Galatia was a Roman province in Asia Minor that included Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, all of which were cities visited by the Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey.
In Acts 13:19 we read where Paul was stoned for preaching the Gospel at Lystra. Thereís every indication that Paul actually was stoned to death. But whether or not he was actually killed, a great miracle was performed. After Paul had been stoned and dragged outside of the city and left for dead, while his disciples stood round him mourning his death, "He rose up again and came into the city the next day.Ē Can you imagine what he looked like when he came back into the city?
Galatians 1:1-5. ďPaul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Paul's greeting to the Galatians is unusual. His introduction doesnít follow the custom of his introduction to other epistles, that is, the custom of "giving thanks." Notice the first verses of the other epistles of Paul, and you will see in almost every one of them that he begins by thanking God for the believers in that particular city or area.
The believers in Galatia had fallen away from faith in Christ alone and were mislead by some Jews into believing they also had to be circumcised and follow the Law to retain their salvation. How could Paul give thanks for these Galatians who were turning from the grace of God, and returning to dead legalism?
In verse 1, Paul declared that he was an apostle not of men, nor by manís authority, he was an apostle by the authority of Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead!
I am afraid we have too many apostles today who are wearing the man given titles of ministers, preachers, evangelists, who are apostles of men, called by men, sent by men, and their message is to please men. One old saint said, ďI am afraid we have too many "assembly line" preachers today.Ē If a young man, or in some cases, woman, does not attend the denominational school or seminary, he does not have much of a chance at a big church in his particular denomination. Many of our ministers and pastors today are sent by the denomination they represent, rather than being sent by God.
In one of my wifeís recent Bible studies, one woman said she didnít believe their preacher was saved and she was shocked because she had always thought all preachers were saved.
Paul wanted it clearly understood that he was God's apostle, sent by God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and not by men. He left no stone, (no pun intended), unturned to make it clear that he was God's preacher, and his ministry wasnít for sale. Paul's message was a new message, a mystery not known before, received direct from heaven, a new revelation of divine truth.
The heart of Paul's message was "the grace of God," and that the grace of God had been extended to all men everywhere.
No longer was oneís nationality a factor--Jew or Gentile, Greeks or Barbarians--Jesus Christ died for "whosoever."
Before this, the message of the grace of God had been limited to the nation Israel. Gentiles could be included by becoming Jewish proselytes and submitting to the rite of circumcision and placing themselves under the laws and the rituals of the Israelites.
When Paul came with this new message of salvation to all men by grace through faith plus nothing, he met with serious opposition from the other apostles who were preaching salvation to the Jews only.
Paul was a Jew, born a Roman citizen in Tarsus and educated there. He received his theological training in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the highest ruling religious body in Israel, and a member of the strictest sect of the Pharisees.
He was devoted to Judaism, body, soul, and spirit and fanatic in his defense of what he believed to be the only true religion on earth. On one occasion, Paul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen for preaching the Gospel. He was the worst enemy that Christianity had in that day until God struck him down and blinded him while he was on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians and persecute the church.
When he was laying there, he asked who it was speaking to him, and a voice answered "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Through this experience, Paul became a believer, was baptized, and preached Jesus in the synagogues.
When he visited Jerusalem, the believers there were afraid of him because they knew him as an enemy of the church. He went back to Tarsus and then to Arabia for three years. It was there he received this new message from God revealing the mystery of the church as the body of Christ, the age of grace, and salvation by grace through faith plus nothing.
The apostles never founded any Gentile churches. Paul founded assemblies in Antioch, Corinth, Galatia, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and many others.
Paul taught that the Law and the Gospel donít keep company. They donít walk together because they arenít agreed. They are as far apart as the East is from the West, and I donít believe anybody ever heard of an East pole or a West pole so you canít measure that.
The one (The Law) is the ministry of death. "The soul that sinneth shall surely die!" The other (The Gospel) is the ministry of life. ďBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.Ē
Iím quoting an old saint, who said. ďThe Gospel of the grace of God--the Good News of salvation--is a silver bell ringing out the anthem of God's indescribable love.Ē
The Law requires a work to be done . . . the Law says "Do." The Gospel says ďbelieve.Ē "He that heareth my Word and believeth on Him that sent me hath everlasting life."
The Law is the reflection of God's terrible holiness and His exact justice. The Law reveals that man is not holy. In fact, the Law shows man just how unholy he is.
No man is righteous and the Law of God shows us exactly how unrighteous we really are. ďThe natural man receiveth not the things of God, for they are spiritually discerned and he cannot know them, he cannot receive them.Ē 1 Corinthians 2:14.
The Law reveals that man is a sinner by nature. He is ungodly and hopelessly lost without God.
The Good News of the Gospel is that the claims of the Law have been met. Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law, and satisfied God when He met the penalty of the Law by His sacrificial death. He did what man could never do, He satisfied the Law of God.
When we accept the gift that God purchased through the shed blood of Jesus, we are born into the family of God and we will never stand before Him to be judged. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ through the miracle of the new birth. And this is what the Judaizers were trying to take away from the Galatians! And men are still adding things to salvation and misleading men today.
"By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified." "Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law" (Romans 3:20 & 28).
Paul wrote the letter to the believers in Galatia to set them straight on the things he had taught them. They had followed some false teaching after they had been saved and surely were confused as to just what it was that they were to believe and do.
Galatians 1:2: "And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia." Who was with Paul we canít tell, because we donít know for sure whether this epistle was written at Ephesus or at Corinth, but the important thing is that Paul speaks with the authority of an apostle, and with the full authority of God and he writes with the full authority of the Holy Spirit so his message to the Galatians was from God, not from man.
In verse 2, "unto the churches" refers to believers throughout Galatia. They probably met in homes, but where they met isnít important. The New Testament church is simply a group of born again believers, fellowshipping and worshipping together in the name of the Lord.
Galatians 1:3: "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." We are used to hearing the word "grace" every time we attend church so this statement isnít outstanding to us, but imagine how it must have sounded to those folks in Galatia who had become believers and had been rescued from heathenism and idolatry! It was by the grace of God that peace had come into their lives, and the peace they enjoyed was made possible through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Colossians, Paul clearly states that Jesus "made peace through the blood of His cross."
God purchased the New Testament church, the Bride of Christ, through the blood of Christ. What a price! No wonder Paul was jealous for the Gospel!
Verses 4-5: "Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
The reason for Paulís letter and the theme of it is in Verse 6: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel."
Paul just couldnít believe that anyone, once they had trusted in Christ, would ever leave the grace of the Gospel and try to add something to it for their salvation.
Paul had been a devout Jew and a leader in the religion of the Jews. He was well educated and had studied the Law of Moses, but when he discovered the wonderful grace of God he was astonished that anyone who had the peace and joy that grace brings, would turn to the rituals of the Law! And yet, the believers at Galatia were taking themselves away from the grace of God that he had preached and through which they had been saved.
Paul mentions another gospel. They were abandoning the pure Gospel of the grace of God for another message that was not really Gospel. The Gospel is the Good News. Any other message than the true gospel is bad news.
Verse 7: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ." We know Satan is on the job and he hates the Gospel and God. The devil has a counterfeit for everything genuinely spiritual. In Galatia, the emissaries of the devil were preaching another gospel which was not a gospel at all.
Verse 8: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
That doesnít sound like some of the preaching we hear today. We hear that "all men are brothers," and about the "the brotherhood of man." That we are to love and accept the liberals and those who deny God. "Even though it be we (Paul and Barnabas) or an angel from Heaven . . . if we or an angel or anyone else preach any gospel except the Gospel we have already preached unto you, let him be accursed." That means, "Let that person (or that angel) go straight into hellfire!" It would be difficult to find anything between Genesis and Revelation more awful than that statement.
The devil can transform himself into an angel of light and his angels may even appear to be ministers of righteousness. If you remember, Satan himself came from heaven, but regardless of whether it is an angel from heaven, or one of the devil's angels, or even if it was Paul himself, if that person preaches any other gospel than the Gospel of the Grace of God which Paul had already preached to the Galatian, Paul said, "Let him be accursed!"
I donít believe Paul would be invited to join the average ministerial association today. This man preached because he had to preach. He was called of God, ordained of God, sent by God, and he had to give an account to God.
Verse 9: "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
For emphasis, Paul repeats what he had just said. He wanted the Galatians to fully understand that ďa gospel that is not the Gospel of the Grace of God is not the Gospel.Ē
That message hasnít changed over the years and neither has the curse been withdrawn. Even today, according to the Bible, any person who preaches any gospel except the pure Gospel of the grace of God is accursed.
In Galatia the false teachers were teaching that you couldnít be saved by faith alone. You had to observe the Law of Moses and furthermore, a believer couldnít stay saved without continual obedience to the same Law of Moses.
We hear this same theme in some of the preaching today. Many denominations preach salvation by grace through faith, plus works. They preach "Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin," but then in the next breath they tell you that you have to be baptized or do other things and if you donít do these things you arenít saved.
According to God, "It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saves us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit."
There is a difference between salvation and rewards for stewardship. Both are gifts from God but salvation is God's gift to a hell deserving sinner. Itís totally and entirely of God, totally and entirely apart from works. The sinner canít do anything to save himself or to help God save him. The sinner receives Jesus by faith, and the grace of God saves his soul.
Believers will be rewarded for their faithful stewardship at the Judgment Seat of Christ. When the sinner believes and becomes a Christian, the reward at the end of the Christian life will be determined by faithful works. Salvation is not of works but salvation makes us want to work. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and faith without works is dead.
Works testify to the fact that we have saving faith in the grace of God and the person who refuses to bring forth fruit testifies that his faith is a dead faith that canít save the sinner.
Every believer is a minister of the Gospel and as ministers of the Gospel weíre to tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ and the grace of God, and we are to study, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Verse 10: "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
What Paul is saying in this verse is simply this: Do I want to please men, or please God? If Iím pleasing men, then I canít please God and I couldnít be a servant of God."
Paul recognizes the Lord Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior and that he had become a slave to Christ, and he gloried in the fact that he was a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. He used that title with the right kind of pride: ". . . the slave of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). A slave does the will of his lord and master in order to please his lord and master.
The enemies of Paul said that he wanted the favor of men and that he tried to please men. Paul said he was seeking only the favor of his Lord. If he was striving to please men and succeeded in pleasing them, he couldnít be the slave of Christ.
What was true concerning Paul is also true concerning us. All believers need to answer the question ďas believers, who are we trying to please?Ē Which do we want more, the favor of men or the favor of God? If we please God we canít please man.
The true Gospel will be appreciated by some, and hated by others. Iíve seen this in the faces of people at Gospel meetings and at funerals.
Paul didnít get his knowledge from any institution. He wasnít ordained by man; he was ordained by God. There were three years between his conversion on the road to Damascus and the beginning of his public ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. During these three years he received instructions from the risen Christ. His message came straight from God.
Paul came down hard on the Galatians because they had left his teaching that came from God and had followed false teaching that demanded something added to Godís grace.
His mission was to reveal to them and the world the grace of God that invited all men, regardless of race or other genetic factor, to come to Christ for salvation through faith plus nothing. God will accept nothing more and He will accept nothing less.
Paul's message was a direct revelation from heaven and was new and unique in every aspect, it was different from the message delivered by the original apostles and it wasnít readily accepted by them at first. He was also actively opposed by the legalizers and by the legalistic teachers of his day. They followed him everywhere, attempting to discredit the authority of his message of salvation by grace through faith plus nothing but he persevered.
Paulís apostolic authority was from God and the Holy Spirit used him to write much of the New Testament.
There are 27 books in the New Testament, thirteen of them beginning with the same word, ďPaulĒ and they were all written by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.
Matthew wrote one book, Mark wrote one, Luke wrote two, John wrote five, and Peter wrote two. Jude and James each wrote one book. The other apostles didnít write any of the Epistles. Mark and Luke were not among the twelve apostles, and received much of their information from the Apostle Paul. Luke wrote the book of Acts, and over half of that book is given over to the account of Paul's conversion, his experiences, and missionary journeys. Seventeen chapters of Acts deal with the life of Paul. The other apostles are not mentioned after the fifteenth chapter of Acts.
The apostles preached the Gospel to the Jews, and Paul, who God ordained as the minister to the Gentiles, preached to the Gentiles.
As true Christians, we need to be on guard against false doctrine. My Dad, Cal Lindeman, often said that the most dangerous doctrine was doctrine that was close to the truth.
Verse 9: "As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
I repeat what I said earlier:
Salvation is by faith plus nothing.
God will accept nothing more and
He will accept nothing less.