Galatians

Chapter 1

This letter is from Paul, an apostle.  He was not sent from any group or human authority, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.  All the brothers and sisters with Paul join him in sending greetings to the churches of Galatia.   Grace and peace is mine from God my Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for my sins to rescue me from the evil world in which I live.  This was done according to the will of my God and Father, to whom be glory forevermore!  Amen.

Paul was astonished that some of the Galatian church had so quickly deserted the One who had called them by the grace of Christ, and they were turning to a different gospel – which is no gospel at all.  They were being confused and fooled by distorting the gospel of Christ.  But even if Paul, or an angel from heaven, began preaching a different gospel other than was first preached to the Galatians, that person should cursed eternally.  Paul repeats this teaching to me again:  If anyone is preaching any gospel other than what I first welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Am I now trying to seek the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to be a people pleaser?  Paul also states that if he were still trying to please people, he would not be a servant of Christ!  Paul wants me to know that the gospel he preaches is not something man-made.  He did not receive it from any man, nor was he taught it, but he received it by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ Himself!

For the Galatians had already heard of Paul’s previous manner of life in Judaism and how intensely he used to persecute the church of God and tried to destroy it.  He had been advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of his own age and was extremely zealous for his ancestral traditions.

But God, who had set him apart from his mother’s womb and called him by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in him so that Paul could proclaim Jesus among the Gentiles.  At that time, he did not rush out to consult with anyone else, nor did he go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles, but he immediately went into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.   Then three years later, Paul went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter, and he stayed with him for fifteen days.  The only other apostle he met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother.

Paul wanted to assure the Galatians that before God what he was writing them was not a lie.  After that visit, he went into the region of Syria and Cilicia where he was still personally unknown to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. They had only heard this report about him:  ”The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the very faith he once tried to destroy.”  And they were giving glory to God because of Paul.

Chapter 2

And the leaders of the church who were of high reputation had nothing to add to what Paul was preaching. (Their reputation as leaders made no difference to Paul, for God has no favorites)  In fact, they saw that Paul had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been preaching to the Jews.

For the same God who had been at work in Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in the ministry of Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Peter, and John, who were reputed to be pillars of the church, gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that Paul’s team should go to the Gentiles and they would go to the Jews.  They only asked Paul’s team to remember the poor – the very thing Paul was eager to do!  And the leaders of the church who were of high reputation had nothing to add to what Paul was preaching. (Their reputation as leaders made no difference to Paul, for God has no favorites)

In fact, they saw that Paul had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been preaching to the Jews.  For the same God who had been at work in Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in the ministry of Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles.

James, Peter, and John, who were reputed to be pillars of the church, gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that Paul’s team should go to the Gentiles and they would go to the Jews.  They only asked Paul’s team to remember the poor – the very thing Paul was eager to do!  But when Peter came to Antioch, Paul opposed him to his face, because Peter was clearly in the wrong.  He had eaten with Gentiles, who don’t bother with circumcision, before certain Jewish friends of James arrived.

But when they came, Peter began to withdraw and separate himself from the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.  Then the other Jewish Christians joined with Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was influenced to follow them in their hypocrisy.

But when Paul saw that the Jewish leaders were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, he told Peter in front of them all, “If you, being a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, then why are you trying to make these Gentiles obey the Jewish laws you abandoned?  We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that we are not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we also have put our faith in Christ Jesus and are justified by our faith in Christ and not by the works of the law.  For no one will ever be saved by obeying the law!”

But what if while seeking to be justified in Christ, it becomes obvious that I am a sinner?  Does that mean that Christ promotes sin – absolutely not! For if I rebuild what was destroyed, I simply prove that I am a law breaker.  For because of the law, I had to die to the law, so that I might live for God!    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!  The life I continue to live in my body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I am not to treat the grace of God as meaningless, for if righteousness could be accomplished through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Chapter 3

How foolish it would be – it would almost be like someone had bewitched me – if I did not obey the truth, because it is like I personally saw Jesus Christ as crucified.  Paul asks this of me:  Did I receive Holy Spirit by keeping the law or by believing by faith?  Am I that foolish!  After beginning with the Spirit, am I now trying to attain perfection by my own human effort?

Paul continues to ask me whether or not I have suffered so much for nothing – if indeed it was for nothing?  Did God give His Spirit and work miracles because I observed the law or because I believed the message I had heard about Christ? In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)  So I am to understand that when I believe, I become a child of Abraham!

What’s more, the Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham; “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18)  And so this is it:  When I have faith, I am blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  If I were to rely on observing the law, I would be under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

Consequently, it is clear that I cannot ever be right with God by trying to keep the law, for the scriptures also say, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)  The life of faith is contrary to the life of the law which says, “If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands.” (Leviticus 18:5)

But Christ has redeemed me from the curse of the law by taking my curse upon Himself, for the scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Deuteronomy 21:23)  He redeemed me in order that the blessing given to Abraham might also come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that I can receive the promise of the Spirit through faith!

Paul now chooses to provide me an example from everyday life regarding the law.  Just as no one can set aside or add to an agreed upon human contract, so it is in the case of God’s law.  The promise was given to Abraham and his seed. It does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but it says ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ!

What Paul means is this:  The covenant with Abraham could not be changed 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses, or God would be breaking His promise.  For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

Well then, why was the law given?  It was given to show me how guilty I am and was ordained through angels by a mediator until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. Now a mediator is needed if two people enter into an agreement, but God acted on His own when He made His promise to Abraham.  Well then, is the law in opposition to the promises of God?  Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that the only way for me to receive God’s promises is for me to believe in Jesus Christ.  Before this faith came, I was held prisoner by the law, as if I were locked up until faith was revealed.  So the law was my tutor to lead me to Christ, so that I am now justified by faith.

Now that faith has come, I no longer need the law as my guardian!   So, I and all Christ followers, are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus!   And because I am baptized in Him, I am to clothe myself with Christ.  In Him there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female; for I, and all Christ followers, are one in Christ Jesus!  And because I belong to Christ, I am a true child of Abraham and an heir according to God’s promises!

Chapter 4

I should think of it this way – while an heir is a child and not able to obtain their inheritance, they are no different than a slave, although they now own the entire estate.  They are subject to the guardians and trustees until the date set by their father.  So also, before Christ came, everyone was in slavery under the basic principles of the world.

But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman and born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law to enable them to be adopted as His children.  Because I now am His Child, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into my heart crying, “Abba Father!”  Therefore, I am no longer a slave, but a child of God; and if His child, then an heir through God! 

At one point in time, Gentiles did not know God and were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.  But now that they know God – or rather are known by God – why would they want to go back again and be enslaved by the weak and useless spiritual powers of this world?  They observe special days and months and seasons and years.

Paul was afraid that all of his hard work for them had been wasted.  He begged his brothers and sisters to live as he did – in freedom from these things.  Because he had become like the Gentiles were – free from the law!  Paul reminded the Galatians that he first preached to them because of an illness he was going through.  But even though his sickness was revolting to them, they did not treat him with contempt or scorn.  But instead, they welcomed him as if he were an angel of God; as if he were Christ Himself!

Paul asked the Galatians where all of their joy had gone.  Previously, he knew that they would have gladly taken out their own eyes and given them to him. Paul then wondered if he had now become their enemy because he was telling them the truth.  False teachers were eager to win over the Galatians, but not for their good. They were trying to alienate them from Paul so that the Galatians would pay more attention to them than to Paul.

Paul continues by stating that it is wonderful for the Galatians to be eager to do good, and not just when he was with them.  He considers them his children with whom he is going through birth pains for them until Christ is fully developed in their lives.  His desire was that he could currently be with them and change his tone, for he was perplexed about themPaul asks me if I really want to live under the law, am I aware of what the law really means?

For the Scriptures state that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave-wife and one from his freeborn wife.  The son of the slave-wife was born in an ordinary way, but the son of the freeborn wife was the result of God’s promise! These two women serve as illustrations of God’s two covenants:  one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.

Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she and her children are in slavery.  But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O childless woman who bears no children; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; because more numerous are the children of the desolate woman than of the one who has a husband.” (Isaiah 54:1)

And now I am like Isaac, a child of promise!  At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit.  It is the same now.  But what do the Scriptures say?  ”Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for her son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” (Genesis 21:10) So then, I am not a child of the slave woman, but of the free woman!

 Chapter 5

It was for freedom that Christ set me free; therefore, I am to keep standing firm and not let myself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  For behold, Paul states that I am not to be circumcised in an attempt to please God, as then Christ would be of no value to me at all.  He repeats that committing to be circumcised to find favor with God would obligate me to obey the whole law.

Those who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ and have fallen away from grace.  But by faith and through the Spirit I am to eagerly await the righteousness for which I hope.  For when I place my faith in Christ, it makes no difference to God whether I am circumcised or not circumcised.  What is important is my faith expressing itself in love!

The Galatians were running their race with God well, so Paul asked them regarding who had interfered with them to hold them back from following the truth.  It certainly did not come from Him who called them, but a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough.

Paul expressed confidence in the Lord that the Galatians would believe similarly to what Paul believed, and that the person, whoever they were, who had been throwing them into confusion would pay the penalty.  Paul then asked the Galatians why he still is being persecuted if he were preaching circumcision?  His conclusion is the fact that he still is being persecuted is because he is still preaching salvation through the cross of Christ alone!

As for the agitators who want to mutilate the Galatians by requiring circumcision, his desire is that they would mutilate themselves. For me personally, I have been called to be free, but I am not to use my freedom to satisfy my sinful nature; but I am to serve one another in love!

The entire law is summed up by this one command:  “I am to love my neighbor as myself” (Leviticus 19:18).  But if I bite and devour others, I better watch out or I will end up destroying them and myself.  So, Paul tells me that I should live by the Spirit, and then I will not gratify the desires of my sinful nature.  My old sinful nature loves to do just the opposite of what Holy Spirit wants, and the Spirit desires what is contrary to my sinful nature.

These two are in conflict with each other, so I have to be careful not to do whatever I want.  But when I am led by the Spirit, I am no longer subject to the law. The deeds of those who follow the desires of their sinful nature are obvious:  sexual immorality, impure thoughts, sensuality, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other things like these.  So Paul again reminds me that if I live like this, I will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There are no laws against these type of things!  Belonging to Christ Jesus means that I have nailed the passions and desires of my sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there.  If I now live by the Spirit, I am to also walk by the Spirit!  I am not then to become conceited, irritate others, or envy others.

Chapter 6

If a fellow brother or sister is overcome by some sin, as a godly person I should gently restore them in a spirit of meekness.  However, I must be careful, or I may fall into the same temptation myself.  I am to bear the burdens of others, and in this way I will be fulfilling the law of Christ.  For if I think that I am something when I am nothing, I am only deceiving myself!

It is important that I examine my own actions, and then I can take satisfaction in doing my work well, and I am not to compare myself to anyone else. For each one of us should carry their own load.  If I receive instruction in God’s word, I must share all good things with the one who has taught me.   I am not to be deceived.  God is not mocked.  I will always reap what I sow!

For if I live only to satisfy my sinful nature, from that nature I will reap destruction.  But if I live to please the Spirit, I will reap a harvest of everlasting life! I should never grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I never give up.  Therefore, while I have the opportunity, I should do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Paul wanted his readers to notice the large letters he had used in writing with his own handwriting!  He again warns that those who were trying to make a good impression outwardly were trying to compel the Galatians to be circumcised.  The only reason they were doing this was to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Not even those who are circumcised keep the whole law, but they desire that you be circumcised so that they can boast about what you have done in your flesh.

As for Paul, he would only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Because of His cross, Paul considered himself crucified to the world, and the world to him.  As for me, it doesn’t matter whether I have been circumcised or not.  What really counts is that I am a new creation.  Peace and mercy will be mine when I follow this principle, as it is upon the Israel of God.

From now on, Paul did not want anyone to cause him any trouble regarding these things, as he already bore on his body many scars that show that he belongs to Jesus.  His final desire for me is that the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ be with my spirit!

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