Galatians

 

Author

·         Paul

·         He may have written this letter himself instead of using a secretary/amanuensis.

 

Place and Time of writing

·         Somewhere west of the towns of Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  For reference see this map of Paul’s 2MT:  http://studythechurch.com/mappauls1mt.htm

·         He visited those cities on his 2MT and then headed west.  He wrote the letter shortly after leaving.

·         50, at the start of the 2MT

o    Paul had just left the Council of Jerusalem, which took place in 50, and so this could be 50 or 51.

 

Unique Characteristics

·         A letter with stern warnings

·         The only letter written to a house churches in several cities instead of to one city

 

Audience

·         To the house churches in Galatia

·         Galatia is a region and not a city, so this letter was written to several cities.  Paul does not indicate which cities

·         The problem existed in several cities and so Paul addressed this letter to them all instead of writing a separate letter.  He intended for the letter to be passed to all the churches.

·         Paul went to the following 4 cities in Galatia in his 1MT:  Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe

·         NT scholars are divided as to whether the letter was to these cities or other cities. 

·         My opinion: 

o    1.  It would seem from the nature of the letter that Paul had a close relationship with the Christians in the cities

o    2.  The only cities mentioned in Acts that Paul visited in Galatia were the ones mentioned above.

o    3.  Therefore I think he wrote this letter to them. 

 

Theme

·         Paul reassures them that God wants a relationship with them through Jesus.

·         He does that with a three-step analysis defending the idea of salvation by faith only.

 

Opening Galatians Up

 

This letter is unique among Paul’s letters in that he was angry.  Viewing a timeline will help to show what happened and why Paul was angry.

 

48

Paul stops in Galatia on his 1MT

50

Paul attends the Council of Jerusalem

50

At about the same time as Paul was at the Council, Judaizers infiltrated the house churches in Galatia

·         They taught:

·         1.  Gentile men have to be circumcised and

·         2.  Everyone has to follow the Law of Moses

·         Basically this meant that someone had to become a Jew

·         3.  Faith in Jesus

Many Galatian Christians followed the advice of the Judaizers

51

On his 2MT, Paul passed through the Galatian cities

·         He realize that many Galatian Christians had followed the Judaizers’ teachings while he was away

51

After leaving the cities of Galatia, Paul decided to write a letter explaining to the Galatian Christians why the Judaizers were wrong

 

    What was a Judaizer?  We have already discussed them, but now we can give a name to them.  A Judaizer was someone who believed in Peter’s original idea:  that someone should undergo circumcision (if male), follow the Law of Moses, and believe in Jesus in order to be a Christian.

    Why did Paul dislike the Judaizers’ teaching?  For two reasons:

·         First, as we discussed in the lesson on Paul, he did not think advocating for circumcision and the Law of Moses added to the message of Jesus.  Even more, he believed it confused the message of Jesus’ “fulfilling” the Law and the Prophets. 

·         Second, and this is the more important of the two:  Paul believed this taught a “works salvation” instead of a faith-based salvation.  The technical term for the second idea is called “Justification by Faith.” 

o    What is Justification?  Simply it means being made right in the eyes of God

o    “Justification by faith,” therefore, means that a person is made right in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ faith

o    How is this different then “works salvation”?  Works salvation means a person is made right in the eyes of God because of the many actions and “works” for God that they do.  This is how Paul understood the Law.  In order to please God by using the Law you had to follow a long list of do’s and dont’s.  Remember that the Law included the 10 Commandments plus over 600 other laws and rules.

o    Instead, you saw in the lesson Paul that, after Jesus, God desires people to have faith in Jesus.  To be more specific, the Father desires that people believe that part of God came to earth as the Son, Jesus.  And by believing in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will teach the believer how to live. 

§  That is the basic meaning of “Justification by Faith.”  God demands faith and not action.  Now, just to be clear because this can be confusing (it was to the Judaizers):  God does want believers in him to live godly moral lives.  But the focus is on faith and not the action. 

§  Think about it this way:  works salvation is the idea that I can do good actions/works that will please God.  And if I do enough of them I will please God enough to go to heaven.  So the focus on works salvation is on the works and not on loving God.   

§  Justification by faith focuses on faith or belief in Jesus.  If I have faith in Jesus, then I will want to please God because of love for God instead of receiving something for my actions.  So God desires godly moral lives, but only as a result of having faith in Jesus.  Then the actions will naturally flow out of the love of God through Jesus. 

§  Therefore works salvation is focused on what I can get out of this situation, whereas justification by faith is focused on God through Jesus and wanting to please God. 

§  That was the reason Paul was angry at the message of the Judaizers, because they misled people.  Paul even called this “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all.” 

 

Examining how the situation developed

Now that we have covered that, we can examine the timeline above in more detail

1.  Paul introduced Christianity to the cities mentioned above; the result was house churches in the cities.  His message was that God only desires faith, known as “Justification by Faith.”

2.  Paul left for the Council of Jerusalem.  There the Apostles agreed that God only desires faith and not circumcision nor following the Law of Moses.

3.  While Paul was gone Judaizers move into the cities and preached that God required circumcision and the Law in addition to belief in Jesus.

·         Why did they preach this message?  We don’t know.  It may be that they believed in the earlier idea of the Apostles and had not heard about the decision from the Council.  It may be that they simply did not agree with Paul (nor the Council!) and truly believed God desired all three for salvation.  After all, some in Corinth may have believed that, and the Corinthian situation occurred more than five years later.

4.  Paul left Jerusalem on his 2MT and traveled to the Galatian cities.  He found out about the impact the Judaizers had on the Galatian Christians.  For some reason Paul left the cities without resolving the issue.

5.  Shortly after leaving the Galatian cities he became very concerned with the situation there.  He did not want to turn around and go back, but instead he wrote a letter in which he proved to the Galatian Christians that the Judaizers were wrong.

 

The three-step method Paul used for refuting the message of the Judaizers

1.  The Council of Jerusalem:  The Council of Jerusalem, made up of Apostles and other church leaders, had agreed that Paul’s understanding of the message of Jesus was correct.  Paul used this as a stamp of authority on his message against the Judaizers.

·         2:3-5, 7-9:  “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  [By trying to convince them to that all men needed to be circumcised and everyone needed to follow the Law; therefore they were Judaizers.]  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. . . . On the contrary, they [The other Apostles and James] saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.  For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship [This is a sign that they agreed.] when they recognized the grace given to me.  They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.”

2.  Paul confronted Peter:  This incident involved Peter being reluctant to follow through with the decision by the Council.  As a result Paul confronted Peter and explained that he was wrong.  Paul brought up Peter because the Judaizers would have looked to Peter, or I should say Peter’s view of the purpose of Jesus before the Council, as an example of how Christians should live.  Therefore, Paul discussed a confrontation and correction with the person who represented the mentality that the Judaizers would have held. 

·         2:11-16:  “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.  But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  When saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’”

3.  Paul discusses Abraham and the Law of Moses:  As we have discussed in the lesson on Paul, Abraham had faith in God and was made a part of the Covenant with God before he was circumcised.  Later he was circumcised.  Therefore, Paul says that Abraham was the man of faith who gave the example of what God expects from people.  After all, Paul says, Abraham could not have followed the Law of Moses because that came 400+ years later. 

·         Concerning circumcision and the Covenant:  3:6-9:  “Consider Abraham:  ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ [A quote from Genesis 15:6]  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.  The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel I advance to Abraham:  ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ [A quote from Genesis 12:3]  So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

·         Concerning following the Law of Moses:  3:16-18:  “[Concerning the Covenant] The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your see,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this:  The Law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the Covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance [of faith] depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise, but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”

 

What good was the Law?

This brings up the natural question:  Why did God want people to follow the Law in the first place?  What good did it do?  Paul answers that the Law was necessary to show how sinful people are.  Think about it this way:  the Law consisted of over 600 different rules and laws.  It is impossible for someone to follow all 600+, and so Jews in the OT period had to sacrifice frequently.  Basically the Law showed how impossible it was to follow God by depending on one’s actions.  In Paul’s words:

·         3:19a, 24, 25:  “What, then, was the purpose of the law?  It was added because of wrong actions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come [meaning Jesus] . . . So the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has [in Jesus] has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law.”

So, before Jesus, God expected people to follow the Covenant with circumcision and the Law of Moses.  But after Jesus they both were fulfilled and so were not necessary. 

 

The second part of Galatians

As mentioned in Romans, the second part of most of Paul’s letters describes how to live as a Christian since the Gospels had not been written yet.  In Galatians the first four chapters discusses the issue with the Judaizers, and the last two chapters describe how to live as a Christian.  Examples:

·         5:13, 14:  “You, fellow Christians, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather sere one another in love.  The entire Law is summed up in a single command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

·         5:16:  “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 

o    Paul explains briefly how faith will lead to proper action through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

·         6:9:  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

 

Comparing and contrasting Romans and Galatians

Theme of the letter

·         Romans and Galatians basically have the same theme:  that God wants a relationship with everyone through faith

o    In Romans Paul introduces this idea

o    In Galatians Paul had already taught this idea and so reassured them it was true

·         Tone of letter

o    Romans is friendly

o    Galatians is angry

·         Visited the city/area

o    Romans:  Not yet

o    Galatians:  Yes, Paul visited Galatian during his 1MT

 

Outline of Galatians

 

Chapters

1:1-5:  Greetings

1:6-10:  Paul criticizes the change in belief of the Galatian Christians

1:11-24:  Short autobiographical account

2:  Discussion of the Council of Jerusalem and a confrontation with Peter

3-4:  Paul defends “Justification by faith”

5-6:10:  How to live as a Christian

6:11-18:  Concluding remarks

 

Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate

 

63BC

Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting

44BC

Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.

40BC

The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel

37BC

Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt

31BC

Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.

27BC

Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

  • The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

  • The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

  • The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 

AD

All years after this point are AD

Before

6

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem

6

Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors

8

Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah

8-27

Jesus probably worked as a carpenter

26-36

The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate

27

Jesus baptized by John the Baptist

27-30

Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles

30

1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel

30-50

Peter was the leader of the Christian movement

33

Paul became a Christian

48-50

Paul went on his First Missionary Trip

50

Council of Jerusalem

51-90

We do not know what John did during this time period

50-55

Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

51

·         Paul wrote Galatians

54-68

Nero was Roman emperor

55-60

Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

57

·         Paul wrote Romans

58

·         Paul wrote I & II Corinthians

60-62

Paul arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Rome

63

Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

64

Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 

65

1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome

66

Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.

66-70

The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.

68

Mark written around this year

70

The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 

80

Matthew and Luke written around this year

81-96

Domitian is Roman emperor

90

John and Acts written around this year

95

1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian

96

1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life

100

John died

367

First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop

390s

Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books

1200s

NT divided into chapters

1500s

NT divided into verses

 

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Questions/comments, contact Mark at marknickens@gmail.com