Introduction to Galatians
This is our first lesson regarding this book. It was of course written by the Apostle Paul. Galatia is a Roman province in western Asia which today is known as the country of Turkey. Many churches were established in this area in the first century. This region was comprised of Iconium, Lystra, and
Debre. Paul visited Galatia twice, once while on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6) and again on his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23).
The Galatians were Gauls, a nation of barbarians who invaded Greece in the third century before Christ. These Gauls were conquered by the Romans in 189 B.C. and became the province Galatia.
Galatians, though one of Paul’s shorter epistles, is highly esteemed as one of his greatest and most influential. Since both Romans and Galatians teach the doctrine of justification by faith, the former has been considered by some to be an expansion of Galatians and the latter has been called “a short “Romans.”
I. Purpose of the Book
A. The reason for this letter was to correct error in the churches of Galatia. The
Judaizers had infiltrated the Galatian Church with their teachings, attempting to mix law with grace and faith with works. These false teachers had convinced the Galatians that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone, but had to both believe in Christ and keep the law to be saved and remain saved. As a result, many of the Galatian believers had become victims of Legalism. So, Paul sets the record straight, setting forth and defending the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
II. Paul’s Ministry (Gal. 1:1-2)
A. Paul begins this letter with a assertion that he is an apostle. In the early days of the church, God called special men to do special tasks. Among them were the apostles. The word means “one who is sent with a commission.” While He was ministering on earth, Jesus had many disciples (“learners”) and from these He selected 12 Apostles (Mark 3:13-19). Later, one of the requirements for an apostle was that he have witnessed the Resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 2:32; 3:15). Of course, Paul himself was neither a disciple nor an apostle during Christ’s earthly ministry, but he had seen the risen Lord and been commissioned by Him (Acts 9:1-18; 1 Cor 9:1).
B. He makes it clear that his apostleship was not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father. Paul wanted it clearly understood that he was God’s apostle. He wasn’t sent by man. He was God’s man sent by God and no other. Therefore, he had the authority to deal with the problems in the Galatian churches.
C. But in his ministry, Paul had a second basis for authority: he had founded the churches in Galatia He was not writing to them as a stranger, but as the one who had brought them the message of life in the beginning! This letter reveals Paul’s affection for these believers (see Gal 4:12-19). Unfortunately, this affection was not being returned to him.
D. Joining with Paul in the sending, though not the writing, of this letter were all the brothers with him. These were the apostle’s fellow workers, perhaps Barnabas as well as the prophets and teachers with whom Paul ministered in Antioch (cf. Acts 13:1). Mentioning these co-laborers emphasized the fact that the teachings of this epistle were not peculiar to Paul but were held in common with others.
E. The recipients of the letter were the churches in Galatia. This was then a circular letter probably directed to the churches founded during the first missionary journey of Paul and located in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and (Pisidian) Antioch.
III. Grace and peace (Gal. 1:3)
A. Paul starts with Grace be to you and peace. The traditional Greek and Hebrew forms of greeting, grace and peace, were always used by Paul in his salutations to express the hope that the believing readers might be sustained by daily portions of these blessings. “Grace and peace” find their source in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other source of true grace and peace. Grace is the thing that the world needs the most and peace is the thing that she seeks the most.
1. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us. Grace is God doing for us that which we cannot do for ourselves—it is God’s loving favor to the unworthy. Grace is God’s loving favor toward those who deserve His judgment.
2. Peace is the result of having experienced the grace of God. There can be no real or lasting peace without God’s grace and mercy. There is a false peace that this world searches for, but to no avail. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thess. 5:3). Politicians and peace talks do not bring peace to a weary soul
Illustration 1: C. S. Lewis
What makes Christianity different from all the other religions of the world? Years ago that very question was discussed at a conference. Some of the participants argued that Christianity is unique in teaching that God became man. But someone objected, saying that other religions teach similar
doctrines. What about the resurrection? No, it was argued, other faiths believe that the dead rise again. The discussion grew heated. C. S. Lewis, a strong defender of Christianity, came in late, sat down, and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” When he learned that it was a debate about the uniqueness of Christianity, he immediately commented, “:Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
How right he was! The very heart of the gospel is the supreme truth that God accepts us with no conditions whatever when we put our trust in the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son. Although we are helplessly sinful, God in grace forgives us completely. It’s by His infinite grace that we are saved, not by moral character, works of righteousness, commandment-keeping, or churchgoing. When we do nothing else but accept God’s total pardon, we receive the guarantee of eternal life (Tim3:4-7). Good news indeed. What a gospel! What a Savior! – VCG
Illustration 2: Statistics
A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick.
Since 650 B.C. there have also been 1656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved.
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake because of his witness for Christ. On the night before Ridley’s execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need. So can we! Source unknown
IV. Christ’s Sacrifice (Gal. 1:4-5)
A. Paul concluded his salutation with a magnificent statement regarding the work of Christ on the cross and its delivering power, another major emphasis of this epistle. Christ gave Himself for our sins (1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 3:18). His death was voluntary and final. It satisfied God’s righteous demands against sinners, reconciled people to God, and provided for human redemption. One purpose of Christ’s death is to rescue us from the present evil age. The gospel is an emancipating message. It delivers believing sinners from 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 great things?
B. In His redemptive work Christ accomplished the will of God (Gal. 1:4, Heb. 10:7-10). Further, in that obedience the Savior brought glory to God (Gal. 1:5; Jn. 17:1). Redeemed saints will in addition give glory to God forever because of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
C. Thus, Paul had already drawn the lines of battle by touching on two vital concerns. He had affirmed his own apostleship and had declared that the basis of man’s salvation lies solely in the work of Christ and not in any human works.
Illustration 3: Is It a Sacrifice?
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay?
Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life—
these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.
The book of Galatians is called the “Christian’s Declaration of Independence.”
Justification by faith is clearly taught here. Paul claims his Apostleship again in this letter and have the authority to deal the problems of the Galatian churches which we will be talking in the following weeks.