Exposition of the Book of Galatians
Historically, the Galatians were in their origin a part of that great Celtic migration which invaded Macedonia about 280 B.C.. They were invited by the king of Bithynia to cross over into Asia Minor to assist him in his wars. There they ultimately settled, and being strengthened by fresh accessions of the same clan from Europe, they overran Bithynia, and supported themselves by plundering neighboring countries. They were great warriors, and hired themselves out as mercenary soldiers, sometimes fighting on both sides in the great battles of the times. They were at length brought under the power of Rome in 189 B.C., and Galatia became a Roman province 25 B.C..
In 64 B.C. the Roman general Pompey defeated the king of Pontus, Mithradates VI, and established a foothold for Rome in the region. When the last Galatian king, Amyntas, died in 25 B.C., the Romans inherited the kingdom. Caesar Augustus then created the Roman province of Galatia, making Ancyra the capital and annexing a number of districts to the south and west, including Pisidia, Isauria, Phrygia, and Lycaonia.
I. Why write to Galatia?
The reason Paul was prompted by God to write this epistle to the Galatian churches in this region happened because the churches were under fierce demonic attack.; the kind of attack that threatened both the purity of the gospel and the doctrine concerning salvation in Jesus Christ alone, and the purity of their personal conduct in response to their acceptance of Christ. "Religious activists" called Judaizers had come into the region infiltrated the church, and began to dissuade the Galatians from the gospel pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 1:7 to chapter 5:10, the first thing these religious leaders did in their campaign to circumvent the message Paul’s conveyed in preaching of the gospel (the foundational basis of Christianity spreading in Galatia) was to travel there to undermine the gospel by attacking the gospel message Paul preached and taught. As a result, Paul felt the need in writing the Galatian churches to vindicate his ministry and what he taught. No sooner than Paul left the region, he received disturbing news that the Galatian Christians started falling away from the doctrine of Christ he had taught and returned to living according to works and keeping the Mosaic Law, thus returning to a bondage of keeping "days"," months", "times" and "years". They had become guilty of "legalistic error".
Second, they viciously attacked Paul's ministry and personal character in an attempt to undermine Paul’s ministry credibility. These "Judaizers" infiltrated the churches preaching a "Gnostic" doctrine persuading members of the church to mix the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ alone with keeping the rituals of the Mosaic Law. They challenged the credibility of Paul's ministry calling, claiming that Paul was teaching them wrong and the gospel of Jesus Christ preached by Paul was insufficient for salvation. They disagreed that faith in Jesus alone was all anyone needed to be saved and reconciled back into the good graces of God. The Judaizer's counterclaim was the church needed more than just faith in Jesus to be saved. In addition to faith in Jesus Christ, they insisted the church must follow the teachings of the Mosaic Law and, especially the requirement of circumcision. In essence, the Judaizers insisted the Galatian churches must become “law” Christians and not just “faith” in Christ Christians.
Some of the things these Judaizers insisted that a Christian do included the need to be circumcised according to the Law given by God to Moses; keep the Sabbath days and other Jewish holy days, inclusive of the Jewish ceremonial law. Paul, defending the faith rose to the Judaizers' challenge and produced this letter. Paul addressed the Judaizers false doctrinal claims and called them "gnostic" refuting everything the claimed and categorically denying everything they told the church claiming that faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the Law were both necessary for salvation.
In addition to attacking what the Apostle Paul taught, they also took dead aim to assassinate Paul’s character as a called Apostle. The Judaizers claimed that Paul was an inferior apostle, saying that Paul wasn’t even called by God, even claiming that neither his ministry nor the gospel he preached had any sanctioned authority.
Paul countered their vicious accusation with a "purpose" question and a demonstrative reply to the same question. The "purpose question" (Galatians 1:10) was: "Do I persuade men or God, or do I seek to please men"? Paul said: "if I preached to please men, then he was not a servant of Christ". Also, in Galatians 1:11 through 2:10, he responds with "passionate" defenses of his conversion to Christ and the approval of his apostleship by the leaders of the church at Jerusalem. Paul said: "This gospel I preached and taught to the Galatians was not my own "interpreted" words of the scriptures, (unlike his predecessors the Pharisees during the Maccabean revolt) nor did he originate the gospel message, but this gospel message came "through the revelation of Jesus Christ".
Paul charged: "those who presumed to change the gospel message were meddling with the very plan of God. He defended the "gospel of grace” message he taught to the church at Galatia. He said: "Salvation" was completely through faith in Jesus Christ and not of any works they had done or could do for themselves so this prevented them from being able to boast of "saving themselves" by their works. Paul declared that "grace" was given to them as a gift by God Almighty, not by any works done by their hands. Paul said:" God through Jesus Christ did all the work that was needed for the plan of salvation to become active in a person’s life. Jesus Christ carried out his part in the plan by dying on the cross, thus becoming a “sacrificial” substitute for the sin of man. As a result, all anyone had to do was accept Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross fro the remission of their sins and that person would be saved the very moment".
From Paul's point of view, "the issue" was not whether a person was "circumcised", but whether he had become "a new creation" in Christ Jesus. It was critical that Pau convinced the Galatian church that the gospel of Jesus Christ was accurate and the only means of salvation. If Paul had not been successful in his argument for justification by faith alone, Christianity would have remained a sect within Judaism, rather than becoming the universal way of salvation.
II. Salvation: By the Gospel of Grace Alone Explained!
Paul was convinced a person was saved by confessing Jesus Christ and by believing in Him alone. Paul, had been a Jew of the "Pharisaic order". It was God that revealed grace to Paul in his own personal experience with Jesus Christ while as "Saul of Tarsus", persecutor of "The Way" (early Christians) on the Damascus Road. Paul echoed the same message he told the church at Ephesus that it was by the grace of God that they were saved. He said also that salvation was through faith and not because of anything they did or could do for themselves, but it was given to them as a gift by God . Paul said that God through Jesus Christ did all the work that was needed for the plan of salvation to become active in a person’s life. Again, as for combining grace with keeping the Law as a way to be saved, Paul addressed this fallacy in Galatians 5:2-4: "In your efforts to keep the law, you will alienate yourself from Jesus Christ; that Christ would not be of any value to them, even if you were circumcised.
Paul taught the following four things in his beliefs concerning the grace of God as it applied to the plan of salvation: First of all, Paul taught the "real message" of the gospel is the fact that Jesus Christ gave his life and himself for our sins. This meant the death that Jesus died on the cross at Calvary was the only substitution death God provided for all of mankind. As a result of this, man must accept the truth that we are is still the “real” sinners. Every man and woman by right should have died for themselves, but neither one could have brought redemption for the race even if they had done so. Because of his death, Jesus thus became the “sin offering” for us by dying in our place on the cross. The result of this sacrificial death is Jesus covered all of man’s sin. Jesus literally took our place. Jesus was not made "a sinner", the Bible said Jesus was literally made sin for us and for that reason He crucified sin in the flesh in order that anyone who accepts Him can be made the righteousness of God.
Concerning His death on the cross, Paul boldly declared: "Jesus Christ's death serves as "the only method" God the Father uses to deliver us from this evil world. I say “evil”, because this world is sinful and sin-filled. The "spiritual" environment in this world (powers, principalities, rulers of the darkness, spiritual wickedness in high places and Satan, the prince and power of the air) acts as a seed bed that strongly influences man to ignore, disobey, or even question the very authority of God himself. Paul not only believed the gospel, he strongly believed that God’s gospel of Grace was the “only gospel” that any preacher should be preaching to anybody period, so much so that Paul made this demonstrative statement: “If anybody preaches any other gospel but the gospel of grace (God, Jesus Christ) that person or persons are “double cursed””!
III. One Message: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ"
According to Apostle Paul, God has only one message: That message is the gospel of Christ. Paul in Galatians 1:6-9 shared his position concerning anybody preaching "another gospel. He expressed his astonishment to how quickly the tactics of the Judaizers’ bewitched many members of this church to abandon living according to the grace of God and return to living to "keep the Law and perform all the rituals the Law demanded!. These false teachings shipwrecked many of these members’ faith, causing them to chase after something that was far inferior to the grace of God; that being the "traditions of men". (Scriptures misquoted and misinterpreted mixed with worldly philosophy compiled and adopted as life doctrines that were made up by misinformed men and women who had a "form" of God, but denied the true power that's only found in God..
Paul was really saying to them that so-called “new “gospel that they chased was not a ‘gospel” It didn’t bring you good tidings that would produce great joy. This false teaching was design to place back upon them the very burdens that the gospel of Christ lifted from them. Instead of the Galatians living their lives in peace, this new doctrinal teaching was actually troubling them. This new teaching is not a true supplement to the Gospel. "The Gospel stands on its own and becomes perverted if you add anything to it or take anything away from it. Paul said to them “Your minds have been corrupted and you haven’t gained anything by accepting this “other” gospel!”
The writer in the Barnes’ Note Commentary put it this way:
“The great system of salvation had been taught; and no other was to be admitted, no matter who preached it; no matter what the character or rank of the preacher: and no matter with what imposing claims he came. It follows from this, that the mere rank, character, talent, eloquence, or piety of a preacher does not of necessity give his doctrine a claim to our belief, or proves that his gospel message is true. Great talents may be prostituted; and great sanctity of manner, and even holiness of character, may be in error; and no matter what may be the rank, and talents, and eloquence, and piety of the preacher, if he does not accord with the gospel which was first preached, he is to be held accursed.”
Paul believed strongly that God’s gospel of Grace was the “only gospel” that any preacher should be preaching to anybody period. Paul made this demonstrative statement: “If anybody preaches any other gospel but the gospel of grace (God, Jesus Christ) that person or persons are “double cursed! (vs. 8 &9)”
Through Paul, the church at Galatia had both received the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purest form and accepted its truth and began to live in a way that showed that they had already embraced it as God’s only means of man’s salvation. Not only this, but they were living beneficiaries of what the Gospel brought in the life of converted people. For them to abandon the gospel of Christ that Paul and the other Apostles preached was to return to the tedious practice of living according to the Mosaic Law, or to struggle with living by a “pseudo-gospel by combining “grace” living with “law” living. The Gospel which Paul had already preached to this church is the only true Gospel. Paul says if I were to preach any other gospel, I should incur the curse of God too. He said if any of their false teachers (Judaizers) pretended, as many in early times did, that they received their accounts by the ministry from an angel, let them be accursed! Paul said that the church has an awesome responsibility to do the following:
"To soundly and emphatically reject any other doctrine(s) preached or taught other than what is actually proclaimed in the Bible on the subject of justification. Those doctrines are to be soundly rejected and treated with abhorrence. (pure hatred) That we are not to patronize or knowingly sit under false preachers and teachers. We are not to support them in any way, no matter what their zeal, their sincerity, their apparent sanctity, success, or demeanor. We are to withdraw from them, expose them, and from that point on have nothing more to do with them and demand that they either cease their falsehoods teachings or leave the church fellowship".
IV. An "Exposition on Galatians 1:10
Paul in vindicating of his ministry and calling referred to Galatians 1:10 first raised a question about who we as preachers and teachers must seek to please: God or men. Then Paul emphatically declares where he stood on the matter and where we should stand. This 10th verse is an answered question of the right attitude every servant (minister and teacher) of God should have if and when they are privileged by God to minister, preach or teach the Word of God. First and foremost, our total commitment in whatever area of ministry (whether preaching, teaching or evangelizing as witnesses) has to be to God and never to man, except to preach and teach the truth to man! We must always seek God for ourselves first, acknowledging that the message we convey to others also pertain to us too. We are to never act as if the Word of God is just for others. We must remember that the evangelical mission God does through us and the gospel message God conveys through us and others is never about us, but it is always about God, his will, and his purpose for us and others. It's all about Jesus!
The truth is, "a servant of God in any capacity must never seek to gain popularity or become seen as an “icon” to anybody. The servant’s focus is to carry out the will of God on the mission field (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to never seek “special” favors from any of the people we minister to. We are not to detract from the Gospel in any way. God warns us not to add to God’s sacred word nor to take away or purposely omit wording from the gospel message or from word of God period. The people who hear the Word of God must be “persuaded” in their own minds and not heap to themselves, teachers and preachers, having “itching ears”.
Paul, as he continued to defend his call to the gospel ministry, lets the Galatians know (just in case they didn’t know already) that his preaching the Gospel of Grace was not politically motivated. He had no desire to seek or win a popularity contest with them. Paul said if any servant working for God sought to please men in what they do, then none of them should not be identified as a servant of Jesus Christ. Paul lets them know that he was not seeking their favor, neither was he or did he ever seek the favor of any the religious leaders of that day either.
In 1Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul admonishes all ministers, teachers and leaders to be bold, fearless, knowing that God is with us and be prepared to receive great opposition from those who don’t want to believe the Gospel message when we do so. When we preach the Word, it’s so imperative that we remember that we are exalting God by the preaching and teaching of his “holy” Word that we can’t afford to be deceitful, unclean or unholy in our daily living in any way. We must keep in mind that we’ve been entrusted to God to “handle” His written word correctly and reverently. It would be very wise that we refrain from using “flattering” words or “cloak” our intentions in covetousness.
God is acutely aware of all that we will ever say or do and he does have his eyes continually on us. There will be times when we might appear to be a burden to the masses of people as we “persuade” them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, even so, we are to work tirelessly until God’s mission for us is complete. This means that whether it is night or day, cold or sweaty hot, preaching to those with hope or to those who have become hopeless, even when and if we are being harassed by Satan, we must in the words of Jesus: work the work of Him who has sent us while it is day. One day the “night” will come and that will be the day when nobody will be able to work.
Dr. William Edward Boddie