I recommend that you and the Witnesses take turns reading through Galatians a few verses at a time and then pausing to discuss what it has taught so far. This will be an unfamiliar process to them. They are used to reading Watchtower literature which contains Bible quotations cited in support of the Watchtower teaching. Here, you are getting your teaching verse by verse in the order in which Paul presents it.
1:1-2: Paul, an apostle– not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
Ask, “Where is Galatia?” The Witnesses may or may not know. It’s an area in what is now Turkey where Paul established churches during his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).
1:3: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
The Watchtower’s New World Translation says “undeserved kindness” rather than grace. Ask the Witnesses if they believe there is a difference. You can say, “When I hear it called ‘undeserved kindness,’ it sound to me like the emphasis is on “undeserved” rather than on “kindness.” Is that how you view it?” They will probably deny that, but you will have planted seeds that may bear fruit later.
1:4-5: who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Ask the Witnesses, “How would you summarize Paul’s gospel message?” If they tell you it involves the kingdom of God and exaltation of the name “Jehovah,” I recommend that you say, “Okay… Well, so far in Galatians he hasn’t used the words ‘kingdom’ or ‘Jehovah.’ The focus in these verses seems to be the person of Christ and the price he paid to atone for our sins.
1:6-7: 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— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
Point out that this establishes that there are distortions of the gospel that is in opposition to Paul’s message which focuses on the grace of Christ.
1:8-12: 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Apparently these false teachers were claiming to have some sort of divine revelation of their gospel, but in fact what they were teaching came from men rather than from Christ.
1:13-14: For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And 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.
Ask the Witnesses to summarize Paul’s former life in Judaism. What did he believe? What you are looking for is that he was a Pharisee who thought keeping the law and observing man-made traditions was the way to please God.
1:15-20: But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But 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!)
Point out that Paul is giving an example of grace. God chose Paul by grace, despite his violence and persecution of Christians. Paul only met briefly with the apostles, and that three years after his conversion. Paul didn’t get his understanding of the gospel from Jesus’ disciples. He got it directly from Jesus himself.
1:21-24: Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
Summary of Galatians 1:
- Paul got his gospel message from Jesus Christ himself
- This gospel message centers on God’s grace and on Christ’s sacrificial death to pay the penalty for our sins.
- An example of this grace is God choosing Paul to be an apostle while Paul was persecuting Christians and proclaiming obeying the Jewish law and traditions as the way to be right with God.
- False teachers were proclaiming a false gospel to the Galatians, a gospel this was somehow opposed to Paul’s message of grace.
- So far in Galatians, Paul hasn’t mentioned God’s kingdom or the name “Jehovah.”