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New Testament Survey

Galatians



LOOKING AHEAD TO . . .

Galatians

Key Verse(s):

Key Chapter(s):

Key Word(s) or Concept(s)

Consider:

            How do you get saved?

            Are there rituals you need to follow once you are saved?

            How was Abraham saved?

                        For that matter, how was any one in the Old Testament saved?

            Who is attacking the Galatian church?

            What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

Suggested Reading beyond the Key Chapter(s):

Galatians

In scholarly circles, this is the letter by which all of Paul’s other epistles are judged. It is the standard for determining Pauline authorship. Galatians is also the first letter written by the Apostle. How appropriate this is for the modern day church. Just as the church in America faces attacks from cults on all sides, so, too, does Paul face such attacks against the church of Galatia.

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This letter is one of Paul’s attack’s against the cults. Just as a multitude of cults and false religions exist today, so, too, did the early church face attacks. The earliest attackers were like those in Galatians. They were legalists or Judaizers, people who wanted to add the rituals of Jewish law, such as circumcision, to the saving faith of Christ. These invaders preached an “other Gospel unto you than that ye have received” (Gal 1:9). Paul sets forth to defend both his apostleship and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Theme

Since we have already studied the letter to the Romans, you should be able to find in this letter the roots of the expanded teaching of Romans. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a defense of the concept of justification by faith. In simple terms, this means that FAITH + NOTHING = SALVATION. Paul’s opponents want to argue otherwise.

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When we looked at the book of Romans, we learned that justification is nothing more than a determination that one is “just” or “right’ before God. Remember that this book is written several years before Romans. If this is the first letter of the Apostle, this is the first doctrine truly taught by Paul. This suggests he may view justification by faith as the most important of the doctrines.

Paul’s message is designed to show the full and complete sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The Cross, for Paul and for us, is the only path to God.

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Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
John 14:6

The test of the Gospel is grace. If the message excludes grace, or mingles law with grace as the means of either of justification or sanctifications (2:21; 3:1-3), or denies the fact or guilt of sin which alone gives grace its occasion and opportunity, it is “another” Gospel, and the preacher of it is under the anathema [curse] of God (vv. 8-9).

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Note the difference between a cult and apostasy. A cult plays upon the Gospel message, bending it, adding to it, or subtracting elements from it to arrive at a new teaching. Apostasy denies the Person and authority of both Christ and Scripture. Both, of course, lead man away from God. Using this definition, the Unitarian movement is apostasy while the “Moonies” (Unification Church) are a cult.

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Satan is a master of deceit and crafts his message to “fit” the audience in question. Accordingly, it is not unusual to find yesterday’s sects and cults decorated in new garb blossoming forth in today’s culture as “new” religions. While clearly cultural differences exist between Galatia of 50 A.D. and America of the 1990s, the tools in Satan’s arsenal remain the same. Keep this in mind as we travel through this epistle.

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Date – or, Who were the Galatians?

There is some debate among scholars over the location of the churches in Galatia. This debate affects one’s view of the date of Paul’s letter. The North Galatia theory holds that the term is used in an ethnic sense, thus, applying to the original region settled by the Gauls. This “places” the churches of Galatia (1:2) in the northern portion of the region. If Paul founded these churches, he must have done so on either his second, or more likely, his third missionary journey. This places a late date on the letter.

The South Galatia theory uses the term in the sense of Roman governmental allocations. This would include the more southern area. The churches are those outlined in Acts 13 and 14. Paul founded these churches during his first missionary journey. One of the factors heavily in favor of this theory is a lack of indications in Acts that Paul ever visited the more northern area. Further, the lack of any mention of the results of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) can more easily be explained by the South Galatia theory. This council addressed the same major issues that Paul is faced with in Galatians.

A tentative outline of the events leading to the Jerusalem Council read something like this:

Special Considerations

Paul’s customary introduction of grace and peace is NOT followed by any thanksgiving section (see Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; Phil. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:2). This makes the letter unique as being the only one without some form of thanksgiving. Instead, Paul moves right into the heart of his concerns. 1:6 “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel.” Norley translates this verse as “I am dumbfounded.” This certainly conveys the force of Paul’s amazement and disapproval and sets the tone for the entire.

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In Paul’s mind, the Galatians lacked two main essentials that all Christians should strive to possess. First, they lack spiritual discernment in their inability to distinguish between the true Gospel as preached by Paul and the false Gospel as preached by the Judaizers. Secondly, they lacked steadfast determination, that stick-to-it-iveness necessary for all Christians. The Scripture speaks of this staying power as endurance.

The epistle should be read as being written in three sections, one building upon the other.

Paul took his commission to heart. After his salvation (Acts 9), he went off for a period of preparation before truly becoming a missionary to the Gentiles. Paul spent a considerable number of years away from Jerusalem and the Apostles. Paul let Scripture, the direct revelation from Christ, and the influence of the Holy Spirit prepare him for the ministry.

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The Greek at the end of verse 11 is literally translated as “is not after man.” Man is not the measure or standard or pattern of the Good News Paul preached, God is!

The tension of the epistle is the struggle between “the law” and “grace.” Grace is accepting Jesus Christ by faith and placing your trust in Him. To Paul, the law is anything which adds to this pure grace. Certainly, the main focus of the letter is the law given to Moses, but any ritual or addition to being saved by grace or to living by grace is sufficient to qualify as “the law.” “New and Improved” -- as if there could be such a thing -- is the constant theme of Madison Avenue advertising. But newer is not necessarily better. The Judaizers “marketed” the Mosaic Covenant as a new and improved version of the Abrahamic Covenant.

In 3:10 Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 and in 3:11 the Apostle quotes from Habakkuk 2:4:

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Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

This goes to show how God has always viewed grace by faith as the measure and path for salvation. Moses records in Leviticus 18:5:

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Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

The law is like a mirror which we can use to see our faces soiled with sin.

The “law” has, then, ceased to exist. It is but a schoolmaster (3:24) in the path of education for the entire of humankind. The Greek word translated schoolmaster more properly means “a leader of children.” He was not the instructor of the child in a school teacher sense, but rather exercised general supervision over the child. He was responsible for the moral and physical well-being of the child until the child reached maturity.

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Now that Christianity has “matured” with the coming of Christ, the schoolmaster is no longer needed. Scripture makes it clear the law is dead insofar as the Christian is concerned. By “law,” the verses mean all of the Old Testament rules God designed to teach His people. The moral and ethical implications of these rules still apply, but the law itself does not.

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Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Galatians 5:1
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The goal of the Judaizers was to enslave, dominate, and control the Galatians. They attempted to impose a bondage of a law which had been overruled. Since the Christian is free from the Law, he should practice the godly virtues God expects of him. He should act like Christ rather than acting like the world. He should exercise and demonstrate real Christian love. Paul teaches that true Christian love is our goal.

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What is this love?

Where does it come from?

The results of the spiritual life are often more evident than the reasons for it. There are no formulas for the spiritual life characteristics exhibited in the lives of spiritual believers. It is the result that counts:

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When Paul talks of the believer walking in the Spirit and producing fruit, Paul means that the believer earnestly desires to follow Jesus and is at work in the world showing the true love envisioned by the above list, a vision based upon the two great commandments of Jesus Christ.

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22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22,23

Outline

I.         There is no other Gospel - 1:1-10

II.        Paul’s authority is from God - 1:11-24

III.       Paul preached the same Gospel as the others - 2:1-10

IV.      Paul confronts Peter - 2:11-21

V.        Foolishness in turning back - 3:1-18

VI.      The function of the law - 3:19-29

VII.     Do not return to bondage - 4:1-11

VIII.    Paul’s love and concern for the Galatians - 4:12-20

IX.      The allegory of Sarah and Hagar - 4:21-31

X.        Liberty and freedom in Christ - 5:1-12

XI.      Liberty defined - 5:13-24

XII.     Fulfilling the law - 5:25-6:10

XIII.    Benediction - 6:11-18

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In Galatians 6:6, the verb form of the term “koinonia,” “fellowship” is translated “communicate.” A better translation might be “to share” or “to have in common.” “Sharing” involves a mutual participation in ministry with and to other members of the body of Christ. This is Paul’s emphasis, the sharing of love to build up the body of Christ and to draw others into Christian fellowship through a ministry of loving deeds and works. Note, effectively, that Paul preaches here the same “faith by works” that James covers in his second chapter.

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Doesn’t this sound a lot like being “with one accord?”

What is the condition of your spiritual life?

   Are you walking after the flesh – or after the Spirit?

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How many rituals do you add to the Gospel message?

   Have you created your own personal cult?

 

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