STUDIES IN GALATIANS

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003

STUDY ONE: INTRODUCING PAUL AND HIS READERS

A. PAUL - AN APOSTLE BY GOD'S APPOINTMENT [GAL 1:1-2]

'Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father ... ' Galatians 1:1. ['apostle' = one who has been sent.]

In identifying himself as 'an apostle' Paul puts himself on a par with the eleven faithful apostles appointed by Jesus Christ [Matthew 10:1-5 (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13,14)] and Matthias, chosen to replace Judas [Acts 1:18-26.] The apostles had in common that they were commissioned by Jesus Christ and witnesses of his life, death and resurrection.

Paul's apostleship was questioned from time to time; this questioning put the integrity of his message and his authority and ability to teach the truth in jeopardy.

Study task: From the references below make a list of Paul's defence of his apostleship and the integrity and authenticity of the Gospel he preached.

Romans 1:1

Romans 1:5

Romans 11:13

Romans 15:15-16

Romans 15:18-19

1 Corinthians 1:1

1 Corinthians 9:1-27

1 Corinthians 15:9-10

2 Corinthians 1:1

2 Corinthians 11:5

2 Corinthians 12:13

Galatians 1:1

Galatians 1:11-2:10

Galatians 2:8

Ephesians 1:1

Colossians 1:1

Colossians 1:23

1 Timothy 1:1

1 Timothy 2:7

2 Timothy 1:1

2 Timothy 1:11

Titus 1:1,3

Discussion Topic #1: Is Paul promoting himself here, or does he have a valid cause to say so much in affirmation of his apostleship? If these claims are true, what are the implications of someone rejecting his message? And, what should our attitude to his message be?

B. PAUL'S MISSION IN GALATIA [ACTS 13-18]

This letter is addressed 'to the churches in Galatia', a Roman province in what is present day Turkey. Paul was the original preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this area, in which there were well-established Jewish synagogues where both Jews and proselytes [Gentiles converted to Judaism] worshipped.

B.1 The original contact: Acts 13: 13-14:20

  • Antioch - first Sabbath: they were invited to speak again the next Sabbath; many of the Jews followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
  • Antioch - second Sabbath: a great crowd gathered the listen. The Jews, seeing the crowds, were very jealous, and spoke 'abusively' against Paul's message. Paul said that he would preach to the Gentiles [non-Jews] , seeing that the Jews had rejected the message. The Gentiles gladly believed the message.
  • Antioch - what followed: the message spread through the whole region; the Jews, inciting 'God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city', stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and they were expelled from the region. [Acts 13:50]
  • Iconium - in the synagogue: effective preaching resulting in a great number of Jews and Gentiles believing. The Jews who would not believe 'stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers'.
  • Iconium - what followed: Paul and Barnabas preached there for quite a while; the city was divided. A plot to stone them was discovered, so they left.
  • Lystra - Paul and Barnabas were considered gods; Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and 'won the crowd over'. Paul was stoned and left for dead.
  • Derbe - preaching resulted in a large number of disciples.

B.2 The return journey: Acts 14:21-23:

  • They returned through Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 'strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith'. They told them that it would be difficult; they appointed elders in each church, and committed them to the Lord.

B.3 The second visit: Acts 15:36-16:5:

  • This trip was undertaken to see how the churches were going.
  • Paul, wanting to take Timothy (who lived in Lystra) with him, had him circumcised because of the Jews.
  • They delivered the message from the Jerusalem apostles and elders
  • They strengthened the churches.

B.4 The third visit: Acts 18:23

Paul travelled through Galatia , strengthening all the disciples.

It is to these people, for whose sake he suffered much, and for whom he worked so hard to establish them in the faith, that he writes, striving to re-establish them on the sure foundation of Christ, and still having to promote the true gospel in the face of harsh opposition.

C. PAUL'S PERSONAL HISTORY [1:11-2:14]

In defending his right to be called an apostle, Paul reminded his Galatian readers of his personal history:

Galatians
Event
Read these references

1:13,14

His life of Judaism [in referring to this Paul indicates that he is fully aware of the requirements of the Law and of Judaism.]

Acts 22:3; 26:4-5; 2Cor 11:21-22; Phil 3:4-6

1:13,23

His intense persecution of Christians [this indicates how zealous and jealous he had once been for adherence to the Law and for the honour of God as seen through Judaistic eyes.]

Acts 8:1,3; 9:1-2, 21; 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:9-11; 1Cor 15:9; Phil 3:6

1:12,16

His personal encounter with Jesus Christ [this puts him on a par with the other apostles: Paul, like them, has seen the risen Lord'].

Acts 9:3-9; 22:6-10; 26:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:8;

1:15-16

His personal appointment by Jesus Christ to witness to the Gentiles [which parallels the appointment of the original apostles].

Acts 9:15,16; 22:14-15,21; 26:16-18; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 13:10;

1:12,16-22

His learning the Gospel from Christ himself, not from any human agent [this also authenticates his apostleship and his message].

1 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1-6;

2:1-10

The validation and recognition of his mission and message by the leaders in Jerusalem [this is important in the context of this letter, particularly the fact that the Jerusalem leaders did not require Titus to be circumcised.]

Acts 15:1-35;

2:11-14

His opposition to Peter in Antioch because Peter's behaviour denied the Gospel of grace.

Discussion Topic #2: What elements are there in the history of the churches in Galatia, and in the history of gospel preaching, which would pre-dispose the Galatian believers to submit to the false teachers?
Discussion Topic #3: In our society and churches today, what elements and/or history similarly predispose us to revert to a law-based relationship with God? What evidence is there that such a defection does occur today.