Returning from Arabia and Damascus to Jerusalem, Paul went to visit Cephas (v.18) and James the Lord’s brother, too (v.19, cf. Acts 12.17). Opinion seems to be divided as to whether this was a social call to Peter or a call to get information from him, as the NET puts it. Leaving due to threats on his life (Acts 9.29), Paul heads off into the regions of Syria and Cilicia (v.21).
During this time of travelling and teaching it seems that Paul was personally unknown to the churches of Judea (v.22), save for the stunning account of his conversion.
They were only hearing, “The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy.” So they glorified God because of me.
The total opposite of what he was being accused of (v.10), all that these Judean communities of believers know about Paul is that he was formally persecuting, now he is preaching. His conversion from a life of believer-pursuing zeal (Acts 9.1-2) to one preaching the good news of the faith is simply stunning. To go from the singular focus of breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord to one who considers himself a servant of Christ is amazing. Quite rightly then, when the churches in Judea hear about this they glorified God.
Believers were praising and glorifying God upon hearing reports that Paul was preaching the good news of the faith. As Campbell writes, this “…was a telling blow to the false teachers. The Jewish Christians in Judea rejoiced in the same gospel the Judaizers sought to undermine”.
The churches in Galatia had a choice to make then. They could listen to and act upon what the false teachers were saying in order to divide the community into Jewish Jesus followers and non-Jewish Jesus followers, or, they could listen to Paul’s Divinely attested-to truth (v.20), backed up by the reports of the rejoicing in the Judean churches.
A lot of times we too have a choice like this to make. We can listen to and act upon the plain and simple and straightforward teaching of God’s Word, or we can listen to those who seek to insert division into what should, in theory, be indivisible. We can take the Gospel as something that brings people together and creates unity, or we can take it as a tool to divide and create splintered, fractured communities (a table for this kind of people, a table for this kind of people…).
One of those choices is a right and proper perspective on the work of the Messiah (vv.3-5), and one, as Paul puts it, is a different gospel. Choose wisely.