(last updated 2/12/18)
Galatia was a region, not a city; it is an area that is part of present-day Turkey. Paul is writing to address false teaching that had already contaminated the young churches in that area. Later there will be a council at Jerusalem where the church leaders will determine that Gentile believers do NOT need to be circumcised, as was being taught by those known as the Judaizers--called in the Bible the false brethren or the false teachers. The name is from a Greek word meaning to live according to Jewish customs; they taught that Christians also had to follow the Jewish law. They didn't deny Christ's death for sins--they just added to it. Paul doesn't refer to the decision of this council so he probably wrote before it took place.
This book is important because there are so many false teachings and false teachers contaminating the church today. We need to be warned, and not be afraid to warn others, as Paul does. Many issues in Paul's day are still issues in the church today. Satan is still using the same old bag of tricks to attack the church.
1-2 Has Paul been appointed an apostle by men? Today many churches claim to have apostles. What is an apostle, according to the Bible? Acts 1:21-22. When did Paul see the risen Lord? Compare Acts 22:12-14 (Paul is told he will SEE Christ) and 22:17-21 when he saw Christ in a vision. He will explain more later in Galatians 1.
Does anyone fit the description of an apostle today? Eph. 2:20, what was the purpose of apostles? How could apostles be recognized or identified? II Cor. 12:12. What does II Cor. 10:8, I Thes. 2:6 and 4:2 tell us about how the apostles functioned in the church? (NASB: authority) Some people mistakenly call themselves apostles simply because they are involved in taking the gospel to new areas. If there are apostles today, wouldn't they be recognized by and known to the entire church rather than just to those groups that claim apostles? Are the messages from these supposed apostles today being added to the Scriptures? Yet many believe in apostles today, and seem blind to the warnings in the New Testament against false apostles.
Charismatics often claim that some today have the spiritual gift of apostleship. Another group we are hearing a lot about today is the NAR--the New Apostolic Reformation. They have been very involved in elections, using their supposed apostolic authority to choose candidates to endorse that they believe will further the cause of the evangelical political right. This group believes the church is to place Christians in leadership roles of every aspect of society, that the church is to take dominion and thus bring in the kingdom of Christ; accomplishing this will result in the second coming. Many solid Bible teachers have compromised their reputations by associating with and approving of these false teachers; some fail to stand for the Bible because they are afraid of appearing judgmental and thereby losing followers and money. Just as in Paul's day, Christians compromise for various reasons. In this book Paul will address the importance of holding firm to the gospel as presented in the Bible, with nothing added or left out.
What is the first thing Paul reminds people about Christ? This is the most important thing. What does the resurrection prove about Jesus Christ? He refers often to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, speaking of each of them as God. Paul is often accompanied by fellow workers and those he is training in the ministry. Sometimes he mentions them by name, but the focus is on Paul's own apostleship. This letter will be circulated to the various churches in the region of Galatia.
3-5 What greeting have we seen Paul use at the beginning of every letter? "Peace" was a Gentile greeting, "grace" was a Jewish greeting. He never says "peace and grace"; can we have peace with God before we experience His grace? How do we experience His grace? John 1:14-17. Besides the resurrection, 1, what other foundational fact does he lay out (beginning of 4)? This event was planned by whom? So what is one part of God's will for us?
How does Paul describe this world or this age? It continues to become more evil all the time; a day is coming when God will permit Satan to have his last stand, for seven years, and God will pour out His wrath on evil. Would you like to be rescued from this evil world? As the song says, "this world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through." Paul may have been speaking of our hope of heaven, or he may have been referring to the fact that he believed Christ's return would be soon--in their lifetime--and that they would be caught up before the day of wrath.
6-7 It's not known exactly when this letter was written, but it might have been one to three years since Paul's visit. "Marvel" could also mean wonder/admire; there might be a tinge of sarcasm in this comment, as Paul often does use sarcasm. They have "deserted" Christ: removed from, changed, exchanged, perverted. What in particular about Christ does he reference in 6? What is grace? God's unmerited favor. What does unmerited mean? If we have done anything to cause us to be more deserving, is it grace?
Paul says that what they have turned to is another gospel, 6, but it is not another, 7. He uses two different Greek words for "another," the first meaning "another of a different kind" and the second meaning "another of the same kind." If the gospel is added to or changed, IS it still the gospel? Some (these Judaizers) were agitating the church by their teaching; they were distorting/turning/corrupting/perverting the gospel. So what was the key element of the gospel that was being changed? Are there subtle, or not-so-subtle, changes in the gospel being preached today? Should we be open-minded and tolerant of different approaches to the Bible message and say, "well, it's probably really not that big a deal, let's not split hairs, it's more important to just get along, to love"? Is it always easy to see what is hair-splitting and what is just plain false? What if the iffy message comes from your favorite pastor, author, teacher, church, Christian friend, etc.? What if a family member has accepted it? Let's see what Paul says our reaction should be.
8-9 Even if some high spiritual authority changes the message, like an apostle, or someone who claims to be an apostle, or what else? What church is based on a different teaching from an angel, even though they use the Bible and call themselves Christians? How many groups say, "The Bible is good but you also need THIS book." Many groups with false teaching use terms such as Christian, born again, God, Jesus, sin, salvation, forgiveness, etc., but they define those differently or hold some false view. Paul says such a person is to be what? The Greek word is "anathema" and could also mean "banned" or "excommunicated" or possibly "dedicated to a false god." Today we use it to mean something we detest. What can we infer from the fact that Paul repeats his warning? Should we criticize Paul here for not being loving? We are to balance love with truth, and truth trumps love. If we do not believe the common truth of the Bible, do we have any basis for love and fellowship with others?
For the rest of this chapter and much of the next, Paul defends his apostleship. As we saw in the letters to the Corinthians, these false teachers are casting doubts on Paul's claim that he is an apostle. True, he was not in the company of the original disciples-turned-apostles. True, he did not accompany Jesus during His three years of earthly ministry. So DID he learn directly from Jesus, and WAS he an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus? These are the requirements to be an apostle.
10-12 Does Paul ever water down his message to be more popular? Is he a flatterer of men? Or as we might say, is he a kiss-up? Obviously not, from what we have read about him. He makes it clear that he answers to only God, regardless of how others may interpret his words or actions. Do we find this attitude in all Christian leaders today? Can we say this about ourselves? Had he learned the gospel of Christ from the other apostles? Did he see Jesus? Does this mean we should assume that revelations are the common experience of believers? God used revelations to reveal the gospel truths to the apostles; there is no evidence that other believers were also receiving revelations of new truth. Today some falsely believe that God is continuing to reveal new truths, beyond what is in the Bible. But we are not to add to the Bible--the Bible closes with a solemn warning, Rev. 22:18. Those who are seeking revelations will find that Satan will gladly deceive them with messages and experiences that appear to be from God.
13-14 Paul sums up his life before he met Christ. Was he wicked because of a lack of religious training? Being overly religious was his downfall. Do we still see people who are unsaved but very religious? Some of them even name the name of Christ; does that make them saved? In II Cor. 11:4, Paul spoke of those who preach "another Jesus." If someone who does not believe the Bible's gospel message claims to believe in Jesus, should we assume we believe in the same Jesus? Or the same God? If someone believes in Jesus but does not believe Jesus is God, or that He was born of a virgin, or that He died to pay for our sins, or that He was bodily resurrected, do they believe in the same Jesus as us? If they believe in a God who does not have a Son named Jesus Christ who is equally God, do we believe in the same God, or do they believe in a false god?
15-17 Did we initiate our own salvation? We don't see the terms "election" or "predestination" here, which are used elsewhere in the New Testament, but what do we learn here about that? Is Paul talking here about his experience on the road to Damascus? He doesn't mention it but he explains here what happened that day. When he finally recognized who Jesus is, that day, what did God give Him to do? His appointment as an apostle was directly from God.
15 says he was called by God; this would not be referring to being called as an apostle, for he mentions numerous times in his letters that believers are those who are called by God, so this would be referring to his salvation. Many believe that today, a pastor must experience some sort of "call" to be a pastor, but the only place the New Testament mentions such a direct call is Acts 13:2 where Barnabas and Saul were the first to be set apart by the Holy Spirit for a new work--they were to be the first missionaries. Some may sense a "calling" to be a pastor or missionary, but biblically, it's a big stretch to say that all who desire to minister must experience a "call." God does not speak in an audible voice today, so experiencing a "call" as something you "sense" is a pretty subjective idea. The Bible teaches that all believers are to be about God's work--God has already "called" all of us in Mat. 28:19-20. Some pastors and missionaries have told of being required to give testimony of "experiencing" a "calling" before being ordained or accepted by a missions organization, even though they knew this was not a biblical teaching or requirement.
Paul again says that he had a direct revelation of Christ--that God revealed Him. Did Paul feel the need to immediately check in with other apostles regarding what he was learning about Christ? In case the other apostle had any doubts about whether Paul was a true apostle and had truly seen the risen Lord, what would become clear to them when they met with him? Would his doctrine differ from theirs? There could be no doubt that he was indeed a true apostle like them.
18-20 It was several years before Paul consulted with the other apostles, who were in Jerusalem, where the church had originally been established (Acts 2). Did Paul immediately start his preaching and missionary ministry? Should new Christians teach or preach? Why? We see years of learning, preparation, and time with the Lord. From 21 we can assume that it was being rumored that Paul got his teaching from the apostles, or that he had spent more time with them than he actually had. James was one of the brothers of the Lord; they had not believed He was truly the Messiah until after His resurrection. Then James became the presiding elder of the Jerusalem church. Heb. 4:15 says Jesus was tempted in every way as we are; growing up, and even as a man, did He have to struggle with family conflict?
21-24 He not only had spent very little time with only a few of the apostles--he wasn't even known in the Jewish churches of Judea. They only knew of him by reputation. How does their response to Paul differ from that of these Galatians? When we see someone who is very evil, or appears very unlikely to ever be saved, is it possible that they will be saved? Might someone who is very active against the truth, if they become saved, then use that same energy for the Lord and His work? Can we know who the elect are, before they are saved? If we can't see God at work in someone's life (whether believer or unbeliever), should we assume that God is NOT working there?
Paul continues the defense of his authoritative teaching as a true apostle and his defense of the true gospel of grace he had previously taught the Galatians. He continues his warning against the false gospel, "another gospel," that they are being taught by the false teachers--the Judaizers. We will see in the second half of this chapter more about what that other gospel is about. These first two chapters are introductory to what he REALLY wants to say which we will see in chapter 3.
1-2 Later Paul went again to Jerusalem, to the headquarters of the church, to meet with the other apostles. Did he go because they had summoned him? He is making it clear to the Galatians that he answers to God only, not to men--he is not operating under the apostles, but as their equal. He is not learning his doctrine from them--he has only seen them twice in his first 14 years as a Christian and an apostle. Because of the contention over the issue of salvation being available to both Jews AND uncircumcised Gentiles, the apostles compare notes, that they are all teaching the same gospel. In case there were any differences of opinion, how did Paul tactfully handle this? Do you think Paul was worried that his teaching might be wrong? But if the false teachers had influenced the Jerusalem apostles, or were being tolerated by them, there was a danger that his work and ministry would be undermined.
3-5 Was Titus a Jew or a Gentile? Was circumcision required for his salvation? Did the Judaizers want him to be circumcised? What two important concepts does Paul contrast in 4? What is the bondage they wanted to impose? What instead is the liberty we have? Perhaps we have been wondering if these Judaizers, these false teachers, are true believers that are mistaken on some issues, or if they are not even true believers. Here Paul calls them false brethren, which could also be translated as pretenders or pretended associates. Is the issue a gray area or a major doctrine? Are we to tolerate all differences of opinion in the church? What may happen if someone stands up against a false teaching? What may happen if no one does? How can we tell major from minor issues? Does Christian love mean we never disagree with other Christians? What does Paul say about this in 5?
We might wonder why Paul refused to have Titus circumcised but in Acts 16:3, he had Timothy circumcised. Notice the different circumstances, therefore the different motive. Was Timothy a Jew or a Gentile, 16:1? He was already Jewish, so this was not about being pressured to become a Jew in order to be saved. Since all Jews were circumcised, and Timothy had not been (apparently because of his Greek father), his not being circumcised would make him unacceptable to the Jews they were trying to reach for Christ. Titus, on the other hand, was Greek, and the issue was: did a Gentile need to become a Jew (keep the Law) in order to be saved? Could only Jews be saved? As we saw in Acts, it was not wrong if a Jewish Christian wanted to voluntarily observe Jewish practices, but they were not REQUIRED for salvation. The fact that Titus was accepted at Jerusalem by the Jewish believers confirmed this.
6 Paul may have considered the other apostles as being of higher reputation than himself; if they were, was he concerned about that? Why? Or perhaps he was referring to the opinion of the Galatian church about which apostles were the most important. They apparently didn't consider Paul to be in the same category as the other apostles. When Paul compared his gospel with that of the other apostles, was he missing anything? They all had received the same truths directly from Jesus. (There are some groups who claim Peter and Paul preached different gospels.)
7-10 He clarifies that he and Peter had different assignments from God, taking the same gospel message to different groups of people. Who was Paul sent to? What is another name for the uncircumcised? Who was Peter sent to? What is another name for the circumcised? How does Paul describe himself in Phil. 3:3-4? And in Acts 22:3? Gamaliel was a high-ranking teacher of the Pharisees, Acts 5:34. So who was Paul especially qualified to reach? Yet who did God send him to? And who did God choose to be the apostle to the Jews, those who were educated in the intricasies of the Law? What was Peter's background, Mat. 4:18? How ironic that Jewish Christians were reached by a saved fisherman, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, and that the Gentiles were reached by an apostle who was willing to set aside his intellectual background and training, and pride, in obedience to the Holy Spirit. What can we learn about how God might use us?
He assures the Galatians that he was fully approved of by who? Cephas is another name for who? Here is where we get the term "pillars of the church"--those leaders who really hold things together. What would the "right hand of fellowship" mean? Today churches still use this term also, for example, when new members are received, and the church is encouraged to shake hands, to recognize and accept the new members. Again we hear of the poor believers in Jerusalem, either due to a famine or perhaps resulting from the earlier decision to sell their lands and possessions and live as a commune. The other churches that Paul visits on his missionary journeys send contributions back to Jerusalem.
11-21 The rest of this chapter deals with an incident that took place between Paul and Cephas regarding the principle of grace Paul deals with in this book.
11 First Paul tells of confronting Cephas. What can we learn from this verse? Did problems ever arise among the leaders in the early church? Were those problems addressed, or was it all OK "in love"? Did Paul respond to Peter's behavior by speaking to others about him, behind his back? How are problems among Christians are usually handled today? As the gospel message is watered down more and more, we see leaders refusing to stand up to other leaders who are erring--for what possible reason? But our biblical example is to go to the erring individual whose behavior condemns him. What happens if no one does this?
12-13 Now Paul backs up and tells what happened before what happened happened. What had Peter done wrong? Remember the vision of the sheet and the unclean animals that Peter had in Acts 10? He was told that God has cleansed them and they are not to be considered unholy. We have also seen in Corinthians that there was dissension in the church over what foods were OK to eat. Paul had said that either choice was OK for a believer as long as they didn't impose their choice on others or judge others who ate differently. Paul and Barnabas began their missionary work to the Gentiles at Antioch, and this church became their headquarters. Here, at least some of the Jews and Gentiles were eating together, in the common meal they shared before the Lord's Supper. Peter came to visit and he also ate with the Gentiles, freely mingling with the Gentiles, and eating Gentile food--not observing the Jewish dietary Law. So did Peter know that this was no longer wrong for a Jewish Christian?
Then some men came from the Jerusalem church (the headquarters of the Jewish church, where James was the leader). What did Peter do then? Why? He suddenly changed his tune about it being OK to eat like a Gentile. He sent a loud and clear message to those Gentiles, by removing himself from their table, that eating with Gentiles was NOT OK, that following the Jewish Law WAS still good and necessary to be a good Christian. Who else decided to follow Peter's example? Why did Paul make an issue of this? Why did he do it publicly instead of going privately to Peter?
Today there are a number of Christian websites that call themselves "discernment ministries." They try to be watchdogs for the church and keep an eye on well-known teachers and leaders for signs of error or apostasy. They document and publicize their findings from that leader's books, sermons and recordings. Some Christians criticize this as judgmental, saying they should not name names, and that they should only take their concerns privately to that individual. But in this passage we find that public behavior or teachings that are unbiblical should be dealt with publicly.
Did Peter have freedom from the Law before these men arrived? Why might he change his behavior when they arrived? What is it called when you act differently around different people? Who would be the party of the circumcision? Those who believed that Gentiles ought to be circumcised to be saved. It's not clear if this event happened after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 when it was decided that Gentile converts were not required to be circumcised or to keep the Law. We don't know who these men were, what they were like, or what they might have said. We don't know if they were Peter's friends, or if he feared them for some reason. There are many possibilities. Perhaps we are not told more specifics so that we can each relate to this temptation to act differently around different people, whether believers or unbelievers.
14 Now Paul speaks again of the confrontation. Paul says they "walked not uprightly" (KJV) or were not "straightforward" (NASB) about the truth. So how were they walking? Sideways? Crooked? Is it OK if someone, especially a leader, twists Scripture a bit, adds something, or ignores a part that he finds inconvenient? Is Paul talking here about gray areas, as he did in Romans 14? What was the biblical issue here? Was the issue food, or biblical truth? Must believers live under the Law?--is legalism (law-keeping) any benefit in the life of the Christian? Paul will discuss legalism--law vs. grace--in the rest of this book. We see that Paul teaches the importance of church discipline, that unbiblical behavior or teaching is not to be tolerated. Can you imagine how the brothers from Jerusalem reacted as they learned about Peter's behavior before their arrival? Can you imagine how Peter felt as they learned this, and as he realized that everyone now knew he was a hypocrite?
Why did Paul say this in the presence of all? Public sins are to be handled publicly; others see and hear, others are influenced by what has been done or said, and the issue needs to be cleared by publicly so all know if the erring brother has repented, and all see that the true biblical position has been upheld. Likewise, private offenses, between two people, should be handled privately, unless the individual refuses to repent, in which case others are brought in, Mat. 18:15-17. This is supported by I Tim. 5:19-20 where Paul speaks of disciplining the leaders of a church--the elders. Paul knew, or had already seen, that even church leaders may be guilty of unbiblical behavior or teaching. What does he caution about in 21? No "favorites" are to be exempt, and no one is to be targeted unfairly. In 22 what does he caution about? Those who ordain others share the responsibility if they ordain someone they shouldn't have. If two or three confirmed an accusation, what was to be done, 20? This is similar to what we just read in II Cor. 13:1, referring back to the sins listed in 12:20-21. This passage doesn't reference leaders in particular, but are leaders exempt from these sins? What are leaders to be like, I Tim. 3:1-12?
Did Paul appear to have anyone else on his side? Did he need that security? Might he have been shaking as he began to speak? Did Paul know how Peter would accept what he said? Was there a chance that Paul would become the "bad guy" in this situation? Was Paul willing to take that chance? Would we? Would we feel that it was more important to just love Peter and everyone and not rock the boat or possibly hurt feelings, or would we be willing to stand for truth, even if it ended up dividing people? Which did Paul believe was more important and more biblical, love or truth? How Christians deal with behavior and beliefs of other Christians, especially in their church or organization, is a major problem today; many prefer to compromise on biblical standards rather than possibly offend someone, or risk losing a friendship, church member (and their tithes), or a business partnership or deal.
15-18 It's not clear if Paul's words to Peter extend clear through 21; the NASB chooses to put all that in quotes. It seems that Paul spoke at least through 17, because of his use of "we." It's possible he editorialized the last few verses, or he could have spoken all this to Peter.
Paul speaks to Peter as a fellow Jew by birth. ("Sinners" was often used synonymously as a Jewish term for "Gentiles.") Yet they both knew that what saved them? Could the Law save anyone? They both knew and agreed on this important basic doctrine. BUT, 17-18, what happens AFTER we are saved? Do we continue in faith or do we revert to the belief that keeping the Law makes us right? What has been destroyed? What is being rebuilt? Putting yourself back under the Law is like going back to being a sinner--someone who is not saved by faith and grace. If, once He saved us, by faith, Christ put us back under the Law to live the Christian life, He would be making us "sinners" again, not people who have been saved by faith.
Peter's refusal to eat with Gentiles is legalism--believing you are more justified by doing or not doing something. And it's even worse because he already had eaten with them, showing that he knew that this eating was not wrong. Acting differently around different people is what, 13? In Paul's example, he says "if I," but is he talking about himself doing this? Who is he really talking about? After the "you" statement in 14, Paul tactfully and graciously, in this public correction, doesn't say "you" anymore but refers to "we" and "I." If we ever need to confront another believer, we need to be as tactful and loving as possible while making our biblical point.
19-21 What is our relationship to the Law? What is Paul saying in 19-20 about dying and living? In what way were we crucified with Christ? Can an unbeliever crucify his old nature? Would he even want to? Can anyone put themselves on a cross? Who put us there? What does that mean for us in our struggle with the old nature? He is talking about the paradox that we died but we still live. Perhaps we could paraphrase the first half of 20 like this: "My old nature was put to death at the cross and was crucified with Christ. Now it is no longer Self that lives and rules in my life, but Christ living His life in my physical body through the power of indwelling Holy Spirit." He explained back in Rom. 6 about reckoning or considering ourselves dead to sin. In Rom. 8 he talked about the two natures--the old man and the new man, the fleshly and the spiritual. He talked about walking according to the flesh or walking according to the Spirit.
Some teach that we need to seek to be crucified to the old man, or that we need to "live the crucified life," but the Bible does not teach this or even use this phrase; Christ did this for us once and for all. The Bible does not even teach that we are to focus on Christ's crucifixion; rather, we are to focus on Christ's what? If anything, we might be living the "resurrected life." We read back in Rom. 6-8 that the key to living the Christian life is the power given by the indwelling Holy Spirit to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. Catholics also focus on the crucifixion, and the crucifix. Rather, the empty cross expresses what we have in Christ--new life, resurrection power.
The rest of 20, and 21, go on to sum up the important doctrine he is discussing. Remember the context: he is warning the Galatians about the false teaching of the Judaizers, "another gospel." What two important words sum up the true gospel message? Our old nature was put in the place of death--the cross--yet we continue to live in our physical bodies. How are we saved? How do we live the Christian life--by measuring ourselves against do's and dont's--by legalism, by Law-keeping? Or the same way we were save--by trusting God's grace (Christ) in us as we walk by faith, reckoning ourselves dead to sin? Is this an easy concept for Christians to grasp, or do we all struggle with what this means and how it plays out every day?
Does James 2:14-26 contradict Paul's teaching? The key is in James 2:22-24. Is James talking about how we get saved? Or is he talking to believers about what our lives should look like if we claim to have saving faith? Works that are pleasing to God should appear; what are they called in Gal. 5:22-23? What does Eph. 2:10 say? Does it say we are saved if we believe Christ AND do the works of the Law? James counteracts the teaching of those who say that if you prayed to receive Christ, yet your life shows no change, it's no problem. Today this issue is referred to as "lordship salvation." It teaches that if you don't make Christ Lord of your life when you are saved, then you are not really saved. Does anyone actually do that when they are first saved? Don't many, if not most, Christians continue to struggle their whole lives with giving more and more of themselves over to Christ as Lord? The Bible does not teach that words of faith save us; heart faith, true saving faith, saves us, and will show itself in our lives. It also teaches us not to judge the salvation others since we can only see some of the other person's behavior, not the thoughts or motives of their heart. What could be an explanation of a Christian who doesn't look to you like a Christian? Are all who look like Christians, truly saved?
As a side note, what does 20 teach about love? Is "love" about warm fuzzy feelings? Is that how God loves us? How did God show that He loved us? So God's love is not about feelings but about what? In the story of the good Samaritan, we saw that love was about making choices, about doing something. We need to distinguish between our human concept of love (warm feelings) and the biblical concept of "agape" love (choices, actions). Too many contemporary Christian songs talk about our warm fuzzy feelings toward God, missing the whole point of real love.
Was Paul's rebuke accepted by Peter? We have no evidence of division; what does Peter write in II Pet. 3:15-16? He puts Paul's writings on the same level as other Scripture. This incident is an example of the teaching in Luke 17:3. What four things happen in what order in that verse? Although it is not specifically recorded, can we know that Peter repented, and that Paul forgave him? Rebuking, repenting and forgiveness are sometimes difficult concepts for us. Let's stop and discuss these topics.
Is Luke talking about believers or unbelievers? What to do when your brother stumbles/sins. Why be on our guard about these things? Is it because our tendency is not to rebuke, not to repent, or not to forgive when they have repented? Believers are commanded to do all three; not to do them is sin. What does it mean to forgive?
The New Testament often tells us to beware, be on guard; when it does, it's usually warning us against deception, by others or by ourselves. It is so easy to be deceived. This is a big problem for the Christian. Can we let down our guard just because we are around Christians? Do you think this might have been a problem among the followers of Jesus, even among the 12, since He was addressing this to them?
Let's look at some Bible examples of people who did not rebuke, repent or forgive when they should have. Gen. 3:11-12, who should have repented? How did he respond instead? Gen. 3:13, who should have repented? How did she respond instead? Gen. 4:4-5, who should have repented? How did he respond instead? Gen. 4:9, who should have repented? How did he respond instead? I Sam. 15:19-21, who should have repented? How did he respond instead? I Sam. 15:22-24, did he repent? Why did he say this now and not in 15:20? Was he convicted of sin, or only upset because of the negative consequences of his behavior? Acts 5:1-10, who should have repented? How did he respond instead? Do you think they wanted to repent but God took their lives before they had a chance? Heb. 12:16-17, did Esau truly want to repent? Was he convicted of sin, or only upset because of the negative consequences of his behavior? Rev. 2:20-22, who should have rebuked but didn't? What did they do instead? Was God pleased with that? Who should have repented? How did they respond instead? I Cor. 5:1-2, who should have rebuked but didn't? How did they respond instead? Mt. 6:14-15, what happens to those who refuse to forgive? Why would this be? A true child of God will have a heart able to forgive. Mt. 18:23-35, read 33-35, who should have forgiven? Why? 26, was the servant forgiven before or after he repented, promised to make an effort to make things right? What happened to him because he refused? 29, was this debtor dealing with his debt (sin)? In other words, was he repentant? So this is an example of someone who has been forgiven by God for his great sin, refusing to forgive someone's small sin, someone who has even repented. So forgiveness is conditional, and may be taken back if it turns out the person who supposedly repented wasn't repentant, didn't change. God doesn't do this because He knows our hearts, but we can't know about others until time has passed. What key words end 35? What about mouthing words that are not from the heart? Would this apply to repentance also? Isn't this what Saul did when he finally "repented"--words only, not from the heart? And did God accept that repentance and restore the kingdom to him?
Now let's look at some Bible examples of people who DID rebuke, repent and forgive when needed. Gal. 2:11-14, who rebuked? How did he respond? It doesn't say, but can we safely assume he repented. Can we assume Paul forgave him? II Cor. 2:3-9, who rebuked? How did he respond? Was he forgiven? II Sam. 12:7, 13. Who rebuked? How did he respond? What were his words? II Sam. 24:10, who repented? What were his words? Do you see why David is referred to as a man after God's own heart, even though he sinned as badly as anyone? Luke 15:18-19, who repented? What were his words? With the prodigal son and the second example of David, was a human needed to rebuke them? How did they come to repent then?
Since this is talking to believers, is this repentance a general repentance, about sin in general, or would it be repenting of a specific sin? Is this talking about every little sin? The Bible tells us the kinds of sins that are to be dealt with in this way. I Cor. 5:9-11, I Thes. 5:14, II Thes. 3:6, 14-15, I Tim. 5:20, Tit. 1:9, 3:10.
So in Luke 17:3-4, what is the biblical order? Does God forgive us before we repent? Are we to be more forgiving than God? Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13. "Just as." Is asking for forgiveness the same thing as repenting? So what is repentance? What do you do, what do you say? It's about actions, change in behavior. Luke 3:8, Acts 26:30.
Looking up the definition of the word "rebuke" may clear up some problems. In Webster, it means "to sharply criticize," which we don't want to do, but in Strong's, alternate meanings are "admonish, convict, convince, reprove." Other passages on rebuking: Prov. 9:8 (why is this?), 13:1, 27:5-6, Eccl. 7:5, II Tim. 4:2 (how?), Heb. 12:5 (how does He?), Rev. 3:19.
What should we do if the one who has sinned does NOT repent? Is forgiveness required when the person who has sinned does not recognize or admit their sin? What can you forgive that person of, since they do not admit a particular sin? If an unrepentant sinning believer demands forgiveness, and it is given, what has that now done to the situation? Is it actually better, or might it be worse? By leading that person to falsely think they are OK, don't need to repent, you are then guilty of causing him to sin, stumble. What about verses that speak only of forgiveness and don't mention repentance? What if two believers have different concepts of what is sin? Luke 17:3 says "sins against you." What if a believer is known to be guilty of immorality, but it is not a sin against you? Do you mind your own business? This is covered in I Cor. 5; it is a church matter. Some matters are to be dealt with by the church, where matters between two individuals would be dealt with privately, at least at first (Mt. 18).
Can we choose not to harbor anger, bitterness or resentment against an unrepentant person who has sinned? Those feelings will only hurt us and allow that person to continually control our lives. Giving up bitterness is hard, but will give you freedom. What is the danger of an unforgiving spirit? What does Mt. 6:12 mean? If someone has sinned against you, repented, and you still have trouble forgiving, compare how much you have been offended to how much God has been offended, and yet forgives when that person repents.
Before going to your brother, consider all the passages on this subject, such as speaking the truth in love, first removing the log from your own eye, etc. Never take one verse and run with it because it says what you want it to say. Does the Bible say to "forgive and forget"? Is this humanly possible? Does God forget our sins, or choose not to remember them? What if we doubt the sincerity of the person's repentance? We are not to judge that, but over time we can observe whether change takes place (repent means change, going the other direction); Mt. 7:16 says we will know people by their fruits. Also, the parable of the unforgiving steward, and the sorcerer in Acts 8:22. Luke 3:8, repentance is evidenced by what?
This passage teaches rebuke, repent and forgive, in that order. Is failing to rebuke is just as much a sin as failing to repent or failing to forgive once repentance takes place? Are refusing to do these three things, or doing them in an unbiblical way, manifestations of SELF? SELF reveals itself as much by what we don't do as by the wrong things we do. SELF is very deceptive; we sometimes prefer to be deceived rather than to have to deal with uncomfortable things. Christians are good at using spiritual-sounding excuses to rationalize, like Saul did to Samuel.
Back to Galatians...Besides contrasting the true gospel of grace with the Judaizers' gospel of grace plus works, Paul is proving to the Galatians that he has equal authority with the other apostles. Remember that the Galatians (and the Corinthians) had doubts about his apostleship. Was there a division in the church over this doctrine, or between the apostles? They all held to this important doctrine of grace and faith.
Do strong Christians ever fall on their faces? Even publicly? Are we told that Peter answered back, defending or justifying his behavior, making a big deal about being offended? What does that tell us about Peter? Christians should be humble enough, and sensitive to the Spirit's convicting, that we can recognize our sin and repent, evenly publicly if need be. How do you suppose the others, 13, felt and responded to Paul's correction and Peter's repentance? Do you see why leaders are held to a higher standard? Leading others astray is serious business. What do you suppose things were like in this church following this event?
Catholics believe Peter was the first pope, but was his behavior and faith infallible? Do we see Peter acting as the highest authority in the church? Throughout the New Testament, we see all the apostles as equals, together dealing with issues that come up in the church. There is no biblical basis for Peter as the first pope, or for any pope at all.
1 The Galatians had not seen Jesus, but the truths about Him had been announced to them and taught to them. What is Paul's tone here? Why so strong? The Galatians were known for being very intellectual; does human intelligence always lead to spiritual understanding? So do you need to be really smart to "get" the Bible? They are fools; they are bewitched--by whom? The Judaizers, the false teachers. Chapter breaks were added later by editors; is there any break in thought between chapters 2 and 3? What fact about Jesus should settle this issue? Why?
2-5 In 2, could we say that "receive the Spirit" means salvation? We are saved by what, not by what? What is Paul's logical point in 3? We are saved by faith; then God begins the work of sanctification in our lives--perfecting us, maturing us. Does this process happen through the keeping of the Law, or of legalistic works or conditions (which are taught by many Christians and churches)? Is this misunderstanding still a problem in the church today? Do most Christians struggle with do's and don'ts and their place in the Christian life? Paul will address this issue in the rest of this chapter.
They suffered persecution from the Jews for the gospel; if they were saved by the Law, then why would the Jews have persecuted them? God gave the to Christians the Holy Spirit who indwells us with power; He gave them authenticating signs and wonders as supernatural manifestations of the Spirit (or perhaps it's referring to the miraculous changes in their lives by the Holy Spirit). Did God do this through the works of the Law, or through faith? Had these Gentile converts in Galatia even heard of the Law before they were saved? Probably not. So what is Paul's concern in these five verses that causes him to call them "foolish" and "bewitched"?
6-9 In explaining the important doctrinal relationship between the Law and faith for the New Testament believer, Paul takes us back to Abraham. Here is an excellent example of why Christians need to read and study the entire Bible, not just the New Testament. Abraham is a key figure in both the Old and New Testaments. He is referred to often throughout the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles. Without an understanding of the promises made to Abraham in Genesis and the fulfillment of them throughout the rest of the Old Testament, this chapter will be hard to understand.
Paul quotes Gen. 15:6. What can we assume from the fact that this verse is found five times throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments? What two synonymous words are found in each of these verses? What do they do for us? Paul is emphasizing this because the false teachers (the Judaizers) were teaching what? The Jews thought THEY were the sons of Abraham, but what does Paul say? How did God preach the gospel to Abraham? By telling him that he was righteous because of his faith, and by telling him that through him (through faith) all nations could receive the blessing--salvation. Some teach that in the Old Testament, they were saved by works; were they? Salvation is by faith, and always has been--not by works. Was the salvation of the Gentiles an afterthought in God's plan? How do we know that? (Review the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen. 12:1-3.)
10-14 If these Christians were trying to keep the Law (to be "good enough"), how much of the Law did they need to keep, 10? Can anyone do that? Wasn't that the point of the Law, to prove to us that no one can be saved by being "good enough"? Can the Law justify us before God? The Law leads us to who? He is the only one who could keep ALL the Law. What is in store for any who fail to keep ALL the Law? Think of our laws today; is there a reward for those who don't break any laws? What happens if you break one law? So if someone tells you they are just living by the 10 Commandments, ask them if they have ever broken just one, one time. If they have, they are out of luck--they are a sinner. Actually, aren't we sinners even before we break any laws? Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?
Can a Christian become more pleasing to God by keeping laws/rules? Rather, we are saved, and we live the Christian life, by what? Can we do both, 12? Faith that what, 13? (13, the Greek word for tree is also used for wood/timber.) What happens when we put our faith in Christ Jesus--in who He is and in what He did, 14? The Holy Spirit was not given to Old Testament believers--under the old covenant, they were to keep the Law as their rule of life, as an external guide. Under the new covenant, we are no longer required to keep the Law, and our rule of life is an internal guide, to live by the power we receive from who, 14?
15-16 Paul just spoke in 14 of the blessing of Abraham--the promises that God made to Abraham--that would come to the Gentiles. Covenant = legal agreement, contract, promise. He compares it to a human legal agreement--in what way? Then he clarifies in 16 that the promise refers specifically to Christ. Remember as we studied through the Old Testament that we were always following the line that was prophesied to lead to Christ.
Paul's example of seed and seeds in 16 has always bothered me grammatically. However, a little research settles the matter; it has to do with the language of the original manuscripts, and Paul is making a play on words. If you're interested, a short explanation can be found at http://goddidntsaythat.com/2009/10/22/q-and-a-on-counting-seeds-and-descendants/. A more detailed one can be found at http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/q_abrahams_seed.htm.
17-18 Which came first, the Law, or God's covenant with Abraham? What was Paul's concern in 1-5? What is his point in 6-18? (the case he has been building since 6) He supports his point with Scripture (at that time, Scripture = the Old Testament). So Paul is contrasting two covenants--the covenant of grace and the covenant of Law. He will explain more about this in the next chapter.
19-20 He goes on to ask a rhetorical question, a question he thinks the Galatians may ask. If God gave the promises to Abraham, why did He later give the Law? God used angels as mediators to deliver the Law to Moses, the mediator. The Law was given additionally (not to replace the promise) for the sake of defining what? It was to be in effect "until" when? So was it meant to be permanent or temporary? 20, is a mediator necessary if there is only one party involved? When God gave the promises to Abraham, he was asleep, not an active partner in the covenant. Read Genesis 15. God made the covenant all by himself. So which was superior--God dealing directly with man, or God dealing with man through mediators? The promise is superior to the Law that was added later.
21-22 Paul asks another rhetorical question, helping his readers follow his scriptural line of reasoning. Is the Law able to impart life? So is our righteousness based on the Law--on what we DO, on good deeds, on keeping rules and regulations? God's Word--the Scripture, the Law--has securely closed us up on all sides with no means of escape. What is the only answer God provided? What is the only thing we have to DO to receive righteousness?
23-26 Before faith came: when did that happen? So before that, man was under what? When would this be revealed? Here we see the dispensation of Law, followed by the dispensation of grace; dispensations are merely periods of time in which God was dealing with man in a particular manner. What was the purpose of the Law? In Roman culture, a tutor was a schoolmaster, instructor, guardian and disciplinarian for the children until they came of age. Would they need the tutor after that time? The Law acts as our tutor by showing us what? We are now sons that have come of age.
27 The son who came of age then wore a new wardrobe, to signify that he was no longer a child. What are we given to wear when we leave behind our tutor, the Law, and receive righteousness by exercising faith in Christ? Paul often uses the metaphor of putting on Christ as a garment. He has repeated and emphasized "faith" in 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. When we put our faith in Christ--when we are saved--several things happen: we receive righteousness, 21, we are justified, 24, we become sons of God, 26, we are baptized into Christ, 27. This would be referring to the baptism of the Spirit, I Cor. 12:13, not water baptism, which is only an outward testimony of identifying with Christ. (Some mistakenly teach that after we are saved, we must later seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so some have it and some don't.)
28 Is Paul saying that these physical distinctions no longer exist? Obviously not. So what is he saying? We are all equally saved, because we are saved by faith, not by the Law. Does the saved Jew have any spiritual advantage over the saved Gentile? Does the saved free man have any spiritual advantage over the saved slave? Does the saved man have any spiritual advantage over the saved woman? Did these distinctions exist in their society? Were they to exist in the church? So why does Paul emphasize "all" in 26, 27, and 28?
29 Jews believed they were special because the twelve tribes were descended from Abraham. Their law-keeping was important because they thought they could be saved by keeping it, which Paul has just disproved. Is Paul talking here about physical descendants or spiritual descendants? So are we Abraham's descendants? Going back to the case he built earlier in this chapter, that the promise of righteousness through faith came BEFORE the Law, all those who are saved by faith in Christ are spiritual descendants of Abraham. This is the same point Paul made to the Romans in Rom. 9: 6-8 and 25-33.
Some teach, based on this verse, that the church is now "spiritual Israel" (a term not found in the Bible) and has now replaced Israel in God's plan. Therefore, all the Old Testament promises to Israel are now applied to the church. (They don't seem to claim the curses which were the penalty for disobedience.) This view is known as Reformed or Covenant Theology. They teach that in 28, Paul just said that there is no longer any such things as Jews. But if that is true, then Paul also just said that there is no such thing as a man or a woman--obviously false. Paul is speaking of our standing as saved individuals and how we were saved. Paul DID just refer to Jews, and he made it clear in Rom. 9-11 that God has NOT rejected Israel nor is He finished with them. The promises He made to them will be fulfilled, or else God is a liar, and we can't trust Him at all.
In some churches today, are there still issues about rules and regulations? Do some churches teach that we ought to, or must, keep some or all of the Law? Are other rules added in some churches that are not found in the Bible? Haven't most of us struggled at some time with the role of "works" in the Christian life? How can this chapter help us put all that in perspective?
1-3 Paul continues to use the illustration of the child, under the care of tutors and guardians. But now he refers to the child as a what? Has he actually received his inheritance yet? His life doesn't differ much from that of a slave; he is subject to rules that regulate everything in his life. When will this change? He applies the illustration to children of God. He speaks in the past tense--what time period is he talking about? What were the elementary teachings and principles that kept them in bondage?
4-5 When did things change? What happened to change this situation? Why does Paul say Jesus was born of a woman, not a woman and a man? How might this relate to Gen. 3:15? When Jesus was born, was the tutor/guardian still in effect? Was He subject to it? He was born as a man so that He might redeem men; He was born under the Law so that He might what? Under the Law, God's children were being prepared by the Law, their tutor, to come of age spiritually. When the child became of age, he received the formal adoption by the father; he was now the heir who had come of age. So are believers still under the Law? As Paul pointed out in 3:24, the Law was our what, to do what?
6-7 Instead of rules, what has our Father given us in the new way He has given us to relate to Him? All Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We now have such intimacy with our Father that we can actually call Him "Daddy." So is the believer still subject to the rules and regulations that defined life before Christ? As heirs, does this mean we get "stuff"?
8-11 These Galatians were Gentiles; had they been living under the Law before they came to Christ? What were they enslaved to instead? What does Paul say about these gods? So why had Paul just explained to them about the role of the Law? Who had been coming to the Galatian churches and adding to the gospel that Paul had preached? What were they adding to the gospel message? What did they have the Galatians doing now, 10? We saw in Acts that Paul himself observed some Jewish feast days, and did not teach that it was wrong for Jewish believers to observe them. BUT, was it necessary to keep feasts and the Sabbath in order to be saved, or to please God once you were saved? Paul said this matter of correct doctrine was so important that, if they didn't get this, his work there had been in vain--of no effect. Such a view of salvation was no salvation at all, because salvation is by grace, not by works. Don't some churches today teach that Christians must do certain things, or not do certain things? Will doing those things make you more spiritual? Why does doing something for God appeal to the flesh?
12-16 In what way does Paul want them to be like him? Look at the context; what has he been discussing? Had he once been where they are now? Paul is very concerned about their rejection of his teaching; has he taken it as a personal slap in the face? He compares their present attitude toward him with their original attitude. Apparently, when he first came to them, he had some sort of serious physical problem, that might even have been odious to them, but instead, they accepted him in great love and received his message as from God. Some believe 15 is evidence that Paul had an eye problem, and there are a few other verses that might also hint at this--we don't know. But what falsehood has been told them by the Judaizers, 16? When Christians get off the track and someone stands up against that and FOR the truth of God's Word, is it always well received? Might that person even be treated as an enemy--as divisive, unloving, intolerant within the church? Today much of the church is accepting a watering-down of the truth, and those who speak out against this trend often pay a price.
17-20 Why do the false teachers seek followers? Whose interests do they have in mind? Paul, on the other hand, has their best interests at heart, not a personal agenda. Paul's work there was not only to bring about their salvation, but that what would happen in their lives, 19? Rom. 8:29. He'd like to not have to talk to them like this, but he has his doubts as to whether they truly understand the truths of both salvation and sanctification. Today many Christians think that the way to grow the church and to have unity is to downplay doctrine (Bible truth) and to make everyone feel loved and accepted. Is this Paul's approach?
21-26 Paul makes an analogy to the Old Testament story of Abraham--he takes them back again to the foundational truths God gave through Abraham. What are the two covenants (that he referred to earlier, in 3:15-17)? Who are the two women? How is each described here? Who are the two sons? What do they picture? What happened at Mt. Sinai? Those under the Law are what? What are the two Jerusalems? The other Jerusalem is the future home of the church, Heb. 12:22, Rev. 3:12, 21:2,10.
27-31 Paul quotes from Is. 54:1 which likens Israel to a barren woman. Then he likens the barren woman to Sarah. Through the promise of faith, her children are many--God promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations (not just Israel). We who are saved and sanctified by faith are among those "children." 28-29 contrast the child born according to faith with the child born according to the flesh: Isaac and Ishmael. The legalists (those Christians who would add law to faith) do what to those who believe in faith alone? Should both types of thinking be allowed and tolerated in the church, 30? Paul has proved from the Old Testament that God's principles have not changed, that faith alone is superior (and has always been) to faith plus works. We are no longer under the covenant of the Law; that was temporary, and was given for the purpose of showing man his need for Christ. Faith plus works is not a teaching that is to be accepted in the church.
We see that God did not tell Abraham of the future church, and the conflict between Law and grace. But we are told clearly that God designed that symbolism into Abraham's historical circumstance, and that by studying the life of Abraham, we learn lessons to apply to the church. We see God's foreknowledge at work, just as an author foreshadows something that he plans to bring about later in the book: the light comes on in the reader's mind and he recognizes that even though he didn't see it at the time, now he sees how that pointed to or paved the way for something that would happen later. The Bible is full of such proof of God's sovereignty and authorship, since the 40 different human authors, writing over a period of 1500 years, couldn't possibly have engineered such a book.
Is this issue still a problem in the church? There are many versions of legalism today. Some churches add rules to regulate how Christians should dress, speak, what entertainment is acceptable, etc. Some teach that salvation equals faith plus church membership, baptism, etc. Some teach that if every aspect of your life is not totally and obediently yielded to Christ, you are not really saved (Lordship Salvation)--if this is true, no one is saved. Some teach that only the "worthy" Christians (those who are doing a very good job of living for the Lord) will be taken in the rapture--yet no biblical basis is given for where the cut-off line might be, and how we can know if we are good enough. If only worthy Christians are raptured, probably none will make it; our only worthiness is found in Christ, therefore all Christians are worthy. All these beliefs are forms of legalism. Besides these, don't we all struggle with our own concerns of whether or not we are being "good enough"? All these questions are answered here in Galatians. Righteousness is through faith alone--not faith in our own righteousness, but faith in whose?
1-4 Paul continues with the subject of this book, which is what? He again uses what familiar analogy from their society? Who was trying to make them become slaves again? Is it sometimes hard for us to stand firm against the temptation or pressure to engage in legalism? If they as Christians become circumcised, they are obligated to do what? How much of the Law? Does he say in 4 that they would then lose their salvation? Some would say yes, but surely if such a drastic thing could happen, Paul would clearly state it. Severed from Christ: our fellowship with Him would be severed, and what He did on the cross would be rendered useless to us if we were still living under the Law. Fallen from grace: grace would become inefficient for us if we are attempting to keep all the Law.
In Acts Paul had Timothy circumcised, but for a different reason. The Jews to whom he wished to minister would have made an issue of his lack of circumcision, and this would make it a non-issue. Timothy was not circumcised to make him a Christian, nor did he trust in it for his righteousness. What was the motive of the Galatians, 4? Might the same act be either sin or not sin, depending on your motive? Should we as Christians try to please God by self-effort? Wouldn't that make us like unbelievers, trying to be good enough? Could we ever be good enough?
5-9 In comparing law vs. grace, works vs. faith, how do we achieve righteousness, 5-6? False teachers are telling the Galatians that along with faith, they ALSO need the works of the Law--circumcision. In 7 he uses the example of running a race; is the Christian life a sprint or a marathon? In this race someone has cut them off, so to speak. He equates running well with what other phrase? Are these teachers true or false, 8? What does leaven often symbolize in the Bible? Compare Mat. 16:6-12, 13:33, I Cor. 5:6-8. How is sin like yeast?
10-12 Sometimes Paul lowers the boom, but sometimes he uses positive psychology. How is 10 a warning to those who teach and preach? According to 11, are the false teachers merely preaching the adding of circumcision to faith, or are they saying this is what PAUL teaches? If Paul WAS teaching this, would the Jews be persecuting him for preaching a message contrary to the Law? Why does he call "faith alone" a stumbling block? 12 is a little obscure: he may be making a play on words, since circumcision is the cutting of the foreskin--perhaps he is wishing they would cut themselves off from the Galatians. Some commentators think it is a reference to a procedure by which they could uncircumcise themselves, or that he is referring to making themselves eunuchs like the pagans did.
13-15 Now Paul addresses what problem in the Galatian church? If we don't have to obey the Law, does that mean we can do whatever Self pleases? Or do we still do right, even though it is not the Law forcing us to? Why should we want to do right? So how does he say the Christian should live? What was going on in this church, 15? Does this ever happen today in churches? Are Christians required to like everyone? Is love the same as like? In Luke 10:27-29 Jesus speaks of loving your neighbor, explaining what that means in 30-37. Did the good Samaritan like the guy he helped? Does this parable teach we are to like people, or to do good to those around us? The Bible definition of love is not quite the same as ours.
16-18 Why would the flesh choose to be under Law rather than be led by the Spirit? How do we keep from giving in to the flesh? We saw back in Rom. 7 that we often do what we don't want to do, because of our two natures. We found the answer to this dilemma in Rom. 8:4-14. Here Paul is teaching the Galatians the same truths. When someone tries to lead you, can you resist, or do you always cooperate, willingly? A horse that is "broke to lead" will willingly follow you when you pick up the rope and start walking, but a horse that is "broke to drag" follows reluctantly, pulling back against the lead rope; are we broke to lead, or broke to drag?
19-21 In the last section of this chapter, Paul contrasts the what, 19, with the what, 22? Deeds/acts/works vs. fruit, flesh vs. the Spirit. Can a tree make fruit grow? Fruit is not of our doing; Paul contrasts it with works. Are all works bad? Compare John 6:28-29 and 9:4, I Tim. 2:10 and 6:18, James 2:22 and 26.
Some of the terminology in this list is unclear so to get a better picture, I will give each term in both KJV/NASB.
wrath/outbursts of anger
such like/things like this
Does a Christian who commits one of these sins lose his salvation, 21? Some say yes. But the Bible does not teach that we can lose our salvation--nothing can separate us from the love of God, Rom. 8:38-39. Our works did not save us--our works do not keep us saved. Otherwise none would be saved. We cannot lose our salvation and then be saved again, as some teach; Heb. 10:18 makes it clear that Christ died for our sins once for all time, and that even if it were possible to repent a second time (which it's not), it would be like crucifying Him again.
The word "do" in 21, KJV, is "practice" in NASB, and Strong's Concordance shows it as "perform repeatedly and habitually." The person whose life is characterized by these things is probably not a Christian; if they think they are, they need to read II Cor. 13:5. Does going to church make you a Christian? Does repeating words of a prayer make you a Christian if you did not also truly exercise saving faith at the time, or if you did not understand who Jesus is, or that you are a sinner in need of repentance? Do you think there are many people who think they are saved but are not? Caution: we are not called to judge who is truly saved or not. We also know the story of the prodigal son; according to this story, he was always a son, but for a while, he didn't look like one--he was living like a pig. Will a true son stay in the pigpen? Some stay longer than others.
22-26 Where does this fruit come from? The church--all true believers--have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Do you think these qualities appear instantly or mature over time? Longsuffering = patience, temperance = self-control. It may seem odd that Paul says these things aren't against the law, but remember he has been speaking to them about not living by the Law. What did he just say in 16?
Many Christians teach that we need to continually crucify the flesh. Does 24 say this? Past tense, "we have crucified the flesh." How does Paul explain it in Gal. 2:20? Past tense, "I have been"--now I LIVE by faith. Compare Rom. 6:6 and Gal. 6:14. We are not to put ourselves or Christ back on the cross; we are not to deal with Self by human effort, but how, 16 and 25? We are not saved by human effort--we live (have salvation) how, 25? Likewise, we do not walk through the Christian life by human effort, but how? This is the message of this book. If we could live the Christian life by our own efforts, we would be proud, and do the things Paul mentions in 26.
1 To clarify these next few verses, we need to look at some words in both the KJV/NASB as well as the original Greek. And of course the context will help us--look back at 5:16-26. Paul has been talking about walking by the flesh and by the Spirit, and has given examples of what each looks like. Is being overtaken/caught in a fault/trespass the same as practicing the things of 5:19-21? Does "you who are spiritual" mean Christians who think they are a notch above other Christians, or does it refer to those described in 5:22-24? Do you think to "restore such a one in the spirit of meekness/gentleness" is talking about church discipline, as in I Cor. 5:11? Is it talking about action by those in leadership, or is it talking about each believer being responsible to lovingly help each other as we try to walk by the Spirit? The Greek pronoun "thou/you" in the next phrase is in the singular, not the plural. How do you see this working out in practical application? Why does Paul add the warning at the end of the verse, about considering/looking to your own self?
2-5 There appears to be a contradiction between 2 and 5, but as we look at the Greek, it will be resolved. We are to bear/lift/carry/take up one another's "burdens" (Gr. "baros": weight, load). How does 6:2 relate to 6:1? What two commandments did Christ give us as the Law in a nutshell? Mat. 22:37-40. How does bearing each other's burden fulfill this? "For" in 3 must relate to 1-2. Taking 3 by itself certainly makes sense, but how do you see it connecting these three verses? Is it really possible to be deceived by your own self? Would that Self be the old man or the new man? Compare Rom. 6,7,8, Col. 3:9-10. What do we see about Paul's self-image in II Cor. 12:7 and 11? Psychologists tell us we need more self-esteem; what does the Bible say, Rom. 12:3,16?
"But," 4, tells us we can protect ourselves from such deception, how? We are to examine or analyze our own works, for what purpose? If we believe our own works are pleasing to God, is it OK to rejoice about that within our own selves? If we rejoice publicly, it will sound like we are doing what instead? Verse 5 begins with the same idea as 2, to "bear." But it uses a different Greek word for "burden" (KJV) or "load" (NASB). "Phortion" means a task, service--the idea of doing our own work, our own job, apparently for the Lord. So how does that differ from the idea in 2? So we see that sometimes our lack of understanding of Scripture has to do with differences in languages--the English word "burden" can have more than one meaning. This is one reason why pastors are usually trained in the original Bible languages--Hebrew and Greek.
6-10 The topic here is sowing and reaping. Some see this as a teaching on finances in the church. If so, do we find tithing in 6--is the New Testament believer told to give 10% to the church? Is money even mentioned? Might money be included here? If so, what principle of giving, instead of legalistic tithing, do we find? Tithing is not taught to the church; tithing is about keeping the Old Testament Law. What has Paul been saying about the Law throughout the book of Galatians? Do we find the concept here that we are to pay those who teach us? This may not necessarily refer to a paid pastor; it may refer to that person mentioned in 6:1. "Share all good things" could be talking about the restored believer now sharing in the good conduct, 5:21-23, that should characterize believers.
7 is another verse that could be taken out of context and still make sense, because this principle is found many times throughout both the Old and New Testaments, and applied to unbelievers as well as believers. In the context of 6-11, what is it saying? How are these verses connected to the verses just before them? How does 8 take us back to 5:17-25? How does 9 relate back to 3-5, and 5:21-23?
Can we sow to the flesh and expect to reap blessings? Sowing to the Spirit = walking by the Spirit = being led by the Spirit. 9 may be speaking of grow weary of trying to do good. Or it may be speaking of the weariness that comes from giving in to the flesh as we strive to walk by the Spirit--don't we all know that feeling? When will we reap--immediately? 10 sums up this section: what is God's will for us--to be totally engrossed in our own selves, or to be involved with helping fellow believers on this journey? Isn't this another way of stating the commandment of Christ mentioned in 2?
11-18 Paul's closing remarks. Apparently Paul uses a secretary to write the letters he dictates, but here he writes in his own hand, perhaps to prove that this letter is indeed from him, not from a false apostle. His writing with large letters is one of several reasons that some believe Paul may have had eye problems or bad vision. Or he could be doing that to emphasize his closing points.
He closes be reiterating his important points about circumcision and the Law. Now when he says "in the flesh," 12, we know he is not just speaking about the physical act of circumcision, but what else that he just taught them? Do these false teachers actually keep the whole Law? So WHY are they teaching that the Gentile believers must be circumcised? What does Paul say is the only important thing? Because of this, we have died to the world; does 14 say we need to crucify self? Many mistakenly teach this. This death has already taken place, and because of this, we are what, 15? All this Jewish-vs.-Gentile stuff is neither here nor there.
In 16 Paul seems to be using the phrase "the Israel of God" to refer to all true believers, be they Jewish or Gentile. (Some think he is speaking of true believers within Israel.) He has been saying all through this book that there is no distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. He has talked about the seed of Abraham being those who come to God by faith rather than by the works of the Law. Some see "the Israel of God" as meaning that the church is now Israel, that Israel is out of the picture and all unfulfilled prophecy, as well as the blessings promised to Israel, are now to the church (interestingly, the curses are never mentioned as now for the church). Paul does NOT teach this; in Romans 9-11 he made it very clear that Israel is still in God's plan, and that although now God is dealing with the church, He will at some future time fulfill all the promises He made to Israel through the prophets.
In 17, Paul is not saying, "don't anybody bug me anymore." Rather, he is saying that the question of his apostleship is settled, and he has marks on his body to prove it. How did he get those marks? Why do we brand cattle and horses? The physical mark of circumcision was the sign of being Jewish. Have the false prophets endured any persecution for Jesus Christ? Why not? Because they have compromised the truth of the gospel that is so hard for man to accept: that we are saved by faith alone apart from works of the Law. What they are preaching is not odious to the Jewish leaders, so they are not being persecuted. Grace refers to what we have in Christ Jesus: God's free gift of salvation. He opens and closes his letter with the fact of grace--salvation--through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Copyright 2012 Jan Young
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