SSL 1 - Galatians 1:1-10
Introduction: The book of Galatians was most likely the first letter that Paul wrote, penned between 46-49 A.D., before the end of his first missionary journey. He and Barnabas had established churches in southern Galatia (see map) that were composed of mixed Jewish and Gentile congregations, but predominantly Gentile. At some point, Paul received word that these churches were facing a theological crisis: A group of Jewish converts, known as the "judaizers" (Gr. loudizo, lit. those who live by Jewish practices) were insisting that Christians, in addition to confessing faith in Christ as Savior, be circumcised and observe the Mosaic Law. You need to understand that they weren't advocating that believers abandon their Christian faith in favor of Judaism, but maintained that the Jewish practices were a mandatory component of salvation. Our study of the Book of Galatians will reiterate the true Gospel-that salvation is by grace alone by faith in Jesus Christ alone-and will unconditionally demonstrate anything that takes away from it or adds to it is false. We will also learn that the study of the Book of Galatians is of critical important and relevance to Christians today. We will not only learn about a departure from the true Gospel in the early days of the church, but we will see that that there is similar error being proclaimed in many churches today. In some churches it's "legalism,' added requirements that aren't supported by apostolic teaching; and in others it's "liberalism," which tolerates moral and social standards that are clearly contrary to apostolic-"orthodox"-Interpretation of OT and NT Scripture.
Read Gal. 1:1-5 - GRACE TO YOU AND PEACE
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: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4 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.
v. 1: "Paul, an apostle-not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-" - As was customary in those times, Paul began the letter by introducing himself (although he was known to them). The word apostle (Gr., apostolos) means one who is commissioned to represent another. As we know, Jesus commissioned His apostles to continue His work. This is a vitally important point from the outset: Since Christ endowed Paul with apostolic authority, the Galatians must pay attention to him and submit to his authority. The phrase, "not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead," recalls his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road reported in Acts 9:1-18.
v. 2: "and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:" - The text doesn't reveal the identity of "all the brothers" or their relationship to the churches in Galatia, but the "churches of Galatia" most likely refer to Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (see map).
v. 3: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" - This is a character-istic blessing in Paul's letters. Grace (Gr. charis) which means God's unmerited favor, and involves a giving and receiving that blesses both the giver and the receiver. Peace (Gr. eirene) has its roots in the Heb. word Shalom, means an inner peace that comes from a deep relationship with God, and by extension, as Christians, from our "lord Jesus Christ."
v. 4: "who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" - The saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross is at the forefront of Paul's mind as he starts this letter. Implied in this statement is the truth that because we humans cannot save ourselves, God, out of His love and mercy for us, devised a process-substitutionary atone-ment-by which we can be made holy, blameless, and acceptable to Him. And Paul goes on to explain that Jesus not only saves us from our sins but also sets us free from being slaves of this world. This statement should convict us that our sins aren't just trivial mistakes which need only a passing apology; but that our sin, by its very nature, separates us from God, and thus, eternal fellowship with Him-which points to the fact that all of us are in desperate need of a Savior. Do you agree?
Observation: Paul' statements in vv. 1-4, taken together, underscore the Biblical truth that the Gospel is the result of the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. His death was for the forgiveness of our sins and our "deliverance from the present evil age." When Paul speaks of our "deliverance," he isn't referring to Jesus' second coming in the end-times but to the fact that our position of justification by faith is wholly adequate to free us of our slavery to sin in the here and now. This is especially significant in the context of new believers in the Galatian churches, because what the Judaizers were teaching was different-that putting people back under the Law of Moses was a necessary part of one's salvation experience-that faith alone was not sufficient.
v. 5: "to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen" - This just isn't a formulaic expression; it is a doxology that reveals Paul's unconditional commitment to defend and preserve the central truth of the Gospel-that God choose Israel and the church for His own name's sake, redeemed His people in Jesus Christ for His praise and glory, which calls all believers to give God 100% of the credit.
TRUTH 1: The true Gospel is the result of the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. When Paul speaks of our "deliverance from the present evil age," he isn't referring to Jesus' second coming in the end-times but to the fact that our present justification by faith in this age is wholly adequate to free us of our slavery to sin in the here and now. This is especially significant in the context of new believers in the Galatian churches, because what the Judaizers were teaching was different-that putting people back under the Law of Moses was required to save them, and that faith alone was not sufficient.
Read Gal. 1:6-9 - DESERTING AND PERVERTING
6 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. 8 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.
v. 6: "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-" - Having observed the niceties in vv. 1-5, we now see Paul come out of the chute, as it were, with all his guns blazing. The gravity of their error is evident from the swift change in Paul's tone and the sharp words he used to identify the problem. Paul is quite frankly amazed that these churches have fallen into error so quickly. The phrases "deserting Him" (Christ) and "different gospel" reveal that these aren't minor issues over which Christians can reasonably disagree.
v. 7: "not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" - Paul makes it perfectly clear that there is no other gospel, no alternative, no in-between. "Some who trouble you" is a direct reference to the Judaizers, who have distorted (Gr. metastrepho) the Gospel message, which also means to pervert or turn something bad. As already mentioned, these Judaizers were telling the Galatian Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in order to be "completed" believers (i.e., saved). Added to the problem was the fact that these Gentile converts were immature Christians who could be easily misled by questionable doctrinal positions.
v.8-9: "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." - In v. 8, Paul uses hyperbole (or exaggeration) to drive home the point that anyone who brings a false gospel, even himself or an angel, should be cursed and rejected. And in the next verse, he repeats this curse on false teachers for extra emphasis. This was obviously a critical point for good reasons: A distortion of the true Gospel might lead people in the wrong direction, and could even lead to their condemna-tion rather than their salvation. And notice that Paul not only asked God to curse the false message but also curse the false messengers who were leading people astray.
TRUTH 2: According to Paul in vv. 8 and 9, any person who teaches a false Gospel should be accursed. The word he uses for "accursed" (Gk. anathema ), literally means that something that should be sent straight to hades (hell). This issue is of critical importance because a false gospel not only deceives people but can potentially lead them away from salvation, i.e., salvation by works.
Gal. 1:10 - PLEASING MEN OR SERVING CHRIST
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.
v. 10: Here, Paul poses a rhetorical question having two incompatible goals. Seeking the approval of God is the only right answer, of course. That's what any of us would want to say, but in performing our Christian service, who is the audience we are trying to please? This requires us to examine our motives: Are we seeking popularity or approval from our human peers in what we do or are we doing it all for God? In all honesty, none of us are probably 100% pure in this regard-we all enjoy receiving recognition and appreciation, don't we? After all, we're supposed to encourage each other, aren't we? But when Paul says he's a "bond-servant (slave) of Christ," he means it literally: that's he's not a volunteer but a conscript under orders who cannot un-serve. Are any of us ready to actually follow the example of Paul? To serve the cause of Jesus Christ God through hardship, infirm health, maltreatment, persecution, all the way to martyrdom if necessary? That's his point.
Observation: The "different gospel" to which Paul refers in vv. 6-9 advocated the view that the finished work of Christ all by itself was insufficient to save lost people in a sinful world. By doing this-adding the keeping of the Law to faith-the Judaizers essentially nullified the principle of grace. It represented a false gospel that was man-made and man-pleasing. Its effect was to put people under bondage by compelling them to be circumcised and observe the Mosaic Law, i.e., to be a Christian you also have to be a good Jew. We need to see this issue as Paul saw it, in particular, his commission to take the Gospel to the Gentile world. He understood the broad ramifications of this false and distorted gospel-that Christianity would become just a Jewish sect that would not spread to the Gentile world at large. Indeed, if the Judaizers had prevailed, we probably wouldn't be sitting here today holding this class.
TRUTH 3: In contrast to the true Gospel Paul received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ, the false gospel taught by the Judaizers was man-made and man-pleasing. Any teaching that adds legalistic requirements to the doctrine of salvation by faith is a false gospel that effectively nullifies the principle of grace. Paul completely understood the broad ramifications of teaching a false and distorted gospel-which would that would turn Christianity into just another religious splinter group. Today, in the 21st Century, this danger is still very real, and all of us need to follow in the footsteps of Paul as the guardians of the true and unblemished Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember, that to know what is wrong, false, or perverse, you must first know what is true and right.
Read Gal. 1:11-12 - THE GOOD NEWS CAME THROUGH 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.
v. 11: "the gospel preached by me is not man's gospel" - Paul is making it clear that the gospel preached by him is not and never was the product of human thought.
v.12: "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" - Obviously, certain people were associated with Paul's conversion and maturing in his walk, like Ananias in Damascus and Barnabas before the disciples in Jerusalem. However, the content of Paul's preaching came from direct revelation-not by inspiration or vision but from Jesus Christ in-person on the road to Damascus as reported in Acts 9.
Observation: Unlike the man-made, man-pleasing false gospel of the Judaizers, the Gospel preached by Paul was not something he dreamed up-it was a message that was God-made and God-sent. For Paul, the Gospel was not just a message that led people to salvation; it was a guiding principle intended to direct the entire lives of believers. Actions which might seem inconsequential to some, i.e., making concessions to the legalism of the Judaizers, were abhorrent to Paul because they violated the purity of the true Gospel message-one given to him by Christ Himself. While the Gospel was available to Jews, it was a message intended to save an entire lost world.
TRUTH 4: It's important for us to understand the error in the Galatian churches so that we can recognize similar false teaching today. It might come in the form of "legalism,' which adds requirements to salvation or sanctification that aren't supported by apostolic teaching; or it could be "liberalism," which bends to secular social pressure and allows moral behavior that is contrary to the Biblical standards affirmed over centuries by apostolic interpretation of OT and NT Scripture.