Galatians Bible Study for Beginners – #1 – Introduction & Outline

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This is the book of Galatians for
beginners – the official title of the series – this is lesson number 1 in that series. And, of course, usually the
introduction and the outline I try to do in the first lesson. I want to begin by saying that one of the very
first attacks against Christianity came directly against the Gospel itself, from people within the church.
You would think that the attack against the gospel would
come from outside the church, but the very first really dangerous attack came
from people who were members of the church. The attack that I’m talking about came
from Jewish Christians who began to insist that Gentiles – the Jews –
there were the Jews and then there was everybody else.
So the Jews saw the world pretty much in two parts. There’s us, the Jews, and then the
Gentiles. Everybody else, didn’t matter what nationality or country, if you were
not a Jew, you were a Gentile. Jewish Christians began to insist that Gentiles who wanted to
become Christians had to become Jews first, before becoming
Christians. This was one of the very first attacks against the gospel in the very young church. This meant that for a
Gentile to become a Christian, that person first – a man – had to be circumcised, and then could be baptized. This
is the proposal. This was the teaching that began to emerge in certain parts, in certain churches, in the Galatian
region anyway, we’ll talk about that in a second. Gentile Christians in the
region of Galicia were being influenced by this pressure. And so Paul
writes this epistle, epistle to the Galatians, to respond to the problems
that were being caused by this particular teaching. So in this
epistle, in our study, I have several goals that I want us to pursue.
First of all we’re going to examine the implications and dangers of this type of
teaching, certainly for the Galatians, as well as the dangers of the
spirit of this teaching in every generation. There’s no one around today that is forcing
people to be circumcised in order to become Christians. That’s gone –
that’s gone away. But the spirit of that remains. People who insist on certain pre-qualifications before
you become a Christian. Certain pre-qualification that are not in the
Bible. Things that men have made up. So the spirit of that idea still lives with us
today. And Galatians is a great book, great epistle, to learn how to kind of
counter that type of spirit. Also want to review Paul’s teaching on
the doctrine of Justification by Faith, which is the heart and soul of the gospel.
Some people say, wait a minute, justification by faith, isn’t that a Baptist doctrine? No,
that’s a Bible doctrine. Justification by Faith is the heart
and soul of the gospel. And Paul – remember I told you in another class,
every book has a theme. And if you know what the themes are, even if you can’t memorize all the
scriptures in that book, if you understand what the themes of every book are, when something comes up
and you’re studying or discussing something with someone, if you sense that they’re having an issue, faith issues and
how we’re justified by faith, you know that the book you need to look at with
them is the epistle to the Galatians, because he deals with that idea in this particular epistle. Thirdly, we’re going to study the true
meaning of freedom and how it is expressed in Christian lives. Because Paul also talks
about freedom here, very much in this epistle. And then we’re going to
learn about Paul’s early life as a Christian himself. All right so let’s talk
about Galatians. Just some basic things here. Galatia was a Roman province in Asia Minor. And the letter to the Galatians was
actually addressed to the cities in the southern part of Galicia where
Paul had established several congregations on his first missionary
journey. So there was no church named “church of Galatia”. Galatia was a
region, there were many churches in that region. So this letter is to all those
churches in that region. There are four that we know of.
All of them established between 44 and 47 A.D. in what is now known as
modern day Turkey. The four congregations that we know of: Antioch, we read about that in Acts 13; Iconium, Acts 13:51; Lystra Acts 14:8;
and Derbe, Acts 14:19-21. Those are the four congregations in Galatia to whom this epistle is addressed. As Luke tells the story in Acts 13, the Jews, they were happy to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. These Jews
who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire were happy to receive Paul
and to hear of the coming of the Messiah. So they were, they accepted
that good news, many of them. They became offended, however, and
jealous when they realized that the Gentiles, right, remember I told you those are non-Jews
of any nationality. They became upset when they realized that the Gentiles were
also included in the promise of God. And they also were
accepting Christ in great numbers. Because as far as the Jews were
concerned, the Messiah, that’s our Messiah. We’re the ones waiting for the Messiah. We’re the ones
that put the work in. The prophets. And we’re the ones that have been punished, and
we’re the ones that were – the exodus, and in the desert. We’re the ones. He’s
our Messiah, not your messiah. So there was trouble there at the beginning. This protest by the Jews took the form of a group that insisted that if the
Gentiles were to become Christians, they had to first obey Jewish laws and customs to earn that right. So a
lot of it was cultural. A certain cultural pride mixed
with religious fervor. So this probably involved circumcision, and
obedience to food laws, and various Jewish religious
customs, and so on and so forth. So upon his return, talking about Paul
now, upon his return to Jerusalem from that region and from the
work that he had done there, Paul goes back to Jerusalem
to report on his ministry. Now, Paul is faced with this backlash in the form of a group within the church
referred to as the circumcision party. They were called either Judaizers or circumcision
parties. Judaizers because they wanted people to embrace Judaism before
they became Christians. Circumcision party because the focal point of their message
was, the battleground if you wish, was the necessity to be
circumcised before you were baptized. So in Acts Chapter 15 we read about
Paul and the other apostles, as well as the elders in the church
in Jerusalem, discussing and trying to resolve this matter. At
this meeting Paul recounts the blessings and power of God in
preaching to the Gentiles. He tells them, look what we’ve done. We’ve done miracles among the
Gentiles. They’re accepting Christ in numbers. We’ve planted churches. Surely
this can’t be wrong. And he is saying to the apostles that his
ministry among them was legitimately ordained by God. In addition to this God,
through the Spirit, sent Barnabas and I out to do this very work. As a matter of fact, he’s also recounting that
he was originally called to this work. That’s why he was
called. And during that meeting in Acts 15 Peter also stands with Paul
and confirms that Paul had, indeed, been sent specifically to the Gentiles by God’s command. What’s really
interesting about Acts 15 is that Paul the apostle,
who had done miracles, he speaks. And Peter the
apostle, he speaks. And yet it’s left to James – never heard any
miracles from James. He wasn’t an apostle. And yet he was a
leader of the church. James, one of the elders, stands
up and he’s the one that makes the suggestion that they should write a
letter to the church where the Gentiles are, confirming Paul’s ministry among them and
reassuring them that they not be troubled by any requirement to be circumcised.
So this letter was delivered to the church at Antioch.
Antioch was not in the Galatian region, it was in the north there. But
there was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles in that particular church.
So the letter to the Galatians was written soon after this meeting. That’s the point. That’s why I’m mentioning
this meeting. The elders, the apostles discuss it, come to a solution, write a
letter of instruction to the church in Antioch, not requiring the Gentiles to be circumcised. And so based on this, Paul, himself, writes another letter and this time addresses
it to the churches in Galatia. Around 50, 51 A.D. And what’s interesting also, is that the
letter to the Galatians, is not the earliest of the New Testament books,
certainly one of the earliest New Testament writings to be circulated. We
start Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – we think, oh Matthew was the first letter. Well, no.
Matthew was not the first letter written. It’s grouped together with the gospel records. I think Matthew, simply because he’s addressing the Jews. Mark’s addressing the
Gentiles, so to speak. Luke is giving history. John is
talking from a philosophical perspective. The gospel from a philosophical perspective.
Anyways, the idea is that the letter to the Galatians may have been one of the earliest letters
to begin circulating in the churches. And it was important because
the Gospel itself was being attacked. If the Judaizers and the
circumcision party, if they won they would destroy what had
been established by the apostles thus far. So the objective that Paul is trying to
accomplish with the letter is to explain to the Galatians several things. He wants to explain to them the blessings
that accompany salvation. That these blessings were earned by
Jesus’s perfect faith and obedience. And this is the most important
teaching in the New Testament concerning salvation. If someone were to say to
you, I want you to rank the importance of teachings – the number one most important teaching concerning the gospel is that it is Jesus who makes restitution for all
sin on the cross. And that His work on the cross fulfills completely God’s requirement for man’s
salvation. You attack that, you take that apart, you’ve got nothing left.
And I’ll show you why a little later on. Also, that we obtained the blessings
because we are associated, or united, or identified to Christ by faith. That’s the other important idea:
we’re associated with Him. We’re in Christ. There’s so many different ways of saying the same thing and I’ve said that to you before and in different classes. The Bible says sometimes the
same idea. It gives it different words, different approaches, always
talking about the same thing. And so the blessings that we receive, we
receive because we are in Christ, identified with Christ, believe in
Christ, have faith in Christ. You can say it 10 different ways. It’s always
the same thing. And that faith is expressed biblically through repentance, and baptism, and of
course, faithfulness to Christ. Thirdly, third idea, third objective: we cannot earn these
blessings by works of the law, or ceremony, or benevolence apart from Christ. And finally, those who try to do it
this way, will fail. And not only fail, they’ll be condemned for it and you’ll
see how Paul, how strongly he words this condemnation. If you look
at the back of your sheet, you have the outline for this epistle. Very simple outline. There is the greeting, which we will take a
look at tonight – chapter 1: 1-5. The rebuke. The rebuke, meaning he’s
rebuking that church – those churches – for beginning to fall away and beginning to adopt
these ideas that have penetrated the church. Then
there is the personal history, Paul’s personal history and there’s a reason
he gives his own personal history because in attacking the gospel, the people who
were teaching this were also attacking him and his legitimacy. So he
gives a bit of background about himself. Then,
of course, the meat of this epistle, the heart and soul of it, a
discourse on justification by faith. Chapter 2:15 through 4:31. Right here
brothers and sisters, this is the heart and soul. You want to peel the onion? Go right
to the center? It’s right there. And then of course exhortations, at the end, greetings. So let’s do the greeting tonight. We’ll have time to do the greeting, beginning in chapter 1, verse 1 He says, “Paul an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of
men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him
from the dead.)” So Paul reaffirms his position as apostle
because the Judaizers – and I’m going to go back and forth. I’m not going to explain this too
many times. When I say the Judaizers, when I say the circumcision party, I’m talking about
the same people. Because the Judaizers in questioning
the Gospel to the Gentiles, as I mentioned
before, they were also questioning Paul’s legitimacy. What he’s preaching
is not really the Gospel. We’ve got the Gospel. So you attack Paul’s
teaching, you’re attacking him too. Now he did this in letters where his authority was
questioned. In other words, he showed his credentials – as a genuine apostle. And he did this where, as I say, his authority was questioned
or where he was not well-known. The letter to the Romans, for example, he didn’t
know those people. First and Second Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, right. But he refrained from doing this in churches where he was already accepted. Philippians, he goes straight into a compliment. He goes straight into loving on the Philippians, because
he knew them and they knew him, they accepted him. First and Second Thessalonians, same idea. He reminds them, first of all, that his
apostleship was received from Jesus Christ and God in the same
way as the other apostles received their apostleship from Jesus. He doesn’t say, I got my apostleship the
same way as Peter did, but that’s what he’s implying. If you accept Peter’s
authority, well, you accept mine too, because I’ve gotten my commission the same way
Peter got his commission – directly from Jesus. In other words, he was not appointed by
the church council. You may be wondering why was I talking about the church council in
the meeting in Acts 15? He wanted to let the Galatian churches know he wasn’t
some sort of envoy from the apostles to give this
message. He was an apostle. He had legitimacy. He didn’t need a letter of
recommendation from the church in Jerusalem to say and teach what he was
teaching. And also he was not appointed by Peter as a messenger.
Notice he says the agent I’ve not sent from men or through the
agency of man. Meaning the other apostles, but through Jesus Christ
and God the Father. They’re the ones who appointed me, he says, as an apostle. Now, it’s important to establish
this because apostleship gave one the right to speak with
authority in the name of Jesus. And Paul claims this authority based on his
legitimate and genuine apostleship received from Christ. And here’s what’s
not written here, unlike the Judaizers. They didn’t receive any approval
from any of the apostles or any divine appointment from anyone. They were
self-appointed. So he begins on the attack right away. Very first line – offense – he begins with an offense. So Paul does not
deny the apostleship of the other apostles, but he does not
recognize any authority over himself by any other group or
apostle except the Gospel itself and Jesus Himself. Those are the
authority. The gospel’s the authority over me. Jesus is the authority over me, not the other
apostles and certainly not the Judaizers. So his reference to the resurrection,
is the mark of the true apostle, the personal witness of this
event. He mentions it not as doctrine, but as one who confirms
this doctrine as a chosen eyewitness. He says, through Jesus Christ who
raised him from the dead. He’s not teaching, you ought to believe that Jesus was
raised from the dead. That’s not what he’s doing here. He is saying, I saw Jesus raised from the dead. I saw the risen Jesus and the
only apostles that have authority are the ones that saw the risen Jesus. That’s what he’s saying here. If anyone says, who gives you the right to be an
apostle? Well, I saw the risen Jesus. That’s what gives me
the right. And, of course, his authority in doing miracles and so on
and so forth to confirm his apostleship. Verse two, we did say this was a
textual study – verse two. “And all the brethren who are with
me, To the churches of Galatia:” We don’t know who the quote brothers
with him are, only that they’re – they share in the greeting.
Paul reserves the title “churches in God or Christ” in addressing the
Galatians since they are on the road to apostasy. He doesn’t refer to
them as that. He merely refers to them as churches located in Galatia. In other places he says, “to the church in Christ, to the
church of God, at Philippi, or here or there. But when he’s talking to these guys he
doesn’t say that. He says the churches, those groups that are in Galicia. It’s
correct, it’s geographical, but it’s not complimentary. So he’s talking to those churches –
Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Versus three to four he says, “Grace to you and
peace from God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins
so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to
the will of God and Father.” So he offers a usual blessing that
they receive favor from God and the peace that comes with the
favor. This favor and peace is connected to Jesus Christ of
whom Paul says two things here. One, that He is Lord. He uses the term to signify deity and equality
with God. The term “curios” in the Greek. The term “curios”
originally had secondary meanings, but Jesus and later on
the apostles and disciples came to use this word when referring
to Jesus and His divinity. And then the second thing that he says
about Jesus, very briefly, is that He reviews the work of salvation
and its ultimate results that Jesus has accomplished. What work is that? Well, first of all, that He offered Himself
as a sacrifice for sins. Now he’s going to build his argument on this basis later on
in this epistle. So we need to kind of keep that in mind. Remember how Paul writes, and
I’ve told you this in other epistles. He sets up like an idea over here. He
kind of sets it up and he explains it. And then he snaps another idea over here
and explains that. And then he builds a bridge to another idea with a word or phrase and
you’ve got another idea. And then he’ll add another layer of ideas in order to
give you the whole picture. So now he’s laying down two
basic ideas. One, that Jesus is the Lord. And then secondly, the work that He’s done; that He has offered Himself as a sacrifice. This is the core of the gospel, the atoning death, the payment of
death, the earning of forgiveness by Jesus on our behalf. A lot of times
what people – the mistake that people make is that they confuse
repentance with restitution. They think that their repentance
needs to consist of restitution. The restitution part, what people owe God, the moral
debt that they owe God for their sins – the restitution – Jesus makes
100 percent of the restitution required for all of our sins through His cross. That’s basic – that’s a hundred
percent. He makes restitution. Someone will say, well, what’s repentance, then?
Well, repentance is the recognition that you caused that cross. The
recognition that you are a sinner. The recognition that you can’t live
this life. The decision that you will begin to live your life in the knowledge and the understanding that you’re a
sinner and you need Jesus Christ to make restitution for you.
Someone says, well, don’t you try to get better? Sure. Of course. I used to take
drugs. I don’t take drugs anymore. I used to swear, I try not to swear anymore.
Except when I’m playing golf and then it’s a little more difficult. But anyway, you
know what I’m saying. I was sexually impure. Well, now I’m
going to work on being sexually pure and try to avoid temptations. But doing that doesn’t make restitution for my sins in the past. The cross makes restitution for my sins in
the past and my sins in the future. Well then, what am I doing
repenting? I am saying to God, I believe. That’s what I’m
doing when I repent. Every time I say no to this
temptation or to this failing I am saying, I believe God. I believe and I’m
wanting to demonstrate my faith by actively pursuing
righteousness and holiness. So many people, their Christian life is so burdensome, because they think that
their repentance is actually making restitution for what they have done.
And you know what, sometimes you can make restitution. I stole 20 dollars out of the wallet of a friend of mine,
when I was a kid. And when I became a Christian I said, you know buddy, 10 years ago I did
a bad thing. I took money out of your pocket and I just want to give you back 20 and
I’m giving you 50 in interest – whatever. You’re making some sort of restitution, but could
you really make restitution for everything? We know that, right? You had an abortion. How are you
going to make restitution for that? You told a lie about somebody. How are you
going to make restitution for that? You hurt yourself. You hurt your parents. You put your parents in the
poorhouse because of your crazy life. How are you going to make restitution for that?
They’re dead. So we need to understand that it’s the
cross of Christ that makes all the restitution for our sins. My repentance is a continual act of faith that I’m saying, I believe God. And I’ll show you I believe, because I’m
making an effort to do what is right and to live righteously. And with the Holy
Spirit’s help I grow in that ability. So, back to Galatians. What is he saying about salvation? Well, that Jesus
offers Himself as the sacrifice, as the restitution for sin. And then, B. That His sacrifice
enables our salvation. It’s what it makes possible. He
delivers us from the evil age, sin, condemnation. Say it
any way that you wish. The work of Jesus and subsequent gospel
is what sheds light in the world of darkness, and ignorance, and
sinfulness. Before Jesus came, the world truly was in darkness and ignorance of God’s
will. They didn’t know what God’s will was. The Jews were the only light. In the Bible, they called the Jews “the light of the Gentiles”. They’re the only ones that had light, that had truth. And Christianity is the religion of light and truth. You don’t believe that? Take a look at the other countries
that have different religions. I don’t mean different types of Christianity. I mean Hinduism and and Islam – so look at those countries, look at those nations. See the difference. And then he says, and all of this is
done according to the will and the purpose of God. All of human
history has worked towards this end, Paul says to them. So in verse five he says, “to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” Man was created in order to give glory to God. If your teenager ever says to you, mom, dad,
why am I here? And a lot of times the parents don’t know what to answer. Well, I
don’t know. Maybe if you go to college you’ll understand Perhaps you’ll become an
engineer and maybe you’ll – no. You are here to glorify God. As a homemaker, as a doctor, as an engineer, as a lawyer,
as a cop, as a tradesman, as a plumber, as a nurse, as a banker, as a preacher, as a teacher. You are here to glorify God. Boy, if
parents could just get that idea into the psyche of young people, the
rest of it will take care of itself. This is the basic meaning to life – giving God glory and honor. And in
finding that meaning, man finds peace and joy, and a sense of
purpose, and eternal life. Paul recognizes this fact and he
reaffirms it in his greeting and also in his assessment of the things done by
God for man through Christ. God deserves glory for what He has
done. And He receives the glory that He is due through the countless number
of saints who glorify Him because of and through Jesus Christ. Every time I
say no to sin, every time I lift my voice in song, every time I serve, in
the name of Christ, a glass of cold water to someone; two dollars to the guy on
the side of the road who is panhandling; everything done in the name
of Christ, glorifies God. Why does this make me happy and
satisfied? Because that’s why I’m here. God is so glorious. I mean if He doesn’t receive glory, the universe will blow up. What do you think Jesus meant when he said,
if these little kids don’t cry out to me, these rocks – the rocks themselves are
going to begin praising me. God’s creation must honor Him in some way. And imagine,
we’ve been created in order to experience that giving of
honor which gives to us the highest level of our being, the
highest level of our feeling, of our nature. And then he says, Amen. Amen comes from the Hebrew word which meant
surely, or to be firm, or steady or trustworthy. The Anglicized version of the Hebrew word amen, pronounced “aw-mane” in Hebrew and was
translated to Greek and Latin and English. It wasn’t actually translated, it was
transliterated. Like baptism – baptizo – the Greek word baptizo. If they translated baptizo, it would be “to immerse” – repent and be immersed in the
name of Jesus, but they didn’t do that. When the translators came to that
word, they didn’t translate it, they transliterated it. They just made an
English word out of the Greek word. So baptizo became baptized. Well, in the same way aw-mane instead of
verily and truly, it just became amen. It was transliterated.
It became an English word. Used as a responsive formula
with which the Jewish listener acknowledged the validity of an oath, or a curse,
or a willingness to accept the consequences. Now
the New Testament usage as agreement with an offering of praise
or blessing is how we use it now. It was used in synagogue worship
in this way. And as the Jews were converted, the saying of amen
at the end of praise, and blessings, and prayers, and teaching, and so on and
so forth, it kind of filtered into Christian worship. The Jews began saying it, but
eventually Christians began to say the same thing. Paul uses it in this way at the end of his
greeting, confirming that it is a sure and trustworthy thing that Jesus died for our sins – amen, verily, truly, for sure, absolutely. That Jesus was resurrected – amen, verily, truly, for sure, absolutely. That this was all done according to God’s will –
verily, truly, surely, of course. That God deserves glory for all of this –
amen, verily, truly, absolutely, for sure. So Jesus used it to underscore
His words and prophesy. Many times Jesus would begin
something by saying, “verily, verily I say unto you.” Well, what He was saying was,
amen and amen I say unto you. So He used it in that way. The
apostles used that in their writings in regards of blessings and praise and
teachings. Amen to this or that. The early church used it to signal their
approval of what was being preached and emphasized their faith in what was being
taught. So if the prophet, or the teacher or the evangelist, or the apostle was
teaching, the church would say amen – we agree, we accept, this is
true, this is of God. So to say amen in church, this is a biblical, respectful, encouraging way to demonstrate agreement and enthusiasm
for what is being prayed about, or taught, or preached, or sung. We need more of it. So if you want to show approval
or joy in worship and have the chance – there’s this big
argument about applauding in church, right? I’ve seen people write articles about it. I’ve
seen churches almost split over the idea. Something happens in church and some
people applaud, some say, that’s a sin. You’re not allowed to applaud. How do we resolve this? Well, I
think we resolve this by understanding that applause is the secular way of demonstrating agreement or approval. Saying amen, is the biblical way of saying approval, or agreement, or
praise. Can both be used? Sure. Of course. We’re
not offending anyone. But if I wanted – if I wish to approve something that is Biblical,
I’ll say amen, because amen is the biblical way to confirm something. If somebody has a 50th anniversary and somebody announces brother so-and-so and sister so-and-so have their 50th
anniversary, some people applaud. Well, yeah. Sure, I approve. I’m happy for you. Not necessarily a quote biblical
doctrine or biblical thing – that somebody has managed to
stay married for 50 years. And we certainly shouldn’t divide over those things, but at least let’s understand the difference. One is secular. And one is biblical. We’ll stop there. I said we’d just do
verses one to five. So this is the nature of
this class. If you’ve kind of come in to see what it’s like. This is what
it’s like. Line by line, verse by verse.

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