Galatians 1:1-3

Sunday Evening Service

March 13, 2005


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, from Gaul, the area around France and had marched from the Rhine to Greece, and there into Asia Minor (modern Turkey) about 277 BC. Their state became known as Galatia. 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.

The last independent ruler, King Amyntas, gave the kingdom to the Romans with Galatia becoming a Roman province in 25 BC.

Paul visited “southern Galatia” on his first missionary journey when he visited Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13:1–14:28).

He went through “northern Galatia” on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6), and one more time on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23).

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?

It’s not real clear in the letter just when Paul wrote this epistle.  There are two basic theories, but rather than boring you with all the details, it was either written around 53-55 AD from Ephesus or Macedonia (around the last half of Acts 18), or it was written around 49 AD from Antioch, before the church council of Acts 15 (I like this idea best)

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 Gentiles.  They absolutely hated Gentiles.

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 pagan Gentiles got baptized in the Holy Spirit.
They believed! And so Peter and the others baptized the Gentiles
At first, the fellows back in Jerusalem were mad at Peter for talking to Gentiles, but when they heard his story, they realized that God was doing an amazing new work.
But it also seems that they felt that Gentiles getting saved was more of a freak of nature, not something that was going to happen over and over again.

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.

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 believers?”

Should these Gentiles become Jewish too? Should they become circumcised like Jews to be saved?

This is when the first cults began to pop up in the church.

(Acts 15:1 NKJV) And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
This group, called the “Judaizers” felt that the only way for a Gentile to be saved, was to first to become a Jew, and that meant circumcision first in order to believe in Jesus and be saved.

This is the issue behind the writing

This controversy would become so great in the church that the church would hold its first council to try and figure out how to handle the Gentiles that were being saved.


It reminds me of what was happening in the late sixties and early seventies. For the most part, Christians were the people who had short hair and wore a suit and tie to church on Sunday morning.
But with the hippie movement of the sixties, a whole generation of kids had stopped wearing suits and ties and had let their hair grow long.
When some of these hippie kids started getting saved, a lot of churches demanded that they cut their hair and put on a suit to go to church.
There was a middle aged preacher down in Costa Mesa who felt differently. He let the hippie kids come to church, just like they were.

Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties

People finally comin’ around

Lookin’ past the hair and straight into the eyes

People finally comin’ around

And it¹s very plain to see

It’s not the way it used to be

This letter is all about the question, “Must a Christian become a Jew, and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved?”

Does our salvation depend on our works?
If we’re not saved by obeying the Law, then does the Law have any value?
If we’re not saved by what we do, can we do whatever we want and still go to heaven?

It’s all about legalism and grace.

General information

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 because 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.

:1-5 Salutation

:1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

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 NKJV) But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. {16} "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

It wasn’t Paul’s idea to be in the ministry, it was Jesus’ idea.


God’s call

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 privileged 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.
For Paul, this is an important issue when it comes to people challenging you.
When you step out and stand for God and try to serve Him, people will challenge you.

If you’re not sure that God has called you, then it’s real easy for the enemy to stop you.

What does God’s call sound like?
The huge nut tree by the fence of the town cemetery was always laden with the delicious stuff, but nobody ever picked them. Not until the day when two young boys went a-nut-picking that is. They filled up a bucketful of nuts and seated themselves comfortably by the root of the huge tree, safely out of sight from anybody outside the cemetery, and began the process of dividing the collection evenly amongst themselves. “One for you, one for me.... One for you, one for me...” went one of them as he divided the nuts one by one. The bucket was so full that as he pulled out a nut, several specimens would roll out towards the fence, but there were so many to go that the boys didn’t mind.
Cycling down the road by the cemetery was this young fellow on his newly-acquired bike. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery, and slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he did hear a voice “One for you, One for me.... One for you,.....” but could not trace where it was coming from. Then suddenly, he realized what it was. “Oh my goodness!” he shuddered, “It’s Satan and St. Peter dividing the souls at the cemetery!”. “Quick, I must find someone else to listen to this, otherwise no one else would believe me.”. So he cycled down the road a bit, and to his relief there was an old man with a walking stick, hobbling his way towards the town. “Sir, sir, come quickly please. “ he said, “You won’t believe what I heard. Satan and St. Peter are down at the cemetery dividing the souls. I heard them myself - come with me, I’ll show you”.
“Shoo off ya young brat you! Ya know no end of ya silly practical jokes, you do.” the man said. “Having the noive to ask me to walk back all the woi to the cemetery - Can’t ya see I’m finding it difficult to walk as it is!. Now shoo off before I whack ya one with moi walking stick! Young folk my day treated elders with respect, you hear me, RESPECT!”
However, after several belated pleas, the young fellow finally talked the old man into hobbling his way back to the cemetery, and sure enough, they heard the mysterious voice from somewhere inside, “One for you, one for me... One for you, one....” “Egad, laddie you’s been speakin’ the truth all thees toime.” whispered the old man. “Let’s see if we can catch a glimpse of the Devil heemself.” and shivering with fear, edged toward the cemetery fence along with the young lad. Peeking in from just outside the fence, they still couldn’t see anything, but sure enough, still heard -“One for you, one for me.... One for you, one for me.... And one last one for you. There, that’s all. Now let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done.” (It was later revealed that the old man with the walking stick made it to the town several minutes before the young lad on the bike!)
Though I believe that God will speak to people about His call on their lives, it is not something that’s spooky.  It’s nothing you should be afraid of.

I know that some people are reluctant to give their heart completely to Jesus because they’re afraid that He’s going to ask them to do something they don’t like.

There are times when God will definitely stretch you, and you need to step out in faith.

But often His “call” is something that works with your desires.

(Phil 2:13 NKJV)  for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

God gives us the “will” to do what He wants as well as the ability to “do” what He wants.

(Prov 3:5-6 NKJV)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; {6} In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

(Psa 37:4 NKJV)  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

When you are walking close to the Lord, your desires change.  He gives you the desire to do the things He wants for you.

What is God’s call on your life?
It is not necessarily what you do to earn a living.

Paul earned a living by making tents.  But he was called to be an apostle.

Your job is what you’re paid for.  God’s call is what you’re made for.

It involves the special abilities, passions, talents, Spiritual gifts, and experiences that God has given to you.
It is the unique, special tasks that God has planned for your life.

(Eph 2:10 NKJV)  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Does God have a “calling” for each of us?  I believe so.
It’s important to know that God has called you.
Difficult times, persecution will make you want to quit.
The false teachers in Galatia were challenging Paul’s credentials.
Paul went back to his calling.

:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

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.

:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

gracecharis – grace; that which affords joy, pleasure, delight; it is what is given to us, not what is earned by us.  It is God’s “unmerited favor”.

The typical greeting by Paul in his letters.

But in the letter to the Galatians, it takes on a stronger than usual sense.

These people had been hearing these false teachers say that they needed to depend on their own works, not on God’s grace.

(Gal 5:4 NKJV)  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Yet here Paul wishes for them God’s grace.

With grace comes “peace”.  We can’t know God’s peace until we know God’s grace.  When we walk away from grace, we walk away from peace.