As we begin a new book, it's good to remind ourselves that we're not really reading 'books' per se when we read things like Hebrews and Galatians, rather, we're reading letters. The fancy name for these letters are epistles. Keep in mind as we read this letter that we must understand and interpret it in the context it was written to: early Christians living in what is now southern Turkey, both Jews and Gentiles who were struggling with how they should express their Christian beliefs. Paul has two main purposes in writing this letter: 1) To establish his authority as an apostle appointed by Christ that the Galatians ought to listen to; 2) that it's through Christ alone that
v1-5 - As is often the case, this letter begins with a greeting. Although these greetings often look the same in New Testament epistles, don't gloss over it too quickly. Soak in the reminder that God's grace and peace is with you, and notice how Paul sets a theme immediately: Jesus Christ will rescue you from this present evil age.
v6-10 - Paul gets right to the point: he's stunned that the Galatians are turning away from the simplicity of the gospel. The Galatians were falling victim to a universal human weakness, one that continues to plague Christians even today: it's not that the Galatians were not loving and trusting Jesus, it's that they were counting on their own religious practices and good deeds as being part of the basis for their salvation. In other words, their salvation formula had become
JESUS + MY OWN GOOD WORKS = SALVATION
Paul writes this letter to correct their, and also our, salvation math. The formula Christians ought to follow is
JESUS + NOTHING = SALVATION --> GOOD WORKS.
In other words, we contribute nothing to our salvation - it is because of Christ alone, which we receive by grace alone, through faith alone. Good works flow out of our salvation, they are not an ingredient of it.
v11-24 - Paul reintroduces himself to the Galatians by emphasizing his conversion from a persecutor to an apostle was accomplished by Christ's dramatic intrusion into Paul's life. Paul and the other early Christian leaders, known as apostles, are different than ordinary Christians like you and me: The Holy Spirit breathed through them as they preached and wrote, and giving their words absolute authority. These authoritative words have been preserved for us in the pages of scripture, which continues to have apostolic authority over our lives two thousand years later.
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE:
Read Jeremiah 1:1-10 for another example of one of the ways God speaks to His people: through prophets.
Use the comment box below to discuss one or more of these questions:
EYE FOR DETAIL—From what you recall seeing in this chapter, try answering the following question without looking at your Bible: In the following list of places, which one is not mentioned in this chapter as a place Paul had visited? Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Rome, or Syria? (See verses 17–18 and 21.)
Look closely at verses 11–12. When Christians share the gospel message with non-Christians today, how can they be certain it is the gospel from Jesus Christ, and not merely a gospel that comes from man?
Questions taken from The Complete Bible Discussion Guide: New Testament.
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (v1, 3). To Him be the glory forever and ever (v5).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: It is the will of God to give His Son to rescue us from the present evil age (v4). Pray that this aspect of God's will be accomplished in your life, that He will preserve you in it, and use you to help spread this gospel (good news) to others.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: