Introduction to the Book of Galatians
From Wuest’s Word Studies we get this: “In 278-277 BC a people known as the Gauls left their home in southern Europe and settled in northern Asia Minor. After 232 BC, their state became known as Galatia. King Amyntas (35-25BC), the last independent ruler of Galatia, bequeathed his kingdom to Rome, and Galatia became a Roman province in 25 BC. During the first century, the term Galatia was used in two different senses: geographically, it referred to the territory in the northern part of the central plateau of Asia Minor where the Gauls lived; and politically, it was used to designate the Roman province of Galatia as it varied in extent. There was a wide difference between North and South Galatia in respect to language, occupation, nationality, and social organization. The northern section was still mainly populated by the Gauls, and was pastoral, with comparatively little commerce and few roads. But in South Galatia the situation was radically different. This section was full of flourishing cities, and was enriched by the constant flow of commerce across it. This was the natural result of its geographical position and political history. In ancient times it was the highway along which Asiatic monarchs kept up their communications with the western coast of Asia Minor. When Greek monarchs ruled in Syria and Asia Minor, the highway between their capitals, Syrian Antioch and Ephesus, passed through Southern Galatia, and was the principal channel through planted colonies of Jews and Greeks along the extent of this highway. The Caesars inherited the policy of the Greek monarchs, and planted fresh colonies along this road in order to secure the important route to the east for their legions and their commerce…As to the location of the Galatian churches, some have held that these churches were situated in that section of Asia Minor designated on the map as Galatia, in which are situated the cities of Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium. This is known as the North Galatian theory. Others hold that these churches were located in the cities of Pisidian Antioch (not the city of Antioch in Syria), Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. This is the South Galatian theory…William M. Ramsey…a student of the Book of Acts, demonstrated that the Roman province of Galatia included at the time of the founding of the Galatian churches, not only the territory of Galatia, but also the country immediately to the south of it in which were situated the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. [Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, pp.11-12] It is thought by Dr. Thiessen that the Galatian letter was written primarily to the churches of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Luke tells a lot about the founding churches in South Galatia in Acts 13:14 through Acts 14:23. It is in this region of South Galatia where there were a good many Jews, and no doubt some Jewish Christians, unlike North Galatia. Paul’s practice of evangelism was to evangelize in every Jewish synagogue he came across as he traveled the roads in Asia Minor. South Galatia would have had synagogues within these cities mentioned, and thus would have been targets of Paul’s powerful evangelism. So my guess and that of most Bible scholars is that the Galatian churches Paul founded were in this South Galatia region, not the North Galatia region which was fairly isolated. Just before the time of Christ, right after the victory of Judas Maccabee over the Greek-Syrian despot Antiochus Epiphanes, Jewish synagogues had been established in all the cities along the trade routes through Asia Minor, and Gentiles were attracted to them (through strong Jewish evangelism) due to their higher and nobler concepts of the One God, over their previous polytheistic belief in a bunch of licentious Greek gods. These folks were what the Jews called “God-fearers.” According the Oskar Skarsaune who wrote In the Shadow of the Temple, these “God-fearers” kept the Sabbath and Holy Days and worshipped with the Jews in their synagogues, but hadn’t made the full step into Judaism through circumcision. These along with a decent number of Jews were the ones being drawn away by Paul as he went from synagogue to synagogue along the trade route roads of southern Asia Minor. My estimate is that the “God-fearers” made up about 10 percent of the synagogues in Asia Minor, and in the South Galatia synagogues in Asia Minor. Via his powerful evangelism Paul would succeed in drawing off large numbers of Jews away from their synagogues into belief in Jesus as the Messiah as well as drawing away most of the “God-fearers” who were the Gentile converts the Jews in these synagogues had won over to Judaism and belief in the one God of Israel, Yahweh. These synagogues would be in this area of highly traveled trade routes across southern Asia Minor (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm).
Galatians was written by Paul to counter the efforts of a group of supposed Jewish believers who had come from Jerusalem, following in Paul’s steps, going to the new churches he had establish. Satan was working through these Judaizers, who had a false concept of true old Testament Judaism, where salvation came by faith, as shown by Abraham. They taught a false concept of Judaism, which was based on salvation earned by works of obedience to the Law. Paul taught salvation by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and righteousness which comes by faith in that, which the faith of Abraham had foreshadowed.
Analysis of Galatians
Galatians 1-2: The Judaizers were trying to undermine, and if possible, to destroy the work of Paul. This the Judaizers tried to do by two methods. First, they endeavored to depreciate Paul’s position and set up the Twelve Apostles as the real interpreters of Christ in order that they might thereby discredit his authority as a teacher of grace. They argued that Paul was not one of the original Twelve, he had not listened to Christ’s voice, he had not seen His face, he had not attended on Christ’s ministry, and he had not been sent out like them at His express command. Furthermore, they said that he had not received the gospel by direct teaching from the Twelve. The second method they used was to substitute a salvation-by-works system for the doctrine of pure grace [i.e. the receiving of the Holy Spirit and salvation by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ] which Paul preached. Paul therefore found it necessary to defend his apostolic authority, which he does in the first two chapters.
Galatians 3-4: [Paul] shows that salvation was by grace before the Mosaic law was given, and that the coming of the latter did not supersede nor affect the economy of grace in the least, and this he does in chapters three and four.
Galatians 5-6: Then, because the teachings of the Judaizers were working havoc in the lives of the Galatian Christians, he found it necessary to introduce some corrective measures emphasizing the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Christian, which he does in chapters five and six. Thus the epistle can be summed up in three words and divided into three sections Personal (1, 2), Doctrinal (3-4), Practical (5-6).” [Wuest’s Greek New Testament, Vol. 1, p.22]
Three Types of Churches
1. A liberal church says you are welcome here and you do not have to clean up your life. (most of the older Christian denominations have become liberal.)
This group of churches tend to be made up of the older Christian revivals-turned-denominations, ones that are from 200 to 300 years old, Lutheran, Episcopal (Church of England), Congregational, Methodist, and many of the Baptist churches, although some of these fall into the next category. Many of these revivals-turned-denominations started out alive and spiritually healthy, and as Charles Stanley said, “the churches became more filled with born-into the church, rather than born-again members of the church.” This is the normal life-death cycle of most large Christian revivals-turned-denominations, they turn liberal and thus licentious.
A friend of mine pointed out the he’s met some real Christians working at a downtown Christian rescue mission, and also a homeless shelter run by one of these denominations from some of these older revival-turned-denominations. What would Jesus recommend? What Jesus said in his letter to the church of Ephesus would apply here, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” (Revelation 2:4-5a) So for those who are still really with-it spiritually and are attending one of these older revivals that has become liberal by the above definition, who have fallen from their first works, how would you follow Jesus’ advice in Revelation 2:4-5a? You would seek out and start attending a church/denomination that is a young revival-turned-denomination, one that is spiritually vibrant, yet balanced and teaching the Word of God. See category 3.
2. A legalistic church says you are not welcome here until you clean up your life. The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God tend to be legalistic, and won’t baptize people until they’re obeying to their satisfaction the laws of God, and adhering to their own doctrinal understandings (many of which may be correct, it’s just they’re placing the “obedience cart” before the horse). There are many other legalistic churches out there as well. Some Torah Observant Messianic Jewish congregations fall into this category, while other’s don’t. As the Book of Acts brings out, baptism and the laying on of hands, which for the early Church brought the Holy Spirit into one’s life, was instant, once a person accepted Christ as their Saviour. Delaying baptism until a high degree of obedience is evident in the person’s life is spiritually counter-productive to the life and growth of these churches as well as for the individual, for it is the Holy Spirit that enables real deep, from the heart obedience (cf. Romans 7 verses Romans 8). These churches tend to be run by ministers that crack the whip and demand obedience from the pulpit, instead of leading people to Christ, who then through the Holy Spirit enables obedience. In that sense, these ministers tend to usurp the job of the Holy Spirit through their demands for obedience externally, instead of guiding their flocks to seek the Holy Spirit that enables internal obedience, from the heart. Thus, they tend to be cattle-drivers and not shepherds over God’s flock which has been entrusted to their care. Many of the fundamentist churches are legalistic, although some of them are not. Now don’t come to a wrong conclusion about legalistic churches, especially the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, as many within their congregations have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God do have a very good understanding of God’s Word, the Bible, and many Bible doctrines. It’s just they have the cart before the horse in their understanding of law & grace, and their concepts about ministry are a bit off (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/AShepherdLooksAt%20Psalm23-short.htm). Amazingly enough, the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God are the very descendants of the original Judeo-Christian churches of God in both Judea and Asia Minor up to around 300AD, before being persecuted and driven underground by the proto-Catholic church under Constantine, so don’t be too hard on them. These Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, historically speaking, have endured and survived great persecution over the past 1700 years, and are to be admired for staying the course (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm). The persecution over the centuries forced these churches to turn inward, becoming exclusive, seldom becoming powerfully evangelical as the early churches of God were during the period of the Book of Acts. Jesus’ advice for them would be similar to that which he gave the church at Ephesus, “remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” What were those first works? See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm. Pastors, stop usurping the job of the Holy Spirit, baptize immediately, let the Holy Spirit do its job, and gently teach and shepherd the flock of God Jesus has entrusted to your care. You have a rich heritage of survival against all odds. Move forward in these areas.
3. Jesus says you are welcome here and I will change your life from the inside out (cf. John 8:11-12; Romans 8:1-16; John 14:15-17,21; John 16:13-14) (this category is filled with the Grace oriented churches, they understand the proper balance between law & grace.) Calvary Chapels, are a denominational group that is most definitely grace oriented, having a proper understanding of law and grace, although their doctrinal explanation about “law & grace” can be somewhat lacking, as they show an aversion to mentioning the word law in their explanations about law & grace. They are keeping the Laws of God, 9 out of the 10 Commandments, to the level that can only be accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit, thus Spirit-level obedience. There may be a good number of properly grace oriented churches and congregations out there. The Calvary Chapels are the only denomination that comes to mind as a whole denomination in my own personal experience, so I am using them as an example (to learn more about them and when this Christian revival started, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith.htm). Many Messianic Jewish congregations are properly grace oriented, and fall into this category as well (I attend one). One Messianic Jewish pastor/rabbi, Marty Cohen, who claims his congregation is Torah Observant, but in reality is very grace oriented said this, “Keeping to Torah is not a prerequisite for being saved, but it’s the evidence that you are!” The Calvary Chapels have been called legalistic by the liberal churches, because they adhere to and live by the Word of God, including 9 out of the 10 Commandments. They are not legalistic though. They quietly keep the laws of God as they are enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit, while reaching lovingly out to the sinners in the world through their good works. This is and should be the evangelistic approach of all grace oriented churches and denominations. Oh, by the way, the Messianic Jewish revival which started to go full-steam around 1970 onward, has seen about one-million Jews come to Christ, by some estimates. Jesus has truly restored the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ, which originally was under the apostle Peter in Judea (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/messianicmovement.htm).
1. Why would I say the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God are descended from the Judeo-Christian churches of God in Judea and Asia Minor? See, http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm and then follow the trail, make the comparison historically, and to do that, see,
2. How should God’s pastors shepherd God’s sheep? See,
3. Both the Calvary Chapel Christian revival and the explosive revival of the Messianic Jewish movement started around the same time, 1969-1970. See,
4. If you’re a believer or a new believer, and trying to decide where you should attend, you’re in the process of choosing a church/denomination, and asking ‘Where would it be best for me to attend, what church/denomination would do the best job of nurturing and establishing me and my family spiritually?’ you need to make a wise choice and consider some spiritual factors. To help you do this, see,
5. You may find this hard to believe, considering the divided and fractured state of the Body of Christ, but Jesus Christ (as the pre-Incarnate Yahweh) has directly and emphatically called for unity within the Body of Christ. See,
(and scroll to the section on Zephaniah 2:1-3)
“Paul an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For ye have herd of my conversation [1611 English word for “conduct”] in time past in the in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: [the early name of the Judeo-Christian churches was “Church of God” (cf. Acts 20:28, 1 Cor. 1:2, 10:31-32, 11:22, 15:9, 2 Cor. 1:1, Gal. 1:13, 1 Tim 3:5, “churches of God”: 1 Cor. 11:15-16, 1 Thes. 2:14, 2 Thes. 1:4)] And profited in the Jews’ religion above many of my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.”
Justification by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central theme of Galatians. In this letter to the churches in Galatia Paul is defending the gospel from those who would add law to justification by faith. Faith plus law was the thrust of the Judaizers. Faith plus nothing was Paul’s response. The Judaizers were questioning Paul’s authority as an apostle.
Salutation and greeting
“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” (Galatians 1:1). J. Vernon McGee in his commentary believes that in reality, Paul took the place of Judas Iscariot. He points out that even though Matthias was chosen to replace Judas in Acts 1:15-16, no mention of him is made in the Scripture after Acts 1:15-26. He is never mentioned again. Also Matthias was chosen before Acts 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Paul also proved his apostleship, and showed his appointment was directly of God and not ritualistic, of man. Jesus supernaturally “laid his hands” on Paul on the Road to Damascus and called him directly into ministry (cf. Acts 9:15-16). “And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia” (verse 2). The word for “churches” here does not refer to the greater body of Christ, i.e. the “Church”, but to a local grouping of churches, congregations within a local district or location, in this case, as we read in the introduction, more than likely the area of Southern Galatia, i.e. any local churches or assemblies that had been raised up in Galatia. This would include Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. The Epistle itself has been called A Declaration of Emancipation From Legalism of any type, and also The Manifesto of Christian Liberty. The Epistle to the Galatians moved such luminaries as John Wesley and one of his more notable converts, William Wilberforce, who brought changes to labor practices, regulations on child labor, and the banning of slavery in the British Empire [buy the CD “Amazing Grace”]. “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3) This is Paul’s standard greeting that he uses in most of his Epistles. The word “grace”, the Greek charis, is the Gentile greeting in that day. “Peace”, from the Hebrew shalom was the religious greeting of the Jews. It’s interesting that the grace of God in our lives must be experienced before the ‘peace of God’ can be experienced in our lives.
The power of the gospel
“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen (verses 4-5). The first essential fact is that all salvation hinges on “that Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world”. There is nothing you can add to that sacrifice to obtain salvation. This is the centerpiece of Paul’s message in Galatians, the core, the nugget of truth that surrounds the rest of the Epistle. “The Lord delivers us from this present evil world, age we live in.” Thousands, millions of people have been delivered down through the ages, and yes, even in today’s present evil age, from drugs, alcoholism, and sins of every kind, and addictions of every kind, ones that are otherwise unconquerable. The power of the gospel proves itself every single day. Christ alone can deliver us in desperate cases like that, where all the well-meaning programs of man ultimately fail. Dennis Leary in his “No Cure For Cancer” CD humorously points out the ultimate futility and failure of all those 12-step recovery programs, and as irreligiously as he makes his point, he is totally correct. Such a crying shame he doesn’t realize what the “real cure” for the sins and addictions of this “present evil age” really is, “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” There is another point, it is God the Father’s will for us to be delivered “from this present evil world” with all it’s sins and addictions. Sometimes the best witness a lot of us ordinary believers have is that of our own particular deliverance, better than the best spiritual orator. Our own personal witness of how some of us have been delivered from alcoholism, drugs and all kinds of harmful addictions, healed marriages, you name it, does not go unnoticed by friends, neighbors, co-workers and your non-believer family. When they see you walk away from whatever addiction or sinful lifestyle you were helplessly caught up in, they witness the power of the gospel of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power to deliver you from this present evil world. It’s a living witness, not a bunch of words you preach at them out of the Bible. Most people can and do ignore preaching or witnessing out of the Bible, but a witness like this they can’t ignore, hard as some will try. It’s undeniable. Yes, Jesus, having given himself for your sins, can deliver you from this “present evil world.” And it is the Father’s will that he do so. Human therapies, 12-step programs, and rehab programs all fail in the end. God’s healing doesn’t. It’s according to the Father’s will for us, not according to the law, but through the grace and power of Jesus Christ. But the will of God, as we’ll see when we read on through this Epistle, is that once he has saved us, is that we don’t live in sin any longer. It is God’s will that you be delivered. Then in verse 5, “to whom be the glory, for ever and ever, Amen.” Here Paul stops to praise God the Father for this amazing power of the gospel of salvation we have available to us. This ends Paul’s salutation.
Paul states his subject,
“the gospel of Christ”
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (verses 6-7). Paul is angry. Why? Because some people have been coming all the way from Jerusalem into the Galatian churches, and they are destroying, mutilating the simple gospel of Christ these folks have been taught, the gospel which brought them to salvation and put the indwelling Holy Spirit into their lives. What is the simple gospel of Christ? There are two aspects of the gospel of Christ or salvation, as it’s called:
1. The facts of the gospel: Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture. i.e. He died, was buried, and he rose from the dead on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
2. The second aspect of the gospel is the interpretation of the gospel. The facts of the gospel (#1) have to be received by faith plus nothing.
The Judaizers didn’t challenge the simple facts of the gospel. There were 500 witnesses in Judea that saw the risen Christ. The simple facts were not contestable. These guys were sly. ‘You’re saved? Oh good. You believe Jesus died, stayed in the grave for three days and then miraculously rose from the dead at the end of the third day. Paul preached that to you and you believed, that’s wonderful. Paul was totally correct as far as he went, but he didn’t tell you everything. Did he tell you that you also need to keep the Law of Moses? No, he didn’t? Well let me tell you what else you need to do. Ever hear of the 10 Commandments? You also must follow the Law of Moses in order to be saved.’ That is one of the oldest known heresies, and a heresy is the perversion of the simple gospel of Christ or salvation. Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 16:27-31, “And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas. And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” That’s it folks, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. [Comment: Most of Paul’s churches in Asia Minor, later coming under the apostle John and his disciple Polycarp were Judeo-Christian believers who observed Sabbath and OT Holy Days out of ethnic custom, but not out of any constraint to keep the Mosaic Law, just as Messianic believers do today. David Brickner, director of Jews for Jesus in a book about Messianic Judaism remarked about the Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers, ‘They have separated themselves out from the rest of the body of Christ, but they still are believers’ (one’s just like Paul was writing to in Romans 14). That was the intent of what he wrote, although I can’t recall the exact words. And Torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God believers are in the same boat as the Torah-observant Messianic Jewish believers Brickner spoke of, and in no way are they Judaizers.] The word “pervert” in verse 7 is the Greek word metastrepho, and is a very strong word. Luke used it in speaking of the sun turned to darkness (Acts 2:20) and by James speaking of laughter turned to mourning (James 4:9). Paul uses this word in referring to those who were changing the simple gospel of Christ making it the very opposite of what it truly is.
“Let them be accursed”
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that we have received, let him be accursed” (verses 8-9). These two verses speak for themselves. Literally means, “let them be damned.” Cf. Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Many people think they have to ‘become good’ to be saved, ‘I’m going to try to obey all God’s laws, and when I improve I’m going to become a Christian.’ Jesus came to call sinners---the sick, spiritually speaking, not the well. The interesting thing is, we’re all sick, all sinners, “none is righteous, no not one.” Even our righteousness is counted as filthy rags in God’s sight, as Isaiah says. The Law of God condemns us. Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth should be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The Law of God, whether the Law of Moses, the Old Testament Mosaic Law, or the ‘Law of Christ’ in the New Testament, has a great purpose for believing Christians and Messianic Jewish believers, and we’ll get to that as we go on. It is not evil or bad, as some overzealous and misinformed preachers have said about it. The Law of God, either version, is not something to be smashed or ‘done away’ with. The Law of God is a great tool for the believer, but it must be used properly, not smashed or done away with. Jesus himself in Matthew 5:17-19 said that the Law of God was not to be done away with, and that anyone who taught others so would be called least in the kingdom of God. Misuse of a tool doesn’t make that tool evil, just makes the user look stupid, it just shows the ‘mechanic’ using it is ignorant of its proper use. The Judaizers did not deny the facts of the gospel---that Jesus had died and rose again. What they denied is that this belief was sufficient for salvation. Judaizers were mingling law and grace, which is a perversion as Paul said, it is a perversion of the gospel of salvation.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (verse 10). Paul wasn’t a men-pleaser. If you preach the gospel of grace, people will hate you, because it’s the gospel of grace that sinner’s hate. They hate having their sin exposed, and then told they have a Savior that will save them from their sin. Most don’t want to look to a Savior (they’re having too much fun in this world, without realizing the consequences for their sin). But what is scary is that there are many unsaved church members, warming their seats in church, who don’t want to hear about grace. By his very nature, man responds to legalism---law & order. Man in Satan’s world craves law & order, when they should be craving a Savior. That’s what makes those who preach law so popular. Man always tries to compensate for the fact that he’s not ‘doing enough’---trying to balance his ‘good works’ against his sins, like on a balance sheet, trying, striving to have enough on the plus side to be saved. If you believe, actually believe, never having been there personally to see Jesus beaten to a bloody pulp, nailed to a cross, dying, and then buried and three days later risen back to life, but nonetheless, you believe that actually happened, you have an active faith in that event, and then you ask Jesus into your life, then you are saved, period. It is now up to Jesus to do the “works” in you. That is what the new covenant is all about. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-13. The very Biblical definition of the new covenant that Jesus’ death ushered in, is that God, not us, will write his law, regardless of whether you prefer the OT or NT version, into your heart and mind. God does the “writing”. Jesus via the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and writes his law into our hearts and minds. Now folks, that doesn’t make the law evil. How can something be evil that Jesus is busying writing into our hearts and minds? Makes all those preachers who preach against law look a little silly now, doesn’t it? Law & Grace is a very difficult subject to understand, theologically, because as John states in 1 John 3:4, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” That is the simple Bible definition of sin. And then throughout the New Testament, believers are told not to sin, to put sin out of our lives. And yet, we’re told at the same time that obedience to the law is not a requirement of salvation. Now isn’t that enough to mess up a new-believer’s mind? I would say so. That is also why there are almost as many different interpretations of Law & Grace as there are denominations. So it would behoove us to get to the bottom of the matter, and that is just exactly what Paul in his letter to the Galatians does. Judaizers were coming along, obviously not properly understanding Law & Grace themselves, throughout the churches of God in Galatia, telling them they had 1) to believe Jesus died, was buried for three days, and then rose from the dead, and 2), they had to obey the law, they had to do these two things in order to be saved. That’s grace plus works, not grace plus faith (and even that faith comes from God). The Law of God is a specific tool that God has given the believer. The Judaizer did not have a proper understanding of that tool, so he misused and misunderstood it. Many people who don’t properly understand what kind of tool the law is can be believers, simply because Jesus is, unbeknownst to them, using this tool within them properly as well. He is in many instances, also writing the Laws of God within their hearts and minds too. As I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, there are almost as many interpretations for Law and Grace as there are denominations. And yet, if you look carefully, and visit the various churches within the various denominations and spend enough time to learn what they teach on Law & Grace, within all of them you will find many true believers in Jesus who are living the same Christ-like lifestyle, obviously empowered by the Holy Spirit. They are true believers, regardless of a theological misunderstanding, or lack of perfect understanding (God gives the grace, thank heaven). They’re all walking in faith, and they’re all having the Law of God written in their hearts and minds. This only proves that many believers and their respective denominations don’t have a perfect grasp of Law & Grace. I sincerely hope by the end of this study on Galatians we will have achieved a better Biblical understanding of Law & Grace. (Proof that Torah-observant churches can be real Holy Spirit indwelt believers is found in Romans 14, which Paul also wrote. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/romans12-14_2.htm. For the grace oriented churches and ministries, understand, beating up those you consider to be “legalistic”, as some ministries do, some viciously, does not help those other believers that don’t have a good understanding of Paul’s teachings in Galatians, and potentially hurts those whom Paul said in Romans 14 were the servants of Jesus as well. To those who attack the Torah-observant churches and denominations saying “legalism is a virus”, they had better take the beam out of their own eye, before trying to remove the mote out of other’s eyes.)
Paul’s Experience in Arabia
Galatians 1:11-12, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is somewhat of a repeat of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:1. “After man” should be “according to man”. The Judaizers weren’t just questioning Paul’s message but his very apostleship. He was not one of the ‘original Twelve’, and hadn’t been with Jesus during his three and a half year ministry. So Paul has to show the Galatian churches where his apostleship really came from, in defense of what the Judaizers were saying. Paul states he didn’t get the gospel he was preaching “according to man.” Paul’s gospel and apostleship came directly by revelation from Jesus Christ. That word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, and is the same word for “revelation” in “The Book of Revelation”. Paul didn’t became an apostle through Peter, James or John, but by the direct call of Jesus Christ. The theology of Paul which comes to us out of Romans and his other Epistles came to Paul as a direct revelation from Jesus Christ. “For ye have heard of my conversation [King James 1611 English word for “conduct”] in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it: and profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (verses 13-14) Paul then tells us a bit about his “conduct” in the Jews’ religion, showing that this conduct was anything but something to be desired. This Jews’ religion is what Jesus saved him from. Paul’s past was spent as an overzealous Pharisaic Jew who was trying to decimate the early Church in Judea.
Where did Paul get the gospel he preached?
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen [Gentiles]; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles I saw none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God I lie not. (verses 15-20). Let’s look at a companion Scripture to this, found in Acts 9:26-29, “And when Paul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.” Where did Paul get the gospel he preached? Some say, the brilliant mind that he was (and that is true, he was brilliant), that he combined the Mosaic system and Greek philosophy and came up with Christianity. Paul says right here in Galatians that this is not the way he received the gospel of Christ. Paul states he got it directly from Jesus Christ by divine revelation---apokalupsis. So how and where did Paul get the “gospel of Christ”, and by the way, all the theology attributed to him? He says “I conferred not with flesh and blood” (verse 16). At this time he didn’t confer with the apostles (verse 17). But he did journey to Arabia (i.e. what is today Saudi Arabia). That’s a long way from Damascus. So he traveled south through what is now Jordan, and into the desert of Saudi Arabia. God has trained some of his top servants, Moses included, in the desert. He says he conferred (and received his gospel) not from flesh and blood. So obviously Paul is in the Arabian desert either directly with Jesus Christ or receiving divine revelation---apokalupsis---from Jesus, perhaps as John did on the Isle of Patmos. Then he returns. It’s not clear whether he spent all three years in Arabia, or a part of them, when you compare Galatians 1:15-24 with Acts 9:26-29. But he attempts to see the disciples, isn’t able to except for Peter and James, whom he spent 15 days with. Barnabas brought Paul to Peter and James. He had the faith and courage to intercede for Paul and bring him to Peter. In verse 20, Paul asserts before God “I lie not”. So without Barnabas, Paul may have had to wait a long time to see anybody in the Church. People were afraid of him, he had killed or caused the deaths of quite a few members of the Jerusalem church. “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me” (verses 21-24). These verses and also in Acts 9 tell us somewhat about his first years after conversion, and they weren’t the happiest years of his life. Romans 7 describes what obviously were his first years as a new-believer. His spiritual walk wasn’t successfully “in the Spirit” in the beginning. Just read Romans 7. He may have understood all the theology Jesus gave him, but he obviously wasn’t able to live it right away (is anyone able to as a new-believer?).
three periods in Paul’s life
1. Paul the proud Pharisee: He possessed a marvelous mind and was truly an expert in the Mosaic Law. Some speculate that he was being groomed by Gamaliel for the high priesthood. But he was proud, and toward the fledgling churches of God in both Jerusalem and Judea, he was a vicious persecutor. He hated the Church and tried to eliminate it, causing the death of quite a few members, both men and women alike.
2. The second period of Paul’s life: The second period in Paul’s life began on the Damascus Road. Paul honestly thought Jesus was dead. He met a very alive Jesus, glowing brighter than the hot Middle Eastern sun. Still not knowing it was Jesus, he asked “Who art thou, Lord?” Jesus answered, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. When you persecute My church, you persecute Me.” (cf. Acts 9:5) Oops…Now a humbled Paul accepts Jesus into his life. After this Paul spent some time, perhaps almost three years, with the risen Christ in the Arabian desert. Part of this second period was spent by Paul learning firsthand that the Law doesn’t save---it’s a good spiritual mirror, shows where the dirt is (that’s its main and only purpose for believers in Jesus), but the Law has no power to save, only to condemn. This early new-believer experience is described by Paul in Romans 7.
3. Glorious period of Paul’s life: This was the period where he walked in the Spirit (cf. Romans 8:1-17). He could now live for God. That is where Christians, many of us need to be---not stuck in Romans 7, but living in Romans 8. There are so many unhappy Christians. They are saved, but as D.L. Moody said, “Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable.”
It is too bad we couldn’t have been “a fly on the wall” for those 15 days Paul spent with Peter and James in Jerusalem. We do know the apostles approved Paul’s gospel, either the same or very similar Good News they preached. Paul also might have helped the apostles better articulate their concepts of what the gospel of Christ was, bringing them up-to-speed theologically. Can you imagine Peter and James spending fifteen days with Paul? “You spent almost three years with the risen Lord? Tell us everything!”
Who were the Judaizers, anyway?
try to understand. You see,
the Judaizers weren’t just questioning Paul’s message, but his very
apostleship. What I see happening is that in the beginning
of the Church in Jerusalem and Judea, explosive growth occurred. At first, the whole Church, existing only in
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Galilee, was Torah-observant. They kept the Law of Moses, including Sabbath
and Holy Days, and went to the temple at times. Then
in Acts 10 God, Jesus, slowly revealed that the Gentiles could receive
salvation. Shortly after,
in Acts 15, over the issue of circumcision, obviously stirred up
by the Judaizers, the Jerusalem church, under Peter and James makes
the ruling about Gentiles not being under any constraints of the
Mosaic Law, showing that at this point the Jerusalem Church and churches
of God in Judea, Samaria and Galilee had come under the full understanding
of the gospel of Christ revealed to Paul by divine revelation from
the risen Christ. But the
gospel of Christ was revealed to Paul by divine revelation by a personal
encounter with Christ, and not through Peter, James and the other
apostles. Paul (Galatians 1:18-19) in a personal meeting with Peter
and James must have then revealed the simple gospel of Christ he
had received by divine revelation. Although
in Acts 4:12 it shows Peter understood key elements of it already. But the church of God in Jerusalem and Judea
had well over 3,000 members just on Pentecost (Acts 2), and swelled
to over 5,000 shortly afterward, with estimates going as high as
50,000 believers in Judea as time went on. All
of these believers were in the process of being drawn, doctrinally
and theologically, out of the Old Covenant into the New. Such
a major doctrinal paradigm change in a large body of believers takes
time. Even as Paul must have
explained all that he learned about grace with Peter and James in
the short span of his fifteen day visit with them, getting this new
knowledge successfully assimilated into a large body of believers
who had been brought up under strict Pharisaically influenced Old
Covenant Judaism would have been a slow, and at times painful process
for believers. (I know from personal experience!) My guess is that some elements of the Church
in Judea and Jerusalem “caught onto the new doctrinal understandings”
faster then others, while some were slow to grasp, and others never
would. Don’t forget, it’s either mentioned in Acts
or one of Paul’s epistles ‘that a large number of Pharisees had come
to belief in Jesus, all zealous for the Law.’ The
groups that were slow to grasp, and even many of those who never
would grasp all the new theology of grace still were indwelt with
the Holy Spirit.
Were the Judaizers non-believers?
Were the Judaizers non-believers, as many modern theologians say they were? Paul in Galatians 6 gives some pretty clear evidence that the Judaizers were not believers, as such. Throughout this text I call them quazi-believers. They were a tiny radical group of Pharisees found within the larger group of Pharisees that had come to Christ. But out of this group, they were a more radical group, and as I believe evidence shows, they had only come to a physical knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Even after Acts 15 they could not and would not give up the Mosaic Law as a requirement for salvation. While many if not most of the Jerusalem and Judean believers still adhered to the Mosaic law, they knew firmly it was not to be considered as an obligation for salvation. They had successfully progressed through “the belief that strict observance of the Mosaic Law of God and faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was required for salvation”, to “the belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone was the only requirement for salvation”. The Judaizers never made that doctrinal transition. This Pharisaic group, from their very background, had a very close relationship and fellowship with all the other Pharisees. They never really broke ranks with the non-believer Pharisaic group. They were brothers, so to speak. This group had come to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but at a purely physical knowledge level, and they wanted to escape the persecution under the Jewish leadership at Jerusalem. Many if not most of the Pharisees that had come to Christ were indeed courageous, willing to put their life on the line, Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. But the Judaizers were not so. They also wanted to look good in front of their non-believer Pharisee friends. They were showing none of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what Paul reveals in Galatians 6:12-13, “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.” This is not the fruit of a Holy Spirit indwelt believer in Jesus Christ, Yeshua haMeshiach. Paul even gives us the key evidence that this is true “For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law: but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (verse 13). So the Judaizers openly and aggressively sought to mix the requirements of the Old Testament Mosaic Law with the gospel of Christ, the grace of God (even after the Jerusalem Church had progressed out of that early belief). And what’s more, these Judaizers sought to do this to protect their own precious hides, and also, as Paul points out, to wrack up ‘brownie points’ with their other non-believer Pharisee friends. But as Paul noted, and this is what leads me to believe the Judaizers weren’t ever real believers, they weren’t empowered by God’s Holy Spirit: “For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law.” Why aren’t they believers? They weren’t even close to showing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, they came into the category of being at the level of Galatians 5:19-21, living in the works of the flesh, not Galatians 5:22-23 and showing the fruits of the Spirit. They were showing by their actions where their real true loyalties lay, and that was with their non-believer Pharisee brothers who played an active part in the Jerusalem religious government, the very ones that were severely persecuting the real Jewish believers in Jerusalem and Judea. In Jerusalem and Judea, the Judaizers could disguise who they were and attend within the Church, as most believers in Judea adhered to the Old Testament Law of Moses, because it was also the ‘law of the land.’ This group probably ended up dying in the Jewish wars against Rome. I highly doubt God would have protected them when 70AD came around and Rome destroyed the Temple. My guess is they died with their Pharisaic friends in Jerusalem, and if they escaped, they didn’t remain with the Church. So, applying what Paul says about “Judaizers” to legalists of our present day and age is taking this letter out of it’s proper historic context, and allowing us to attack another part of the body of Christ, which is also not Scriptural. You don’t have to attend a church you deem legalist, so stop criticizing them. Who made you judge and jury? As Paul said in Romans 14, “Who made you a judge over another man’s servant?” And we all know when Paul said “another man’s servant”, that other man is Christ. The Judaizers wanted to glory in the flesh, circumcision. They wanted to protect their own precious hides, and they couldn’t even keep the law, as others, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were able to. I would honestly say the Judaizers were a tiny group of super-zealous Pharisaic believers, within the overall group of Pharisees who had become believers who were genuine believers.
To read an excellent article which makes the various covenants of God clear and easy to understand, log onto:
To read a balanced study on Law & Grace, see: https://unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm
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