Hopefully your study of this epistle, Martin Luther's favourite, will rid you of any thought of trying to justify yourself before God by your good works. Should one soul get to heaven on the merit of their good works, then surely Christ need not have died. When we by faith, depend only upon the sacrifice of Jesus, to purge our sins, then we have nought to glory in, except to ascribe the glory to our God who provided such great and free salvation, at such tremendous cost. FAITH GLORIFIES GOD. If your christian life is something of a yo-yo experience, this study could change your life forever. OTHER SCRIPTURES TO NOTE: Romans ch 3:21 onwards. and Hebrews ch 4.
Gospel under the Hammer
click to enlarge illustration: This is how I see the marvellous epistle; Paul hammers home in wedge-like fashion the Gospel, which he had preached to them before, but they had not fully grasped the MAIN POINT of the Gospel Galatians is a reiteration of Romans.
This Epistle is special in many ways. Most of Paul's epistles were dictated and written by a third party but this epistle was written personally by Paul's own hand. The reason for this shows the urgency and the concern that Paul had for the church in Galatia. His introduction is short and he makes his points with severe authority. At the end of the book he says that he had written the epistle with "large letters", simply because we suspect that Paul's eyesight was not very good. He had been blinded on the road to Damascus and no doubt still was suffering its effects.
In ch 4 v 15 he remarks at their apparent falling away from his ministry and teaching , and reminds them that when he was with them they would have plucked out their own eyes to aid him. We do not know exactly what Paul's infirmity in his flesh was, that he requested the Lord three times to remove, but many suspect it could well have been his impaired sight. (2 Cor 12:7-9) He had preached to them the Gospel, as set down in his letter to the Romans, of Salvation by faith and not through the works of the law. (human effort such as good works). However, certain Jewish teachers (known as Judaisers) had convinced the new christians in Galatia that they should not abandon their old jewish religion and that the law, and especially circumcision, should still be part of the christian life. Likewise today we have most of the sects propagating their falsehoods, that works are necessary to back up our faith before we can be saved. Consequently we do not know if we will be saved until the judgment. That is what the sects, and unfortunately a number of religious folk who would profess to being Christians believe. The text they quote is from James "Faith without works is dead". Like all heresies they take true statements from the bible out of context and make them into a lie masquerading as the truth. In the book of James, he is referring to the faith of Abraham, whose faith, not his works (for his works were unrighteous) was counted by God as righteousness. His works were an act of obedience, thereby proving or perfecting his faith, but it was his faith that made him right with God. He believed that God could raise up another son if he sacrificed Isaac, having miraculously raised up the first son. A further answer to those who quote "faith without works is dead" is to be found in Hebrews ch 4. The only "work" that God accepts, with faith for salvation is "rest". That proves that one is trusting completely in Christ, and not self. God expects us to cease from our own works and enter into rest, and rest in Christ, for He himself is at rest "seated" at God's right hand. That is the whole message of salvation found in Hebrews. Paul's revelation of the gospel was so strong, that though he himself had been up to his eyes, so to speak, in the Jewish religion and had once been its most ardent exponent, he now believed and preached that the Law had fulfilled its purpose. For the New Testament to be appropriated properly the Old Testament (agreement) needed to be abandoned totally, because the child of God who has received the Holy Spirit of God becomes under the control of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the end of the Law. The Holy Spirit then works in our hearts and empowers us to do the will of God. The Law came with no power to do it. One can perceive Paul's concern almost to the point of indignation, and anger almost in this epistle. He says that those who preach circumcision should themselves be "cut off". And most significantly at the close of the epistle he boasts about the marks in His flesh were not that of circumcision but of Jesus Christ - and he wasn't speaking of a tattoo. Gal 6:14-17. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Much can be written, and indeed has been written about this all important epistle, not least Martin Luther, who lectured his students on it, to the background of the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, which offered grace which could be earned. This grace could be earned before the sin, in the form of indulgences which were sold by the church, or after the sin by works of penance. The thought that grace (unmerited favour) can be earned is surely a contradiction in terms. The Roman Catholic church has not changed any of its doctrines on salvation, firmly advocating that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic church and those born naturally into it, have been predestined to be saved. We thank God today for Martin Luther, and the many martyrs who have died rather than denounce their faith in Christ as preached by the Apostle Paul. Both Paul and all the apostles, bar one, were martyred for these truths. It behoves us to guard them and preach the pure truth without compromise. Apart from that I think, the best way for me to expound the epistle would be to offer the epistle as a paraphrase in my own words. All students are recommended to complete a similar exercise themselves.
This Epistle is in three parts. Paul drives home the Truth of the Gospel like a wedge in three sections: Note the severity and weight behind the last verse in each section Section 1: Gal. 2:21: "I do not frustrate the grace of God: For if righteousness comes by the Law then CHRIST IS DEAD IN VAIN. Section 2: Gal. 4:31: "So then Brethren, we are NOT children of the bondwoman, but OF THE FREE. Section 3: Gal 6:15: For in Jesus Christ, NEITHER circumcision avails anything NOR uncircumcision, but a NEW CREATURE.
To truly understand Galatians one should first get to understand Romans. So we will just quote one verse as a springboard Rom 4:14-16: For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;
Once we decide that human effort is necessary to make our righteousness by faith valid, we have to determine How much effort is needed? Any righteousness that includes or is based upon human effort or merit, is unacceptable to God. Therefore the person who puts no effort into being righteous before God, excepting only to believe, according to scripture, is more acceptable to God than the person who by the effort of a stronger will, lives a less sinful life than they did before they were saved. The Righteousness of God becomes ours as a gift, which God gives to us as an act of Grace, when we by faith enter into Jesus Christ. Just as Noah and his family entered and rested in the Ark, and were saved because the Ark took the full force of the judgment Rain. So by believing, we enter into Christ Jesus who died upon the cross. For there, Christ took upon himself the judgment of God for our unrighteousness. He offered to God, the sacrifice for sin that God demanded, and it was accepted. We cannot add to that sacrifice, nor should we seek any other way of appeasing the wrath of God. There is one mediator between God and man- the man Christ Jesus, who said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father, but by me". When we believe this Gospel. and fully commit to it by ceasing to justify ourselves by our good works- then God forgives our sins and gives to us His Holy Spirit. It is then that we know that we are a child of God. We are “born again” (Read John ch 1 v 12-13, Acts 2:38. Romch 3 v 20-25 and Eph 1:7 John 3:3) There is a difference between the Righteousness of Man and the Righteousness of GOD, as the difference in height between the EARTH and HEAVEN God regards the righteous works of man to be as FILTHY RAGS. If our righteousness is as filthy rags, what must sin look like in the sight of God? Thought: We confess our sins, but would not think to confess our "righteousnesses" EPISTLE OUTLINE; Chapter 1. GENUINENESS of the Gospel Chapter 2. ONLY Gospel Chapter 3. SUPERIORITY of the Gospel Chapter 4. PROMISE of the Gospel Chapter 5. EFFECTS of the Gospel Chapter 6. LIBERATING LIFE of the Gospel Chapter 1. GENUINENESS of the Gospel
Here are some selected parts of Galatians from the Authorised version Then follows my Paraphrased version. It will be beneficial to read both. Gal 1:6-12 6 I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 2. The Only Gospel Gal 2:11-16 11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: butwhen they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Chapter 3. The SUPERIORITY of the GOSPEL Gal 3:3. 3 Are you so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh? 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, "In you shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, "The just shall live by faith." 12 And the law is not of faith: but, the man that does them shall live in them. 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:" 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 29 And if you are Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Chapter 4. The PROMISE of the Gospel Gal 4:21-28 21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which genders to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, you barren that bear not; break forth and cry, you that travail not: for the desolate has many more children than she which has an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Chapter 5. The EFFECTS of the Gospel 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Chapter 6. The LIBERATING LIFE of the Gospel 1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also are tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden. 6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. 17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Not much more needs to be added to explain Galatians. The main volume of this page is a simple paraphrase of what the Apostle wrote. It was by studying this epistle that my life was changed, for by it I received a full assurance of faith. My prayer is that all who read this will come to the same experience