Grace to You
Summary: Grace is not about what we do for God; it is about what God has done for us.
INTRODUCTION TO GALATIANS
• AUTHOR OF THE LETTER: PAUL the apostle. We will talk more about Paul here in a few moments.
• RECIPIENTS OF THE LETTER: Probably churches in southern GALATIA (present-day Turkey) that Paul founded on his first missionary journey (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe; cf. Acts 13-14). The letter to the churches in Galatia was a circulated letter (passed on from church to church). It is the only letter written by Paul that does not contain some form of praise for his readers. This fact reveals his displeasure with the Galatians. So it begs the question, what was the Galatian church doing that displeased Paul?
• PROBLEM PAUL ADDRESSES: False teachers (Judaizers) were promoting a FAITH plus WORKS gospel. They were saying that Gentile believers had to be circumcised.
Do the math: (1) FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION (wrong); (2) FAITH – WORKS = SALVATION (right); (3) FAITH = SALVATION + WORKS (right). We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. Faith produces the works.
Paul referred to the Judaizers as “agitators” (5:12), said they were “throwing [the Galatians] into confusion” (1:7; 5:10), and called their teaching a “perversion” (twisting) of the gospel (1:7).
Who were the Judaizers?
In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s grace and human effort were called “Judaizers.” The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” The word appears in Galatians 2:14 where Paul describes how he confronted Peter for forcing Gentile Christians to “Judaize.”
“In the decade or so surrounding the year A.D. 50, the infant church was drifting … toward its first great doctrinal crisis. When the gospel was being preached primarily to Jews by Jews, the development of the church progressed smoothly. But as the ambassadors of Christ pushed out into largely Gentile communities and the gospel began to take root there, questions arose regarding a Christian’s relationship to the law of Moses and to Judaism as a system.” (James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 409)
“Paul feared the creation of two denominations: Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity.” (Scot McKnight, Galatians, p. 33)
• PURPOSE OF LETTER: To show that justification is by GRACE through FAITH in Jesus Christ.
Freedom from the Law - This epistle shows that the believer is no longer under the law but is saved by faith alone. It has been said that Judaism was the cradle of Christianity, but also that it was very nearly its grave as well. God raised up Paul as the Moses of the Christian church to deliver them from this bondage. Galatians is the Christian’s Declaration of Independence. The power of the Holy Spirit enables the Christian to enjoy freedom within the las of love.
Here is an interesting footnote: It was the rediscovery of the book of Galatians that sparked the Protestant Reformation. Two of the mottos of the Reformation were sola gratia, which means “by grace alone” and sola fide, which means “by faith alone.”
WHO WAS PAUL?
Other than Jesus Himself, no one was more influential in first-century Christianity than Paul.
• A former PERSECUTOR
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 (1:13).
He was born around the same time as Jesus in the city of Tarsus (not far from Galatia). He was brought up in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3).
Paul’s Jewish name was “Saul.” He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5) and was probably named after the tribe’s most famous member: Saul, the first king of Israel.
Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen.“When the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him” (Acts 22:20; cf. 8:1). After Stephen’s death, “Saul [Paul] began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison” (8:3).
• A former PHARISEE
I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers (1:14; cf. Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5).
He had been a student of Gamaliel, the most honored rabbi of the first century (Acts 22:3).
He was a “future star” in Judaism.
But he was converted on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). The church’s worst enemy had become a Christian!
• An APOSTLE sent by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers with me (1:1-2a).
An “apostle” is “one who is sent on a mission.” “Apostle” can be used of
(1) those sent out on a mission by a church (example: Barnabas; Acts 13:3; 14:14) or
(2) those sent out directly by Jesus (the Twelve; Mark 16:15).
The Judaizers argued that Paul was not on the same level as the Twelve. They argued that Peter and the others had been commissioned directly by Jesus, but Paul had not (attack the messenger). But Paul begins by declaring that he was not sent “from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Like the Twelve, he had received a divine commission.
Why did Paul mention the resurrection (v. 3) before the crucifixion (v. 4)? Because he received his commission from the risen Christ. When Jesus appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus, Jesus said, “I am sending you to [the Gentiles]” (Acts 26:17; Galatians 1:16). Paul became known as “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8). He went on three missionary journeys in order to spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.
1. GRACE may come to us.
Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (1:3-4).
Grace is the only thing that can truly produce peace. The point is this,
To live by works is to lose the peace of God.
Notice in v.4 that there is no mention of what we do for God. Christ “gave himself,” and the Father planned it.
2. GLORY must go to God.
To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (1:5).
The gospel is not about what WE do for GOD; it is about what GOD has done for US.
So I say to each of you in closing, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us pray.