What an Introduction!
Paul starts off cool, and then heats up quickly. He cuts to the chase calmly and directly and doesn't mince words.
Galatians is God's rebuttal of legalism of every description. The Mosaic Law is neither discredited, despised, nor disregarded. Its majesty, perfection, demands, fullness, and purpose are maintained. Yet these very qualities make it utterly impossible for man to come this route to God. Another way is opened for man to be justified before God, a way which entirely bypasses the Mosaic Law. The new route is by faith.
Justification by faith is the theme, with the emphasis upon faith.
Three epistles in the New Testament quote Habakkuk 2:4, "The just shall live by his faith." Romans 1:17 emphasizes the just. Hebrews 10:38 emphasizes shall live. Galatians 3:11 emphasizes by faith.
In Galatians, Paul is defending the gospel from those who would add law to justification by faith. Faith plus law was the thrust of Judaism. Faith plus nothing was the answer of Paul. The Judaizers again questioned Paul's authority as an apostle and his teaching that simple faith was adequate for salvation. Paul mildly defends his apostleship and demonstrates the sufficiency of the gospel of grace to save.
Notice this cool greeting, different from what we got used to as we watched him deal w/ the church at Corinth:
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) [Gal. 1:1].
Actually there is no parenthesis necessary in this verse. Paul is simply stating that he is an apostle. No more trying to prove it, these folks didn't need that evidently, just a reminder of the facts. The word apostle is used in a twofold sense:
1. One of the Twelve (Acts 1:21-26)
(a) With Jesus during His three year ministry (v. 21);
(b) Witness of His postresurrection ministry (v. 22);
(c) Chosen by Christ (v. 22; Acts 9:15; Acts 26:16-17).
2. One sent forth. This is the wider sense as used in Acts 11:22.
Paul, I believe, took the place of Judas. After the resurrection of Jesus, Matthias was chosen by the disciples to fill the place of Judas, but no information is given about Matthias except the account given in Acts 1:15-26. They cast lots, rather than relying on the Lord to help them choose, and Matthias is never mentioned again. If the Holy Spirit had chosen him, certainly somewhere along the way He would have set His seal upon this man. Paul, however, proved he was an apostle, and Matthias did not. The election of Matthias as an apostle was held before Pentecost, which was before the Holy Spirit came into the church. For that reason I do not think that the Holy Spirit had anything to do with the selection of Matthias. We must be very careful in our churches that we do not have decisions, votes, and elections which are not ordered by the Holy Spirit. I believe that Paul is the man whom the Spirit of God chose to take Judas' place.
In this verse Paul also says that he is not "of men." The preposition apo conveys the meaning of "not from men," that is, it is not legalistic. He is not an apostle by appointment or commission after having attended a school or having taken a prescribed course.
Paul also declares that his apostleship is not "by man." The preposition dia indicates that it was not through man, that is, not ritualistic by means of laying on of hands, as by a church. Paul did not have the other apostles lay their hands on his head and say, "Hocus pocus, you are an apostle."
Paul was an apostle. How? He was an apostle by Jesus Christ. Jesus called him, and set him apart for the office (see Acts 9:15-16).
Now I am an ordained minister from men and through men. I was told that I had to go to Bible college and obtain certain degrees before I could be ordained. I did that. That was from men. That was the legalistic side. Next I went before a church body that examined me. Their decision was that I should be an ordained minister. I knelt, and a group of men put their hands on me and said, "You are now an ordained minister." That is the kind of minister I am. Paul said, "I am not that kind of an apostle. Men had nothing to do with it. I am an apostle directly by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead."
And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia [Gal. 1:2].
You will notice that Paul's greeting is cool, brief, formal, and terse. No one is personally mentioned. He is not writing just to one church. He is writing to several churches -- "churches of Galatia."
The word church is used in two ways in the New Testament. One meaning of church includes the entire body of believers, of all different groups, who have trusted Christ as Savior. The other meaning of church refers to local assemblies, which is how Paul uses the word here. There were churches, or local assemblies, in many parts of Galatia. There was a church in Antioch of Pisidia, in Derbe, in Lystra, and in other places he had visited. Paul was writing to all the churches, to all of the local assemblies; hence the local church -- not the corporate body of believers -- is who is being addressed here. In the Epistle to the Ephesians we look at the church as a corporate body of believers -- the invisible church. But the invisible body is to make itself visible today in a corporate body. Believers should be identified with a local body of believers.
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ [Gal. 1:3].
This is Paul's formal greeting that he uses in most of his epistles. The word grace (charis) in this verse was the gentile form of greeting in that day, while peace (shalom) was the religious greeting of the Jews. Now the grace of God must be experienced before the peace that is from God the Father can be experienced.
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father [Gal. 1:4].
This is another marvelous verse --
Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins." There is nothing that we can add to the value of His sacrifice. Nothing! He gave Himself. What do you have to give? Anything? Can you add anything to His sacrifice? He gave Himself. How wonderful and glorious that is! I am speechless when I read a verse like this. He gave Himself! When you give yourself, you have given everything -- who you are, what you have, your time, your talent -- everything. He gave Himself. He couldn't give any more.
Paul calls Him, "our Lord Jesus Christ." He is my Savior. Can you say, "The Lord is my Shepherd?" It is one thing to say He is a Shepherd; it is another thing to make it possessive. The Lord is my Shepherd. The Lord is my Savior. Can you say that He is yours?
Paul goes on to say, "that he might deliver us from this present evil world." There is, therefore, a present value of the gospel which proves its power and genuineness. The gospel can deliver you. I have received letters from many who have turned to Christ and have been delivered. They have been delivered from drugs, from alcohol, and from sex sins. Christ alone can deliver in cases like that. This proves the genuineness of the gospel. Christ gave Himself for our sins. He took your place and my place on that cross. He died for us and rose from the dead "that he might deliver us from this present evil world."
Notice that His deliverance is "according to the will of God and our Father." He can deliver us -- and it will not be according to law. But it must be according to the will of God. The will of God is that, after He has saved us, we are not to live in sin. How wonderful this is! He can deliver us. He wants to deliver us. He will deliver us, and He will do it according to the will of God.
This concludes Paul's salutation. Although it contains some glorious truths, I think you will have to admit that it is a cool, impersonal greeting from the apostle Paul.
Paul now states his subject. He goes from cold to hot. In fact, he is hot under the collar. Why? Because there are those who are mutilating the gospel. Paul would give his life for the gospel.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel [Gal. 1:6].
There are two aspects of the gospel, and it can be used in two senses: (1) the facts of the gospel, and (2) the interpretation of the facts. The facts of the gospel are the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received [Paul didn't originate the gospel; he received it], how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1Cor. 15:3-4). These are the historical facts of the gospel which cannot be changed. You have never preached the gospel unless you have stated these facts. The second aspect of the gospel is the interpretation of the facts. They are to be received by faith plus nothing.
Now the subject of Paul's letter to the Galatian believers concerns the interpretation of the facts of the gospel. The Judaizers had followed Paul into the Galatian country. They did not challenge the facts of the gospel. After all, five hundred people at once saw the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. When you have that many people around as witnesses, you don't run around denying the facts of the gospel. The heresy they were promoting concerned the interpretation of those facts. They were very sly and subtle and said something like this, "Did Brother Paul come here among you?" The folk would say, "Yes, he came and preached the gospel and we accepted it. We are converted. We know Christ as our Savior, and we are in the body of believers." The Judaizers would respond, "Oh, that's wonderful. Brother Paul is accurate as far as he goes, but he doesn't go far enough. Did he tell you that you should keep the Mosaic Law? Oh, he didn't? Well, he should have told you that. Yes, you are to trust Christ, but you must also follow the Mosaic Law or you won't be saved."
This is one of the oldest heresies known, and it is still with us today. It is adding something to the gospel of grace; it is doing something rather than simply believing something. It is faith plus something rather than faith plus nothing. Every cult and "ism" has something for you to do in order to be saved.
It is interesting that Paul said to the Philippian jailer, "...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." (Acts 16:31). Simon Peter said to the Sanhedrin, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Christ told the apostles to preach the gospel of salvation by grace. They were not to do anything to gain their salvation, but they were to trust what Christ already had done for them. The gospel shuts out all works.
Now Paul is writing to the Galatian believers and saying, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" --
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ [Gal. 1:7].
The word pervert is the Greek word metastrephai. It is a strong word, related to 'catastrophe' in English, and used by Dr. Luke in speaking of the sun turned to darkness (see Acts 2:20), and by James, speaking of laughter turned to mourning (see James 4:9). To attempt to change the gospel has the effect of making it the very opposite of what it really is. This is important to see.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed [Gal. 1:8].
This verse is as strong as anything could possibly be. Paul says that if an angel dared to declare any other message than the gospel, he would be dismissed with a strong invective.
If an angel should appear to me right now and say, "You are right as far as you go, but you also have to do something to be saved"; or if an angel should appear to you and say, "Jerry is correct as far as he goes, but you have to do something else," both you and I should say, "Get out of here; I'm not listening to you although you are an angel from heaven."
In our day we hear many speakers who are trying to give us another "gospel." They may look like angels to you -- after all, Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers are transformed as the ministers of righteousness (see 2Cor. 11:14-15). Now hear Paul --
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed [Gal. 1:9].
In strong language Paul says, "...let him be accursed," which literally means let him be damned. I cannot make that statement any stronger.
The gospel shuts out all works. Romans 4:5 says, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." I find many who think they have to become good enough to be saved. Once upon a time a friend told me, "I want to become a Christian. I am going to try to be a little better, and if I improve, I am going to become a Christian." I said to him, "If you improve, you will never become a Christian. The only class that God is saving is the ungodly. The Lord Jesus said He didn't come to call the righteous; He came to call sinners. The reason He said that was because there is none righteous, no, not one. Even the righteousness of man is as filthy rags in God's sight. Law condemns us, and it must make us speechless before grace can save us."
Romans 3:19 tells us that, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." The real difficulty is not that people should be "good enough" to be saved, but that they are not "bad enough" to be saved. Humanity refuses to recognize its lost condition before God. This is the human predicament.
The Judaizers did not deny the facts of the gospel -- that Jesus died and rose again. What they denied was that this was adequate. They insisted that you have to keep the Law plus trusting Christ. Paul is saying that whoever tries to mingle law and grace -- let him be damned! Why? Because they pervert the gospel. They do not deny the fact of the gospel, but they misinterpret those facts. They pervert the gospel.
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ [Gal. 1:10].
The word persuade means "to make a friend of." The Scofield Reference Bible translates it "seek the favor of." In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1 it is "please God" in contrast to self or others. The preaching of the gospel is not pleasing to lost man. No man can please both God and man.
If you preach the gospel of grace today, you may get into trouble because it is the gospel of the grace of God that the sinner hates. Many unsaved church members do not want to hear the message of grace. They want to hear a message that appeals to the flesh. The gospel of grace puts us in the dust and makes us beggars before God.
By nature man responds to legalism. He thinks he doesn't need a Savior. All he needs is a helper. Those who preach law are popular. Today they preach about the cross, but not about our sinful condition. They never say that we deserve hell, rather they just talk about commitment. Let us be honest, Christ does not want your old life and He does not want mine. We have nothing to commit to Him.
God is not even asking you to live the Christian life. In fact, you cannot live it. God is asking that He might live the Christian life through you. The Epistle to the Galatians teaches this. But first of all we must come to Christ as sinners and be saved. Our churches are filled today with people who are not saved. Do you know why? They have never come to Christ and received Him as Savior. They feel like they have something to commit to Him. You have nothing to commit to Him, my friend. He wants to commit something to you. He is the One who died, and He is on the giving end. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). It is just as simple as that. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? This is the important thing.
Man tries to balance his good works against his sins and have enough on the plus side to be saved. The apostle Paul, you recall, tried to do this. And he had a whole lot on the plus side. But one day he came to Christ. Then he said, "What was gain for me became loss, and what was loss became gain" (see Phil. 3:7-8). The Holy Spirit witnesses to grace today. This is gospel conviction that leads to faith. Actually the law denies the fall of man -- this was the position of Cain. Grace acknowledges the fall of man, as Abel did when he brought his offering to God.
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