The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE
- Paul's epistle
to the Galatians was probably written about AD 60, during Paul's third visit to
- Galatia was
originally a country in northwest Asia Minor. About three
hundred years before Christ, a large number of European Gauls of Celtic
(English, Irish, Scotch) stock migrated to what is today called Turkey.
- The area they
settled in eventually became known as "Galatia." It was settled by the Gauls who gave the
area the name "Galatia."
- Later Galatia
was taken over by the Romans, who enlarged it and incorporated it into the Roman
Empire as a province.
- Paul visited the Galatian churches on each of his three
missionary journeys. There is no mention in the epistle of another visit to the
churches. The epistle was evidently Paulís last word to these churches, written
after he had visited them on the third missionary journey" (Thru the
- Paul's epistle
to the Galatians played a very influential role during the Protestant
Reformation. It was Martin Luther's
favorite epistle, and his Commentary on Galatians became widely
- Paul asserted
his authority as an apostle in the first chapter (1:1). He wanted them to know that he received
the true Gospel message directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, and not from men
- Paul was amazed
that the Galatians would depart from the true Gospel, and he used strong
language to emphasize the danger of the error of mixing law and grace
- "Let him be
accursed" (1:8, 9) literally means, "Let him spend eternity in
- Strong's Concordance says the word
means, "a person doomed to destruction."
THE BACKGROUND TO THE EPISTLE
- After the
apostle Paul had left Galatia, false teachers entered the churches and
introduced false doctrine. They taught that salvation was by faith in Christ
plus keeping the law of Moses. Their message was a mixture of law and
grace, of Christianity and Judaism.
- When Paul heard
of this he wrote his epistle to the Galatians. In it he sets forth the true
character of salvation as being by grace alone from beginning to
- "The theme of
Galatians is the vindication of the Gospel of the grace of God from any
admixture of law-conditions, which qualify or destroy its character of pure
PAULíS SALUTATION (1:1-5)
- When we speak
of a salutation, we are referring to the writerís opening words or remarks,
which serve as the prefatory greeting in a letter. In modern times, we simply
start by saying, "Dear Sir" or "Dear Brethren," etc.
- But in Bible
times, salutations were longer and more interesting. In those days, the author
usually identified himself in the salutation. Today, we usually sign off at the
conclusion of the letter.
- This salutation
is brief and to the point. In Paulís other epistles, he begins by addressing the
recipients of the epistle as beloved saints or some other term of affection. But
here it is simply, "unto the churches of Galatia"
- The seriousness
of their error caused Paul to be brief and somewhat stern with them (cf. 1:6).
There is no words of commendation, praise or thanksgiving. No one is mentioned
by name. There is no request for prayer in this
- If you compare
this letter with Paulís other letters, you will notice that it is decidedly
different. Here Paulís greeting is cool, brief, formal, and
- Paulís call to
be an apostle was not from man, but from God (1:1). It did not originate with
men, nor was it communicated from God through men. It came directly from God.
Because of criticism from the false teachers, Paul starts off his letter by
defending his apostleship.
most men (and all women) who call themselves "ministers" are not called by God.
Many have placed themselves in the ministry, and God had nothing to do with
- A man who has
is called by God alone and who is responsible to God alone has freedom to preach
Godís message without fear of man.
- As in all of
the epistles, grace always comes before peace (1:3). Grace is Godís undeserved
kindness toward lost sinners. Instead of commanding wicked men to do something,
grace tells them what God has already done.
- The law condemns sinners but grace invites them to
receive salvation as a free gift.
- "Instead of looking for good men whom it may approve,
grace is looking for condemned, guilty, speechless, and helpless men whom it may
save, sanctify, and glorify" (Scofield).
- Whenever we are confronted with the error of legalism,
we need to stop and ask, "Why did Christ die?" Paul gives us the answer to this
question in verse 4 - Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver
us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father."
- If the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself to settle the sin
question, then it is both unnecessary and impossible for us to add to it.
- The substitutionary death of Christ is at the heart of
the Gospel and forms the basis for this epistle (cf. Gal. 2:20, 21; 3:1, 13;
5:11, 24; 6:14).
- Christ died to "deliver us from this present evil world"
(1:4). This world is "evil" politically, morally, religiously, and in every way
you can think of. God does not want us to improve this wicked and corrupt world
but to deliver people from it.
- One preacher put it this way: "God is not interested in
improving the world, or making men comfortable in it, but in delivering men from
it. Our priorities should coincide with His" (William
THE THEME OF THIS EPISTLE (1:6,
- I already
quoted Scofield as to the theme of this epistle. He also says, "The test of the
Gospel is grace" (bottom of page 1241).
- Paul tells
these Galatians that he is amazed at their willingness to abandon the true
Gospel for "another gospel" (1:6), a mixture of law and grace.
- According to
the Bible, there is "another Jesus," "another spirit," and "another gospel" (II
Cor. 11:1-4). This false gospel is preached by "false apostles" (II Cor.
- There are also
false churches, and according to Revelation 17 and 18, they will soon all be
joined together in one big ecumenical super-church.
- False teachers
"trouble" people and "pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:7). There are a lot of troublesome
"gospel-perverters" out stirring up trouble and leading people
- Churches and
religious cults which teach salvation by good works are leading souls to hell.
They are preaching "another gospel" and that is why Paul uses such strong
language in condemning this error (1:8, 9).
- There is only
one true Gospel (I Cor. 15:1-4). Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,
- We saw Paulís
salutation and Paulís theme. Now let us look at his warning (1:8,
(1:8, 9) means "damned." The Greek word is anathema. "If any man love
not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (I Cor. 16:22).
- The law has a
curse for those who fail to keep it (cf. Gal. 3:10). And the Gospel has a curse
for those who try to pervert it!
- Notice that
Paul refers to "an angel from heaven" (1:8). Interestingly, Mormons claim that
an angel from heaven (Moroni) visited Joseph Smith and gave him a new gospel.
Paul says they are "accursed."
- Romanism is
another false gospel (good works and sacraments, rosaries, candles, pope, Mother
Teresa, visions of Mary, etc.).
- Seventh Day
Adventists teach a false gospel of law and grace. They say Christians have the
mark of the beast for worshipping on Sunday.
- All religious
cults (Christian Science, Moonies, J W's) teaching a false gospel of salvation
preaches a false gospel.
- The so-called
"Social Gospel" is a false Gospel. The man who is credited with starting the
social gospel is Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918). He was a liberal Baptist pastor on the West Side of New York City, in the area known as Hellís Kitchen.
- As a pastor in a poor neighborhood, he encountered many
social problems, and he attempted to help alleviate some of these problems by
becoming involved in local political and social activities.
- Later, after post-graduate studies in Germany (in a very
liberal school), he became a professor of church history in Rochester
- Rauschenbusch completely adopted the liberal teachings
of his professors in Germany, and he added the liberal political ideas being
espoused at the time.
- The social gospel was basically communism disguised as
- Pastor Rauschenbusch
has been dead for nearly 100 years but his unscriptural "social gospel" still
lives on. He wrote books and
articles promoting it, and liberal churches all over the world have adopted
- Rick Warren, the "Purpose Driven" pastor in California is probably the biggest proponent of the social gospel today, though he shuns
- Scott Bessenecker, the associate director of missions
for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, recently said. "InterVarsity is trying to
help students embrace and engage the social dimensions of the gospel in a
way that will inspire individuals to say, 'I want to follow this Jesus.'"
- The so-called "full gospel" is another gospel. There is
only one true Gospel (I Cor. 15:1-4) and nothing can be added to it to make it
- Baptismal regeneration is a false gospel (Lutheranism,
Anglicanism, and other off-shoots of popery).
- All of these false religions and false cults add to the
Gospel. The technical name for this is "legalism." That is the theme of this
- The word "legalism" has been abused and twisted.
Legalism is not teaching holiness or Bible standards or separation from
- Legalism is teaching that salvation is through good
- Harry Ironside
told a true story about a young woman who was traveling by train with her little
baby. It was during a winter storm with snow falling and sleet covering
- The train made
its way along slowly because of the ice on the tracks and the snow-plow went
ahead to clear the way.
- The woman
seemed very nervous. She was to get off at a small station where she was to be
met by some friends, and she said to the conductor, "You will be sure and let me
know the right station; wonít you?" "Certainly," he replied, "just remain here
until I tell you the right station."
- She sat rather
nervously, and again spoke to the conductor, "You wonít forget me?" "No; just
trust me. I will tell you when to get off."
- A businessman
sat across the aisle, and he leaned over and said, "Pardon me, but I see you are
rather nervous about getting off at your station. I know this road well and I
know when you are supposed to get off. These conductors are very forgetful, they
have a great many things to attend to, and he may overlook your request, but I
will see that you get off all right. I will help you with your baggage."
- "Oh, thank
you," she said. And she leaned back greatly relieved. In a little while the name
of the city the lady mentioned was called, and the businessman leaned over and
said, "The next stop will be yours."
- As the train
slowed down, she looked around anxiously for the conductor, but he did not come.
"You see," said the businessman, "he has forgotten you. I will help you off,"
and he helped her with her baggage. The train came to a stop, and since the
conductor was nowhere in sight, he opened the door and helped the lady off the
train with her baggage and her little baby. In a moment the train moved on
- >A few minutes
later the conductor came and looking all about, asked the businessman, "What
happened to the woman that was sitting here with her baby?" The businessman
said: "You forgot them, but I saw to it that they got off all right at the last
- "What station?"
the conductor asked. "The last stop, a few minutes ago," the businessman
replied. "But that was not a station! That was an emergency stop! I was looking
after that woman. Do you realize that you have put them out in the middle of
nowhere in the midst of a snowstorm? There will be no one there to meet them or
- There was only one thing to do, and although it was
rather dangerous, they had to reverse the engine and back up several miles to
try and find the woman and her child.
- They searched and searched, and finally someone stumbled
upon her, and there she was frozen on the ground with her little baby dead in
her arms. She was the victim of the wrong information.
- Ironside concluded this sad story by saying: "If it is
such a serious thing to give people wrong information in regard to temporal
things, what about the man who misleads men and women in regard to the great
question of the salvation of their immortal souls? If men believe a false
gospel, if they put their trust in something that is contrary to the Word of
God, their loss will be not for time only but for eternity. And that is why the
apostle Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, uses such strong
language in regard to the wickedness, the awfulness of misleading souls as to