Sermon notes: Galatians Number 2...

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NOTE: This is number 2 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post.

From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd (now Clearnote Church, Bloomington)

November 2, 2003; AM

Galatians Series No. 2

"To the Churches of Galatia"

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:12 

This Lord’s Day, we have our second in a series of sermons on the New Testament book of Galatians...

And for this, our second week, again we will read the first two verses of the introduction of this book. Please turn with me, then, to Galatians chapter one, verses one and two.

* Galatians 1:1,2 This is the Word of God, eternally true.

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Galatians 1:1, 2, NAS95.

Although in the course of our study we will return to these themes, it is good for us to keep in mind a few of the defining traits of this book in relation to the other books of the New Testament.

Galatians within the New Testament, and Specifically Among Paul’s Books:

The first word of the book tells us the author of the book—Paul.

Although there is much debate over the author of some of the other books in the New Testament, this particular book is universally agreed to be written by Paul, even by those who approach Scripture sceptically and doubt whatever is explicitly claimed in God’s Word. In other words, the fact that the first word of this book explicitly claims that it’s written by Paul—that wouldn’t be enough to convince many of the scholars, in and of itself, but other aspects of Paul’s personality, background, writing style, etc. do convince them here.

In fact, there are four books that scholars are pretty much agreed are the work of Paul—Galatians, preeminently, as well as 1&2 Corinthians and Romans. And among these four books, and all the others Paul wrote in the New Testament, it is Galatians and Romans that stand at the top of those works which have given him his reputation as the teacher of the true Christian doctrine of the Christian Church.

The Author of the Book of Galatians: His Office and Authority:

Right away we run into Paul’s polemical edge as we begin our reading of this book, although it is true that this particular argument made by Paul is made throughout his epistles—namely, his claim of apostolic office which comes immediately following his name, Paul.

The book begins, “Paul, an apostle.”

In common use, this word, ‘apostle’ delineated someone with a commission, so it was similar to the English words ‘emissary,’ ‘diplomat,’ or ‘ambassador.’ An apostle, in the ancient world, was one sent by a person in authority to carry out specific assignments delegated to him by that authority.

Where does this word first appear in the New Testament? When Jesus chooses the Twelve.

“And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:” Luke 6:13, NAS95.

This is the Twelve’s commissioning through which Jesus delegates His mighty authority to them and sends them out to carry on His work across the cities, towns, and villages of Israel.

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;” Matthew 10:1-5, NAS95.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

* apostolov apostolos {ap-os'-tol-os}

AV - apostle 78, messenger 2, he that is sent 1; 81

1) a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders

These particular men, the Twelve Disciples, were very deliberately chosen by Jesus and given a special office and role; they were the chosen and sent ones, and they had apostolic authority. And the apostolic office has always been seen by the Christian Church as centrally important.

* Robertson’s Word Pictures

This is the official name (missionaries) used here by Matthew for the first time.

Apostles were ships or men sent on a mission; therefore, quite literally they can be called ‘missionaries.’ Usually the word was used more for a group than an individual; but sometimes the leader of the group was called an ‘apostle,’ as an admiral leads his fleet.

An apostle, then, is “a person or group which is sent out.”

And in the New Testament this is the word used as the official name of those Twelve Disciples whom Jesus chose to send forth first to preach the gospel and to be with him during the course of his ministry on earth.

The word also appears to have been used in a non-official sense to designate a much wider circle of Christian messengers and teachers See:

2Co 8:23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers (apostolos) of the churches, and the glory of Christ.

There were those officially designated as ‘apostles,’ so we see we are dealing with an office, and not just a description:

Acts can be called the Acts of the Apostles, or the acts of the Holy Spirit in building the Church through the Apostles.

And the apostles were a gift to the Church for its planting and protection, that souls might be saved and kept safe until the Return of our Lord:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15, NIV).

It’s clear that these men had a key role in the Church from the beginning, a key role which is echoed and affirmed by the battles over apostolic authority recorded in the epistles, and by the commendation of the apostles indicated by the following in the book of Revelation:

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:10-14, NIV).

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20, NIV).

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8, NIV).

Paul was the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” hence the extreme controversy which always surrounded him:

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry (Romans 11:13, NIV).

* Controversy Surrounding Who Was and Who Wasn’t an Apostle

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:6-10, NIV).

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defence to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 8 Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the ploughman ploughs and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. (1 Corinthians 9:1-10, NIV).

But for us today, the authority of this book is not simply the apostolic authority of its author, but the fact that this book is Sacred Scripture, and therefore the very words of God. So we approach this book, not with a critical and defensive spirit, but loving God and trusting His Holy Spirit to speak to us through His Word, we come expectantly, submissively, reverently, attentively.

The Recipients, or Addressees, of the Book of Galatians: Who Were the Galatians?:

Paul, the apostle, is the author of the book of Galtians; but to whom is Paul writing—who is this book addressed to? Who receives and reads it?

Geographically:

First, geographically, the people who received this book all lived in Galatia. And Galatia was the region encompassing the central plateau of Asia Minor—largely the area encompassed today by the nation of Turkey. Turkey is the main land-bridge between Europe and Asia, streching from Greece on its northwestern corner, the Mediterranean Sea its southwestern border, Syria and then Iraq its southeastern border; Iran and a few other nations on its eastern border, and the Black Sea running across most of its northern border. Its border with Iraq is what made it such a critical nation in the United States’ effort to get permission to use its airspace prior to the recent invasion of Iraq.

Today the area which, in Paul’s day, was known as Galatia, is largely Islamic; it has lost the budding Christian witness so evident at the time of Paul’s missionary journeys, and instead has returned to the idolatry it dwelt in prior to the first entry of the Gospel.

Current Religious Climate of Galatia:

No one considers Turkey a part of the Christian world today, but rather an Islamic stronghold, albeit not as conservative in its Islamic practice as a number of other nations are today. The current population is around sixty million, of which Christians make up somewhere around 150,000, a number that is in significant decline. (And that 150,000 includes Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and every other variety of faith claiming the name “Christian,” including a very small group of Protestant Christians—one web page estimates the number of Protestant Christians as around a thousand.

So this land to which the Apostle Paul wrote, having preached the Gospel and planted churches there, now has seen such a decline in Christian faith that the number of biblical Christians is likely far smaller than one percent.

Galatian Christians at the Time of Paul’s Letter:

We have several records of Paul’s journeys through the area of Galtia:

Acts 16:6 They (Paul and Silas, and Timothy, who had just joined them) passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;

Acts 18:23 And having spent some time there, he (Paul) left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. [F. F. Bruce indicates that this was between Paul’s year and a half in Corinth and his “lengthy stay in Ephesus” (pp. 43,44)]

Acts 13:14-14:23 “14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” 16 Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: 17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. 18 “For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. 19 “When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance--all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. 20 “After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 “After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ 23 “From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, 24 after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 “And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 “Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. 27 “For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. 28 “And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29 “When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30 “But God raised Him from the dead; 31 and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’ 34 “As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.’ 35 “Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.’ 36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. 40 “Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: 41 ‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.’” 42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. 44 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. 1 In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. 3 Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel. 8 At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he leaped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. 16 “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them. 19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

But in the interim, since Paul had preached and pastored these Christians, the Galatian Christians had been infiltrated by false teachers who tried to rob them of the freedom they had received through faith in Jesus Christ; to place them, again, under the bondage of the law.

And although there is some debate among students of Scripture as to the particular time and place—whether the northern or southern part of Galatian—to which Paul addressed this book, F. F. Bruce sums up that debate with his own opinion that this book is the first of Paul’s New Testment epistles, and that at the time of its writing Paul had been a Christian for about fifteen years—thus he was likely in his late forties as he sat down to write the Galatians.

Further, Bruce suggests that the most likely date for this letter is just prior to the Council of Jerusalem  recorded for us in Acts 15, when the Jerusalem church adjudicated the disagreement between Paul and the Judaizers who had come into the church In Antioch, just south of Galatian, trying to force the Gentile Christians to come under the Jewish law in order to have, what we today might refer to as, “full assurance of salvation.”

He suggests that as this false gospel infiltrated Antioch, it was carried slightly north into the Galatian region, and Paul wrote this letter to rebuke these false teachers, and to warn the Galatians against listening and following these false teachers.

And if Bruce is right, then immediately following Paul’s writing of this letter, the battle was joined in Jerusalem.

Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea (to Antioch) and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

And although the letter was intended by Paul to be read in all the Galatian churches, he only made one copy of it and expected, apparently, that this one copy would be taken as a round-robin to all the churches of the region, and read out loud. Thus:

(Galatians 6:11) 11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Had multiple copies of the letter been made, almost certainly Paul would not have been the one to do so, and therefore each copy would not have been written out in “such large letters” because the other copiests would not have been coping with the bad eyesight that, apparently, Paul was coping with.

The Two Great Themes of Galatians:

A simple reading of Galatians and Romans quickly reveals that both of them have at the center the treatment of the same subject: justification before God, not by works, but by grace through faith; that men are saved from the wrath of God not by trying to be good enough to enter Heaven, but by resting in the completed work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who gave Himself up for us that we might inherit eternal life.

This is the great theme of these two books, Galatians and Romans; but this same theme permeates the entire New Testament and is the New Covenant from which this second half of the Bible gets its name, the New Testament.

But if Galatians and Romans are the books which most specifically treat this subject, how do we distinguish these two books from one another?

Well, one (Romans) is longer than the other; and they do have different names and appear in different places in the Bible. But beyond the most obvious, Galatians and Romans differ in that Galatians is a particular batttle with a particular location and all the blood and guts that entails, while Romans is more a sort of theater of war treatment—high in the sky with observation planes and large-scale strategy and objective councils of war and so forth. In other words, Galatians is more polemical and Romans is more objectively theological.

The New Testament scholar, J. B. Lightfoot, puts it this way: “The Epistle to the Galatians stands in relation to the Roman letter, as the rough model to the finished statue” (p. 2).

Both works stand at the pinnacle of Paul’s work, but they have two different identities and purposes; Galatians is more a particular battle whereas Romans a general battle; Galatians more polemical and Romans less polemical—note I did not say that it’s not polemical at all, but only that it is less polemical than Galatians.

Two themes are prominent in Galatians, working their way through every other theme:

First, as was said earlier, justification by faith, apart from the works of the law; and

Second, the gift of the Holy Spirit; that this third member of the Trinity is freely given by God to all who believe in Jesus Christ and it is His power which works within us according to the redemptive will of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Two separate times, Martin Luther lectured on the book of Galatians; it was his favorite book of Scripture. In his table talks, he said this about Galatians: The Epistle to the Galatians is “my own epistle, to which I have plighted my troth (been married). It is my Katie von Bora (his wife).” (p. 5 of the British edition of Luther’s commentary).

And in the introduction to his commentary on Galatians published in 1538, Luther said, “In my heart reigns this one article, faith in my dear Lord Christ, the beginning, middle and end of whatever spiritual and divine thoughts I may have, whether by day or by night.”

* Read two paragraphs’ from Luther’s introduction, p. xi in the Kregel Edition edited by John Fallowes, beginning, “I have taken in hand, in the name of the Lord, yet once again to expound this epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians; not because I desire to teach new things, or such as ye have not known before…

* * *

EXPLANATION: Sermons are pastoral, and therefore of only limited value to those who are not present when a pastor feeds the flock God called him to serve. Yet, knowing even notes may be of some value to others, I'm posting past sermon notes here on Baylyblog. Because the notes weren't written for publication, no editor has cleaned them up for reproduction on the web. So, for instance, although the notes I take into the pulpit have formatting that highlights quotes, I haven't taken the time to reproduce that formatting here.

Please keep in mind these are only notes and not a transcription of the sermon that was preached. It is my commitment to depart from them, seeking freedom from the Holy Spirit to proclaim and apply God's Word to the souls under my care in a way that is helpful to them and gives all glory to God.

Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible (Updated '95 Edition). This is the best Bible available in the English language, having by far the closest correspondence of any English Bible in common use today between the original Hebrew and Greek and the English translation. We should all own a print Bible and it should be a two or three decade investment, so here are the NASB Bibles that will read easily and hold together best for twenty years. Their paper is opaque, their type is clean, their binding is superb, and I have no hesitation saying you would do well to spend one or two hundred dollars on one for yourself, your wife, and each of your children.

If the reader has good eyes, buy the Pitt Minion. It's very small and light and will last for decades. If the reader has fading or poor eyesight, buy the Clarion Reference. It has the larger typeface and, again, will last for decades. If the reader likes writing notes in the margin, buy the Wide-Margin Reference. It's big and heavy and you will be able to write to your heart's content.

Finally, near the beginning of each week's notes you will often notice repetition from the previous week. Each week I pick up where I left off the previous week.

May God bless you, dear brother and sister, as you study the Word of God and, only by faith, find it sweeter than honey.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!