Galatians 1 – pt 1 – Bible study notes

Greetings (1:1-5)

  • Paul seems to hurry through his greeting — verses 1-5 was one sentence! 
  • So we won’t spend much time on it either, we will get right into the heart of his letter
  • He skipped most of the customary politeness of an introduction 
  • He got right to the point with a stinging curse placed on anyone who would dare to preach a gospel other than the one the Galatians had already received 
  • He uses strong words and seems angry about what has happened.
  • Before we get into what he’s angry about, let’s take a look at Paul.  
  • He spends a lot of time in this chapter defending his position of authority — his apostolic ministry.
  • Who is Paul? (1:1-2; 1:11-24)
  • Paul begins this letter by firmly establishing his authority 
      • It wasn’t only the grace gospel that was under attack; it was Paul’s apostolic ministry that was also being discredited by those who wanted to mix grace with the keeping of Jewish law. 
  • His apostleship was bestowed upon him by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who was raised the Son of God in power (Romans 1:4)
      • Apostle is a translation of the Greek word “apostolos” meaning “apo” — from and “stello — to send; It means compelled to go, commissioned.  
      • 2 Cor 5:14-15 — talking about being ambassadors for Christ tells us that it is the love of Christ (that) compels us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
      • Referring to the act of sending someone on a commission to represent the sender.  
      • The revelation of the resurrection of Jesus inspires the commission. 
      • Paul saw that humanity was co-raised together with Christ [Hos 6:2 and Eph 2:5, 6]
      • Apostle was a term used of a messenger who was provided with the credentials.
          • 2 Cor 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
  • In his greeting, he mentions “all the brethren which are with me.”  
      • Although Paul is the composer of this letter, he is relating the fact that he is not alone in stating the doctrinal truths that he will portray in this letter.
  • In verse 11 the phrase “I certify” (in verse 11) means “to make known.”
      • Paul was elaborating on the point he made in the previous verse–that the Gospel was given to him through supernatural revelation, not human teaching
  • Then he begins talking about his past to defend his ministry
      • He was a pharisee of Pharisees
      • His religious zeal led to the persecuting of those preaching the Gospel of grace. 
      • He was in a religious system, like all of the world’s religious systems, that tried to achieve righteousness before God by human effort. 
      • Verse 14 says that Paul advanced or profited within the ranks of Judaism. In the Greek, the word for “profited” literally means “to drive forward (as if by beating),
          • Just as in a race, a person might beat an animal to drive it forward and cause it to advance over the others, so Paul was driven by religion beyond many of his age (Acts 22:3).
      • He was superabundantly zealous for the traditions of man. 
  • Paul begins by talking about his past as a religious persecutor…. much like these same Judaizers that had infiltrated these churches in Galatia
      • But then he reminds them that who he is now is because of the grace of God unveiling His Son in Him…. the very grace that also unveiled the Son in them.
      • The very grace that they are being encouraged to turn away from
  • I love v 15-16 in the Passion translation:  But then something happened! God called me by his grace; and in love, he chose me from my birth to be his.  God’s grace unveiled his Son in me so that I would proclaim the message of “sonship” to the non-Jewish people of the world.
      • Paul realized that the revelation of Christ… the unveiling of the Son in him…. separated him from his natural genealogy (his mother’s womb)… he was a son of God just like the Son… and his message to the Gentiles would be of that same sonship in them.
      • John 1:9 — While Paul was hunting down the followers of Jesus and walking in darkness, Jesus revealed Himself in Paul
      • Paul wasn’t even seeking Him….
      • But Jesus is Light!  And light is not a passive quality.… it’s dynamic, explosive.  Light desires to shine.  He always desires to reveal Himself to men… Even those not searching.
      • Romans 10:20; Isaiah 65:1 — God is always revealing Himself and saying to those in darkness:  “Here I am!! Here I am” – which is hineni in Hebrew — it is a way of expressing total readiness to give oneself – it’s an offer of total availability.
  • He then tells us that he didn’t receive the message of the Gospel by being taught in Jerusalem by the apostles 
      • He didn’t sit under someone’s ministry and just repeat what he’d been taught. 
      • He went directly into the desert and was shut up with God for three years (Galatians 1:18). 
      • God was his teacher…..this Gospel he preached came straight from God.
      • Verse 17 in the Mirror:  This is radical! I deliberately distanced myself from Jerusalem and the disciples of Jesus. I landed up in Arabia before I returned again to Damascus. (The weight of this revelation left me no choice; instead of finding out more about Christ in history, I desire to discover him more in me!
  • In verse 20, Paul wanted to strengthen the points of his letter by stating before God that he was not lying, but apparently, someone was lying to the Galatians. 
      • Paul made it very clear in this letter that the legalistic Jews, who taught that an individual had to keep the Law of Moses to be saved, were the ones who were deceiving the Galatians.
  • His Jewish name Saul and his Roman name was Paul which he began using for the first time in Acts 13:9.  
      • He was no longer Saul the religious, persecuting, terrorist Pharisee but Paul the apostle, sent by Jesus and God the Father 
      • Jesus wasn’t revealed to Paul… But rather in Him — verse 16 in the Mirror:  This is the heart of the gospel that I proclaim; it began with an unveiling of his Son in me, freeing me to announce the same sonship in the masses of non-Jewish people
      • The churches in Judea were saying about him:”The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!”
      • And they glorified God because of it
  • What was it that made Paul so emotional? 
      • What had happened that caused him to feel the need to defend his apostleship… his authority? 
      • False teachers had come in and were causing the Galatians to turn away from the Gospel of Grace by adding requirements/conditions to the finished work of Cross
  • Judaizers
  • These false teachers were known as Judaizers
      • They were a sect of Jewish Christians who were not willing to accept the teaching of the apostles on the matter of faith in Christ alone = righteousness (Acts 15)
      • They were continuing to insist that Believers must come to God through the law, and keep the Jewish Law of Moses
      • They made it their business to visit and unsettle and trouble Gentile Churches.
      • They were simply determined to stamp Christ with the Jewish trademark.
  • Against this, Paul stood adamant.
      • The expansion of Christianity from a Jewish sect….. of faith in Christ apart from the law…. of our lives lived out “in Christ” alone…. of Christ plus nothing… this was Paul’s consuming passion  
  • Throughout history, people have “added on” various requirements to the gospel, almost always with an appeal to Scripture.
  • The crime of the Judaizers was not that they substituted something for Christ’s work, but rather they tried to add something to it.
      • For centuries, Jews had held to the law as the righteous path to favor with God (Lev 18:5; Deut 30:15-20; Matt 19:16-22; Luke 10:25-26)
      • To the Judaizers, Christianity could only be understood in terms of the Old Covenant.
      • So Christianity was faced with a problem:  What has the new to do with the old?
      • A problem we still face today
  • Paul shows these Galatians that the faith-promise principle of the Old Testament (not the Old Covenant!) is as old as Abraham (Gen 15:6) 
      • That the Law (the Old Covenant) was given only as a temporary measure until Christ would come (Gal 3:17-19)
      • Paul states that they have mistaken the actual nature of the Law.
      • It may offer blessing and life to all who succeed in keeping it, but it also pronounces a curse on all who do not (Gal 3:10)
      • Since no one (other than Jesus) has ever succeeded in keeping it, justification (right standing with God) could never come by it (Gal 2:21)
      • Scripture is clear that it is faith in Christ that puts man in right standing with God and not the works of the Law (Gen 15:6)
  • Without a proper understanding of what the Gospel is it will be difficult for us to live this life abundantly as He promised and to share this “good news”…. this goodness of God… with others effectively. 
  • This Gospel of Grace has given us new lives, and if we don’t know what that looks through God’s eyes, we will struggle in this life, and we won’t know what to do with Scriptures in the Old Testament (law).
      • Then we have the danger of adding to grace like the Galatians
      • Through things like working out our salvation, believing that the 10 commandments and the Old Covenant Law is for us, and believing it is the law that is written on our hearts,
      • Of following a “to do” list of commands that we believe are from God and striving to obey so that He will bless us
      • Rather than just resting in the finished work of the Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension.
  • Paul was angry because these false teachers were throwing the people into confusion and perverting the gospel of Christ through “traditions”….. through making it Christ + your own efforts
      • turning them back to legalism
      • In Paul’s day, it was circumcision
      • But legalism is still active today….
      • David H Stern (writer of the Complete Jewish Bible) has a good definition of legalism:  the false principle that God grants acceptance to people, considers them righteous and worthy of being in his presence, on the ground of their obedience to a set of rules, apart from putting their trust in God, relying on him, loving him, and accepting his love for them.
      • It’s not based on your obedience but on Christ’s.  His obedience is your obedience.
      • Under the New Covenant we simply rest in the finished work of Jesus
      • Paul told them that by turning to this “gospel,” which was no gospel at all, they were turning away from Christ and from living in His grace.
  • So….what does this Gospel of grace look like?   We’ll cover that next week!

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