1 Paul s Letter to the Galatians An Overview Rev. Min Chung (Lord s Day Service, Sunday, December 4, 2016) Introduction We have now spent two years studying the book of Galatians. The main purpose of this overview is for us to see the big picture and have an overall framework. Sometimes, studying smaller parts hinders us from seeing the big picture of why a book is written. We need to know the big picture to further help us in understanding this book of the Bible as well as the details. Paul wrote this book in A.D. 48 to the churches of Galatia, regarding the truthfulness of the gospel. Outline of Galatians Chapter Content Outline Missional Outline Applicational Outline Applications Ch. 1-2 Paul defends his apostleship A messenger Who we are God says Ch. 3-4 Paul defends the Gospel The message What we say Only Jesus Ch. 5-6 Paul charges to live out the Gospel The messengers How we should live By the Holy Spirit When John Piper preached through the book of Galatians, he memorably mentioned that, Galatians exalts these two things: the cross of Christ as the only way a person can get right with God, and the Spirit of Christ as the only way a person can obey God. My hope is that you will marry it and that the two will become one. Similarly, Scottish minister P.T. Forsyth said, The secret of the Lord is with those who have been broken by His cross and healed by His Spirit. I believe that these are excellent summaries of the book of Galatians. They remind us that the Gospel is not just the ABC of Christianity, but the A to Z of Christianity. In other words, it is not only the way to enter into the Kingdom also the way to live as part of the Kingdom. I. Paul defends his apostleship [Chapter 1-2] A. Paul s reason for writing his letter [1:1-10] Galatians 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. The Galatians were receiving the Gospel through Paul so in verse 9, Paul is referring to anyone who preaches contrary to what he had said. He says that they will be cursed and go to Hell. Typically, Paul would not say this, however, he did because they were speaking contrary to the gospel. Paul is speaking to his spiritual children as a pastor, counselor and spiritual parent. He rebukes them so that they will not follow the wrong gospel. One application for us as pastors, counselors (for those of you who are discipling others) or even as a parent or spiritual parent, is that we must know how to correct, rebuke, and persuade others with the word of God. To do this, we need credibility. False teachers were attacking Paul s credibility so that they could discredit what he was saying about the Gospel itself. As people who are persuading and ministering to others, credibility is important for our words to count. Because they were discredited Paul as an apostle, Paul gave a testimony about how the Gospel changed him.
2 B. Paul s testimony of how the Gospel changed him [1:11-24] Paul gives a wonderful testimony of his conversion and calling. He received the Gospel and his calling directly through a revelation of Jesus Christ, and thus has credibility. He builds his credibility not for himself, but so that people would trust in the Gospel that he preaches. Galatians 1:24 And they glorified God because of me. Let us make this our testimony as well, that anyone who is around us would glorify God because of us. Of course, often we want to say that they glorify God because of Me but Paul here is saying they glorified God because of little me. The more of Christ that we have in us, the more they would glorify Jesus Christ. The false prophets named big apostles like James (leader of the church), Cephas (Peter the apostle himself), and John. Paul literally means little. They implied that Paul was not at a similar level, and therefore, lacks credibility. So, Paul talks about his partnership with these other apostles in Jerusalem. C. Paul s partnership with the other apostles [2:1-10] At the beginning of Galatians 2, Paul talks about his meeting with pillar apostles in Jerusalem. Galatians 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Paul says that he encountered these apostles and that they agreed with the Gospel that he was preaching. In fact, the apostles were saying to Paul that they were going to preach the gospel to the Jews, and expected him to do likewise to the thousands of others in the world, as his own mission field. Subsequently, Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles into the first century, and also to several missionaries to the rest of the world. D. Paul s rebuke to Peter for not living according to the Gospel [2:11-21] Paul wanted to let the Galatians know that the apostles that they were talking about were not above the Gospel, but rather, the Gospel is above them. He talks about his encounter with Peter, when Peter came to Antioch in chapter 2. Paul rebuked Peter because he was eating with the Gentile believers and not living according to the gospel. Then came along the circumcision party, that is, the Judaizers who were preaching the wrong gospel in saying that Jesus Christ + the law = salvation. Upon seeing them, Peter separated himself in fear. Observably, Peter always had a fear of people, as seen in his three-part denial of Jesus. This time, the Judaizers were severely persecuting Christians and Peter was afraid, so he separated himself so that they would not think badly of him. This hypocritical act caused other believers to act in hypocrisy along with Peter, hence the rebuking. Galatian 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? So, even Peter s life was not in alignment with the Gospel. Paul rebuked Peter in front of others, telling him that if you cannot live it, you cannot preach it. Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
3 We are justified and sanctified and glorified through the Holy Spirit. Even Peter does not have the authority over the Gospel, but the Gospel has the authority over Peter. The lesson for us is that we need to be under, and in submission to the Word of God; submitting our mind, heart and life under His authority according to the bible. If He says it, then that should be enough, coming from our highest authority. God speaks through the bible, including with apostles like Paul himself who wrote much of the New Testament. E. Application: God says Remember Satan came in Genesis 3 and his first way to tempt people was to ask did God really say.? He questioned the authority and character of God. There are many voices like that in this world that make us doubt God s word, rather than obey. At the time of Paul writing this letter, doubts arose mainly through false teachers. However, nowadays, we have many false teachers. To this end, I thought about some ways that we can doubt Him in the 21 st century. I have a threefold classification of these doubts: intellectual doubt, cultural doubt, and practical doubt. Intellectual doubt predominantly stems from liberal theologians of the 20 th and 21 st century. Many of them did not believe in the Bible, as well as miracles therein. They presumed that the Bible was not the word of God because it was written by men, hence flawed. My suggestion to those with this doubt is that there are so many credible people that write about the history of the Bible from an intellectual standpoint that can be looked into. There is so much credibility in terms of the history of the Bible, as it has the most accurate historical background as opposed to any of the religious books. Whoever is against what the Bible says must replace his doubt of the Bible with a doubt for those who are doubting the Bible. Look at their credibility, what they wrote and what mistakes they might be making by assuming that they know more than other authors who believe in the Bible. Learn to discredit them and look at their capacity and capability. Cultural doubt refers to things that the culture says that contradicts the bible. We might not believe in the Bible because of what we have heard through the culture, what we have watched, or what we have read. Often it is not that we do not believe in the Bible but those worldly thoughts are so strong in our minds, and it influences us more than the Bible. The lesson for us here is not that we should cut off and avoid all worldly media but rather to have discernment. We need to really know the Bible and look at everything through the lenses of the Scripture. We are not called to be away from the world but to be in it. The main goal of Christianity is not only to not sin but also to influence the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Practical doubt occurs when you face practical problems like sickness, financial crisis or suffering. We may then doubt the promises of what the Bible says. We believe in the Bible and God, but when situations come that cannot be explained, we have the wrong assumption that God does not love us. We ask God, Where are you? Do you love me? Do you care for me? Are you powerful? However, if God gives a promise, there will be fulfillment. We live in-between the promise and the fulfillment of His promises. Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me As Christians, we will go through the valleys of the shadow of death, but importantly, it says through, not to. Our sufferings, hardships, difficulties, and valleys of the shadow of death, are not our destination. They are a mere path that we will get through to access our green pastures. Who is your authority that you believe in? Is it liberal theologians? Is it Hollywood producers and movie makers who are creating the culture? Or is it your own voice of interpretation as you face
4 hardships and difficulties in your life? Who are your false teachers? Whenever you are reading something, you are listening to somebody else s voice. Whenever you are watching something, you are watching and listening to the philosophy of someone else the director or writer. I lived in the days when there was neither internet nor cellphone. Payphones and television sets were our source information sources. Looking back through history, hundreds of years ago, parents were the main source of information. People learned and lived according to their parents. That changed when the printing press was created and books started to come out. It took about 100 to 200 years for books to spread but then it started the age of enlightenment. Then, when the internet came out, postmodernism started. Whenever the source of information changes, the whole philosophical period changes. In my generation, you had to read several books from the library to write a paper and now we have access to millions of books because of the internet. Because of that, the millennials generation are well read because there is so much information, but maybe too much. We do not have time to listen to the voice of God because we are so busy listening to all the other voices of the world. Even though this generation may be the most informed in the history of mankind, they are becoming a Biblically illiterate generation. Do not be lost in this wave of information. We can appreciate the information but we need to learn how to discern. We need to listen to the voice of God and discern everything through the Scripture. We need to read the Bible and understand it. One of the things you can do is to study one page, one book at a time. Make sure the book is building your system because what is happening is your mind and heart are becoming like Christ. You have the wisdom like Christ to discern the false teachers and discern what the world says. The word of God should guide and discern your personal life. Leaders of the church of Jesus Christ should be the ones who know the Scriptures well so that they can discern and make decisions for the church of Jesus Christ and lead the church through the word of God so that we can go into the world and influence and change the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we listen to the voice of God, we can live out that kind of life that the Bible describes so that others will see Jesus through us. Paul says Peter was not walking in alignment with the Gospel. Often our lives are not straight with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the word of God gets into us, we need to straighten out our lives. The Bible constantly helps us to re-calculate. Whenever we go on the wrong path or when we do not know what to do, we must keep reading the Scripture. We need to have the wisdom of the Scripture so that it will recalculate us back into alignment with the gospel of Jesus Christ. II. Paul explains the Gospel [Chapter 3-4] Paul uses five arguments to talk about how the Gospel is about Jesus. Only Jesus can save others for His glory. A. Doctrinal argument [3:1-14] The false teachers were saying that you need Jesus but that you also need to be circumcised to be sons of Abraham or true Israelites. The question was: were you saved by faith or observance of the law? Galatians 3:7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. If we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we become children of Abraham and we can preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and change the world. The spirit of God will come into our heart through faith. The doctrinal argument is that we are saved by faith and not by observing of the laws.
5 B. Historical argument [3:14-29] Paul talks about the 2000-year history with three names: Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. We are not saved by observance of the Mosaic law but through the promise that is given to Abraham which points forward to Jesus Christ. Galatians 3: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ s, then you are Abraham s offspring, heirs according to promise. In essence, the historical argument is that only in Jesus Christ, are we all one. C. Identity argument [4:1-11] The identity argument is that if you are in Jesus Christ you are not slaves to the law but children of God because you are in Jesus Christ. You are no more slaves to sin but you are sons in Jesus Christ. That is our identity. Because Jesus who was born under the law was enslaved on our behalf and carried all our sin on the cross, if we put our faith in him, we can be children of God like Jesus, as he died on our behalf and fulfilled all the laws. Galatians 4:7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. We are children of God; therefore, we receive all the spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ. That s what an heir does, they receive an inheritance. We receive a spiritual inheritance in Jesus Christ. D. Testimonial argument [4:12-20] Paul now talks about his personal relationship with the Galatians. He originally preached the gospel there because somehow he got sick and had to stay there and thus was able to preach. He talks about his physical ailment in chapter 4 and then, they develop a spiritual/paternal relationship. Galatians 4:15 you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me Many people would have gouged out their eyes and would have given them to me. We see that they had good relationships. They saw his life and had such a good bond through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where is all that now? Paul later essentially implies, you saw the gospel lived out in me and you heard the gospel that I preached. Remember that the gospel that I am preaching about in Jesus is the true gospel. Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! Paul is talking about giving birth and as he is ministering to them, he is raising them as spiritual children. It takes so much pain and suffering to give birth. Ministering is like giving birth. But until Christ is born and formed in them, he is going to continuously suffer so that they will birthed into the likeness of Christ. E. Allegorical argument [4:21-31] Paul uses two kinds of sons to represent two kinds of people. He mentions Ishmael, the son of a slave, and Isaac, the son of a free woman. Ishmael represents children of the flesh and Isaac represents the children of the promise. If you are telling people to be circumcised and are believing Jesus Christ + law, then you are under slavery. You are children of the flesh. But if your faith is in Jesus Christ alone, then you are a child of freedom in the promise, just like the children of Isaac.
6 Those two natures are present in our hearts: the flesh and the Spirit. The conclusion is that we are not sons of a slave, but children of God. Galatians 4:23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Galatians 4:31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. So, when you think about these five arguments, we must see that Paul is saying Jesus alone. The doctrinal argument means that when you survey the Scripture, the Gospel is coherent, and everything in the Bible is about Jesus alone. The historical argument says Jesus Christ is pointed to by everyone that comes in the Scripture and history is pointing forward to His coming. The Old Testament is about the coming of Jesus and the New Testament is about the Jesus who came and is coming again. In fact, all of history is about Jesus. The identity argument says that we are in Jesus Christ and that is who we are. Period! We are people of Christ and children of God. The testimonial argument says we can experience Christ through the Holy Spirit. The allegorical argument says we are made in the image of God and everything in life illustrates the gospel. We are to point to Jesus through our lives so that other people can come to know the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the power of God. A simple application is Only Jesus. There are many things to do as a Christian but only one thing to do to become a Christian. There is only one way to be saved, only one way to have eternal life, and only one way to become a child of God. You need to put your faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. There are many things we can devote to in our lives but only one person is truly worth living for. To fight a sinful life, learn to live a simple life. Live for Jesus! F. Application: Only Jesus To summarize all these, here are some formulas that come from Galatians. 1. Formula of salvation False Teachers: Believe --> Obey --> Saved Paul: Believe --> Saved --> Obey False teachers were saying believe in Jesus but you also have to obey the law and then you will be saved. NO. Paul says believe in Jesus, then you are saved, as Jesus alone can save. Then because you fall in love with Jesus, you would obey the law to become like Jesus and to show Jesus. 2. Formula of the Gospel Paul s Gospel: Jesus Christ + Nothing = The Gospel False Gospel: Jesus Christ + Law = The Gospel Paul s Gospel says Jesus Christ plus nothing equals the Gospel. The Judaizers and false teachers were saying that Jesus Christ plus observing different kinds of law equals the Gospel. 3. Formula of the assurance of salvation Paul: Addressing legalists Romans 3:28 What he is saying here: Faith in Jesus Works = The Ground of Salvation What he is not saying here: Faith in Jesus Works = The Proof of Salvation James: Addressing libertines James 2:24 What he is saying here: Faith in Jesus + works = The Proof of Salvation
7 What he is not saying here: Faith in Jesus + works = The Ground of Salvation It might seem like what Paul says in Romans contradicts what the church leader, James, says. Romans 3:28 says, For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. But James 2:24 says, You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Is the Bible contradicting itself, we may ask? Basically, Paul and James were writing to different audiences. Paul was writing to the legalists, who were observing the law, and James was writing to the libertines, who believed that if you are saved, you can do whatever you want. That s why there are different formulas for the assurance of salvation. Some of us are legalist-like, perhaps because we grew up in church, and some of us have been in the world and we are more libertine-like, thinking we can do whatever we want. Paul is saying that faith in Jesus minus works is the ground of salvation through Romans 3:28. James is saying that faith in Jesus plus the works is the proof of salvation. Paul is talking about the ground of salvation, that you can only be saved by Jesus. James is saying that you are saved by Jesus alone but works proves your salvation. They were emphasizing different parts of the gospel. Paul was not saying that faith in Jesus minus works is the proof of salvation. Likewise, James was not implying that faith in Jesus plus works is the ground of salvation. The take-home message here is that you are saved only by Jesus and your works prove that you are saved. In the end, they were both saying the same thing: Only Jesus! 4. Formula of Christian life Everything Jesus = Nothing Nothing + Jesus = Everything Only Jesus = Everything in life George Whitefield says in the book, The Method of Grace, that one should be troubled by sins of life (talking about the libertines) but also by your good work (referring to the legalists). So, we need to be watchful in both aspects, as ministering to people is dependent upon their needs. Receive and accept people through the message of justification. Once they come into the church of Jesus Christ, we need to preach the glorification and sanctification aspects of the word, as well as the law so that people can grow in Jesus Christ. III. Paul charges to live out the Gospel [Chapter 5-6] A. Life of freedom [5:1-12] Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. We are freed in Jesus Christ. We can easily say that because we are free, we can do whatever we want. However, you are not being freed to do whatever you want, rather you are being freed from sin and selfishness. As a result, one becomes more enslaved to others, that is, a servant of other people. In other words, a life of freedom leads to a life of love. B. Life of love [5:13-18] Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Do not use your freedom for your selfishness and sinfulness. We can achieve serving one another through the help of the Holy Spirit. Life of freedom in Christ leads to a life of love, that can only be achieved through a life filled with the Holy Spirit.
8 C. Life in the Spirit [5:19-26] Galatians 5: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. There is a contrast between work of flesh and fruit of the Spirit. We have two natures inside of us, and are constantly fighting our sinful natures and desires. A life in the spirit leads to spiritual maturity and spiritual ministry. D. Life of spiritual ministry [6:1-5] Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. We should always minister to other people, especially to those who are weak and falling away from their faith. You who are spiritual should restore him, persuading him, leading them back to the cross, and back to Christ. Restore him in a spirit of gentleness with wisdom and character. E. Life of spiritual sowing / investment [6:6-10] In order for you to become spiritually mature, you need to sow in the right nature, the spirit nature. Everything we do sows into one of the natures. You need to have spiritual investment through the time you use. Know which teachers to listen to, read and watch. Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. There are always consequences to our actions in life. What you need to do is focus on and invest in growing in your spiritual life. Plant in your spirit nature through the word of God, prayer, and serving others. Keep growing, otherwise, you are planting in your sin nature, which will lead you to temptation and sin. F. Life of boasting in the cross / spiritual boasting [6:11-18] Christian life can be summarized as a life of spiritual boasting. Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Boast in the cross of Jesus Christ as it is the foundation of everything. With Him, we can keep growing even through failures in our lives. Galatians 6:17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Even Paul went through suffering, and he had the physical marks of suffering to show, but still everything in him points forward to Jesus Christ and the cross. We need to look at the cross and go to the cross daily. We need to be offended by the cross because it says that we are hell-deserving sinners. But if we take the offense of the cross, we can receive the defense of the cross. The blood of Jesus Christ on the cross washes us so that as we take the offense of the cross and boast of it. Then we can grow and be washed, as we receive the spiritual blessings in Christ. You will never taste the sweetness of the cross until you taste its bitterness. Otherwise, you will be boasting in your flesh rather than boasting in the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ leads to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 G. Application: By the Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit works in our heart, such that we can live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. Everything in Christian life is about the grace of Jesus Christ. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ comes to our spirit nature by the Holy Spirit. We can persevere and finish the race for the glory of God. Remember when you fail that you are justified in Jesus Christ and are forgiven. We can always start over again. We can get up and continue to fight and the incredible help of the Holy Spirit will be there in our hearts. By the Holy Spirit, you will have the power to grow and glow to influence the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are free so that we can show the love of Jesus Christ. Conclusion Kate Wilkinson composed the hymn: May the mind of Christ, my Savior, Live in me from day to day, By His love and pow r controlling All I do and say. May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self-abasing, This is victory. May His beauty rest upon me, As I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, Seeing only Him. Permit me to draw your attention to the last two lines, may they forget the channel, seeing only Him. As the Holy Spirit helps us, in our hearts, we can grow to be like Christ, so that people will not see selfish and fleshly me, but that they will see Jesus. If God rewards us not by how much we give, but how less we keep, then there will be few of the richest people in heaven. No matter how much we have or what we do not have, after necessity, we can still share in our lives. Just show the love of Jesus Christ to others. That s how we can live. No matter how much we do not have, we always have more to share. Amidst hardships and difficulties and even in freedom and temptations, we have to learn how to live with the all-sufficient Christ, as Paul did. He was imprisoned often, yet wrote a letter of joy (Philippians), rejoicing in the Jesus Christ that was enough for him. Bleeding upon being beaten for preaching the Gospel and imprisoned as observed in Acts 16, he still kept singing and worshipping the Lord. Prisoners heard their singing and many of them ultimately came to know Christ. The lesson for us here is that it is not about our circumstances or situations, but learning how to make Christ sufficient for us, so that we can grow and glow for Him. God says rejoice in your sufferings, hardships, and difficulties. Rejoice, because we have Jesus Christ! God says that only Jesus alone, is enough, and by His Spirit, we can live freely, even in the midst of imprisonment, or in a country where we are persecuted. We can still live a life of love because of the spirit of God inside us, and we can grow into spiritual maturity. In order for us to do this, we have to sow in our spirit nature through the word of God and prayer, so that our lives will boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only by the grace of God that comes through the Holy Spirit can we achieve this.