Faithlife Sermons

NT Survey 111 Seminar 10 Galatians

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts

Andrew Hodge                                                                                                         1st May 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 10


General References:

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians

Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 13 Libronix DLS

Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 11

Trace out the destination of the Epistle:

            Probably Paul’s first Epistle, written about 48 AD (date disputed, see below), and composed to correct the early Christian heresy that although one is saved by faith, we become perfected through the Law (Judaism - Jensen p 294).

The book of James was the first NT book written - about 45 AD - and addressed the heresy that if a person is indeed saved by faith, then works are unimportant (antinomianism).

In some respects the destination of these two books is reflected in the issues that they address. The Christians who received them needed to know the truth before being led astray by heretics within their ranks. In this respect whether the destination was North or South Galatia is not relevant.

            Were there Judaisers bothering the Churches in Galatia? Yes, according to Galatians 2:14 (see also 1:7, 9, 3:1, 4:9-10, 17, 5:7-9, 6:12-13 and Acts 13:45-50, 14:19).

These men had arrived at Antioch (presumably the ‘important’ one in Syria) and had led Peter astray. Peter did not want to offend these Jews by eating (socialising) - as he had done for some time - with the Gentiles, so he withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul was incensed at this and censured Peter in public because this action of returning to the Law was directly contrary to the Gospel (Galatians 2:11-14 + Paul’s defence of freedom from legalism 2:15-5:12). Clearly if it was wrong to sit down to eat with the ceremonially unclean Gentiles (Leviticus 11), then they could not celebrate the Lord’s Table together, raising the spectre of two different Church bodies.1

At that time in Antioch, Peter no doubt was recalling the rebuff he had initially received at Jerusalem when he brought the tidings of his experience of God with Cornelius, which proved to him that the Gentiles were included in the Gospel (Acts 11:1-4). He should also have remembered the Godly response of the Jerusalem leadership (Acts 11:18) and the earlier teaching of Christ Himself (Mark 7:19), that indeed the Gentiles were to be included in the Good News.

1The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  G.W.Bromiley General Editor, Fully Revised 1988, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company  Grand Rapids, Michigan II, 1150 “Judaising”

If this encounter between Peter and Paul occurred in Syria, then it has to be assumed that the Judaisers subsequently moved into Galatia to harass the Churches there. Paul’s telling of this incident would be an additional warning to the Galatians of exactly what might happen to them if/when the Judaisers were to come their way. It is less likely that this incident occurred in Galatian (Pisidian) Antioch in that Paul had decided not to evangelise in places where other evangelists had worked (Romans 15:20).

It had also been agreed between Peter and Paul that Peter would be ‘The Apostle to the Jews’ (Galatians 2:1-10). If Jensen is correct in that most of those in the new Galatian Churches were Gentiles, then it is a natural place for Paul to evangelise and for Peter to avoid.

It is interesting to note, as does Jensen (p 294 footnote 2), that the first two NT books that were written addressed the issue of the interrelationship of Faith and Works: the very first effect of sin on the Gospel. The study of both James and Galatians brings the proper balance between faith and works into the doctrines of salvation and sanctification.

            If the Book of Galatians was indeed written in 48 AD when Paul was on his first missionary journey, then his known itinerary carried him only through Southern Galatia (Jensen Map N p 220). This may of course imply that he needed to write to the Northern Galatians because he was aware that they had similar problems to the Church at Antioch in Southern Galatia.


The issue of whether the Book was intended for North or South Galatia or both could well be a Critical Red Herring. Paul does not distinguish between these regions, and in his introduction he does not name a specific local Church or individual, as he does in every other one of his letters. The Book is addressed to the “churches of Galatia”. It might be assumed that this means “all the Churches in the region of Galatia afflicted by Judaisers”.

Jensen states that Paul visited four Galatian Churches “to which he wrote Galatians” (p 295). There is no scriptural reason for such a conclusion, although it is not unreasonable to assume that Churches were established in those four cities (Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, Antioch - Map T p 296) and that these four places were intended to be recipients of this letter. But we cannot assume that these were the only places that Paul intended this letter to be read.

            The region of Galatia itself is not tightly defined, but those initially receiving this letter would know exactly where else it should go to assist other local Christians with their problems with Judaisers. Hence Paul knew that the Holy Spirit would take the letter precisely where it needed to go.

            Perhaps there were no Churches in Northern Galatia in 48 AD because no Church-planter had been there by the time Galatians was written. ‘Problem’ solved. See below re 1 Peter 1:1.

            An interesting point is the Book’s non-inspired postscript “Unto the Galatians written from Rome”. Paul was nowhere near Rome on any of his three missionary journeys according to the standard itineraries. Why this postscript, especially when Paul says he wrote the letter himself? (6:11).


Analyse the question of the date of the Epistle’s writing:

            Assessing when the Epistle was written is largely determined by whether one accepts the Northern or Southern Galatian view of its destination. (I do not see any reason why either should be accepted, but the arguments should be put).

            If the date of 48 AD for the writing of Galatians is correct (Jensen settles on this p 297) then this is during Paul’s first journey when he passed through the regions of southern Galatia - Perga, Pamphylia, Lycaonia and Phrygia (Acts 13). If it is assumed that his letter was written to the Churches he actually visited, then Galatians was written to the region of Southern Galatia.

If a later date is accepted, and if Paul visited Northern Galatia on his Second journey (not supported by Jensen - see Map O p 222 where Paul goes no further north than the city of Antioch which he had also visited on the first journey), and it is assumed that he writes only to Churches he founded, then the letter could be said to have been intended for Northern Galatia.

Peter also writes to Northern Galatia (1 Peter 1:1) although probably not until 68 AD (Jensen Chart 1 p20) and concerning completely different issues. If Peter had made a similar resolve to Paul that he would not build on another’s foundation (Romans 15:20), then as far as Peter would have been aware, Paul would not have ministered in Northern Galatia.

One of Jensen’s reasons for an early date (before 49 AD) is that the Jerusalem Council (49 AD) addressed a similar “works” problem - the part played by ceremonial Law in salvation and sanctification which the Judaisers wanted to impose (Acts 15:24) - a Council decision which Paul does not refer to in Galatians because the Council had not yet been convened (assumed); therefore supporting a pre-49 AD writing date. As discussed in NTES 111 Seminar 7 (Acts), the underlying problem that the Council sorted out was Church unity, but clearly in arriving at unity, the issues of works had to be settled.

It seems to me that the issue of whether the Book was written to Churches in North or South Galatia is a straw argument that in no way advances the intention of the Holy Spirit (Paul) writing it in the first place. Jensen perfunctorily addresses the data on pp 307-309. It is not convincing on several grounds, some of which have been already referred to above. He initially accepts the proposal that a difference of opinion exists and then allows himself to be drawn into the supposed ‘necessary’ debate.

The argument appears to hinge on whether Paul wrote to ‘ethnic’ or ‘provincial’ Galatians. Clearly this distinction is not relevant when the target audience was Christian. The very brief history of the region outlined by Jensen on p 308 makes a case for the whole of Galatia by AD 41 being a Roman province, settled some 300 years earlier by migratory Gauls ie no provincial distinction between North and South at that time.

He then claims that ethnic Galatia was only in the North, used in a popular sense (?). Perhaps he means by this that although the Romans extended their sphere of influence southward, the northern part was still known popularly as Galatia because the majority of the population were descended from the original Gauls.

Jensen then gives points for each of the opposing views on the (unnecessary) assumption that Paul wrote to churches that he had personally founded.

For the North:

·         ‘The Churches were founded on Paul’s second or third missionary journey’. In support he quotes Acts 16:6 which says Paul went “throughout…..the region of Galatia” on his second journey. Jensen must have neglected to look at the next line and two verses which say “and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came to Troas.” Maps S and T (pp 283, 296) show that these areas to the North of Pisidian Antioch are areas to which God refused Paul access.

(Guthrie also uses Acts 16:6 to support a Northern theory:

“it is therefore thought reasonable to conclude that when in Acts 16:6 he speaks of Paul and his companions going through the region of Phrygia and Galatia he means these terms also to be understood in a geographical sense. In that case, North Galatia would be indicated.”[1]a The same objection applies to this as to Jensen. In addition, Phrygia is clearly a Southern region (Jensen Map P p 225), as is Lycaonia .2)

Jensen also quotes Acts 18:23 which says Paul “went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order” at the beginning of his third missionary journey. Phrygia is located in the southern part of Asia, generally southwest of Galatia (Map P p 225). Perhaps the rationale is that if Phrygia is mentioned in the South, Galatia must represent the North. See also Guthrie[2]a.

If this argument that the Churches were founded on the second and third journeys is accepted, then the argument regarding date of writing must also be addressed ie it could not be 48 AD.

·         The North represented the ‘true Galatia, in race and language’ ie Paul wrote to ‘real’ Galatians. Give me a break.

·         ‘There were more Gentiles in the Northern cities, hence the problem referred to in Galatians would more likely exist there’. A bald statement that should not be taken at face value unless backed up by further fact. As noted above, the problem is the place of ceremonial Law, and therefore works, in the plan of salvation and sanctification. The idea that this would be more relevant to Gentiles (who were used to works-based idolatry) than to Jews (who were used to prescribed, formal, Judaistic Temple worship) is a moot point.

·         ‘The early Church fathers understood the term “Galatia” to mean the northern region’. This may be so, but there is no evidence presented to support it. Even if they did understand this, this is insufficient to prove that Paul’s “churches of Galatia” in fact meant “churches of Northern Galatia”.

For the South:

·         ‘Provincial Galatia, with the term used in an official sense’. This implies that Paul sent his letter to “churches in Romanised Provincial Galatia”. This can be discarded as an irrelevant notion as Paul indicates no such thing, and in any case, Romanised Galatia includes both North and South.

·         ‘The churches were founded on Paul’s first missionary journey’. Jensen gives Acts 13-14 in support of this. The first journey took Paul and Silas through Cyprus and then into Asia, visiting and being persecuted in, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra and Derbe, ie cities of so-called Southern Provincial Galatia. This point again begs the questions of whether Paul wrote to Churches he had founded or been to, whether the scripture is silent on other areas he may have visited, whether there were churches at all in Northern Galatia at the time of writing, when exactly the letter was written, etc.

·         ‘We know of no churches existing at this early date in the northern parts of Galatia’. No data given in support of this; no argument based on the absence of data can succeed.

·         ‘Barnabas, who accompanied Paul on the first journey but not on the second, is mentioned more than once in Galatians 2, as if he were well known to the readers (2:1, 9, 13)’. Assuming that Barnabas did not independently visit Galatia without Paul, and that the Galatians came to know Barnabas along with Paul during the first journey, reference to him in Galatians 2 does not establish whether or not the letter was written only to the southern region. It can probably be assumed that the readers were familiar with Barnabas, although other individuals are also mentioned - equally important to the account in Galatians 2 - which the Galatians probably did not personally know (Titus, Peter, James and John).

·         ‘The letter was written before the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)’. In my view this is an important observation and probably establishes the time of writing to about 48 AD, therefore the first missionary journey, and therefore the scriptural itinerary of Southern Galatia. This point does not establish the region to which Paul wrote, as noted above.

·         ‘This is the view generally held today’. Jolly good.

Guthrie adds to the Southern view:

·         Northern Galatia was off the beaten track, roads were poor and it is assumed that Paul had a physical illness at the time which required easy walking (Galatians 4:13)! The roads may have been bad but this assumption from Galatians is poor evidence to support even a presupposition.

Guthrie puts various other arguments that are directly fanciful or twist the text eg the collection delegation contained no representative from North Galatia, and incidental details in the epistle, and saying that in addition to theologians supporting either a Northern or Southern destination there are those who support both.[3]

            Guthrie further enlarges the issue regarding date by affirming that  “Which of these alternatives is correct can be decided only by a careful consideration of the Jerusalem visits of Paul mentioned in both Acts and Galatians.”[4] He goes on at length (pp 474-482) with arguments supporting or denying the early or later dates of writing based on the visits made by Paul and his various companions to Jerusalem and how they fitted in with his known missionary itineraries, and the events described in Jerusalem, especially the Council of Acts 15 (cf the visits of Acts 11:30 and 9:26). He provides no conclusion of his own.

My Conclusion: The issue of whether the Book of Galatians was written primarily to the Southern or Northern “churches of Galatia” is irrelevant to the message contained in the Book, and I am disappointed that Jensen allowed himself to be ensnared in it. I believe that the arguments presented for one or the other view discredits any who would take the Scripture literally, that is, in the manner expected by those to whom it was originally written. With regard to the exact date, this too is not specifically relevant, except to place the Letter early in the history of the Church.

            So, to whom was it originally written? The Churches of Galatia - Galatians 1:2.



Formulate the opposition in the Galatian Churches:

            This falls into two categories:

First, corruption of the young believers by Jewish Judaisers:

            Most of the members of the Galatian Churches were probably of Gentile background (Galatians 4:8, 5:2, 6:12; Jensen p 297). From a background of atheism or idolatry, a slide into works-based belief would have been easy, although it must be remembered that Jews were also used to works - fulfilling the Law - for maintenance of their relationship with Jehovah. Either way, Judaisers could make out a very reasonably-sounding case for making continuance in works necessary.

            The first Galatian opposition was from unbelieving Jews agitating with their heresy from the very towns where the fledgling churches were being planted (Acts 13:45-50, 14:19). Jensen believes that this initial attack was repulsed (p 297). Satan changed his tactics (Jensen ibid) and sent saved Judaising Jews from Jerusalem to Galatia to sow seeds of doubt. As might be expected, this evil approach met with more success 5, hence Paul’s concern. (It might be supposed that ‘saved Judaising Jews’ is an oxymoron, but given background, lifelong traditions and neonatal Christianity in Jerusalem and Galatia, this is not so surprising).

            These Judaisers told the new converts that they had not heard the whole gospel (1:6-7) and taught that salvation was by faith in Christ plus keeping Jewish traditional Law eg circumcision (5:2, 6:12). The Galatians were very rapidly persuaded to think wrongly about what the Gospel was (1:6-9), to disbelieve Paul when he had told them that “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (2:16), and to defy logic when Paul reminds them that as they received the Spirit by faith, how can they now be “made perfect by the flesh”? (3:2-3). They had begun to “observe days, and months, and times, and years” (4:10), desired to be back under the law (4:21), and had forgotten that that in order to be justified by the Law they had to perfectly and consistently keep every part of it always without any slip (5:3).

            These facts represent a very successful Satanic attack, occurring with a swiftness that surprised Paul and elicited a rapid and forthright response.

            False teachers are identified in the book by what they teach: perverting the Gospel (1:7), bewitching the (gullible? ignorant? immature?) Galatians so that the truth is not believed or obeyed (3:1), and causing the Galatians to be zealous in their heresy (4:17).

[The supposition that the Galatians were immature in their understanding and belief is enhanced if it is believed that the letter was written to them at a late date, and after they had already received the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 16:4).[5]a This argument of Guthrie’s is poor in that it was Paul himself who distributed the decisions of the Council to the churches of Galatia face-to-face, and he would not have had to write to them to get his message across.]

            The motive for the Judaisers doing this is given in 6.12-13 “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.”[6] Not only do they want to avoid being persecuted themselves (by their unsaved Jewish colleagues?) but they feel justified in notching up converts to their own point of view (rather than converts to Christ as Paul was careful to do).

            Their punishment is also defined: “shall bear his judgment” (5:10), along with Paul’s wish in 5:12 “as for those who are troubling you, O that they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves.”[7] Some believe that the “cut off” (KJV) in this verse is to be literally applied rather than used figuratively to mean death.


Second, opposition to Paul’s claim to be an Apostle.

Paul’s original teaching to the new believers in Galatia was consistently challenged on the basis of his right to be an authority. Paul gave the same defence of his role in 2 Corinthians Chh 10-13, written 7 to 8 years after Galatians. Perhaps the Book of Galatians had not reached Corinth by the time it was Paul’s joy to write 2 Corinthians to them, and he felt he needed to restate his case. He does so in both Books by showing that God was the source of his call to the ministry (Galatians 1:1-24. See Jensen Chart 78 p 303 for a more detailed treatment of this).

In addition Paul shows that his ministry was approved by the Jerusalem Elders (Galatians 2:1-10). These two aspects of the foundations of Paul’s authority are in a sense proven by recounting his public rebuke of the Apostle Peter’s behaviour (2:11-21), which ultimately Peter accepted as completely justified (2 Peter 3:15).

After considering weak alternatives, Guthrie makes a conclusion (!): “We may presume therefore that Jewish Christians from Jerusalem were the source of opposition.”[8]


Elaborate Paul’s call for anathema against detractors:

            Anathema, translated in the KJV as ‘accursed’, is found only twice in Galatians - 1:8 and 1:9: “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.
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.”[9]

Clearly this is extremely emphatic language - Paul basically desires these heretical individuals not to be saved but to spend an eternity in hell. In a sense this is entirely opposed to the need to express the mercy, forgiveness and long-suffering of God in the Gospel. But this is the exact point - the Judaisers are preaching an heresy that may well send many to a Christless eternity. He not only has every right to be righteously aggressive in confronting these heretics, but he also needs to communicate to the Galatians how serious the heresy is.

His hurry to do this - “(Galatians 1:6) I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel”[10] - is evident from the structure of the letter - the greeting is remarkably brief and there is only one verse of farewell at the end. Nevertheless, the letter is clearly not ‘off the cuff’ for it is mature and well reasoned ie the Holy Spirit had an instrument well versed in considering this problem, and he produces “the charter of Christian liberty through the subsequent history of the church.” [11]

Reading between the lines, the Judaisers appear to approach the Galatians with self-righteous confidence, possibly in response to their “claim either (1) to have impeccable credentials as members in good standing in the Jerusalem church, or (2) to have the authority of the Jerusalem apostles supporting them— or both”.[12] The first might possibly be true, but the latter would be a lie; the Galatians were not to know that.

It is likely that the Judaisers would see Paul as also being self-righteous, dogmatic, bigoted and inflexible and that they should attempt to convince the Galatians that they had more right to be right than Paul, seeing that their ‘gospel’ was based on the already-written Word of God.

Where the Gospel is concerned we should all be inflexible, bigoted and dogmatic - the truth is the truth - but there should be no element of self-righteousness. We preach Christ crucified for sinners, not a system of tradition, personality cult or even personal belief ie preaching is not designed to make a hearer believe just like I do, but to see his personal need for a Saviour and salvation - given freely in Jesus Christ.

Given Paul’s wording here, the Judaisers were preaching the opposite of this truth.

Also given the position of Paul’s admonition - in the first few verses of the first Chapter and the first topic raised after the greeting - Paul is emphasising Important Problem #1. It may be that instead of writing he would have preferred to rush back to Galatia and fix these guys once and for all.

He did return, but the gap between journeys was at least a year (48 to 49 AD, Acts 14:28). Furthermore, the Judaisers from Jerusalem had already done their dirty work in Syrian Antioch after Paul returned from Galatia and before the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (15:1) in 49 AD. Therefore if Galatians was written in 48 AD these Judaisers had also been active in Galatia presumably at a similar time to Paul’s ministry there on his first journey.

In addition, one of the stimuli to hold the Acts 15 council in the first place could well have been the incident of Paul vs Peter over Judaising. Therefore Galatians is very likely to have been written before Acts 15.

“Curse” (Gk lemma katara) is used in 3:10 and 13 and refers to the judgment of God taken voluntarily by Christ on the cross as our substitute. Christ does not become our anathema (see below).


Discuss the doctrinal problems of Galatians 3:1-4:31:

            If this passage is accepted as the Word of God, then by definition there are no doctrinal problems (although a good part of Scripture as a whole has problems of proper exegesis and understanding). This issue is not raised by Jensen, but is given space in Guthrie.

Guthrie opens with: “The gist of Paul’s argument is to show that Judaistic Christianity or Christianity according to the law is inferior to the doctrine of faith.”[13] This is not true. The gist of Paul’s argument is to show that Judaistic Christianity is anathema to the Gospel which is by faith alone, in Christ alone and by Grace alone.

            Guthrie therefore allows himself a platform of liberal rationalism, which fortunately he does not exploit as far as he might have, although he waters down the vehemence of Paul’s language considerably. Most of the following eight points in Guthrie can be agreed with, provided they remain strictly within the scriptural context:

            “1. The Galatians had not become Christians by the law but by the Spirit. To retrogress to the law could only be evidence of bewitched minds (3:1–5).

2. The blessing which Abraham received was by faith not by law (3:6-9)  

3. The law could in fact do no more than impose a curse, but Christ had removed this by becoming a curse for us (3:10–14).

4. In case anyone should object to his appeal to the promise to Abraham on the ground that it was antecedent to law and therefore invalid, Paul shows that God’s covenant of promise could never be made void by the law, for it possessed a divine validity (3:15–18).

5. This does not imply that the law has no function, but that its function is limited to preparing the way for Christ (3:19–29).

6. This means that tutelage under the law must cease when the infinitely superior state of responsible sonship is reached. Whereas law makes slaves, faith makes sons and heirs (4:1–7).

7. The doctrinal argument has ended, but Paul now makes a personal appeal, pointing out first the poverty and barrenness of mere ritualism for those who have come to know God (illustrated in the observance of certain days and festivals, 4:8–11), and then describing the close and affectionate relationship which previously existed between himself and his readers but which has now given place to perplexity over them (4:12–20).

8. He further supports his doctrinal argument by means of a scripture allegory (Sarah and Hagar) to contrast the freedom of Christianity with legal bondage (4:21–31).”[14]

Apart from this summary of Guthrie’s there is much more of interest in this passage eg in 3:1, Paul is not seriously intending to give the impression that he does not know who has bewitched the newborn ‘churches of Galatia’ but is exhorting the Galatians to wake up to what is happening in their very midst.

Guthrie also minimises the importance of the pre-Law occurrence of justification by faith alone exemplified by Abraham, and that justification by faith on the part of the Galatians puts them in the same position before God as Abraham was. The Law came along afterwards, not in any way altering Abraham, Isaac or Jacob’s position before God but instead giving us (the Jews only?) a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”, that schoolmaster becoming unnecessary again once faith is seen to be the only successful means of salvation (3:24-25; 5:18).

There is more that could be explored (eg Paul’s ‘infirmity of the flesh’ of 4:13 cf 4:15) but the doctrinal issues have largely been aired in Guthrie’s summary.



Examine the ethics of 5:1-6:10:

            Guthrie summarises this passage by making it an exposition of “the true character of Christian freedom” (p 487). He again waters down the forcefulness employed by Paul.

            He begins by stating: “It excludes circumcision, and therefore Judaism (5:1–6).”[15] In my view, wrong logic. Guthrie has missed the reason for excluding circumcision; it is a ceremonial legal ‘work’ and therefore contrary to the Gospel. It is for the reason of ‘works’ that Judaism is excluded, not because of circumcision per se.

            Galatians 5:1-6 excludes the doctrine of salvation by works on the ground that if one accepts that salvation can be by works, starting in Judaism by circumcision by one’s parent/priest on the eighth day, then one must also accept that the rest of one’s life must be blameless before the whole Law, the whole time, 7/24. There is then logically no point at all in Christ bothering to give Himself a ransom for all mankind if salvation can be satisfactorily achieved by ordinary humans living their ordinary lives.

            If it was in fact necessary for Christ to give Himself, then logically it was also necessary for us that He do this, because we cannot achieve salvation for ourselves. The simple logic of these arguments is inescapable.

            Guthrie continues: “Those then who were leading the readers astray by putting obstacles before them are strongly condemned (5:7–12).”[16] In a sense, Paul also chastises the Galatians for being led astray by such a small doubt (5:9), when they had got it right in the beginning. He reminds them that if he was in fact preaching the necessity of circumcision, why was he being persecuted by the Judaisers?

The Judaisers wanted to do away with the necessity (“offence”) of the cross because it showed up their incapacity to satisfy God by their own works (5:11).

            Guthrie goes on: “But liberty must not be confused with libertinism, which will not happen if love is allowed to rule (5:13–15).”[17] Christianity does give us freedom, but not the freedom to do anything we want (5:13, 16). Christian behaviour is modified by love for one’s neighbour; if it is not, then our natural sinfulness ends up in chaos with each destroying the other (5:15).

            Next, Guthrie says: “The superiority of the freedom of the Spirit as compared with the freedom of the flesh is forcefully demonstrated by a comparison of their results. The spiritually minded will live by the Spirit (5:16–26).”[18] The book of James, written about three years before Galatians, mentions the liberty that Christians enjoy without being under the Law (James 2:12).

Paul in Galatians has expanded substantially on what the ‘law of liberty’ means to the life of a person walking by faith and not by sight, but, like James, includes the logical necessity of showing faith by works (Galatians 5:25 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” cf  James 2:18).[19]

            It is perhaps pedantic to point out that Guthrie’s ‘the spiritually minded will live by the Spirit’ should be “in” the Spirit as used by Paul in the KJV translation. The indwelling Holy Spirit is not just an on-the-spot Godly adviser or conscience Who we consult whenever we feel the need; He is to be our Lord or controller - we are to be God when we walk by faith. Discuss.

            Finally Guthrie states: “Spiritual freedom will lead to an attitude of sympathy for the burdened (6:1–5), and of liberality, especially to the household of faith, in view of the fact that we shall reap in due season what we sow now (6:6–10).”[20]

            6:1-5 is much more than “an attitude of sympathy for the burdened”. The passage is strong on the concept that we are nothing in ourselves, but everything in Christ. Therefore the attitude we can have to others can be Christ’s - not our own made over. I understand this concept to be “the law of Christ” (6:2). Discuss.

            6:6 encourages the trainee to contribute all good things to their trainers (!).

            6:7-10 - describes the spiritual law of cause and effect; forgotten by many, especially those who blame God for their circumstances, saved or unsaved.


Appraise the conclusion 6:11-18:

            Short, and as noted above, reflects Paul’s sense of urgency in communicating his deep concern over the influence of the Judaisers in Galatia.

            6:11-15 Paul contrasts the motivation he has to preach the Gospel, compared to that of the Judaisers. No man can accuse Paul of not preaching the real Gospel because it is an offence to the unsaved, and the unsaved have persecuted him for it (6:17).

            Paul blesses the Galatians who follow their God in faith for they will have peace and will receive mercy (6:16). He includes among these the “Israel of God” (the only place in Scripture where this phrase is used). Are these the physical descendants of Abraham? Those Jews who share his faith? Is it equivalent to the Church? If so, universal or local? Is it the same as the Kingdom of God/Heaven? Discuss.

            Guthrie concludes with a description of Paul who has “a somewhat impatient request that he should not be further annoyed (6:16–18).”[21] I disagree. In my view, and taking the context into account, Paul is saying that given his impeccable credentials as an apostle and as a God-appointed evangelist, no mud will stick however much is thrown at him by his opponents; if any other proof is needed, he can show the scars he received from them (cf 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 which is in the context of persecution by the Jewish hierarchy).


[1]aDonald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 466 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

2The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  G.W.Bromiley General Editor, Fully Revised 1988, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company  Grand Rapids, Michigan III, 118

[2]aDonald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 466 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[3]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 471 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[4]ibid 474

5C.F. Hogg and W.E. Vine  The Epistle to the Galatians  p 7 quoted in Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago footnote 4 p 297

[5]aDonald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 482 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[6]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[7]Richard N. Longenecker, vol. 41, Word Biblical Commentary : Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary, 233 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

[8]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 485 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[9]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[10] ibid

[11]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 482 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[12]Richard N. Longenecker, vol. 41, Word Biblical Commentary : Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary, 17 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).

[13]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 486 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[14]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 487 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[15]ibid 487

[16]ibid 487



[19]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[20]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 487 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[21]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 488 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

Related Media
Related Sermons