After Paul's first missionary journey to the region of Galatia, he'd returned to Syria and heard some troubling news about the young church there.
Men called "Judaizers" had slipped into the region just as he'd slipped out and had preached a perverted version of the Gospel, leaving these young believers confused and deceived.
The heart of the book of Galatians is a passionate appeal for the true Gospel that can be broken down into three goals:
a. A Defense of apostolic authority
b. Defining Salvation by Grace Through Faith
c. Demanding That Galatian believers stand firm on the true Gospel
Let’s begin our exposition and we’ll see the first of those goals right off the bat (Defense of Apostolic Authority)
Galatians 1:1-2 “Paul, an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia”
Paul begins his letter – “I am an Apostle”
Apostle – "one sent with delegated authority"
THIS IS NOT A RARE INTRODUCTION FOR PAUL – most letters began with emphatic statement of personal Apostolic authority.
Because no Apostles saw their role a critiqued as Paul
- HIS UNIQUE CALLING // The Other 12 – lived with Christ and given Apostleship by Him while He was here on earth (Mark 3)– not Paul
- HIS SCANDALOUS PAST // He was widely known as a Persecutor of the church (there when Stephen died)
- HIS VAST TEACHING // Pauls teaching was so far beyond what the other Apostles wrote (2/3rds of the NT), that it was called into question
These things caused many to question Paul’s authority. Was he an actual Apostle or was he rogue (went into business for himself)?
This remains a common critique – Paul wrote extensively on ecclesiology, morality, gender issues, sexual ethics…and many today say, “I follow Jesus, not Paul”
BUT if Paul was indeed an Apostle called and sent by God, what He’s saying or writing isn’t his own ideology or viewpoint….but the very Word of the Lord Himself
Simon Peter believed that was indeed the case:
2nd Peter 3:15-16 “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction”
Paul's critics took every opportunity to discredit the Apostolic authority of Paul – The Judaizers did just that.
Paul began this letter, like he does with most of the others he wrote, by substantiating his authority, identifying himself as an Apostle, who is speaking in God’s power, and with Gods authority.
Thus, to reject Pauls words, is to reject Gods.
Again, this salutation, isn’t uncommon. It’s present in almost all of Pauls letters, yet, there is something that is very different about how this particular letter starts.
In obvious contrast with the other letters he’d written, where he’d go to great links to express his gratitude for the church, highlight and affirm some particular thing they were doing or getting right...
Notice how brief the greeting for the churches in Galatia is:
Galatians 1:3-5 “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen”
AND THEN A SUDDEN TRUTH BOMB:
Galatians 1:6-7 “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ”
Paul was astonished that the very believers that he had discipled had so quickly and so easily become easy prey for the false teachers who slipped into the region as he slipped out.
“I am amazed that you are so quickly urning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel”
Turning away - is a military term – used to describe a traitor deserting the army of his country and putting on the uniform of the enemy.
THE GOSPEL – means good news
What good news had they turned from? What was the Gospel that Paul had preached in Galatia?
We find it in Acts 13 – When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Galatia, there in the synagogue of Antioch.
Acts 13:26 “Brothers and sisters, children of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, it is to us that the word of this salvation has been sent”
Paul points to Jesus, exclaiming the He is indeed the long-awaited Messiah!
Acts 13:29-33 “When they had carried out all that had been written about him, they took him down from the tree and put him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and he appeared for many days to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus”
Acts 13:38-39 “Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers and sisters, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you. Everyone who believes is justified through him from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses”
This is the Gospel: God has done for us what we were utterly incapable of doing for ourselves AND He did it all by Himself!
Jesus lived the perfect life we were supposed to live and died the death we were condemned to die. Then, three days later, Jesus was resurrected – providing infusing new and eternal life into those who believe.
The Gospel that Paul had preached: We were spiritually dead. No pulse.
Wandering around in darkness. Justly condemned to an eternity in Hell, eternally separated from the one who made us.
BUT in an act of wondrous, marvelous, matchless grace…God rescued us from darkness and brought us into the Kingdom
The Good News Of The Gospel: Salvation is an act of grace.
It can’t be earned. It can’t be merited. It is not something achieved.
BUT RATHER – Salvation initiated, attained, sustained and sealed by The Lord Himself! We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone!
Believing that by faith credits you with the righteousness of Christ and provides you with His resurrection power.
THE JUDAIZERS SAID – “Yeah, but…you also need to be circumcised. Participate is feast and festivals on the Jewish calendar. Keep the law of Moses."
Paul said – that’s another Gospel…not that there is another Gospel
It’s a distortion, a perversion.
It's a perversion because it suggests that Christ work on the cross, that His resurrection from the dead was insufficient! That salvation requires my efforts, my goodness, my works.
That’s not good news. It’s terrible news!
PAUL’S AMAZEMENT: The Gospel of grace of the greatest thing in the world…why on earth would you trade a salvation that rest in Holy God alone for one that requires the goodness of sinful man?
Saints, Jesus last words on the cross weren’t, “Ok, I got this salvation thing started for you, now you complete it”….His last words were. "IT IS FINISHED!"
What application can we make from these first few verses in Galatians?
1.WE’RE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO LEGALISTIC TENDENCIES
Grace is counter intuitive. It goes against the grain of the way we naturally think. It forces us to admit what we don’t want to – that we are incapable of contributing to our own redemption and our own spiritual vitality.
Our flesh longs for credit of some kind so we grasp for something tangible that we can "add" to our faith. This is called legalism.
a. Legalism Is Believing We Are Saved By Our Own Power
Again, Christ was prominent in the Judaizers preaching, but it was Christ PLUS what we bring to the table. Jesus + Obeying the law
Today – It’s not Jesus plus circumcision or showing up at the Feast of Tabernacles BUT Jesus plus baptism, church membership, charitable giving, morality
b. Legalism Is Living By Additional Rules
You know you’ve succumbed to legalism when you begin to add additional, extra=Biblical requirements to “prove” Christian faith
We begin to say things, or at least subconsciously suppose that, “real Christians” won’t go to movies, they don’t dance, they don’t wear jeans and a t-shirt to church, or wear their hair a certain way, or trick or treat
The proof of faith becomes – things like the right Bible translation, taste in music, an hour of meditation, joining in a protest, preaching on a corner.
This can only lead to spiritual frustration for ourselves & unbiblical expectation placed upon others.
2.FALSE TEACHERS STILL EXIST
The Gospel, the true Gospel, is offensive to the core.
- It offends our pride – telling us the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary.
- It offends our intellect – must believe the unbelievable. A dead Jewish carpenter rose on the third day to live forevermore and embracing that means that we will too
- It offends the culture – The hallmark of progressive pluralism is inclusivity and the gospel is an exclusive message…Those who don’t believe it, are condemned.
Capitalizing on this: False teachers promote and peddle perversion of the true Gospel!
Listen to how serious Paul instructs us to take this in Galatians 1:8-9
“Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!”
Whoever preaches a Gospel other than the Gospel of grace – even if it’s an angel – Let him be accursed
Greek – anathema // Devoted to destruction.
Here Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares that if anyone, himself included, preaches any other Gospel, they should be eternally condemned.
Anyone, even well taught Christians, can unwittingly follow false doctrines.
It’s interesting that Paul speaks of an angel here because the Bible teaches that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light.
Be on guard. For the sake of your own soul. For the sake of family & friends. For the sake of new believers. If Paul's disciples in Galatia could be so easily seduced, the same can happen to us.