Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But 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. As 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.
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.
~ Galatians 1:1-10
This letter, sent by Paul, was to be read by a group of churches, not just a single church. Galatia, is a Roman province that was established in the year 25 BC which contained the churches found in the cities of Antioch in Pisidia, Derbe, Iconium, and Lystra. Acts 13:4-14 and vs 28 detail the time that Paul spent in this region, including when he and Barnabus were mistaken for gods after healing a man. In Iconium, Jews from Antioch stoned Paul and left him for dead, but he was well received in Derbe. The date of this letter is often placed sometime in 48 AD, shortly after he had finished evangelizing lower Galatia and he mentions here in this first section that he only recently left them.
So, that said, let’s get cracking! Paul, describes himself as a man who was not made an apostle by a council (as was the case for Matthias in Acts 1:12-26), nor through any other method, but who was ordained by Jesus Himself, as is described in Acts 9:1-30. He opens his letter, as is his custom, by opening his heart to them and pronouncing blessings on them and reminding them of the gospel which he preached to them at the beginning. This is important because, for the people receiving it, he is showing them that his message remains the same. Unfortunately, however, that only lasts for about the one sentence.
Very quickly after Paul left, there were infiltrations of Jews who sought to convert these newly converted Christians to a form of Judaism. These pseudo-christians would come into the new churches, proclaiming their own authority, and immediately begin to demean Paul; calling his authority into question and stating that he had only told them PART of what was required to be saved by God. They would then reveal the “whole” gospel to them by insisting that they follow the Jewish civil and ceremonial laws and that they would confirm their dedication to this brand of Judaism by getting circumcised. Paul stands firmly against that. He states that there is only one gospel of God that can be preached and that it is the gospel of Christ – that Jesus is God, that He died for their sins, and that He finished the work necessary for salvation on the cross. They don’t need to “DO” anything to receive this, outside of repenting of their sins and trusting in Him alone for their salvation. Once they have been converted they are wholly secure in their conversion. There is nothing else to add. More than that, anyone who adds to the good news that God has provided salvation for His elect is speaking in the place of God and, by their own law, condemned to death.
Paul, who proclaimed at the beginning of this letter that He was appointed by God Himself for this role, is claiming that He is speaking directly for God in this matter and that his authority rests not with him, but on the throne of Grace in Heaven where Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. He separates himself from the notion that he does anything for the purpose of his own glory, but that he does (and endures) all things for the sake of God. These impostors, on the other hand, are seeking the approval of the Jewish leaders by distorting the message of Christ. Paul makes it very clear where he stands on this matter – he stands with God and for God and by that statement he condemns the message of those who came in after him.