Galatians Commentary

Galatians commentary: have you ever wondered why Christians don't live under the laws of Moses? In Galatians, Paul addresses this very issue.

Have you ever wondered why Christians don't live under the laws of Moses? They are part of the Bible, too. In Galatians, Paul addresses this very issue. He teaches why the law is no longer needed and how we are saved by faith. He explains the freedom that Christ has given us by paying our penalty for sin.

Galatians was written by Paul to the churches in southern Galatia around the year 49 A.D. His purpose in writing to them was to refute doctrinal errors that had formed in these churches that he founded. The Galatians were confronted with Judaizers, Jewish Christians who taught that Christians must observe the Old Testament laws and traditions of Moses.

Paul builds his case much like an attorney for the defense. He introduces his case and establishes his authority to address the issues, addresses those in the church who had fallen in with the Judaizers, and summarizes the conflict. He brings into the case his own experience with the Apostle Peter, who at first agreed with the Judaizers. Next, Paul builds the case for salvation through faith in Christ. He teaches why the law was necessary and how it is fulfilled by Christ. On this foundation, he goes on to instruct how Christians should live.

The Introduction and Address: Galatians 1:1-9

Paul begins by stating his authority. He introduces himself as, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)" (Vs. 1) He lets his audience know up front what his purpose is. He is an apostle because he is saved in Christ, not because he was elected to the position by men. He also foreshadows his purpose by telling that he is raised from the dead, alluding to his salvation through Christ.

He chastises the Judaizer sympathizers, marveling at how quickly they have perverted the truths they were taught by him and tells his audience that those who are teaching this false doctrine are cursed. In these early years of the faith, Paul realized the absolute necessity of maintaining the integrity of the doctrine and not allowing it to fall into schisms.

The Conflict Summary: Galatians 1:10-2:19

Paul begins his summary by stating that he intends not to please men with his speech, but to please God. The Judaizer's complaint against him was that he was perverting the Gospel. He certifies that the doctrine he teaches is not a doctrine created by the ideas of man but revealed to him by Christ Jesus. Keep in mind here the astounding conversion experience of Paul. Formerly, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus and was a persecutor of the Church. Then on the road to Damascus, he hears a voice from heaven asking him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4b) Only Christ could transform a man such as Saul who persecuted the early Church, to the man Paul who helped build the Church.

Next he uses Titus as an example of a Gentile Christian who has not been compelled by spiritual conviction to be circumcised or observe Jewish law and tradition to honor Christ. The Judaizers complained that Paul was changing the Gospel they received to satisfy the Gentiles. He then tells his audience that he has been given the authority by Jesus' own disciples, John, James and Peter, as minister to the Gentiles. He reports that these students of the living Christ saw that he was preaching the truth and didn't add a word to or subtract a word from his doctrine.

Paul then describes his confrontation with Peter. Peter at first believed that Gentile Christians would have to convert to Judaism and observe the laws and traditions. Paul presented him with the argument that trying to obtain salvation through works, as in observing the law, destroyed their central message that we are saved by faith through the sacrifice of Jesus. Peter relented and agreed.

The Case For Salvation Through Faith In Christ: Galatians 2:16-3:20

Paul's first argument for his case is powerful. He states clearly that we are saved by faith in Christ and justifies the statement with a point of logic. This point is that if we could be saved by the law (our actions) then Christ's death on the cross was in vain. His logic argument continues when he asks whether they received the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost in Jerusalem as told in Acts) by their works or by their faith.

Next, he attacks his audience with their own patriarch. Abraham is the father of the Jews. Paul tells them that it was not the law that justified Abraham, but his faith. This argument, the Judaizers could not refute because Genesis 15:6 says, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." He builds his argument saying that the true children of Abraham are the children of faith, not of the law. What he means is that those of faith are saved, not those who seek to justify (or make up for) sin by their actions. We cannot atone for our sins by our actions; only our faith in Christ washes them away.

The Purpose Of The Law And How It Is Fulfilled By Christ: Galatians 3:21-4:31

The purpose of the laws and traditions of the Old Testament were to teach us that we are sinful and that none of us can fulfill the law at all times, that none of us are perfect because of sin. Paul calls the law our schoolmaster. Under the law, we were prisoners, completely unable to save ourselves from sin. God wanted people to realize the slaves they were to sin and used the law to show our sinful nature. By doing so, we would then be able to recognize and appreciate the freedom that we are given by faith in Christ Jesus.

Does the New Testament negate the Old Testament? No, it still reveals to us the nature of God and still teaches us how hopeless we were before Christ redeemed us. It's fruitful to think of the Old Testament as a reminder of our lives before we accepted Christ and the New Testament as our reminder of the freedom God has given us. We are given this freedom not because we deserve it but because He loves us and grants us His grace.

Jesus was fully man and lived without sin. He fulfilled the law in His daily living and at His death on the cross, He became the final blood sacrifice that washes away all of our sins. In so doing, He fulfills the promise that God made to Abraham that all his seed would be saved by his faith. We are the adopted heirs of Abraham's blessing by our faith. Under Greek and Roman law, adoptees are 100% entitled to inheritance, just as those naturally born to the family.

Teachings On Christian Living: Galatians 5:1-6:18

Paul proclaims that we are now free from the law, so we are to live as those who are freed. What he is saying is that we are to no longer be slaves to sin. We have Christ as our intercessor and when we take our sins to Him and confess them, we are forgiven. If we continue to try and justify or make up for our sins by behavior rather than through faith in Christ, we are condemned. There is nothing we can do that can free us from sin but accept the gift of Christ's sacrifice for us.

Does this freedom mean that we can go out and do what we want just so long as we confess it? No, it doesn't. When we accept Christ, we invite His Holy Spirit to live in us. We are a new creation. We are to now to walk (live) in the Spirit, meaning we are to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance:" (Galatians 5:22b-23a).

The works of the flesh are the things of our old, dead spirit. They are, "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred,variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings" (Galatians 5:19b-21a). Just as our old self is dead, crucified with Christ, so should those things that made us dead be crucified, our sins. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)

Paul's final teachings are that we are to bear one another's burdens, which is the golden rule or final commandment, to love on another. We are to protect and guard each other from falling into sin. We are to understand that what we sow, we will reap. If we sow sin, we'll reap death. If we sow to the Spirit, we reap everlasting life. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10)

(All Scripture is KJV)

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