STUDIES IN GALATIANS

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003

STUDY THREE: PAUL'S GOSPEL

A. COLLECTION OF REFERENCES TO PAUL'S GOSPEL

Paul's gospel is described/identified in a number of ways throughout Acts and his letters.

Study Task: In the table below identify the various descriptions and ways of referring to the Gospel.
Reference
Descriptions and synonyms of the gospel.

Acts 9:15

Acts 9:20

Acts 9:22

Acts 9:27

Acts 9:28

Acts 13:5

Acts 13:12

Acts 13:26

Acts 13:32

Acts 13:38,39

Acts 13:43

Acts 14:3

Acts 14:7

Acts 14:15

Acts 14:22

Acts 15:26

Acts 16:6

Acts 16:10

Acts 17:2

Acts 17:18

Acts 18:4

Acts 18:5

Acts 19:8

Acts 20:21

Acts 20:24

Acts 20:25

Acts 20:27

Acts 22:18

Acts 24:24

Acts 26:16

Acts 26:17,18

Acts 26:20

Acts 28:23

Acts 28:31

Rom 1:1,2

Rom 1:5

Rom 1:9

Rom 10:8

Rom 15:19

Rom 16:25-26

1Cor 1:18

1Cor 1:23

2Cor 3:6

2Cor 4:5

2Cor 5:19

2Cor 11:6

Gal 1:6

Gal 1:16

Gal 1:24

Eph 3:8

Col 1:23

Col 4:3

Titus 1:1-3

B. WHAT PAUL SAYS ABOUT THE GOSPEL

Study Task: Check all of the references in the points below:
  • It came from God: As Paul states in Galatians 1:11-12,16, it is not something that man made up, and Paul takes pains to tell his readers that he did not get it from any man. The references above confirm that Paul considered his gospel to be 'the gospel of God' and 'the word of God'.
  • It is the fulfilment of the Old Testament:
    • It fulfils the promises made to Abraham: Galatians 3:6-14; 3:26-29;
    • It is the ultimate purpose of the Law: Galatians 3:15-25; 4:1-5;
    • It fulfils the symbolism of the children of Hagar and Sarah: 4:21-31.
  • It focuses on the person of Jesus Christ: Paul puts it simply: 'that I might preach him' (Gal 1:16).
  • It can be summarised by the word 'grace': (Galatians 1:6; 2:21). This grace aspect of the Gospel, outlawing any saving significance of human performance, is significant as we read through this letter.
  • It can be summarised by the word 'faith' and is effective through faith: (Galatians 1:23; 3:2,5-9,14,22-26). This aspect of the Gospel is also of extreme significance in this letter.
  • It is established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: (Galatians 1:4; 2:20,21; 3:1)

C. WHAT PAUL SAID TO PETER IN ANTIOCH

Paul states clearly in Galatians 2:14 that Peter and those who followed his example in Antioch, and separated themselves from fellowship with Gentile Christians 'were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel' . In other words, their actions denied and contradicted the very Gospel which they had embraced and which they preached. In reporting to the Galatians what he said to Peter Paul uses the words he said to Peter to also point out to the Galatians the wrongness of their submission to the demands of the false teachers.

In defence of the Gospel Paul said to Peter:

C.1 You are being inconsistent [2:14]

Paul is pointing out the gross incongruity of what Peter and the others did. Because of the gospel they had ceased to live as Jews; in fact they had been living as Gentiles - no longer subject to the great multitudes of ritual and ceremonial laws of Judaism, because they knew these laws had been fulfilled and made redundant by Jesus Christ. Yet, by their action in separating from the Gentile believers when the Jewish Christians came to Antioch, they are making a statement that those laws still have significance, and thus they are undermining and living contrary to the gospel they claim to believe.

C.2 You know that a man is not justified by keeping the law [2:15-16]

Speaking of himself, Peter and the other defectors, Paul states that they, people who were born Jews, know that a man is not justified - that is acquitted by God - by observing the law. They know that such justification comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. All of their lives prior to their conversion to Christ they had been striving to obtain a righteousness with God by their own efforts in keeping the requirements of the law. They had forsaken that for faith in Christ.

C.3 We have put our faith in Christ [2:16]

They have already exchanged an uncertain impossibility for a certainty. As Paul states in Romans 'no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law ... ' (Romans 3:20) and he goes on to expand on this impossibility and the opposing glorious certainty of God's gift of justification/righteousness apart from law (Romans 3:21-31).

C.4 To accept justification through faith in Christ is to identify oneself as a sinner [2:17].

This is automatic - because Christ died for sinners, paying the price of their sins. To accept his substitutionary death for sin is to admit one's own sinfulness and inability. This in no way indicates that 'Christ promotes sin', as was obviously being inferred by the Judaisers; rather the death of Christ for sin demonstrates beyond anything else how abhorrent sin is to God and who horrible its penalty. To leave aside the ritual laws, as the Jewish believers had been doing before this incident was not 'sin'.

C.5 However, re-establishing the law proves that one is a transgressor [2:18].

This proof of identity happens at three possible levels:

  1. If Peter and his fellow defectors were right in re-establishing the law as significant for salvation, then obviously it was wrong (a transgression) to have set the law aside in the first place.
  2. On the other hand, if the gospel of grace is correct, then the action of the defectors in rebuilding the (now fulfilled and redundant law), is a transgression.
  3. Re-establishing the law as a means of justification re-identifies one as a sinner answerable to the law, and that law will always identify one as a transgressor. It is perhaps here that Paul's meaning lies, in the light of what he says next.

C.6 The believer has already died as far as the law's requirements and penalty are concerned [2:19,20].

In a strictly legal sense, the one who is united to Christ by faith is united to him in his death for sin - the death exacted by the law upon those who break the law. In these verses Paul expresses this identification with Christ in his death in a number of ways:

  1. I died to the law.
  2. I have been crucified with Christ
  3. I no longer live.

Legally, as far as God's law and its penalty is concerned, those to whom the substitutionary death of Christ has been credited, have ceased to exist. They can never again be held accountable by the law and its demands. The law required the death penalty: in Christ our substitute that penalty was exacted to the full. [This is dealt with extensively in Romans 6 and 7, and also in Colossians 2 and 3].

C.7 Christ lives in me [2:20]

From that point onwards the believer lives in a totally different relationship with God. Paul says:

  1. 'I live for God' [v19]- having been liberated from the need to promote and preserve myself by trying to keep the law, I live for God instead of for self;
  2. 'It is no longer I who live ... Christ lives in me': Paul is here referring to the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ - by which we live every moment guilt free and accepted in the presence of God;
  3. 'The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me'. Here Paul alludes to the two realities on which he majored in Romans: the reality that we are in ourselves - in the flesh, and the reality that we are in Christ. We are still human, we are still 'flesh' - but that reality, which in itself is sinful and condemned, is over-ridden by a greater reality - the new reality of identification with Christ in his death and his resurrection life - a life never again accountable to the law. As Paul says in Colossians 'you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God'.

So Paul says: 'I live' - in the presence of God I live - not fearing death, not with the penalty of the law hanging over me - but by faith in the Son of God who loved me and demonstrated that love by giving himself for me.

C.8 To re-establish the law as a means of getting right with God is to put aside this grace of God and to proclaim that Christ died for nothing [2:21].

This is something that Paul says he does not do, and it highlights the incongruity and the lunacy of the line of action adopted by Peter and his companions and of the Galatians who have allowed themselves to be taken in by the false teaching.

Discussion Point #6: Discuss ways in which Christian behaviour today denies the gospel of God's grace and rules out the impact of Christ's death. Why do you think we behave in these ways when at a foundational level we know our performance does not merit God's acceptance?

D. SUMMARIZING PAUL'S GOSPEL IN GALATIANS 2:12-21

  1. Belief in the true Gospel will be expressed in behaviour that reflects it.
  2. The true Gospel teaches justification by faith in Christ, not by keeping the law.
  3. The true Gospel involves identification of the believer with the death and resurrection life of Christ.
  4. The Gospel involves 'the grace of God'.
  5. The Gospel grants righteousness through the death of Christ.
  6. The Gospel centres on the death of Christ.