Galatians

“Not Law, or License, but Life in the Spirit”

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Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Paul’s letter to Galatians is to understand that the Judaising agitators were trying to convince the new Galatian Christians that to in order to be truly righteous before God they needed not only to believe in Jesus, but to obey all the Old Testament law as well – all 613 of its commands! Circumcision was the first essential command that they needed to obey. Paul absolutely rejects this, stating that if those who believe in Christ go back under the Old Testament law ‘then Christ will be of no value to you at all’ (5:2), and that they will be ‘alienated from Christ’, and will ‘fall away from grace’ (5:4).


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of Tim Dehn reading Galatians.

Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car, etc …

 


Read
Read

Read the whole letter through in one sitting; this should take you about 15-20 minutes.

It is an excellent, immensely profitable and rewarding practice to read between one and three chapters aloud every day. As you make a regular habit of this, you will find several things begin to happen:

==> You will become much more familiar with the content of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

==> As you continue, you will begin to understand Paul’s argument, the points he emphasises, the changes in tone, and his emotion at different points in the letter.

==> As all these develop and become clarified, you will find that you begin to see why he wrote and why, having come into the life of the Spirit by faith in Christ, it was so foolish for the Galatians to go back under the Old Testament Law.


Watch
Watch

Watch “Wadjda” – a brilliantly understated description of misogyny in Saudi Arabia, where the enforcement of religious law and culture enslaves women. As such, it portrays a lifestyle similar to what the Judaisers were attempting to enforce on the young Christian church in Galatia.


Study
Study

Study all the BfL material and answer the BfL questions at the end of each course. Keep engaging with the contrast between the life of the Spirit, which fulfils the righteous intentions of the Old Testament Law and overcomes the sinful nature, and the life of dutiful obedience to the Old Testament commands in order to try and be righteous before God.

An excellent way of studying this book is to study and master the statements about faith …

2:16   We are justified by faith                                                     

2:20   We live believing in the Son of God                                

3:14, 22   We receive the promise of the Spirit by faith                     

3:26   We are sons of God through faith                                     

5:5   By faith we eagerly through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.                    

 

 


Meditate
Meditate

MEDITATING

Suggested verses for meditation …

2:16   ‘So we, too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one shall be justified.’

 2:20   ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

 3:14    ‘He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.’

 3:26-28   ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

 4:3   ‘…that we might receive the full rights of sons.’

 5:1   ‘It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

 5:6   ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’

 5:12   ‘… do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.’

 5:16   ‘So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’

 5:22-24   ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’

6:7-8   Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man who sows to please the sinful nature will from that nature reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.’

6:14   ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning some of these verses:

2:16   ‘So we, too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no-one shall be justified.’

2:20   ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live believing in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

3:26-28   ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

5:1   ‘It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’

5:6   ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’

5:16    ‘So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’

5:22-24   ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

6:7-8   ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man who sows to please the sinful nature will from that nature reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.’

6:14   ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’

I seriously recommend learning the whole of Galatians 5. Doing so has been one of the greatest blessings in my whole life.

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation: We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

Here are ten questions about ‘Galatians’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

Easy:

Q1   List the fruits of the Spirit.

Q2   Who didn’t have to be circumcised?

Q3   Which leading Christian was carried away by other people’s hypocrisy?

Straightforward:

Q4   What did God promise Abraham?

Q5   What five things do we receive by faith?

Q6   What did Peter, James and John, ‘the pillars of the church in Jerusalem’, give to Paul and Barnabas?

Difficult:

Q7   What exactly are those who believe in Christ free from?

Q8   How should mature Christians go about helping and restoring those who have fallen into heresy and error?

Testing:

Q9    What does Paul say is the evidence that the Spirit of God is in a person?

Q10   What happens to Christians who understand that they are saved by faith, and free from needing to obey the 613 laws of the old covenant, but then use this freedom to follow the desires of their sinful nature?

 

Answers:

A1 – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (5:22-23).

A2 – Titus (2:3) (and all believers in Jesus)

A3 – Barnabas (2:13).

A4 – That all nations (all humanity) would be blessed through him (3:8; Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18).

A5 – Justification (2:16), life with Christ (2:20), the Spirit (3:14,22), ‘sonship’ (3:26), ‘the righteousness for which we hope’ (5:5).

A6 – ‘The right hand of fellowship’, in other words, full and complete approval and support for their doctrine and ministry (2:9).

A7 – Needing to obey the Old Testament Law – all its 613 commands – in order to be declared righteous (just in right standing with God).

A8 – Gently, and with great wisdom we should restore them carefully, taking responsibility for them, but always ensuring that they take responsibility for the state of their own spiritual lives (6:1-4).

A9 – 1) They relate easily and naturally to God as father (‘abba’) (4:6). 2) The fruits of the Spirit are increasingly evident in their lives (5:22-23). 3) Miracles happen in their Christian community (3:5). 4) Their life is characterised by love (5:13-14), and they turn from aggressive (5:15) and conceited behaviour (5:26).

A10 – They forfeit their inheritance in the Kingdom (5:21), and they reap ‘destruction’ (6:8).

 

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    Summary and Exhortation

    Context:   In about CE47, fourteen years after his dramatic conversion, Paul was commissioned by the Antiochan elders into mission with Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). They returned a year later, having planted churches in Cyprus and the southern Galatian cities. But soon afterwards, Paul hears that the young Galatian churches are capitulating to pressure from Judaisers from Jerusalem who both assert their own authority and question Paul’s credentials. They insist that the new converts must enter fully into the Jewish religious life by being circumcised and obeying the Old Testament Law. Paul writes this short letter at white-heat to correct their error. This confrontation is behind the pithy introduction to the Council in Acts 15: ‘Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses you cannot be saved”’.

     

    Main themes:   The letter progresses at a fast pace. The argument builds as follows: God himself has commissioned Paul as his apostle with his gospel, and God did this by direct revelation to Paul. By faith in Christ we are justified, not by works of the Law, with circumcision being the initial act (2:16). The death of Christ demarcates both the end of the old covenant, and the beginning of the new covenant. The believer now ‘lives believing in the Son of God’ (2:20). By faith we receive the promise of the Holy Spirit (3:14). By faith we are sons of God (3:26), and we receive the full rights of sons (4:5). We are freed from the slavery of the dominion of the Law, to serve one another in love, and thereby by living in the power and life of the Spirit (5:16), we fulfil the whole purpose and intention of the Old Testament Law. The Spirit works the full orbed life of Christ into the character of the believer and leads the disciple into the inheritance of the Kingdom of God (5:21). God has therefore created one new family, not two, divided into a Jewish church and a Gentile church.  In this family, all who believe are strictly equal with each other (3:28).

     

    Main Applications:   There are a number of important repercussions. First, all the identity features of the old covenant markers are irrelevant: ‘neither circumcision or uncircumcision has any value, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’ (5:6). Believers in Christ should not seek to be justified before God by being circumcised and obeying all the 613 Old Testament laws. Second, since Jesus’ death on the cross both fulfils and ends the old covenant and inaugurates the new age of grace and the Spirit, the message of the Christ crucified must be proclaimed to all humanity. Third, believers in Christ must not use their freedom from the Old Testament Law as an excuse to ‘do whatever they want’ (5:17), rather we should ‘live by the Spirit’ (5:25), ‘serve one another in love’ (5:13), and ‘not gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (5:16). Paul also instructs mature believers to restore those who are caught in and have fallen for heretical teaching.  He instructs us to ‘do good to all people, especially those who belong to the household of faith’ (6:10), and urges us to remember, serve and give to the poor.

    Contemporary Scenario

    The Greek mythical history ‘The Odyssey’ recounts the story of Ulysses’ travels from the city of Troy as he returns to his home and his wife. In the story, Ulysses goes through many extraordinary events, one of which is to pass through a Strait on the side of which are the Sirens. The Sirens sing with such overwhelming beauty and wonder that no sailor has ever passed through the Strait without changing their course towards the voices of the Sirens. But the beautiful voices belong not to beautiful women but creatures of destruction, cannibals, that kill and destroy every sailor who steps onto their beaches.

    So Ulysses faces the challenge, how can he successfully negotiate the Strait and hear the delightful sound of the Sirens without succumbing to the overwhelming desire to change course, land on the beach and seemingly enjoy the music forever, but in the process lose his life and the lives of his sailors.

    His solution is to make his sailors bind him with strong ropes to the mast after he has put wax in their ears so they cannot hear any sound. Only once they are well through the Strait are they to free him from the mast. The plan works and Ulysses hears the overwhelming sound of the beautiful singing, but is able to emerge at the other end of the Strait.

    But later there another sailor also successfully negotiates the pass. His strategy was very different. No wax. No ropes. But he took with him the greatest musician in the world. While the boat sailed through the Strait, this man and his sailors with him listened not to the overwhelming voices of the Sirens, but to the even more overwhelming, beautiful and winning music played by the world’s greatest musician.

    Two sailors, two very different strategies. One experienced the torture of ropes and the agony of unsatisfied desire, the other experienced only the wonder of the music played by the greatest musician.

    These two different stories perfectly describe the issue at the very heart of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The root problem that humankind faces is how to deal with and overcome the sometimes seemingly overwhelming desires of the sinful nature. The religious ‘solution’ is to attempt to tie men and women to the mast with ‘religious law’ so they cannot fulfil their desires. It is a solution marked by struggle, effort, frustration and unresolved desire.

    But Paul’s whole argument is that God has provided humanity with a far greater way of overcoming temptation. God’s gift to men and women is the gift of having the greatest musician on the boat with us. But not only is Jesus Christ present in the life of the believer, but God gives to the believer his Holy Spirit who, in the words of Romans 5:5, ‘pours the love of God into our hearts’. The way to overcome temptation is not to pretend that the songs of the Sirens are not real, or pleasant, or something that we don’t genuinely want. The way to pass through the Strait of temptation is to love something more than the temptation. Or as Paul states in the leading imperative of Galatians, ‘So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (5:16). No one would ever choose to drink dishwater when clear beautiful cold spring water is offered to them. The only people who would eat rotten meat are those who do not know that a beautiful roast is about to be served.

    The new Galatian Christians had started life in the Spirit. They had begun to learn how to listen to the greatest music on the earth, but they were being beguiled by some ‘agitators’ into thinking that they should now ‘tie themselves to the mast’ by taking up and obeying all the 613 religious laws of the old covenant, beginning with the leading public act of being circumcised.

    In Galatians, Paul demonstrates that the death of Jesus has ended the era of the the Old Testament Law, which Paul calls a ‘disciplinarian’. The gift of the Spirit fulfils the promise that God made at the very beginning to Abraham. The Spirit empowers us to love one another, and thereby fulfil what the Old Testament Law always intended.

     

     

    Summary >
      Book-in-a-Picture - The message and key features in a picture
    • Book-in-a-Picture
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Should a Christian be circumcised?


    Question 2 -

    Your friend says s/he doesn’t want to become a Christian because it's all about obeying rules. Is s/he right?


    Question 3 -

    Which members of God the Father’s family are especially privileged?


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    the essentials

    Argument

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    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes
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    Paul's response to the problem in Galatia

    The death of Jesus on the Cross

    Galatians and Discipleship

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

    Destination: When Paul addresses the ‘the Galatians’ we should understand him to be referring to the churches he planted in the cities of Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra and Derbe (as described in Acts 13-14; see the map).

    Author: The apostle Paul.

    Date: ‘Galatians’ is certainly an early letter of Paul’s although it is difficult to identify the exact date. It is most likely that the events of 2:1-10 refer to those of Acts 11:27-30 as the same people and circumstances are mentioned in both passages. Acts 16:6 therefore refers to Paul’s visit during his second missionary journey, and Acts 18:23 refers to his visit during his third missionary journey. This perspective would mean that the letter of ‘Galatians’ was written either in 48CE or sometime in the following two or three years.

    Genre: The form of the letter has been shown to be standard ‘rebuke-request’. The letter lacks the customary ‘thanksgiving’ after the opening greeting. The author uses the literary genres of autobiography, personal example, satire, allegory, and exhortation.

    The structure of Paul’s argument in Galatians:

     

    Part 1   Galatians 1:1 – 2:21

    Leading point:        God called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles through a divine revelation of the gospel.

    Structure:

    1:1-12                         Paul is God’s apostle. The gospel was given to him by revelation from Jesus Christ.

    1:13-17                       Paul’s conversion was independent of the Jerusalem apostles.

    1:18-24                       A short visit to get acquainted with Peter.

    2:1-10                         A visit after 14 years. The Jerusalem apostles fully endorsed Paul’s gospel and ministry to the Gentiles, and did not require Titus to be circumcised!

    2:11-15                       At Antioch, Paul rebukes Peter for his fear-motivated elitist separatism in obeying the Law.

    2:16-21                       Paul summarises the gospel. Christ’s death for humanity means that believers are justified by faith, not by obeying the Torah.

     

    Part 2   Galatians 3:1 – 4:31

    Leading point:        The gift of the Spirit to all who believe demonstrates that the death of Christ has brought a final end to the jurisdiction of the Old Testament Law. 

    Structure:

    3:1-14                         Christ ended the Old Testament Law by embodying humanity and bearing the curse for humanity’s disobedience, but because of his death, God’s promise (of the Holy Spirit) to Abraham is now given to all who believe in Christ.

    3:15-25                       The Old Testament Law was introduced as a temporary measure in order to restrain sin until Christ came. The Law was a ‘disciplinarian’, it was temporary, unable to make people righteous, and was given through intermediaries, whereas God gave his promise (of the Spirit) directly to Abraham.

    3:26-4:7                      The Spirit unites all believers in Christ on an equal basis as adopted ‘sons’ of the Father. Believers are no longer slaves to the Old Testament Law, but free ‘sons’ in the Father’s family.

    4:8-20                         Paul makes a pastoral appeal to the Galatians.

    4:21-31                       Paul uses the typological allegory of Abraham’s sons to emphasise the point that believers are completely free from the Old Testament Law.

    Part 3   Galatians 5:1 – 6:18

    Leading point:        The Spirit empowers the believer to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and thereby fulfil all that the Law demanded, to overcome the desires of the sinful nature, and to become Christ-like.

    Structure:

    5:1-12                         To be circumcised and to obey the Old Testament Law is to fall from grace. The only thing that matters is faith expressed through love.

    5:13-26                       Those who live by the Spirit will learn to love one another and thereby fulfil all that the Old Testament Law intended. The Spirit empowers us to overcome the desires of the sinful nature, and makes us Christ-like.

    6:1-10                         Paul gives pastoral instructions about restoring those who have succumbed to the Judaising heresy.

    6:11-18                       Paul summarises the main application: that the cross of Jesus is the final and absolute end to the Old Testament Law. Circumcision (and a life committed to obeying the Old Testament Law) is therefore irrelevant, beguiling, and should be avoided.

     

    Themes:

    1. Justification: A person is justified (brought into right standing with God) through faith in Christ Jesus, and not through obeying the 613 laws of the Torah, of which circumcision was the first requirement.

     

    1. Christ’s death on the cross marks the end of the old covenant and the supervision of the Law (3:24). Christ’s death rescues believers from the power of sin and the effects of sin. On the cross, Christ took the curse of the Law on behalf of all humanity (3:13). The cross demarcates the believer from the world (6:14), and should be at the centre of all preaching (3:1).

     

    1. The Spirit: The gift of the Holy Spirit is the fulfilment of God’s original promise to Abraham. When a person believes in Christ they become an adopted child of God because of their faith. Because they are God’s children, God gives them his Spirit. The Spirit both fulfils the demands of the Law (to serve one another in love), and empowers the believer to overcome the sinful nature.

     

    1. Faith in Christ is a response of belief, trust and loyal obedience to Christ because of his life, death and resurrection on our behalf. Everyone who believes is ‘justified’ (2:16), ‘lives through believing in the Son of God’ (2:20), ‘receives the promise of the Spirit’ (3:14), is adopted into God’s family (3:26), and ‘eagerly awaits through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope’ (5:5). In terms of ethical behaviour, Paul states that ‘the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’ (5:6).

     

    1. The sinful nature: The old covenant law was given to Moses to control the people of God (Abraham’s descendants) and to keep them from sin, but it failed because of the sinful nature in human beings. The Spirit leads the believer into a deep fellowship with the Father (4:6) which motivates the believer ‘not to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (5:16).

     

     

     

     

     

    Literary Genre >
      Argument - Understanding how the argument develops
    • Paul's Argument

    The strategy of Paul’s argument in ‘Galatians’

     

    Section 1:          1:1 – 2:10

     Paul is God’s apostle: The gospel was divinely revealed to him

    • 1:1-12 Paul begins the letter at ‘white heat’, expressing his astonishment that the Galatians are turning from the gospel and emphatically stating that God has made him an apostle to preach the gospel which was given to him by revelation from Jesus Christ himself!
    • 1:13-2:10 Paul then recites his conversion testimony emphasising the revelation of Christ and the gospel to him, which took place completely independently of the Jerusalem apostles. It was actually many years before Paul did outline his gospel to Peter, James and John, and when he did, they not only added nothing to it, (they specifically did not require the Gentile Christians be circumcised), but publicly and wholeheartedly affirmed Paul and his ministry.

    All Christians, both Jews & Gentiles, are justified by faith in Christ, and not by trying to keep the Old Covenant law. We live now by believing in the Son of God.

    • 2:11 – 2:21 Paul then describes an incident at Antioch when the Judaisers from Jerusalem coerced Peter and Barnabas and others to separate themselves from the Gentile believers at mealtimes. Paul publicly confronted and rebuked Peter over this separatist religious and ethnic elitism. Paul argues that since we are justified by faith, and not by obeying the Old Covenant law, the death of Jesus on the cross has terminated the Old Covenant and its demands (which included the separation of Jews and Gentiles), and through this faith all believers are brought (on a strictly equal basis) into the dynamic union and life with the resurrected Christ.  

     

     Section 2:          3:1 – 4:7

    The gift of the Spirit demonstrates that the death of Christ has rendered the Old Testament law redundant. The Spirit is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham and is received by faith as confirmation that believers are ‘sons of God’.

    • 3:1-14 The life of the Spirit is given to the believer on the grounds of Christ’s death and on the basis of faith in Christ, (and not because people try very hard and sincerely to obey all the 613 commands of the Old Testament law). Abraham is himself the leading example of a ‘believer’; he believed God’s promise to him that all humanity would be blessed through him. Conversely, everyone who earnestly and sincerely tries to be righteous by obeying all the Old Covenant commands will completely fail because it’s impossible. And because all humanity fails to keep the whole Old Testament law, all humanity is under the curse that the Old Testament law pronounces on those who are disobedient. But Christ himself has born the curse of humanity’s failure to keep the Old Covenant law precisely in order that all Gentiles can, through faith, receive the blessing of the Spirit as God stated in His original promise to Abraham.
    • 3:15-25 God’s overriding plan was always to bless all humanity through the fulfilment of His promise to Abraham. The Old Covenant law served a temporary function as a ‘disciplinarian’ until Christ came. 1) The law came 430 years later and only lasted until Christ’s death; the promise has stood unchanged for all time. 2) The law highlighted the sin of mankind, and brought the violated relationship between God and humanity into stark relief, whereas in Christ and through his death all believers have access to the Father through the Spirit. 3) The law divided Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and women; whereas the promise unites all believers in Christ. 4) God made the promise directly to Abraham, whereas the (less important, temporary) OT law was given through lesser intermediaries (angels and Moses).
    • 3:26 – 4:7 When a person believes in Christ, and is baptised into Christ, they, along with every other believer, become part of Abraham’s seed and a direct heir of God’s specific promise to Abraham. As God’s adopted ‘sons’ and they are immediately entitled to the ‘full rights of sons’ which means that they receive the very Spirit of God’s own Son, and become an heir of God, fully entitled to inherit the kingdom.

     

    Section 3:          4:8-31  

    Paul makes a moving appeal to the Galatians, and explains an allegory about freedom.

    • 4:8-20 Paul now changes his tone and with a more pastoral emphasis asks rhetorically; ‘Why on earth are you Galatians turning back from what Christ has done for you to a religious system that enslaved you?’ He asks what has happened to their love for him and the joy they had when they received Christ; and points out that the agitators are trying to destroy the relationship they have with Paul.
    • 4:21-31 Paul then expounds a ‘typological allegory’ based on Abraham’s two wives to demonstrate that the Old Covenant based on slavish obedience to law is now far surpassed by the New Covenant of faith which brings freedom from the Old Covenant law.

     

    Section 4:          5:1-26  

    Freed from the disciplinarian authority and requirements of the Old Covenant law believers can now live by the Spirit and are thereby empowered to ‘serve one another in love’, overcome the desires of the sinful nature, and become like Christ.

    • 5:1-12           So because Christ has freed us, we believers must stand firm in our freedom in Christ, and not go back to following all the 613 commands of the Old Covenant, (beginning with circumcision). The ‘agitators’, who are promoting this false teaching in order not to be persecuted, will ‘pay the penalty’ for their error.
    • 5:13-18 As we ‘stand firm’ in this freedom and ‘serve one another in love’ we will fulfil all that the whole Old Covenant law intended. And when a believer ‘lives by the Spirit’ and serves others in love, they will reject and overcome the selfish desires of the sinful nature.
    • 5:19-21 Following the desires of the sinful nature leads directly into all kinds of evil behaviour, and even though they are saved and children of the heavenly Father, those who do these things forfeit their inheritance in the kingdom.
    • 5:22-25 But those who live in the Spirit, (who empowers believers to ‘love their neighbour as themselves’), will be transformed to being like Christ as the beautiful fruit of the Spirit becomes established in their lives.

     

    Section 5:          6:1-10  

    Paul gives pastoral instructions to the Galatian Christians and summarises his letter to them.

    • 6:1-6 Paul gives pastoral guidance about how the spiritually mature Christians in Galatian should restore those believers who have fallen into obeying the heretical teachings of the ‘agitators’.
    • 6:7-10 Paul endorses the overriding spiritual truth that every person reaps what they sow, and therefore believers in Christ should always be committed to doing good to others – especially other believers.
    • 6:11-18 Paul ends with a summary reflection that the heresy of compelling people to be circumcised and return to obeying Old Testament Law is actually being driven by the fear of persecution. The death of Christ on the Cross is the ultimate demarcation and will be our eternal glory.
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Should the following things happen in any specified order? Baptism, repentance from sin, being filled with the Spirit, acknowledging Jesus as Lord?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    Read Galatians 4:5. List the differences between being a slave and a son. Consider the parable of the lost (two) sons in Luke 15:11-32, and list the differences between the older and younger son at the end of the story.


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    Some Pentecostals teach that speaking in tongues is the evidence that a person is filled with the Spirit. Does the Bible teach this (3:1-5; see also Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6)?


    Question 4 -

    Should Christians obey the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8)? Did Jesus? Did the Galatian Christians (4:10)?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 1:1- 2:10 Apostle, Gospel and Revelation
    • /
    • 3:1 - 4:7 The promised gift of the Spirit
    • /
    • 4:8-31 Pastoral comment
    • /
    • 5:1-26 Not law, or license but life in the Spirit
    • /
    • 6:1-18 Pastoral instructions and Summary

    Section 1   1:1 – 2:21   Paul is God’s apostle: the gospel was revealed to him by Christ

     

    1:1 – 12   Argument: Paul begins the letter at ‘white heat’, expressing his astonishment that the Galatians are turning from the gospel and emphatically stating that God has made him an apostle to preach the gospel which was given to him by revelation from Jesus Christ himself!

     

    V1        From his very first words, Paul states that his apostleship is from God in direct contrast to the Judaisers who were claiming to have been appointed by men (the key Jerusalem apostles, Peter, James and John).

    V3        Grace and peace are the two gifts that are the substance of God’s committed blessing to his people (Numbers 6:24-27), and both are direct consequences of Christ’s perfect sacrifice of atonement for believers (Romans 5:1-2).

    V4        Paul adds a strong statement addressing the heart of Christ’s atonement into the formal greeting. This is the first of several such statements in this letter. The very root of the problem is that humanity is sinful and as a result we live in an ‘evil age’. Christ ‘gave himself for our sins to rescue us’. The old covenant law was given to restrain evil. Christ’s death ended the temporary rule of the disciplinary old covenant law precisely in order to open the possibility of salvation to all men and women, Jews and Gentiles, who believe so they receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to reject the sinful nature and love one another.

    V8-9     We ought to feel the full force of the double condemnation to eternal punishment. This is God’s apostle speaking God’s words addressing the central essence of the gospel. It comes at white heat. We have no excuse! The Judaising agitators are not ‘nearly right’, they are emphatically and absolutely wrong! Every person who changes and perverts the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ who loved us and gave himself for us is directly guilty of the most serious sin. Paul twice emphatically states that there is no other gospel, and anyone guilty of making up and teaching another gospel deserves eternal condemnation! Christ took the full undiluted curse, declared by the very word of God, for all humanity (3:13) in order that all who believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. The person who perverts this gospel immediately puts themselves back under the curse that Christ took on behalf of all humanity.

     

     

    1:13 – 2:10   Argument: Paul then recites his conversion testimony, emphasising the revelation of Christ and the gospel to him, which took place completely independently of the Jerusalem apostles. It was actually many years before Paul did outline his gospel to Peter, James and John, and when he did, they not only added nothing to it, that is, they specifically did not require the Gentile Christians be circumcised, but they publicly and wholeheartedly affirmed Paul and his ministry.

     

    1:13-14   From here to 2:14, Paul narrates a number of significant past events. Paul’s emphatic claim to be telling the truth (v20) demonstrates that the Judaising agitators have been telling a distorted, or even blatantly untrue, account of Paul. Paul first recounts his zeal to destroy the church prior to his conversion (Acts 26:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:13). Paul was himself a ‘Judaiser’, but it was precisely from that state that God wonderfully saved him: ‘So you Galatians want to obey the old covenant law? Well I know exactly what that’s like. I was considerably more zealous than either you or those who are influencing you, and it was out of that state that God gloriously saved me!’

    1:16-17   Paul’s main argument is that he received the gospel directly from God himself. This is why he emphasises that he did not consult men, the pillars of the Jerusalem church, as to their opinion about what God had said to him. Paul’s apostleship and his gospel were directly given to him by revelation from God himself!

    1:21   See Acts 9:30.

     

     

    2:1-2   The presence of Barnabas, the reference to the prophetic ‘revelation’ and the gift of money for the relief of the poor Jewish Christians in 2:10 show this is the visit mentioned in Acts 11:27-30.

    2:3   This is Paul’s crucial point. The Jerusalem apostles, who the Judaisers claim they are representing, did NOT compel Titus (a Gentile Christian) to be circumcised!

    2:4   Paul (very typically) introduces two concepts, freedom and slavery, ahead of his full comment on these topics later in his argument (4:21-5:26).

    2:6   Although Paul appears to be hard on the ‘Jerusalem apostles’, he does this in order to emphasise again that his gospel which he received directly from God is not open to human opinion and debate.

    2:7-8   Apostolic people minister within types and categories of people. These verses assert the validity and the equality of the apostolic ministries of both Peter and Paul. A careful study of Acts shows that the author was meticulously careful not to prioritise one apostle over the other. The miracles recorded are equal in quality (but obviously not type), so for example both apostles are accredited with the raising of one person from the dead, both with one miraculous deliverance from prison, etc. Catholics tend to see Peter as their leader, Protestants tend to follow Paul. This verse affirms they are both equal. Christians should recognise that God uses different leaders equally: we all believe the same creed, are saved equally at the cross, and have the same heavenly Father.

    2:9   In giving ‘the right hand of fellowship’, Peter, James and John were publicly affirming Paul and Barnabas and the gospel message they were proclaiming to the Gentiles. Paul’s leading point is that Peter, James and John DID NOT require Paul to stipulate that Gentile believers should be circumcised!

    2:10   Paul, Barnabas and Titus had gone to Jerusalem to bring famine relief to the poor Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30). The significant point is that their poverty had been caused by Paul himself when he destroyed the Christian church in Jerusalem leaving only the apostles (Acts 8:1). There is an element of apology in Paul’s zeal to care financially for those he nearly destroyed. Later in his ministry, Paul will again bring aid to the Jerusalem church from the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:25-26). He seems to have deliberately used the opportunity of financial relief to communicate loyalty and love to the mother church.

     

    All Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, are justified by faith in Christ, and not by trying to keep the old covenant law. We live now by believing in the Son of God.

     

    2:11 – 2:21   Argument: Paul then describes an incident at Antioch when the Judaisers from Jerusalem coerced Peter and Barnabas and others to separate themselves from the Gentile believers at mealtimes. Paul publicly confronted and rebuked Peter over this separatist religious and ethnic elitism. Paul argues that since we are justified by faith, and not by obeying the old covenant law, the death of Jesus on the cross has terminated the old covenant and its demands, which included the separation of Jews and Gentiles. Through this faith, all believers are brought (equally) into the dynamic union and life with the resurrected Christ. 

    2:11-13   Peter was afraid of the influence of Christians from Orthodox Judaism who insisted that the Jewish believers separate from the non-Jewish believers. They were prioritising the Law of the old covenant over the freedom of the new covenant. The crucial issue here is that God the Father only has one family! And that family is made up of both Jewish believers and Gentile believers, both of whom are justified and adopted into the Father’s family on a strictly equal basis. The concept of a privileged inner group of Jewish believers, and a disadvantaged secondary periphery family of Gentile believers is absolute anathema to Paul and his divinely given gospel!

    2:14   Paul’s point is that, having come out from under the old covenant law, Peter cannot now require non-Jews to obey the old covenant law. Paul is rebuking Peter for ‘hypocrisy’, since he is coercing Gentile believers to live out Jewish religious law that he does not consistently practice himself.

    2:15-16   This section is a concentrated summary of the very heart of his argument against the Judaisers that Paul will expound further as the letter progresses. He begins by stating unequivocal truths that he and the Judaisers, Peter and all Christians would agree on, and he also continues the line of argument he made against Peter in the dispute over table fellowship (v14). The truths are foundational and absolute: ‘we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by observing the law’ (v16). Three times Paul states that we are justified by faith, and twice he states that the Law is powerless to justify anyone! In this context, when Paul refers to the Law he is referring to circumcision and the purity laws and other such outward markers (see 4:10). Hansen summarises this well: ‘The main emphasis of Paul’s argument here is that faith in Jesus Christ replaces and excludes all Jewishness as the determining criterion for belonging to the people of God’ (Hansen; p69-70).

    2:17-18   These verses are difficult at first sight, but they make complete sense when we realise that Paul is citing the argument of his opponents in order to refute it strongly; Absolutely not! His opponents were arguing that Paul’s gospel actually encouraged people to sin, since the Law forbade Jews to eat with Gentiles. Paul will not accept the charge that ‘Christ promotes sin’. However, those who like Peter and Barnabas withdrew from table fellowship with Gentiles were hypocrites (v13), because according to the gospel, mutual table fellowship in Christ is not just allowed, it is emphatically demanded (3:28).

    2:18   Paul’s previous relationship with the Law has been destroyed, so if he rebuilds ‘what I have destroyed’ by reinstating the Law in order to live the Christian life, then he publicly demonstrates that he has broken the Law and is a ‘lawbreaker’. Paul’s foundational truth is that through faith all races and ethnic groups, genders and classes are absolutely equal in Christ.

    2:19-21   When using the word ‘I’, Paul is referring to our ‘sinful natures’. When saying ‘I died to the law’, Paul means that his relationship with the Old Testament Law, which used to determine every aspect of his life, is now ended – there is no relationship left whatsoever. ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ – just as Christ’s death ended the Law’s demands and hold on humanity, so Paul’s relationship with the Law ended when he was joined by faith with Christ in his death (Romans 6:3-4). The Law has no grounds to condemn us because all its demands have been met and fulfilled in Christ’s obedient life on our behalf, and his death on our behalf. Believers are therefore now completely free from the demands and hold of the Law and our whole existence is expressed in one of Paul’s very greatest statements: ‘the life I now live in the flesh I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’  V21 is a reflective comment on both the powerlessness of the Law to save, and the power of God’s grace to declare believers to be in right standing with him.

    Section 2   3:1 – 4:7   The gift of the Spirit demonstrates that the death of Christ has rendered the Old Testament law redundant. The Spirit is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham and is received by faith as confirmation that believers are ‘sons of God’.

    3:1 – 14   Argument: The life of the Spirit is given to the believer on the grounds of Christ’s death and on the basis of faith in Christ, (and not because people try very hard and sincerely to obey all the 613 commands of the Old Testament law). Abraham is himself the leading example of a ‘believer’; he believed God’s promise to him that all humanity would be blessed through him. Conversely, everyone who earnestly and sincerely tries to be righteous by obeying all the old covenant commands will completely fail because it’s impossible. And because all humanity fails to keep the whole Old Testament Law, all humanity is under the curse that the Old Testament law pronounces on those who are disobedient. But Christ himself has born the curse of humanity’s failure to keep the old covenant law precisely in order that all Gentiles can, through faith, receive the blessing of the Spirit as God stated in his original promise to Abraham.

     

    3:1 – 5   The gift of the Holy Spirit demonstrates that the death of Christ has achieved what the Law was powerless to achieve

    3:1   Paul calls a spade a spade. The Galatians are ‘fools’, they have allowed themselves to come under a demonic delusion of false teaching. Their leading mistake was to fail to see that Christ’s death is the demarcation point of all humanity, religion and time. Christ’s death not only brings the jurisdiction of the Old Testament law to a final and absolute end, but it also inaugurates the age of grace where believers live in the power of the Spirit.

    3:2   This statement is astonishingly significant. In the heat of his argument at the crucial point, Paul gives one and only one decisive test for authentic Christianity: did God give you the Spirit because you obeyed the old covenant law, or because you believed in the crucified Messiah? The Holy Spirit is himself the evidence and proof that the authority of the old covenant law has completely ended. It has been surpassed by ‘faith in the crucified Christ’.

    3:3   The foolish Galatian believers are trying to become like Christ by taking up the very practices and religious rules that so utterly failed either to restore people into right standing with God, or to make people godly.

    3:4-5   There is some confusion over the meaning of the word translated either ‘suffered’ or ‘experienced’. However, since Paul’s question in v5 is clear enough, there is little doubt that he is arguing that the dynamic action of the Spirit in the community of believers is God’s confirming evidence that the age of the old covenant law is firmly ended. Since the death of Christ, the age of the Old Testament Law has been replaced by the age of the Spirit.

     

    3:6 – 9   Abraham himself is Scripture’s leading example that God justifies men and women through their faith in him.

    3:6   Paul now plays his trump card. Abraham, the patriarch and father of the Jews, is the leading example of God’s overriding plan that men and women should be justified – restored to right standing with God simply by faith – by believing what God said.

    3:8   Paul brings a number of God’s promises to Abraham together in this quotation (see Genesis 12:2-3, 13:14-17, 15:3, and later 22:15-18).

    3:9   All who believe God’s promise are not only declared righteous by God, but receive the very blessing that God has promised.

     

    3:10 – 14   Christ embodied all humanity and died under the curse of the Old Testament Law, in order that God’s original promise of the Spirit might now be given to all who believe in Christ.

    3:10   Deuteronomy 27:26: since no one is capable of obeying the Old Testament Law, the Law cannot justify anyone, and therefore all who try to achieve righteousness with God are under the penalty that the Old Testament Law specifically stipulates.

    3:11   In fact, the Old Testament scriptures themselves state that righteousness is attributed, not to those who obey the Old Testament Law, but to those who believe (Habakkuk 2:4). Habakkuk is the great prophet of faith, and his short book contains some of the greatest statements of faith in the whole Bible (Habakkuk 2:4, 14, 20, 3:13-19).

    3:12   See Leviticus 18:5.

    3:13   This is the clearest and strongest statement in substitutionary atonement in the Bible: divine self-satisfaction by divine self-substitution. God’s atoning work is by grace from first to last. No human being can do anything to put themselves right with God, not a single thing! The only thing that I contributed to my salvation and God’s declaration that I am righteous is my sin! Even my ability to believe God’s promise is ultimately, in the final analysis, a work of grace.

    3:14   Paul now summarises his argument up to this point. God did all this atoning work through Christ’s death precisely in order that the promise he made to Abraham to bless all nations would now be inaugurated through the death of the Jewish Messiah Jesus! The promise is that all the ethnic groups throughout the world might receive the Holy Spirit.

     

     

    3:15 – 25   Argument: God’s overriding plan was always to bless all humanity through the fulfilment of his promise to Abraham. The old covenant law served a temporary function as a ‘disciplinarian’ until Christ came. 1) The Law came 430 years later and only lasted until Christ’s death; the promise has stood unchanged for all time. 2) The Law highlighted the sin of mankind, and brought the violated relationship between God and humanity into stark relief, whereas in Christ and through his death all believers have access to the Father through the Spirit. 3) The Law divided Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and women; whereas the promise unites all believers in Christ. 4) God made the promise directly to Abraham, whereas the (less important, temporary) Old Testament Law was given through lesser intermediaries (angels and Moses).

     

    3:15 – 18   It is impossible for anything, even the Old Testament Law, to overturn the promise that God himself ‘swore by himself’ to Abraham and his seed the Messiah.

    3:15   Paul now turns to illustrate his argument by using the example of a human will which is drawn up and certified by lawyers to direct the distribution of a person’s assets after their death.

    3:16   Paul points out that God made the promise to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 24:7). Abraham’s seed is Jesus Christ. Behind all his argumentation, Paul is conscious of the seriousness of Peter’s mistake in separating Jewish Christians from Gentile Christians (2:11-14). God has one family, not two. Gentile and Jewish believers come into Christ (Abraham’s seed) and receive the blessing of the gift of the Spirit on a strictly equal basis.

    3:17   The old covenant law came after the promise, and as in the case of a human legal will, had no power or authority to negate God’s original promise to Abraham, which was confirmed by the very ‘Oath of God’ (Genesis 22:15), that the Gentiles (and the Jews) would receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

     

    3:19 – 22   The Law was a temporary measure to control sin and evil until the Jewish Messiah came

    3:19   Since God had made this promise, then why did he later give the Old Testament Law? Answer: in order to restrain evil behaviour until the Messiah came. The Old Testament Law was communicated by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2, Psalm 68:17, also Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2) to Moses as an intermediary.

    3:20   Paul’s meaning is not clear, but he seems to be arguing that the secondary, temporary and lesser importance of the Old Testament Law is demonstrated by the number of intermediaries through which it was established, whereas God’s promise was established first, through his direct, personal and repeated promises to Abraham.

    3:21-22   The Old Testament Law is not in opposition to God’s promise to Abraham, but it served the purpose of demonstrating that all humanity is held in the prison of sin. God’s sovereign plan was, in the words of Romans 11:32, ‘God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.’ Paul repeats the summary statement of 3:14, that the promise (of the Spirit) is given to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

    3:24   The NRSV uses the word helpful word ‘disciplinarian’. Hansen explains that the disciplinarian’s task was to lead the child to and from school, to supervise, control and discipline the child, while the teacher’s task was to educate and train the child. The Old Testament Law was our disciplinarian. Jesus Christ is our teacher and discipler. Both the scripture and the Law demonstrate the ineffectiveness of anything apart from belief in Jesus to lead us into the promised inheritance in Christ.

    3:25   A glorious truth. All who believe in Messiah Jesus have been justified by faith in Christ and are completely free from the requirements of the Old Testament Law. Paul will go on to argue that this freedom does not mean we can feed the desires of our sinful nature, but that through living in the Spirit we are empowered to love one another (and thereby fulfil all that the Law intended), and live in the dynamic inheritance of the Kingdom.

     

     

     

    3:26 – 4:7   Argument: When a person believes in Christ, and is baptised into Christ, they, along with every other believer, become part of Abraham’s seed and a direct heir of God’s specific promise to Abraham. As God’s adopted ‘sons’, they are immediately entitled to the ‘full rights of sons’, which means that they receive the very Spirit of God’s own Son, and become an heir of God, fully entitled to inherit the Kingdom.

     

    3:26-27   Every person who is baptised as a public expression of their faith in Christ ‘puts on Christ’ and as a direct result receives the status of Christ – they become God’s (adopted) sons. Paul uses the word ‘sons’ for two reasons. First, the believer (either male or female) has been given the status of Christ, ‘the Son of God’ (2:20).  Second, Paul is about to use the illustration of the status of the eldest son in the Roman family who, according to the law of primogeniture, was the first to inherit the entire estate. It is a mistake to see Paul as being sexist or misogynistic: He will immediately state in v28 that men and women are absolutely equal in Christ.

    3:28   This verse is the foundation of all democracy. All believers are ‘sons’. All believers are strictly equal. All believers are heirs of God’s promise to Abraham. The Old Testament Law divided Jew and Gentile, endorsed slavery (although the Deuteronomistic slavery laws were much more lenient and compassionate than those of Israel’s neighbouring cultures), and preferred men over women, but in Christ every division is broken, every believer is saved equally and every believer is united into one body in Christ. This is the trajectory to which the church is heading.

    Story: The Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, and later became British Prime Minister, was standing in line to receive communion. A slave girl who was in front of him turned around and was horrified to discover the great man behind her. Instinctively she stepped aside to let him go ahead of her, but he replied; “No, we are all equal here.”

    3:29   For a third time (3:14, 22), Paul returns to his summary point that everyone who believes in Christ receives the inheritance God promised to Abraham: the Holy Spirit.

    4:1-2   Paul now develops the powerful illustration of son inheriting the estate of his father. He compares the child’s status while he is growing up to being very similar to every slave in the household.

    4:3   The Old Testament Law was given to prepare us for the day when we would enter into the freedom of our adulthood as we enter into and take full responsibility for our inheritance and participation in the Kingdom. Paul makes two important developments in this verse: he states that to be under the Old Testament Law is to be in slavery, and he states that the Old Testament Law is nothing better than the ‘basic principles of the world’ – the political, economic and social systems of human thought and power that enslave, and have always enslaved, human beings.

    4:4-5   The divine Son of God became fully human (‘born of a woman’), and born under the slavery of the Old Testament law, in order to bring a final end to that era so that through faith in Christ all men and women might be redeemed and receive the ‘full rights of sons’.

    4:6   Precisely because all who believe are in Christ and are now children of the Father, the Father sends the gift of the Spirit of his ‘one and only Son’ into us (in direct fulfilment of his promise to Abraham). The evidence that the Holy Spirit is in us is that from deep within us we cry out ‘Abba, Father’. The gift of the Spirit is the ‘down-payment’ of our full inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ. This verse is profoundly Trinitarian, indeed it is more because, as is the case in the Gospel of John (John 14:23), it emphasises that every believer is invited and welcomed into the fellowship of the divine Trinity.

    4:7   Paul uses the singular pronoun ‘you’ to emphasise that every believer is, through belief in Christ and his atoning death, released from slavery to systems of religious law and brought into the full status of a son in the Father’s family with the right to fully inherit the Kingdom.

     

    Section 3   4:8-31   Paul makes a moving appeal to the Galatians, and explains an allegory about freedom

    4:8 – 20   Argument: Paul now changes his tone and with a more pastoral emphasis asks rhetorically ‘why on earth are you Galatians turning back from what Christ has done for you to a religious system that enslaved you?’ He asks what has happened to their love for him and the joy they had when they received Christ, and points out that the agitators are trying to destroy the relationship they have with Paul.

     

    4:8 – 11   Paul questions why the Galatians were returning to what enslaved them

    4:8   Paul states that all religion (and even non-religion, agnosticism and atheism) outside Christ is ultimately slavery to the ‘basic powers of the universe’: the political, socio-economic and religious thought forms that, despite whatever they claim, ultimately enslave humanity. Paul includes the Old Testament Law – for which he was previously a zealot – in this category. Although it may appear that Judaism and paganism are very different, Paul demonstrates his point with the example he cites in v10. Both ‘belief systems’ carefully follow specified time systems. Such ‘elementary’ ideas have been laid aside by the Cross, and surpassed by the life in the Spirit.

    4:9   Whatever their claims and whatever powers these control systems may exercise, they are in the final analysis nothing more than ‘weak, beggarly elemental spirits’.

    4:10   Those new Galatian Christians who are being circumcised are beginning to take up practicing the Jewish festivals listed in Leviticus 23-24, of which Sabbath observance is their likely main focus. In this context, it is also likely that they were beginning to separate themselves from non-Jews (including other Christians) at mealtimes as Paul challenges Peter for doing in 2:11-14. All these actions are causing the division and conflict Paul describes in 5:15, 20 and 26.

    4:11   Paul never loses sight of the fact that every human being is responsible for their own response to Christ and the gospel; Acts 13:46 is another example.

     

    4:12 – 16   Paul changes his tone and implores them to realise just how strongly they have turned against him when all he was doing was telling them the truth.

    4:12   Paul states that from his point of view, there is no problem or unresolved difficulty in his personal relationship with them.

    4:13-14   He reminds them of the extraordinary kindness they showed him when he first visited them. Although every possible illness has been suggested by commentators, we simply do not know exactly what illness Paul had at that time. The only hint is in Paul’s reference to ‘eyes’, although this does seem metaphorical.

    4:16   Paul is challenging them to realise and reflect on why they have turned so strongly against him.

    4:17-18   Paul summaries his series of rhetorical questions by stating that the heart of the issue is that the agitators are deliberately trying to divide Paul from the new Galatian Christians under the guise of their appeal that the new Christians become more zealous for God.

    4:19-20   Paul opens his heart in a moving appeal that describes the Galatians as having regressed to an almost pre-Christian state. He admits he is perplexed by their behaviour.

     

     

    4:21 – 31   Argument: Paul then expounds a ‘typological allegory’ based on Abraham’s two wives to demonstrate that the old covenant based on slavish obedience to the Law is now far surpassed by the new covenant of faith which brings freedom from the old covenant law.

    4:21   Having changed his tone in v8-20 to make a pastoral and loving appeal to his spiritual children, Paul continues this appeal but asks if those who are beginning to take up the commands of the Old Testament Law have actually realised what this will fully entail.

    4:22-23   Paul sets up a powerful contrast: slavery comes through natural birth, freedom comes through supernatural birth.

    4:24   It is most likely that Paul used this Old Testament example of Abraham’s two wives and sons precisely because the Jewish agitators were arguing that Abraham was the perfect example of someone who obeyed the Mosaic Law. So, Paul takes their argument and turns it against them. Paul’s use of the Abraham story is strictly speaking “typological”, not allegorical.

    4:25-26   The typological illustration identifies the Judaising false teachers with Ismael the son of the slave.

    4:29   Just as Ismael mocked the young Isaac, so persecution is the mark of those born by the Spirit. Hansen comments; ‘Often the most painful persecution comes not from those who are totally unrelated to the church, but from those who have positions of power within the church’ (p150).

    4:30-31   These false teachers should be excommunicated! Their pernicious ministry is set to undercut the essence of the gospel that was given by God himself (1:6-9, 3:1, 4:17). The children of the free woman, those ‘born by the power of the Spirit’ (v29), must now ‘live by the Spirit’ (5:16), neither returning to obeying the stipulations of the Old Testament Law, nor living to satisfy the desires of the sinful nature: ‘not law, nor license, but life in the Spirit’.

     

     

    Section 4   5:1 – 26   Freed from the disciplinarian authority and requirements of the old covenant law, believers can now live by the Spirit and are thereby empowered to ‘serve one another in love’, overcome the desires of the sinful nature and become like Christ

     

    5:1 – 12   Argument: Because Christ has freed us, we believers must stand firm in our freedom in Christ, and not go back to following all the 613 commands of the old covenant, beginning with circumcision. The ‘agitators’, who are promoting this false teaching in order not to be persecuted, will ‘pay the penalty’ for their error.

     

    5:1 – 6   Paul makes a strong appeal that the new Christians stand firm in their new freedom, and warns them of the very severe consequences of trying to be justified by obeying the old covenant law.

    5:1   A dominant verse in ‘Galatians’. Christ has set us free from the impossible and tyrannical demands of needing to obey all 613 laws of the old covenant in order to be declared righteous.

    5:2   Everyone who sets about achieving righteousness through obeying the old covenant will receive no benefit from Christ.

    5:3   Circumcision is only the very first of 612 other laws you will have to keep! Note the double warning against returning to the Law. This parallels the double warning against the false evangelists in 1:8-9.

    5:4   To pursue justification through obeying the Mosaic Law is to alienate oneself from Christ and his grace. Christ will give that person no help at all.

    5:5   This is the fifth great statement describing the results of faith in Galatians (2:16,

    2:20, 3:14, 3:26, 5:5). God’s declaration of righteousness is a certain future event

    guaranteed by the presence and activity of the Spirit within us now.

    5:6   A defining verse. Christ’s death has rendered the act of circumcision irrelevant for

    those who believe in Christ. It simply has no value either one way or the other for those

    in Christ, which was why soon after writing this letter Paul circumcised Timothy

    precisely in order to gain a hearing for the gospel among a group of Jewish people (Acts

    16:1-5). The community of Christ’s believers, the Church, are defined by the two

    characteristics of faith and love. Faith is the boundary marker: those who have faith are

    in the Church. The evidence that a person is a genuine believer is that they obey

    Christ’s command: ‘a new commandment I give to you that you love one another, by this

    will all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another’ (John 13:34-35).

     

    5:7 – 12   Paul makes the Galatians consider just how much damage this heresy is having among them, and states that the heart of the issue is an unwillingness to suffer for the message of the Cross.

    5:7-9   Paul turns to ask rhetorically ‘do you realise how you badly you Galatians have

    fallen and the pernicious influence that the false teacher is having on you?’

    5:10   Paul reasserts his confidence that they will follow what he is telling them, but

    warns that the leading false teacher will pay a severe penalty for working against God.

    5:11   The very heart of the issue is that Christ’s death on the cross has rendered

    circumcision completely redundant! This is the deepest offense to all who have sacrificed

    so much time, energy and effort (and indeed sexual pleasure) into working their way

    to being ‘righteous’ before God by obeying the 613 Old Testament laws.

    5:12   Paul’s anger boils over rather graphically!

     

     

    5:13 – 18   Argument: As we ‘stand firm’ in this freedom and ‘serve one another in love’ we will fulfil all that the whole old covenant law intended. When a believer ‘lives by the Spirit’ and serves others in love, they will reject and overcome the selfish desires of the sinful nature.

     

    5:13   This verse gets close to summarising the entire ‘application’ of the letter. Paul

    restates his leading point: believers must stand firm in their freedom in Christ, and not

    obey the 613 old covenant laws. However, freedom does not mean we can do anything

    we want, rather, we ‘serve one another in love’ (Matthew 22:37-40), motivated by the love

    of Christ that the Spirit has poured into our hearts.

    5:14   The whole of the Old Testament Law can be summed up in the command ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, which Jesus expresses in Matthew 22:37-40, and in the new

    commandment of John 13:34-35. James 2:8 states this exactly, as does Romans 12:9-10.

    5:15   This verse along with 5:26 and the pastoral instructions of 6:1-6 indicate that Paul

    was aware of considerable tension and divisive conflict across the Galatian churches. As

    in 5:7f and the longer list of items in the 5:20 ‘hatred’ section, Paul tries to make them

    realise the shocking deterioration in their relationships since some of them succumbed to

    this heresy.

    5:16   The whole of Paul’s argument from 1:1 culminates in this, the leading imperative in the letter to the Galatians. The Holy Spirit not only enables the believer to ‘love your

    neighbour as yourself’ and thereby fulfil all that the Old Testament Law intended (v14, Romans 8:3-4), but since the life of the Spirit is far more wonderful than the fulfilment of

    the desires of the human sinful nature, as we ‘live believing in the Son of God’, and, ‘seek

    o it makes perfect sense to ‘deny yourself’ and choose the life of love

    with Christ. The life in the Spirit therefore fulfils all that the Old Testament Law

    intended, and enables the believer to renounce the desires and lifestyle of the sinful

    nature. Sin has lost control of us because we love Christ and everything within us longs

    to obey him in every possible aspect of life forever and ever and ever.

    5:17   The phrase ‘so you do not do what you want’ means ‘so you may not do whatever you want to do’. We are freed from the Law, yes, but that does not mean we can return to gratifying the desires of the sinful nature and do whatever we want. Sometimes this verse is rather seriously misunderstood – it is sometimes read in the light of Romans 7:14-24 with the absolutely wrong conclusion that believers are doomed to perpetual defeat in Christ. But in Romans 7, Paul clearly states that he is describing the life of the sinful nature under the Law. His whole point is that the Spirit frees us from the power of the sinful nature, because ‘the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit’ (Romans 5:5). So here also, his point is that the Spirit frees us from yielding to the desires of the sinful nature by giving us something far, far greater to love and live in. If you are offered cheap orange juice (the desires of the sinful nature) or champagne (the life of the Spirit with Jesus), you chose the champagne because it is in every way far superior. Only those who cannot see what’s going on choose the cheap yucky drink – the pleasures of the sinful nature. They don’t know and they cannot see the life of the Spirit, life lived believing in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me, the life whose heart cry is ‘Abba Father’, the life of the Kingdom empowered by the Spirit, which is so wonderfully exciting.

    5:18   As we ‘live believing in the Son of God’ in the Spirit, we have been completely freed from the demands of the old covenant law, and we are under ‘the law of Christ’ (6:2) which is that we ‘love one another’ (5:14; John 13:34-35).

     

     

    5:19 – 21   Argument: Following the desires of the sinful nature leads directly into all kinds of evil behaviour, and even though they are saved and children of the heavenly Father, those who do these things forfeit their inheritance in the Kingdom.

    5:19   The Old Testament Law completely failed to tame and control sinful nature in men and women. Paul lists the ‘acts’ of the sinful nature in terms of the human body, spirit and soul. When the desires of the human body are allowed full untamed expression then ‘sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery’ will follow. He also later adds ‘orgies and drunkenness’. When the human spirit is given free reign (unguided by the word of God), then ‘idolatry and witchcraft’ will ultimately occur. But when, as was the case in Galatia, the human soul is no longer curbed by the life of the Spirit because they have gone back under law and have fallen away from grace (5:4), then ‘hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy’ will follow. Paul uses the same three categories in Romans 1 when outlining the condition of sin that controls all humanity, and when correcting the young Corinthian church that was returning to a worldly lifestyle (1 Corinthians 5-7, and 8-10). The importance of this is shown in that Paul makes this point five times in his letters (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:5, Galatians 5:21 and in summary in 1 Corinthians 15:50).

    5:21   Those who reject the life of the Spirit and allow their sinful natures free reign will find it impossible to participate and engage in Christ’s Kingdom either now, or in its fulfilment after his return. No one can travel on a road in two opposite directions at the same time. Jesus’ leading imperative in the Sermon on the Mount was to ‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). Ultimately the outcome of the final judgement is about what we have already chosen.

     

    5:22 – 25   Argument: But those who live in the Spirit, who empowers believers to ‘love their neighbour as themselves’, will be transformed to being like Christ as the beautiful fruit of the Spirit becomes established in their lives.

    5:22-23   As we live in the Spirit (5:16) the very character of Christ’s Spirit becomes established in our lives. Look at the contrast between ‘acts of the sinful nature’ and ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. Love instead of hate. Joy instead of envy and jealousy. Peace instead of discord and fits of rage. Kindness instead of selfish ambition. Patience instead of dissensions. Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control instead of factions, drunkenness, debauchery.

    5:24   While we ‘live in the Spirit’,believing in the Son of God’, we shall need to ‘deny ourselves daily’ (Mark 8:34), that is, we continuously reject the desires and passions of the sinful nature in so far as they run counter to what Christ desires for us. The believer chooses to deny and reject everything that destroys us and others – that is all the acts of the sinful nature that Paul has just listed – as we learn to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’. The believer first ‘crucifies the sinful nature’ at their baptism, and every day after continues to deny the sinful nature, because the life of the Spirit is so utterly superior and enjoyable in every way. In this way the believer learns to live outside the control of the prison of sin, as so brilliantly described by Paul in Romans 6.

    5:25   Words describing the conflict among the Galatian Christians as a result of the pernicious influence of those choosing to pursue righteousness based on the Old Testament Law. Paul’s point is that ‘biting and devouring’ others is unmistakable evidence of people following the ‘desires of the sinful nature’. To walk in step with the Spirit is evidenced by love, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

    Story: Early in my life I attended the launch of an organisation that was being created to reform the denomination in which I serve. There was much about this organisation that I agreed with and I wanted to explore it further. However, I chose not to join because one of the keynote speakers harangued other church leaders in anger and with blatant outspoken ungodliness. ‘The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20).

    Section 5   6:1 – 10   Paul gives pastoral instructions to the Galatian Christians and summarises his letter to them

    6:1 – 6   Argument: Paul gives pastoral guidance about how the spiritually mature Christians in Galatia should restore those believers who have fallen into obeying the heretical teachings of the ‘agitators’.

     

    6:1   Paul instructs the mature believers how to go about restoring those who have fallen into following the false teachers. This verse oozes pastoral wisdom and should be meditated on frequently by all in pastoral ministry.

    6:2   The ‘law of Christ’ is the ‘new commandment’ to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34-35, 15:12,17). Paul also refers to the law of Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:21.  This is the fulfilment of all the Old Testament Law sought to achieve (5:14). Paul instructs the mature believers in the Galatian churches to fulfil this command by ‘carrying each other’s burdens’, which in the circumstances probably means that they should admonish one another not to take up obeying the Old Testament Law as a means of justification and as a result become alienated from Christ and fall from grace (5:4).

     

    6:3 – 5   Ensuring a ‘true and fair’ evaluation of one’s standing and effectiveness

    6:3   It appears that some of those now practicing the Old Testament Law had such a high opinion of their new status that they would not serve others (5:13), nor carry the burdens of others (6:2). Pride is one of the most serious sins because, as Paul argues, it is rooted in deception. These conceited (5:26), arrogant people appear to have been criticising those who were struggling and failing in their discipleship, when they should have been helping them.

    6:4   Believers ought to carefully examine their own actions because ‘the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’ (5:6).

    6:5   Romans 14:12: every person will give an account of their lives to God.

     

    6:6   The imperative to support those who teach the gospel

    This injunction comes as a bit of a surprise and indicates that the agitators were encouraging their “converts” to the ‘law-life’ to stop giving financial support to those committed to teaching the gospel in the Galatian churches. This imperative is typically Pauline: brief and economically worded, absolutely clear and to the point, but open enough to be universally applied in all Christian contexts and churches.

     

     

     

    6:7 – 10   Argument: Paul endorses the overriding spiritual truth that every person reaps what they sow, and therefore believers in Christ should always be committed to doing good to others – especially other believers.

     

    6:7-8   This is the axiomatic operating principal of the Kingdom. In the aftermath of Christ’s life death and resurrection, now that the era of the Old Testament Law has been completely ended, there are only two alternatives. We either follow the desires of our ‘flesh’ (the sinful nature), or we follow the far better, but occasionally more difficult, life of the Spirit. In these two phrases, Paul rephrases Jesus’ teaching in Mark 4:24-25. Those who diligently seek the life of the Spirit will receive more and more of that abundant life.

    6:9-10   Paul exhorts the Galatian churches to remain committed to doing good to others, and again this indicates that the ‘agitators’ were encouraging their ‘converts’ to stop doing good to other people – in contradiction of what the Old Testament Law actually taught (5:14).

     

     

    6:11 – 18   Argument: Paul ends with a summary reflection that the heresy of compelling people to be circumcised and return to obeying Old Testament Law is actually being driven by the fear of persecution. The death of Christ on the Cross is the ultimate demarcation and will be our eternal glory.

     

    6:11   Although this could be a reference to his earlier sickness (4:13, 15), it is more likely that Paul is sarcastically forcing them to acknowledge that he has written the whole letter to make them to see a key truth that they are doing their best to avoid.

    6:12-15   Paul cuts to the heart of the issue. The real, real reason why the ‘agitating’ Judaisers are forcing the new Christians to be circumcised is simply this: they do not want to be persecuted. We should remember that it was in these very Galatian towns of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe that Paul himself had been badly persecuted and even at one point left for dead.

    6:14   One of the very greatest statements in Scripture. The Cross of Christ is in every way our boast, the grounds of our salvation, the true revelation of God, the complete demarcation point between the finished old covenant of the Law, and the new covenant of grace and the Spirit. The Cross will be our boast throughout this world and the next.

    6:15   The Cross has ended the authority of the Old Testament Law so the practice of circumcision is no longer a primary indicator. Circumcision carries no significance one way or the other. This is the reason why Paul later used circumcision as a means of opening a door to preach the gospel to a community of circumcised people in Acts 16:3.

    6:16   ‘The Israel of God’ is the community of all who believe in Jesus Christ and trust in his atoning death, whatever their ethnic or religious origin.

    6:17   The marks (scars) of Jesus are the wounds Paul had received when persecuted for preaching the message of the Cross of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:24). I wonder if, like the Saviour himself (John 20:20; Revelation 14:3b), those wounded and persecuted for Christ will carry the evidence of those scars and wounds in their heavenly bodies forever as their reward for their love of Christ and him crucified (Revelation 7:15-17).

    6:18   Paul ends as he started, with a blessing of grace (1:2). The entire work of God in Christ is ‘grace’, that is, God’s help for us through Christ. We deserved nothing, but through Christ he has given us everything.

    3:1 - 4:7 The promised gift of the Spirit >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of the letter:

    Paul writes at white heat to severely warn the young Galatians Christians not to enslave themselves all over again by trying to obey the whole Jewish Law (5:2,3), which involved being circumcised as an initial entry point into the old covenant. By faith the believer is justified (2:16); lives believing in the Son of God (2:20); receives the Spirit (3:14,22); comes a son or daughter of God (3:26); and eagerly awaits ‘the righteousness for which we hope’ (5:4). The Holy Spirit works within us to fulfil the Law’s intentions (5:14) and, most importantly, crucifies the desires of the sinful nature (5:16).

    The leading imperatives:

    5:1   It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    5:2   Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 

    5:4   For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 

    5:6   The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    5:13   You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh (sinful nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

    5:14   For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

    5:16   So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

    5:17   so that you are not to do whatever you want.

    5:18   But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

    5:21   I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this (following the sinful nature) will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    5:25   Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

    6:1   Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. 

    6:2   Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. 

    6:6   Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

    6:7   Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 

    6:9   Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

    6:14   May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 

     

    The implied imperatives:

     1:10   Beware of trying to win the approval of human beings: ‘Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’

    2:10   All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.’

    2:16   So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.’

    3:3   ‘After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?’  We should continue in the Spirit, and not go back under (Old Testament) Law.

    3:28   Equality and interdependent mutuality throughout the body of Christ: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus’.

    3:7   All believers should stand and live as mature sons and daughters in our Father’s family. ‘So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.’

    4:10   Do not turn back to obeying the requirements of the Old Testament Law in order to grow in Christ: ‘You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!’ 

    4:12   ‘I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.’

    4:19   Paul’s example to church leaders: ‘My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…’

    4:30   Reject all teaching and the concepts that instruct us to follow Old Testament Law as the means of living by the Spirit in the Kingdom: ‘for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’

    5:6   ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’

    5:15   ‘If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.’

    5:24   ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’

    6:3   Don’t think you are someone special: If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

    6:8   Every person reaps what they sow: ‘Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

     

    3.        Applications:

    No one who believes in Christ should be circumcised in order to be saved, or to grow in the Spirit in the Kingdom.

    Believers do not need to obey the Old Testament Law in order to be saved and remain in fellowship with God.

    Believers should understand Christ’s decisive work on the cross, and how his death demarcates the old covenant from the new covenant and the life of the Spirit in the Kingdom.

    Believers must be committed to preaching the gospel of the cross.

    Believers should understand faith: what it is, and how we ‘live believing in the Son of God’ (2:20).

    Believers should ‘serve one another in love’ (5:13).

    Believers should understand their status in Christ: justified, adopted children of God having the full rights of sons.  Free from the demands of the old covenant law, and heirs of the Kingdom.

    Believers should learn how to ‘live by the Spirit’ (5:16).

    Believers should learn how through the Spirit they can overcome the sinful nature (5:16, 5:24).

    The ‘boundary markers’ of the old covenant are now irrelevant: ‘neither circumcision or uncircumcision has any value, the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’ (5:6, 6:15).

    All believers, no matter what sort of person they are, are absolutely equal in Christ; no one has priority: no woman, or slave, or Jew, or a free person, or non-Jew, or male has priority in the body of believers. Every believer is strictly equal because every person is saved on the same basis.

     ‘I live believing in the Son of God who love me and gave himself for me’ (2:20).

     ‘Live by the Spirit; keep in step with the Spirit’ (5:25).

     ‘Serve one another in love’ (5:13).

     

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

    • Build exercises and patterns into our lives so that ‘serving one another in love’ becomes a natural part of daily life which we do without really thinking.
    • Or, build exercises and living patterns which help us ‘sow to please the Spirit’ (6:8) and so we ‘walk in the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (5:16).
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    “The pathology of wrongdoing is far more widespread and reaches far deeper than most of us would prefer to think. If the controls are lifted, people are capable of crimes which under other circumstances they would be the first to be horrified by.” Do you agree with John Simpson (the BBC World Affairs Correspondent)?


    Question 2 -

    Hair length, special clothes, food laws, holy days, holy places, circumcision, separating yourself from other people, covering up women; why do all these enslave believers in Christ (4:8-10)? Can you think of any Christian groups that emphasise obedience to these things?


    Question 3 -

    If the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in life, what “Holy Habits” will help you grow in faith (Romans 4:20)?


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    Question 4 -

    What is the evidence that a believer has received the promised gift of the HolySpirit (3:14, 22; 4:6, etc.)?


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    Question 5 -

    Paul is emphatic that Christ has set us free; but what exactly are we free from?


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    Question 6 -

    Eric Lidell was a Scottish athlete who represented his country at the Olympic Games in 1924. However, he refused to run in the heats for the 100 metres, which was his special gifting, because they were on a Sunday. Afterwards, he was able to compete in the men’s 400 meters, which he then won. Was Lidell right to make this stand? Would you? (4:10).


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    Question 7 -

    Do you know any Christians who have received the Holy Spirit who base their lives on obeying the Old Testament Law?


    Question 8 -

    If circumcision ‘counts for nothing’, why did Paul circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:3, see 1 Corinthians 9:21)? Can you think of a 21st Century parallel?


    Question 9 -

    What things are out of bounds for believers in Jesus (5:19-21)? What happens if we do these things?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on Galatians   

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we worship you for loving us, and giving yourself for us so that all who believe in you are declared righteous. May your Holy Spirit lead us into the full inheritance of the Kingdom as we learn to live by the Spirit, serve one another in love, and sow to please the Spirit. In your name we pray, amen.

    Commentary:

    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we worship you for loving us, and giving yourself for us (2:20) so that all who believe in you are declared righteous (2:16). May your Holy Spirit lead us into the full inheritance (4:5-7) of the Kingdom as we learn to live by the Spirit (5:16), serve one another in love (5:13-14), and sow to please the Spirit (6:8). In your name we pray, amen.

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on ‘Galatians’

    (Updated: December 2018)

    BfL Recommends:

     

    1.The most helpful, very readable, academic commentary on ‘Galatians’ is:

    ‘Galatians’ by G. Walter Hansen in ‘The IVP New Testament Commentary Series’: 1994, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, USA (211 pages).

     

    2.For a brilliant overview and comment on the message and main themes of Galatians, read:

    ‘Paul and the Gift’ by John M.G. Barclay: 2015, Eerdmans, Cambridge (656pages, 111 on Galatians).

     

    3.For a leading commentary on the Greek text of ‘Galatians’, read:

    ‘Galatians’ by Douglas J. Moo in the ‘Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament’ series: 2013, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids (470 pages).

     

     

     

     

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on ‘Galatians’

    (Updated: December 2018)

     

    Series Title:           ‘Not Law, not License, but Life in the Spirit’

     

    Comment:   Paul’s letter to the Galatians carries huge weight and significance in the New Testament as a defining statement of Paul’s gospel, and the strategic importance of the death of Christ in both ending the place of the Old Testament, and ushering in the age of the Spirit and grace to all who believe. As such, these chapters ought to be regularly studied by believers, both privately and corporately. The letter fits easily into a six week preaching series (such as Lent), or, along with the ‘set pieces’ of a church life, into a term’s preaching.

     

     

    Text Title Theme
    Galatians 1:13-2:10

    ***********

    Key verses: 1:1, 2:9

    ‘God’s man for the job’ Paul’s authority: Paul is God’s apostle, with God’s gospel, which came by divine revelation. The first sermon ought to give time to explaining the context of both Paul and the Galatians, and describing the issues that Paul faced, why he wrote the letter and what he was setting out to achieve. It will be essential to explain what the ‘agitators’ were setting out to achieve and why Paul was so very strongly set against them. Paul’s (divine) appointment was entirely independent of the Jerusalem apostles. The three leading Jerusalem apostles completely endorsed Paul’s apostleship and gospel ministry. If time is limited and no more than 20 minutes is available then it is always helpful to provide longer background notes for church members to read and study after the service.
    Galatians 2:16-21

    ***********

    Key verses: 2:16, 20

     

    ‘I live believing in the Son of God’ These concentrated verses touch the very heart of the Gospel and the message of Galatians. Nevertheless, some of the phrases and arguments will need to be explained very carefully. The key point at this stage is that a person is justified by faith in Jesus, and not by obeying the 613 Old Testament laws.
    Galatians 3:1-14

    ***********

    Key verse: 3:14

     

    ‘The promise of the Spirit’ This sermon will stand as a highpoint in the series. The gift of the Spirit is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham and is received by faith. The death of Christ has brought in the new era of the Spirit and grace in direct fulfilment of God’s original direct and specific promise to Abraham. Christ embodied humanity and bore the curse of the Old Testament Law in his death in order to inaugurate the era of the Spirit.
    Galatians 3:15-4:7

    ***********

    Key verses: 3:26, 4:6

    ‘All are equal in Christ’

     

    Argument 3: Through faith in Christ we are all ‘sons’ of God, and through faith we receive the Holy Spirit of his ‘Son’. The Old Testament Law was secondary, temporary and, because it was unable to justify anyone, served only as a disciplinarian to bring us to Christ. This passage builds to a crescendo describing several leading blessings that all who believe in Christ receive.
    Galatians 4:8-31

    ***********

    Key verse: 4:31

    ‘Slaves of the Law, or free in the Spirit’ Paul addresses the Galatians pastorally. In terms of Paul’s argument this sermon will be one of the more difficult, but it does give those preaching the opportunity to address issues of pastoral care, and explore exactly what it means for the believer to be free from having to obey the Old Testament Law and particularly its demand that male believers are circumcised.
    Galatians 5:1-26

    ***********

    Key verse: 5:16

    ‘Live by the Spirit’ This passage takes us to the leading imperative at the very heart of Galatians; that believers deal with the sinful nature not by obeying 613 Old Testament laws, nor by following the desires of the sinful nature, but by living in the Spirit!  Not law, not license, but living by the Spirit. The Spirit fulfils the ethical demands of the Law (5:13), and empowers the believer to overcome the sinful nature.
    Galatians 6:1-18

    ***********

    Key verse:

    6:16

    ‘Sow to the Spirit’ Paul gives pastoral instructions to the Galatian elders, and exhorts them to sow to the Spirit, continue to do good, and endure the persecution that will come because of  ‘the offence of the Cross’ – that is, the offence caused because we boldly proclaim that Christ’s death has rendered circumcision completely redundant, and that believers are declared justified by faith alone and not by obeying the Torah.

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Should disciples of Jesus write “white-hot” letters like Galatians?


    Question 2 -

    What evidence demonstrates that we are inheriting the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21)?


    Question 3 -

    What about some who operate in the prophetic ministry with accuracy while living immoral lives?


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    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Suggested Answers to Questions:

    Taster:

    QQQ  Should a Christian be circumcised?   

    Comment: No, Christ’s death on the Cross has rendered circumcision completely redundant (Galatians 5:6, 6:15). It is not those who are circumcised who are declared righteous but everyone who believes in Christ! If you do set out to prove your righteousness to God by obeying the Old Testament Law, Paul points out very clearly that you have to obey every one of its 613 laws every day until the day of your death (Galatians 5:2-3)!

     

    QQQ   Which members of God the Father’s family are especially privileged?

    Comment: Absolutely NOBODY! We are all saved on an equal basis, and are all strictly equal in our Father’s family (3:28).

     

    QQQ   Your friend says s/he doesn’t want to become a Christian because it’s all about obeying rules. Is s/he right?

    Comment: Those who believe in Christ do not have to obey all the Old Testament laws in order to be saved and declared to be in right standing with God. The era of the jurisdiction of the Old Testament Law has been brought to a final end with the death of Christ. However, those who believe in Christ will want to do the things Christ loves, and will turn from the things Christ hates. The Spirit empowers us to ‘serve one another in love’ (5:13), and to ‘crucify the sinful nature’ (5:24). Our love for Christ will mean we hate doing the acts of the sinful nature (5:19-21).

     

    Starter Course:

    QQQ   Should the following things happen in any specified order? Baptism, repentance from sin, being filled with the Spirit, acknowledging Jesus as Lord?

    Comment The New Testament gives no particular order; the important thing is that they all happen in a person’s life, even if this takes many years.

     

    QQQ   Some Pentecostals teach that speaking in tongues is the evidence that a person is filled with the Spirit. Does the Bible teach this (3:1-5; see also Acts 2:4, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6)? 

    Comment Not exactly. Speaking in tongues is certainly one of the evidences of the Spirit’s ministry in and through a person, but it is not the only one (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 12:30). The ‘prayer language’ gift of speaking in tongues was given widely on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and at the Gentile Pentecost (Acts 10:46). Paul himself used the gift frequently (1 Corinthians 14:18) and stated that he wanted all the members of the Corinthian church to have and use that gift (1 Corinthians 14:5). Today the gift is similarly widespread, perhaps because it is so powerful in catalysing the believer into the life of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:4).

     

    QQQ   Should Christians obey the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8)? Did Jesus? Did theGalatian Christians (4:10)?

    Comment  Jesus took an exceptionally liberal view of this commandment. The Galatian heretics seemed to have been enforcing strict obedience to the Sabbath and all the Old Testament holy (festival) days (4:10). Having said all that, having a full day off one day in seven is an excellent and wise practise from a multitude of perspectives and especially in terms of our own relationship with God, our own family, our health and our social relationships with other human beings.

     

    Main Course:

     QQQ “The pathology of wrongdoing is far more widespread and reaches far deeper than most of us would prefer to think. If the controls are lifted, people are capable of crimes which under other circumstances they would be the first to be horrified by.” Do you agree with John Simpson (the BBC World Affairs Correspondent)?

    Comment The BBC World Affairs Correspondent has provided us with the best description of ‘original sin’ I have ever come across.

     

    QQQ Hair length, special clothes, food laws, holy days, holy places, circumcision,separating yourself from other people, covering up women; why do all these enslave believers in Christ (4:8-10)? Can you think of any Christian groups thatemphasise obedience to these things?

    Comment It is truly fascinating to study the practice of these issues across the spectrum of other religions and Christian denominations, especially Christian cults and tangential offshoots from orthodox Christianity. Whenever the deity of Christ and his perfect atonement is denied, religious humanity seeks redemption and justification through added ‘human’ practices such as those listed in the question.

     

    QQQ  If the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in life, what “Holy Habits” will help you grow in faith (Romans 4:20)?

    Comment Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith grows by praising God for his promises, and encountering him in worship (Romans 4:20). Every apprentice ofJesus must learn and establish Holy Habits and patterns of praise and worship in their lives.

     

    QQQ  What is the evidence that a believer has received the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (3:14, 22; 4:6, etc.)?

    Comment The cry of love for God the Father (4:6). The fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each believer (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). A love for Christ that leads the person to hate and turn away from all behaviour that Christ hates.

     

    QQQ Paul is emphatic that Christ has set us free; but what exactly are we free from?

    Comment Having to obey all the 613 Old Testament Laws in order to be declared justified – to be in right standing with God. Circumcision was the first and leading public sign that a person was committing themselves to obeying the whole Old Testament Law.

     

    QQQ Eric Lidell was a Scottish athlete who represented his country at the Olympic Games in 1924. However, he refused to run in the heats for the 100 metres, which was his special gifting, because they were on a Sunday. Afterwards, he was able to compete in the men’s 400 meters, which he then won. Was Lidell right to make this stand? Would you? (4:10).

    Comment Lidell’s conviction and resolution to live out his faith with such obedience is certainly impressive, although the Olympic selectors today would probably respond with outspoken anger. Lidell was an immensely popular sportsman and the whole of Scotland mourned his death in World War Two. Nevertheless, in terms of Galatians 4:10 and in the light of Paul’s argument in Galatians, and Jesus’ own very liberal attitude to the Sabbath, in my opinion his stance was not strictly in line with the New Testament. However, I think we see God’s vindication of his servant in his winning a gold in the 400 metres.  

     

    QQQ Do you know any Christians who have received the Holy Spirit who base their lives on obeying the Old Testament Law?

    Comment We can only answer generally, but one example would be those Seventh Day Adventists who enforce a strong discipline of ‘keeping the Sabbath’ every Saturday.

     

    QQQ If circumcision ‘counts for nothing’, why did Paul circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:3, see 1 Corinthians 9:21)? Can you think of a 21st Century parallel?

    Comment  1 Corinthians 9:21 really says it all. Although the practice of circumcision is now irrelevant, it can nevertheless be used to win a hearing for the gospel. A 21st Century parallel would be abstaining from alcohol in order to love Muslims and win a hearing among them for the gospel, or, bathing in the Ganges to win a hearing among Hindus, or wearing woollen underwear when ministering to Mormons. The list is endless.

     

    QQQ What things are out of bounds for believers in Jesus (5:19-21)? What happens if we do these things?

    Comment Anything that Jesus hates is out of bounds for those who love Jesus, which Paul groups into three areas: sexual immorality, idolatry and hatred (Galatians 5:19-21). Jesus himself describes the essence of this in John 14:21. Paul refers to this as the ‘law of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 9:21). If believers persist in a lifestyle of disobedience then Paul states that they risk losing their inheritance in the Kingdom (Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, and 15:50). Perhaps 1 Corinthians 3:15b applies in such cases. The point is that you can’t run in two opposite directions at once.

     

    Dessert Course 

    QQQ Should disciples of Jesus write “white-hot” letters like Galatians?

    Comment Yes, but surely this should happen only very occasionally. The letters to Gaius (3 John)and the Chosen Lady (2 John) are exceptional examples of pastoral correction. 

     

    QQQ What evidence demonstrates that we are inheriting the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21)?

    Comment  Increasing evidence of the activity of the Spirit in our lives and ministry. The fruit ofthe Spirit, the character of Jesus himself, in our lives, and a corresponding turning away from the things that Jesus hates that Paul describes as the ‘acts of the sinful nature’.

     

    QQQ  What about some who operate in the prophetic ministry with accuracy while living immoral lives? 

    Comment  Although every believer is already sanctified in Christ, we are also all in the process of being transformed by the Spirit. While we do not judge one another, because none of us will be perfect until we meet Christ, nevertheless we should expect Christian leaders to obey Christ’s teaching – certainly the outside world expects us to practice what we preach. Spiritual gifting ought to be matched by equal godly character and life, and where this is not consistent, the believer ought to take a break from ministry until his or her life is consistent with the life Christ taught.

     

    ******

     

      Coaching Questions -
    Discipleship Coaching Session                                   Galatians

     

    Podder:

    Start: ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  how have you got on?

     

     
    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  
     
    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

         How did you go about engaging with Paul’s letter to the Galatians?

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Galatians’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    Ø  The Old Testament Law

    Ø  QQQ – What is so significant about circumcision?

    Ø  QQQ – How are the requirements of the Old Testament law fulfilled today?

     

    Ø  The Cross of Christ

    Ø  QQQ – Christ’s death on the Cross is mentioned several times. What happened as a direct result of Christ’s death?

    Ø  QQQ – What are we instructed to do because of Christ’s death?

     

    Ø  The gift of the Holy Spirit

    Ø  QQQ – How does a believer ‘sow to please the Spirit’ (6:8)?

     

    Ø  The Sinful Nature

    Ø  QQQ – How do believers in Christ overcome the sinful nature?

     

    Ø  Faith

    Ø  QQQ – What five different things do we receive by faith?

     

    Ø  *** Use some of the Menu Questions

     

     
    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

    QQQ – Faith – where are you on a scale of 1 – 10? If you were 10/10 what would it look like, and what would there be more of in your life than there is now?

     
    60 min: Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we worship you for loving us, and giving yourself for us so that all who believe in you are declared righteous. May your Holy Spirit lead us into the full inheritance of the Kingdom as we learn to live by the Spirit, serve one another in love, and sow to please the Spirit. In your name we pray, amen.