THE LETTER OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY
St Peter by Pier Francesco Mola
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
All scripture quotations in this publication are from the holy Bible, New International Version, except where noted (published by Zondervan Corporation, copyright, 1985).
Copyright © 2011 Jim Gerrish
Galatians is closely related to the epistles of Romans and Hebrews, since some of the same themes are found in all three books. Particularly the theme of “liberty” is predominant in this epistle. Commentators have thus referred to Galatians as the “Bill of Rights of the Christian Life,” the “Magna Carta of Christian Liberty,” and the “Emancipation Proclamation” that frees us Christians from all legalism and bondage. 1 Martin Luther, the great reformer who set millions free from the bondages of religion said of this book, “the little book of Galatians is my letter; I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife.” 2
We might ask “who were the Galatians anyway?” History tells us that they were a branch of the Celts who moved from Central Europe and invaded Anatolia or Asia Minor around 270 BC. In Latin, this group was called Gallus, possibly referring to their characteristics of power, strength, boldness and ferocity. It is from this name that we get “Galatians.” Both the Greeks and Romans respected their military skills and they were often hired as mercenaries for the many battles of that era.
The Gauls or Galatians settled originally in the north-central area of Asia Minor. They were defeated by Rome in 189 BC. Yet they later supported Rome in the Mithridatic Wars, after which they were set free. In a later settlement (64 BC) Galatia became a client-state of Rome. 3 Soon afterward, the Romans added several colonies to Galatia and made the whole area into a larger Roman province. This province included several cities of the south with such names as Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. These were the cities that Paul and Barnabas visited on their First Missionary Journey (c. AD 46-47).
There continues to this day to be some debate among scholars as to the identity of the people who received the epistle of Galatians. Until the modern era many thought that the epistle was surely sent to the Galatians in the original northern area of settlement. The cities in the north would have been Pessinus, Ancyra and Tavium. However, scholars in recent times are pretty much agreed that Galatians was written to the southern churches in the province of Galatia, the very churches Paul and Barnabas visited. 4
Since Galatians was probably written to the southern churches and not the northern ones, the date of the epistle may be very early, soon after the First Missionary Journey. Depending upon the actual dating of Galatians it is entirely possible that this was Paul’s earliest epistle. 5 If so, that would make it one of the earliest books in the New Testament. The jury is still out on the exact dating so we will have to wait on an answer from
The jury is not out on the content of this little book. There is not another like it in the New Testament. It is a book we need to go back and reread quite often. Galatians will help us stay free from the bondages of legalism that seem to stick to the church just as barnacles stick to a ship.
APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: Galatians 1:1-2
Paul does not begin the Book of Galatians like he would later begin his other epistles. It became Paul’s custom to begin his epistles with a prescript and then a warm greeting, which usually paid compliments to his hearers. In this epistle there is no warm greeting and he breaks from his usual pattern of compliments to immediately express his astonishment and disappointment with the Galatians. We can tell, even by a casual reading, that something is radically wrong in these churches. 1
From his first statement to the Galatians Paul seems intent upon establishing his apostleship. It appears that those who were troubling these churches had challenged Paul’s authority in applying the title of “apostle” to himself. Obviously, Paul was not one of the twelve apostles of Jesus as were Peter and John. We see Jesus calling the original twelve apostles in Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:14-19. It is obvious that this group was unique in that they had all been with Jesus throughout his whole ministry and they had all witnessed his resurrection. Others could not be added to this special group unless they had such qualifications as we see in the case of Matthias who was added to them in
It is clear that Paul was called alongside this original group and that he had the special ministry of taking the gospel to the Gentiles and bringing them to the faith. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he mentions himself as “least” among the apostles. His qualifications were that he had seen the risen Lord (Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-8), and that the Lord had chosen him to open up the Gospel to the Gentiles (1:16; 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:7).
Although the original apostles were very unique, we see that there were several others who held lesser degrees of apostleship. There were Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James (Gal. 1:15), Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7). No doubt Silas, Timothy and Apollos were considered apostles as we see in 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 4:6-9. This sub-apostolic group may have been quite large since we learn in 2 Corinthians 11:13 and Revelation 2:2, that there were “false apostles.” Had there only been the original group of twelve plus Paul it would have been almost impossible for false apostles to have slipped in and deceived the churches.
Paul had not only seen the Risen Christ and received his commission from him personally but he had a second basis of authority. He was the father of the Galatian churches for he and Barnabas had founded them. 2
We may wonder how Paul could claim that his apostleship was not of man or through men. We remember that in Acts 13:2-3 Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church of Antioch. 3 At a point near this time even the leaders at Jerusalem also had given Paul the right hand of fellowship and they recognized that his mission was to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8-9). However, it is clear that Paul’s call came from Jesus himself and that men merely confirmed the call that was already on Paul’s heart.
Paul was not traveling alone but, as was customary, other brothers were sent along with him. We know Barnabas was his companion on the first journey. John Mark had also been along but for some reason had turned back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). We know that some of his later traveling companions were brothers like Gaius, Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Timothy, Tychicus, and Trophimus. The fact that Paul mentions “Barnabas” three times in Galatians seems to be some strong evidence that the book was written to the southern churches and that the book has a very early date. 4
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” (1:3). William Barclay mentions that the word “grace” has two main ideas attached to it. The first idea has to do with sheer beauty. The Christian life should be a beautiful and attractive one and we surely do not give enough attention to this aspect. The second idea has to do with underserved generosity, for a gift is not something deserved. 5 The second word in this greeting harkens back to the Hebrew “shalom” which has a lot to do with one’s well-being.
The term Lord (kurios) is a substitution for the Hebrew YHWH. The Jews were reluctant to speak this holy name of God in Bible times. Today they not only do not speak it or write it, but its pronunciation is totally forgotten. In ancient times they substituted “Lord” in its place lest they take the holy name in vain. We can thus see that Lord or kurios describes the full deity of Christ. 6 At certain times in the Roman Empire the Emperor demanded to be addressed as kurios and that presented some serious problems for the Christians.
“Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1:4-5). It is possible that we have here the remnants of a very early Christian confession of faith. 7 Christ gave himself as a sin offering for us. By that offering of himself he delivered us from the present evil age. The Jewish people as well as the early Christians believed that there were two distinct ages. There was the present evil age ruled largely by Satan (1 Jn. 5:19), and there was the age to come that would be totally ruled by God and his Messiah.
The New Testament sees that we Christians are living in an overlapping time frame. The present evil age has not fully passed away but the age to come has already been inaugurated by Christ. 8 No doubt this accounts for some of the tension in our Christian lives. Dick Staub in his book, The Culturally Savvy Christian, gives us a warning about this evil age that seems appropriate: “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” 9
Leon Morris, the Australian New Testament scholar, points out that this is the only doxology in Paul’s openings to letters. 10 In his doxology Paul uses the word “glory.” Originally in the Hebrew language this word meant something heavy and thus valuable (like gold). The word when used in describing God came to include such things as majesty, power, splendor, brilliance, and radiance.
A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— Galatians 1:6
At this point in Paul’s epistles it was his practice to insert a note of praise, thanksgiving or commendation for his readers as we have mentioned. It was often his practice to even pray for them. It is only here in Galatians that there is no praise, thanksgiving, commendation or prayer regarding his recipients. 11 Instead Paul gets right down to business and quickly expresses his astonishment at them.
The Greek word used here for “deserting” (metatithemi) has an interesting meaning. It describes the transfer a person’s allegiance. In ancient times it was used of soldiers who revolted or deserted. It was also used of those who changed sides in politics or in philosophical arguments. It really meant “being a turncoat.” 12 On the positive side the verb is used here in the present tense meaning “are turning away.” This seems to indicate that the process of turning away is in its early stages and is not yet completed. 13
The gospel they were turning to was one of “another kind.” The Greek word used for “another” (heteron) in this instance means another of a different kind. It was not a gospel (good news) at all but another version of a works gospel (bad news). It was a gospel from which the good news of free grace had been deceitfully removed (cf. Acts 20:24).
The Galatian Christians were quickly turning away, which seems to indicate once more that Paul’s epistle was written soon after his First Missionary Journey. Certain ancient writers indicate that the Galatians were a little wishy-washy. Julius Ceasar describes the Gauls with these words: “The infirmity of the Gauls is that they are fickle in their resolves, fond of change and not to be trusted.” 14 Paul had experienced some of this fickleness on his first visit. In Acts 14:11-12, the Galatians at Lystra at first decided that Paul was a god who had come down to them. However, after some Jews infiltrated the group and turned them against Paul, they decided instead to stone him (14:19-20).
Paul describes this new gospel “which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ”(1:7). Martin Luther had some choice remarks for these kinds of people. He said, “Every teacher of work-righteousness is a trouble-maker.” He quotes an old German proverb saying, “All mischief begins in the name of God.” 15 Even the great Augustine once sighed in his homilies on John’s Gospel (45, 12), “How many sheep there are without, how many
These troublemakers or Judaizers were trying to pervert the simple gospel Paul preached. The Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that one had to keep the precepts of the law, particularly circumcision, in order to be saved.
The word he uses for “pervert” is metastrepsai and this word means to change or alter something into something else that is often its opposite. 16 We do not know for certain how this epistle relates time-wise to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. However, it is interesting that the council decree uses another Greek word, trassontes (trouble, disturb, upset), found both in this verse and in Acts 15:24: “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what
they said.” 17
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1:8-9). Paul warns that we should not even listen to angels if they try to pervert the gospel of Christ. After all, angels are of less importance than Jesus and his message as we see in Hebrews 1:6-9. It is unfortunate that some so-called Christian groups today have received different “gospels” from supposed angels.
Paul brings the ancient biblical curse upon such as these. The words “eternally condemned” translate “anathema” in the Greek. This harkens back to the Hebrew herem and the curse that came upon Achan long ago. 18 Achan took the things devoted to destruction and therefore he himself became devoted to destruction.
MAN’S ESTEEM OR GOD’S ESTEEM?
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Apparently the Judaizers or pseudo Jewish Christians who were disturbing the Galatians were accusing Paul of flattering men. When we later read 2:11 ff., we will see how false this claim is. Paul would not flatter the great Peter for a moment but severely rebuked him in public for his hypocritical stand. Nonetheless, Paul was still being accused by his foes. Perhaps he was being charged with preaching two gospels, with one for the Jews and a much easier one for the Gentiles. 19 We can know from scripture that anyone who lives for Christ or preaches the true gospel will suffer persecution. We actually should be alarmed when everyone speaks well of us (Lk. 6:26).
Paul considered himself a slave (doulos) of Christ. Perhaps we have taken this word too lightly in our postmodern world. Duncan remarks about this: “It is unfortunate that . . . our English translations should so consistently fail to give this word its true meaning, thereby encouraging the false conception of Christian ‘service’ (as something essentially voluntary and part-time) so characteristic of modern religious idealism. The ‘bond-servant of Christ’ is not free to offer or withhold his ‘service;’ his life is not his own, but belongs entirely to his Lord.” 20
“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (1:11-12). The Apostle Paul did not bow and kowtow to man and neither did his gospel come from man. Rather it came directly from God by special revelation to Paul. On several occasions in scripture Paul tells more about the gospel he received (cf. Acts 26:12-23; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 he tells about an unusual experience wherein he was transported to the heavenly realms and heard things that were unspeakable. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 Paul gives an example of this teaching saying: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”
It is possible that Paul’s accusers were claiming that they were the true representatives of the chief apostles in Jerusalem. They may have claimed that Paul had been instructed by these apostles and had somehow failed to understand the message correctly. 21 How mistaken they were!
PAUL THE PHARISEE
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. Galatians 1:13
Paul had been a member of the Pharisee party. The Pharisees took their name from the Hebrew “parush” which means “separated ones.” Their party was the most prominent of the Jewish sects and continued on after the destruction of the Temple to make up what we would call Rabbinic Judaism today. Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees believed not only in the Torah or law but also in the oral traditions of the elders (cf. Mt. 15:1-9). Many centuries later these oral traditions were codified into what we know today as the Talmud.
We see from the scriptures that the Pharisees were extremely zealous for the law. We note here that Paul was even more zealous than they, in that he intensely persecuted the church (cf. Acts 8:1-3 and 9:1-2). He says of himself: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (1:14). In other words, Paul “went to the head of his class” in Judaism. He was instructed by the famous Jewish scholar Gamaliel as we see in Acts 22:3 (cf. Acts 5:34-39).
It is interesting that one of the hallmarks of the Pharisees was that they despised Gentiles. Perhaps it reflects the humor of God that he chose Paul, who no doubt grew up hating Gentiles, and called him as the Apostle to the Gentiles. 22
The experience of Martin Luther may help us understand just how zealous Paul was and why he even persecuted the church. Luther said the following:
I tell you I stood in awe of the pope’s authority. To dissent from him I considered a crime worthy of eternal death. I thought of John Huss as a cursed heretic. I counted it a sin even to think of him. I would gladly have furnished the wood to burn him. I would have felt I had done God a real service. 23
PAUL MEETS HIS MESSIAH
But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, Galatians 1:15-16
Paul was “separated” to be a member of the Pharisees but the truth was that God had already separated him from birth to be an apostle to the Gentiles. 24 We see a similar thing in the story of Jeremiah the prophet. In Jeremiah 1:5 we learn that he also was separated from birth to be a prophet to the nations. In truth, we see a similar thing in our own experiences as Christians. We were chosen in him before the world began (Eph. 1:4). We must stand amazed at the great foreknowledge and eternal plan of God who knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10).
The phrase “to reveal his Son in me” (apokalypsai ton huion autou en emoi) has been a debated one. Some have interpreted it to mean that God revealed his Son to Paul, while others interpret it to mean that God revealed himself “through Paul.” Actually they are probably both right. 25 God wished to reveal himself to Paul and through Paul. The same thing is true for us today.
Paul continues: “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (1:17). “Paul did not apply to the Twelve for permission to accept his call from Christ to the apostleship.” 26 He did not hurry up to Jerusalem to get their approval nor did he get the approval of any man. It appears rather that Paul was placed in that special school of God for three years in the wilderness.
Scholars seem agreed that the “Arabia” here is a reference to the Nabatean Kingdom ruled by the King Aretas (2 Cor. 11:32). His kingdom stretched from Arabia to the outskirts of Damascus. 27 We are aware that Paul did not have the great benefit of being with Jesus those three years and being taught by him like the other apostles. Some think that these three years were designed to compensate Paul for the three years of lost instruction. 28
PAUL’S JERUSALEM VISIT
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:18
It was probably three years after his conversion or three years after beginning his apostolic office that Paul went up to Jerusalem. His visit seems to be a casual one. The verb “to get acquainted” or “to visit” is the Greek verb (historesai) from which we get “history.” The verb could be used of sight-seeing and it could also be used getting to know someone or making their acquaintance. 29
The fairly short period during his visit with Peter was certainly not sufficient for him to be taught and instructed by that apostle. We see from Acts 9:28-29 that Paul was also busy preaching and debating with the Jerusalem Jews at the time.
“I saw none of the other apostles— only James, the Lord’s brother” (1:19). Obviously, Paul’s visit was more informal and he was not intent on getting some sort of commission from all the apostles of Jerusalem. Likely, most of them were out on mission trips to various parts anyway. Paul did see James the brother of the Lord. We remember from scripture that James like the other brothers of Jesus did not believe in him initially (Jn. 7:5). However, after Jesus’ resurrection he made a special appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7) and the latter became an ardent believer. While Peter was in a sense the leader of the whole church, James rose to prominence in Jerusalem and soon became the head of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13). He maintained this position until his martyrdom
in AD 62.
Paul visited in Jerusalem with Peter and James but it seems obvious that the nature of the visit was not one of instruction or commissioning. As Colorado Professor, Sam Williams says: “Nothing happened in Jerusalem that in any way threatened either his independence or the sole sufficiency of God’s revelation to him.” 30
“I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie” (1:20). Paul is taking great care to accurately convey this information to us so we can implicitly trust these facts.
His main point is that he was not unduly influenced by the Jerusalem leaders. He didn’t hang around Jerusalem to receive their instruction or approval. One big question is how Galatians relates to the Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15. Was the conference before or after the writing of Galatians? Also, how does the visit of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem in Acts 11:27-30 fit into things? All this has left scholars in a tangle concerning the chronology of Paul’s early life.
If Paul was swearing that he made only one visit to Jerusalem in fourteen years it would seem that the Acts 11 meeting would have almost had to correspond to the Jerusalem Conference, but we don’t see so much evidence of this in the text. We may have our theories, but until more light is shed through archaeology or history we may remain partly in the dark here. As the great teacher, pastor and writer, Warren Wiersbe says, “Even the best biblical scholars are not agreed on the chronology of Paul’s life.” 31
“Later I went to Syria and Cilicia” (1:21). We know from the Acts account that things got “too hot” for Paul in Jerusalem. Some of the very people who had killed Stephen were now after Paul. Thus, the brothers hurried him off to Tarsus of Cilicia which was his home town (Acts 21:39). Tarsus was in the southeastern portion of Asia Minor.
We do not have specific information about what Paul did in Cilicia. We can imagine that he did what he did in Damascus and Jerusalem, that he preached the gospel everywhere. It is not likely that he remained in Tarsus for the whole fourteen years. Some historians have concluded that he might have remained in that area only seven years until the great evangelistic work in Antioch of Syria began as recorded in Acts 11:19-26. 32
“I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ” (1:22). The Presbyterian theologian, James Montgomery Boice, comments on the word “Unknown.” He says, “It is a striking word to use of the man who, after Jesus himself, has probably influenced the world more than any other who has ever lived. Paul could have been an instant celebrity. Instead, he worked for long years in relative obscurity.” 33 We are told in Acts 9:26 that the disciples were afraid of Paul. It took the intervention of Barnabas to make Paul known to them. It is a probability that most of Paul’s preaching in Jerusalem was done among the Jews rather than in the churches.
“They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me” (1:23-24). The churches of Judea had known Paul only as a persecutor and not as a preacher. There were probably some Christians around in the area who had suffered from his persecutions and perhaps some of them were still languishing in prison because of him. Nevertheless, they praised God because of what had happened to Paul. It is good when people do not merely praise us but praise God because of us.
THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM
Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. Galatians 2:1
The fourteen-year period mentioned here presents us with some difficult problems as we have said. Some think we must take Paul’s statement literally since in 1:20 it seems that he all but swears before God that he is telling the truth about his visits to Jerusalem. For instance, the scholar, Y.K. Fung, remarks that Paul is certainly dealing with precise chronology because the exactness is germane to his whole argument. 1
On the other hand, when we try to squeeze the early and busy life of Paul into a mere fourteen year span we run into great conflicts, and making chronological sense seems to be almost impossible. A big problem is the relief trip to Jerusalem conducted by Paul and Barnabas in Acts 11:29-30. That trip had to come in close proximity to the famine which we now know occurred in the years of AD 46-47. The famine relief seems to be spoken of as an urgent and immediate matter in the Acts passage, so we might properly assume that the relief mission took place early in AD 46. If Paul is holding to a strict fourteen year period between his first and second visits to Jerusalem, then the chronology is unworkable.
The Council of Jerusalem no doubt happened after Paul’s First Missionary Journey (AD 46-47) and before his Second Missionary Journey (AD 49-52). It seems natural that this is the council that is spoken of here in Galatians 2. The date many give for the important council is about AD 49. If we count backwards fourteen years from this conference to Paul’s first visit after his conversion, that visit would have had to take place around AD 35. Such a chronology is at least workable.
However, if we count back fourteen years from his relief visit to Jerusalem in AD 46, and indeed if we factor in the three years that Paul was in the wilderness, we end up with Paul getting converted before Jesus died in AD 30. That would have been impossible. So we must understand that Paul is not giving us a strict fourteen-year period wherein everything had to happen. If the relief visit happened anywhere close to the famine of AD 46-47 we can see how that visit could not be considered as a time for the Jerusalem Council which some have proposed.
Perhaps Paul in Galatians 1:20 is not swearing that everything happened in fourteen years but is swearing that he didn’t spend time with Peter and James in order to get his gospel all formulated and to get their approval.
If we allow the passage to fall into place naturally, it is likely that Paul was converted somewhere around 33-35 as many chronologies insist. This would allow the events in Antioch to all fit into place. It would even allow a relief visit of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem sometime close to the famine of AD 46-47.
There are still some problems to be worked out. For instance, Paul speaks of setting the gospel he preached privately before the leaders in Jerusalem, whereas in the Acts account it seems to be an open meeting. 2 The other problem is the presence of Titus. The fact that Acts does not mention Titus is not a real problem though since the writer Luke does not mention Titus in any part of his history.3
Many wonder why the decree is not mentioned specifically here in Galatians 2 since its decision seemingly would have been a clincher in Paul’s debate. The Scottish divine, Robert Jamieson, remarks about this saying: “Because his design here is to show the Galatians his own independent apostolic authority, whence he was not likely to support himself by their decision.” 4
It might help us if we try to get Paul’s time-frame in mind a little better. Let us insert here what could be a possible chronology for this early period in Christian history.
AD 33 Saul of Tarsus converted – (Acts 9:1-30).
33-35 Paul in Damascus and in the Arabian wilderness (Gal. 1:15-17).
Note: the three-years mentioned could have been only parts of three years.
35 Paul visits Jerusalem and sees Peter & James (Gal. 1:18-20).
35 Paul is sent off to Cilicia and to Tarsus his home city (Acts 9:29-30).
37-54 Reign of Emperor Claudius (the great famine happened in his reign).
40s Barnabas is sent by the Jerusalem church to work in Antioch (Acts 11:22 ff.).
44-45 Paul’s full year in Antioch of Syria working with Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26).
44-45? The prophet Agabus visits Antioch and prophesies a famine (Acts 11:28).
46-47 The great famine predicted by Agabus occurs according to historical records.
46 Paul & Barnabas take aid to Jerusalem and return to Antioch (Acts 11:29-30; 12:25).
46-47 First Missionary Journey from Antioch with Barnabas (Acts 13:1 ff.).
47 Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch and stay a long time (Acts 14:26-28).
48-49 Judean Judaizers come down to trouble the Antioch Christians (Acts 15:1) .
Note: They were no doubt also troubling the new Galatian converts at this time.
48-49 Disputes occur over the subject of circumcision and keeping the law (Acts 15:1-2).
48-49? Peter visits Antioch and Paul has a confrontation with him (Gal. 2:11 ff.).
49 Paul, Barnabas and Titus go up to Jerusalem – The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).
49 Paul, Barnabas, Barsabbas, Silas with other brothers go down to Antioch (Acts 15:22 ff.)
49? Galatians is written.
49-52 Second Missionary Journey – Paul and Silas.
Note: Paul may have taken Silas instead of Barnabas partly because of
the latter’s stand in regard to not eating with Gentiles.
It seems that the bane of Paul’s ministry had to do with the many false teachers who followed him around and crept into the congregations he established. The Anglican clergyman John Stott says that they were not so much “robbing Peter to pay Paul” but were exalting Peter to spite Paul. 5
We might need a note on Barnabas here. He was a Levite from Cyprus and his real name was Joseph. Because he was such “a man of encouragement” he was nicknamed “Barnabas,” which conveys this very meaning. No doubt we remember that it was Barnabas who first introduced Paul to the reticent apostles at Jerusalem (Acts 9:27). When the great outreach to the Gentiles at Antioch began, Barnabas was sent to the city by the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22). After Barnabas had witnessed the great expansion of the gospel among the Greeks he went to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back to help in the work (Acts 11:25-26). The scripture tells us that they worked together in Antioch for a full year and taught great numbers of people. Of course, Barnabas later accompanied Paul on the First Missionary Journey. The scripture verifies that Barnabas was “a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24).
In this first verse we also see the mention of Titus. Although the writer Luke never speaks of him in Acts, we do know that this young man was very close to Paul. In Titus 1:4 Paul refers to him as his own son in the faith. In 2 Corinthians 8:23 we are told that Titus was Paul’s partner and faithful helper. It seems certain that Titus was taken to the council to be “Exhibit A,” as a convert from the Gentile world. 6 It is even likely that he hailed from the great Gentile center at Antioch. No doubt he was a bright young man and a sterling example of what it meant to follow Jesus in the faith of Father Abraham. After all, Father Abraham was called the Father of many nations (Gen. 17:4).
Paul continues regarding his Jerusalem visit: “I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain” (2:2).
It is entirely possible that Paul had an inner revelation prompting him to get the circumcision question settled. Also, it would have been a normal procedure for Paul to have presented his ideas to the chief apostles privately before the matter would be
We must be aware that the questions of circumcision and of keeping the law were questions that struck at the very heart of the Gentile mission. We remember that Peter was given the “keys” to the kingdom of God by Christ himself (Matt. 16:19). He could in a sense open the door to the Gentiles or close it. In fact, we see that he has already acted by opening the door first to Israel in Acts 2, to the Samaritans in Acts 8 and to some God-rearing Gentiles in Acts 10. 7 This conference was crucial for the history of Christianity. We can be thankful that there were valiant people and champions like Paul who would not rest until these questions were permanently settled.
Paul first of all sets his gospel before the leaders at Jerusalem, or as he says “those who seemed to be leaders.” Peter Pett notes that the repetition of this phrase and its equivalents (2:2, 6a, 6b, and 9) suggests that Paul had heard it often from the Judaizers who were attempting to depreciate him by comparing him to the Jerusalem leaders. 8
THE CIRCUMCISION QUESTION
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. Galatians 2:3
We need to understand that the Jerusalem church was steeped in Judaism. We read in Acts 6:7 that a large number of Jewish priests had joined the faith (cf. Acts 21:20). Jewish believers in Christ at that time were customarily circumcised and the same is true today. There was apparently a company of Judaizers in Jerusalem who felt it unthinkable that one could come to Christ the Messiah of Israel without circumcision and keeping the law. James, the Lord’s brother and wise leader of the Jerusalem church, was a little like a hen trying to sit on two dozen eggs. He was scrambling to keep the Jewish factions happy while at the same time still reaching out to the Gentile world with the gospel.
It is important to realize that Paul did not condemn circumcision. On one occasion he even circumcised Timothy in order that he could better work in the midst of the Jewish people (Acts 16:3). He himself was circumcised as were all Jewish males. However, he believed that circumcision had no bearing upon salvation and that it was not to be forced upon the Gentiles who were coming to faith. 9 He knew that spiritually speaking believers in Christ were already circumcised with the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:11).
James had the delicate task of keeping the peace in a tension-filled conference. Sometime later he wrote the words of James 3:17-18 to the church: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” 10
Paul puts the spotlight on those who were causing trouble at the conference: “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (2:4). It is clear that these false brethren were brought in by stealth. M.R.Vincent, the great Greek scholar, notes how the article marks this group as a well-known class and that the Greek pareisaktoun means literally “brought in by the side, and so insidiously, illegally.” 11
It is entirely possible that this Jewish faction in Jerusalem continued on, crystalized and eventually became known as the Ebionites. This Judaizing group was occasionally mentioned by the early Christian apologists. One of their characteristics was that they rejected all the writings of Paul as heretical. The group actually continued on through the early centuries of Christianity. They were a little like the husk on the grain of wheat that was destined to ultimately wither and fall away.
“We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (2:5). Again, we cannot be too thankful for the Apostle Paul who stood in the gap for us Gentiles. As the Lutheran, Johann Bengel says: “Truth precise, unaccommodating, abandons nothing that belongs to itself, admits nothing that is inconsistent with it.” 12 The great Martin Luther himself said of his own contest: “Wherefore, God assisting me, my forehead shall be more hard than all men’s foreheads…I give place to none. Yea, I am glad even with all my heart, in this point to seem rebellious and obstinate. And here I confess that I am and ever will be stout and stern, and will not give one place to any creature.” 13
THOSE WHO SEEMED TO BE IMPORTANT
As for those who seemed to be important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message. Galatians 2:6
Williams points out that Paul seems to have a strategy (whether conscious or unconscious) and his strategy is to grant full recognition to Jerusalem’s leaders only gradually. At last he would finally name them. 14 No doubt, this strategy was the result of the Judaizing tactic of demeaning Paul when he was compared to the Jerusalem leaders.
It is clear that Paul has the proper respect for the authorities however. Barclay remarks about this ticklish situation: “Paul’s problem was that he could not say too little, or he might seem to be abandoning his principles; and he could not say too much, or it might seem that he was openly at variance with the leaders of the church. The result was that his sentences are broken and disjointed, reflecting his anxiety.” 15 While the Jerusalem leaders, especially Peter and James, were mighty leaders in the church, Paul had it right that God does not judge men by their position. He does not show favoritism nor is he a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11). They had their own calling and they could add nothing to Paul’s calling.
“On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews” (2:7). Essentially, they were agreeing here that the gospel to the circumcised and the gospel to the uncircumcised was one and the same gospel. The difference was only one of approach. 16
Surely there has not been enough appreciation in the church of Paul’s calling as Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Rom. 1:5; Eph. 3:8). This dedicated man almost singlehandedly preserved and delivered the gospel to the whole Gentile world. He fought “tooth and nail” for its validity and he risked his life on many occasions to deliver it to us. We simply cannot imagine a Gentile Christian world without Paul.
“For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles” (2:8). This was not some arrangement made by men but it was an arrangement made and sealed by God himself. 17 It was an arrangement made not for man’s glory but for God’s glory.
THE RIGHT HAND OF FELLOWSHIP
James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. Galatians 2:9
It is clear that James the brother of Jesus is the leader and spokesman of the Jerusalem church. He was the oldest brother of the Lord (Mt. 13:55 ff.) and was known as “James the Just.” By early church tradition he was also known as “camel knees” because of the many calluses he had gained in his long sessions of prayer while kneeling. 18 John, whom we see in this verse, was undoubtedly the disciple and brother of the other James. This James had already suffered martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I, as we see in Acts 12:2. His death would have happened just a few years earlier in AD 44.
The right hand of fellowship mentioned here sealed the agreement. The expression (dexiav edwkan koinwniav) appears only here in the New Testament and was not a distinctively Jewish custom. 19 It was a custom however in parts of the pagan world and apparently has been passed down to our western world. With this agreement the chief apostles in Jerusalem decided to minister primarily to the Jews while Paul was to administer the “gospel of the foreskin,” 20 taking the good news primarily to
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (2:10). No doubt the leaders were thinking about the poor who were in the city of Jerusalem. This city has continued to be one of the poorest in the nation. Several years ago I directed a large food distribution program in Israel and an unusually large portion of our donations went to the very poor Orthodox Jews living in the heart
Paul was eager to minister to the poor and no doubt had already been inspired by the offering taken at Antioch. It was one of Paul’s great projects to gather and offering for Jerusalem from the many Gentile churches he had founded (1 Cor. 16:1-2). On Paul’s last trip to the city he delivered this large offering to the saints in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17). It is one of the ironies of Christianity that the first general offering in church history was taken to assist Israel. It is sad that this enlightened custom was not continued.
We cannot help but notice some small differences in the requests of the elders here and in their requests recorded in Acts 15:20. The council decision mentions that Gentiles also should abstain from food offered to idols, sexual immorality, strangled animals and from blood. Paul may have felt that these were trifling things that were perhaps unworthy of mention. Christians already abstained from sexual immorality and the other things were matters of common courtesy when associating with Jewish believers.
PAUL’S CONFLICT WITH PETER
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Galatians 2:11
This is without a doubt one of the most dramatic and tense episodes in the New Testament. 21 It is difficult to place this conflict with Peter chronologically speaking. It would seem awkward placing it immediately after the famous decision made by the Jerusalem Council. More than likely this conflict came immediately before the council and may have helped precipitate it.
Whether before or after the council, we can see that Paul was not about to let things slip. Wendel Phillips in 1852 said at a Massachusetts antislavery meeting: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!” 22 Paul could not let down for a moment lest the truth and liberty of the gospel be compromised.
Once again we simply must stop to admire Paul. He was an unusual person who had become like steel in the refining fires of persecution and opposition. Oh that we had more leaders like him today! “Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist Church in the United States, once prayed at a deacon ordination, ‘O Lord, grant that these brethren may never want to be like other people.’” Also the English art critic John Ruskin once said, “I fear uniformity. You cannot manufacture great men any more than you can
manufacture gold.” 23
Peter was obviously in the wrong although he still held the keys to the kingdom. His wrong was a public one and it was necessary for Paul to deal with it in a public manner. We know from the Bible that great men were often wrong. Nathan the prophet once instructed David to go ahead and build the Lord’s Temple. Soon after, the prophecy was corrected and he had to tell King David that he would not be permitted to build the Temple. 24 That must have been really embarrassing for Nathan.
“Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group” (2:12). We need to understand the setting here. It probably took place in what was called the “Agape Meal” or “Love Feast” in the early church. This was a common meal in which rich people, poor people and even slaves enjoyed a meal together. Barclay says that it may have been the only good meal the slaves had all week. At some point in this meal the Lord’s Supper was
also celebrated. 25
We can picture Peter enjoying this meal with his Gentile friends when suddenly the door opens and a Jerusalem deputation from James steps in. The Greek in this verse is in the imperfect tense and suggests that Peter was in the habit of eating with Gentiles. 26 Peter had already learned the lesson about eating with Gentiles in his episode with the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 11:1-18). Also, he no doubt remembered that Jesus sometimes ate with Gentiles (Matt. 9:10-11). However, when Peter saw the Jerusalem dignitaries sent from James he slinked away from the Gentile table. J. B. Lightfoot, English Bishop and theologian, mentions Peter’s actions saying: “the words describe forcibly the cautious withdrawal of a timid person who shrinks from observation.” 27
“The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray” (2:13). Because of Peter’s example others began to slip away from the Gentile table and join the Jerusalem delegation with its kosher food. How true the words of Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare….” We see that even Barnabas, that faithful friend and traveling companion of Paul, was also drawn away. Barnabas was one of the founders of the Antioch work. In addition, he probably knew more about the Gentile mission than anyone besides Paul. Yet, he fell away leaving an awful example. In the Greek, the word for “separated” or “dissembled” is upokrisei and is rightly translated as “hypocrisy” here in the NIV. It is a very strong word used only on one other occasion.
This episode reminds me a lot of days gone by in my former denomination. One of the critical doctrines was that of “closed communion.” With this doctrine it was forbidden to share the Lord’s Supper with any Christian outside the denomination. I thought then and still think today that this was one of the most unchristian church practices that I have
Stott remarks of this whole ugly episode: “If Paul had not taken his stand against Peter that day, either the whole Christian church would have drifted into a Jewish backwater and stagnated, or there would have been a permanent rift between Gentile and Jewish Christendom, ‘one Lord, but two Lord’s tables.’” 28
“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’” (2:14). No doubt Peter had been stuffing his face with wonderful Gentile delicacies like fried ham, pork chops and shrimp but suddenly these things may have begun to give him heartburn.
Paul may not have been a person of commanding presence or speech (2 Cor. 10:10) but here his words are like a cannon volley. No doubt the great Peter wilted under his assault. This was not some personal argument but was a matter of incredible theological significance for then and for now. As Luther said, “From Peter’s example the Gentiles could not help but draw the conclusion that the Law was necessary unto salvation.” 29
HOW DOES A PERSON GET JUSTIFIED?
We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16
It may be that Paul’s address to Peter actually stops with verse 14, although it is difficult to tell for certain. It seems that verses 15-21 are designed to reach a wider audience. 30 Paul appears to be actually summarizing the great Christian doctrine of justification in these verses. In fact the subject is mentioned here for the first time in the epistle.
Justification (dikaioutai) is an extremely important doctrine. Martin Luther once said, “If the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost.” 31 Paul, some years later in his Epistle to the Romans, would deal thoroughly with the subject of justification and the related subject of imputed righteousness.
Justification is a forensic term right out of the courtrooms in ancient times. It is “God’s declaration that the demands of his law have been fulfilled in the righteousness of his Son. The basis for this justification is the death of Christ.” 32 It is clear in scripture that justification is a once-and-forever act of God toward believers. Through justification God has declared us “blameless,” “not guilty,” and “acquitted” of all our sin. It is also clear in scripture that one Christian cannot be justified more than another since this is a one-time act of God on behalf of each believer.
In Romans 5:18 we read: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” In 2 Corinthians 5:19 it is said “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….” Hebrews 10:14 goes on to make plain that by the one sacrifice of himself, the Lord has made us perfect forever. This “forever” justification is made effective in our lives the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior by faith and through grace. However, it was a fact in God’s mind
The popular theologian Dr. J.I. Packer says: “Justification is decisive for eternity, being in effect the judgment of the last day brought forward.” 33 Paul sums it up another way in Romans 8:30 saying: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” The Bible says that we were chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4). We were thus predestined, called and justified before the world began. In other words, our salvation is a “done deal.” That is why there can be no condemnation. As Paul will say later in his Book of Romans “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
So, although it was impossible to be justified by keeping the law, it is now possible for all of us to be justified by the grace of God and by simple faith in his Messiah who died for us. The great debt of sin was paid by his blood and the statutes against us were nailed to the cross of Jesus (Col. 2:14). How difficult it was for Paul to get this simple truth across. “Paul had a difficult time in proclaiming the gospel to a world that had never known anything like it.” 34
The great word “justification” has almost disappeared from our vocabulary in these postmodern times. It is likely that not so many Christians could even adequately define the concept but yet it remains a critically important doctrine. It is central to the New Testament and central to the Epistle of Galatians. 35
In verse 16 there has been some discussion as to whether the statements in this verse should be read “faith in Christ” or “faith of Christ.” It should be pointed out that most translations see this phrase as the Greek objective genitive. That would make it read “faith in Christ.” 36
In every religious system of the world besides Christianity, people in some way or another are attempting to establish their own righteousness. 37 Christianity is unique in seeing that our righteousness is established already in Christ and in his death. We are thus declared righteous and we are justified if God’s eyes. Court is over! It’s that simple.
“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!” (2:17). Albert Barnes, the Presbyterian theologian, may have the best understanding of this verse. He says, “Paul here has reference to an objection which has in all ages been brought against the doctrine of justification by faith, and which seems to have existed in his time, that the doctrine leads to licentiousness.” 38 Paul responds to such nonsense with his characteristic me genoito, “may it never be!” Christians cannot continue to live in sin. When we do slip and fall there is that wonderful verse in 1 John 1:9 which says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Now Paul inserts a verse that has caused interpreters some degree of trouble. He says: “If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker” (2:18). This verse might even be some reference to Peter’s hypocritical act in trying to rebuild justification by law. Of course, such a thing was never possible in the first place.
DYING TO THE LAW— LIVING FOR CHRIST
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. Galatians 2:19
Pett remarks here: “When considering the mystery of ‘the atonement’ we must recognize that one picture alone cannot do it justice, as we have seen here. It is substitution, it is representation, it is propitiation, it is reconciliation, it is expiation, it is atonement. It is all these and more.” 39 As the scripture makes plain in many places, we died with Christ. In doing so we also died to the law. It has no more claim upon us. It is perfectly clear from this Antioch contest that some in the party of James had not yet seen themselves as dead to the law. 40
It is important to note as Morris points out: “The verb is in the perfect tense, which means not simply that at some time in the past Paul was crucified with Christ, but that he continues in the capacity of one crucified with Christ.” 41
In 2 Corinthians 5:21 the great transaction is appropriately summed up: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness
Now Paul makes one of the greatest statements regarding the atonement and our place in it. He says: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20).
The Greek here is in the perfect passive and speaks of an event that is done. However, there is another side to this crucifixion of ourselves. Although the matter is done and finished we still must consider it so on a daily basis. We must daily reckon ourselves to be dead and in that way put to death anything of our natural man that seems to be rising up. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die every day….” Paul is no doubt speaking of his sinful nature and his dealing with it. He says in Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”
Paul closes this chapter saying: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (2:21). Martin Luther once commented: “If my salvation was so difficult to accomplish that it necessitated the death of Christ, then all my works, all the righteousness of the law, are good for nothing. How can I buy for a penny what cost a million dollars?” 42 Clearly the law could not save us. Those who lived under the law in ages past were looking forward to the Messiah who was to come. He was to be their salvation (cf. Rom. 3:25; Heb.10:4). How futile for us now to look back to the law, expecting to gain righteousness and justification by our own meager works.
This great contest in Antioch was one of the sharpest and most severe in all the pages of the New Testament. Apparently it ended well for Paul because he remained true to the gospel. It apparently ended well for Peter who stood corrected. 43 For certain, it ended well for the believers gathered there as they witnessed one of the greatest defenses of the faith in all Christian history.
FOOLISH ABOUT THE LAW
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. Galatians 3:1
Some commentators have remarked how the Phillips translation seems appropriate here. It reads “O you dear idiots of Galatia…” The word anaetoi used here can mean “foolish” or “unintelligent.”
Paul accuses the Galatians not only of being foolish but of being bewitched. The word for “bewitched” is the Greek verb baskanein. In the classical Mediterranean society this word meant to harm another person through the “evil eye.” 1
In the Middle East today the evil eye is still feared by many. One item of jewelry that is extremely popular in Israel is the hamsa (hhamsa). It is a small hand-shaped amulet that particularly appeals to Jewish women and is often seen on a chain around their necks. In folklore the hamsa is supposed to ward off the evil eye. We gather from all this that the Galatians were having a spell cast upon them and they were being led senselessly into bondage –away from their glorious freedom in Christ.
My old seminary professor, Dr. W. W. Adams, used to tell of an experience he had in his younger days. He was once walking in the woods when he heard a terrible commotion. As he drew closer to the noise he saw a squirrel running back and forth senselessly toward something. As the squirrel ran back and forth it was getting closer and closer to a hidden thing while it made louder and louder cries of protests. Dr. Adams was then able to see that the squirrel was intently focused on a very large snake. Apparently, the snake had the squirrel hypnotized or charmed and was no doubt intent upon having the small animal for dinner. Dr. Adams quickly picked up a stick and threw it in the snake’s direction. The stick broke the spell and the squirrel scampered away unharmed.
Paul reminds the Galatians how Jesus Christ was so clearly portrayed before them.
The Greek word “prographein” has the meaning of being vividly portrayed or placarded publicly. In the ancient world it also had the meaning of an official legal notice. 2
Perhaps this verse helps us understand the life and vigor of early New Testament preaching. Luther remarks about this, declaring it’s “As if Paul were to say: ‘No artist with all his colors could have pictured Christ to you as vividly as I have pictured him to you by my preaching.’” 3 It was almost as if they had seen a dramatic vision of Christ crucified.
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” (3:2). The focus here is obviously the receiving of the Spirit. It is clear that in early Christian times the Holy Spirit was received upon conversion and that this receiving was a clearly observable phenomenon. 4 Many centuries have now passed and things are not so immediate and so observable.
Where I grew up, on the border of the states of Arkansas and Missouri, there was a beautiful river. It began many miles away in Missouri from a large clear spring. As the river flowed out of the hills of Missouri it was so lovely and sparkling blue. Unfortunately when it reached the flatlands and swamps of Arkansas its color and clarity began to change. Twenty miles downstream, the river was no longer recognizable. It had turned into a dirty brown from all the mud it had contacted. This river reminds me a lot of church doctrine. It was perfectly clear and beautiful in the early church and now we have muddied it with two thousand years of our ideas and theologies. We must get back to the pure doctrine of the New Testament.
In New Testament days when one became a Christian or “got saved” that person was immediately baptized and received the Holy Spirit, often in an undeniable manifestation. Today, two thousand years later we are prone to have these experiences in two stages. We are first of all “get saved” and then we hopefully receive the Spirit’s filling sometime
later. 5 Sadly, for many Christians the later manifestation may never happen at all.
When they were converted, some of the Galatian Christians had probably not even heard of the Law of Moses or of being justified by it. Fortunately, neither had they heard some of our strange twenty-first century doctrines. The wonderful Holy Spirit just filled them and set their hearts aflame.
Obviously the Galatians didn’t need the law to receive the Spirit. They didn’t need to become Jewish proselytes either. They didn’t need to do anything but just receive salvation and the Holy Spirit by grace and through faith. Should it be any different today? We need to try and un-muddle this important doctrine. Paul says in Romans 8:9, “…If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” We can assuredly say by this that everyone who is truly converted has the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to be converted without it. We now need to refocus on this great doctrine and allow the Holy Spirit that God has given us to break out of the doctrinal prison to which we have assigned him. When that happens we will surely see some of the manifestations of which the Bible speaks.
FINISHING UP IN THE FLESH?
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3
Often, the flesh is mistaken for the Spirit. 6 In fact, it is very easy for us to “get in the flesh” even when we are experiencing spiritual things. We must always be on our guard about this. It is obvious here that the Galatian Christians began in the Holy Spirit and ended up in the flesh as they were trying to be made righteous by the law’s requirements.
The Galatians were trying to become “good Jews” by their works. The problem is that works never work. We read in Romans 2:28-29, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” Also, in Philippians 3:3 Paul tells us: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” Of course, this does not mean that God has given up on the natural Israel. As Paul says in other places, “may it never be!”
Paul knew that moving from Spirit to flesh was a dangerous thing. Many centuries before, the folly of such a thing was played out in the lives of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron and priests of Israel. These sons were chosen to present the holy offerings of Israel before the Lord. This was a wonderful and blessed position. However, Nadab and Abihu tried presenting some unauthorized offerings on their own. They were offering in the flesh so to speak. The result was an immense disaster as fire came out from the Lord and consumed these two young men on the spot (Lev. 10:1-2).
“Have you suffered so much for nothing— if it really was for nothing?” (3:4). The verb used here, epathete first meant to experience something either good or bad, but in time it began to be used almost exclusively for something bad and negative. 7 Although we have no reference in scripture, it seems apparent that the new Galatian Christians had already suffered persecution. No doubt, it was persecution from some of the Judaizers, the very same people who instigated the stoning of Paul in that same area (Acts 14:19-20).
“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (3:5). The Holy Spirit does not come upon us because of our works. We cannot “tarry,” sweat, and somehow work up to the filling of the Holy Spirit. We cannot earn it by our acts of devotion. It comes by simple faith. Actually, we need to realize that the Holy Spirit comes with the salvation package. It is the gift of God to every believer as we have indicated. As Morris says about this, “the gift of the Holy Spirit is not reserved for those who have made great progress in the Christian faith, but is a gift conferred on every true beginner.” 8 We only need to receive the Holy Spirit’s power and presence by simple faith.
We just need to relax and believe the word of God which says in Acts 2:39: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call.” I remember many years ago, alone in my hotel room, I took this same verse by faith. I said “Lord, this is your word. Now I believe it and I will receive it.” Immediately I began to experience in my life the Holy Spirit’s fullness and I even began to speak in a new heavenly language that I did not understand, and still do not to this day.
It seems that the present postmodern church is missing the signs and wonders that were so prevalent in early days. It appears that it is mostly the western church that is missing these gifts. They are present with power from on high in many other parts of the world.
My wife and I have a friend who works for long periods at a time in the Far East. He is involved in reaching native people for Christ. He once told us about the methods they use there. They go into the native villages and stop at each house asking about their needs and if they could pray for those needs. When villagers present their needs, such as a very sick child, blindness, lameness and whatever, the ministers pray, and God just works a miracle on the spot. This creates much excitement in the village and the ministers are allowed to share the gospel. Many people come to the faith. Quite often the house where the miracle happened becomes the new church and the ministers then move on to another village.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Galatians 3:6
Abraham believed God. It was just that simple. He believed God and God credited him with righteousness. What a great “discovery” our Father Abraham made. Actually it was a revelation straight from God. Here Paul is referring back to Genesis 15:6. Later as he writes his Book of Romans (Ch. 4) he will deal with this subject a greater detail.
This term for “credited,” (hashab in the Hebrew and logizomai in the Greek), conveys several other related ideas, such as “to think,” “to intend,” “to purpose,” “to reckon,” “to impute” or “to account.” In the ancient world the term was often used in bookkeeping and had to do with money being transferred from one account to another. 9
The concept of “credited righteousness” not only implies that a person’s sins are forgiven but that the person now has the status of “righteousness.” As the Lutheran Scholar, R.C.H. Lenski says, “God’s accounting did not make him righteous, it did not change Abraham’s person, it changed his status with God.” 10
We would surely have to say that the concept of “credited righteousness” is one of the greatest theological breakthroughs of all times.
We must also hasten to add that the belief which brought about this crediting or imputing was not just a belief or faith in general. As David Brown states: “The meaning plainly is that Abraham believed in the promises which embraced Christ (Gen. 12:3; 15:5), as we believe in Christ himself…faith is merely the instrument that puts us in possession of the blessing gratuitously bestowed.” 11 Brown also sees the expression “credited” as a divine passive, indicating that God has acted and has done it.
In John 8:56 Jesus replied to the Jewish leaders with these amazing words: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Somehow Father Abraham got a glimpse of the Messiah (cf. Gen.18:16-33; 22:1-18). It seems that true righteousness in the Bible is always connected with the “Righteous One,” Jesus the Messiah. So Abraham’s faith was essentially the same as New Testament believers today, regardless of the time differential. Abraham was looking forward to the future work of Christ and believers today are looking back upon that work. The object of faith is the same. It was implicit in the promise given to Abraham and it is explicit in the presentation of our gospel today. 12 Obviously, the people of old were anxiously awaiting the Messiah.
As we have said, Paul deals at length with credited righteousness in Romans chapter 4. He says: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation” (Rom. 4:4). When a man labors in the heat of the day, from sunup to sundown, he feels like his salary is owed him. It would be a silly insult for the owner to try to pass it off as a gift. Paul goes on in Romans 4:5 to say: “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” We must realize that Paul’s use of “work” here has nothing to do with manual labor but labor towards righteousness. This crediting of righteousness to those who do not work for it can only be seen as a miracle of God.
“Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham” (3:7). No doubt, the Judaizers had spoken much of Abraham and how circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Thus, to be a child of Abraham was to be circumcised in the flesh and to not be circumcised was to be cut off from the family. 13 Not so, says Paul! He will later bring out in Romans 4 that Abraham was credited with righteousness long before he was ever circumcised (Rom. 4:11).
Paul claims “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (3:8). This verse is a reference to Genesis 12:3; 18:18 and 22:18. We also see God’s plan to include the Gentiles in Isaiah 49:6, where God says to his servant Messiah: “…It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
On two occasions Abraham saw that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5; 22:17). This obviously would not just refer to his natural children, that number only some 13 million today, but to his spiritual children who number into countless millions. All these have been justified by faith and have received imputed righteousness. Thus they are bona fide children of Abraham.
“So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (3:9). On one occasion the crowds asked Jesus, “…What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered them: “…The work of God is this: to believe in the one he
has sent.” (Jn. 6:28-29).
THE CURSE OF LIVING UNDER THE LAW
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10
All those who live under the law and all those who are trusting in legalism for their righteous are under a curse. It is not that law itself is bad. In fact, we are told that the law of the Lord is “perfect” (Psa. 19:7). The law is like a perfect mirror that reveals to us our many sins or like an x-ray that probes into our inmost being.
The core problem is that while the law is perfect, we are not. We are not able to keep the perfect demands of the law because we have a sinful nature through Adam. We remember the words of James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” With the law it is 100 percent or nothing!
The law itself tells us the consequences of even one tiny failure in keeping the law. Paul is citing Deuteronomy 27:26 which says plainly: “‘Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.’ Then all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”
In all human history there was only one person who kept the law perfectly. That person was Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 says of him: “…we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.”
“Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (3:11). Here Paul has reference to Habakkuk 2:4 which says the same thing: “… the righteous will live by his faith.” (cf. Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:38). The great truth of scripture is that we are justified by our simple faith in Jesus who did a perfect job of keeping the law. It is by faith in him that we are declared righteous. The New Testament in Hebrews 11:6 goes on to say: “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” We must remember though that faith is a gift and not a work. 14
“The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them’” (3:12). This quote is from Leviticus 18:5. The law is based on achievement and not upon faith. However, the law is certainly not contrary to faith. If it were so God would be denying his very nature. 15 Because of the weakness of the flesh no one can ever be successful in keeping the law. So far as salvation by the law goes, it is a dead-end street.
CHRIST BECAME A CURSE FOR US
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13
The popular web commentator, David Guzik, remarks here that while “Galatians 3:10-12 is the bad news; now Paul begins to explain the good news” 16 The good news is that we are redeemed from the curse of the law. The good news is that Jesus took our place on the cross and became a curse for us.
Barnes says of this verse: “There is scarcely any passage in the New Testament on which it is more important to have correct views than this; and scarcely any one on which more erroneous opinions have been entertained.” 17 We need to get is straight here, for this concerns our atonement, reconciliation, redemption and salvation. We would look hard to find a passage that is more central to the gospel of our salvation.
We should note that the Jewish people did not crucify criminals, but rather they stoned them to death. However, after the criminal was stoned that one was often hung on a tree to publically display his cursed condition and rejection by God (Deut. 21:22-23). Before the sun went down the criminal was removed from the tree and buried. How interesting that Christ was also hung on a tree, or a cross (Acts 5:30; 1 Pet 2:24). He became our curse and he was also buried before sundown as required. 18
It is said in Isaiah 53:12 that he “…was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As Luther said: “By faith Christ changes places with us. He gets our sins, we get his holiness.” 19 Because Jesus became a curse for us, the Father in heaven was no longer able to look upon him and had to turn his face away (Matt. 27:46).
Jesus not only became a curse for us, taking the shame and death of that curse, he also became our redemption, or exegorasen in the Greek. This word contains the idea of a ransom price or the price of buying someone back from slavery (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Mt. 20:28; Rev. 5:9). 20 Clearly the ransom price is the precious blood of Jesus.
In recent years we have seen a repeat of the acts of the Barbary Pirates back in the days of US President Thomas Jefferson. Only today, our pirates range out from the coasts of lawless Somalia. Giant cargo ships have been captured along with their occupants and all has been held for ransom. It is a dangerous business and some have been killed in the process. In 2009 Somali pirates seized the US ship, the Maersk Alabama with its crew and Captain, Richard Phillips. They were attempting to hold this ship and its crew for ransom. However, this act of piracy had a happy ending for these captives as the US Navy Seals were able to rescue the ship with its crew. What a joyous picture of redemption!
All through the centuries hapless people have been captured and held for ransom. Numerous captives as well as slaves have been redeemed and set free. This captivity is only a pale shadow of the spiritual captivity that has befallen all of us because of our sin. The devil, our captor, will not set us free. Only Jesus can do that with the ransom price of his precious blood. The good news of all the ages is that he has done so and we are now free if we can believe and accept his great redemptive work.
“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (3:14). By God’s grace the Gentiles can now be redeemed and grafted into the old olive tree of Israel (Rom. 11:17). By simple faith we can now receive this redemption and salvation. By simple faith we can also be filled with the Holy Spirit just as those Jews did on the day of Pentecost long ago (Acts 2:38; Joel 2:28-29).
COVENANT AND PROMISE
Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. Galatians 3:15
This verse at first seems to present a problem. The word used here for “covenant” is generally used for “will” in the New Testament.
However, Stott feels Paul’s usage of the word “covenant” (diatheke), may have reference to the ancient Greek covenant which could not be revoked or modified. Also, he sees that while the word was used in the Greek Septuagint for “covenant,” it was used in the Classical Greek and Greek Papyri for “will.” The two ideas are somehow linked together. 21 Both Strongs and NAS Concordances show the word as being used for both “covenant” and “will.” Perhaps the idea expressed here is more like a “covenant-will.”
In any case, once a covenant or will is made it cannot be set aside by others. Luther marvels about this saying: “Why is it that man’s last will is scrupulously respected and not God’s testament?” 22 While we do take great pains to guard family wills, we do not seem to take the same care to guard God’s will.
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (3:16). This verse also presents us with a problem, and at first examination it seems to be a rather serious one. While the argument in English seems to be a real “clincher,” the ancient biblical languages do not bear out our initial enthusiasm. Paul is correct in saying that “seed” is used in the singular, both in the ancient Hebrew and in the Greek. However, with a little examination we find that “seed” is often used in the singular when in fact it has reference to many people. Even in the case of Hagar in Genesis 16:10, the Hebrew singular “seed” is used to indicate a large group of her descendants.
So, to the modern and postmodern ear this argument of Paul falls really flat, though obviously it did not fall flat to the ancient ear. If the argument did not have weight Paul would not have dared use it before his vicious Juadizing enemies. After all, they were probably highly qualified in both the Hebrew and Greek languages. If the argument had been at all faulty they would have laughed in Paul’s face and it would have only added weight to all their other accusations against him.
The concept of “the seed” is an old one going back to Geneses 3:15. In this passage the “seed” of the woman is mentioned as overcoming Satan’s seed. The “seed” is again in the singular and has reference to the coming Messiah. This verse is often called the Protoevangelium, or the first proclamation of the gospel in the Bible.
We must remember that Paul was trained as a Jewish Rabbi. He was no doubt an expert in the Jewish method of argument. His argument regarding the “seed” being the Messiah was obviously satisfying to the Jews, even to the Judaizers. It was not unusual for the Rabbis to construct a whole theology on a single word in the Bible. 23
While seed (singular) could be used even in a nationalistic sense including all the physical descendants of Abraham or the Jewish people, seed could also be used in a specific singular sense as we see here. The Rabbis even sometimes used this sense in speaking of individuals like David or Solomon. Paul’s usage here in referring to a single individual, the Messiah, is much like the rabbinic method. His use of “seed” negates any reference to Israel and restricts the reference to Christ. 24 We must realize that the ancients possessed understanding about this mystery that has somehow escaped us over the two thousand years. It appears to be God’s method to restrict the usage of “seed” as the centuries rolled on. First it would mean all of Abraham’s heirs, then the lines of Isaac and Jacob. Afterward it would mean the holy remnant and at last it would mean only the Messiah. 25
“What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise” (3:17). In this section we realize that Paul is looking over hundreds and even thousands of years of what we might call “holy history” or “salvation history.” We can thank God as Christians that we are now a part of such an ancient heritage.
We see from scripture that the covenant God established with Abraham was a one-sided covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; Gen. 15:9-21). When the covenant was “cut” or made, Abraham was actually in a deep sleep (Gen. 15:12). God made the covenant alone. We see later that the covenant was made forever (Gen. 17:7-8). It included particularly the whole land of Canaan, the nationhood, the blessings and many other things. There were no “ifs” or conditions in this covenant like there were in the covenant later made with Moses in Deuteronomy 28:1 ff. 26
As Morris says: “God established his covenant with Abraham in an irrevocable manner, so it can never be annulled or added to.” 27 Many nations today do not understand the veracity of this ancient covenant, particularly regarding all the land of Israel being given forever to Abraham’s seed through Isaac or the Jews. The land is specifically not given in any sense to Ishmael and the Arab people (Gen. 17:20-21). This is the crux of the many Middle East problems and wars in modern times. God is not unfair. After all, he gave five million square miles in the Middle East to Ishmael (compared with the meager eight thousands miles in Israel) and he also gave him over sixty percent of the world’s oil riches.
Clearly the law which came almost half a millennium later could have no effect on this original covenant with Abraham and his seed. As Stott says here: “the conclusion to which Paul is leading is that the Christian religion is the religion of Abraham and not Moses, of promise and not law. And that Christians are enjoying today the promise which God made to Abraham centuries ago.” 28
“For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (3:18). “The Greek word kecharistai emphasizes both that it is a free gift (a gift of charis, ‘grace’) and that it has been given for good (the perfect tense).” 29 What can be added or taken away from that?
WHY WAS THE LAW GIVEN?
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. Galatians 3:19
It is clear from scripture that the law had many purposes. It was no doubt put into effect to guard and preserve the human race until the Redeemer or chosen Seed could come. Thus the law had a restraining effect upon humanity. In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul speaks concerning the law and the rest of the Old Testament: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness….”
As we have said before, the law is like a mirror or an x-ray, in that it reveals sin and calls sin for what it is (Rom. 3:20). The law is similar to our traffic laws today. When we break one of them there is reason enough to charge us with a crime. Where there is no law there is no crime or punishment (Rom. 4:15; 5:13). We could also say that the law actually provokes sin or even brings it to the surface. The law also makes people guilty of sin and brings condemnation. The medical missionary Andrew Jukes once remarked, “Satan would have us to prove ourselves holy by the law, which God gave to prove
us sinners.” 30
Martin Luther gives us some insights regarding the law. He says, “The law is the hammer of death, the thunder of hell, and the lightning of God’s wrath to bring down the proud and shameless hypocrites…Accordingly, the proper use and function of the law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.” He also says that the law is good for something and just because money does not justify us we would not go so far as to say that money is good
for nothing. 31
We are also told in this verse that: “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” We read about the mediation of angels in Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2. It is clear from scripture that angels have a part in the redemption process. They have charge over the redeemed to guard, keep and help them (Psa. 91:11-12). It is clear in several scriptures (1 Cor. 4:9, 1 Cor. 11:10; & 1 Pet. 1:12) that angels are greatly interested in the redemptive process and closely watch what is going on with the
human race. 32
In this verse we realize that the angels served as the mediators of the Old Covenant. God gave the law through angels and through Moses. Thus the law came to Israel sort of second or third hand. Why so many mediators? Luther remarks about this saying: “What do you suppose would have happened if the law had been given without a mediator and the people had been denied the services of a go-between? The people would
have perished.” 33
“A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one” (3:20). Through the ages this verse has been a troublesome one. James Montgomery Boice, Presbyterian pastor and theologian, calls it “probably the most obscure verse in Galatians, if not the entire New Testament.” 34 The Dutch theologian Herman Ridderbos who specialized in New Testament theology felt that even the approximate meaning of this verse is unknown and he stated that there were at least 430 interpretations of it. 35
We can try our hand at giving some kind of interpretation (perhaps number 431) but we do so with a great deal of fear and trembling. Obviously, God did not make use of a mediator when he made the covenant with Abraham. He made it directly because God is one and he does not need a mediator if he so chooses. As Christians we do not have the mediation of Moses or of angels but we have the direct mediation of God himself in the form of his Son Jesus as is said in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus….”
“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (3:21). The law is not opposed to the promises of God. In many ways it supports and even verifies the promises. We read that the law is holy, righteous and good (Rom. 7:12). We might clarify though that the law is good if one uses it properly (1 Ti. 1:8). We read in another place that the law is perfect, converting or reviving the soul (Psa. 19:7). Yet, the law could not make people perfect (Heb. 10:1) because of the fallen nature of humanity. As we have already said, the law points out sin in our lives so we are compelled to run to Christ for forgiveness (Rom. 7:7-12). Luther recounts the proverb that hunger is the best cook. The law serves the purpose of making our smitten consciences hungry for Christ so we run to him and we are satisfied. 36
“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe” (3:22). There are numerous Old Testament passages illustrating that humans are utterly sinful and that they are shut up or imprisoned because of their sin. A few of these verses are Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 1:5-6; 61:1; Psalm 142:7; and Zechariah 9:11-12. 37
As we have said before, many today think they are free. But the fact is that they are in chains to sin, to sinful habits, addictions, and thoughts. Those who turn to Christ and believe in him are set free and their chains are broken. These come to know the truth and the truth sets them free. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn. 8:34-36).
THE LAW LEADS US TO CHRIST
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. Galatians 3:23
As Bob Utley of East Texas Baptist University says, “humans were put in protective custody until the Messiah came.” 38 We were protected, guarded, guided and instructed by the law lest we should be utterly destroyed by evil. It is obvious also that the Law of God became the basis and foundation for civil law which also protects and instructs us. 39 The Greek word for “held” or “kept” is efrouroumetha. It is in the imperfect tense and thereby indicates that the law has a continuing activity of guarding those who are not believers in Christ even to this day. 40
“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (3:24). The Greek word used here is paidagogos. Unfortunately, in earlier times this word was translated as “schoolmaster,” but this was never the case. The word has reference to a trusted and respected household slave who was placed in charge of young children. This slave looked out for their moral welfare but he also had the task of taking children to and from school. 41 The paidagogos was the one who conducted the children to the teacher. What a true picture of the law which conducts us to Jesus that we may be truly taught.
“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (3:25). We see a picture of this truth in the fact that Moses, the lawgiver, was not allowed to enter into the land of Canaan. 42 He literally brought Israel to the borders of the land but at that point Joshua, whose name means “God is salvation,” took the people on into the land and conquered it. Jesus (Iesous) is simply the Greek form of Joshua.
SONS OF GOD
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27
The fact that we are now sons or mature children of God may be a reference to the Roman rite where a boy traded in his childhood toga for an adult one. It could also be a reference to the Jewish rite of manhood. 43 The idea is that of coming of age spiritually. No longer are we under the supervision of the padiagogus but we are now sons and daughters of God by grace and faith in the saving work of Christ.
Now Paul gives us the picture of our being baptized into Christ or clothing ourselves with Christ. Baptism is an old picture and was used among the Jews for ritual purification. The word itself means to dip or immerse in water. We see the practice being used among the Dead Sea Sect at Qumran and also with John the Baptist and Jesus. It is likely that the “proselyte baptism” practiced among the Jews formed the background for the later Christian baptism. 44
Some Christian groups have looked upon baptism as actually being a part of the salvation process. Although baptism is extremely important, we must not look upon the act as being a work of salvation itself. When we do so, we have created for ourselves a theological train wreck. We have driven our theological bus off the cliff so to speak.
Spiritually speaking we could say that baptism is very much like circumcision. It is a sign and profession of a dramatic change and of a new identification in our lives. It is a putting aside of the flesh. It would have been self-defeating for Paul to have used baptism as anything but a sign to these Galatian Christians. Actually, such a thing would have played right into the hands of the Judaizers who were requiring the act of fleshly circumcision for entrance into Christianity.
Stott remarks about baptism saying: “This cannot possibly mean that the act of baptism itself unites a person to Christ…This whole epistle is devoted to the theme that we are justified through faith, not circumcision. It is inconceivable that Paul should now substitute baptism for circumcision and teach that we are in Christ by baptism.” 45
Utley points out that the primary command behind the act of baptism is that we repent of our sins or turn from them. He sees repentance as the spiritual key and he sees baptism as just the outward expression of the spiritual change in the person. He also cautions us regarding “sacramental mechanicalism” that would remove us from the realm of faith and grace alone. 46
When we reflect further on baptism we realize that the act itself could in no way bring about a union with Christ. After all, he is actually talking about baptism in Christ and not just baptism in water. Baptism apart from genuine repentance and faith could not in any way make us Christians. If people are not first joined with Christ “they could be dunked a thousand times into water, and it would make no eternal difference.” 47
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). When we are baptized into Christ and become one in him it brings about a drastic change in our relationships or rather in our perception of these relationships. There are no longer divisions of Jew and Greek, slave and free or male and female. We must point out that these divisions are still there. “When we say that Christ has abolished these distinctions, we mean not that they do not exist, but that they do not matter.” 48 We can think of the social chaos that would have resulted if all the slaves would have been instantly freed. Possibly a third to a half of the Roman populace was made up of slaves.
In the ancient world women were often despised or kept in a very lowly position. This was true to some degree even in Judaism. In Jesus’ day the Pharisee would pray every morning: “I thank Thee, God, that I am a Jew, not a Gentile; a man, not a woman; and a freeman, and not a slave.” 49 Jesus did not immediately change the status of slaves or of women but he changed the way they were looked upon. Many of the leading characters of the New Testament were women and even some were slaves. All were able to celebrate the Love Feast together with no class distinction standing in the way.
Obviously, slaves, men and women have different functions in life so they remain different. We cannot ascribe to the unisex mode that is so much a part of the thinking in this evil age. There is a real difference in the roles of men and women and in their physical makeup. This is obvious for all to see and understand. However, there is no difference in their standing with God.
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (3:29). Paul ends this chapter by coming back to the important subject of Abraham’s seed. As we have said earlier Abraham’s seed is seen as singular, meaning Christ. It is as if the seed contracts until it ends up being Christ alone. Then the seed becomes larger to include all those who come to Christ by grace and through faith. Today as Christians we are Abraham’s seed but we are only his seed as we are in Christ, who is himself the true seed of God. Not all of national Israel is truly spiritual Israel as we have seen and not all the church is the spiritual seed of Abraham. It is only those who are seed according to promise— those who have accepted Jesus by grace and through faith.
HEIRS AND SLAVES
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. Galatians 4:1
Paul is continuing on with the idea of “heirs” which he had discussed at the end of chapter three. There is much for us to understand here. Quite plainly, there seems to be only two categories of the Christian life. Either a person can be a child or become a full grown heir in the Kingdom of God. It is clear here that if a person remains a child that person will continue in a state that is very similar to slavery.
Although technically an immature Christian may own the whole estate, yet, that person is not able to enjoy the estate, truly participate in it or even understand it for that matter. The word here is nhpiov, meaning a minor, infant or child, and is used by the Apostle as a contrast with teleiov, those who are full grown. 1
What a tragedy it is today that churches are filled with spiritual infants who cannot in the least appreciate the depths or the glories of the kingdom bequeathed to them. Nor can they receive the authority and power which is vested in the kingdom that they should inherit. This is the big problem with legalism. Wiersbe sums it up saying: “So when the Judaizers led the Galatians back into legalism, they were leading them not only into religious bondage, but also into moral and spiritual infancy and immaturity.” 2
In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul brings up some of the legalistic rules that Christians in his day had fallen into. These are rules like, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” He says that such rules are based on human teachings and although they have an appearance of wisdom and are attractive to people because of the hard discipline of the body, they amount to nothing. They are all destined to pass away.
In Paul’s day they surely didn’t have a monopoly on legalistic teaching and practice. It is sad today that many Gentle Christians are getting themselves into bondages over foods, days, and other elementary things. Unfortunately, as the church draws closer to Israel there are many who are getting in bondage to things like wearing the kippa or the tallit. Already, some feel as if they must eat kosher food. This whole matter for Gentiles was settled at the great church council in Acts 15. We surely need to go back and read about it. We also need to read Galatians over and over until we gain some understanding about these things.
Paul describes the condition of childhood: “He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father” (4:2). The word for guardian is epitropov and it conveys the idea of a steward or manager over the house (cf. Lk. 8:3). The word for trustees is oikonomov. These words and concepts are very similar and thus it is a bit confusing. Utley explains it saying: “In Roman law, boys from birth to 14 years of age were in the charge of a legal guardian (cf. 3:23-25). From age 14 to 25, their property was administered by trustees (cf. 4:2). Paul was alluding to this Roman custom by using these precise terms.” 3
“So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world” (4:3). How true it is that immature Christians remain under the bondage of elementary principles of the world in much the same way that the unredeemed are so held. The basic principles of the world (stoicheia tou kosmou) can include a lot of things. To begin with the stoicheia are like the ABCs of learning or the elementary principles of knowledge. They include the earthly elements like earth, fire and water. But they also reach up to the heavens and include things like the sun, moon and stars. 4
The stoichia can include the spiritual beings, whether angelic or demonic. 5 So we see a wide range of meaning in this word. Its basic idea is to line things up or make them stand in a row. We see how that our natural and fallen world tends to operate this way in its attempt to unify people apart from God. 6 The stoichia keep us in line with the
Luther feels that the stoichia are wide enough to include even Jewish practices of the ceremonial law, such as meat, drink, dress, feasts, cleansings and even sacrifices. 7 Indeed, it appears that this is exactly what Paul has in mind by bringing up this subject.
The English scholar, Dr. Peter Pett, illumines us somewhat in regard to this matter saying: “All men are under some restraint, whether through the law, or tradition, or their own laws, or regulations and rules, or the principles by which their society is governed, or by philosophical ideas, or even in their own minds by their belief in invisible forces
and influences.” 8
It is clear that mature Christians must move beyond the elementary things and not take pride in them or be bound by them. In Colossians 2:8, he speaks again of the stoichia saying: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Today millions of Christians have been influenced by the world’s thinking, especially in the last two hundred years, as a result of the Enlightenment with all its worldly philosophers.
The Bible makes clear that we who are in Christ must die to these elementary world principles (Col. 2:20). At best, they are but types and shadows, however, the reality is in Jesus Christ.
THE FULL RIGHTS OF SONS
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4-5
We see a great mystery here and it is the mystery of the incarnation. The incarnation, the coming of God in the flesh, could only happen according to God’s precise timing. Thus we see the expression, plhrwma tou cronou (fullness of time). This is a very important expression. Vincent describes it as “the moment by which the whole pre-messianic period was completed.” 9 The plhrwma is often translated “fullness” or “filling up.”
There had to be a long period before humankind was prepared to receive God’s salvation. God had to give us thousands of pictures of what redemption was all about. People had to understand faith, grace, and hundreds of other biblical concepts before they could really get the picture. They had to see the Temple with its priests and sacrifices. They had to live under the law for those 1,300 years before they would fully understand the need to be freed from its bondages. It was only after the Law of Moses had done its work that they were at all prepared for the coming of Christ. 10
The great prophetic clock or time period of Daniel had to run down. Sixty-nine of the seventy time periods of seven years each had to elapse before the Redeemer could come (Dan. 9:24-26). The pagan world had to sink to its absolute depths of depravity before people would cry out for a Savior. 11 God’s people had to run the gamut of law and realize that they with their sinful natures could never live according to God’s perfect plan. The three hundred or so messianic prophecies had to reach their fulfillment.
There had to be a lot of physical preparation in the earth itself before the Messiah could appear. The Greek language had to be spread all over the known world by Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC. There had to be a great time of peace or the pax Romana. Roman roads had to be built all over the known world. Safe shipping lanes for international commerce and travel had to be established. At last, the religious and moral searching had to reach a crescendo before the answer to that searching could come. God is in control of history. There was a time for every purpose under heaven. There was a time for God to visit earth. 12 There was a precise moment for Jesus to step onto the stage of human history and say: “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk. 1:15).
We might wonder what would have happened had God just gone out into the pagan world and said something like this: “Hi, I am God, and I have a wonderful plan for your life. I have come to tell you how you can repent of your sins, how you can accept my Messiah and know my full salvation!” After the poor pagan had stopped trembling he would probably have asked some urgent questions like: “But sir, what do you mean by ‘repent,’ and what do you mean by ‘sins,’ also what do you mean by ‘Messiah,’ and by ‘salvation?’” The pagan would have been missing thousands of redemptive pictures. He would also have been missing thousands of years of holy or redemptive history.
We simply must not pass over the mystery of the incarnation that is so plainly presented here. The Almighty God sent his only Son to the earth to redeem humanity. He was born into the world of flesh and blood in a little place called Bethlehem. He was born of woman, of the Virgin Mary. He was truly God and truly man, in that wonderful and perfect combination. Also he was born under the law. He became the first person to ever keep the law perfectly. The Messiah knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21). There was no guile found in his mouth (1 Pet. 2:22). Although he was tempted at every point just as we are he was completely without sin (Heb. 4:15). 13
The God-Man lived on this earth for some thirty-three years. In his life he fulfilled all righteousness and gave us a perfect pattern. Then through evil men he was accused, judged and crucified as a common criminal. He died in our place, bearing our sins and sorrows but by his blood he brought about our deliverance. After three days Jesus rose from the tomb and overcame all the powers of death and hell. He then ascended to the Father where he awaits the final day of redemption, resurrection of the righteous and judgment of the wicked. As Paul says in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Christ through his precious blood has redeemed us. He did not redeem us with perishable things. He says in 1 Peter 1:18-19: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Because of this precious redemption Paul challenges us in 1 Corinthians 6:20: “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
God redeemed or purchased us in order that we might become his sons. The technical Greek word used here is uioqesian which refers to adoption. Vincent makes clear that this is not sonship as in the case of Christ, but a sonship conferred on us. 14 We should note that all believers are included here, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. Paul summarizes the mystery of all this in Ephesians 1:5-6. The Apostle says, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
THE GIVING OF THE SPIRIT
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6
The adoption could not be complete without the Spirit. After all, God is spirit and those who worship him must worship him in the spiritual realm (Jn. 4:24). The Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the believer is the one thing that really sets off the Christians from all others. In Old Testament times the Holy Spirit fell upon certain ones in order that they might fulfill the mission God had assigned to them. Now the Holy Spirit is given freely to all believers. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God and the presence of the Son in the human heart. As Stott says, “He sent his Son that we might have the status of sonship, and he sent his Spirit that we might have an experience of it.” 15
In essence, the whole godhead is involved in this process, or the whole Trinity is involved in our salvation. 16 The Holy Spirit of God now lives in the believer’s heart (kardia) or his inmost being. The Holy Spirit comes within us to bring great joy, peace, victory and a lot of other wonderful things. He also comes to be the “earnest,” “down-payment” or “guarantee” of our eventual redemption. Paul says in Romans 8:15-16: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
That cry of “Abba” (Father) must have been heard often on the lips of Jesus. The disciples must have heard it so many times that it had become sacred to them and thus it was preserved in the original language of Aramaic. 17 The Holy Spirit within us now cries out “Abba” to our Father or Daddy. The Holy Spirit not only strengthens us, guides us, and encourages us but he makes a constant intercession for us before the Father (Rom. 8:26).
This same Spirit reminds us of our spiritual inheritance, that we are no longer slaves but adopted sons and daughters of God. Through the Spirit we are now partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) and inheritors of the divine promise.
“So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (4:7). We must apologize because it is impossible to be “politically correct” here. The Bible is speaking specifically of “sons” and not of “daughters.” God has to speak this way because he is talking about the ancient laws of inheritance which always passed to the son. If we do not keep the gender straight we will have ourselves a theological mess. However, we must point out that the full salvation of God comes to all believers and in this sense there is no difference between male, female, slave, free, Jew or Greek (cf. 3:28).
Once we were slaves to sin or slaves under the law but now we have become sons. In the ancient world there was a right-of-passage for children as they grew up. For the Romans the age was not definitely fixed, however, it was usually between the ages of 14-17. There was a sacred festival involved called the Liberalia. In this festival the son took off his childhood toga praetexta and put on the adult toga or the virilis. There was an additional custom that when boys or girls grew up they offered their toys to the god Apollo, thereby putting away childish things. In the Greek world the boy came of age at 18. In the Jewish world, it was on the first Sabbath after the boy passed his 12th birthday. At that time he went to the synagogue and fully became a son of the law. 18
By the grace of God we are no longer slaves or children. We are now heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). We have begun to enjoy a wonderful and blessed spiritual heritage and a life with God that will continue forever.
TURNING BACK TO MISERABLE PRINCIPLES?
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. Galatians 4:8
Prior to coming to Christ the Galatians, like all pagan peoples, were under the influence of pagan gods. The idea of people bowing down to blocks of wood, to stone or to chunks of metal seems foolish today but this type of worship was carried on without interruption in the human race for thousands of years. We must understand that behind idolatry was a strong satanic attraction. No doubt there were false signs and miracles worked by demons in order to keep people in line with this type of worship. The Galatians had gone from the slavery of such paganism directly to the glorious freedom in Christ.
“But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (4:9). Much of the uniqueness of Christianity is found in this statement. Those who are truly Christians truly know God. The words used here are gnontes and gnosthentes (both from ginosko) and they relate to the Hebrew word ya-dah. Both words imply an intimate knowledge or personal relationship. 19
Throughout Bible history people have known God personally. Adam knew God since he walked and talked with him in Eden before his fall (Gen. 2:16-17). Enoch also walked with God and God took him (Gen. 5:24). Also Abraham walked and talked with God on many occasions. I once heard a Jewish Rabbi state that it is a fundamental Jewish imperative to know God. We might add that it is also a fundamental Christian imperative.
We see this deep, intimate knowledge of God in the words of Jesus as he describes what real life is all about: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
Paul adds in another place that we cannot gain the knowledge of God on our own. The truth is that God knew us first and chose us to be his sons and daughters before the world began (Eph. 1:4). This harkens back to the Christian doctrine of prevenient grace. God chose us before we chose him and God knew us before we knew him. Actually, there is no way we can know him unless he reveals himself to us. Jesus says in Luke 10:22, “…No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
The Apostle wants to know how the Galatians could be deeply acquainted with God and still turn back to weak and miserable principles (stoichea). From his statements here we can see how the stoichea are certainly connected to legalism— the do’s and don’ts of religion. “They were dropping out of the school of grace and enrolling in the kindergarten of law!…they were giving up the power of the gospel for the weakness of law, and the wealth of the gospel for the poverty of law.” 20 We have seen earlier how legalism has the appearance of maturity since it seems to teach all the rules of religion and since it treats the flesh with such severity, but in fact it leads to spiritual immaturity in the end.
One famous example of legalistic religion is the evangelist John Wesley. In school he became very religious. “He was the son of a clergyman and became a clergyman himself.
He was orthodox in belief, faithful in morality, and full of good works. He did ministry in prisons, sweatshops, and slums. He gave food, clothing, and education to slum children. He observed both Saturday and Sunday as the Sabbath. He sailed from England to the American colonies as a missionary. He studied his Bible, prayed, fasted, and gave regularly. Yet all the time, he was bound in the chains of his own religious efforts, because he trusted in what he could do to make himself right before God instead of trusting in what Jesus had done.” 21
So John Wesley was very religions, even to the point of becoming a missionary to the new world, yet he did not really know God. He was a lost man until Aldersgate in 1738, when he really surrendered his heart to God and came to know the Messiah. That is what real religion is all about. From that point on Wesley brought forth a great spiritual harvest.
Legalism is a sort of short-circuit to real religion. Although it gives the appearance of spiritual maturity it actually transports believers back to a sort of “second childhood” in their Christian experience. It puts the focus on what we can achieve for God and takes the focus away from what Jesus has achieved for us. 22
“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” (4:10). Here Paul gets to some of the specifics in which the Galatian Christians were involved. They were probably being allured by the Sabbath celebrations and perhaps celebrations of Jewish feasts. This was no doubt for them a door-opener to the deeper things of the law.
In Israel the whole country almost shuts down for the Sabbath and for the major feast days. There is thus hardly a way not to acknowledge these times. Those of us who have lived in Israel know that many Messianic Jewish Christians and many Gentile Christians as well celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish feast days right along with the regular Christian days and festivals. There is nothing wrong with simple celebration and enjoyment of our Hebrew heritage providing we do not get into bondage to the Sabbath and to Jewish festivals. When we feel compelled that we must celebrate them we have gotten into legalism. We must remember that such things do not save us nor do they merit God’s favor in any way. They are but dim reflections of the glorious reality that is in Christ.
We might add that there is nothing wrong with circumcision in itself. Most Messianic Jewish males are circumcised to this day. We have attended several Brit-Milah ceremonies for the circumcision of children in Israel. In earlier times in the US it was customary in some places for male Gentile children to be circumcised when they were born in the hospital. So the act of circumcision is innocent enough in itself. The problem comes when we look upon these things as having salvific properties. The problem comes when we feel compelled to do such things in order to be pleasing to God. We are saved by grace and faith rather than by such works of righteousness.
“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (4:11). The great reformer, John Calvin, says that this expression is harsh “and must have filled the Galatians with alarm.” 23 It seems here that the great and persistent Apostle Paul is about to “throw in the towel” and give up on the Galatian church. We know however that Paul’s great love will not permit such a thing.
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. Galatians 4:12
It seems here that Paul is pleading with the Galatians to become like him since he was a free person in Christ. He became like them in order to win them to Christ in the first place. We know from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 that Paul made this attitude a principle of his ministry. He says in this passage that although he was free he became a slave to win the slaves. He became like a Jew to win the Jews. He also became like those who were under the law to win those under the law. To those who were lawless he became as one not under the law in order to win them. For the gospel’s sake he became all things to all people in order to win some people.
It is amazing here that Paul can say to the Galatians: “You have done me no wrong.” It seems that Paul has some kind of gracious forgetfulness toward the severe stoning the Galatians gave him in Acts 14:19. In the next verse here in Galatians he will tell us that he was already quite sick when he arrived in Galatia. A stoning on top of a severe sickness was surely not easy to forgive and forget but Paul had managed to do so.
“As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you” (4:13). There has been much speculation about Paul’s illness. Some have suggested an eye disease, while others have suggested epilepsy. In the Interpreter’s Bible, T. Stamm says about this: “The difficulty of diagnosing the case of a living patient should warn us of the futility of attempting it for one who has been dead almost nineteen hundred years.” 24
When we reflect on the details of Paul’s First Missionary Journey it possibly gives us some light on the nature of his disease. Although Paul and his companions arrived at Perga of Pamphylia on the coast, they apparently did not minister there. This is strange since it was a heavily populated area. Instead of ministering there Paul chose to travel up the difficult and dangerous road to Antioch of Pisidia, which was in the highlands of Galatia. Professor, theologian and prolific writer, William Barclay, suggests the reason for this might have been that Paul contracted malaria in the lowlands. That would have surely given him severe headaches. Such headaches have been likened to having a red-hot bar being thrust through one’s forehead. Indeed Barclay says that it is very old tradition that Paul was plagued with headaches. 25
We cannot be sure about the nature of Paul’s physical problem. We can only be sure from this verse that he first came to the Galatian highlands because he was sick. Other scholars have suggested that this lingering sickness may also be connected to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7. 26
“Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself” (4:14). Whatever Paul’s illness was, we realize that it was something that could be offensive and repugnant to others. It appears that the Galatians were so happy to receive the gospel that they didn’t even notice the physical problem. Instead they received Paul as an angel of God and as Christ. We notice later in Paul’s writings that he learned to even glory in his weakness because when he was weak in the flesh he was strong in the Spirit (2 Cor. 12:10).
“What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (4:15). It is this passage that has made some commentators feel that Paul had some sort of repulsive eye disease. However, it is likely that Paul is quoting a proverbial expression that spoke of some high degree of affection or self-sacrifice. 27
“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (4:16). It appears that in our “enlightened” world it is still not permitted to tell the truth. In many nations of the world if one tells the truth of the Christian gospel it is still possible to face imprisonment or death. The truth has never been popular. In our postmodern age the scholars and philosophers have concluded that there is no such thing as an absolute standard of truth. We get the feeling that many of these elite actually despise the truth and are intent upon obscuring it or actually destroying it completely if that were possible.
Paul had already gotten himself stoned at the Galatian city of Lystra for telling the truth. No doubt he is wondering if he is being considered once more an enemy for
The Bible says that the wounds of a friend are faithful and not so the kisses of an enemy (Prov. 27:6). It also says that righteous people love a faithful reproof (Ps. 141:5; Pr. 9:8).
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. Galatians 4:17
The word “zealous” (zealousin) has its roots in the Greek word “to burn.” 28 The word could picture a couple of young lovers burning with affection; it could picture deep envy or just plain zeal. Paul earlier described himself as zealous for Judaism: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (1:14). Paul was extremely zealous for a false cause and that can be dangerous for everyone. The Pharisees also had such a misplaced zeal. Paul said of them in Romans 10:2: “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” However, Paul later in life developed a good zeal for the church of God. He says: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Cor. 11:2).
Much zeal even in religious groups today is not really a zeal for Christ but a zeal for leaders, doctrines, organizations or various other things. Morris remarks: “Throughout history there have been many earnest people whose zeal for their cause has far exceeded their grasp of reality” 29
Too often the zeal expressed by certain leaders is a selfish zeal like that of the Judaizers. They were intent on drawing Paul’s own converts away from him and luring those converts to themselves alone. There are too many like them today who are not winning the lost but who are interested in stealing sheep from other shepherds. 30 We see this trend a lot in the cults where leaders entice the unsuspecting with great zeal. Sometimes this is known as “love bombing,” but in the end it proves to be an insincere love. 31
“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you” (4:18). The meaning of this sentence is a little cloudy. We cannot tell exactly to whom Paul is referring here. Perhaps he is referring to their zeal over good things and even to their zeal in reference to himself and his presence with them.
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,…” (4:19) Such loving expressions as “my dear children,” “my son,” or “little children” are used often by Paul and especially by the Beloved John (cf. 1 Cor. 4:14; 1 Tim. 1:18; 1 Jn. 2:1). Paul once said to the Corinthians: “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).
Paul’s concern is that the Galatians truly become “born again” – that they begin to breathe spiritual air and begin their walk toward maturity. Paul is still travailing for them like a woman in labor. He earnestly desires that they be conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29). The word used here for “formed” is taken from the Greek root “morph.” This word was often used in the medical sense and was related to fetal development. 32
Paul sighs saying, “how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (4:20). It appears that Paul is at his wits’ end and doesn’t know exactly how to deal with the Galatians. 33 It is almost as if he leaves this section mumbling to himself.
A TALE OF TWO WOMEN
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? Galatians 4:21
The Jewish people looked at scripture in four different ways. There was first the simple meaning or Peshat. As they probed deeper into the scripture there was the Ramaz, the suggested or hinted meaning. Then they sought for the Derush, or the deeper meaning deduced by careful investigation. At last there was the Sod, or the allegorical meaning. By taking the first letters of these four words they got the acronym of PRDS. These are the consonants for the Hebrew word “Paradise.” 34
We understand from this that there was always more than one meaning to the Word of God. In this passage Paul is dealing with the deepest meanings of this passage by resorting to the allegorical method of interpretation. He is seeking for the deepest spiritual meaning (sod) or secret understanding. Such understandings are best brought out in allegory.
Jesus did a similar thing by always teaching in parables. The simple person who heard him would take away from his sermon only the simple things he could understand. However the discerning person could take away much more and would grasp some of the spiritual implications of the message. This was a very kind way of dealing with people. It did not bring them under judgment for hearing more than they could put into practice.
Barnes states that “allegories are in words what hieroglyphics are in painting.” He reminds us that “The best sustained allegory of any considerable length in the world is, doubtless, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.” 35 Although allegories can be overworked as was the case with the early church father, Origen, they are still great tools to help us understand the deeper truths of scripture.
In the next chapter Paul will deal at length with the spiritual walk or life in the Spirit. Here he seems to be preparing us to some degree for that walk. We know from scripture that there are first the natural things and then the spiritual. In this passage there are first two natural women and then two natural sons. But the spiritual significance is underlying these natural people. Then there are two covenants which take us even deeper into the spiritual. At last, there are two cities. One is seen and natural while the other is unseen
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:46 that the natural comes first and then the spiritual. Often the spiritual is somehow based on the natural or is overshadowing the natural. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 he says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” For instance, the natural Jerusalem is still “seen” and is temporal, but the Heavenly Jerusalem is “unseen” and is eternal. As Duncan says: “By an allegory he means something more than an illustration: it is a spiritual truth embodied in history, a shadow from the eternal world cast upon the sands of time.” 36
Paul first sees in this account two women, Hagar and Sarah. These two women bring forth two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Then Paul focuses upon two covenants, the covenant of law and the covenant of grace. At last he focuses on two cities, the Jerusalem that now is and the Jerusalem that is to come or the heavenly Jerusalem.
We note in the two women that one (Hagar) is a slave while the other (Sarah) is a free woman. The two women had sons but they had their sons in two different ways.
“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” (4:22-23). In Bible times it was always the mother and not the father who determined the status of the child. 37 The same thing is true in Israel today. If a person has a Jewish mother that person can immigrate to Israel, but without a Jewish mother immigration is difficult if not impossible.
Because Hagar was a slave she brought forth her son into slavery. Because Sarah was a free woman she brought forth her son into freedom. Hagar’s son was born in a very natural manner but Sarah’s son was born as a result of God’s promise (Gen. 18:9-15).
Perhaps we should stop here just a moment and catch our breaths. This is truly a very deep and difficult passage. “Many people regard this as the most difficult passage in the Epistle to the Galatians. For one thing, it presupposes a knowledge of the Old Testament which few people possess today.” 38 For comparison sake, there is a passage in Romans 9:6-8 that will help us understand. So, we will catch our breaths, breathe a prayer to Jesus that he will assist us in interpreting this passage and then we will move forward.
We should note that there was a very big difference in these two sons who were born. Ishmael was a man of the world and spent a lot of time out in the countryside. Isaac was a man of the tents. He seems to have spent a lot of time meditating in the things of God (Gen. 24:63). God chose Isaac as the beneficiary of his covenant. He specifically did not choose Ishmael, who was the firstborn and technically should have received the blessings and the covenant. So, from this point on in history and until the present day we have the struggle of the “chosen” and the “not chosen.” There are a billion and a half Muslims today who trace their spiritual lineage all the way back to Ishmael. There are a small and beleaguered Jewish people of only some thirteen million who trace their lineage
back to Isaac.
“These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.” (4:24). Now Paul goes quickly to state that there are two covenants involved here. The first is from Mount Sinai where the law was given. This is a covenant of legalism and still brings forth children of bondage. The mother of this covenant is Hagar, who fled into the wilderness with her son (Gen. 16:1-16; 21:9-21). Ishmael, her son, lived in the wilderness and became one of the principal progenitors of the Arab people.
“Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children” (4:25). Paul quickly develops his allegory further and brings in the idea of two cities. Hagar not only corresponds to Mount Sinai and the law but she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, the famous center of the law. This argument was no doubt a devastating blow to the legalistic Judaizers who were troubling the Galatians. They had probably come from Jerusalem and had all their connections and pedigrees with the more legalistic sect that was centered there.
We might note here that there was an apparent connection with the name “Hagar” and with the desert areas. The early church father Chrysostom stated: “Hagar is the word for mount Sinai, in the language of that country.” Although scholars cannot trace the source of his information it is nevertheless interesting. 39
Other commentators such as Barclay and Stott see that there was some sort of linguistic connection between “Hagar” and Mount Sinai and also with Arabia. 40 Be this as it may, there is certainly a spiritual connection as Paul brings out.
“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (4:26). This statement of Paul is really interesting. It tells us that we not only have a Father in Heaven but we have a mother in Heaven. Our mother is the Jerusalem that is above. When we “return to Zion” we are returning to the mother from whom we were born. In Colossians 3:1 ff. we read that we are to focus our attention on these things which are above and not on the earth. In John 8:23 Jesus testified that he was from above and not from this earth. In Revelation 21:2 John saw this heavenly city coming down to earth dressed as a
The Jewish people have felt that this spiritual city is always hovering over the natural city of Jerusalem. 41 The Book of Hebrews says about this: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,” (Heb. 12:22-23). We see that one day in the future there will be a great homecoming to the spiritual Jerusalem.
Paul ends this section with the beautiful song of victory from Isaiah 54:1: “For it is written: ‘Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’” (4:27). Sarah was barren while her slave Hagar was able to produce a son. There was no doubt much sorrow in Sarah’s heart because of her barrenness. However in faith, Sarah eventually produced an almost miraculous son according to the promise of God (cf. 1 Sam. 2:5b). The spiritual children of Sarah today far outnumber the natural seed of Hagar.
We can all probably agree that this whole section is a difficult one and stretches our spiritual faculties somewhat. I once read a prophecy that was given by the great charismatic leader, Derek Prince in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (US). That prophecy may clear up this section a bit and it may help us as we struggle every day between the natural and spiritual:
There are two things, the actual and the ideal.
To be mature is to see the ideal and live with the actual.
To fail is to accept the actual and reject the ideal, and to accept
only that which is ideal and refuse the actual is to be immature.
Do not criticize the actual because you have seen the ideal.
Do not reject the ideal because you see the actual.
Maturity is to live with the actual but hold on to the ideal.
GOD’S PERSECUTED CHILDREN
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. Galatians 4:28
Paul quickly makes the spiritual connection for the Galatians. By faith in Jesus they now stand in the spiritual position of being heirs to the promise and therefore true children of God. The whole spiritual realm and the spiritual heritage of Abraham belongs to them. It has not come through circumcision and keeping the law but through promise, through grace and through faith.
However, if we are like Isaac, we can fully expect to be treated like Isaac. 42 We immediately read what happened between Ishmael and Isaac: “At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now” (4:29). No doubt this is a reference to Genesis 21:9 where it is reported that Ishmael mocked Isaac who was son of the promise. This was no doubt some sort of ridicule or even that of laughing derisively at little Isaac. Paul reminds us that “it is the same now.” It has always been the same and will no doubt continue to the end of the age.
We see this most clearly today in the physical and spiritual line of Ishmael. Over the last 1,300 years this has manifested itself most clearly with the rise of the Muslims, who trace their spiritual lineage back to Ishmael. We see in scripture that the line of the “not chosen” was continued on in Esau, who was destined to live by the sword (Gen. 27:40).
We will not know until the great books are opened how many millions of Jews and Christians have been slaughtered by the sword of Islam. Even while I write this passage a family of eight was just attacked with five of them murdered in Israel by Muslim Arabs. Even the tiny children were brutally stabbed to death. It is likely that this struggle, which is probably the most serious one on earth today, will go on till the end of time.
All human history will likely end up as part of this ancient struggle between the brothers— between Isaac and Ishmael and between Jacob and Esau. It is entirely possible that it will be Muslim armies that besiege Israel in the last days and that it will be Jesus himself who comes to solve this problem once for all.
There is also a deeply spiritual manifestation of this same problem. True Christians will always be persecuted by unbelievers. True Christians are children of promise and children of the covenant just as Isaac and Jacob were. Quite often that persecution will be seen in the church itself as those born only of the flesh persecute those born of the Spirit.
Jesus was hated and despised by his own Israelite brethren (Jn. 8:39-42). He makes us this promise in John 15:19: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Paul had certainly suffered plenty because of this very hatred.
“But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son” (4:30). As Wiersbe remarks, “Ishmael had been in the home for at least seventeen years, but his stay was not to be permanent…It is impossible for law and grace, the flesh and the Spirit, to compromise and stay together.” 43 Or as F.F. Bruce says: “Legal bondage and spiritual freedom cannot coexist.” 44
The Greek verb for “Get rid” or “cast out” is ekbale and is used in the aorist imperative. It means to “drive off” the slave girl and her son (Gen. 21:10). In the Galatians context it would mean to “kick the Judaizers out!” 45 It may seem cruel but it is necessary. That also pertains to the various bondages that we ourselves have contracted and so
The son of the slave woman cannot inherit with the son of the free woman. Jesus says in John 8:35: “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” Today we are sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). We stand only by faith and not by our works of legalism.
“Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (4:31). As Adam Clark, the British Methodist theologian sums it up: “Being made children, they become heirs, and God is their portion throughout eternity. Thus, in a few words, the whole doctrine of grace is contained, and an astonishing display made of the unutterable mercy of God.” 46 Perhaps Romans 8:17 sums it up even better: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Freedom is probably one of the scarcest commodities on earth. Even in the US, the so-called “land of the free,” we no longer understand much about freedom, and in fact, there is getting to be less and less of it. Many are in spiritual prisons today because of their sins, lusts, habits, and addictions while multitudes are in prison for real. The US now has the sad distinction of consigning more of its citizens to prison per capita than any other country on earth, including Russia and Communist China. While the US has only 5 percent of the world’s population, it has almost 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. 1
Obviously, a lot of people who think they are free are not really free at all. This was the case with the Jews in Jesus’ day who were certain they were free, but in fact they were bound in many ways, even being slaves of sin (Jn. 8:33-34). Jesus said to them and to us: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). He also said in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Here the Apostle Paul develops that wonderful freedom of Jesus. It is said that Paul insists on this freedom or liberty more than any other writer in the New Testament. 2 As we mentioned at the beginning, this epistle of Galatians is a sort of “Emancipation Proclamation,” first for the lost and then for believing humanity as well. Through Christ we can be set free from our sins, from our habits and from ourselves. This precious Christian freedom is not a result of our own efforts. It is rather a gift of God’s grace to all those who will believe and accept it from the hand of the Lord.
We might imagine a wretched prisoner languishing in his chains when suddenly he is pardoned and set free with absolutely no effort of his own. The great hymn-writer Charles Wesley captures this feeling and the Christian experience of liberation in his great hymn:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee. 3
It is one thing to be set free but it is quite another thing to remain free as we see in this epistle. Here Paul exhorts the Galatians to “Stand firm” in their new freedom (cf. 1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 4:1). As we have learned so far, the Galatian Christians were being troubled by the Judaizers who were instructing them about the need to be circumcised and to shoulder the requirements of the law. These false teachers were presenting circumcision not just as a physical operation but as a sort of theological symbol (cf. Acts 15:1, 5). 4
They were trying to bind upon the new Galatian believers a load which even the great Jewish fathers had not been able to bear (cf. Acts 15:10). It was a yoke of bondage—a yoke of slavery which would quickly drain away the love, joy and peace the new saints were experiencing with Jesus.
The command to “Stand firm” has been called the most forceful one in the whole letter. 5 With it the Apostle is obviously turning from the doctrinal to the practical as he usually does at some point in his epistles. From this verse on he will be dealing mostly with the “godly walk” or the “ha-la-chah” as the Jews call it.
“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all” (5:2). Today a lot of Christians are in the habit of marking important verses of their Bibles with colored pencils. This is a good verse to mark, and maybe Paul is even exhorting us to do so. We are living in a time when some segments of the church are drawing closer to Israel and to their own Hebrew heritage as we have said. It is a time when the Holy Spirit is stirring up a love for Israel in many individual hearts. There is a real temptation for a few zealous souls to go all the way and become circumcised. Paul is warning Gentile Christians not to do such a thing. As Norman Bartlett says, “The righteousness of works and justification by faith cannot coexist.” 6 Bartlett claims that it short-circuits the power of the Spirit and brings about a paralysis so far as service for Christ is concerned.
Paul repeats himself and adds even more cautions so that no one misses his point: “Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law” (5:3). It is entirely possible that the Judaizers were initially tempting the Gentile believers with circumcision and perhaps with only a few attractive elements of the law like the Jewish holidays and feast days. 7 Paul wants to clear the air and make it plain that one cannot pick and choose regarding the law. When a person accepts the way of law, that one is brought under the burden of the whole law. It goes together as a package. Also, there is no “grading on the curve” for performance but the poor legalist must get 100 percent right all the time. 8 James says: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (Jas. 2:10).
Legalism, in one form or another, is surely the plague of modern and postmodern Christianity. Ray Stedman, that popular Christian preacher and author, likens it to the common cold from which almost everyone suffers but no one knows the cure. Like the cold it is also very contagious. It comes upon us and we hardly know when or how it happened. 9 While we may not claim a salvation of legalism we certainly can end up with a legalistic lifestyle. The great reformer, Martin Luther describes the “Christianity” of his
When I was a monk I tried ever so hard to live up to the strict rules of my order. I used to make a list of my sins, and I was always on the way to confession, and whatever penances were enjoined upon me I performed religiously. In spite of it all, my conscience was always in a fever of doubt. The more I sought to help my poor stricken conscience the worse it got. The more I paid attention to the regulations the more I transgressed them. 10
Too often, we get so busy doing “Christian things” in the modern church that we utterly forget what Christ has done for us. It is all too easy for us to end up our Christian pilgrimage here on earth with a sort of spiritual rigor mortis, leaving our lives cold and barren of real spiritual fruit.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (5:4). There is probably not another verse in scripture that has caused more debate among scholars as this one. In this verse we have two rather alarming Greek words. The first is katergethete, which has a strong sense of being cut off, or severed. 11 The second is verb ejkpiptein, which means to fall out, to be banished or deprived. In the case of actors it means being hissed off the stage. 12 These are strong words and they have grave implications for followers of the Way (cf. 2 Pet. 3:17).
The question that normally arises among scholars and Bible students at this point is: “Can one lose his or her salvation, or are we saved eternally?” Utley reminds us that the Bible is an eastern book and few people in the ancient Middle East would have even considered the questions we ask today in the west. Our questions are based on western logic more than they are based on revelation.
Eastern people seem to have realized that truth was often given in dialectical pairs. These pairs may have seemed contradictory on the surface but at deeper levels both points might have proven to be biblical. While the positions are tension-filled and seemingly paradoxical they were meant to affirm elements of both viewpoints. We cannot stand such logic today and we desire to establish one truth and exclude the other entirely. 13 We often forget that we see through a mirror dimly and understand only in part (1 Cor. 13:12).
In other words, if we wish to be biblical we cannot choose the Calvinistic program of a secure salvation and exclude the Arminian one with its possibility of falling from grace. More than likely both have some truths, although it is possible that one has more truth than the other. The best thing we can do is trust God for more light and live out our lives in godly fear as the scripture has challenged us to do (Phil. 2:12).
There is a serious problem we have as humans. We have a hard time giving up the idea that our works somehow figure in and help us gain salvation. There is the old adage that it is easier to give up our sins than it is to give up our good works. Stott says “People hate to be told that they can be saved only at the foot of the cross, and they oppose the preacher who tells them so.” 14 But God looks at our works that are done toward salvation as a pile of filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Once we are saved by grace and simple faith in Jesus we can happily go out and perform as many good works as we are led to do (Eph. 2:8-10). These works will be done through the power of the Spirit. However, we must remember that all our good works and our efforts to live by the law will never save us.
BY FAITH AND BY THE SPIRIT
But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5
God no doubt wants to move us forward in faith, through his grace and through his Spirit, to serve him effectively while we live on earth. In order to accomplish this we must get rid of our “I” disease and focus on God, his Spirit and his plan for us. This is so clearly illustrated in Romans chapters seven and eight. In chapter seven the pronoun “I” is mentioned 32 times and the Holy Spirit is not directly mentioned. In chapter 7, Paul bewails his condition of not being able to do what he would like to do. In chapter 8, “I” is mentioned only twice and the Holy Spirit is mentioned eighteen times. 15 Chapter eight is that grand passage that describes how we can get out of the fleshly mode and live triumphantly in the spiritual mode.
Faith and hope are very closely related. Hope is not just some pious wish as it is often thought of today but it is rather a strong assurance of that which is to come. 16 As we see in 1 Corinthians 13:13, it is one of the three pillars of our Christian faith.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (5:6). The expression “in Christ” is an important one for Paul. It is really almost a short summary of his whole gospel. Although Paul never tries to describe it, the expression pictures our most intimate relationship with Jesus. 17 We see here that circumcision and uncircumcision really have no meaning regarding our salvation or our relationship with the Lord.
Circumcision was a “sign” in the Old Testament and it spoke of something to come (Gen. 17:11). Today what counts is circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16) and ears (Acts 7:51), as well as in our worship. In Philippians 3:3 we read: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh….” Elsewhere in the Bible it is made plain that we do not replace Israel but rather join with the redeemed of Israel in worshipping and serving
God (Eph. 3:6).
We see the gospel pattern so clearly in this verse. We are saved by faith not by circumcision and by keeping the law. There is no way we earn our salvation by our good and pious works. However, as we have said, after we are saved by grace and through faith we begin working for God (Eph. 2:8-10). It is not by our sweat but by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Paul says it is “faith expressing itself through love.” As Stott says: “the faith which saves is a faith which works.” 18 Or as Clark sums it up in rhyme: “Love to God produces obedience to his will: love to man worketh no ill.” 19 Quite simply, we do not work to get saved but we get saved to work.
LOOSING THE RACE
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. Galatians 5:7-8
Here the NIV uses the expression, “who cut in on you?” While this may be correct, Lightfoot brings out the meaning of “breaking up the road as to render it impassable.” 20 Others see the meaning as impeding or blocking the way.
Paul often compares the Christian life to the ancient Greek Olympic Races (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-26; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:7). In these games each participant had to run with great intensity and dedication in order to win the crown. We can probably picture this best by reviewing some of the recent Olympic contests. It takes much of the runner’s life to train and prepare for the race that lasts only a few moments. One mistake and all is lost.
In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Dutch speed skating star Sven Kramer was the hot favorite to win the 10,000-meter speed skating title. He had already won gold in his earlier 5,000-meter victory, and he had completed the grueling circuit in what would have been an Olympic record time. Suddenly his coach called for him to switch to the inner lane. In a split-second decision Kramer made the lane change and was promptly disqualified from the race. Kramer said in tears “My world collapsed… This is a disaster. This is the worst moment in my career!” Later Sports Illustrated headlined the event: “Coach’s gaffe costs Kramer gold.” 21
As Wiersbe says, “He had called them to run faithfully in the lane marked ‘Grace.’” 22 Unfortunately, the Galatian believers were about to switch to the lane marked “Law.” Paul knew the consequences would be eternally devastating.
“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (5:9). Paul momentarily switches to another metaphor as he is often prone to do. He takes us quickly from the Olympic races to the bakery. In this picture we see that just a little bit of yeast works through a whole batch of dough (cf. 1 Cor. 5:6; Mk. 8:15). This was obviously a common proverb used in Paul’s day. Lightfoot relates that leaven as used in the Bible is always a symbol of evil with the single exception of Jesus’ parables recorded in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21. 23 Commentators generally feel that the “yeast” mentioned in scripture was not exactly the same thing as our yeast today. It was more than likely a bit of fermented dough left over from previous baking. My wife occasionally makes a batch of sough-dough bread and keeps a remnant of the dough for future batches.
The point is that leaven is a very small thing but in time it can spread and communicate its sourness to the whole batch of dough. Also as Barnes states, “If they practiced circumcision, it would not stop there. The tendency to conform to Jewish rites would spread from that, until it would infect all the doctrines of religion, and they would fall into the observance of all the rites of the Jewish law.” 24 As it is said in Ecclesiastes 9:18, “… one sinner destroys much good.”
“I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be” (5:10). The “one” mentioned here can be used in a collective sense, however it may be that there was one principal false teacher in the troublesome group. 25 Whether one or several, God’s judgment was sure to come upon those spreading error.
DID PAUL PREACH CIRCUMCISION?
Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. Galatians 5:11
The false teachers may have actually claimed that Paul himself taught the circumcision of Gentiles. We know that sometime later Paul took young Timothy from that same area of Galatia and circumcised him because of the Jews (Acts 16:1-3). We remember that Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Paul didn’t want to bring unnecessary confusion and tension to the Jewish people he was about to work with, so he performed the act. Obviously, it was not done as a matter of faith but as a means of lessening the offense to the Jewish people and making it possible for Timothy to work closely with them.
Paul asks his accusers why he is still being persecuted. Obviously, if he preached circumcision of the Gentiles, the Jews would love him and all their persecution would cease. Paul did not preach circumcision but he preached the cross, which in essence is a much deeper and more thorough form of spiritual circumcision touching the heart and soul. The Jews wanted nothing to do with the cross, which for them was and still is today an unspeakable offense (skandalon).
The great Martin Luther once said: “When the offense of the Cross ceases, when the rage of the enemies of the Cross abates, when everything is quiet, it is a sign that the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure doctrine of God’s Word has been lost.” 26
“As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (5:12). This is no doubt one of the most shocking statements ever made in scripture. Several translations struggle with its actual meaning. The New King James Bible says “I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!” While the New Revised Standard Version has it: “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!” However we look at it this statement is brutally severe. We can know from this that stopping the threat of the Judaizers was for Paul of utmost importance and urgency.
Several commentators have pointed out that the Galatians were likely familiar with the priests of the mother goddess Cybele who were present in their area. These priests were normally castrated as they were prepared to attend to the worship of their goddess. 27
THE LAW OF LOVE
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13
Some commentators feel here that Paul may have been confronted with two separate problems in Galatia. In addition to the problem of the Judaizers, who were trying to bring these new believers under the bondage of the law, there may have been some antinomian influence as well. In other words, there may have been some who were trying to abuse their liberty in Christ by their self-indulgence in sin. So Paul may have been battling on two fronts simultaneously. 28
At the outbreak of World War II in 1941, US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave an important address. In his address the President spoke of four basic freedoms that were desired: the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Wiersbe notes that a most basic freedom was left out of the list and that is the freedom from the tyranny of the individual’s own sinful nature. 29 This tyranny seems at times to best manifest itself under the cloak of religion. So in Christ we now have great freedom but it is not a freedom to “do our own thing.” It is a freedom to really love God and to really love our fellow human beings. Paul uses a form of the Greek word (doulos) which means that we should love as servants.
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (5:14). The Royal Law of Christianity as established by Jesus in Mark 12:31 and mentioned specifically in James 2:8 is to love our neighbor as ourselves. In order to keep this Royal Law Paul instructs us to become even the slaves of those in need. We remind ourselves that Jesus did this exact thing. He possessed more liberty than everyone else, or anyone who had ever lived on earth. Yet he did not abuse this liberty but used it to faithfully and lovingly serve others. 30 Admittedly this is a challenge for the “Me Generation” which has forcefully exerted itself in the US over the last several decades. What a day it will be when we can love others with the same eagerness and spontaneity as we love ourselves. 31
“If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (5:15). Some may think this language is too severe for our churches today but we will at least have to admit that we do sometimes “snap” at each other, even if we do not end up biting or devouring. Calvin in quoting Chrysostom says: “for he did not merely say ‘Bite,’ which denotes an angry person, but likewise, ‘Devour,’ which denotes one who persists in wickedness. He who ‘bites’ has exhausted his angry passion, but he who ‘devours’ has given a demonstration of extreme cruelty.” 32
LIVING BY THE SPIRIT
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:16
The word “live” in the Greek language is peripateite, and it means literally “to walk.” This word is used principally for the Hebrew word ha-lak in the Septuagint, or the Greek Old Testament. 33 In the Hebrew culture “walk” and “live” are closely connected as seen in the concept of ha-la-khah, which describes the Hebrew manner of life.
In this section it is interesting how much emphasis Paul gives to walking or living in the Spirit. Richard Longnecker notes that “the truly unique feature of Pauline ethics is the role assigned to the Spirit.” 34
Since we are all born experts at walking in the flesh it might help us to try to understand what it is like to walk or live in the Spirit. We note in the Greek, that the spiritual walk is not an elective but it is a command, since peripateite is in the imperative present
To understand this concept we must understand another basic biblical principle, and that is the necessity for a new birth in the Spirit. The requirement of this new birth is seen clearly in Jesus’ discussion with the Jewish ruler Nicodemus in John 3:1-21. Nicodemus, who was certainly well-versed in the Bible and accorded the role of “teacher” in Israel, was dumbfounded by Jesus’ spiritual understanding. Jesus gave him a shocking command, “…You must be born again” (3:7). This was almost unthinkable that a great teacher in Israel would literally have to start all over from the very beginning. Jesus made plain that he would have to be born anew by faith, by the Spirit, and become like a little child in order to be saved.
So we see by this that in order to walk or live in the Spirit we must first be born again in the Spirit. We might wonder today how many great Christians and even how many Bible teachers have never experienced the new birth. We might also wonder how many Christians would even be able to describe this important process. Yet, it’s at the new birth that we actually receive the Holy Spirit and the new life in Christ. Sometimes today Christians are designated as “born again” while others are apparently not described by this category. This is absurd, since all real Christians must be born again.
To be born in the Spirit corresponds at several points to being born in the natural. We are born again through blood and water as we see in 1 John 5:6-8. When we are born again we gasp for our first spiritual breath. We cry out for our first spiritual food. Then we grow and learn to walk in the Spirit.
Learning to walk in the Spirit must be comparable in some ways to learning to walk as a baby. Many of us who have been born again by the Spirit are sometimes content to lie around and be fed, or perhaps sit up and play with our toys or even crawl a little. We realize that for a baby to get up and begin walking is a paradigm change that opens up amazing new possibilities and opportunities.
One thing we should realize is that to begin walking is to fall a lot. Another part of walking is to learn to trust the one who is beckoning us to walk. That one is watching earnestly and is prepared to catch us when we stumble. When we learn to walk as little children we have to take those first baby-steps by faith. Usually we learn the hard way what to do and what not to do. We learn about heights and depths and about the law of gravity. We learn about things that will harm us, things like touching a hot stove. So obviously there are a lot of laws of living and walking that we must learn.
Now the spiritual walk is a walk in relation to the Holy Spirit who abides within us. He becomes the teacher, coach and umpire for such a walk. Like a little child we learn to take a step at a time as the scripture says in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (NKJ). In this new walk we need to maintain an overwhelming consciousness that the Holy Spirit lives within us and is directing our every step at every moment of our lives.
To walk by the Spirit is to avoid all the fleshly enticements of sin. Thus we see that we cannot take any of the credit for walking in the Spirit. All the credit belongs to God who lives in us and guides our steps. As the old lines go:
For every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are his alone. 35
The Bible gives us many hints of what the spiritual walk will entail. To walk in the Spirit is to walk decently (Rom. 13:13); to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7); and to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10). It is to walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1-3); to walk in love (Eph. 5:2); to walk in the light (Eph. 5:8-11); and to walk carefully (Eph. 5:15-16). The spiritual walk is to walk in fruitfulness (Col. 1:10-12) and to walk in wisdom, redeeming the time (Col. 4:5-6). It is to walk in fellowship (1 Jn. 1:7); to walk as Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2:6); to walk according to his commandments (2 Jn. 1:6); and to walk in truth (3 Jn. 1:4). These are just a few of the elements that describe a spiritual walk.
To walk in the Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to totally dominate our thinking and help us to become spiritually minded (Rom. 8:5-6). We need to practice thinking spiritual thoughts and spend much more time meditating on the word of God (Josh. 1:8). Our hearts should be full of the praises to God at all times, even in our work (Psa. 34:1-2). When our heads and hearts are full of God’s praises there is little room for the flesh to gain a foothold.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (5:17). Until we are totally redeemed on that last great day there will always be a struggle in our hearts and minds between the spirit and the flesh. We see this struggle in Paul as we look at Romans 7. However, as we mentioned, we also observe this triumph and walk in the Spirit throughout Romans 8. We also note this struggle portrayed by the soldier in the poem of Studdert Kennedy as he says:
I’m a man and man’s a mixture
Right down from his very birth;
For part of him comes from heaven,
And part of him comes from earth. 36
There is another element of the spiritual walk that we must consider. We must be filled with the Spirit as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:18-20: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord
The filling of the Spirit is not some “second work of grace” that we receive miraculously sometime after conversion. The Spirit is there all the time from our new birth onward. When we are filled with the Spirit we simply allow our inmost being to be broken up and we permit the Spirit to gush out and fill us to overflowing (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:9-10; Jn. 4:14; Jn. 7:37). It is interesting to note that the command to be filled by the Spirit is in the imperative present passive tense and thus is a command to “keep on
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” (5:18). Those who are led by the Spirit each day are no longer trying to please God by keeping the law. They are motivated by a higher law, the law of Christ, which is the law of love as we have seen. God has actually poured out this love into all our hearts through the Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
FRUIT OF THE SINFUL NATURE
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;” Galatians 5:19
While it might be necessary to look carefully for the real fruit of the Spirit, the fruits of the sinful nature usually abound and stand out. Paul lists some of the most prominent ones. They are porneia, which by New Testament times had taken on the general meaning of “sexual immorality.” This would have included such things as extramarital sexual intercourse, as well as unlawful, and even unnatural sexual intercourse. 37 Into this description would well fit the postmodern sex-crazes, especially the craze of pornography.
Even back in the late 80s Christian authors Josh McDowell and Dick Day were reporting that by age twenty some 81 percent of American unmarried males and 67 percent of the unmarried females had already experienced sexual intercourse.” 38 Later in 2005, author David Kupelian could add to this grim information: “According to sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate, experts reveal that by the time a female in this country is 18 years old, 38 percent have been sexually molested. One in eight women will be raped. Fifty percent of women will be sexually harassed on their jobs during their lifetimes.” 39
Kupelian adds that sexual slavery is no longer a malady confined to the far East and some exotic locales. He states that in the US today there are somewhere between twenty to fifty thousand women and children involved in sex trafficking each year. 40
Pornography in the US has become an invasive electronic plague. He says: “There are 4.2 million pornographic Web sites – that’s 12 percent of all Web sites in the world, totaling 372 million pornographic pages. Pornographic search engine requests total 68 million per day.” 41 He adds: “Many people seem to think having sex with children is a good thing, as one hundred thousand Web sites now offer illegal child pornography, according to Internet Filter Review. Worldwide, child porn generates three billion dollars in revenues every year.”42 The US Christian organization Focus on the Family in research conducted with Zogby International estimates one in five Americans have viewed sex on the Internet. Focus notes that these figures generally apply to those who call themselves “born again.” 43
The sex mania is not only saturating the media but it is well represented in the classrooms of some of America’s most prestigious institutions of learning. If we wonder how young people get some of their ideas, the answer is that their parents probably paid dearly for such an education at many of America’s colleges and universities.
Author Ben Shapiro, in his book Brainwashed (How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth), states the following: “Sex is promoted non-stop in the classroom. All types of sex are deemed natural and fulfilling. Homosexuality is perfectly normal. Pedophilia is acceptable, if a bit weird. Statutory rape is laughed off. Bestiality is fine.” 44 He says, “There are openly gay courses. Almost all major universities have Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Departments that offer majors or minors to students.” 45
Shapiro gives many statistics to back up his claim. He states that the University of Colorado offers these subjects: “Introduction to Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Literature: Queer Theory; Studies in Lesbian, Gay; Bisexual, and Transgender Literature.” The University of Michigan offers: “How to be Gay; Male Homosexuality and Initiation.” At the University of Massachusetts Professor Richard Burt “posted dirty pictures of himself with bare-breasted women on his university-registered Web site…Strangely, Burt was
not fired.” 46
At Kansas University Professor Dennis Dailey offers the class Human Sexuality in Everyday Life. He shows his students three hours of “explicit” videos. Most of these videos graphically depict heterosexuals, gays, and lesbians in the sex act. The KU faculty immediately demonstrated their support for Dailey and what they felt was his highly educational class. Another professor, Barry Dank of California State University is sure that he has the God-given right to go to bed with his students. 47
Shapiro tells how many professors openly encourage pedophilia or sex between adults and children. He quotes Professor Harris Mirkin of the University of Missouri as saying that “Children are the last bastion of the old sexual morality.” 48
Many of the intellectual elite of our time seem to want the dark ages of paganism to return. Since the 1700s there has been the romantic but false idea of the “noble savage.” This idea has been often reflected in literature and art but it is grossly misleading. It pictures the pagan savages living in an idyllic environment before they were warped with Christian ideas of morality. The truth is that pagan people often existed in a living hell filled with hatred, violence, abuse, murder, fear and hopelessness.
We cannot imagine today the depravity and moral darkness of the ancient world. To help us understand, Barclay cites Demosthenes, the prominent Greek orator and statesman who says: “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for the day-to-day needs of the body, but we have wives in order to produce children legitimately and to have a trustworthy guardian of our homes.” 49 We can see that the home, as we would understand it in the western world, was nonexistent for many pagans, even the highly educated ones. Into this great darkness the bright light of Christ shone and much of this darkness was dispelled. People were liberated for the first time in their lives. They realized what it was like to really live and to be free from their lusts, passions,
fears and terrors.
Paul goes on with his list by adding uncleanness or moral corruption (akatharsia). This word was used to describe the pus that would collect on an unclean wound. When used in its positive form of katharos it had to do in the ancient world with housing contracts and with the requirement to leave the house clean. However, its most significant usage had to do with ceremonial purity that allowed people to approach their gods. 50 Today our world is once again drowning in uncleanness. Of course, the various forms of homosexuality would fall into this category. Uncleanness of different types can even enter into the sacred marriage relationship if we are not especially vigilant as we read in Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
The next dark fruit Paul lists is debauchery (aselgeia) also known as lewdness, or gross indecency. Barclay says of aselgeia that “it is one of the ugliest words in the Greek language. It describes not only immorality; it describes those who are lost to shame. Most people seek to conceal their evil deeds, but people who have aselgeia in their hearts are long past that.” 51 I remember the case of the US office worker some years back who dared make a photocopy of her private parts for distribution to her co-workers. Of course, we have many such outrages abounding in our electronic social media today.
The abuses of the Greek and Roman worlds might still make us blush a little. Many items of gross public pornography were found in the ruins of ancient Pompeii and elsewhere. The light of Christ shined brightly into those dark crevices. Morris remarks that “Christianity brought men an almost miraculous power to live in purity.” 52
Paul moves on to list more of the evil harvest with abuses such as: “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions…” (5:20). We live in an age of idolatry (idolatria), perhaps like no other time in history. Our idols are pervasive and quite sophisticated. They are unlike the blocks of wood, stone or metal of ages past. We remember that God instructed us not to make an idol of anything, not even one resembling a man or woman (Deut. 4:16). We have become the grossest of idolaters today and the idols we seem most susceptible to are those of the screen and the sports worlds. We have no shame and we even refer to these stars as our “idols.” One of the most watched shows in the US today is actually called “American Idol.” In fact, it has become one of the most popular shows in the history of American television.
These idols of the screen and sports worlds are often poorly equipped to be role models for their millions of admiring and worshipping young fans. Too often the idols end up divorced, on drugs or even in prison for various offences. Also, it is reported that within three years after retirement, 70 percent of the NFL football players will themselves be divorced, bankrupt or homeless. These statistics for all professional sports players is 60 percent. 53 This is astounding when we consider how many of these idols bring in salaries in the multi-million-dollar range.
Often when one of the most popular screen and music idols dies it almost plunges the country into national mourning. This was the case in the drug death of famous pop singer Michael Jackson. One of America’s most prominent gods had died and there was mourning everywhere for days and weeks.
Paul has several more fleshly works and fruits for us. He lists sorcery or witchcraft (pharmakia) as a big one. Stott defines sorcery as “the secret tampering with the powers of evil.” 54 For sure, our western culture including the church itself was poorly prepared for this invasion. For generations we had been spoon-fed the lies of Modernism with its claim that all was material and there was no supernatural world. Frankly, when I was growing up, the church no longer believed in things like sorcery, witchcraft and demons. In this state of unpreparedness the church was hit broadside with a sorcery invasion. Today Harry Potter books and movies are everywhere and no doubt even in many
We lost this battle and it was a serious one. We didn’t realize that sorcery and drugs were so closely connected. Even the word describing sorcery and witchcraft is the word from which we get “pharmacy.” The church lost millions of its finest young people to the drug culture and we didn’t even realize that we had lost them to sorcery.
Paul continues listing the works or fruits of the flesh— but the list is long. Next he mentions “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage.” This was how the “noble savage” lived. This was the world before Christ and his great love began to permeate it.
Also listed are “selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” Today we have all but glorified selfish ambition (eritheia) and made it a worthwhile career and business goal. In the Greek language this word depicted a hired laborer, but it later began to describe one who wanted public office, not for the sake of service, but for what the person could get
out of it. 55
We must sadly point out that the words (or rather spirits) of discord, dissention, and factions have somehow made their way into the church. They often sit on the front row and sing the loudest. They even say “praise the Lord” and “amen!” Somehow in Christianity we have never learned that when we promote discord and dissention, or when we divide into factions, we are doing the work of the flesh. The only excuse for such things ever is when the foundational truths of the faith are actually at stake. In all our heresy hunting we should note that the word for factions (hairesis) is the word from which
we get “heresy.” 56
It seems that there is no stopping place as Paul describes the fruit of the flesh. He goes on adding: “and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21). Barclay says that the word “envy” (phthonos) is a mean word. He relates how Euripides the Greek dramatist called it “the greatest of all diseases.” 57 In our culture we have sanctified envy under the popular pastime known as “keeping up with the Joneses.”
At last in the list we have a couple of sins that seem to hang around together. They are drunkenness and orgies. We do not have to describe drunkenness for we have plenty examples of it in our society. Orgies (komos) has been described as that unrestrained revelry, carousing and immoral behavior that once accompanied the worship of Bacchus the god of wine. 58 Today it still accompanies drink and the worship of our false gods.
Paul had warned the Galatians before (perhaps on the first missionary journey) and now he warns them again that those who do such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. We should note here that the verb prassontes (“do” in some early translations) should really be translated “practicing.” This does not refer to some isolated lapse but it refers to one who habitually practices such things. 59 We had better take this list seriously and determine to get these things out of our lives if we have any intention of inheriting
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Galatians 5:22
Here we almost want to stop, exhale all the putrid air, and breathe in the pure air of the Spirit of God. When we come to the fruit of the Spirit it is almost like walking through a lovely orchard with its sweet, enticing smells of ripe fruit.
Wiersbe remarks about fruit: “A machine in a factory works and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life…When you think of works you think of effort, labor, strain, and toil; when you think of ‘fruit’ you think of beauty, quietness, the unfolding of life.” 60
As we look at this section we need to understand the difference between fruit and gifts. God may give each person several spiritual gifts in order to accomplish his own work. For instance, a person may be given the supernatural gift of faith. However, there is a big difference between the gift of faith and the fruit of faith. “The fruit of the Spirit listed in our passage has to do with character…the gifts of the Spirit… have to do with service (1 Cor. 12).” 61 The spiritual gifts are God’s investment in the harvest but the fruit is the harvest itself. We must not get the two confused. The fruit is what God wants to see growing in his garden. It is what Jesus will be looking for when he comes again.
One thing we need to point out about fruit is that it tries to keep itself hidden. Many times on a fruit tree there will be colored leaves similar to the color of the fruit. We see this also with strawberry leaves that are colored almost exactly like a ripe strawberry. It is good to lift our spiritual fruit up to God and not try to boast about it or seek to show it off.
The first and most important fruit is love (agape). Commentators have long pointed out the difference between the agape love and the sensual love of eros. The latter is not used in the New Testament. We hear much about this eros type of love today and since we have only one word for “love” in English, it often gets us confused as to what real love is. This agape love may be best described as “unconquerable benevolence.” 62 It is the kind of love God displays as he makes his sun shine rise on the evil and the good (Matt. 5:45).
Second, Paul mentions the fruit of joy (chara). This is more than just the transitory happiness that those of the world sometimes experience. This is rather a deep abiding joy that is only found in Christ and given by the Holy Spirit. It is “…an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is a favorite word of Paul and no other New Testament writer even comes close to speaking of it as much as he does. 63
Next comes the fruit of peace (eirene). Both eirene and chara became popular Christian names in the early church. In the Greek Old Testament this word eirene is used for the Hebrew shalom. That word has a much deeper meaning than just the absence of war or turmoil. It reflects the idea of a person’s highest good, a state of well-being, harmony in personal relationships and especially in relationship with God. 64 In Israel today shalom is used as a common greeting. I have heard the Jews, who are not the least bit disposed to guile, refuse to return this greeting but instead reply, “there is no peace!”
Now we have a quite common and interesting word. It is makrothumia, and it can be defined as a conquering patience or long-suffering. Perhaps we should spell it loooooong- suffering. In our relations with each other it might be called “patience with people.”
Can we think of someone in this “Age of Twitter” who is really patient? We need some help in this area for sure. We should note that patience is to be patterned after the long-suffering of God.
The next fruit that comes to view in God’s lovely orchard is that of gentleness (chrestotes). It has the additional meanings of goodness, excellence and uprightness. 65 Then Paul moves on to a very similar fruit, that of goodness itself, which is agathosune in the Greek. We know that some fruits in nature are very closely related, much like a peach and a nectarine. It seems to be the same in the spiritual world.
Then we have the fruit of faith (pistis) in verse 22. Morris points out that most commentators see this word as “faithfulness” or “fidelity.” It describes that ability to be faithful in serving God through the years despite the temptations we may have. 66 It pictures one in whom confidence can be placed. Surely this fruit is greatly lacking in our age. I have painful memories of once taking on two responsibilities that unfortunately fell within the same time frame. I decided I could somehow do them both, but in the end I was totally tied up with the first responsibility and never showed up for the second one. It is impossible to know what shame that this failure brought to Christ and how it lowered the level of my Christianity in the eyes of others.
Paul winds up his list with “gentleness and self-control.” He remarks about these and all the other fruits saying: “Against such things there is no law” (5:23). Gentleness is the Greek word praotes. Morris points out how it can mean humility, courtesy, consideration, and meekness. He mentions how the self-assertiveness, that is so prevalent in our age, should not be valued so highly according to the Bible. 67 Barclay feels that praotes is almost an untranslatable word. In the adjective form it describes an animal that was wild and has been tamed. It has the meanings of being submissive to God’s will, being considerate and being teachable. 68 The latter, having a teachable spirit, is sorely lacking among Christians today, and sometimes it is even lacking among Christian
The last fruit of “self-control” may be more lacking still. In the Greek language it is agkrateia and it has the meaning not only of self-control but of self-mastery. 69 In the twenty-first century we are sorely lacking in this fruit. When we look around us especially in the US we see over 60 percent of the people overweight and a good percentage of these grossly overweight. It appears to make little difference whether the persons overweight are Christians or non-Christians. The statistics are about the same. We seem to live in an age of excesses. Not only do people eat too much but they drink too much. Millions of Americans are addicted to drugs, to porn, to sports, to TV and to scores of other things. It seems that whatever fruit we once possessed has shriveled up and gotten wormy.
Paul says that against these types of things (these fruit of the Spirit) there is no law. We hardly hear of people going to jail for their self-control or their kindness. Only when Christians are being severely persecuted do such strange things happen.
As we bring the subject of fruit to its conclusion we need to remind ourselves what good fruit is all about. It is not just to be admired or put on display. It is to be eaten. Wiersbe points out how people all around us are starving for these very things. They are starving for love, for joy and for peace. 70 They want to see all these beautiful things in our lives and surely we don’t want to disappoint them and let them all go away hungry.
DEALING WITH THE SINFUL NATURE
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24
We see something quite interesting in this verse. Supposedly we have crucified the sinful nature as Christians. Yet, as Wiersbe points out, crucifixion is one death that we cannot inflict upon ourselves. 71 A person has to be crucified. Fortunately for us we see that this gruesome act has already been accomplished in Christ. In Galatians 2:20 we learn that Paul was already crucified with Christ. In Romans 6:6 we read: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin….”
We have dealt with this before but once again we must ask, how do we reconcile these two ideas? There is no question that the great work of crucifying our old man was done on the cross by Christ two-thousand years ago. We have the task of “reckoning” that great work as being “done.” There is a much lesser sense in which we participate in the crucifixion. We participate in it as we take up the cross of Christ and follow him (Mk. 8:34). We participate in it as we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, put to death the fleshly things that still somehow try to survive in each of our lives. We participate in crucifixion as we refuse to make provision for the flesh and as we deny its passions. In that sense, crucifixion is not only a painful death but a lingering death. 72
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25). I remember many years ago, one of our drill songs as we marched along in the US Army went like this: “Our right guide is out of step…sound off…sound off…sound off…cadence count…one, two, three, four— one, two— three, four!” I don’t remember, but I suspect that after the whole company had sounded off, the right guide managed to get himself in step. Oh that we could have such a warning. Morris gives us some light on the word stoichomen which has to do with getting in step. It means to “be in line with” or to “agree with and follow.” 73
“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (5:26). The Greek verb used here for provoking (prokaleo) is a unique word in the New Testament. It has the idea of challenging someone to a contest. 74 We must remember that in this great Christian race and Christian life we are living, we are really not in competition with each other. We are rather meant to encourage and spur one another on to good works as we run this race together.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1
In this and in the following verses we are given some practical ways by which we can “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and ways by which the “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22-23) can be manifested in our lives.
If someone is caught in a sin we should restore that person gently. Vincent says the word “restore” (katartizete), has to do with reconciling factions, setting broken bones, equipping, or mending nets. 1 Here we can imagine that a brother or sister is standing before us writhing in pain with a broken arm. It needs immediate attention and we may have to play the part of the doctor if there is not one around. Obviously, we would have to be very gentle with our assistance or the patient would surely scream out in pain. We remember that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and is mentioned earlier by Paul in 5:23.
We should note that the expression “caught in a sin” used here does not speak of awful and weighty sins or some grave deliberate disobedience. It has more to do with being inadvertently involved in some wrongdoing or in making a mistake. There is definitely the “unwitting” element involved in this sin. 2
Paul says that those who are spiritual should correct such a one. As we have seen, all the Galatian believers had received the Spirit. It seems likely however from what we know that all of them were not all walking in the Spirit. Some had definitely gravitated back to the flesh. Only the spiritual were prepared to help the fallen and hurting one.
Trying to help another Christian with his or her sin is a delicate and difficult business. We really face a couple of problems. First, we have the immediate temptation to take pride in our own un-fallen position. We may feel a little smug that we didn’t fall into such a sin and thus look down on the one who has fallen. Second, we may find ourselves relishing the sin and enjoying every ugly detail. The warning here is that we should closely watch ourselves about our attitude toward the sin and toward the sinner. As the scripture says in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Probably some of us have seen the old picture of the little boy carrying another on his back. The caption to this well-known picture reads, “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.” The Greek word used here for burdens is baros and the word almost always has to do with a heavy load. 3
One thing we notice about the legalists in Galatia. They were not the least bit interested in bearing burdens. In fact, it was their job to add to the burdens of others by placing the demands of the law on their backs. They were much like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time who bound burdens upon others but who were not willing to lift a finger to help (Matt. 23:4). Actually, we see in Acts 15:10, that the burdens they were binding on people were impossible to bear. 4
By bearing burdens for others we fulfill the law of Christ. It is generally accepted that this law of Christ is the law of love. Jesus speaks of this law in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:23). We know from scriptures like Psalm 55:22, that when our burden gets too heavy we are to cast our burden upon the Lord. However, sometimes we also need other human beings to gather around us and help us get up under our heavy load (cf. Rom. 15:1).
Many years ago we had a dear sister who was weighted down with problems. Two other sisters in our group realized this and began to pray for her. They felt so strongly about her heavy burdens that they finally begged that the Lord would put some of her burdens upon them. Their prayer was answered and they immediately began to feel the heaviness of the sister to the point of emotional distress for themselves. However, as the two sisters were suffering all kinds of mental agony, the sister who was afflicted began to be really relaxed and happy. Perhaps this was going to the extremes in burden-bearing but nevertheless it worked. Martin Luther once wrote, “Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones – sturdy enough, that is, to carry heavy burdens.” 5
“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (6:3). It is extremely important that each of us has a realistic understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. Now that I am over 75 years of age I finally realize that there some things I cannot do and some tasks at which I am not very good. I now try to avoid such things and leave them to others who have gifts and abilities in these areas. It is now my desire to concentrate in the areas of my own gifts and do the things I seem equipped and able to do.
Self-conceit is such a great hindrance in the work of the Lord. Paul says in Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Remember, “Our conduct to others is often governed by our opinion of ourselves.” 6
“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,” (6:4). We should point out something that has greatly hindered the work of God, and that is our habit of looking at other Christians and demeaning ourselves or judging ourselves by them. God has liberally given his gifts, talents and abilities to each of us. Instead of looking at others we need to look at Christ. Instead of being jealous of other people’s gifts we should let the Holy Spirit help us develop the gifts and abilities we have. We need to remember that there is probably something we can do that no one else in all the world can do exactly as we can.
Then Paul says something that seems at first to contradict what he has said before. He advises: “for each one should carry his own load” (6:5). When we look at the Greek here we find that there is no contradiction at all. The word Paul used in 6:2 was baros which meant a very heavy load. The Greek word used here is phortion, and has to do with a lighter load. In fact, phortion was a common name for the man’s pack, which he was certainly expected to bear. 7 There are some responsibilities that are ours alone. When we try to get others to bear these basic responsibilities it is a form of laziness. When we try to carry these burdens for other people we are no longer helping but enabling them to become irresponsible.
Sometimes when others begin to infringe upon us and take advantage of us we almost want to respond like Lucy did in the popular comic strip of “Peanuts.” She had asked Charlie Brown the deep and probing question, “Why are we here on earth?” He replied to her that we are here “To make others happy.” Lucy pondered this for a moment and finally retorted to Charlie: “Then why are the others here?” 8
SHARING IN THE WORK OF GOD
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Galatians 6:6
When we come to this verse we realize that we are looking back two thousand years, to a time when the church was very young and when things were done much differently than they are today. Morris remarks about this time saying: “In the early church Christian teachers led precarious lives. There were no elaborate schemes for seeing that even their elementary needs were met— no guaranteed clergy stipends. In this passage we see something of the way provision was made.” 9
This passage even seems to reflect back to the time when Jesus sent his disciples out to preach and teach about the Kingdom of God. In Luke 10:4-8 we read his instructions: “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals…When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you…Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.” We realize that “wages” back then had a totally different meaning than they have acquired today.
The word for giving and receiving used here is based on the Greek word koinonia, which has much to do with relationship, fellowship and even partnership in the gospel. 10 It is certainly not a matter of a cold and impersonal check being cut and issued for some minister. Stephen Neill the Anglican missionary says about it: “This is not to be regarded as a payment. The word ‘shared’ is a rich Christian word, which is used of our fellowship in the Holy Spirit.” 11
The idea of communicating or fellowshipping through gifts and offerings is brought out many places in scripture. We are to support those who feed us spiritually (1 Cor. 9:11). We see that the Lord has also commanded that those who share the gospel with others should live from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:14). Even the elders who rule the church in a worthy manner should be blessed with double honor. This is especially true for those elders who spend their time laboring in the word (1 Tim. 5:17). 12
Here I must pause and reflect on some of my own experiences. For a number of years I was a pastor and carried on my work as most pastors do. In time, I began to have a problem with the concept of the professional “salaried” or “paid” ministry. Although God has commanded that the minister live by preaching the gospel, I was always a little uncomfortable with the way it was done, and may have felt somewhat like Paul did. We remember that while he preached he insisted on being a “tentmaker” in order to secure his living and help support his friends. Still in his “tentmaking” role throughout his many ministry travels he was also often refreshed by gifts and offerings from believers.
Finally, I left the so-called “paid” ministry and eventually began to conduct a faith-type work. My wife and I ended up laboring sixteen years in Israel in just this way. In our case we were called to live by faith alone and were instructed never to mention our personal needs or ask funds for ourselves. My wife and I wrote on our financial sheets each month the words from Deuteronomy 33:27, “Underneath are the Everlasting Arms.” His arms were always there.
I am now happy to testify that in sixteen years of ministry in Israel we were well cared for, although for most of that time we never had church support or a salary of any kind. The same has applied to many years before and after that particular ministry period. We were surprised on many occasions when people slipped money into our hands, and sometimes in large amounts. One woman felt led to give to our work in Israel an almost new, and desperately needed, GMC van. It is difficult to look back upon those years without some tears of gratitude welling up in our eyes.
Actually in our experiences over the last thirty years or so we remember that in our informal groups money often flowed in a handshake, not only to us but to others in the ministry and to those who had special needs. God just raised up individuals to help and share when the assistance was needed. Living this way seemed a little scary at times but as we look back on it there was certainly a lot of joy and wonderful fellowship
SOWING AND REAPING
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7
Paul gives us caution here in what is surely one of our weakest areas, the area of self-deception. Since the heart itself is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) “our capacity for self-deception is frightening.” 13 He reminds us however that God is not mocked. The Greek word here is mukterizo and this word is interesting. It means to turn up our noses, to sneer or to treat with contempt. 14
It is thought by some that Paul is using a common proverb here when he says “A man reaps what he sows.” There is a great deal of evidence of this sowing and reaping in scripture. In Job 4:8 we read that people who plough iniquity reap iniquity. In Hosea 8:7 we learn that those who sow to the wind reap a whirlwind. Also, in Proverbs 22:8 we see that those who sow trouble reap trouble.
The great theme of sowing and reaping was the subject of one of Jesus’ most important parables, the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-23. This parable has such spiritual depth to it that Jesus says it is necessary for us to understand it before the other parables will become clear to us (Mk. 4:13). Jesus continues on through much of Matthew 13 speaking of seeds and sowing in other contexts.
Seed-sowing is really a miracle business. Through the grace of God we are allowed to participate in these miracles, be they miracles of sowing natural seed in the garden or miracles of bringing forth children in marriage. Of course it is also possible to sow the word of God into other people’s lives. When we sow we do not just receive the seed back but instead we reap a crop of thirty, sixty or even a hundred-fold (Mk. 4:20). Sometimes though in sowing the word we may not get to gather the crop ourselves, but our fellow-workers may get the privilege of gathering it (Jn. 4:35-38). In any case we can all
“The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (6:8). We must remember that in all our acts we reap what we sow. If we sow in the Spirit we will reap spiritual things but if we sow in the flesh we will reap fleshly things. This is a law of the kingdom. Some folks who do not quite believe this law sow their “wild oats” in the flesh and then find themselves praying for a crop failure. If we make a habit of sowing good things in other lives and even in our own lives we will have a happy harvest.
We note here that Paul has just given us another way to live or walk in the Spirit. We can constantly sow spiritual seeds as we live our lives. 15 Obviously this sowing can be done in many ways, with our deeds, our prayers, and even our thoughts. As that old proverb goes, “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” 16
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (6:9). The word for “weary” (enkakwmen) conveys the ideas of fainting or of losing heart. 17 We are reminded of those priests who served the Lord long ago in the day of Malachi the prophet. They were weary and greatly discouraged. God accused them with these words: “And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously, ‘says the LORD Almighty’” (Mal. 1:13).
It appears that too many Christians have fainted, grown weary or given up, especially on the task of sowing the gospel seed. It is now reported that less than a quarter of all adult church attenders today are motivated to share the gospel with others. 18 We should remind ourselves occasionally of Paul’s words in Romans 2:7: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” He also speaks to us in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”(6:10). The Lord illustrated this verse to me back in the early 90s as I directed a large Christian food distribution center in Jerusalem. At that time our organization was dispensing hundreds of tons of free food primarily to the Jewish people and especially to those Jews who were returning to the land from the former USSR. The Lord revealed to me that I was neglecting the believers who were working in the land and even those who were working for me. From that time on we made a special effort to include the Christians who were pouring out their lives for the Lord in Israel.
We need to labor for the Lord while it is day because the night will soon come when we can no longer do our work (Jn. 9:4).
CIRCUMCISION OR NEW CREATION?
See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Galatians 6:11
Paul closes out his letter to the Galatians with what is called an epistolary postscript. This was a conventional feature of many Hellenistic letters. 19 It was customary in Paul’s day for folks to use an amanuensis or scribe when they composed formal letters such as this. Apparently Paul was doing so when suddenly he seems to have taken the pen and started writing the postscript himself. In other passages like 1 Corinthians 16:21-24, Colossians 4:18 and 2 Thessalonians 3:17 we see a similar thing. It is thought that Paul did this as proof that he was really the author of the epistle. 20 At that time, and especially in later days, there were a number of false epistles circulating that all claimed to be written by the apostles or other great biblical figures (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2).
Interestingly, Professor Adolf Deissmann (1866-1937) brought forth proof of the postscript style of writing by producing a papyri letter from AD 50, with the body of the letter written in one hand and the farewell written in another. 21 Apparently these early pieces of biblical correspondence were written in capital letters and here we see that Paul makes the capitals letters even larger for emphasis (or because of his poor eyesight). It was customary for these concluding lines to summarize certain important points in the letter’s body and to even provide interpretive clues for the letter as a whole. 22
“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ” (6:12). The Judaizers were dealing with outward and fleshly things rather than inward and spiritual things. How well did they fulfill the words of Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught
These Judaizer deceivers were dishonest and hypocritical. Paul focuses on some of the real motivation of their teaching. They wanted to avoid the persecution they would receive if they preached the cross. 23 The cross had always been a huge stumbling block for the Jews and the Judaizers were supposedly Christian Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Also, at that time the Jewish faith had a great deal of acceptance and protection by the Roman government. The Christian faith was the “new kid on the block” so to speak and had no official sanction or protection. 24
“Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh” (6:13). We remember that the Judaizers belonged to the same religious group as the Pharisees. 25 On one occasion Jesus said of the Pharisees: “…Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see”
Of course, we also remember that the problem with the law was that it could not be kept perfectly as God required because we ourselves are not perfect. Indeed it is only through the finished work of Christ and with the Holy Spirit living within us that the law
can be kept.
The Judaizers only wanted to gloat and brag about their accomplishments. Like some zealous evangelicals in the past they simply wanted to add another “scalp” to their belts.
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14). Stott says here: “Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross that we shrink to our true size.” 26
In the natural, Paul had a lot of things of which he could boast. He lists many of these things in Philippians 3: 4-8. However, he ends up with these words of verse 7: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul continues on with the astounding statement in Philippians 3: 8 (NLT): “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ….”
Paul never forgot that he was a crucified man. He was crucified with Christ and thus he was crucified to the world and it was crucified to him. As Bartlett says, “Conquest by the Cross is prerequisite to conquest in it.” 27 Because Paul was dead to himself and alive to Christ he was able to bring many who were dead to spiritual life.
“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (6:15). Paul sums it up in another place: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). Circumcision or uncircumcision have no significance or meaning now that the new has come. We are now born again by the Spirit of God into a new life (Jn. 3:3). We are adopted children of God by faith in Jesus. We now have the Holy Spirit of God living within us and helping us. Old things are passed away and all is new.
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. Galatians 6:16
Peace and mercy were common greetings heard often among the early Christians. The Hebrew word for peace (shalom) is heard among the Jews as a common greeting to this day. We see here that there were rules in the Christian faith, regardless of what the lawless would like to believe today. From this word used here (kanon), which originally meant measuring rod or rule, we get our church concepts of “cannon” or ecclesiastical
rules and laws.
The expression “Israel of God” used in this verse has caused a great deal of discussion among commentators. Generally in Paul’s letters the word “Israel” has a purely national and ethnic meaning of the Jews and does not include the Gentiles. 28 This is not the case here. Paul is actually sharing with us a great mystery that he clearly reveals in other places such as in Romans 11:17 and Ephesians 3:6.
Lightfoot says of Paul’s expression: “It stands here not for the faithful converts from the circumcision alone, but for the spiritual Israel generally, the whole body of believers, whether Jew or Gentile.” 29 We need to understand that as believing Gentiles we are now also children of Abraham by faith as Paul has said. We need to understand that we are grafted into the house of Israel through Jesus (Rom. 11:17-18). We are Jews inwardly in that God has now given us Jewish hearts (Rom. 2:28).
Now that we are grafted into the ancient Jewish olive tree of Israel we simply must avoid becoming proud and we must not boast (Rom. 11:18). This is unfortunately what the church has done over the last two thousand years. We exalted ourselves above Israel and then we dared to actually persecute Israel. At times we were so foolish that we tried to cut down the old olive tree. At other times we claimed that we were the olive tree and that Israel was no more. We forgot that only some of the olive branches were broken off, not all of them. We were grafted in with the remaining branches and we stand there only by faith and grace.
This is really news to a lot of church people. Unfortunately, today many main-line churches are placing themselves in a position that firmly opposes Israel and everything Israeli. They have used their great wealth and influence to fight against Israel on the international scene. This is a shame and a disgrace. One of the best kept secrets of Christianity seems to be that our Christian family tree is Jewish. Yes, we are grafted into the ancient olive tree of Israel. The church therefore has no independent existence apart from this old tree of Israel. Clearly the root of this tree is Jesus or Yeshua.
“Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (6:17). Paul was a branded man. He had the marks of Jesus all over his body. He was ready for people to leave him alone because he had suffered enough already (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24-25).
The word for “marks” or “brands” used here is stigmata. It was a word used in secular Greek for the branding of slaves. 30 The marks of Christ upon his loyal ones today may to some seem like a stigma, but those marks are no doubt badges of courage before the Lord and before his holy angels. Hansen in the IVP Commentary says of all this: “While the false teachers were preoccupied with the mark left by the ritual of circumcision, Paul drew attention to the marks left by the reality of serving Christ. Such a proof of devotion to Christ should silence all critics.” 31
Now Paul gives his benediction to the epistle saying: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (6:18).
Several sources I have cited here are from the electronic media, either from websites or from electronic research libraries. Thus in some of these sources it is not possible to cite page numbers. Instead I have cited the verse or verses in each chapter of Galatians (e.g. verse v. 1 or vs. 1-2) about which the commentators speak.
1. Ray Stedman, Galatians: Don’t Submit Again to the Slave’s Yoke, http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=9&contentID=75&commInfo=2&topic=Galatians
2. Bob Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, The Study Bible Commentary Series, 1996, p.1. http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/pdf/EN/VOL07.pdf
3. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galatia
4. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), p. 546.
5. “Bible students are divided over whether Paul wrote to churches in the country of Galatia or in the province of Galatia. The former view is called the “north Galatian theory” and the latter the “south Galatian theory.” The matter is not finally settled, but the evidence seems to indicate that Paul wrote to churches in the southern part of the province of Galatia.” (Wiersbe p 546).
David Guzik adds, “Many scholars believe that Galatians was written in the late 40’s or the early 50’s; an approximate date of 50 A.D. is often given. David Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, comment of verses 1-2.
John Grassmick comments: “The weight of evidence seems to favor a southern Galatia location and an early date of AD 49, making Galatians the first NT letter Paul wrote.” John D. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 368.
1. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 546.
2. Ibid., p. 546.
3. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Comment on verse 1, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom41.i.html
4. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 8.
5. William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville – London: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, 2002), p.5.
6. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 9.
7. John D. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians (Colorado Springs, CO: 2006 Cook Communications, 2006), p. 368.
8. John R.W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968), p. 18.
9. Dick Staub, The Culturally Savvy Christian (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2007), p. 3.
10. Leon Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1996), p. 38.
11. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 21.
12. Ibid., p. 21-22.
13. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 40.
14. Quoted in Stedman, Galatians: Don’t Submit Again to the Slave’s Yoke, comment on verse 6.
15. Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Trans. 1876, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. pp. 26, 28, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/galatians
16. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 371.
17. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 23.
18. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 15.
19. Ibid., p. 16.
20. Cited by David Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, Study Light Organization, comment on verse 10. http://studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=ga
21. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 48.
22. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, comment of
23. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p.38.
24. Robert Jamieson, Commentary on Galatians, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871, http://www.studylight.org/com/jfb/view.cgi?book=ga&chapter=000
25. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 19.
26. James Burton Coffman, Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Galatians, reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA, Comment on verses 15-17. http://www.searchgodsword.org/com/bcc/
27. Morris, (p. 58) adds a comment here as to Paul’s location in Arabia. He says, “The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible says it was ‘a vast desert area which reached almost to Damascus…territory to the east and south of Palestine…Sometimes Damascus was in the kingdom of Arabia (cf. 2 Cor. 11:32), sometimes not’…W.W. Wessel says, ‘This territory was occupied by an Arab tribe or tribes called the Nabataeans…it is clear that there was a considerable Jewish population in the city.’”
28. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 34.
29. Ibid., p. 35.
30. Sam K. Williams, Galatians (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 49.
31. Ibid., p. 51.
32. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 551.
33. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 61.
1. Cited in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 64.
3. Adam Clark, The Adam Clark Commentary, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, 1832, vs. 1. http://studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?book=ga&chapter=001
4. Jamieson, Commentary on Galatians, vs. 1.
Many other scholars have given their opinions on this passage in relation to the Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15.
Williams (p. 50) says: “He means fourteen years since his first visit to Jerusalem.”
Morris (p.63): “He points out that his next visit was fourteen years later, and it seems clear that he had had no contact with the Jerusalem apostles during that period.”
Utley (p. 23): “I personally believe Gal 2 relates to Acts 15 because in both cases Barnabas was present, the subject matter is the same, and Peter and James are both named.”
Albert Barnes on the verse adds: “That is, fourteen years after his first visit there subsequent to his conversion…
Paul here refers to the visit which he made as recorded in Acts 20.”
Guzik on verse 1 differs saying: “This trip to Jerusalem is most likely the one mentioned in Acts 11:27-30.”
5. Stott, The Message of Galatians, pp. 39-40.
6. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 522.
8. Peter Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, v.2. http://www.angelfire.com/ok/bibleteaching/galatianscommentary.html
9. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 45.
10. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 554.
11. M.R. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 45.
12. Quoted in Jamieson, Commentary on Galatians, v. 5.
13. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 5.
14. Williams, Galatians, p. 56.
15. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 20.
16. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, vs. 6-9.
17. Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, v.8.
18. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 27.
19. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 49.
20. Williams, Galatians, p. 55.
21. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 48.
22. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 555.
23. Ibid., p. 549.
24. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 55.
25. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 22.
26. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 11-13.
27. Quoted in Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 51.
28. Ibid, p. 52.
29. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 14.
30. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 30.
31. Quoted in Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 60.
32. Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995, 1986), p. 721.
33. J.I. Packer, Sola Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification: http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html.
34. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 87.
35. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 59.
36. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 30.
37. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 62.
38. Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 17, http://studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=heb
39. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, vs. 19-20.
40. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 19-20.
41. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 89.
42. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 21.
43. Ibid., v. 21.
1. Williams, Galatians, p. 83.
2. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, pp. 35, 38.
3. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 87.
4. G. Walter Hansen, Galatians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), v.2, http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Gal/Freedom-Evil
Other commentators have remarked on the coming of the Holy Spirit in New Testament times.
Barclay remarks: “In the early Church, converts nearly always received the Holy Spirit in a visible way…there came to them a new surge of life and power that anyone could see (Barclay, p. 29).
Utley adds to this: “Receiving the Spirit is not a secondary act of grace (i.e., Acts 4); it occurs when one becomes a Christian (cf. Rom. 3:14; 8:9). One has the Spirit or he/she is not a Christian. (Utley p. 38).
Wiersbe also comments on this saying: “Two spiritual parents are required for a child to be born into God’s family: the Spirit of God and the Word of God (John 3:1-8; 1 Peter 1:22-25) (Wiersbe, p. 559).
5. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 75.
6. Jamieson, Commentary on Galatians, v. 3.
7. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 386.
8. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 96.
9. C.S. Keener & InterVarsity Press, Romans, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, Logos Research Systems, 1993), Comment on Romans 4:3.
10. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 99.
11. David Brown, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), Comment on Romans 4:3.
12. Everett F. Harrison, Romans, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), p. 48.
13. Hansen, Galatians, vs. 6-14.
14. Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, v. 12.
16. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 12.
17. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 13.
18. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 81.
19. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 117.
20. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 45.
21. Stott, The Message of Galatians, pp. 87-88.
Morris also discusses the idea of covenant saying: “In Greek generally it is commonly used in the sense of a last will and testament, but in the Greek Old Testament it is the regular translation of the Hebrew word for ‘a covenant.’ …Diatheke in Greek generally signifies ‘disposition of property by will, testament…’” (Morris p. 109).
22. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 119.
23. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 33-34.
24. Hansen, Galatians, v. 16.
25. C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, Harper’s New Testament Commentaries (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1957), pp. 183, 191.
In Romans chapter 9, Paul will deal with the “seed” in more detail. He will trace how the heritage was reduced to those who were faithful and those who were chosen by God.
26. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 15-18.
27. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 110.
28. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 87.
29. Ibid., p. 89.
30. Quoted in Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 90.
31. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 127.
32. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 19.
33. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 133.
34. Guzik., David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 20.
35. Coffman, Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Galatians, v. 20.
36. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 136.
37. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, v. 22.
38. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 52.
39. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, pp. 23-25.
40. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, v. 22.
41. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 38.
42. Jamieson, Commentary on Galatians, v. 25.
43. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 53.
44. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 393.
45. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 99.
46. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 53.
47. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 26-27.
48. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 100.
49. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 563.
1. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 65.
2. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 564.
3. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 60.
4. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 105.
On this subject Williams comments: “[stoicheia tou kosmou Col 2;8; 2:20,] Paul’s phrase would be broad enough to include the authoritative moral and religious traditions of both Jews and Gentiles and would thus, perhaps, correct the possible misimpression that only Jews were “imprisoned” and “guarded” before Christ came” (Williams, p.109).
Vincent adds to this: “Again, elements of the world is too wide a conception to suit the law, which was given to Israel only. Elements of the world (ta stoiceia tou kosmou). For the word stoiceia in N.T. see Col. ii. 8, 20; Hebrew v. 12; 2 Pet. iii. 10, 12. See on 2 Pet. iii. 10. Interpretations differ. 1. Elements of knowledge, rudimentary religious ideas” (Vincent, p. 67).
5. Grassmick,The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 395.
6. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, pp. 60-61.
7. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 148.
8. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, v. 3.
9. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 67.
10. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 106.
11. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 4-5.
12. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 161.
13. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, vs. 4-5.
On verses 4-5 Luther adds: “The more general term ‘woman’ indicates that Christ was born a true man. Paul does not say that Christ was born of man and woman, but only of woman. That he has a virgin in mind is obvious.” (Luther p. 150).
14. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 70.
15. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 6-7.
16. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, vs. 6-7
17. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 43.
On verse 6 Guzik adds: “But as Boice points out, ‘The early church fathers – Chrysostom, Theodor of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyprus, who came from Antioch (where Aramaic was spoken and who probably had Aramaic-speaking nurses in their childhood) – unanimously testify that Abba was the address of a small child to his father” (Guzik, v. 6).
Morris comments: “It was the kind of language that would eventually lead the church to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity” (Morris, p. 130).
18. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 40-41.
19. G.Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1960), p. 92.
Grassmick (p. 398) adds that these converts “have ‘come to know’ God in the sense of personal experience…and…they are ‘known’ by God.”
20. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 566.
21. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 8-11.
23. Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, v. 11.
24. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 138.
25. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 46-47.
26. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 113.
27. Clark, The Adam Clark Commentary, v. 15.
“Noted Greek scholars such as Wuest, Rendall, and Robertson believe that the nuances of the Greek text indicate that Paul’s physical infirmity as an eye problem. Galatians 6:11 – where Paul makes reference to large letters written with his own hand – may also support this idea” (Guzik, vs. 13-15).
28. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 66.
29. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 140.
30. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 566.
31. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 17-18.
32. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 67.
33. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 142.
34. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 49.
35. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 24.
36. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 143.
37. Ibid., p. 145.
38. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 121.
39. Coffman, Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Galatians, vs. 24:25.
Barclay remarks here: “Arabia was regarded as the land of slaves where the descendants of Hagar lived (Barclay p. 50).
“‘Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia’ There have been two ways of interpreting ‘is’ here: (1) ‘it represents’ or (2) there is some kind of popular etymological connection between Hagar and Mount Sinai. The name ‘Hagar’ is spelled much like the Hebrew term for “rock” (metonymy for mountain). Most commentators choose option #1. Hagar stands for the Mosaic Law given on Mt. Sinai and, thereby, Judaism. Arabia was a far wider geographical designation in Paul’s day than today” (Utley, p. 68).
40. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 50. (see also Stott, p. 25).
41. Berel Wein in his Jerusalem Post article Dec. 6, 07 remarks: “The rabbis taught us that there is a heavenly Jerusalem perched over the earthly Jerusalem. In order to truly appreciate the earthly Jerusalem one must also be able to glimpse the heavenly Jerusalem as well.”
42. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 126.
43. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 569.
44. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 149.
45. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, p. 169.
46. Clark, The Adam Clark Commentary, v. 31.
1. Adam Liptak, New York Times, “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations,” April 23, 2008.
See also, Wikipedia, Incarceration in the United States, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States
2. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 153.
3. Hansen, Galatians, vs. 1-12.
4. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 133.
5. Williams, Galatians, p. 132.
6. C. Norman Bartlett, Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, 1948, http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=FiEnQUvnjSY%3d&tabid=161&mid=530
Utley reminds us: “This is a Third Class Conditional Sentence meaning potential action. This would suggest that the Galatian Christians had not yet been circumcised but were tending to submit to the new prerequisites for obtaining salvation (or at least perfection, cf. 3:1) given by the Judaizers.” (Utley p. 73).
7. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 155.
8. Hanson, Galatians, vs. 1-12.
9. Stedman, Galatians: Don’t Submit Again to the Slave’s Yoke, v.1.
10. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 195.
11. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 403.
12. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 80.
13. Utley, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, pp. 74-75.
Luther comments here: “To fall from grace means to lose the atonement.” (Luther 197). Wiersbe is more kind saying, “No, to be ‘fallen from grace’ does not mean to lose salvation. Rather, it means ‘fallen out of the sphere of God’s grace.’” (Wiersbe p. 572).
14. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 137.
15. Norman Harrison, His Side Versus Our Side- Overview of Galatians, 1947, vs. 1-6.
16. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 157.
18. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 134.
19. Clark, The Adam Clark Commentary, v. 6.
20. J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Cambridge & London: Macmillan & Co., 1865), p. 196. http://books.google.com/books?id=b-0UAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq=lightfoot+galatians+free&source=bl&ots=-xOnylIHJ1&sig=4Sx7d2QBptMsJf6rlA332xAMcFI&hl=en&ei=WBMvTd7nPIGosQP5svz2CA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&sqi=2&ved=0CEwQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=lightfoot%20galatians%20free&f=false
21. CNN.Com, Feb 22, 2010.
22. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 572.
23. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians p. 197.
24. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, v. 9.
25. Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, v. 10.
26. Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 205-206.
27. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 198.
28. Note: Lightfoot says: “It may be that here, as in the Corinthian Church, a party opposed to the Judaizers had shown a tendency to antinomian excess…The passionate temperament of a Celtic people would increase the Apostle’s uneasiness.” (Lightfoot, p. 199). Wiersbe adds that “both extremes in the Galatian churches- the legalists and the libertines- were actually destroying the fellowship.” (Wiersbe, p. 574). “Others have interpreted this section as Paul’s response to a ‘libertine group’ in the church that advocated doing away with all restraints upon the flesh. In other words, they think Paul was fighting on two fronts: against the law teachers on one side and against the libertines on the other side.” (Hansen, vs. 13-15).
29. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 573.
30. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 13-15.
31. Quoted in Guzik, vs. 13-15.
32. Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, v. 15.
33. Abbot-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 356.
34. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 167.
35. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 153.
36. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 56.
37. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 408.
38. Josh McDowell and Dick Day,Thomas, Why Wait, What you Need to Know About the Teen Sexuality Crisis (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1987), p. 21.
39. David Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil (Nashville: WND Books, 2005), p. 129.
40. Ibid., p. 131.
41. Ibid., p. 129.
42. Ibid., p. 131.
43. Colorado Springs Gazette, April 27, 2002.
44. Ben Shapiro, Brainwashed, How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (Nashville: WND Books, 2004, p. 54.
45. Ibid., p. 60.
46. Ibid., p. 46.
47. Ibid., pp. 66-68.
48. Ibid., pp. 62-63.
49. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 170.
50. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 56.
51. William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster, John Knox Press, 1975, 2002), p.120.
52. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 170.
53. Interview with Luther Elliss on The Huckabee Show, 8/28/10.
54. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 147.
Barclay gives more light on this subject: “Witchcraft: this literally means the use of drugs…it can also mean poisoning, and it came to be especially connected with the use of drugs for sorcery.” (Barclay p. 57).
55. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 57.
56. Ibid., p. 58.
Barclay gives us another view of this sin saying: “[Envy] The Stoics defined it as ‘grief at someone else’s good’…The…Church father Basil the Great called it ‘grief at your neighbor’s good fortune.’” (Barclay p. 58).
58. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 409.
59. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 48.
Grassmick remarks about the Kingdom of God (basileian theou) in this verse. He says, “This concept underlies Paul’s whole theology.” (Grassmick p. 409).
60. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 575.
62. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 60.
63. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 173.
64. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 410.
Also see Barclay p. 60 on this subject.
65. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 484.
66. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 174.
67. Ibid., p. 175.
68. Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 62.
70. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 576.
71. Ibid., p. 575.
72. Stott, The Message of Galatians, pp. 150-151.
73. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 176.
74. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 156.
1. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, p. 86.
2. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 177.
3. Ibid., p. 180.
4. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 577.
5. Quoted in Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 159.
7. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 208.
8. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 576.
9. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 181.
10. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 6-10.
Utley: “The English word ‘catechism’ is derived from the Greek [kathechoumenos] translated as ‘taught’ and ‘teaches’ which are found in this verse.” (Utley, p. 88.).
11. Quoted in Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 181.
12. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, vs. 6-10.
13. Hansen, Galatians, v. 7.
14. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 166.
15. Ibid., p. 169.
16. Ibid., p. 170.
17. Vincent, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Galatians, v. 9.
18. Prophecy Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 1998 p. 11.
19. Williams, Galatians, p. 164.
20. Guzik, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible, Galatians, v. 11.
21. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 186.
22. Hansen, Galatians, v. 11.
23. Pett, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, v. 12.
24. Morris, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, p. 187.
25. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary NT, Galatians, p. 580.
26. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 179.
27. Bartlett, Galatians and You: Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, v. 14.
Bruce mentions what a stumbling block the cross was: “The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society… (Quoted in Morris, p. 188).
28. Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Acts—Ephesians, p. 418.
29. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 215.
Pett adds on this subject: “Some suggest ‘the Israel of God’ means only believing Jews. But the whole of Galatians has rid them of the idea that Jews are different from Gentiles, and the lack of difference is what he has been at pains to point out (Galatians 3.28). Would he now so distinguish believing Jews as the Israel of God separately from the believing Gentiles, thus again splitting ‘the one new man’ (Ephesians 2.15)? Especially as this last passage is summarizing what has gone before. It is inconceivable. The ‘Israel of God’ includes either all or none.” (Pet v. 16).
30. Stott, The Message of Galatians, p. 182.
See also Grassmick (p. 418) on “stigmata.” He says “Stigmata – occurs only here in the NT…The branding of animals on the right thigh and slaves on the forehead was a mark of ownership and protection against theft. ..loyal slaves and soldiers who received a tattoo on the hand.”
31. Hansen, Galatians, v. 17.