Sunday Evening Bible Study
November 19, 1995
Who wrote the letter?
It was written by the apostle Paul
Who was the letter written to?
Instead of writing a letter to a specific church in a specific city, this letter is unusual in that it is written to the churches of a specific region.
The people were of the Gallic stock, had marched from the Rhine to Greece, and thence into Asia about B.C. 280, and had conquered a home in the interior of Asia Minor, which henceforth took a new name from the people (Galli, or Gauls) who made it their seat. They learned the Greek language, but retained in part their old tongue and the traits of their race. Caesar describes the Gauls as restless and changeable, characteristics still of the French, and this epistle shows that the Galatians were not unlike their European kinsmen.
Though there were a great number of Jews in Galatia (according to Josephus), the larger number of believers in the churches were Gentiles.
When was the letter written?
There are two basic theories as to the time of Paul's writing this epistle.
Both theories have one thing in common, they both feel that from internal evidence, that Paul wrote the letter after having been with the people on two separate occasions.
There is a northern theory and a southern theory.
For the sake of time and your eyelids, we're simply going to choose the Northern theory, since it has the better support.
According to this theory, Paul visited the churches of Galatia on his second and third missionary journeys.
On Paul's second journey, he planted the seeds of the gospel that would blossom into a church:
Acts 16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
On His third journey, around A.D. 54,55 we read:
Acts 18:23 And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
He wrote this letter shortly after passing through on his second journey, probably either from Ephesus, Philippi, or Corinth.
The Purpose of the Letter
When the church was first born, A.D. 33, on the day of Pentecost, all those in the church were also Jews.
It continued that way for some time, and the church was considered a "sect" of Judaism.
This isn't surprising, considering how the Jews felt about Gentile-pig-dog-heathens.
But things began to change.
Around A.D. 40 (Acts 10-11), Peter had an encounter with a Gentile centurion, named Cornelius.
After some prodding by the Lord through a dream, Peter went to Cornelius' house, and the result was that a whole bunch of Gentile-pig-dog-heathens got baptized in the Holy Spirit.
They believed! And so Peter and the others baptized the Gentiles
Read Acts 11:1-4; 15-18
The Gentiles had started to receive eternal life!
And then, as the church began to suffer persecution, the gospel began to go out slowly but surely to the Gentiles, even establishing the first Jewish/Gentile church in Antioch.
Read Acts 11:19-26
It was from this first Jewish/Gentile church that Paul and Barnabas are sent out as missionaries from.
Paul begins his travels around the Mediterranean, preaching everywhere, and the heart of his ministry is in preaching to Gentiles.
But there was still a question in the church, "What do we do with these Gentile-pig-dog-heathen-believers?"
The church was still mostly Jewish.
Should these Gentiles become Jewish too?
This is when the first cults began to pop up in the church.
Read Acts 15:1-5
This group, called the "Judaizers" felt that the only way for a Gentile-pig-dog-heathen to be saved, was to first to become a Jew, and be circumcised, in order to believe in Jesus and be saved.
After much arguing and discussion, the apostles and elders came to a conclusion.
Read Acts 15:22-29
It was about this time that Paul left Antioch to begin his second missionary journey, the one where he first took the gospel into Galatia.
It was about five years later, after having been through Galatia a second time to strengthen the believers, that Paul began to get reports that the "Judaizers" had begun to hit the churches in Galatia.
And so this letter is written.
This letter is all about the question, "Must a Christian become a Jew, and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved?"
It's all about legalism and grace.
Centuries after it's writing, it played such a key role in the Reformation that it was called "the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation." This was becuse its emphasis on salvation by grace through faith alone was the major theme of the preaching of the Reformers. Luther was especially attached to Galatians and referred to it as his wife. He lectured on the book extensively and his Commentary on Galatians was widely read by the common people.
We have the opening of the epistle with the typical "To" - "From" kind of stuff.
But right off the bat, Paul is going to get down to brass tacks.
One of the issues that the Judaizers are going to raise, is Paul's authority as an apostle.
They're going to claim that Paul isn't an apostle at all, surely because he wasn't one of the inner "twelve".
But Paul's authority as an apostle wasn't because he had had the amazing Pope Peter lay his hands on him.
Paul's authority was because Jesus Christ met him and called him.
Paul wasn't even out looking for a job in ministry when Jesus met him on the Damascus road.
Jesus knocked Paul off his donkey and said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me...".
And it was from that time that Paul began to understand that Jesus had picked him out and put him into ministry.
To Ananias, the first brother to help Paul out in the Christian faith, Jesus said,
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
It wasn't Paul's fault he was in ministry, it was Jesus' fault.
Jesus is the one who calls us to ministry.
It's nice to have people to learn from and to imitate their faith.
I'm thankful for the pastors and teachers I've been priveleged to learn from.
But your call has to come from God.
It's not a matter of "who ordained you".
One of the main issues of the Catholic church is that they claim to have the authority passed down from Peter himself, and the chain is unbroken.
But here Paul says it's God that called him.
Though Paul's authority came directly from Jesus, he wasn't alone either.
There are some kooks out there who are claiming that Jesus is speaking to them.
But for some strange reason, nobody else seems to agree with them.
Paul had his gospel "approved" by the elders in Jerusalem, as well as having his own traveling ministry team.
The typical greeting by Paul in his letters.
We can't know peace until we know God's grace.
It's also pretty convenient that Paul starts off this letter against legalism with the word of Grace.
Paul hasn't even gotten out of his salutation, and he's already clearly dealing with the issues.
This is the root of what it's all about, our salvation.
Our salvation isn't based upon our works, but on God's works.
Titus 2:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Our salvation is a matter of solving man's main problem.
Man's problem is sin.
And the only way to take care of sin is to pay the price.
And Jesus is the one who paid the price.
Therefore, our salvation isn't based on what laws we've kept, it isn't based on what things we haven't done.
It's based completely upon what Jesus has done on the cross.
deliver - exaireo - to pluck out, draw out, i.e. root out
We live in a very evil world.
And Jesus' death on the cross not only was to pay for our sins, but was to deliver us from the power of the world around us.
BKC - the gospel is an emancipating message. It delivers believing sinners form the power of the present world system through the power of the indwelling Christ just as certainly as it delivers them from eternal judgment to come. Was paul hinting that the Old Testament Law, so strongly promoted by the Galatian legalizers, would be impotent to accomplish such
Jesus delivers us from worldliness.
I find it fascinating to watch some of the cults, like Mormons, and see how incredibly worldly the people are in it.
Or Judaism itself, how worldly.
Yet, as Christian, we are delivered from the power of the world.
We no longer have to conform to the world's standards any more.
Homework - try reading the book of Galatians this week, in one setting!