Summary: Grace is not about what we do for God; it is about what God has done for us.
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INTRODUCTION TO GALATIANS
• AUTHOR: PAUL the apostle.
• RECIPIENTS: Probably churches in southern GALATIA (present-day Turkey) that Paul founded on his first missionary journey (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe; cf. Acts 13-14). The letter to the churches in Galatia was a circular letter (passed on from church to church). It is the only letter written by Paul that does not contain some form of praise for his readers. This fact reveals his displeasure with the Galatians.
• PROBLEM: False teachers (Judaizers) were promoting a FAITH plus WORKS gospel. They were saying that Gentile believers had to be circumcised.
Do the math: (1) FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION (wrong); (2) FAITH – WORKS = SALVATION (right); (3) FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS (right). We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.
Paul referred to the Judaizers as “agitators” (5:12), said they were “throwing [the Galatians] into confusion” (1:7; 5:10), and called their teaching a “perversion” (twisting) of the gospel (1:7).
The Judaizers attacked Paul’s gospel on three fronts. They argued that Paul’s gospel was (1) a gospel of compromise (they said Paul watered down his message to make it more appealing to the Gentiles), (2) a gospel of immorality (they claimed Paul’s message of grace was a license to sin), and (3) a gospel without authority (they denied Paul’s apostleship).
“In the decade or so surrounding the year A.D. 50, the infant church was drifting … toward its first great doctrinal crisis. When the gospel was being preached primarily to Jews by Jews, the development of the church progressed smoothly. But as the ambassadors of Christ pushed out into largely Gentile communities and the gospel began to take root there, questions arose regarding a Christian’s relationship to the law of Moses and to Judaism as a system.” (James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 409)
“Paul feared the creation of two denominations: Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity.” (Scot McKnight, Galatians, p. 33)
• PURPOSE: To show that justification is by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
It was the rediscovery of the book of Galatians that sparked the Protestant Reformation. Two of the mottos of the Reformation were sola gratia, which means “by grace alone” and sola fide, which means “by faith alone.”
WHO WAS PAUL?
Other than Jesus Himself, no one was more influential in first-century Christianity than Paul.
• A former PERSECUTOR
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it (1:13).
He was born around the same time as Jesus in the city of Tarsus (not far from Galatia). He was brought up in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3).