Galatians 1:10-24 – Paul’s Freedom as an Apostle

At the beginning of the letter to the Galatians, Paul must clarify his relationship with the Jerusalem church.  Polhill wonders why Paul thought he had to spend so much effort at the beginning of this letter to prove his independence of his Apostolic office (Paul and his Letters, 146).  The usual answer, he comments, is that his opponents, the Judaizers, are attacking him as an illegitimate apostle, forcing him to defend his calling.

There is another possibility for this autobiographical section, according to Polhill.  He may be offering his life as a model for the Galatians.  Paul was converted to a gospel of freedom on the road to Damascus, just as the Galatians were when Paul preached that gospel to them.  Just as Paul did not go back to Jerusalem and place himself under the authority of the old order, now the Galatians ought to resist “returning to Jerusalem” by keeping the Law.

The bottom line is that if Paul is under the authority of Jerusalem, then it is at least possible that the “men from James” could claim that Paul has not been authorized to preach a gospel to the Gentiles which frees them from the Law. These Judaizers may have styled themselves as the real followers of Jesus and Paul as the aberration.  Paul therefore stresses that his calling is from the resurrected Jesus himself and that his gospel came directly from the Lord.

At issue here is not the Gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-5). Paul clearly states that this gospel was passed along to him as the primary core of the gospel.  It is also clear that the preaching of Christ Crucified can be found in the apostolic preaching form the beginning.  What Paul is going to argue in the next two chapters is that his Gospel is Christ Crucified, but when the death and resurrection of Christ is applied to the gentiles, they are not under the Law.  They are not converts to Judaism by rather adopted children of God and therefore free from the law.

Paul is therefore adamant that Gentiles who try to keep the Law are not really followers of Jesus,  but rather Gentiles who are converting to Judaism.  What sort of ethical and social ramifications will this “freedom in Christ” have on his churches?  That is the point of the last third of the letter.

19 thoughts on “Galatians 1:10-24 – Paul’s Freedom as an Apostle

  1. With this freedom from the law through Christ being preached to the Gentiles there leaves room for some definite social and ethical differences between the Jewish and Gentile churches. The Jewish lifestyle of following the law out of obligation is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus, and later Paul. As I said in my other post, Jesus fulfilled the law that was set up for the Jewish people, hence giving freedom from it to all who believed in him and received righteousness through faith. (Romans 10:4) The same heart of the law continues, but there is no condemnation from not following it. (Romans 8:1-2)
    As far as social and ethical ramifications, the Gentiles are still being called by Jesus to spread the Gospel, care for widows and orphans, give to the needy, live a pure life, and put others before themselves, but not in the same way that the Jews were prior to Christ’s death and resurrection. Also, the very obvious physical ramification of circumcision is not a requirement. The followers of Christ were to be set apart through their living, out of their love for Christ. There is no longer any physical, social, or spiritual difference. All who are in Christ are “a part of the new creation where the old human distinctions of race, status, and sex no longer have a place.” (Polhill 148) The Gentiles, through Christ, are no longer outcasts or dogs, but are equal to the chosen people, Israel. All are equal, and such distinctions as circumcision and race have been replaced with being set apart in the heart through righteousness.

    • David’s last paragraph here is beautiful; I wouldn’t take away anything that he has written. I believe his writing is a very accurate description of what Polhill describes in chapter 8. I do think there is one part that I can add to his description here, and that is the understanding that came from the Jerusalem Counsel by James.

      Acts 15:19-20 “Therefore it is my judgement that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” This scripture was used in regards to table fellowship between the Jews and gentiles.

      On page 148, Polhill also uses a great build up of the use of Scriptures that Paul uses to defend his argument in galatians. The Judiazers seemed to promote their message through the use of the Old Testament Scriptures; however, Paul emphasizes the gospel given to him by the LORD and corrects the Judiazers interpretation. Paul makes an appeal that “Abraham’s standing with God was not based on circumcision or any other work but solely on faith.” Paul also argues that to keep a limited part of the law is to keep the whole approach to the law. The law was meant to bring an awareness of sin, that would lead to the saving knowledge of the LORD Jesus Christ.

  2. Paul’s gospel message was an independent message. “It came directly from God. He was called from his mother’s womb. It was neither his own doing nor that of any other person.” (Polhill, 146) Polhill’s two options though for the reason of Paul’s “autobiographical” section of Galatians were that he was forced to or that he did it so he could be a model to the Galatians. I personally lean towards his story as being an example. He says in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The apostles in Jerusalem may have in fact wanted Paul to include the independence of his message into his letter, however, Paul wrote to bring God the glory. He was a servant of Christ, and if he was truly trying to please men, he would have, as he pointed out, refrained from becoming this servant of Christ. This leads me to believe that Paul wrote this particular section for God, as he has with all of his other writings, but I am open to there definitely being a correlation of interests.

  3. I agree with David that this “freedom in Christ” will definitely unify the Body, but I feel that there would have been some very sketchy moments during the time that followed shortly after. The Jewish Christians were already used to following the law, so this new life governed by Christ probably came a little easier than for the Gentile Christians. There very quickly would have arisen the question from the Gentiles of how much weight the law would have on them and how freely they should all live their lives. In Romans 6:1 Paul says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” These ethical questions would have had a large impact upon his churches and gave Paul an opportunity to express Christ’s truth on these matters.

    • I do not think you meant to do this, but it sounds almost like you are saying, since the gentiles are smarmy sinners to start with, keeping the Law would be hard for them, so let’s just skip it. Seems to me Paul is pretty hard on sin, he is upset about some rituals. What is the difference?

  4. Paul seemed to place a great emphasis on the fact that when someone accepts what Christ has done, they are indeed born again, or brand new. Some specific instances are seen in 2 Corinthians 5:7, where he explains, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” And also in Galatians 2:20, where he makes it a little more personal: ”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Polhill explains it like this: “Paul often spoke of salvation in terms of our dying with Christ, dying to the old way of life, dying to the law” (Polhill, 146). In my mind, Paul did not solely hate on gentiles for trying to abide by the law, but his attitude was more emphasized on being in Christ and doing things in pursuit of a life in which one followed Jesus Christ whole heartedly, rather than abide by a list. The ramifications this could result in, is people taking freedom in Christ as a way to make excuses for their sin and such, but at the same time, one who follows Christ and is in Christ (which Paul emphasizes) still should live a life worthy of Christ (Philippians 1:27), even though the law is a non-factor.

  5. This distinction between being converted to Judaism and following Christ is quite interesting but also very important. It seems like a logical connection for the Jews to make for the gentiles to be added into the family of God by becoming a Jew. However, as Paul points out this logic is faulty. Gentiles because they are not the chosen people of God are free from having to follow and be bound by the law. As a gentile Christian I imagine it would have been quite confusing which is why it is so important to Paul to write about this. As gentile Christians we are not less than the Jews (Gal, 3:8), but are instead equal to them and need not conform to the way that they did things. This is not to say that gentiles are not to be moral but that they need not keep the rituals of Jews.

  6. Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” I really like that Paul clarifies this at the beginning of this section of scripture. To me it sets apart what Paul is doing is his mission. He is not trying to win the approval of anyone. All he wants to do is the work of the Lord. With this, he also brings up the point that what he is teaching is not of man, it is of the Lord. Gal. 1:12. He is really setting man apart from God. His Teaching is of the Lord given to him to preach to men, but for the glory of God.

  7. The freedom of the gospel of Christ is one that the Jewish world had never known before. The laws that they followed had been in place since the time of Moses and then a revolution happened, Christ fulfilled the law. The transition was not an easy one to make. There was much to debate over how freeing this new freedom was, in other words, what would happen to the Law? Paul came to realize that this freedom was true, that the laws that were being followed were no longer applicable. Circumcision was not a sign of obedience anymore. The debate over what constituted work on the Sabbath was now obsolete. What people were being invited into was not a following of laws regulations but a state of freedom. Paul wants to reassure those that he is writing to that this freedom is indeed from God. This is why Paul adamantly explains that he received from God and not from man lest it be tainted by man. I believe that this is where the autobiographical section (Galatians 1:10-24) gets its roots. The Judaizers were insisting that the Gentiles uphold the Jewish laws. Paul wants the Gentiles to know that the laws are obsolete and that they can trust him on this because he received the gospel from the risen Christ Himself.

  8. Since Paul’s conversion some time had past before he wrote to the church in Galatia. Rumors had started to fester and be passed around, by the Judaizers, about the legitimacy of Paul’s gospel message and he obviously had enough of his apostolic calling questioned. He opened his letter to the Galatians up with “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Galatians 1:1 ESV)”. They were accusing him of his ministry of being of man, as it was not fully in line with the Judaizer Christian view of the Gospel.

    Polhill believes this as well. On page 139 he states “In fact, they seemed to have brought Paul’s apostolic status into question, accusing him of being subordinate to the Jerusalem apostles (1:15-2:9) and of receiving his gospel “from men” (1:1, 11-12).” Paul goes on to say that anyone preaching a different Gospel is accursed as the ESV states it. I can only imagine the sheer ferocity coming from his voice when he said this. He wished that they would just finish the job of the circumcision and castrate themselves (Polhill 140).

  9. Freedom in Christ was a completely new concept to the people at the time. After years of rules and laws to follow, this idea that all they needed was Christ was totally revolutionary. The Galatians were just like the rest of the world in that they were learning new things about Christ, and the freedom he brings. I agree with Cody when he says that the transition was probably not an easy one to make. Paul new and understood the new freedom better than anybody. “Paul thus held himself up as a model of freedom and urged the Galatians to follow his example” (146) So Paul used his story as an example to the Galatians, of how the freedom of Christ can change a life.

  10. Paul states right away in Galatians 1:10 “If I were still trying to please men, then I would not be a servant of Christ.” PLong I think that Paul is trying to really emphasize the fact that acts for men is completely useless compared to doing works for God. In this passage of scripture Paul is really hammering the point across to the Galatian Church that even though they are under the rule of Jerusalem and the Laws of Christ that they still need to stay true to their cultures and to their ways of living for Christ. Even though they make up part of the body of believers, the hand cannot do the work of the foot, so the place of the Galatian church is completely relevant and completely needed for their own portion of bringing other to Christ. How can they reach their own people if they completely leave their own culture?
    Paul was sticking his passion into leading the Galatians, and for telling them about following rules and for their independence. He needed to share his story, share his status as a leader of the Church, by telling everything he went through and speaking about what needed to be done. Although it is a little long winded it is a needed thing for Paul’s journey and for his apostolic message.

  11. “Freedom in Christ” was the main idea behind Galatians. Paul wrote this topic in reaction to the Galatians experiencing issues with Judaizers. The ethical and social ramifications brought by this would refuse the teachings of the Judaizers. As Cody said, “The freedom of the gospel of Christ is one that the Jewish world had never known before.” They had no knowledge of a world free from the Torah. Socially this would have meant the Jews would no longer be socially separated from the Gentiles. Also it would mean the Jews were no longer superior to Gentiles. This would apply to simple things such as Jews and Gentiles eating at the same table. Paul chastises Peter for this in Galatians 2:11-12. During a meal with Jewish and Gentile Christians at Antioch, Peter drew back from the Gentile Christians and chose to sit with only Jewish Christians. Social behaviors like that were unacceptable now that there was no difference between Jew and Gentile. Ethically the difference would have come in the issues of circumcision and Judaizers telling the Gentile Christians they were wrong for not keeping the Torah. The new ethic established by the “freedom in Christ” would call for those who never kept the law to refrain from trying to keep it and become Jews, and for Jews to continue keeping the law. This firmly established a right and wrong for the Galatians to adhere to in the new ethic and social behavior brought by “freedom in Christ”.

  12. Paul’s story was an excellent example of salvation and conversion. He offered a story of freedom and forgiveness that Galatia had not heard yet. Polhill rights, “He may have introduced the autobiographical section to provide a model for the Galatians (146).” I believe that this helped them learn and appreciate it. ” For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 10:10).” Galatia would have hopefully understood this and seen what freedom in Christ can do for them.

  13. Having freedom in Christ means that we don’t have to work to earn God’s favor. For the Galatians, this meant they didn’t have to be circumcised or follow the law. As Galatians 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” For us, freedom means that we are accepted just as we are. As I learned in Foundations of Worship this past Thursday, we don’t need to always be thinking, “Aw man, I’m so screwed up. I wonder what sins I committed today…” God will tell us through His Holy Spirit when we’re living in sin. That’s one of His jobs. But He also convicts us of righteousness, as John 16:8 says, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” We ought thus to live in the freedom we possess, realizing our righteous and free position and “rejoice evermore,” as Paul so frequently admonishes. As Polhill writes, “Christ has called us to freedom; do not submit to a ‘yoke of slavery,’ which the Judaizers’ appeal to the law would be” (pg. 151).

  14. Because Paul’s call “came directly from God” (Polhill 146), he had a completely different message than simply holding fast to the Law. That is where this “freedom in Christ” comes from, Paul was “entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised” (Galatians 2:7). Salvation had been opened to all people now. As David said, “There is no longer any physical, social, or spiritual difference.”

    As far as social ramifications, I believe that David covered it too well for me to be original. Gentiles are not required to follow the law to receive salvation. However, if they are true believers in Christ, it should show in their lives. Simply because they are not saved because of the law, does not mean they should ignore it all together.

  15. It means the same thing that It meant like three weeks ago. That Jews can do what Jews want to do and Gentiles can do what Gentiles want to do. I guess I just don’t understand why this is a big deal? Sure the Jews didn’t like it all that much, but Jesus came and turned things around a bit, so the Jews need to get over it. Just like our school needs to get over the idea that earrings are bad. Its rather silly when you look at it from the outside. All things to all people. Its as simple as that phrase.
    As for social ramifications, The Jews are going to get pissed, but them getting upset isn’t going to change anyone’s salvation. Its only going to make them look like idiots to all the Gentiles. Paul must have been SO frustrated with the Jews being so obsessed with the law and not obsessed with Christ. Lord knows I wouldn’t have survived.

  16. I think that freedom in Christ means that we no longer have to try to do the impossible any longer (follow the law to perfection) but that we now get to live in the age of grace with Christ’s atonement for our sins. Polhill (149) points out that Paul compared the law to a guardian. As Galatians 3:25 says, we are justified by faith now and are no longer in need of a guardian. Now that maturity has come they no longer need the law but get to exercise freedom in Christ.

    I bet that some of the Jews were afraid to come out from the law because they were comfortable with it. Just as a single 40 year old man doesn’t want to leave home because they are simply comfortable having their mother cater to their needs and make decisions for them by telling them what to do.

    I also think that it is understandable that the new churches, like the Galatian church, started to falter because they possibly felt like a lost freshmen at a large university without a parent’s guidance.

  17. I think the Judaizers here may have been Jewish Christians in the Galatian community, possibly even the church, who were those kind of people who just automatically think they are better than everyone else. They were probably a close clique or community of those kind of people that just really enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing. They do not care at all whether they are right or not, they just love acting like they are basically God. I picture them looking down their noses at the Galatian Gentile Christians as they are crossing them on the street. While their point that Gentiles should follow the Law does make some sense for someone uninformed, it just was not something to be argued with Paul.

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