Galatians

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The Church of Christ adds works, Catholicism adds works, etc.

NOTE. For more details see, McGee, Galatians. This study is taken from that book with some modifications.

Written by Paul (Galatians 1:1) about A.D. 57, to all the churches in Galatia.

Galatians is a stern, severe, and solemn message (Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1-5). It does not correct conduct as the Corinthian letters do, but it is corrective. The Galatian believers were in grave peril because the foundations of their faith were being attackedeverything was threatened.

The epistle, therefore, contains no word of commendation, praise, or thanksgiving. There is no request for prayer, and there is no mention of standing in Christ. No one with him is mentioned by name. If you compare this epistle with the other Pauline epistles, you will see that it is different.

In this epistle, the heart of Paul is laid bare, and there is deep emotion and strong feeling. This is his fighting epistle. He has on his war paint. He has no toleration for legalism. Someone has said that the epistle to the Romans comes from the head of Paul while the epistle to the Galatians comes from the heart of Paul. A theologian has said, “Galatians takes up controversially what Romans puts systematically.”

The epistle is a declaration of emancipation from legalism of any type. It is interesting to note that legalists do not spend much time with Galatians. It is a rebuke to them. It has been called the Magna Carta of the early church. It is the manifesto of Christian liberty, the impregnable citadel, and a veritable Gibraltar against any attack on the heart of the gospel.

Galatians is the strongest declaration and defense of the doctrine of justification by faith in or out of Scripture. It is God’s polemic on behalf of the most vital truth of the Christian faith against any attack. Not only is the sinner saved by grace through faith plus nothing, but the saved sinner lives by grace. Grace is a way to life and a way of life. These two go together.

Outline

  1. Introduction, 1:1-10
  2. Salutation—Cool Greeting, 1:1-5
  3. Subject Stated—Warm Declamation, 1:6-10
  4. Personal—Authority of the Apostle and Glory of the Gospel, 1:11-2:14
  5. Experience of Paul in Arabia
  6. Experience of Paul with the Apostles in Jerusalem, 2:1-10
  7. Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter, 2:11-14
  • Doctrinal—Justification by Faith, 2:15-4:31

Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage

  1. Justification by Faith—Doctrine Stated, 1:15-21
  2. Justification by Faith—Experience of Galatians, 3:1-5
  3. Justification by Faith—Illustration of Abraham, 3:6-4:18
  4. Justification by Faith—Allegory of Hagar and Sarai, 2:19-31
  5. Practical—Sanctification by the Spirit, 5:1-6:10

Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage

  1. Saved by Faith and Living by Law Perpetrates Falling from Grace, 5:1-15
  2. Saved by Faith and Walking in the Spirit Produces Fruit of the Spirit, 5:16-26
  3. Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character, 6:1-10
  4. Autographed Conclusion, 6:11-18
  5. Paul’s Own Handwriting, 6:11
  6. Paul’s Own Testimony, 6:12-18
  • Cross of Christ vs. Circumcision, 6:12-15
  • Christ’s Handwriting on Paul’s Body, 6:16-18
    (The New Circumcision of the New Creation)
  1. Introduction, 1:1-10

Galatians is God’s polemic against legalism of every and any description. The Mosaic law is not discredited, despised, nor disregarded. Its majesty, perfection, demands, fullness, and purpose are maintained. Yet these very qualities make it utterly impossible for man to come this route to God. Another way is opened for man to be justified before God, a way which entirely bypasses the Mosaic law. The new route is by faith. Justification by faith is the theme, with the emphasis on faith.

Three epistles in the New Testament quote Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17 emphasizes the just. Hebrews 10:38 emphasizes shall live. Galatians 3:11 emphasizes by faith.

In Galatians, Paul is defending the gospel from those who would add law to justification by faith. Faith plus law was the thrust of Judaism. Faith plus nothing was the answer of Paul.

The Judaizers questioned Paul’s authority as an apostle and his teaching that simple faith was adequate for salvation. Paul defends his apostleship and demonstrates the sufficiency of the gospel of grace to save.

  1. Salutation—Cool Greeting, 1:1-5

In verse 1, Paul states he is an apostle. Paul states that his is not “of men.” He also declares that his apostleship is not “by man.”

Paul was an apostle by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Jesus laid His hand upon Paul, called him, and set him apart for the office (Acts 9:15, 16).

Men had nothing to do with Paul’s apostleship. This differs from the pastor who is ordained by men.

Paul’s greeting in verse 2 is cool, brief, formal, and terse. No one is personally mentioned. He is writing to “churches of Galatia,” not to a universal church. Of course, the principles apply to every church, to every local assembly.

Two main views of “the church” are proposed. The first says that one meaning of church includes the entire body of believers, of all different groups, who have trusted Christ as Saviour. The other meaning of church refers to local assemblies. There were local churches, or local assemblies, in many parts of Galatia. This first view takes the position that Ephesians looks at the corporate believers—the invisible church. But the invisible body is to make itself visible today in a corporate body.

The other view of the church is that there is no universal body of believers today, known as the church. Rather, the church is an institution which today is made up of local assemblies of believers. When one is saved, he becomes a member of the family of God, not a member of a universal church. Then, such as are saved should become part of a local assembly of believers, a local church. That is the view which, for many reasons, I believe is correct. I have heard arguments for both sides, and I find many holes in the former view. We can all agree that believers should be identified with a local body of believers.

Verse 3 is Paul’s formal greeting that he uses in most of his epistles.

Verse 4: Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins.” He could give no more. “That he might deliver us from this present evil world.” There is a present value of the gospel which proves its power and genuineness. The gospel can deliver you. It can deliver one from alcohol, drugs, and sex sins. Christ alone can deliver in cases like that. This proves the genuineness of the gospel. Christ died for us and rose from the dead “that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” You and I cannot add to that. We have nothing to add.

This is “according to the will of God and our Father.” He can deliver us, not according to law; but according to the will of God. The will of God is that after He has saved us, we are not to live in sin. He can deliver us. He wants to deliver us. He will deliver us, and He will do it according to the will of God.

When one turns to God, and puts His faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God makes of him a new creature. That new creature is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and no longer desires to wallow in sin. He will sin, but he will now grieve over his sin. He will never be content with his sin again.

Verse 5: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul praises God, as we should also.

  1. Subject Stated—Warm Declamation, 1:6-10

v6 There are two aspects of the gospel, and it can be used in two senses: (1) the facts of the gospel, and (2) the interpretation of the gospel. The facts of the gospel are the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received [Paul didn’t originated the gospel; he received it], how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Co. 15:3, 4). These are the historical facts of the gospel which cannot be changed. You have never preached the gospel unless you have stated these facts.

The second aspect of the gospel is the interpretation of the facts. They are to be received by faith plus nothing. The subject of Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers concerns the interpretation of the facts of the gospel. The Judaizers who had followed Paul into Galatian country challenged the interpretation of the gospel (heresy), not the facts of the gospel. Five hundred witnesses had followed Paul into Galatian country. They were very sly and subtle, and said something like, “Brother Paul is accurate as far as he goes (in that he preached the gospel to you and you accepted it), but he doesn’t go far enough. Did he tell you that you should keep the Mosaic law? He didn’t. Well, he should have told you that. Yes, you are to trust Christ, but you must also follow the Mosaic law or you won’t be saved.”

This is one of the oldest heresies known, and it is still with us today. It is adding something to the gospel of grace; it is doing something rather than simply believing something. Every cult and ism has something for you to do in order to be saved.

Christ told the apostles to preach the gospel of salvation by grace. They were not to do anything to gain their salvation, but they were to trust what Christ had done for them. The gospel shuts out all works. Had man been able to believe in the coming Messiah and keep the Mosaic law for salvation, there would have been no reason for Christ to come and die for their sins.

v7  To attempt to change the gospel has the effect of making it the very opposite of what it really is.

v8 Paul says that even if an angel dared to declare any other message that the gospel, he would be dismissed with a strong invective. There are many today who are trying to give us another “gospel.” They may look like angels to you—after all Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers are transformed and the ministers of righteousness (2 Co. 11:14, 15).

v9 Paul says if any man preach any other gospel, let him be damned. The gospel shuts out all works. Romans 4:5:“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The only class that God saves is the ungodly. The Lord Jesus said he did not come to save the righteous to repentance; He came to call sinners. The reason He said that is because there is and was  none righteous, no not one. Even the righteousness of man is as filthy rags in God’s sight. Law condemns man and makes him speechless before grace can save 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 may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The real difficulty is not that people should be “good enough” to be saved, but that they are not “bad enough” to be saved. Humanity always refuses to recognize its lost condition before God.

The Judaizers did not deny the facts of the gospel. They denied that this was adequate. They insisted that you have to keep the law plus trusting Christ. Paul says let the one who mingles law and grace be damned! Why? Because they pervert the gospel. They do not deny the facts of the gospel. They pervert the gospel.

v10 The preaching of the gospel is not pleasing to lost man. No man can please both man and God. Preaching the gospel today may get you into trouble because the sinner hates it. The gospel of grace puts us in the dust and makes us beggars before God.

By nature man responds to legalism. He thinks he does not need a Saviour. All he needs is a helper. I have heard sermons on the radio where the preacher, many times highly regarded by the “Christians” who listen to him, talk about Jesus coming into the world, about His death and resurrection. But they failed to mention that the listeners were sinners and needed a Saviour. He neglected to inform them that Jesus died for them and that, to be saved, they had to trust Him, to put their faith in him. These preachers often talk about commitment. They invite folks to commit their lives to Christ. Christ does not want your old life, nor does He want mine. We have nothing to commit to him.  He wants to do something through us today.

God is not even asking you to live the Christian life. You cannot live it. God is asking that He might live the Christian life through you. The epistle to the Galatians teaches this. But first, we must come to Christ as hopeless lost sinners and be saved. Churches are filled with people who have never come to Christ and received His as Saviour. You have nothing to commit to him. He is the one who died, and he si on the giving end. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Man conscience, his knowledge of good and evil, witnesses to the law, and legal conviction will lead to works. Man tries to compensate for the fact that he is not doing enough. He tries to balance his good works against his sins and have enough on the plus side to be saved.

The Holy Spirit witnesses to grace today. This is gospel conviction that leads to faith. The law denies the fall of man—this was the position of Cain. Grace acknowledges the fall of man, as Abel did when he brought his offering to God.

II.  Personal—Authority of the Apostle and Glory of the Gospel, 1:11-2:14

 1.  Experience of Paul in Arabia, 1:11-24

v11 Paul is again stating that he is a God-appointed apostle. He did not get the gospel he preached from man. The Judaizers questioned Paul’s message and Paul’s apostleship.

v12 Paul did not receive his apostleship by going to school, by being ordained, or by hands being laid on his head. His apostleship came by direct revelation of Jesus Christ. The gospel is a revelation, just as is the book of Revelation. The gospel was unveiled to the Apostle Paul.

v13 Paul says you have heard of my manner of life in the Jewish religion in which he was brought up. He was saved not in Judaism, not by Judaism, but from Judaism.

vv15-17 Paul did not combine Judaism with Greek Philosophy to come up with Christianity, as some modernists assert. He received the gospel by direct revelation of Jesus Christ.

v18 This is the same record given in Acts 9:26-29:

“And when Saul 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.”

God trained Moses in the desert. He put Abraham in a rather unique place to train him, and Elijah had that same type of experience.  It has been God’s method to put his man out on the desert to train him. David was outdoors in the caves of the earth while he was running away from King Saul. God sent Paul into the deserty for les sthan three years. Then he went to Jerusalem, saw Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.

v19 Paul had no contact with the apostles except Peter and James, the Lord’s brother; and he received nothing from them.

v20 Paul says he does not lie. The modernist, mentioned above, said Paul got the gospel by making an homogenized stew out of Greek philosophy and the Mosaic system. One of the two is lying.

vv21-24 In these verses, Paul outlines his first years after his conversion. I don’t think they were the happiest years of his life. Apparently he tell us us something about the failure in his personal life in Romans 7. There were three years in the life of the Apostle Paul”

  1. Paul was a proud Pharisee. He had a marvelous m ind and was an expert in the Mosaic Law. As many of his biographers have said, the world would have heard of Paul even if he had not been an apostle and even if he had not been converted. Dr. McGee does not think there as any question about that. He was an outstanding man. But he was a proud young Pharisee who thought he knew it all. He hated Christ. He hated the church and attempted to eliminate it. He was ruthless in his persecution of the churches.
  2. The second period began on the Damascus Road when he was knocked down into the dust. This brilliant Pharisee found out he did not know Jesus Christ, whom to know is life. He thought Jesus was dead. And he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” Jeus replied, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. When you persecute my church, you persecute me.” When Paul became acquainted with his Lord, he immediately asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” After Paul met Christ, he spent some time in Arabia. During those first years he attempted to minister and found that what he wanted to do he could not do. Finally he cried out, “O wretched man that I am? who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). It was not an unsaved man who said that; it was Paul the Apostle in the first stages of his conversion.
  3. Then came that glorious period when he walked in the Spirit. That was the time he could live for God. See Romans 7:24 – Romans 8). That is the place where many of us need to be today. There are so many unhappy Christians. They are saved, Dr. McGee thinks, but as Dwight L. Moody put it in his quaint way, “Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable.”

Since Paul received the gospel apart from the other apostles—who were with the Lord three years and saw the resurrected Christ—is Paul preaching the same gospel? If he is not, something is radically wrong. In the next chapter, we will see that Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem approved Paul’s gospel and being the same as theirs.

 2.  Experience of Paul with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

v1 Paul took Titus with him to Jerusalem. Titus was a young preacher and a Gentile. This, Dr. McGee believes, is the 1st great council at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. The question to be settled: Whether men are saved by the grace of God or whether they should come under the Mosaic law. Titus was Paul’s exhibit # 1. Titus had not been circumcised. Would he be forced to be circumcised? The Judaizers in the church in Jerusalem, an all-Jewish church, held that all believers in Christ should be under the Mosaic law. Paul and Barnabas came there to get the official word regarding law and grace.

v2 Paul realized that if they were preaching a different gospel from what the other apostles were preaching, something was radically wrong, that he would be wrong, and would have run in vain.

vs3, 4 Titus was not compelled to be circumcised by the church at Jerusalem. Some who were not believers had come where Paul had been preaching to spy out the liberty they had in Christ. To compel circumcision for salvation would be to put one right back under the bondage of the Mosaic law rather than enjoying the freedom by the Spirit of God and the freedom in Christ.

v5 Paul rejected the teaching of the false brethren. Titus was saved by faith apart from the law.:

v6 Paul says we sat down and communicated the gospel there at Jerusalem.  Paul found out that these apostles did not have anything to add to what he has been preaching. He was preaching the grace of God. They find they are in full agreement. They are all preaching the same gospel.

v7 There are not two gospels in the sense of Peter’s gospel and Paul’s gospel. These men were in complete disagreement. The gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision refer to the groups the gospel was going to. Paul was called to go to the Gentiles, Peter to his own Jewish brethren who were the circumcised.

v8 When Peter and Paul preached the gospel, quite a few were saved. Both were preaching the same gospel.

v9 The apostles accepted Paul’s apostleship.

v10 The apostles remind Paul to remember the poor. Paul came back later with an offering for the poor saints at Jerusalem. They had been persecuted and were in a sad condition. This was a social service. James 2:15-17: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

3. Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter, 2:11-14

In this personal section of Paul’s life we have seen his experience in Arabia with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his experience with the apostles in Jerusalem. Now we see his experience with Simon Peter in Antioch. The church in Antioch was largely Gentile, although it was a mixture of Jew and Gentile. The early churches had a love for a feast held in connection with the Lord’s supper. Paul has a lot to say about this in 1 Corinthians. The early believers came together for a love feast, before they celebrated the Lord’s supper. The Gentiles had been accustomed to eating meat that had first been offered to idols, and they also ate pork and other animals designated as unclean in the law of Moses.

To keep from offending the Jewish Christians, two tables were established. One, the kosher table; the other the Gentile table. Paul ate at the Gentile table. He taught that whether you eat mean or you don’t eat meant makes no difference—meat will not commend you to God.

When Peter came to visit Paul in Antioch, he had never eaten anything unclean. Remember what he told the Lord on the roof in Joppa before he went to the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). Peter had been a believer for some time when he came to Antioch.

vs11, 12 Peter ate at the Gentile table; but when some elders from Jerusalem arrived, he ate at the kosher table.

vs 13, 14 For fear of the brethren from Jerusalem, Peter went back to the kosher table. By his actions, he is saying the Gentile table is wrong. The brethren from Jerusalem were austere legalists, and under grace that was their privilege. Dr. McGee has no objection to those who feel that you should not eat certain meats. But they are also to give me the liberty of eating what I choose to eat. Simon Peter turned from the liberty he had in Christ back to Judaism.

The nature of Paul’s rebuke shows, first of all, the inconsistency of lawkeeping. If it was right for Simon Peter to live as the Gentile believers lived, why should he desire the Gentiles to live as the Jews? That is what he was saying when he left the Gentile table for the kosher table. If Gentile living under grace apart from the law was good enough for Peter, was it bad for the Gentiles themselves? If Simon Peter was free to live outside the law, was it not lawful for the Gentiles to do the same?

III. Doctrinal—Justification by Faith, 2:15-4:31
Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage

1. Justification by Faith—Doctrine Stated, 1:15-21

v15 Jews in that day looked upon Gentiles as sinners. Gentile and sinner were synonymous terms. Therefore, Paul’s rebuke shows the folly of lawkeeping.

v16 This is a clear-cut and simple statement of justification by faith. The legalist has trouble with this verse. To say that you have to add anything to faith in Christ absolutely mutilates the gospel. If a Jew had to leave the law behind, to forsake it, Paul’s question is, “Why should the Gentile be brought under the law?” That was the great argument at the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15: “Should the Gentile be brought under the law?” The answer was that the Gentile was not under the law for salvation—nor for his daily living, as he was called to a much higher plane.

The Jews had already proved that justification under the law was impossible. They had the law for almost 1500 years and had not been able to keep the law at all. Why force the Gentile under that which had not saved even one Israelite?

“Knowing that a man.” You can know this. All men are on  one level before the cross. That level is “sinner.”

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” Paul embraces the whole legal system that is found in every religion. Only Christianity is different. Every other religion instructs us to do something. Christianity tells us that we are justified by faith; faith in an accomplished act and fact for you. Every other religion says do. Christianity says done. The great transaction is done, and we are asked to believe it.

1 Corinthians 12:3: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” The question is, “How can we call Jesus accursed?” If someone says to me, “When you came to Christ and accepted him as your Saviour, you didn’t get all that was coming to you. The Holy Spirit  can give you something that you didn’t get in Christ, and you ought to seek that today.” My friend, to do that depreciates the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross when he came to this earth to die for you and work out a salvation so perfect that when he went back to heaven he sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3). He sat down because there was nothing else to be done. When you say he did not do it all for  me, you are saying that Jesus is accursed. And you can’t say that by the Holy Spirit of God. That is, you are not giving me the word of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, ” “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14). When you came to Christ, he gave you everything you will need in this life. Christ is the one who administers all the gifts. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives them, but he is working under the supervision of the second person of the Godhead. We have everything in him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Amen—and when you say amen, you are through. Christ did it all.

This verse is so clear that it is impossible to misunderstand it. It is  not faith plus something. It is faith plus nothing.

The verse continues: “even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” By “we,” Paul includes himself, meaning we Israelites. Jews have to leave the law, cone to Christ and trust him in order to be justified by the faith of Christ rather than by the works of law.

The conclusion of the verse is very clear and means what it says: “for by the works fo the law shall no flesh be justified.” I was a hell doomed sinner. I trusted Him as my Saviour, and I received a perfect salvation from him.

v17  [of Galatians 2]

This study is complete to here. The following outline will be filled as the study progresses.

III. Doctrinal—Justification by Faith, 2:15-4:31

Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage

  1. Justification by Faith—Doctrine Stated, 1:15-21
  2. Justification by Faith—Experience of Galatians, 3:1-5
  3. Justification by Faith—Illustration of Abraham, 3:6-4:18
  4. Justification by Faith—Allegory of Hagar and Sarai, 2:19-31
  5. Practical—Sanctification by the Spirit, 5:1-6:10

Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage

  1. Saved by Faith and Living by Law Perpetrates Falling from Grace, 5:1-15
  2. Saved by Faith and Walking in the Spirit Produces Fruit of the Spirit, 5:16-26
  3. Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character, 6:1-10
  1. Autographed Conclusion, 6:11-18
  2. Paul’s Own Handwriting, 6:11
  3. Paul’s Own Testimony, 6:12-18
  • Cross of Christ vs. Circumcision, 6:12-15
  • Christ’s Handwriting on Paul’s Body, 6:16-18
    (The New Circumcision of the New Creation)

 

 

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