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Galatians

May 16, 2009

Background

I. Introduction Galatians 1:1-5

II. Paul’s Disappointment Galatians 1:6-10

III. The True Gospel Defined Galatians 1:11-2:21

  1. By Paul’s Teaching and Revelation         Gal 1:11-12
  2. By Paul’s Calling                                             Gal. 1:13-17
  3. By Peter and James                                      Gal. 1:18-24
  4. By the Jerusalem Council                          Gal. 2:1-10
  5. By a Lifestyle of Faith                                 Gal. 2:11-21

IV. Faith and the Law Compared Galatians 3:1-29

  1. The Power of Faith and the Law               Gal. 3:1-5
  2. The Promise of Faith and the Law            Gal 3:6-18
  3. The Purpose of Faith and the Law            Gal. 3:19-29

V. Faith Alone, a Clarification Galatians 4:1-5:1

  1. We are His Children              Gal. 4:1-7
  2. We are Free                              Gal. 4:6-5:1

VI. A Warning Galatians 5:2-26

  1. Do Not Abandon the True Gospel              Gal. 5:2-12
  2. Do not Practice a Sinful Lifestyle                Gal 5:13-15

VII. An Exhortation Galatians 5:16-6:10

  1. Live by the Spirit                          Gal. 5:16-26
  2. Support One Another                  Gal 6:1-6
  3. Serve One Another                      Gal. 6:7-10

VIII. Conclusion Galatians 6:11-18

Background

This letter to the Galatians is definitely written by Paul. It is best understood
after reading Luke’s account of Paul’s three missionary journeys recorded in
Acts 13-20. This letter is the most formal non-personal letter Paul wrote in
that there is no one other than Paul mentioned in either the greeting or the
letter’s conclusion. It is even more formal than Romans or Hebrews in that regard.

The date of writing is not really known. What we do know is that Paul visited
the Galatians to the south on his first missionary journey, established churches
there, and followed up with them on his second missionary journey and perhaps
even on his third missionary journey although they are not specifically mentioned.

The place of writing is unknown too. Galatians is believed to be one of Paul’s
first letters if not the first. Most scholars, depending on their point of view,
date the letter between 47-57AD. That is quite a range in dates. The range is
large because some believe it was written to the northern Galatia churches where
we have little or no known recorded visit by Paul. Such would explain its impersonal
tone. Some believe it was written to the southern Galatia churches from Antioch
after Paul’s first missionary journey and after the Jerusalem Council took place.
And of course there are many other possibilities. Personally, I prefer a later
date; after Paul’s second missionary journey and perhaps after his third. I’m
most comfortable with having Paul write it from Ephesus after having quickly
traveled through the region in order to get to Ephesus. Perhaps Timothy was
elsewhere as were others who participated with Paul and were from that region.
But this is all speculation and just my “gut” feeling.

The subject of Paul’s letter is very clear. It concerns the infiltration of
legalism into the Doctrine of Salvation. That was the subject of the Jerusalem
Council too. A letter confirming the decisions of that Council was delivered
to all the known churches at that time. These churches in Galatia were familiar
with that letter and Paul refers to some of the meetings that took place at
that time in Chapter 2.


Introduction                                                       Galatians 1:1-5

Paul begins by stating forthright that his Apostleship is based on his specific
calling and communication from God Himself to bring the Gospel to the Galatians/Gentiles.
Paul was personally called by God; not appointed by man. In defining who Jesus
Christ is, Paul makes mention of His resurrection by God the Father, a foundational
belief and doctrine of the Christian Faith.

Evidently many disciples/believers surround Paul where this is written. They
are not mentioned by name so they are probably unknown to the Galatians. This
leads to the speculation mentioned in the Background as to when and where this
letter was written.

Paul’s greeting of Grace and Peace is longer than most of his letters, again
defining the Lord Jesus as the One who died for our sin to provide the way for
our salvation. He did it in obedience to His Father’s Will. The end result is
great rejoicing, thanksgiving, and glory to God forever.

Paul’s Disappointment                                    Galatians 1:6-10

Paul gets to his point quickly and abruptly. He is disappointed that the Galatians
have diminished and even turned from the doctrine of salvation by grace and
are returning to an emphasis of salvation by works. They are diminishing the
work of God and emphasizing the work of man. They are listening to the wrong
people, probably Jewish Christians who are still zealous about their laws. They
are deserting the “one” who had called them by grace; presumably the
Holy Spirit but he could also be referring to himself. It only takes a few influential
people with the wrong theology to direct people away from the truth. That is
why it is so critical for us as believers to maintain the Bible as the Word
of God and accept it as our only and final authority [see II Timothy 3:16-17].

Paul asks them to recall clearly the Gospel they accepted as The Truth; the
Gospel Paul preached, the Gospel with no strings attached, the Gospel pure and
simple, the Gospel as stated in verses 1 and 3:

  1. Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead by God the Father.
  2. Jesus Christ and the Father are One.
  3. Jesus Christ willingly died for our sin.

This Gospel was God’s plan, God’s idea to restore fellowship with His creation
[man], conquering the curse of sin, and bringing glory to God for all eternity.
Anyone deviating from the true Gospel is worthy of condemnation by God, a very
severe penalty. God takes the Gospel seriously. Paul takes the Gospel seriously.
We must take the Gospel seriously.

Paul’s reason for being so clear is due to his calling by Christ to preach
the Gospel. The easy way out is to ignore what’s happening in Galatia. But doing
so would not be true to his calling, to be a servant of Christ, the Lord Most
High.

So we have two great truths for us to follow as believers in Jesus Christ.
The first is to keep the Gospel message and God’s plan of salvation pure. The
second is to be serious about fulfilling our calling as His children, as His
disciples, to serve Him and Him alone.

The True Gospel Defined                                 Galatians 1:11-2:21

By Paul’s Teaching and Revelation                    Gal. 1:11-12

Paul justifies his understanding of the Gospel saying it is as taught by the
Apostles [including him] and that it was revealed to him personally by Jesus
Christ just as it was revealed by Jesus to His disciples. Paul received it by
revelation from the Lord; revealed to him at his conversion and further revealed
to him during his three year tenure in the desert after his conversion. The
Gospel Paul preached did not come from man, neither did it come from his education.
Paul’s Gospel came from Christ through the Holy Spirit. Interestingly in today’s
paper the comic strip B. C. defined revelation as being filled with the joy
of the Lord. That is the purpose of the Gospel. We who receive it are filled
with joy. The angels who watch over us are filled with joy and the Lord who
gave His life that we might have LIFE rejoices.

By Paul’s Calling                                                        Gal, 1:13-17

Paul continues by telling of his life before Christ. He was a zealot for the
law, persecuting those who believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. But God
called him; God afforded him grace. Paul was taught Judaism but God took him
aside and revealed the Truth to him. Instead of working for man, the Sanhedrin,
Paul is now working for God. God had a purpose for Paul from before his birth.
God called Paul to present the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was not appointed
or anointed by any man. He was appointed and anointed by God.

God has appointed and anointed all who believe in Him to a special ministry,
a service of love for the Lord. Our calling or purpose comes from God and then
is recognized by man with praise and thanksgiving as coming from God. Paul’s
history is important from a historical context but the message for each believer
is to recognize one’s calling and purpose as ordained by God and then not deviate
from lovingly serving Him for His Glory and His Kingdom ever.

By Peter and James                                              Gal. 1:18-24

The people whom Paul persecuted in Jerusalem now accept his conversion and
have validated Paul’s message of the Gospel as that of Christ Jesus. Peter,
the Apostle, and James, the Lord’s brother, have testified on Paul’s behalf.
As a result, the churches is Judea rejoice and praise God.

By the Jerusalem Council                                Gal. 2:1-10

Paul chronicles his travels and meetings pertaining to the Jerusalem Council
[see Acts 15]. Paul went to Jerusalem in response to a revelation; a revelation
that not all preached a gospel of grace [Acts 15:1]. Paul met privately according
to Galatians2:2 and publicly according to Acts 15:4-5. Paul, Barnabus, and Titus
refuse to accept any doctrine of salvation other than a gospel of grace [see
also Acts 15:2,3,12].

Those people referred to as “important” are probably believers who
were Pharisees [Acts 15:5]. They heard first hand from Paul and Peter concerning
the miraculous acceptance of the Gospel by the Gentiles. It was also understood
that both the Jews and the Gentiles were to have access to the Gospel. The result
was unity, not schism. Thus a letter documenting the Council’s decision was
written to communicate that unity.

By a Lifestyle of Faith                                        Gal. 2:11-21

Sometime later, after the Jerusalem Council and probably before Paul embarked
on his second missionary journey, Peter visited Antioch and was challenged by
Paul for his hypocritical actions depending on who was present. Remember, hypocrisy
leads to schisms and Christ is all about unity, unity in the Spirit. Paul considers
the Gospel so precious that it must be pure, simple, light-giving, and life-giving.
We are justified by God’s grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9], not through
the law. We are sinners and die because of the law. We have been crucified with
Christ and have risen with Him to live for Him because He lives in us [note
tense]. Christ died for our sin and demonstrated His righteousness and power
by His resurrection, giving us ample reason for placing our faith in Him over
faith in our works.

So once again, as in Chapter 1, Paul uses history to illustrate his main point;
we are justified by grace through faith in Christ, His death, and His resurrection.
There is no other name and no other way for man [Jew and Gentile] to receive
eternal life other than by believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God who paid
the penalty for our sin. We are to polish this Gospel message. We are to reveal
it. We are to love it. We are not to tarnish it with works.

An Illustration:

Denominations can be a source of hypocrisy. People in one think they are better
than people in another. We are justified by faith, not by which church we attend.
Our unity and loyalty is in and to Christ, not in a Bishop or a denomination.

But be sure your church preaches and adheres to the true Gospel message. One
is not saved by being baptized, confirmed, or by joining a certain congregation.
One is saved by grace and justified by faith by acknowledging Christ as Lord
and Savior. Those who are truly saved are indwelt by the Holy Spirit because:

  1. They have been convicted of their sinfulness.
  2. They have acknowledged faith in Christ’s promise as the only name by which we can be saved.
  3. Their minds and hearts have been given a new purpose and washed clean.
  4. They have become obedient to God [Holy Spirit] and not man [sinful desires].
  5. They exhibit a changed lifestyle and purpose, to glorify God and not themselves.

Being a Christian has nothing in common about what we do [works] but with
whom we are first and foremost. Who you are leads to Good Work in Christ Jesus
and for Christ Jesus [not in and for man] as a result of love and devotion to
Him and His Will [not our will]. The sinner has the cart [works] before the
horse [Jesus Christ]. The Christian is yoked to the horse [Matt. 11:20] who
is pulling the cart.

Faith and the Law Compared                                    Galatians 3:1-29

The Power of Faith and the Law                         Gal. 3:1-5

In verse 1 we learn that Christ was crucified. He was crucified because of
God’s law [see Romans3:20]. Christ was not only crucified but He rose from the
dead to sit at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, Faith assures us of
the resurrection [see I Cor. 15:12-14]. The Law is suffocating whereas Faith
gives us the Spirit [verse 2]. The downside is that Faith leads to suffering
[verse 4] but we are supported in suffering by Christ, giving us the strength
to persevere with joy [I Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-4]. Finally, miracles happen
by the power of Faith [verse 5] and not through the Law.

The Promise of Faith and the Law                      Gal. 3:6-18

Here Faith provides righteousness [verse 6], blessing [verse 9], and redemption
[verse 13]. The Law, on the other hand, condemns us for we are cursed [verse
11] and are guilty [verse 10, 13]. In other words, the Law can not justify us
or provide us with righteousness.

The Purpose of Faith and the Law                      Gal. 3:19-29

In this section we learn that the Law defines sin [verse 19], imprisons us
[verses 22, 23], and directs us in another direction [verse 24] to a Savior.
Faith justifies [verse 24], makes us Sons [verse 26], and provides us with an
inheritance [verses 26, 29].

Summary:

Another way of looking at this passage of scripture is to consider the following
alternate outline:

  1. Faith or Law; which is it? Gal. 3:1-5
  2. Faith is Separate from the Law Gal. 3:6-14
  3. Faith Precedes the Law Gal. 3:15-20
  4. Faith Liberates us from the Law Gal. 3:21-29

In the first section, Paul asks six questions to make the Galatians take inventory
and to think clearly about what they are doing and what they have become. In
the second section, Paul quotes six times from the Old Testament while stating
that Abraham was righteous because he believed, because he had Faith. In the
third section, Paul notes that Faith came before the Law was given to Moses.
And finally in the fourth section, Paul argues that Faith is liberating in that
through Faith we become members of God’s family. As members we are blessed with
privileges outright. We don’t work and earn privileges but rather we inherit
them by God’s grace. They are the gift of Faith.

The Law tells us what we should be [God-fearing], how we should act [respectful
to all], and who we are [sinners]. It defines sin and righteousness. It defines
our relationship to God. And it defines our relationship to each other. The
Law points out our fallibility, our need for a Savior, and leads us to The Promise
[Christ Jesus], His Promise.

Understanding His Law results in our condemnation unless we accept Christ
for our justification, becoming Sons of God through Faith.

Faith understands God’s grace through His Promise which leads to belief in
Christ as the “Seed” resulting in Faith that He Redeems and provides
us the Spirit to teach us all Truth.

In conclusion, Faith is more powerful than the Law, came before the Law [in
time], and has a higher purpose than the Law [righteousness and Son-ship]. Therefore,
Faith is above the Law. It transcends the Law and it protects us from the Law.
Faith guarantees our inheritance. It is liberating, indeed. Do not be foolish
but be wise. Adhere to the true Gospel as proclaimed by the Apostles to both
Jew and Gentile.

Faith Alone, a Clarification                                       Galatians 4:1-5:1

We are His Children                                     Gal. 4:1-7

Since we who believe in Christ are justified by faith, we are children of
faith, one in Christ Jesus. We are heirs of Christ Jesus, not slaves. Although
Christ created all, He was subject to the Divine timing of the Father to fulfill
His Promise and complete His act of redemption which makes us heirs, His children.

God gives us His Spirit because we are His children through faith. By His
Spirit we call Him Father.

Paul uses the example of family, as did Christ, to show our restored relationship
with Him through Christ. We are slaves through the law. We are children by faith.
We are worthless by depending on the law. We are rich, as He is rich, through
faith. The man of faith is redeemed, restored, born again into the family of
God, in line to possess the unlimited riches and blessings of the Father.

Salvation is God’s gift through faith. It’s our choice to accept or reject
His gift, His death for our sin, His resurrection as our hope. It’s our choice
to remain a slave to the law [sin] or be free in Christ’s death and resurrection.

We are Free                                          Gal. 4:8-5:1

Paul continues saying they not only know God but are known by God because
they have accepted the Gospel of faith. In fact, God has greater knowledge of
us than we do of Him. So why forgo freedom for slavery to all the past rules,
traditions, and regulations? It isn’t God’s law the Galatians are returning
to but man’s laws which are being invoked to assure they can meet God’s law.
They are exchanging something of value [children of God] for something of no
value [tradition]. So what about us? Are we guilty of the same practices? Don’t
misunderstand. Tradition has value. It just doesn’t have any value toward salvation.
It’s important we keep and maintain the law and faith in the correct perspective.

Paul has been down that road and found it fruitless. He now preaches the Gospel,
faith in Christ Jesus. The Galatians received that Gospel, welcomed it, enjoyed
it, and were filled with love and compassion for one another. Paul is concerned
that they are returning to the devotion of man over devotion to Christ.

We like heroes, people who accomplish great things; people who when called
upon do the impossible. We like to touch them, listen to them, and, yes, even
worship them. But we must remind ourselves they are man, not God. They are sinners,
not sinless. They too will die unless they place their faith in Christ Jesus.
They are here now in the flesh but Christ Jesus is in our hearts through the
Holy Spirit. Paul is warning the Galatians and us to avoid counterfeits and
place our faith in a real hero, Christ Jesus. Place your faith in someone who
has power over the world and not just power in the world. That someone is none
other than the Creator Himself, Jesus Christ, who died for our sin that we might
have life eternal as His redeemed children.

Paul goes on to illustrate the difference between law and faith by recalling
the story of Hagar and Sarah, the slave woman and the free woman, the ordinary
birth and the extraordinary birth, the woman of Mount Sinai and earthly Jerusalem
compared to the woman of the heavenly Jerusalem, the children of Ishmael and
the children of God’s Promise. Therefore, place your faith in God, not man,
and be free, not enslaved, be His children and heirs of the Lord God Almighty.
Remember, God is faithful and keeps His Promises. Don’t place your faith with
man, man’s rules, man’s religion but place your faith in His Son, Jesus Christ
who died and rose again that we might die to sin and be raised with Him eternally.

Therefore we are free, free of the law, free of man’s rules, free to serve
Christ Jesus, free to tell of His goodness, His love, His sacrifice, His mercy,
and His grace.

A Warning                                                                                        Galatians 5:2-26

Do not Abandon the True Gospel                              Gal. 5:2-12

Paul warns the Galatians that accepting Jewish practices as a means of salvation
erodes the Spirit of Truth, the Gospel. The law and grace are completely different;
like old wine in old wineskins and new wine in new wineskins. Only faith counts
for righteousness in Christ Jesus, the New Covenant.

Evidently Paul believes they are largely influenced by one person but if not
checked or challenged, that’s person’s influence will permeate throughout the
Galatian church and lead them astray.

Paul cites his own persecution at the hands of the Jews as proof that the
Gospel he and the other apostles teach is not a Gospel that requires circumcision.
He accuses the “Judaizers” of mixing truth and falsehood, confusing
the real Truth.

Do not Practice a Sinful Lifestyle                            Gal. 5a;13-15

We, as Christians, are free but we are not free to sin or continue in our
sinful lifestyle. We are free for one purpose and that is to love others. We
are free to love as Christ loved. We are free to preach a positive message,
that faith in Christ promises the hope of salvation. We are to let the Spirit
guide us and give us purpose. We are to ignore our past sinful pleasure and
concentrate on loving others. Loving service is a witness of the Gospel, God’s
plan of salvation. We lovingly serve others because Christ lovingly gave Himself
to die for our sin. “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life
for his friends”. We are called to love unconditionally as He loved us.
We are free to lay down our lives for others.

Let’s Review

The issue Paul addresses in this letter is the “way of salvation”.
The Judaizers are saying “If you follow these rules and are circumcised,
you will obtain faith”. Your salvation is then based upon what you do.
Paul says the true Gospel is based on Faith, Faith alone . That is, have Faith
in the promises of Christ because of His death and resurrection. Faith then
results in obedience to God and His will.

By following rules and regulations set down by man, one is driven/motivated
by man, and one must conform to man, usually begrudgingly. A person who places
themselves under the law is bound by the law. But by placing ones faith in Christ,
one is driven/motivated by the indwelling of the Spirit and willingly conforms
to God’s will. The man of grace/faith is free, free to obey. The law cannot
change our hearts. Only the Spirit can accomplish that divine work.

Good works can result from both but only the man of faith can accomplish good
works from the heart for the glory of God. The man of the law does it for the
glory of man, for self gratification. God is honored by the hearts of faith
and honors them with His hope of salvation. Therefore, Paul closes his letter
with an exhortation to live by the Spirit and to love one another. It is not
only the better way but it is the only way to receive assurance of eternal life.

An Exhortation                                                                  Galatians 5:16-6:18

Live by the Spirit                                   Gal. 5:16-26

Paul goes on to explain that there is a natural conflict between the law and
the Spirit. But remember, the Spirit of God is above the law and is more powerful
than the law. He continues by providing two lists. One represents our sinful
past and the other is a result of the Spirit living in our hearts. Consider
the contrast represented by these two lists.

Two Conflicting Lifestyles

Life in Sin
Life in the Spirit
Sexual immorality; impurity/debauchery; idolatry/witchcraft;
hatred; discord; jealousy; rage; selfish ambition; dissensions; factions;
envy; drunkenness; orgies; etc.
Love; Joy; PeacePatience; Kindness; Goodness

Faithfulness; Gentleness; Self-control

Which lifestyle is loving? Which lifestyle enables one to imitate Christ? Which
lifestyle do you desire?

The lifestyle of sin focuses on self.The lifestyle of sin promotes strife.

The lifestyle of sin brings death to any and all forms of relationships.

The lifestyle of the Spirit focuses on Christ.The lifestyle of the Spirit promotes harmony.

The lifestyle of the Spirit promotes healing and harmony to any and all
forms of relationships.

The purpose of Christ’s death was to provide the means of restoring our relationship
with Him, our Creator God, and to heal our relationships with our fellow man
by sending the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all who place their faith and
trust in Jesus. This is God’s call to man, place your faith in Jesus and live
in the Spirit. This is the true Gospel.

Support One Another           Gal. 6:1-6

As Christians, we have an obligation to one another to restore those of us
who are straying from the Spirit. That is what Paul is doing with the Galatians
in this letter. But we must also watch out for our own well being so we do not
get caught in the same snares. As we provide support, we are to be careful that
what we do does not go to our head. We are to remain humble. When we are the
ones being helped, we must realize that we, as individuals, must take full responsibility
for ourselves and our actions and not be continually reliant on and a burden
to others.

In addition, what we learn is to be passed on to others. That is especially
true with those who are teaching us, our supporters. Open sharing and communication
is important to the learning and restoration process. We must learn from each
others mistakes.

Serve One Another                    Gal. 6:7-10

God is never fooled. We reap what we sow. If live to sin, we will destruct.
If we live to please God, we will reap Life. We are to work hard doing what
is right and good. And we do not stop working until the harvest of His people
is complete. We are to do good to all people and especially to believers.

Conclusion                                                                                       Galatians 6:11-18

Paul evidently is writing this letter in his own hand. Most of his other letters
were dictated. It would appear from this writing that Paul had poor eyesight.
Perhaps that is the thorn in his side that he asked God to remove. It is also
why Paul always had traveling companions; someone to read him the scriptures
as he prepared his sermons.

In chart form, we can summarize Chapter 6 as follows:

Responsible Support
Responsible Service
  1. Restoration 6:1
  2. Gentleness 6:1
  3. Awareness 6:1
  4. Love 6:2
  5. Humility 6:3
  6. Focus 6:4
  7. Maturity 6:5
  8. Giving 6:6
  9. Open Communication 6:6
  1. 1. Doctrinal Truth 6:7-8
  2. Persistence 6:9
  3. Faithfulness 6:9
  4. Good Works 6:10
  5. Commitment 6:11
  6. Persecution 6:12
  7. Not Hypocritical 6:13
  8. Witness 6:14
  9. Consistency 6:16
  10. Authenticity 6:17
  11. Letting Go 6:18

He concludes his letter by telling them that those who want to push circumcision
on the church are those who refuse to accept any persecution and don’t even
follow their own rules. Focus on the cross and not circumcision. That’s what
Paul does. Be a new creation in Christ Jesus. Believers are a new creation in
Christ Jesus. As such, we have been granted grace and mercy. Remember, we are
to be like Christ. That is:

  1. We are to look like Him.
  2. We are to act like Him.
  3. We are to talk like Him.
  4. We are to feel like Him.
  5. We are to suffer like Him.

We are to bear His marks.

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