowledging his relationship with them. He warns against the false teachings of the Judaizers who were imposing Jewish customs on Gentile converts, insisting that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. Through his message, Paul highlights the essential nature of grace and the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, which is the foundation of our salvation.

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