1 Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– 2 and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul Called by God
11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
The Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.
Magna Carta? = “The Great Charter”
- established in 13th century in medieval England – signed by King John & the barons (leaders under the king, ruling England under a feudal system).
- This Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in medieval England. The US Constitution is based partly upon it.
King John had all authority in England. So then why agree to this document that gave privileges to the people? At that time, England owned land in France and the king relied on the barons to provide money and men to defend those lands in France.
As long as they were successful abroad, the barons were happy to give money and men to the wars. But, King John wasn’t that successful. The barons weren’t happy about that. But King John insisted upon more and more men and money.
The King used to consult with the barons before raising the taxes and demanding men. John didn’t do that. Eventually the barons rebelled and took over the city of London.
This could have led to a great civil war in England. John realized he had to do something and signed this charter – it gave promises and privileges to the people and stopped his abuse of power.
This was a great charter for the people in England.
The letter the Galatians is a great charter for the people of heaven (including us and all Christians).
Martin Luther called this letter his betrothed – his Katy Van Vora. He considered this letter as precious as his wife.
Luther also loved the letter of Romans – he was a monk in a monastery, and was troubled greatly by the first chapter of Romans – speaking of the righteousness of God as being revealed from heaven. Many priests thought this was God’s wrath against sinners. Luther confessed he was angry with God because of this verse. He thought the gospel was an extension of the Law – that God was still an angry God, Jesus was just a more righteous Moses.
Luther struggled with this for a long time, but God revealed later that the righteousness was not an active righteousness that we must do and get – but a passive righteousness that God bestows upon unrighteous sinners. To those who are guilty, simply by believing in the person, death, atonement, resurrection of Jesus, God declared us to be righteous. “It’s as if God has given us a robe of righteousness.”
This changed everything for Luther – that God wasn’t angry, but that he received him as a son.
Similarly, he continued his study in the book of Galatians – God declares those who are guilty to be free from guilt. Jesus takes his righteousness and gives it to us as our righteousness (”The Great Exchange”). So this is a “Great Charter” for us as Christians (and sinners).
“Your blood has washed away our sins, Jesus, thank you.”
It’s our understanding of this and growth in the knowledge of this that helps us to persevere and grow in the Christian life.
Now, who are the Galatians?
Paul and Barnabas.
Paul – immediately after his conversion, began preaching all over. After numerous threats to his life, he went to Damascus, and kept preaching.
While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, they were called to go on a missionary journey (the First Journey – Acts 13:14).
Recap: Acts 13:14 – on the Sabbath, they entered the synagogue and the rulers invited them to bring a word of encouragement. Paul began to remind them of the history of Israel – how they were chosen through Abraham – God had led them through Egypt – led them out of Egypt, into the land of Canaan – God gave them judges up to the time of Samuel – they asked for a king, received King Saul, then King David. “From David’s line, a Messiah (ruler) would come – and in due time, Jesus, born of a virgin came to redeem those under the Law.” It is Jesus he’s preaching.
John the Baptist came first, preparing the way, that they all should look to the One to come after.
Paul later shows how the leaders rejected Jesus, didn’t accept him as their Messiah – “but God raised him from the dead according to many promises in the Scriptures” (Psalm 2, Psalm 16:10) – This together with other promises were seen to be fulfilled in Christ.
Paul gives this history and says, “I want you to know that through Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed. Everyone is proclaimed justified and free from guilt from everything.” The Law was not enough to cleanse from guilt (only expose it) – but the Grace of God, through belief in Jesus IS sufficient to cleanse from guilt.
Paul said, “Take care that what the prophets say does not happen to you – ‘Look you scoffers, you mockers, I’m going to do something among you that you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you.’”
The “God worshipers” – non-Jews – had at that time joined with the Jews and listened with the Jews in the synagogues. Many of the Jews and these “God worshiping” Gentiles received Jesus and Paul and Barnabas were invited back to preach again the second Sabbath. Pretty much the whole city turned up, but the few Jews who didn’t believe stood up and poisoned the minds of the others and caused the leaders to expel the two of them from Antioch. They brushed off the dust from their sandals – to show that they were not guilty of neglecting to share the gospel – and the continued on.
(These are the cities of Galatia)
After Antioch, they went to Iconia. They preached in the synagogues. Some believed and received it joyfully. Others rejected it and poisoned the minds of the people against them. Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a time and God showed his power through them with signs and wonders. Eventually, they had to flee because of the plot to kill them.
Next, Lystra. Here, Paul saw a man, lame from birth – who had FAITH. He said, “Stand up” and he did – “WOAH!” The people thought Paul and Barnabas were gods – or at least angels – and tried to worship them. They denied it, and tore their clothes and said, “Stop this! Turn AWAY from your idolatry and to the living God!” These people were pagans with no religious background – so he couldn’t show them Jesus in the Scriptures. So, he rather pointed them toward the Providence of God – this is the God they are preaching. For a time, the people believed. But again the Jews from the neighboring towns came and stood up the people. (Just shows how fickle people are. One minute listening and loving it, the next, stoning him and dragging him out of the city.)
The two then went on to Derby – many people believed. Then, they backtracked to all of their previous cities. They established churches, and appointed elders and told them they’d have to suffer hardships for the Kingdom of God. They knew Paul had risked his life to bring the good news of the gospel to them. They’d seen the power of God, received the Holy Spirit, and HOPEFULLY been established firmly.
Unfortunately, the Jews had been continually trying to get the people away from Jesus and back toward Moses and the Law of Moses. They would come into the churches and say, “Yeah, good for you, believe in Jesus BUT you better get circumcised as well…”
Some came from Jerusalem – without the authority of the church in Jerusalem – and said that the new believers would all have to adhere to the Law of Moses.
Paul and Barnabas said:
JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING
Jesus + nothing else saves you.
The Gentiles did not need to be circumcised, did not need to follow the Law, just stay away from strangled food, food with blood in its veins, food sacrificed to idols, and sexual immorality.
Peter was one of the main guys who testified during this time – remember he’d already been sent to the house of Cornelius the Gentile and they received the Holy Spirit and were shown to be fully accepted just as the Jews. Peter presented this to the church in Jerusalem and James led the church to agree and accept it. (Interesting that later Peter kind of backslides from this testimony and Paul must confront him.)
Interesting that throughout these towns, the Jews had gone in to these towns and churches and said basically, “Yeah, Paul ain’t nothing. We are the TRUE apostles. You guys better get back to the Law of Moses, yo!”
Paul begins his letter here by saying “Hey guys! Remember me? APOSTLE. Not by men but through the revelation of Christ.”
Remember that Christ himself – the Risen Christ – had given Paul the revelation, the mission, the apostleship, and so on. So, Paul emphasizes that right from the beginning. And Paul emphasizes that there are “other brothers” with him who recognize his apostleship. He continues that he is astounded that the churches had listened so easily, so readily to those Jews who would twist and pervert the gospel. Paul is so worked up that he basically cursed them (twice!). “Look guys, I’m not trying to please men, but God. If I were trying to please men, I wouldn’t be a witness of Christ.” So, why you going back to that powerless/pointless Law? That’s just a step along the way to revealing the truth of JESUS. He’s the substance. Don’t go backward…
Later in the epistle, he shows through argument and demonstrations that it is ONLY by faith that they are saved and justified. They need to continue to believe in Christ. And you know what? If you love Jesus, you WILL fulfill the Law – almost unconsciously – because the Law IS love for Jesus.
As we continue through Galatians, let’s pray that God will open our eyes to see what God has done and accomplished through Jesus.
Martin Luther has said we need to continue to remember and refresh our minds about the “beautiful basics” of the gospel – FAITH IN CHRIST.