Part 1: Paul’s Introduction – The Power of God (1:1)
By reading the first two chapters of Galatians, one can infer that Paul wrote this letter because he was concerned about the Galatians’ understanding of the Gospel. He was worried that they were “turning to a different Gospel” (Galatians 1:9), one which emphasized that a person is “justified by works of the law” (2:15), including circumcision (2:3, 2:7-9). In response to these false teachers, he wrote this letter to the Galatians upholding the doctrine of salvation through faith alone.
1Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
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. (1:1-5)
The first five verses of Galatians serve as a thesis of sorts, outlining and briefly introducing the contents of Paul’s letter. They support the belief that God saved man through His work on the cross, and His work alone, by grace for glory.
Paul was chosen and called by God to be an apostle. He did not get his authority from man, but from God. He has no authority to bestow that title rightfully upon himself. He was ordained by God. Paul makes this clear to differentiate himself from the teachers who created their own version of the gospel (1:11-12), distorted it into a version of legalism. He implies that by preaching “man’s gospel” (1:11), these teachers derived their authority from man, themselves, and not God. Paul tells the Galatians that these people who derive their authority from men are false teachers.
This is analogous to salvation. We are chosen and called by God to be saved. We are saved by God through Jesus Christ. Any gospel that claims that salvation can be gained through effort is a false gospel. Paul says, “[He] called me by his grace” (Gal. 1:15). He understands more than anyone else the importance of God’s call in salvation, much less apostleship. How else to explain the conversion of one who persecuted Christians to one of their own number?
Just as Paul does not credit his apostleship to himself, but by God, we also do not credit our salvation from ourselves, we credit it to God. Substitute the words “an apostle” in verse 1 with “a redeemed man”:
1Paul, [a redeemed man]—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead . . . (1:1)
The verse still makes perfect sense. This parenthetical clause emphasizes Paul’s authority as given by God, but also works to stress to the Galatians and us that our salvation comes from God and God alone.
God calls us to salvation because God alone has the power to save. God is perfect, thus we are infinitely inferior because we are imperfect. The only way we could save ourselves is if someone else perfect traded places with us, else we would have to do an infinite amount of good work to atone for our sins. Never mind the fact that in our sinful state we do not want to reconcile with God. There is no number of good works we can ever do to reconcile with God, to justify ourselves before God. Therefore it is only God that can save us, not contingent on any of our feeble efforts (Gal. 2:16, Eph. 2:8-9) and Paul attests to this glorifying fact here in verse 1, to counter the foolishness the Galatians have begun to believe.
Paul makes the case that apostleship comes from God alone. But as is also evident, he makes the case in this first verse that salvation comes from God alone, “through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (1:1). The power of God is such that He alone is able to appoint apostles, and He alone is able to save.