Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 5

Galatians (Part 2)

Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 5
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Galatians (Part 2)

Letters of Paul

Part 1

I. Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty

A. Acts and Galatians on Paul's Trips to Jerusalem

1. Acts

a. Brief meeting with apostles (9:19-29)

2. Galatians

B. Galatians as an "Apologetic Letter"

1. Epistolary prescript (1:1-5)

2. Exordium: statement of problem (1:6-11)

3. Narratio: thesis to be demonstrated and presentation of facts (1:12-2:14)

4. Propositio: summary of points of agreement and what remains contested (2:15-21)

5. Probatio: proofs or support (3:1-4:31)

6. Exhortatio: parenesis (5:1-6:20)

7. Epistolary postscript (6:11-18)

C. Galatians Outline

1. Greetings (1:1-5)

2. Defending Paul's apostolic authority (1:6-2:14)

3. Defining justification by faith rather than law (2:15-4:31)

4. Describing freedom in Christ through the Spirit (5:1-6:10)

5. Closing (6:11-18)

D. Being Harsh vs. Being Nice

1. Nice

2. Harsh

E. Paul vs. the Judaizers

1. Judaizers: faith in Christ + works of the Law = justification

2. Paul: faith in Christ = justification + works of the Spirit

F. History in Romans and Galatians

1. Promise – Abraham

2. Law – Moses

3. Fulfillment – Jesus

G. Law vs. Gospel

1. Before Christ

2. After Christ

H. Tertius Usus Legis – ("Three Uses of the Law") according to the Protestant Reformers

1. As a deterrent to sin for unbelievers

2. To point out our need for a Savior

3. As a moral guide for believers


I. Galatians 3:28

1. Equality only regarding salvation

2. Visible privileges and freedoms (e.g. baptism)

3. No distinction in roles or functions

J. Paul's Typology in Galatians 4:21-31

1. Physical descent [Judaizers' views]

2. Spiritual descent [Paul's views]

K. Judaism vs. Paul

1. First century Judaism

2. Paul

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Galatians (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


This is the 5th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


What does Paul write in this epistle? H. D. Betts, University of Chicago Professor, in 1979 says that Galatians should be identified as an apologetic letter; apologetic in the sense of contenting for the faith, not in the sense of someone saying sorry for something. Betts reconstructed from other ancient rhetorical and other literary handbooks and actual epistles a model for a typical apologetic letter. An epistolary prescript first came, a somewhat elaborate greeting, followed by an exordium or a statement of the problem. Subsequently, the narrative portion came next including both the thesis and the presentation of facts leading up to it. In this case there was the exordium of Judaizes, those who are requiring circumcision, perhaps merely as the tip of requiring obedience to the entire Law of Moses for salvation. He anathematizes this approach as we will discuss in more detail shortly. As a results he explains that this is a deviation from the way he preached the Gospel to the Galatians and gives the autobiographical information to justify his way of presenting the Gospel as authoritative if not more so than anyone else. The theological heart of an apologetic letter comes in the proposition, a thesis paragraph if you like, containing the summary of points of agreement and what remains contested, both in this case involving aspects of Paul’s conviction of justification by faith rather than by works of the Law. The pro boxeo section proofs or supporting arguments, not all of which needs to be logical or linear in nature in the ancient Mediterranean world in particular. Some of them will be as some of Paul’s are but others will be more emotional, appealing to people’s experience or illustrious examples or analogies to drive points home. Or even figuratively implying metaphors or an allegory to reinforce one’s reasoning. 


Then after the main information of the body is completed, we find exhortation material. Many writers speak of exhortation material in a New Testament letter as Paraklesis , Greek for exhortation, the adjective more commonly used Parenetic, encouraging or persuasive and then as with a traditional Greco-Roman letter of every kind, there is an epistolary postscript including a conclusion and concluding greetings. Betts’ outline of the structure and rhetorical or literary form of this epistles where many writers have questioned parts of this outline, but overall the outline is defensible.  For our purposes of an introductory survey however, we may simplify the outline into roughly three sections, not counting the greetings and closing. Almost one section for every two main chapters in the letter in which first an autobiographical fashion, Paul defends his apostolic authority, secondly with the thesis paragraph at the end of chapter two adds the introduction to this second large section. In chapters three and four, he defines justification by faith rather than the Law and thirdly, he defines freedom in Christ through the Spirit least other people not fall into the trap of the Judaizes need to hear a message against antinomianism or Lawless living or least people over reaction to the message he makes sure that it is understood in the first four chapters and swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. The thesis and the supporting arguments underneath the section defining justification by faith can remind us largely as best identified with one additional observation and that of 3:19-4:7 which does not function as an additional argument or set of arguments for Paul’s thesis but rather as a necessary digression answering the question, if the Law was not given so that people could be saved by it what then were the purposes of the law? 


It is perhaps also worth reflecting on this juncture that precisely because Paul is having to defend his apostolic authority against rivals who claim to be derived from the Jerusalem Apostles that he is defining the theological heart of his message in a diametrically opposite way to that of his opponents that it would have been disingenuous of him not to have included every contact that he had with the Jerusalem Apostles less his opponents accuse him of what today we would call a cover up. But that in turn makes our proposed harmonization between Galatians and Acts all the more secure because the correlation we have proposed is the only possible correlation if we assume that Galatians has not omitted a reference to any of the visits of Paul to Jerusalem that Acts narrates. 


We turn now to the text of Galatians itself. It would be good for the listing student to have a copy of the translation of Galatians, opened in front of them for this commentary section and others. Paul begins with a lengthy and unusual detailed theological opening greeting’s that serves to underline the seriousness of the problem that the infiltration of Judaizes into the Galatian’s churches has started. Even more to the point, the absence of any kind of thanksgiving, whether or not it was customary in an apologetic letter is striking, indeed it is absent from that entire literary subgenre showing that such an apologia was reserved for very serious challenges to one’s particular perspective or world view. What appears replacing the traditional thanksgiving is some of the harshest language in all of the New Testament. Paul writes that he is astonished that the Galatians are changing their theological colors so quickly turning to a message which is not good news gospel in any fashion, speaks of his opponents as throwing them into confusion and perverting the Gospel of Christ and then makes remarkable strong statements in verses 8 and 9 that if anyone, if an angel from heaven should preach a Gospel other than the Pauline Gospel, that person should be an anathema, under God’s curse and he says it twice for emphasis. How are we to account for such strong language? 


The same can be ask about Jesus’ teaching out of the Gospels, nowhere more extensively than in the woes against the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 includes some very harsh language. To make matters more complicated and contradictory, one finds both Jesus and Paul being unusually welcoming, showing kindness and relating to those who were outcast or outsides to Jewish and Christian religions. Jesus became known for being friends of tax collectors and sinners and Paul in 1st Corinthians 9:19-23 and this repeats five times on how he tries to be all things to all people so that by all means that he might save some. What’s going on here? The simple answer is that both Jesus and Paul go out of their way of not putting unnecessary stumbling blocks with those who have not yet embraced the Gospel but reserve their harshest language of condemnation for those claims to be religious insiders having already accepting the Gospel and yet told a perverted legalistic works of righteousness that in fact cannot save anyone, neither themselves nor anyone who embraces it.  We must exercise extreme caution in different cultures particularly modern western ones where strong language is deemed as culturally naturally even in a number of non-theological settings in the ancient Mediterranean world. A professing Christian disagrees with us on a point even a fairly central point of being a Christian doesn’t give us the right to use this kind of language. But if that point involves the doctrine of salvation such that a person who would embrace it would in fact be putting their eternal destiny into jeopardy than a more tactful ways fail, we have the right to speak in similarly strong language. We have already commented in our introductory letter about Galatians 1:11-12 and how Paul claims to have receives his Gospel solely by revelation from Jesus Christ can be harmonized with those elsewhere in those letters where he speaks of passing on what he received from Christian tradition or directly from other Christian conversations. Indeed, the rest of chapters one and two will go on to talk about three of those conversations, two in Jerusalem and one in Antioch with fellow Christians. 


Verses 13-16 however, introduce us to a topic we need to elaborate more on, namely Paul’s conversion and call or commission. Ever since the dramatic turnaround in the life of Martin Luther, the first and some would say the preeminent Reformation leaders, there has been an understandable tendency begun by Luther himself, to read Paul’s remarks here and one or two other places in his letters as a mere image of Luther’s experience with medieval Catholicism. Martin Luther in the early fifteen hundreds was a Catholic Monk struggling to be a very faithful Christian to keep all of the Christian commandments as well as those of his religious order as best he understood them but becoming more and more frustrating by his inability to do so. It was returning to the Greek of Galatians and Romans rather than the Latin Vulgate translation which has misled people in various places that convinced Luther that salvation or justification to use Paul’s preferred term in Galatians was by faith alone and not by good works, even works of the Torah or the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. It was natural then to read Paul’s conversion in light of his own experience and assume that first century Palestinian Judaism was equally consumed with salvation by works as his experience in medieval Catholicism had been and also, Paul was a frustrated Jew fighting harder and harder to obey the law but being unable to do so. But Paul’s testimony here in Galatians 1:13 and following belies this interpretation as will Philippians 3:6 and following later on. Paul’s reflection here of his pre-Christian attitude was that he was advancing in Judaism beyond many of his own age among fellow Jews and was extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers. He was doing very well, thank you very much, he might have said. It was only after God in Christ encounters him on the Damascus road when he realized how misguided his previous adventures had been. Far from being psychological right for a conversion experience, God probably needed to provide the surprise dramatic and supernatural revelation as the vision on the Damascus road was to get through to this zealous and committed orthodox pharisaic Jew who was willing to commit acts of terror in persecuting Christians, believing it necessary to purge the Jewish religion of these apostates. 


We have already commented in our introductory remarks in Galatians in some detail about his first two trips to Jerusalem, narrated in chapter one verses seventeen and following and then again at the beginning of chapter two. It’s uncertain that verses 15 to 21 continue Paul’s words as there were no quotations marks in the ancient language and these words read equally to that of Paul’s later summary of the theological issues at stake for the Galatians. As already noticed, they also form what we think of as a thesis paragraph or collection of short paragraphs giving the message of the letter of Galatians at its theological heart.


Looking at the next PowerPoint slide, the difference between Paul and the Judaizes will be discussed. Both groups claim to be Christian believers and both recognize that faith in Jesus as Messiah was utterly essential for justification, being made right with God, both even recognize that good works formed an important part of Christian living. But as Paul understood the Judaizes’ claims, as he had encountered them elsewhere and as he had heard second hand how similar Judaizes were infiltrating the Galatian churches. He understood that their message required faith in Christ be supplemented by works of the Law before anyone could be declared justified with God. This was an impossible approach to salvation for no one would ever please God enough so as to merit his favor. Paul’s understanding of faith, works and justification, as faith in Christ by itself producing the right standing before the Lord, but then followed by a life of good works, not the works of the Torah with the 613 laws of the Old Testament obeyed as if Jesus had not changed the application of any of them, but rather with good deeds created by the Holy Spirit that now indwells all believers and motivates them to do good works in continuity with the moral standards of the laws of Moses but not as any kind of a necessary obedience to a specific list of do’s and don’ts of the Old Testament. Galatians 2:15-21 certainly includes some of the most condensed and perhaps dense theological teaching in the letter which the textbook attempts to unpack in more detail but the basic contrast seems to reflect the heart of it. 


There are those that speak of this presentation of the Judaizes’ religion as a perspective of first century Judaism. The new perspective on Paul which is also a ‘new look’ of first century Judaism since the ground breaking work of E.P. Sanders in 1977 of Paul and Palestinian Judaism.  A subsection of the textbook opening chapter on Paul more generally introduces the student to the issues at stake here which we can summarize in this context by highlighting that Sanders and others who have followed him has shown that first century Judaism was not in the main a religion of classic legalism in the sense of doing good works in order to merit salvation. As we mentioned in our opening lecture, most Jews understood the Law to have followed salvation just as Mt Sinai followed Exodus. The Law was the way of living out a person’s life as already the covenant made created fellowship between people and Yahweh, God of Israel. This approach to Christian living, Sanders dubbed covenantal nomism and he explains with the succinct summary that obeying the law for 1st century Palestinian Jews was much more about how one stays saved than how one got saved. But we are no longer in 1st century Palestine or in Southern Galatia. Rather we have a changed situation where gentiles are coming to faith in Jesus and having certain groups of Jewish Christians or professing Jewish Christians claim that they must obey the entire Torah in order to be saved. 


The whole question in context of Galatians is precisely about how one ‘gets saved’ because gentiles were not born into the covenant community of God. At this point, we have to acknowledge the way Paul presents the teaching of the Judaizes and for that matter the way Luke in Acts 15 presents it, is that for these outsiders, at least one small select party of Jews who had also professed salvation in Christ were requiring Law keeping in order to ‘get saved’.  Perhaps they were a small minority of 1st century Jews; perhaps they reflected a position that was not quite the same as any Jews who had not professed any kind of faith in Jews, which simply lacked the historical evidence to be sure. But since the completion of the translation of publication of the documents from the Qumran community known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a very intriguing short fragmentary document called 4QMMT from the 4th Qumran cave and the MMT refers to some of the works in the Torah. Here, we have the ambiguous phrase ‘the works of the law’, which are being put forward as a requirement for right standing with Yahweh, virtually precisely the way that the Judaizes who Paul combats in the Letter to the Galatians. 


The relative section of the fragment, verses 25-32 in the English reads: 


‘Remember, David, who was one of the pious ones, he too was freed from many afflictions and was forgiven.’ We might ask, how? So the writer goes on to say, ‘and we have written to you some of the works of the Torah.’ There’s that key phrase never before attested exactly in that form in Jewish literature. ‘We have written to you some of the works of the Torah which we think are good for you and your people for we saw that you have intellect and knowledge of the Law.’ Most scholars believe at this point that the Qumran community is writing to the main line Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, to the various groups, particularly the Sadducees who were responsible for over sight for temple worship and practice there. Since elsewhere it’s clear that the Essene sect represented in the Qumran community believed that all the rest of Judaism outside of Essence sectarian practice was apostate. ‘Reflect on all these matters and seek from him (God), that he may support your council and keep you from the evil scheming and council of the devil so that at the end of time, you may rejoice in finding that some of our words are true and it shall be reckoned to you as justice.’ This language in the original Hebrew could have given rise to the Greek expressions found in Galatians and Romans of Paul’s writings translating or eluding to language from Genesis 15 about Abraham’s faith that was reckoned to him as righteousness or justice. ‘And it shall be reckoned to you as justice when you do what is upright and good before him, for you good and that of Israel.’


And that good involve the central works of the Torah. As it is inaccurate to say that 1st century Palestinian Judaism and before knows nothing of the legalizing mindset that adheres to at least part of the Judaizes teaching in Antioch and Galatia.  


How then do we refute such heresy? The proofs, the pro boxeo begins in Galatians chapter three. The first argument is from experience; you began by faith not by works of Law in your Christian life, why would you want to change that method now? And Galatians 3:6 quotes the very principle about Abraham’s salvation or justification that we have just sighted from 4QMMT. The second argument in verses 7-9 involves an argument from history and it is one that will be repeated in Romans as well. It has often been schematically understood as viewing the period of the Law as something of parenthesis in the history of God’s dealings with Israel. Clearly in Genesis 12 which came more than four centuries before the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai. The promises to Abraham came before the era of Moses the Law Giver and Paul has just made it clear that he understands Abraham’s right standing with God to have come about by faith. Thus his conclusion is that the Law was a temporary period, a concept that he will unpack more in Galatians chapters three and four as he proceeds, but that in the Christian era, the age of the fulfillment of God’s promises, the age of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus and salvation through Jesus but salvation that hinges on the law is in error.  


Galatians 3:1 through 14 is another opaque segment of this epistle. It appears to play off two Old Testament texts against one another with respect to the manner of salvation and then concludes with the solution that redemption comes through faith in Christ and the promise of the spirit. How are we to deal with the fact that Paul first quotes Deuteronomy as teaching that everyone is cursed who does not continues to do everything written in the Book of the Law and then adds from Habakkuk 2:4, no one is justified before God by the Law because the righteous will live by faith. When in the context of Habakkuk the prophet is talking exactly about what Sanders has designated as covenantal nomism. The righteous person, the elect within Israel, the one who is already in right covenant standing with the Lord will live out his life of Godliness by his faithfulness to the Torah. What is more, Paul goes on, the Law is not based on faith, on the contrary it says whoever does these things will live by them but when one looks up this quote from Leviticus 18, it is clear that it is held out to the Jews as a real possibility again most likely to be interpreted in the sense of covenantal nomism as how they are to live out a life of righteousness in gratitude to God for the salvation he has already given to them.