Book 9 - PAUL'S LETTER TO THE
With people, places, definitions, maps ......
Writer: The apostle Paul, writing either (1) to the churches of South Galatia such as Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe established during his First Missionary Journey; or (2) to North Galatia, possibly resulting from his Second Journey. Galatia is in present-day Turkey
Date: (1) If South Galatia, c AD48 or 49 before the Council at Jerusalem; or (2) if North Galatia, c AD56 or 57 some time before Paul's Letter to the Romans
Where written: Where written: (1) On the way to the Council at Jerusalem; or (2) possibly from Macedonia or Corinth on Paul's Third Journey
Readers: The churches established (1) during Paul's First or (2) possibly Second Journey's
Why: The church is moving away from Paul's teaching of "justification by faith" in Jesus Christ towards meeting the needs of the Law. Paul condemns those who are teaching in this false way, and in contrast, declares that he has the authority of a true apostle. If the Galatians want to practice Jewish traditions such as circumcision, they have a stark choice - either slavery to the Law or freedom in Jesus. But they must understand that the liberty they enjoy as Christians is not a licence to behave as they want, but an obligation to serve others according to God's will.
Map - Paul Writes to the Galatians
Map Key: Letter sent from 1 to 2 or 3 to 4
PAUL'S AUTHORITY AS AN APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES
GREETINGS TO THE CHRISTIANS OF GALATIA; JESUS' SACRIFICE TO RESCUE US FROM OUR SINS
Galatians 1:1-5 - I, Paul, who am appointed and commissioned a messenger not by man but by Jesus Christ and God the Father (who raised him from the dead), I and all the brothers with me send the churches in Galatia greeting. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to the Father's plan gave himself for our sins and thereby rescued us from the present evil world-order. To him be glory for ever and ever!
THEY ARE BEING LED AWAY FROM THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
Galatians 1:6-7 - I am amazed that you have so quickly transferred your allegiance from him (God) who called you in the grace of Christ to another "Gospel"! Not, of course, that it is or ever could be another Gospel, but there are obviously men who are upsetting your faith with a travesty of the Gospel of Christ.
PAUL TOTALLY CONDEMNS THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR FALSE TEACHING
Galatians 1:8-10 - Yet I say that if I, or an angel from Heaven, were to preach to you any other Gospel than the one you have heard, may he be damned! You have heard me say it before and now I put it down in black and white - may anybody who preaches any other Gospel than the one you have already heard be a damned soul! (Does that make you think now that I am serving man's interests or God's? If I were trying to win human approval I should never be Christ's servant.)
HIS GOSPEL IN CONTRAST WAS REVEALED TO HIM DIRECTLY BY JESUS
Galatians 1:11-12 - The Gospel I preach to you is no human invention. No man gave it to me, no man taught it to me; it came to me as a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
PAUL'S ZEAL AS A JEW; HIS EARLY LIFE AS A CHRISTIAN
Galatians 1:13-24 - For you have heard of my past career in the Jewish religion, how I persecuted the Church of God with fanatical zeal and, in fact, did my best to destroy it (Acts 9:1-2). I was ahead of most of my contemporaries in the Jewish religion, and had a greater enthusiasm for the old traditions. But when the time came for God (who had chosen me from the moment of my birth, and then called me by his grace) to reveal his Son (Jesus) within me (on the road to Damascus  - Map following) so that I might proclaim him to the non-Jewish world, I did not, as might have been expected, talk over the matter with any human being. I did not even go to Jerusalem to meet those who were God's messengers (apostles) before me - no, I went away to Arabia  and later came back to Damascus . It was not until three years later that I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter (Acts 9:26-30), and I only stayed with him just over a fortnight. I did not meet any of the other messengers (apostles), except James, the Lord's brother.
All this that I am telling you is, I assure you before God, the plain truth. Later, I visited districts  in Syria (probably from Syrian Antioch, Acts 11:25) and Cilicia (perhaps from his home town of Tarsus, Acts 9:30), but I was still personally unknown to the churches of Judea. All they knew of me, in fact, was the saying: "The man who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they thanked God for what had happened to me.
Map - The Conversion and Earliest Journeys of Saul (Paul) c AD34-45
Map Key: 1. The early journeys of Paul as recorded in his Letter to the Galatians and the Acts of the Apostles. Also in text in [red square brackets]
Part of Paul's pre-conversion and early Christian life (locations 1-2 & 6-8) is covered in Acts 9:1-30
HOW HE DEFENDED HIS MINISTRY TO THE GENTILES
Galatians 2:1-10 - Fourteen years later, I went up to Jerusalem again (either for the famine relief visit of Acts 11:27-30, or the later journey for the Council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:1-24), this time with Barnabas, and we took Titus with us. My visit on this occasion was by divine command, and I gave a full exposition of the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles. I did this first in private conference with the church leaders, to make sure that what I had done and proposed doing was acceptable to them. Not one of them intimated that Titus, because he was a Greek, ought to be circumcised. In fact, the suggestion would never have arisen but for the presence of some pseudo-Christians (perhaps the "Judaisers" of Acts 15:1-2), who wormed their way into our meeting to spy on the liberty we enjoy in Jesus Christ, and then attempted to tie us up with rules and regulations. We did not give those men an inch, for the truth of the Gospel for you and all Gentiles was at stake. And as far as the leaders of the conference were concerned (I neither know nor care what their exact position was: God is not impressed with a man's office), they had nothing to add to my Gospel. In fact they recognised that the Gospel for the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) was as much my commission as the Gospel for the circumcised (the Jews) was Peter's. For the God who had done such great work in Peter's ministry for the Jews was plainly doing the same in my ministry for the Gentiles. ...
- Paul either does not know about or is failing to recognise Peter's work amongst such Gentiles as the centurion Cornelius, Acts 10:24-48 -
... When, therefore, James, Peter and John (who were the recognised "pillars" of the church there - the brother of Jesus, and the two apostles) saw how God had given me his grace, they held out to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, in full agreement that our mission was to the Gentiles and theirs to the Jews. The only suggestion they made was that we should not forget the poor - and with this I was, of course, only too ready to agree.
HIS CONFRONTATION WITH PETER OVER FORCING GENTILES TO FOLLOW JEWISH CUSTOMS
Galatians 2:11-14 - Later, however, when (the apostle) Peter came to (Syrian) Antioch I had to oppose him publicly, for he was then plainly in the wrong. It happened like this. Until the arrival of some of James' companions, he, Peter, was in the habit of eating his meals with the Gentiles. After they came, he withdrew and ate separately from the Gentiles - out of sheer fear of what the Jews might think. The other Jewish Christians carried out a similar piece of deception, and the force of their bad example was so great that even Barnabas was affected by it. But when I saw that this behaviour was a contradiction of the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter so that everyone could hear, "If you, who are a Jew, do not live like a Jew but like a Gentile, why on earth do you try to make Gentiles live like Jews?"
WE LIVE BY BELIEVING IN CHRIST, NOT BY OBEYING THE LAW; OTHERWISE HE DIED FOR NOTHING
Galatians 2:15-21 - And then I went on to explain (to the apostle Peter, who during a visit to Syrian Antioch ate with Gentiles until the arrival of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem caused him to stop) that we, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, know that a man is justified not by performing what the (Jewish) Law commands but by faith in Jesus Christ. We ourselves are justified by our faith and not by our obedience to the Law, for we have recognised that no one can achieve justification by doing the "works of the Law". Now if, as we seek the real truth about justification, we find we are as much sinners as the Gentiles, does that mean that Christ makes us sinners? Of course not! But if I attempt to build again the whole structure of justification by the Law then I do, in earnest, make myself a sinner. For under the Law I "died", and now I am dead to the Law's demands so that I may live for God. As far as the Law is concerned I may consider that I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old "I", but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live, I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. Consequently I refuse to stultify the grace of God by reverting to the Law. For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing!
THE CHOICE IS SLAVERY UNDER THE LAW OR FREEDOM IN CHRIST
THE GALATIANS MUST NOW CHOOSE BETWEEN BELIEVING THE NEW GOSPEL AND OBEYING THE OLD LAW; IT IS ONLY BY BELIEVING IN THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST THAT GOD GIVES YOU HIS HOLY SPIRIT
Galatians 3:1-5 - O you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ the crucified so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you? I will ask you one simple question: did you receive the Spirit of God by trying to keep the Law or by believing the message of the Gospel? Surely you can't be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances? Has all your painful experience brought you nowhere? I simply cannot believe it of you! Does God, who gives you his Spirit and works miracles among you, do these things because you have obeyed the Law or because you have believed the Gospel? Ask yourselves that.
ABRAHAM AS AN EXAMPLE OF LIVING IN FAITH, A FAITH FREELY AVAILABLE TO ALL
Galatians 3:6-9 - You can go right back to Abraham to see the principle of faith in God. He, we are told,
'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' (Genesis 15:6)
Can you not see, then, that all those (Jew or Gentile) who "believe God" are the real "sons of Abraham"? The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles "by faith", really proclaimed the Gospel centuries ago in the words spoken to Abraham,
'In you all the nations shall be blessed.' (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14)
All men of faith share the blessing of Abraham who "believed God".
NO ONE CAN MEET ALL THE DEMANDS OF THE LAW; FAITH IN JESUS SAVES US FROM THAT IMPOSSIBILITY
Galatians 3:10-14 - Everyone, however, who is involved in trying to keep the Law's demands falls under a curse, for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.' (Deuteronomy 27:26)
It is made still plainer that no one is justified in God's sight by obeying the Law, for:
'The just shall live by faith.' (Habakkuk 2:4)
And the Law is not a matter of faith at all but of doing, as, for example, in the scripture:
'The man who does them shall live by them.' (Leviticus 18:5)
Now Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law's condemnation, by himself becoming a curse for us when he was crucified. For the scripture is plain:
'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.' (Deuteronomy 21:23)
God's purpose is therefore plain: that the blessing promised to Abraham might reach the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, and the Spirit might become available to us all by faith.
GOD TOLD ABRAHAM ABOUT THE COMING OF JESUS LONG BEFORE HE GAVE MOSES THE LAW
Galatians 3:15-18 - Let me give you an everyday illustration (of God's promise), my brothers. Once a contract has been properly drawn up and signed, it is honoured by both parties, and can neither be disregarded nor modified by a third party.
Now a promise was made to Abraham and to his seed. (Note in passing that the scripture says not "and to seeds" but uses the singular
'and to your seed' (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7),
meaning Christ.) I say then that the Law, which came into existence four hundred and thirty years later (Exodus 12:40; this 430 years is onlypart of the time between God's promise to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3, and Moses receiving the Law, Exodus 19-31), cannot render null and void the original "contract" which God had made, and thus rob the promise of its value. For if the receiving of the promised blessing were now made to depend on the Law, that would amount to a cancellation of the original "contract" which God made with Abraham as a promise.
THE LAW WAS GIVEN TO SINFUL MAN TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR CHRIST'S COMING
Galatians 3:19-25 - Where then lies the point of the Law? It was an addition made to underline the existence and extent of sin until the arrival of the "seed" (Jesus) to whom the promise referred. The Law was inaugurated in the presence of angels and by the hand of a human intermediary (Moses). The very fact that there was an intermediary is enough to show that this was not the fulfilling of the promise. For the promise of God needs neither angelic witness nor human intermediary but depends on him alone.
Is the Law then to be looked upon as a contradiction of the promise (of the coming of Jesus Christ)? Certainly not, for if there could have been a law which gave men spiritual life then law would have produced righteousness (which would have been, of course, in full harmony with the purpose of the promise). But, as things are, the scripture has all men "imprisoned", because they are found guilty by the Law, that to men in such condition might come to release all who believe in Jesus Christ.
By faith we are rescued from the Law and become sons of God
Before the coming of faith we were all imprisoned under the power of the Law, with our only hope of deliverance the faith that was to be shown to us. Or, to change the metaphor, the Law was like a strict governess in charge of us until we went to the school of Christ and learned to be justified by faith in him. Once we had that faith we were completely free from the governess's authority.
EVERYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST RECEIVES EVERYTHING THAT GOD PROMISED ABRAHAM
Galatians 3:26-29 - For now that you have faith in Christ you are all sons of God. All of you who were baptised "into" Christ have put on the family likeness of Christ. Gone is the distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female - you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, you are true descendants of Abraham, you are true heirs of his promise.
UNDER THE LAW WE ARE SLAVES TO THE WORLD; IN CHRIST WE BECOME SONS OF GOD
Galatians 4:1-7 - But you must realise that so long as an heir is a child, though he is destined to be master of everything, he is, in practice, no different from a servant. He has to obey a guardian or trustee until the time which his father has chosen for him to receive his inheritance. So is it with us: while we were "children" we lived under the authority of basic moral principles. But when the proper time came God sent his son, born of a human mother and born under the jurisdiction of the Law, that he might redeem those who were under the authority of the Law and lead us into becoming, by adoption, true sons of God. It is because you really are his sons that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts to cry "Father ("Abba" in Aramaic), dear Father". You, my brother, are not a servant any longer; you are a son. And, if you are a son, then you are certainly an heir of God through Christ.
HAVING TURNED FROM PAGAN RITUALS WHY NOW FOLLOW JEWISH FORMS OF WORSHIP
Galatians 4:8-11 - At one time when you (as Gentiles) had no knowledge of God, you were under the authority of gods who had no real existence. But now that you have come to know God, or rather are known by him, how can you revert to dead and sterile principles and consent to be under their power all over again? Your religion is beginning to be a matter of observing certain (Jewish) days or months or seasons or years. Frankly, you stagger me, you make me wonder if all my efforts over you have been wasted!
PAUL PLEADS WITH THEM TO RETURN TO THE WAYS HE TAUGHT THEM
Galatians 4:12-16 - I do beg you to follow me here, my brothers. I am a man like yourselves, and I have nothing against you personally. You know how handicapped I was by illness when I first preached the Gospel to you. You didn't shrink from me or let yourselves be revolted at the disease which was such a trial to me (possibly a painful eye disease, epilepsy, or malaria, already referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:7 as a "physical handicap" or "thorn in my flesh"). No, you welcomed me as though I were an angel of God, or even as though I were Jesus Christ himself! What has happened to that fine spirit of yours? I guarantee that in those days you would, if you could, have plucked out your eyes and given them to me (perhaps implying that he does have an eye disease). Have I now become your enemy because I continue to tell you the same truth?
HE WARNS THEM NOT TO BE LED ASTRAY BY THE FALSE TEACHERS
Galatians 4:17-20 - Oh, I know how keen these men (the "Judaisers") are to win you over, but can't you see that it is for their own ends? They would like to see you and me separated altogether, and have you all to themselves. Don't think I'm jealous - it is a grand thing that men should be keen to win you, whether I'm there or not, provided it is for the truth. Oh, my dear children, I feel the pangs of childbirth all over again till Christ be formed within you, and how I long to be with you now! Perhaps I could then alter my tone to suit your mood. As it is, I honestly don't know how to deal with you.
ABRAHAM'S TWO SONS ILLUSTRATE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SLAVERY TO THE LAW AND FREEDOM THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST
Galatians 4:21-31 - Now tell me, you who want to be under the Law, have you heard what the Law says?
It is written that Abraham had two sons (starting at Genesis 16), one by the slave and the other by the free woman. The child (Ishmael) of the slave (Hagar) was born in the ordinary course of nature, but the child (Isaac) of the free woman (Sarah) was born in accordance with God's promise. This can be regarded as an allegory. Here are the two agreements represented by the two women: the one from Mount Sinai bearing children into slavery, typified by Hagar (Mount Sinai being in Arabia, the land of the descendants of Ishmael, Hagar's son), and corresponding to present-day Jerusalem - for the Jews are still, spiritually speaking, "slaves". But the free woman typifies the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all, and is spiritually "free". It is written:
'Rejoice, O barren (woman), you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who do not travail! For the desolate (woman) has many more children than she who has a husband.' (Isaiah 54:1)
Now we, my brothers, are like Isaac, for we are children born "by promise". But just as in those far-off days the natural son persecuted the "spiritual" son, so it is today. Yet what is the scriptural instruction?
'Cast out the bondwoman (slavewoman) and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.' (Genesis 21:10)
So then, my brothers, we are not to look upon ourselves as the sons of the slave woman but of the free, not sons of slavery under the Law but sons of freedom under grace.
THEY NOW HAVE FREEDOM IN CHRIST; THEY MUST NOT BECOME SLAVES TO JEWISH LEGALISM
Galatians 5:1 - Plant your feet firmly therefore within the freedom that Christ has won for us, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery.
CIRCUMCISION IS VALUELESS; ALL THAT MATTERS IS FAITH IN CHRIST LEADING TO ACTION IN LOVE
Galatians 5:2-6 - Listen! I, Paul, say this to you as solemnly as I can: if you consent to be circumcised then Christ will be of no use to you at all. I will say it again: every man who consents to be circumcised is bound to obey all the rest of the Law! If you try to be justified by the Law you automatically cut yourself off from the power of Christ, you put yourself outside the range of his grace. For it is by faith that we await in his Spirit the righteousness we hope to see. In Jesus Christ there is no validity in either circumcision or uncircumcision; it is a matter of faith, faith which expresses itself in love.
THOSE WHO HINDER THE GALATIANS PROGRESS AS CHRISTIANS WILL PAY A PRICE
Galatians 5:7-10 - You were making splendid progress; who put you off the course you had set for the truth? That sort of "persuasion" does not come from the the one who is calling you. Alas, it takes only a little leaven to affect the whole lump! I feel confident in the Lord that you will not take any fatal step. But whoever it is who is worrying you will have a serious charge to answer one day.
PAUL'S TOTAL CONDEMNATION OF THOSE WHO PREACH CIRCUMCISION
Galatians 5:11-12 - And as for me, my brothers, if I were still advocating circumcision (as some apparently allege!), why am I still suffering persecution? I suppose if only I would recommend this little rite (of circumcision) all the hostility which the preaching of the cross (of Jesus) provokes would disappear! I wish those who are so eager to cut your bodies would cut themselves off from you altogether!
CHRISTIAN LIBERTY IS NOT A LICENCE FOR SELFISHNESS
Galatians 5:13a - It is to freedom that you have been called, my brothers. Only be careful that freedom does not become mere opportunity for your lower nature.
LOVE - ITS PREEMINENCE
Galatians 5:13b-14 - You should be free to serve each other in love. For after all, the whole Law toward others is summed up by this one command, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself'.
FREEDOM AS CHRISTIANS
Galatians 5:15 - But if freedom means merely that you are free to attack and tear each other to pieces, be careful that it doesn't mean that between you, you destroy your fellowship altogether!
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Galatians 5:16-18 - Here is my (Paul's) advice. Live your whole life in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of your lower nature. For the whole energy of the lower nature is set against the Spirit, while the whole power of the Spirit is contrary to the lower nature. Here is the conflict, and that is why you are not free to do what you want to do. But if you follow the leading of the Spirit, you stand clear of the Law.
Galatians 5:19-21 - The activities of the lower nature are obvious. Here is a list: sexual immorality, impurity of mind, sensuality, worship of false gods, witchcraft, hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, bad temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like that. I (Paul) solemnly assure you, as I did before, that those who indulge in such things will never inherit God's kingdom.
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT, also the HOLY SPIRIT
Galatians 5:22-25 - The (Holy) Spirit however (compared with our lower nature), produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control - and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centred in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:26 - Let us not be ambitious for our own reputations, for that only means making each other jealous.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR OTHERS
Galatians 6:1 - Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation.
Galatians 6:2 - Carry each other's burdens and so live out the law of Christ. ....
Galatians 6:3-4 - If a man thinks he is "somebody", he is deceiving himself, for that very thought proves that he is nobody. Let every man learn to assess properly the value of his own work and he can then be glad when he has done something worth doing without dependence on the approval of others.
Galatians 6:5 - ... every man must "shoulder his own pack" (carry his own load).
Galatians 6:6 - The man under Christian instruction should be willing to contribute towards the livelihood of his teacher.
REAPING WHAT WE SOW
Galatians 6:7-10 - Don't be under any illusion: you cannot make a fool of God! A man's harvest in life will depend entirely on what he sows. If he sows for his own lower nature his harvest will be the decay and death of his own nature. But if he sows for the Spirit he will reap the harvest of everlasting life by that Spirit. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for, unless we throw in our hand, the ultimate harvest is assured. Let us then do good to all men as opportunity offers, especially to those who belong to the Christian household.
PAUL'S EPILOGUE IN HIS OWN HAND
- The Letter has been dictated thus far to a secretary. Then:
PAUL'S WAY OF SHOWING HIS DISTRESS
Galatians 6:11 - Look at these huge letters I am making in writing these words to you with my own hand!
THE SELF-SEEKING AIMS OF THE "JUDAISERS" AND WHAT THE GALATIANS WILL LOSE
Galatians 6:12-13 - These men who are always urging you to be circumcised - what are they after? They want to present a pleasing front to the world and they want to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who have been circumcised do not themselves keep the Law. But they want you circumcised so that they may be able to boast about your submission to their ruling.
IN CONTRAST, THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION
Galatians 6:14-16 - Yet God forbid that I should boast about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means that the world is a dead thing to me and I am a dead man to the world. But in Christ it is not circumcision or uncircumcision that counts but the power of new birth. To all who live by this principle, to the true Israel of God, may there be peace and mercy!
PAUL EMPHASISES HIS TOTAL COMMITMENT TO JESUS; A FINAL BLESSING
Galatians 6:17-18 - Let no one interfere with me after this. I carry on my scarred body (from the persecution suffered during his missionary journeys) the marks of my owner, the Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, my brothers, be with your spirit.
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