Introduction to the book of Galatians:
Paul wrote this strong epistle to churches in Galatia which was the name of a region in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) after one of missionary’s trips to this area.
In Paul’s day, the word “Galatia” had two distinct meanings. First, in a strict ethnic sense, Galatia was the region of Asia Minor inhabited by the Gauls who were called Galatia by the Greeks and thus the name Gauls. They were Celtic people who had migrated to that region from Gaul (modern France) around 280 B.C.. The Romans later conquered the Galatians, and Galatia later became a Roman province, incorporating some regions not inhabited by ethnic Galatians. Second, in a political sense, Galatia came to describe the entire Roman province, and not merely the region inhabited by the ethnic Galatians. Paul founded churches in many of the cities – Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe which are within the Roman province of Galatia.
Paul’s main goal, motive or purpose of writing this strong epistle was to turn the Galatians back to a pure faith in Christ alone for justification and salvation. Therefore, the central theme of Galatians is “Justification by Faith alone in Christ.” Paul wrote this epistle in defence of that doctrine which is the heart of the gospel.
Like many believers today, not long after their conversion the Galatians were seduced, lured or enticed away from their faith in Christ alone as the only means of justification or salvation by some false teachers of Jewish background who perverted the Gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7).
These false teachers were teaching that faith alone in Christ was not alone to have God’s acceptance, forgiveness, favour, blessing or salvation, but that the Galatians had to keep the precepts of the Law of Moses, specifically the rite of circumcision. So, Paul had to write to defend the true gospel in order to win back the hearts of the Galatians to the true gospel and to warn them against the dangers of falling away from grace by trusting in their self-righteousness or performance, rather than in Christ alone.
Introduction to Galatians Chapter One:
In Galatians Chapter One, Paul seeks to establish his credentials as an apostle of Christ which the false teachers were seeking to undermine or destroy in order to gain a hearing and acceptance from the Galatians. Therefore, Paul had to defend his call to apostleship by the risen and glorified Christ, the source of his gospel and authority as an apostle of Christ, and his relationship with other apostles.
In this Chapter, Paul also establishes that there is only one true Gospel of Christ, which is the good news that salvation is a free gift at the expense of Christ and thus cannot be earned, merited or deserved, but can only simply be received humbly by faith in Christ alone. In other words, salvation is purely by grace alone through faith alone in Christ.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV).
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (NKJV).
6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (NKJV).
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, (NKJV).
Like many believers today, not long after their conversion the Galatians were seduced, lured or enticed away from their faith in Christ alone as the only means of justification or salvation by some false teachers of Jewish background through a perversion of the Gospel (Gal. 1:7).
(Greetings from Paul):
1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,
4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (NKJV).
In his greetings, Paul had to point out the source of his apostleship authority to defend his apostleship that false teachers were seeking to undermine or destroy.
In Paul’s greetings, it is clear that grace and peace are inseparable gifts from God. Anyone who rejects grace cannot have peace. Peace is a fruit or evidence of salvation. There is no other means by which we can have peace with God or from God except by faith in His Grace (His divine provision of His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins). We can never work to earn, merit or receive peace from God.
20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21 “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked.” (NKJV).
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (NKJV).
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (NKJV).
28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NKJV).
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” (NKJV).
Furthermore, in his greetings, Paul reveals that Christ gave Himself for us to deliver us, not just from the future judgement or penalty of sin (eternal damnation in hell fire), but from the present evil of this age or period of time. It is the will of God for His children to be delivered from all evils whether now or later.
19 He shall deliver you in six troubles, Yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.
20 In famine He shall redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword.
21 You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
22 You shall laugh at destruction and famine, And you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
23 For you shall have a covenant with the stones of the field, And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
24 You shall know that your tent is in peace; You shall visit your dwelling and find nothing amiss.
25 You shall also know that your descendants shall be many, And your offspring like the grass of the earth.
26 You shall come to the grave at a full age, As a sheaf of grain ripens in its season.
27 Behold, this we have searched out; It is true. Hear it, and know for yourself.” (NKJV).
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. (NKJV).
4 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (NKJV).
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” (NKJV).
(Paul stresses that there is only One True Gospel):
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,
7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (NKJV).
After his greetings, Paul went straight to the main purpose of writing this epistle. He was surprised or shocked that the Galatia Christians are already turning away from the true gospel (which he referred to as the grace of Christ) to another or different gospel which he refers to as the perversion of the gospel of Christ.
Paul stresses that there can only be one true gospel of Christ and that is the gospel that is centred, based or focused on the grace of Christ – His death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Any gospel that belittles the finished work of Christ or advocates for additional works as a means of obtaining justification or salvation from God is a counterfeit, false or perverted gospel.
Paul further warns (in verse 7) that those who preach another or different gospel besides the gospel of grace trouble believers. False gospel erodes inward peace and rest in the believer’ s heart.
Consider the meaning of the Greek word that was translated “trouble” in verse 7.
Part of Speech: verb
Root Word (Etymology): of uncertain affinity
Outline of Biblical Usage:
- to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro)
- to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity
- to disquiet, make restless
- to stir up
- to trouble
- to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread
- to render anxious or distressed
- to perplex the mind of one by suggesting scruples or doubts.
Paul warns that imbibing or embracing false gospel which promotes or adds any form of works to that of Christ for salvation will result in being estranged from Christ; Christ becoming of no effect; being deprived of all profit from Christ; being brought to nothing; and being cut off from Christ.
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (NKJV).
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (KJV).
4 Ye are deprived of all profit from the Christ as separated from him, as many as are justified by law; ye have fallen from grace. (DBY).
4 If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing).” (AMP).
4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. (NLT).
Knowing the gravity or weight of the dangers or evils of the Galatians giving attention to a different gospel, Paul (in verses 8 &9) pronounces a curse upon anyone who preaches or teaches another gospel other the one he has taught the Galatians before which is purely based on faith in Christ and His finished work alone. Paul warns that anyone who teaches a false gospel is doomed to destruction.
By pronouncing a curse or condemning to destruction the preachers or teachers of a false gospel, Paul is further establishing that there is only one true gospel approve of God and that gospel cannot be modified or improved upon, not by any man or even angel, not even Paul himself.
(Paul defends his Call to Apostleship):
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,
16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood,
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (NKJV).
Having warned the Galatians about the dangers of embracing a different gospel other than that of the grace of Christ, Paul began to defend his call to apostleship and the source of the gospel he was preaching.
But first (in verse 10), Paul stresses that he is a bondservant of Christ and he is out only to please God and not men. Unlike the false teachers seeking to entice, woo or persuade or please the men, Paul’s devotion is only to Christ to whom he is a bondservant.
Who is a Bondservant of Christ?
Consider the Greek word translated servant in verse 10.
Part of Speech: masculine noun
Root Word (Etymology): from G1210
Outline of Biblical Usage:
- a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
- a slave
- , one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men
- devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
- a servant, attendant.
Consider the Hebrew background of a Bondservant.
1 “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them:
2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.
3 “If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4 “If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.
5 “But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’
6 “then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. (NKJV).
From the above, a bondservant is one who has willingly chosen to serve his master forever out of love.
Paul and other early apostles of Christ often refer to themselves as bondservants of Christ because they are sold out completely to Christ out of pure love for Christ. Their motivation for serving Christ is not fear of punishment or greed for gains, but love for Christ.
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God (NKJV).
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. (NKJV).
2 Peter 1
1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (NKJV).
Like the early disciples and apostles of Christ, believers today are bondservants of Christ.
Why are you a bondservant of Christ?
First, because you were bought by the Lord Jesus Christ at a huge price – His blood!
As believers, you rightly belong to God and not yourself, but God won’t force you to serve Him.
1 Corinthians 6
18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (NKJV).
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (NKJV).
Second, because you have received the mercies of God!
While you deserved death and destruction, yet God showed you great mercies and gave you life and blessings that you don’t deserve. That should make you love and serve Him forever!
2 Corinthians 5
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;
15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (NKJV).
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (NKJV).
Paul further revealed that the source of the gospel he preached was Christ. He received it through the revelation of Jesus Christ. After his first encounter with Christ in Acts 9:1-9 on his way to Damascus to arrest and persecute the followers of Christ and his subsequent conversion, Paul went to spend 3 years in Arabia. Afterwards, he went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James, the Lord’s brother.
Like Paul, as he rightly pointed out in verse 14 that he was only zealous for the traditions of men, there are many religious folks today who though zealous are without knowledge. They are not zealous for God, God’s Word and salvations of souls, but for church doctrines and traditions which can not save anyone.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV).
In verse 15, Paul further stresses that God’s salvation and calling are according to grace and not works. Paul was chosen before he was born to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.
God’s calling or purpose for each of us is predetermined and predesigned before we were formed in our mother’s womb. It is therefore not based on our self-righteousness, merits, performance or good works. God chose us solely based on His grace and purpose.
2 Timothy 1
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (NKJV).
4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (NKJV).
1 “Listen, O coastlands, to Me, And take heed, you peoples from afar! The LORD has called Me from the womb; From the matrix of My mother He has made mention of My name.
2 And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, And made Me a polished shaft; In His quiver He has hidden Me.”
3 “And He said to me, ‘You are My servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified.’ (NKJV).
In verse 16, Paul pointed out the important of first receiving the revelation of Christ within or knowing Christ before seeking to preach about Christ. You will not be effective in teaching or preaching Christ if you don’t first have a personal revelation of Christ.
Christ must first be revealed in you or to you before you can reveal or make Christ known to others. This certainly requires spending quality time regularly in prayer and study of God’s Word. Paul spend 3 years alone in Arabia to receive the revelation of Christ he taught and wrote about in his epistles.
The revelation of Christ is given to by the Holy Spirit as you seek Christ wholeheartedly in prayer and in the Word.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
15 “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (NKJV).
13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (NKJV).
2 Corinthians 3
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (NKJV).
39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (NKJV).
24 “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
26 “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (NKJV).
(Paul further defends his Apostleship):
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.
19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.
23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.”
24 And they glorified God in me. (NKJV).
The false teachers seek to destroy Paul’s credentials by saying that he has no contact or relationship with other apostles or the Church council in Jerusalem. Therefore, Paul refuted their claims by revealing how he went up to Jerusalem to fellowship and discuss with Peter and James.
He further revealed many Christians in the regions of Syria and Cilicia glorified God on the account of the testimony of his conversion.
Like Paul, we should not be ashamed of sharing the testimonies of our conversion. Our conversion testimonies are proofs of the power of the gospel of the grace of Christ.