22. Galatians: Outline

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: Galatians: Outline


Let’s turn to the Book of Galatians. This is a very important letter, one that was greatly influential in the life of Martin Luther, and as a result, in the Reformation. The salutation, already hints at some of the things that he is going to argue, “Paul, an apostle ….” Now the following comment is already a defense against those who are going to attack his legitimate apostleship, “…not from men ….” In other words, the source of my apostleship is not from men – I’m not a Petrite, a James-ite, a Johnite, a Thomasite, etc. – I’m not under them in that way; I am an independent apostle. My apostleship does not come from men, nor was it mediated through a man. It doesn’t come mediated in that way. On the contrary, my apostleship is “…through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.” Notice the reference to being raised from the dead here, because his apostleship comes from the risen Christ, and to be an apostle you had to have seen the risen Christ. So he includes all of that, which is unusual in a letter, because he needs to defend his apostleship, and he begins here already.

Then in v. 6 instead of the normal thanksgiving and prayer, he has this rebuke, and admonishment. Notice when he talks about people being accursed, he includes himself as a possibility in v. 8. He says, “… if we, or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” In other words, he’s not accursing his opponents, period; he’s accursing anyone who preaches another gospel, and even if it’s him. So it’s the message that is important, not the person here. And so he argues that if anyone else, I or even an angel, should preach a different gospel, that person is anathema. It is this gospel which is the truth. This is the standard; if you violate the standard, you are doing something damnable in that way.

In the first section, which begins in 1:11 through chapter 2, he defends his independent apostleship (you remember we were talking about how they were attacking his apostleship). Why spend all this time defending yourself? Is this a big ego trip? Why don’t you simply say, “I don’t care what other people think of me. It’s the gospel that counts.”? Paul can’t do that because he got his gospel when he got his apostleship. If you doubt that his apostleship is legitimate, then you can also doubt his gospel as being legitimate. They’re so inter-woven that you can’t defend one without defending the other, because both were given to him at the same time. So he has to defend himself, whether he likes it or not, as a legitimate apostle, because only then is his gospel clearly legitimate.

The summary of his defense, in vv.11-12, is as follows, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Now that’s the overall summary, and now he’s going to deal with a list of individual arguments. One of the things that I find hard in Galatians, is that, instead of seeing one argument that builds on the previous argument, and the following argument building on that argument, I see a string of independent kinds of arguments. And I know that there are times when all these things relate to one another. Sometimes I think that they are just separate arguments (“Let me give you another argument, and another argument …”); and it’s not necessarily an intimate tie with what has preceded, but a valid argument in any regard.

The first argument about Paul’s independence as an apostle is found in vv. 13-14, where he talks about his previous life, “You have heard about my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” Now how do you explain what I am now, in light of that? Something must have happened. This is what I was. I was doing real well as a leader. I would have been one of the great rabbis of the day, but something happened. And that something that happened shows that Jesus met me that day. And so he argues from what he was before and says that Jesus changed his life; he [Jesus] met him on the road to Damascus and gave him his apostleship.

Then in vv. 15-17, he points out his independence from the church in Jerusalem and from the other apostles, “But when he who set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus.” If my apostleship were from men, if I were under the Jerusalem apostles as some are arguing, why in the world after my conversion did I not go there? I never went there at the beginning. I just went away, into Arabia, and I returned back to Jerusalem. So that from the beginning, my first reaction was not to run away to Jerusalem and get my seminary degree from the people there. I was independent from the beginning – I never needed to do that. God led me into Arabia. My independence is shown in that I didn’t go to Jerusalem and my gospel that I received and my calling were independent from the beginning.

Then in vv. 18-20, he gives another argument, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)” The first time I saw the apostles was three years after my conversion. I was independent from the beginning. So for three years I never went to Jerusalem, where these Judaizers say the center of the church is, and that all the leadership of the church is. Furthermore, I only saw Peter for about fifteen days (that’s really not enough time to get a seminary degree), and the only other person I saw was the brother of the Lord, James. So from the beginning I never felt necessary, and never thought that I had to go to meet with the other apostles. AND, in what I am telling you, I swear I am not lying. Now, remember where Jesus says that we should not swear at all – we should let our yea be yea, and our nay be nay? Well, I think in that context what he is arguing against is the light swearing of oaths that was debated amongst the Jews as to which oaths they had to keep when you swore. And Paul here is adding the truthfulness of his statement, “I swear I’m telling you the truth.” To him, it’s not a problem to swear before God that he is telling the truth in all of this. In the case of Paul, you believe it. In the case of the oaths that Jesus was forbidding, it wouldn’t matter, because of the character of the people involved.

After I did that, what did I do next? Well, “Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. [Syria was where Antioch is; Cilicia was where Tarsus is, in southeast Turkey], and I was still not known by sight to the churches of Jerusalem and Judea that are in Christ. They only heard it said that ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified the Lord because of me.” Here you have what is known as the silent years of Paul. For eight to ten years, Paul independently was in the city of Tarsus eventually, and then Barnabas brings him back. That does not look at all like a relationship where he is a sub-Jerusalem apostle. He is an independent apostle, and his behavior at that time proves that. Then he goes on and says (2:1), “Then, after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with me.” So he mentions that next important issue of when he went to Jerusalem, and that was fourteen years later. And he “…laid up before them … the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” In other words, he explained to them what he’s been preaching to the Gentiles, because he knows that if they really oppose what he’s doing, that’s going to be a real problem. He’s independent, but if they’re going to oppose it, that could be really troublesome. And he doesn’t want to do all this work in vain. He wants their support. He doesn’t want them to ordain him; he simply wants them to work hand in hand with his apostleship.

And he says that (2:3) “…even Titus who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” So, he brings with him a Greek believer, and brings him right in front of the head of the whole church body, and he says, “Alright, what are you going to do with him? Are you going to force him to be circumcised to be saved?” And they say, “No, we wouldn’t do that.” That proves, by the way, that the gospel I preach is the correct one. So they did not require Titus to be circumcised. It would be very hard to do that when they didn’t require Cornelius to be circumcised. And so, already Peter’s experience with Cornelius has paved the groundwork for Titus. “But because the false brethren secretly brought in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus that they might bring us into bondage – to them we did not yield for a moment….” Those who were reputed to be something, but really that doesn’t matter. There was nothing that the other apostles added to my ministry or added as a requirement in any way.

But here, now (2:7), “But on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me [the grace of his apostleship], James, Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars [leaders], gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.” Alright now, the next time I went to Jerusalem, fourteen years later, this is what happened. I took a Greek with me, Titus, and he didn’t have to be circumcised. But what they did do was to recognize that just as God had called Peter to be the apostles to the Jewish community, he had called me to be the apostle to the Gentile community. Now that is going to come up in the Romans letter. Paul doesn’t feel that he is AN apostle to the Gentiles, but THE apostle to the Gentiles -- that God has called him to be responsible for the work to the Gentile world. And therefore, that apostleship will have consequences. We haven’t looked at this (we’ll look at it next week in Romans). Did Paul establish a church at Rome? Is that why he writes the letter? He writes to Corinth, and he established a church there. He writes to Thessalonica, and he established a church there. In Colossae he didn’t, but a co-worker did in the mission. Why does he write Romans? He’d like to help in a mission trip, but that’s not as important as the fact that he writes to them because of the grace given him, which is that he is the apostle to the Gentiles, and there is no one over this church, and this is primarily a Gentile church. Therefore, what’s happening in Rome is under his jurisdiction and responsibility, and he writes Romans. So this understanding of his apostleship is very important. He’s not AN apostle, he is THE apostle in charge of the Gentile mission; even as Peter is the one in charge of the Jewish mission, as such.

Now, is this just a big ego trip? Well, if it’s not true that God has appointed him this way, then yes. But the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, (Peter, James, and John) seem to recognize that God has divinely called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentile world and he has this responsibility. And now in his argument against the Judaizers he’s telling the Galatians not to listen to them. If you’re going to listen to somebody, listen to Peter, James, and John, because they recognize that I have the apostleship for people like you here in Galatia. It’s a very powerful argument, and I don’t think you can understand why he wrote Romans and the things he says in Romans unless you understand this particular aspect of his apostleship.

One of the arguments he uses with regard to his independent apostleship is an incident in Antioch where Peter is rebuked by Paul. There is a time up in Antioch where Peter ate with Gentile believers. If you eat with Gentiles you cannot be kosher – you have to accept that, because they’re not kosher. Peter didn’t see any problem with that. He ate with them. But now these people who supposedly came from James, (in other words, they came from Jerusalem – I don’t think James told them to do this) put pressure on Peter, and he will no longer eat with the Gentiles. That’s devastating. The most famous of all the apostles, Peter (maybe some of these people had even been led to Christ by Peter) now he won’t eat in their homes. That must really be hard. Maybe you can be saved if you’re gentile, but you’re always going to be kind of a second-grade or second-class citizen. We continue with 2:12, “But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party [i.e., fearing those who were arguing these kinds of things as necessary (being kosher, circumcision of Gentiles, etc.)]. And with him the rest of the Jewish Christians acted insincerely along with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.” Now that pressure must have really been heavy on them, because even Barnabas, who should certainly know better – he started to draw back. “But when I saw that the were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, why do you compel Gentiles to live this way?’” You don’t normally follow all the kosher rules – you tend to live more free than this. Why do you ask now that the Gentiles should be this way?

And then he has a summary of this which forms a kind of transition to the next section, beginning in 3:1. It’s unclear as to whether this is a summary of Paul (a theological summary that brings all of this together here), or whether this is what Paul said to Peter. As I read it, note however, that there’s no “you” mentioned here; it’s “we”, “us”, not “you, Peter”. It’s not directed apparently at Peter specifically, at least in the wording of it, “We ourselves who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not!” If, when they believe in Jesus, I really recognize that I’m a sinner, then is Christ making me a sinner? No, an x-ray that diagnoses cancer doesn’t cause cancer; it just diagnoses it. And so the gospel causes me to recognize my sin; it doesn’t cause me to be a sinner. But on the other hand, if I build up those things which I tore down [such as those kosher regulations that I lived under], then I’ll be a transgressor [2:18], “For I through the law died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

The argument of independent apostleship has a list of independent arguments here. I don’t know if they build one on top of the other as I say; I think they’re pretty much independent. He is recognized as an independent apostle by the leaders of the church, that he is THE apostle to the Gentile world. Titus is brought in in a similar situation and he is not compelled to be circumcised. Though, on the other hand, with Timothy, when he started out on the mission, he [Paul] did circumcise him. Some have argued that if that were true, Paul would be inconsistent. But I think Paul is extremely consistent, because circumcision is irrelevant unless you make it an issue. And when you make it a theological issue, he’ll fight to the death for it. “By grace alone…” but if it’s going to become an issue in the situation with Timothy, then why not? He’s free to do that.

So first his independent apostleship, and again, you can’t argue for the gospel you preach if your apostleship is in question, because they both came at the same time (his gospel and his apostleship). They are intimately related. If you attack one, you attack the other. And so he defends first his independent apostleship in 1:11-2:21.

In the second part, he deals with a defense of the gospel message and the theology of that. And the first argument is one that comes up time and time again that we’ve looked at. In 3:1, the first argument, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as one crucified. Let me ask you one question: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Now notice that he doesn’t say, “Were you baptized by works of the law or through faith?” He doesn’t mention any other aspect of the conversion experience like repentance, confession, or belief. He asks, “Did you receive the Spirit?” That is the one aspect of the conversion process in which God is present and acting. A believer is active in these first three primarily, the church in the baptizing, and God in the giving of the Spirit. And so, when God gives the Spirit, that means he has acted and accepted the individual, and this is the first fruits of the kingdom of God. It’s the proof of salvation. It’s the clear proof that Cornelius had been saved apart from circumcision. It’s the clear proof that the “disciples” at Ephesus had now become believers, because they received the Spirit. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” The Spirit was given you, you were accepted, and now are you going to want to add something to that? “Did you experience so many things in vain that really it is in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” So the first argument is the same argument that we’ve had in Acts 10 and 11 and 15. Cornelius received the Spirit as a Gentile when he believed. When the church in Jerusalem hears that, their conclusion is that God has granted that even Gentiles can repent and believe as Gentiles; not that Gentiles can believe and repent and then be circumcised, because there’s no need for that. Now you have the argument repeated here by Paul.

The second argument involves Abraham. Now why would Paul pick out Abraham? If you’re going to talk about the necessity of circumcision, this first comes into existence as a sign with the covenant made with Abraham. And the issue is, if you want to become part of that covenant God made with Abraham, and become one of Abraham’s children, well then the Judaizers are arguing that you have to be circumcised, because the argument is that you need to be circumcised if you’re going to be part of that covenant. Then Paul takes that argument, and says, “Let’s look and analyze about Abraham.” Abraham “… ‘believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ You see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.”

Now when Abraham is told that he must circumcise his family and those who follow him, that’s in chapter 17 of Genesis. The statement that he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness is found in chapter 15; so he is declared righteous in chapter 15. You can’t have something in chapter 17 as a requirement for something that happened in chapter 15, because chapter 15 is already an accomplished fact. Abraham is justified apart from his circumcision. And he believed God this way and was justified accordingly and therefore this is the principle. He was justified, by the way, as a Gentile. And so the covenant promise made to Israel that requires circumcision is something different, maybe kind of a nationalistic entity and promise. But as far as justification is concerned, look at Abraham. He believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He didn’t have to be circumcised.

Furthermore, let’s go on to the argument about the law (3:10), “All you rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’” If you want to have your case before God based on your doing the law, please be aware that you must do it perfectly. What if you just miss one? The law says, “Thou shalt not ….” And if you “shalted” somewhere, you’re under God’s judgment. The law requires perfect obedience if you’re going to do it that way. And Paul says that actually what the law does is that it reveals that we are sinners (3:11), “It is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” In other words, the Old Testament talks about being justified by faith. The law in the sense of these Judaizers does not rest on faith, because it argues that if you do them, you live by them. And then he says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law,” etc., verse 14 says, “…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Why does he refer to the Spirit here, rather than “…that we might receive eternal life through faith”, or “…that we might have the forgiveness of sins through faith”? Why particularly does he talk about the Spirit, rather than forgiveness, eternal life, or something like that? Notice what he says in the first 5 verses also. Remember the point that the Spirit is the “seal of God upon you”, and the “proof of your salvation”, and you receive this by faith. That’s proof that you don’t need to be circumcised, and so now he brings it back again to that, that the promise God made to Abraham might come upon Gentiles, that we too might receive the Spirit. It’s the guarantee of our salvation through faith. Because here the coming of the Spirit represents the gift of salvation, and here he uses the sign of the spirit because we’ve already been shown that this is God’s doing and in 3:1-5 he has already argued that.

In verses 10-14, therefore, the law seems only to condemn. The argument in verses 15-18 is that you can’t nullify the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15 with the coming of the law which is 400 years later. So if you say that to be saved like Abraham you must keep the law that only comes into existence 400 years later, this doesn’t make sense either. So the giving of the law 400 years later can’t be the absolute requirement for salvation, because Abraham was saved before. Then Paul talks in vv.19-22 as to the purpose of the law. Why is the law here? Well, it was added because of transgressions; in other words, the law came in order to show what sin really was. And in that sense, it doesn’t bring a cure, but it brings a knowledge of the disease. The scripture (v.22) “…consigned all things to sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” The real purpose of the law in the area of salvation is to reveal our sin and to drive us to Christ. The law also gives us a moral guide, and it’s very positive in that way. But if you talk about the law with respect to salvation, when you look at it, you see you’ve failed. And therefore, it’s meant to drive you to grace. The irony is that you can corrupt it and see it as a means not to need grace, when you’re legalist. And Paul says that that’s a complete misunderstanding. If you understand the law, just think for a minute. If you’re happy with the Ten Commandments (I never killed, I never stole, I never committed adultery), well, then, Jesus talks about the law in ways that if you look upon a woman with lust you’ve committed adultery already, and broken the law. How many men do you know who can live up to that? So that, when you really understand the law and its purpose, it drives you to grace. It drives you to recognize your sin. And it was furthermore a temporary measure. It was meant to be in service for us until the time that Christ would come.

The period of the Old Testament is seen as a period of childhood by Paul in 3:23-29, and now that Christ had come, we have come to a period of maturity. It’s a kind of thing like, when you’re raising your children, you set for them times that they must be home and things that they should and should not do. But as they become mature, they have a freedom, hopefully based on the knowledge that they’ve gained through that experience. And now that they are mature they can be free and they don’t have to worry about that. So that, for instance, the whole issue of “clean and unclean” -- we’re not bound that way, but we should have learned the lesson that whatever we do is a religious issue. There’s nothing that we do that doesn’t have religious connotations – what you eat or drink, whatever you do -- it’s to be done for the glory of God. Kosher eating and habits like that would have trained you that way. See, when you eat, that’s a religious matter. It’s not just filling your stomach. The eating process should be also part of the discipline that we have with all things being done for the glory of God. But it’s not a matter of the right pots and silverware and things like this; but having the right heart-attitude so you’re always reminded of that. And so in 23-29, this is the purpose of the law. It was to lead us up to that time when we can mature.

I no longer set times for my married children to come home. They’ve come to a maturity in that way, and they live in freedom this way. And then he goes on and he says (3:27), “For as many as you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” And in the previous verse, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”