This is the first installment of a 6-part series.
An acrostic summary (to help you remember the contents)
1 Turning from the True Gospel
2 Hypocrisy found in Peter
3 Example of Abrahamís Faith
4 Law versus True Liberty
5 Attitudes from Spiritís Leading
6 Win back erring believers.
(from The Acrostic Bible by Barry Huddleston)
After Paul visited Galatia (near modern Turkey)and founded churches there, false teachers began to deny his authority as an apostle and to teach the Christians that circumcision and obedience to the Law of Moses were necessary for salvation. In this letter, Paul first of all shows that his authority was from the Lord Jesus alone (Act 9), and that therefore his message was from God. He then insists that salvation is entirely by grace through faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ had done, not by Law-keeping.
The Law can only curse and condemn those who fail to keep it (and we have all fallen short); it cannot give life. God gave the Law to show us that we needed a Savior. Once we are saved, we are redeemed (purchase back) from the curse of the Law; henceforth Christ and not the Law is to be our rule of life. Then Paul closes by encouraging the saints to live in the enjoyment of Christian freedom (not license or antinomianism), and not to allow themselves to be put under the bondage of the Law. He reminds them that the cross spells the end of their personal efforts to obtain salvation, and that now they live by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the energy of their own flesh and efforts. The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, and this is expressed through joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control Ė qualities that no Law is given to curb. Walking in the Spirit is a personal walk with God, not keeping Laws. Interestingly, the two greatest commandments ask us to LOVE God and to Love our neighbor as our self, and are stated in the positive. But, Laws (10 commandments and others) are stated in the negative.
Galatians 1:1-5 Greetings, and Establishing the Foundations
Paul states clearing that he is an apostle called/sent by God through Jesus who was raised from the dead. (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 an early creed. He pronounces Godís grace and peace on them and reminds them that it comes to them from the Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins, so as to deliver us from this evil age according to Godís will. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ deserve all the glory. Paul reminds them that their salvation came through Christ and that Christ sent him to share the gospel with them.
Galatians 1:6-9 A reproof over their tolerance of a False Gospel
Paul expresses amazement at their backsliding. He declares the new gospel as false, and makes it clear that his message is the one from God and they should not accept a different one even if he shared it. Being faithful to the gospel is costly Ė you wonít win popularity contests.
Galatians 1:10-24 Paul Defends His Ministry and Establishes His Credentials.
Paul makes it clear that God told him what to preach. He received the call on the road to Damascus when Jesus reveals Himself to him. (Read Act 9:1-20) His call was direct from Jesus, not from others. Paul was a devoted Pharisee who was so full of zeal for God that he felt he needed to persecute the church. Paul could look back in hindsight and see that God in his grace had been preparing him for this ministry all his life.
God took him away to Arabia and back home to Damascus, where he could relearn all that he had been taught from the scriptures in the light of his realization that Jesus was the Messiah, the One whom God had sent. But, he did get to meet Cephas (Peter) and James (brother of Jesus), and was affirmed as the apostle to the Gentiles. Because he was called to the Gentiles, it was a long time before he even met the Christians in Jerusalem and Judea. All they knew was that the one who persecuted their churches was now preaching the faith he once wanted to destroy. Paul assures them (the ones he had lead to Christ and who knew him) that he is not lying.
Paulís letters all reveal him to be a man who is committed to Christ 100%, and willing to expend himself fully for the sake of the churches he founded. That is why he is so passionate and at times quite tough on the Galatians in this letter. But, his strongest words are for those who are distorting the good news and threatening to take away the very peace that Godís grace brings.
Christ has fulfilled the Law and when we put our faith in what He has done on our behalf, we no longer need to be weighed down by the condemnation that is inevitable because we all fall short.
Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther discovered that ďthe righteous shall live by faithĒ and that there is no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He wanted a God whom He could love, but was constantly weighed down by the sense that God was always angry and condemning of him. When he realized that Jesus death took away his sin, and His resurrection gave him a new life through the Holy Spirit, he experienced the grace and peace that Paul mentions in Galatians1:3.
In the remainder of this letter we will discover why the gospel means good news to sinners, that the call to believe is the call to trust (faith) God with every aspect of our lives, that love is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, and that we can receive all the benefits but none of the glory.
1. What is the good news of the kingdom or the gospel?
2. When is it okay to defend ourselves from misinformation?
3. Is there still a place for the Law (10 commandments) in the Christian life?
4. Paul said God had His eye on him while he was in his mothers womb, and that it was because of Godís grace that he was fulfilling the very purpose God had prepared him for (see Eph2:10).
5. How do you understand your life and the call of God on your life, given what Paul said?