Imagine this distressing scenario: before he repented, believed the gospel, and came to Christ, ‘Johnny’ was a smoker, drunkard, fornicator, liar and cheater. After his conversion, he became as a brand-new person. The old ways of life were gone completely and he became a new man. Cleansed of his worldly vices and sins, he became an ardent church-goer and zealous in sharing the gospel. Johnny had experienced a miracle of healing for himself and seen it in others, as well as other miracles. He was also filled with the Holy Spirit. So far, so good.
Some time later false teachers came to the church, saying that if Johnny wanted to be ‘fully Christian,’ he had to be circumcised (not a pleasant prospect), keep the Ten Commandments including Saturday Sabbath, other other Mosaic laws. Because the proponents claimed to be quoting the Bible and spoke with dogma (don’t confuse this with divine authority - many dogmatic people only speak for themselves and not God), Johnny believed them. As he endeavored to keep the law of Moses, Johnny’s love, joy, and peace began to hemorrhage. No longer was he a pleasure to be around. He even had a critical, judgmental attitude towards other Christians who did not share his conviction about keeping the law.
One person aptly said, ‘Moderation is that midway point as we swing from one extreme to another.’ As with the case of Johnny, like a pendulum from license (unbridled carnal thinking and action) and loose living to legislation and legalism. Have you ever known a worldly person who became religious and thus ‘holier than thou?’
Just like our modern-day ‘Johnny,’ the Apostle Paul faced exactly this situation. Having planted churches in the Galatia region of Asia Minor (now modern Turkey), firmly planting them in the gospel of grace and the dynamics of Spirit-filled living, he was horrified to find out what happened to these churches after he departed. False teachers, known as Judaizers, came among the flock, saying that they had to be circumcised (obviously for men only) and observe all the law of Moses, which amounts to 613 commandments. It is hard to memorize them all, let alone keep them. Without this, they could not be truly saved. In essence, these false teachers were saying, ‘In order to be fully Christian, you have to be fully Jewish - an observant Jew.’
In the midst of this distressing emergency, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the magnificent Epistle to the Galatians. It’s theme could be summarized:
Free at Last: How the Gospel of Christ Liberates Us from Legalism and License.
In short, full and complete salvation in Christ brings liberty. According to Galatians, this wonderful liberty is available due to four sources:
1. The cross of Christ is the key for atonement and be dead to the things of the world;
2. Justification by faith is the only way to be free and saved;
3. The law is holy and good; it is powerless to save; its purpose is to outline God’s standards and show us the need for the Saviour;
4. Justification by faith enables us to be sanctified by the Spirit, that we may live a Spirit-filled life. When we do, we are no longer under the condemnation and curse of the law.
Note: None of this is possible by doing works of the law. In fact, to rely on the law means that grace is nullified and the gospel of Christ cannot benefit you. That is a very serious consequence.
Galatians affirms that the cross of Christ, grace, faith, and the Holy Spirit are not just the best way, but the only way, to find favour with God. Religious works and law-keeping cannot do it; never have, never will.
A study of Galatians is an adventure and eye-opener. You will learn that you are truly free at last.
OUTLINE OF GALATIANS
I. Introduction (1:1-10)
A. Greetings (1:1-5)
B. Alarm expressed (1:6-10)
II. Paul’s Pilgrimage (1:11-2:14)
A. In Arabia (1:11-24)
B. In Jerusalem (2:1-10)
C. In Antioch with Peter (2:11-14)
III. Doctrinal Section (2:15-4:31)
A. Justification by faith introduced (2:15-21)
B. Justification by faith experienced in Galatia (3:1-5)
C. Justification by faith through Abraham (3:6-4:18)
D. Justification by faith illustrated by Sarah & Hagar (4:19-31)
IV. Practical Section (5:1-6:10)
A. Law-keeping rather than faith will not profit (5:1-15)
B. Walk in the Spirit (5:16-18)
C. Works of the flesh (5:19-21)
D. Fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26)
E. Spiritual restoration (6:1-5)
F. Sowing & reaping (6:6-10)
V. Conclusion (6:11-18)
Note: We are completing a 50 hour verse-by-verse teaching on Galatians, with printable PDF notes, available soon from the Teach All Nations website.