Galatians 1 – God’s Gospel vs Man’s Gospel

The Gospel

3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

v3 Why do we need grace and peace?

v4 Grace is for our sins which kept us from God.

v5 What is the result of this gospel?

Glory to God. If we focus on our own salvation, we’ve missed the point of the gospel.

More Gospel

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel –

If we speed right through this statement on the way towards Paul’s next thought we’ll miss something extraordinary.

What does Paul associate this different gospel with?

Turning to another gospel is not deserting a system of belief. It’s not deserting a lifestyle. It’s not deserting a community of faith. It’s deserting “him who called” us. What does that say about the nature of the gospel?

If embracing a different gospel is to desert God, embracing the true gospel must mean standing in fellowship with God. The gospel of v3-5 is not something to be merely believed. It is the foundation of a relationship.

Before Paul explores this relationship, he is going to use chapters 1 and 2 to help us eradicate the false gospel from our lives.

A Contrary Gospel

7not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10For 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.

v7-9 Paul is quick to point out that the message which the Galatians are embracing is not actually good news. The judgment against someone preaching another gospel is severe. By the time we’ve completed chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 we’ll see why this condemnation is so strong.

v10 Paul puts the reactions the two gospels receive in contrast with each other. This contrary gospel is pleasing to mankind and receives the approval of men. The gospel of Christ is pleasing to God and gains His approval. The implication here is that this contrary gospel is pleasing to men to the exclusion of pleasing God and the gospel of Christ is pleasing to God to the exclusion of pleasing men. This tension leads us to ask why the good news from God would not be pleasing to men.

I believe that the answer lies in the verse’s conclusion. Paul contrasts popularity among men with being a “servant of Christ.” Servitude is not something we tend to aspire to. It isn’t something we like. Servitude is demeaning. Why, then, is it a part of Paul’s identity in the true gospel? And what is the relationship between the servanthood of v10 and the fellowship with Christ of v6?


As we walk through the rest of chapter 1, Paul will begin to make this point evident.

The Gospel In Paul’s Life

11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24And they glorified God because of me.

v11-12, 17-20 Paul takes some time to dismiss accusations against him that his message was a derivative of some other message. His message was directly given by God and was not the product of men.

Paul is about to tell us two things. He is going to give us his testimony in a mirror of v3-5 to demonstrate the fruit of the true gospel in his life. He is also, as a part of his testimony, going to define the gospel of man.

v13-14 Paul has the Galatians recall his life prior to Christ. It was characterized by persecuting the Church. This is the mirror of v4 – our sin.

v15-16 Here we find the mirror of v3 – Christ’s sacrifice for us saving us from the penalties of our sin.

v23-24 The mirror of v5, Paul’s life was so changed by the gospel that people glorified God because of him.

We see Paul’s testimony here, but what of our question? What is the gospel of man? It’s wrapped up in Paul’s former life recorded in v13-14. Paul, in his zeal was advancing in his religion. Paul was advancing himself in an effort to earn something. That something was heaven.

What’s the problem with advancing? Isn’t it a good thing to do good works and be zealous for our religion? Certainly, but Paul was relying on himself to advance to the point where he had earned a place in heaven. He was treating God like a cosmic businessman – doing enough to earn His favor. Putting God in his debt.

This is appealing to man (v10) because it empowers us to take control of our destiny. It empowers us to put God in our debt. Most people believe that they will go to heaven if they are basically good. This is man’s gospel; and it is an abomination (v7-9).

If we leave this section with only an explanation of man’s gospel we might miss something big. There is also an appeal to the true gospel: When Paul was converted, it wasn’t because he gained a new systematic theology. God did not reveal a message about Christ to him. God revealed Christ to him. This is an echo of v6 where Paul explained that the good news of Christ is more than a message but a relationship.

As we continue into chapter 2 Paul will begin explaining how we cast off the gospel of man so that the true gospel can take hold of our lives. Later in the epistle, once we have cast off all traces of man’s gospel, Paul will help us strengthen this relationship.

Application Questions

1. Does the gospel to which I hold please man or God? Why?

2. Is my gospel, at its foundation, a relationship with God or a series of beliefs?

3. Is my identity found in being a servant of God?

4. Are my efforts an attempt to advance myself or glorify God? The two are mutually exclusive.

5. How do I try to advance myself in God’s eyes? In my church’s eyes?

6. Is God glorified because of me?

You may be thinking that there are some hanging strings here, and you’d be right.

1. How do I eradicate the false gospel from our life?

2. What does it mean and look like to be a servant of God?

3. If the gospel is really a fellowship with God, how do we foster that relationship?

Paul doesn’t leave us hanging on these questions. Make sure you subscribe and meet back with us next time as we explore these questions in chapter 2.

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