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The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Galatians (1-10) (Lesson 01)

Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (1:1-10)                                                      (Lesson 01)

Welcome to HBS.

Introduction to Galatians

This week we begin our study of the book of Galatians, verse-by-verse, and I thought we’d commence by taking a look into the history of these people to have some idea who they were.  Then we’ll see what motivated Paul to write this letter to the churches in Galatia.  I work from the premise the more information we can gather going in the better our understanding will be coming out.

  If we were in the classroom, I would have my map of the Mediterranean Sea coast, as it appeared in Paul’s day, up on the white board for you all to see.  Maps are not only useful in Bible study, in my opinion they are essential because they help Bible students understand geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in the Bible.  These people and places really existed at one time.

The country Galatia (Ga-lay-sha) was a Roman province which included Lycaonia, Isauria, and parts of Phrygia, and Pisidia.  The name Galatia is derived from the name Gaul, and it was given to it because it had been conquered by the Gauls who, having subdued the country, settled there.  The Greek geographer and historian Strabo, (64 BC – 23 AD) who witnessed the collapse of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Roman Empire believed the Galatians were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the 4th century BC (See the Battle of the Allia) and in the 3rd century BC invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece.  A group of them opted to settle in Galatia.  This resulted in a mixed population of Greek, Roman, and Jewish people.  These folks were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable, and fickle.  They were quick to “size visitors up” or receive first impressions and equally quick to give up on people.  Case in point:  they received our Apostle Paul and his gospel enthusiastically and then suddenly turned from him and his gospel (Galatians 4:13-16).

We don’t know when this letter was written.  Bible scholars date it between the years 40-60 A.D.   We also don’t know the number of the inhabitants of Galatia at the time the gospel was preached to them.  We know Paul traveled throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 16:5-6).  He had taken ill while passing through, but since he was unable to travel, he preached to them while recovering (Galatians 4:14-15).  They gladly received his teaching, and house churches sprung up because of it.  Paul also visited them on his 3rd missionary journey “strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23).  He instructed and established them in the faith.  When Paul left them everything appeared to be running smoothly. But then Judaizers came preaching a different gospel and because of the Galatians’ fickle nature these men easily corrupted the simplicity of Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16).

Please open your Bible at Galatians 1:1.

Galatians 1

1: Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) – here Paul says what he means, and means what he says, and he’s not boasting; he’s simply stating the facts.  Unlike the Judaizers who declared falsely they had been instructed and sent by the twelve in Jerusalem.  

Paul – I find it interesting that Paul never refers to himself as Saul, in any of his letters.  Up until Acts 13:9 the Bible knows him as Saul of Tarsus, thereafter; scripture refers to him only as Paul.  Let’s all turn to Acts 13:9-12 in our Bibles.  But Saul who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him (Barjesus), and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil (Satan had taken control of this Jew), you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?  Now, behold, the hand of Lord is upon you, and you will be (what) blind and not see the sun (how long) for a time.”  And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.  Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord. 

This was Paul’s first missionary journey.  God is using him to reach the pagan, gentile world with His message of grace.  As Paul and Barnabas are going through the isle to Paphos, they encounter a false prophet, a Jew, named Barjesus or Elymas who is under the control of Satan.  A gentile ruler of that area, Sergius Paulus, desires to hear God’s message from Paul and Barnabas.  However, Barjesus attempts to prevent Barnabas and Paul from reaching this gentile with the gospel; God’s “new” message of grace.  This is where the Holy Spirit “steps in,” fills Saul/Paul, and speaks to Barjesus through him (v10-11).  Then Paul performs his very first recorded, miracle and it’s not merely a historical church event in that sense, its God the Father communicating Church Age Doctrine through a visual sign; for Jews always required “a sign” before they would believe… proving this point, Sergius Paul saw and believed v12). 

What was the doctrine God portrayed through Paul’s first recorded miracle?  As Jews are hindering and forbidding Paul (a Jew mind you) from preaching God’s Word to the gentiles (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16), similarly this unbelieving Jew is preventing Paul from preaching salvation to this gentile ruler so that he might have eternal life.  So, Barjesus is physically blinded for a time (v11) while Paul attends to Sergius Paulus’ salvation, thus revealing God’s doctrine:  For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until (this is a time future word in scripture and this one points to this event) the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”  “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS” (Romans 11:25-27).

Now, the Doctrine of the Partial Hardening of Israel or their Spiritual Blindness goes much “deeper” than what I’ve shown you here.  But to save time we’re not going to get into the, who, what, when, why, and where of all that right here, right now.  We covered this material during our study of the book of Romans and that information is available to you on this website.  We’re going to get back to our original thought, investigating the transition from the name Saul to Paul.

Saul of Tarsus first appears in scripture in Acts 7:58.  He is a young man, an influential man, while the Jewish religious leaders are busy stoning Stephen to death, he is standing on the sidelines holding their cloaks.  He then volunteers to lead Israel’s rebellion against Jesus’ small flock of Believers in early Acts (Acts 8:1-4, 22:1-5, 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13-14; 1 Timothy 1:13).  Elsewhere in scripture we learn Saul was a Jew by blood and tradition, i.e. religion (Acts 22:3; Romans 9:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Galatians 1:14-15; Philippians 3:5).  He is also a Roman by birth and citizenship (Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-29).  Saul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, but he grew up in Jerusalem under the tutelage of the well-known rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  He was a scholar in the Mosaic Law, a religious leader of Israel, a Pharisee (Galatians 1:13-15; Philippians 3:5-6).  He was known as “Rabbi Shaul.” 

The name Saul is Hebrew whereas Paul is a Roman name.  In Hebrew, Saul (Shaul) means:  asked, desired, or wished.  In Greek, Paul (Paulos) means:  little.  Because Paul means little, and the 2nd century church described Paul as short, fat, bald, bow-legged, bushy-eye-browed, with protruding eyes, some say his awkward appearance is one possible source of his name.  I’m not on board that train  Then we have Bible passages where Paul refers to himself as “the least of the saints.” The reason for this comment is before his conversion he persecuted the Church of God (Acts 9:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15) so others say this is the where he gets his name; they surmise least = little.  Paul did say he was the least of all the saints and he’s already explained why he said this; it has nothing to do with his Roman name. 

In all of his letters we know him as our Apostle Paul, by his Gentile name.  This is because God no longer saw him as a Jew, as Rabbi Shaul, but rather as the 1st Gentile, saved by grace.  After his conversion (Acts 9), his ministry is “the apostleship to the gentiles” (Romans 11:13).   This was mainly due to Israel’s final act of unbelief toward the Holy Spirit in Acts 7.  Theoretically speaking, from Acts 7 onward God considered any lost Jew to be in the same “sinking boat” as the gentiles, for now there was no difference (Romans 10:12; Galatians 3:28).  Since God was using Paul to preach His message of Grace to Gentiles primarily, it was fitting he use and be known by his  Gentile name in pagan cities and towns, beyond the boundaries of Judea. 

Paul is the perfect illustration of the Body of Christ, which is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, saved by grace (alone), saved apart from Israel’s Prophetic Program.  Bear in mind always Law and Grace do not mix; God wants them kept separate in the Age of Grace.

An apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) – the word apostle comes from the Greek word to send (Apostello).  Most people are familiar with the twelve chosen by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry; the ones He named apostles (Mark 6:30; Luke 6:13).  Paul asserted his apostleship in all his letters except for Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.  This opening paragraph is one of the strongest affirmations of his apostolic authority, no doubt due to the situations in the Galatian churches where false teachers were attempting to dilute or disprove his gospel by attacking him personally. 

Verses 2-5:

…and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore.  Amen.

We don’t know who all the brethren who are with Paul are.  We know Paul passed through the Galatian region on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6) around 50 or 51 AD because the Apostle Luke recorded the account.  He also recorded Paul’s third missionary journey through the Galatian region and Phrygia (for the purpose of) strengthening the churches in 53 AD (Acts 18:23).  But the names of the brethren are not mentioned.  If God wanted us to know who these individuals were, their names would have appeared here so it’s not important.    

To the churches of Galatia – when Paul said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel (1:6), it’s clear Paul is referring to himself as the one who preached to them first.  He laid the foundation as God’s master builder preaching Jesus Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).  However, scripture doesn’t say how many churches there were in Galatia.  We know there were several cities in Galatia, Ancyria, Pessinus, Tavia, etc. so it’s possible house churches sprung up in these and other cities. 

Grace to you – this is Paul’s usual apostolic greeting.  Compare it to Romans 1:7.

Who gave Himself for our sins – Paul introduces this important Church Doctrine at the beginning of this letter because the Galatians were beginning to pay attention to the false doctrine of the Judaizers.  They had lost sight of this very important Grace Age Truth (Galatians 1:6-7, 5:4).   

So that He might rescue us from this present evil age – before Paul, these Galatians didn’t know they needed to be rescued from anything, let alone this evil age.  The word rescue in the Greek language is Exaireo (Ex-ahee-reh’-o), a Verb, Strong’s Greek #1807, and it means:  to pluck out, to take out from a number, to select, then to rescue or deliver.  This is the sense in which Paul uses the word here.  Jesus Christ came, He gave Himself that He might “rescue or deliver” those who choose to Believe His gospel from this evil age. 

This evil age or this world is best described as a place under enemy control; a place where self-absorbed, self-centered, self-indulgent people thrive and reproduce (Genesis 6:5).  In short, people who choose to live for themselves and deny God’s authority and existence.  Probably with the Corinthians in mind, Paul had this to say:  do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).  Until Paul, the Galatians’ world was one without God, thus it was a world filled with corrupt desires and worldly opinions.  It was a world where people lived for themselves primarily and everything else was less important.  Clearly, this runs contrary to the kingdom of God for this evil age is filled with sin and people who think nothing of committing sin (Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 5:19-21).  This was the world Jesus Christ willingly entered and voluntarily died for all, in hope of saving a few (Matthew 7:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Verse 6:

Perversion of the Gospel

6: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;

I am amazed – Paul doesn’t rebuke the Galatians or use sarcasm, as he was known to do with the Corinthians.  Instead, he chose to use a kind word to express his surprise that this event should have occurred, after all he had said and done for them. 

That you are so quickly deserting Him - note the verb deserting is in the present tense, which means they were in the process of turning away from Him.  They had warmly embraced Paul and his gospel and in so doing had given themselves to God.  But shortly thereafter they had been led astray from the simple, gospel of Jesus Christ for a different gospel.  The Bible passages at Galatians 3:1 and 5:7 call attention to the fact that although the Judaizers instigated the desertion, the Galatians didn’t resist; they willingly participated in it. 

A different gospel –  is any message other than the Grace of God, which proclaims salvation on other terms than merely faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), plus nothing else.  In this instance, the gospel they introduced enforced the belief that the Jewish rites and ceremonies are absolutely essential in order to be saved.

Verse 7:

7: which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Which is really not another - here’s the thing; there are not two gospels, however the one, true gospel is often distorted or altered.  I mention this because the KJV translation of Galatians 2:7 has often been interpreted as referring to two gospels, one for the Greeks, and one for the Jews.  This is an unfortunate and untrue presumption of God’s Word, although truth be told the false teachers probably made this statement.

There are some who are disturbing you – this refers to a deliberate, purposeful action similar to a military revolt.  I say this because this passage has several military terms in it.  These false teachers came in pretending to have come direct from Jerusalem; direct from the twelve apostles with instructions they had received from them.  This could have been the same group of “agitators” (Galatians 5:12) Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:26 or another group altogether.    

Distort the gospel of Christdistort is another possible military term meaning “to reverse.”  Although morality is a significant element of the gospel, it always follows the salvation experience it doesn’t precede it.  The Judaizers asserted it did.  Paul’s gospel was Christ, then Christlikeness; their gospel was “works righteousness or performance based righteousness (the Mosaic Law) and then God’s righteousness in Christ.  They didn’t deny the central place of Jesus Christ in salvation, but they insisted and required a person to follow the Mosaic Law, which confused grace with human performance in order to be saved.  They were teaching the Galatians:

The necessity of circumcision (Galatians 2:3-4, 5:1, 6:12-15)
The keeping of special days (Galatians 4:10)
A possible inclusion of keeping the food laws which is implied in Paul’s confrontation with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14).

Verses 8-9:

8: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  Paul states this expression twice in succession, so he means what he says and he intends for these folks in Galatia (and us) to understand the seriousness of the matter.  He has just cosigned these false teachers to God’s wrath.  Put another way, they are to be judged by God and if found guilty they are to be separated from God’s presence forever.  That, my friends, is serious business!  What’s the big deal?  They are treating the shed blood of Jesus Christ as if it were a common thing, and that God will not put up with (Hebrews 10:29)!

When you place your trust (faith) in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, you're salvation is secure.  If you are not under the blood, then there is no salvation.

Now there are some people in the church today who prefer not to talk about the blood of Jesus Christ because it upsets some of the people sitting in the pews.  Therefore some church leaders have opted to omit it from their Sunday sermons.  In some cases, they’ve gone so far as to remove songs which contain the word blood from their hymnals.  I’m not exaggerating; I couldn’t be more serious.  But it is your belief in the shed blood of Jesus Christ that seals your salvation; and not the fact that He died on the cross and by that act of faith, plus nothing else, you are then declared righteous (in right standing) with God.  How do we know this?  This book says:  And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness (of sin) - Hebrews 9:22.

But let's use the Bible to teach.  It's not about what I say, but what does the Bible say.  Please turn to Romans 3:25:  (Here Paul is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ) whom God displayed publicly as propitiation in His (what’s the next word) blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

Don't let that word "propitiation" throw you. This word means that Jesus Christ willingly became the blood sacrifice God demanded for the sins of mankind, past, present, and future.  By Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, God's wrath was appeased and mankind's sins were atoned for.

I enjoy teaching this material.  You see, it is all about the righteousness of God from first to last.  There is only one absolute and eternal standard of righteousness that is of the nature and character of God. This is called the "righteousness of God." We say that whatever God does is right because righteousness is summed up in Him.  Put another way, whatever God does is right and He does it because it is right.

Psalm 71

19: "For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens...

Isaiah 55:8-9

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declared the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."

Getting back to Galatians, 1:10, the Greek word for accursed is Anathema (Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3, 16:22) or devoted to destruction.  There are far too many people distorting the gospel today (See the prosperity gospel and the social gospel) and they will answer to God.  Our responsibility as Believers is to know what God has said so that we can recognize counterfeit teaching (false teaching) when we hear it and withdraw from it.   

A gospel contrary to what you received – here Paul is saying to become a true Believer you must truly receive the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), by faith, plus nothing else.  Jesus Christ, is God’s gift of love to us and a gift is something we receive humbly, knowing, in this instance, that we couldn’t possibly pay enough or work hard enough to purchase our way into God’s presence, i.e. to buy eternal life.  Accepting salvation through His Word (alone) is a work of God’s Grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8).  The minute you try to do anything to earn a gift, it is no longer a gift!  The Judaizers were telling the Galatians they needed to earn the right to be saved.

Verse 10:

10: For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Or am I striving to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?  Prior to Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he freely admits to seeking the favor from those whom he derived his authority to seek out and persecute the followers of the way (Acts 9:1-2).  He wasn’t trying to please God at that time, he was pleasing men.  But now, he has a much higher aim in life.  His sole purpose in life was to please God continually. 

Or am I striving to please men?  It was not Paul’s aim to please men, or people in general.  Here he’s referring to the false teachers primarily.  This statement reminds me of another passage from 1 Thessalonians, so let’s take a look at it:  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  The reason why Paul isn’t trying to please people is because people are prone to be fickle that is to say inconsistent in adhering to their given word and they’re prone to change.  But God and His Word do not change; Jesus Christ is Rock steady, Faithful and True (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 18:2, 46 19:14; Isaiah 26:4; Mark 12:10; John 14:6; Hebrews 13:8). 

I would not be a bond-servant of Christ – the Greek word bond-servant is Doulos (doo’-los), Noun, Strong’s Greek #1401, meaning:  a slave, metaphor, one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men.  During the Roman era, the term bond-servant could refer to someone who voluntarily served others.  But it usually referred to one who was held in permanent position of servitude.  Under Roman law, a bond-servant was considered the owner’s property.  Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed for little or no reason by their owners.  The Hebrew word for bond-servant Ebed had a similar connotation.  But the Mosaic Law allowed an indentured servant to become a bond-servant voluntarily (Exodus 21:5-6).

Throughout the New Testament, the term bond-servant, slave, or servant is applied metaphorically to someone absolutely devoted to Jesus Christ.  Paul, Timothy, James, Peter, and Jude all describe themselves as bond-servants of Christ (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1). 

(To be continued)

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