BibleTools

Topical Studies

 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


What the Bible says about Galatians
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The reason that Galatians seems so difficult is a combination of unconverted carnality, ignorance, and tearing these verses from their historical and biblical contexts.

The same general enemy is present in Galatians as in Colossians. There, the same philosophical system, pagan Gnosticism, was combined with a religion, Judaism. Judaism itself was not the instigator, which can be discerned by what Paul wrote. Some of the details do not fit Judaism.

It seems that from time immemorial the church has taught that the problem was Judaism—but it was not Judaism by itself. For instance, though adherents of Judaism fasted, the religion was not ascetic. However, Gnosticism by and large definitely was! Gnosticism was based in demonism, while Judaism was not, being simply a faulty interpretation of the Scriptures.

The major difference between what Paul wrote in Colossians as compared to Galatians is that in Colosse what was going on affected members in their approach to God in the area of conversion called sanctification, or becoming holy. The problem discussed in Colossians has more to do with how to overcome, grow, and enter the Kingdom of God.

In Galatians, the material is heavily weighted on the subject of justification, which occurs primarily at the beginning of a person's conversion. The book also discusses Christian liberty at length, which also involves justification. The two—Christian liberty and justification—are almost tied together in this epistle.

Regardless, both problems were seriously affecting the way these Christians lived their lives. Their entire belief system was being deviously and subtly altered away from the truth of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Three)

Related Topics: Galatians


 

The law of God is indeed part of the context of a number of areas in the book of Galatians. However, Paul is not denigrating the law of God in any way! He does not do away with the Sabbath or the holy days.

Galatians has given people attempting to understand it difficulty for a long time. This specific epistle may have been at the forefront of Peter's mind when he wrote, in II Peter 3:16 that some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand, and that those who are weak twist and pervert it, putting their own meanings upon it to their destruction.

If there is any one area that Protestantism deals incorrectly with Galatians, it is that Protestant theologians do not consider its subject material broadly enough. Looking at it narrowly skews their conclusion; they teach that the law is done way, when other writings of Paul show clearly that is not what Paul had in mind at all. (And not only Paul, but other writers as well.)

Protestants actually create a hypocritical dichotomy. How can the law be done away when the very Head of the church—Jesus Christ—said that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law till all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:18)? Their approach produces contradictions, and it defies logic. They are forced to give convoluted answers and explanations to virtually every verse, when the truth is so clear and simple.

Galatians can be misleading if a person does not understand its background and terminology, and also possesses the carnality of an unconverted mind seeking to express its enmity against God's law (Romans 8:7). It is from this epistle that the anti-law crowd gets their fodder for making grace and law mutually exclusive, and for trumpeting that God's law has been done away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Four)

Related Topics: Galatians


 

Acts 14:8-18

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities.

In Lystra, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?

Galatians 1:1

This epistle was one of Paul's first letters, if not the first. As such, it was early on in his ministry, and one of the first topics in this letter was his credentials. This is seen in his parenthetical statement that he was an apostle appointed by God and Jesus Christ and NOT by men. The other apostles ate, walked, and lived with Christ while He was on the earth, and thus their credibility was established in part by proximity and association with Christ. Paul did not fall into this category, but rather persecuted the true Christians until his dramatic conversion. However, at that time, he was instructed by Christ personally and thus had a legitimate claim to apostleship.

David C. Grabbe

Galatians 1:1-3

The bulk of this chapter is occupied with Paul's defense of his apostolic office. False teachers,the people who had access to the Galatian Christians' ears,were teaching them that what Paul had previously taught them had no authority from God because Paul did not meet the qualifications of being an apostle.

These people could come up with all kinds of things. They might say, "Well, Paul never met Jesus": that he had not been an eyewitness to Jesus' preaching, that he had received no commission from God to be an apostle, and that he had not even been chosen like Matthias. Paul's calling, conversion, and commission were done apart from large numbers of people. Nobody had seen him trailing around after Jesus as they had seen the Twelve. He had not been eyewitness to the miracles that Jesus did. "He had not been taught directly by Jesus," was what they were saying.

Thus, Paul spends the first chapter and more defending his position. Immediately, he states that his authority did not come through men. He confirms that he was an apostle, but his selection was not of men but by Jesus Christ. Right off he states his authority, and that it had come directly from God. By doing this, Paul puts himself in the same class as the Twelve, because even these false teachers were willing to concede that the Twelve's offices did not come through men either. Everybody knew that they were directly chosen by Christ. So Paul asserts, "So was I."

He also speaks of his experience on the Damascus Road as his commission, and then he references the resurrection, further linking his commissioning to the risen and glorified Christ. All of this is contained within the first three verses. He had to establish his authority quickly, and this is how he chose to do it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Four)

Galatians 4:8

Prior to God's intervention in their lives, when they did not have a relationship with Him, the Galatians (in particular) and the world (in general) were in bondage to and slaves of the Babylonish system, even a worship of demons—"so-called gods" (I Corinthians 8:5).

In the New Testament, there are two Greek words that are translated as "to know"—ginooskein (Strong's number G1097) and eidenai (Strong's number G1492). According to Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, ginooskein is knowledge grounded in personal experience or apprehension of external impressions. It is used to describe relationships, even up to the most intimate of relationships—marriage ("And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived"). Eidenai, the word used in Galatians 4:8, is a mental perception in contrast with conjecture or knowledge derived from others.

The Jews at least knew of God and knew about God, but they did not really know God in terms of having a relationship with Him. He revealed Himself to Israel when He brought them out of Egypt and gave them the law, and the knowledge that such a God existed never really passed from all of the generations. After a remnant of the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, returned to Jerusalem from captivity, they restored the proper worship of God and began adhering to the law that He had given to them. Later, various sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) arose and began putting their own spin on the original God-given law. They wanted to make absolutely certain that they would not transgress His law in even the smallest degree, so they would not have to go back into captivity.

What developed was Halakhah, which was loosely based on the Old Covenant but contained ordinances and judgments that are far from God's original ideal. This, in combination with Hellenism, developed into what is now called Judaism. So at the base of all this, the Jews at least know that there is one true God, but their emphasis on Halakhah made them reject Christ when He came as a man. There was at least a "mental perception" (eidenai), even though there was not a real relationship (ginooskein).

The Gentiles, on the other hand, did not even have a concept (eidenai) of the true God. They worshipped and served a wide variety of pagan deities, and in actuality, this worship was inspired by and centered on demons. In the letter to the Galatians, Paul was addressing not only the dangerous slide into Judaism, but also the return to pagan rites inspired by Gnosticism.

David C. Grabbe

Galatians 4:12

Paul's plea here is found in numerous other epistles as well, where he beseeches his readers to follow him: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1; see also I Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17). Paul is not trying to put himself above God or establish a position for himself; Philippians 3:17 gives the reason: "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern." Paul is pointing to himself as an example, as someone more spiritually mature and experienced—someone who knows the ropes and understands the consequences of the weighty decisions the Galatians were facing.

The Galatians appear to have been spiritually immature. Had they been of the same mind and inclination, they would not have rejected authority (a sign of immaturity), and Paul would not have had to concentrate so much on establishing his credentials at the beginning of the letter. When children do not respect their parents' advice, they grow up missing the significance of much that they encounter and slow the development of wisdom. Similarly, if the Galatians were rejecting the authority that Christ gave to Paul, it is likely that they were not of a wise or mature mindset, which explains the foolishness they were exhibiting (Galatians 1:6; 3:1, 3; 4:9).

Paul has just finished a stern and lengthy rebuke of the Galatians, which they may not have responded to well if they were spiritually immature and rebellious. His tactic changes here, as he urges them to consider his own example and conduct as a guide. Rather than just telling them what to do, he also shows them.

If the Galatians followed Paul's example, they would have kept the Sabbath (Acts 13:13-14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4), observed the holy days (Acts 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 5:7-8; 16:8), obeyed God's law (Romans 2:13; 3:31; 6:15; 7:7, 12, 14, 16, 22, 25; 8:7; I Timothy 1:8), and at the same time abstained from the customs, rites, and traditions of Judaism (Acts 22:3; 26:4-6).

The phrase translated as "become as I am, for I am as you are" is misleading in its verb tense. A closer rendition would be "become as I am, for I became like you." Paul is exhorting the Galatians to follow his example, to take the same steps that he did in renouncing the traditions and stumbling blocks of Judaism. He encourages this "because I became like you"—that is, in the past he was so consumed by Judaism (Galatians 1:14) that he was exactly where the Galatians were now or would be shortly: rejecting the word and law of God in favor of the "traditions of the fathers," whose emphasis was on being able to save oneself through a personal level of righteousness.

David C. Grabbe

Galatians 4:14

Paul calls to their mind their first encounter with him, when his physical infirmity could have been a social stumbling block for them, but they received him warmly and without hesitation. He is drawing a contrast between their first meeting and their current rejection of his teaching.

Paul says that they received him "as an angel [messenger] of God." In the beginning of the epistle, part of his stern warning was against any other doctrines from what he had originally taught them, which included a warning against the teachers of such doctrines (Galatians 1:8). Since the Galatians "received [him] as an angel," they may have likewise received a false teacher as a messenger from God and bestowed upon him the same warmth and acceptance.

David C. Grabbe


 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   
Leave this field empty

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
©Copyright 1992-2020 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.
Share this on FacebookEmailPrinter version
Close
E-mail This Page