Today we begin a study of the book of Galatians. This book was written to a group of churches in the province of Galatia. Paul had gone through southern part of this province on his first missionary journey. He established churches in Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.
The purpose of this letter was to remind the churches about the one true gospel. There was a group of people who came after Paul called the Judaizers. They brought doubt on Paul’s authority as an Apostle and his message about the gospel. They were teaching that what Paul said was true but not the whole truth. They were teaching that an individual who accepted Christ as his Savior also had to follow the Jewish Law to be a true Christian. Paul wrote this letter to expose the untruths of the gospel of grace plus law and to defend his apostleship as a calling and appointment from God Himself.
Reading the letters in the New Testament is much like listening to one side of a phone conversation. You don’t know what the person on the other end of the call is saying or the questions they may be asking, you only hear the answers being given. The letter was written most likely in the mid AD 40s. Most likely before the Jerusalem Council, out of which came a clarification of the true Gospel, that salvation came only by faith in Christ, period!
The focus of our study today is defining the true gospel. As we approach the letter to churches in Galatia and understand its context, we can begin to recognize how diligent Paul was going to be to defend and apply the meaning of the true gospel to the people in these churches.
We find the following Major Themes in Galatians:
· Paul defended his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
· Paul argued that salvation is solely by God’s grace through His Son Jesus Christ, received by faith.
· The Christian life is one of freedom, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Appointed by God, Himself! Read Galatians 1:1-2
Based on how Paul opened this letter, the Judiazers had brought into question Paul’s authority as an apostle. An apostle was generally defined as “one who had walked with Jesus while He was here on earth and was a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
1. When might a person need to set forth his or her credentials to speak authoritatively on a subject? (When it’s brought into question.)
2. How might a believer introduce himself or herself to establish credibility as one who knows the truth about Jesus?
Not only did Paul speak about his credibility, but he also discussed how he was not alone in what he believed and affirmed. But, noticeably missing is any thanksgiving for or about the churches in Galatia, which was a part of several of Paul’s letters to other churches and individuals.
3. How important is it for you and our church as a whole, to know what the Bible says about Jesus? (It is absolutely essential! I am shocked by the lack of knowledge of some church members concerning Jesus and the Bible in general. This shows they either don’t attend Bible study or they don’t pay attention when they do come.)
4. What do you do as a body of believers to express these truths? (These truths are the power of God unto salvation! The world must hear these truths and we must be the messengers!)
5. How was Paul’s calling different from the calling ministers receive today?
6. How does this impact the authority of Paul’s teaching? (Paul, along with the other selected apostles, had the authority to write Scripture. Those who are called today have authority to proclaim what is already in Scripture!)
7. In a sense all Christians are called. For what purposes does God call all believers? (We are first called to salvation by God’s grace. Secondly, we are called to follow a path of good works which God has prepared for us—Eph. 2:10. All believers are called to deliver the gospel to others!)
Paul continued his introduction to the church and began to make an exhortation to the people.
Through His Grace! Read Galatians 1:3-5
1. What attributes of Jesus do we see here relative to the gospel? (“Gave Himself for our sin”; “rescue us from this present evil age”; “according to the will of our God and Father”.)
2. What is the relationship of grace and peace to the gospel? (It is only by God’s mercy that He showered His grace upon us that by accepting His free gift we might have peace with God the Father!)
3. How would you define the word “grace”? (God’s abundant, underserved favor. God’s Riches At Christ Expense! Mercy is not getting the punishment we deserve for our sin and grace is getting what we do not deserve—God’s forgiveness!)
4. What are the dangers of embracing a religion, like the Galatians did, that is centered on legalism?
5. How do we avoid falling into the same trap the Galatians succumbed to? (We realize and understand that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus. Certainly, we are to be obedient to God after accepting Jesus but it isn’t to earn our salvation, it is an act of obedience through our love for Jesus.)
6. How do the statements in verse 4 reflect Jesus’ power and authority to save?
7. What does it tell us about any message that focuses on man’s achievement versus the power of Jesus?
8. How does verse 5 come into importance? (Our forever and ever God is permanent. Unlike the gods of this world, He is no temporary savior. God and His salvation endure throughout all time. We receive eternal benefit!)
As Paul demonstrated the grace, peace, and power of Jesus Christ, he began to condemn the people for their desire to embrace legalism in the application of the gospel. It is difficult for us to believe there is nothing we can do to earn what we receive from God!
Distorted by Some! Read Galatians 1:6-10
1. How would you describe Paul’s tone here?
2. Verse 7 speaks about the influences that were affecting the people of Galatia as they wanted to try to change the good news of Jesus. What might cause a person to turn away from following Jesus today? (A well polished speaker who can make the false gospel sound so very true. That is why it is so important for us to know what we believe and why we believe it.)
3. Why did Paul emphasize that the gospel is grace through faith-based salvation and not works-based? (The Galatians were being presented a false gospel and if this false gospel was not immediately exposed and cast aside the spreading of the true gospel would be halted and the truth may have not ever reached us.)
Paul warned that if you change the gospel at all it is not gospel at all! The gospel is entirely grace. We either believe in a works-based salvation or a grace-based salvation.
4. Verses 8-9 refer to a curse that is upon any person who tries to preach and cause others to embrace a message that distorts or denies the power of Jesus Christ. How does spending time in God’s Word as a group of believers help to protect the integrity and truth of the gospel in the church?
5. How do we test teaching to make sure it is true? (We measure what is being taught by Scripture and Scripture alone!)
The message is more important than the messenger or delivery method!
6. What impact should culture shifts have on the church’s teaching? (Scripture is the authority and should not bend. Our methods of delivery may change but the message is the same!)
7. What truths can we learn from Paul about being bold when sharing the gospel? (We confront false teachings with courtesy and respect and do not waver from the truth!)
Just as Paul was concerned with safeguarding the faith for the churches in Galatia, we have the call as believers to guard the integrity of the gospel that is being shared.
Summarize and Challenge!
· God appoints all believers to deliver His gospel message.
· True peace comes only by the grace of God through faith in the sacrificial death of His Son.
· Believers must safeguard their faith, resisting those who teach a salvation that comes through any means other than faith in Jesus!
1. To whom has God appointed you to be a messenger of the gospel?
2. How can you encourage class members to distinguish between the true gospel and the works-based gospel embraced by the Galatians?
3. What similarities do you see between the perversions of the gospel in Paul’s day and in our day?