Galatians: Introduction (Part 2 of 6)
After Jesus resurrected from the grave, He gave the Great Commission; part of it came in the form of Acts 1:8. Jesus told His followers to witness in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), then in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-4), to upper Samaria (Acts 10:24-35), and finally to the outermost parts of their known world (Acts 11:19-24). So churches are springing up everywhere at this time— the New Covenant is in effect. God’s people are sharing the message of Christ (forgiveness, hope, abundant life now and eternal life later) to both Jews and Gentiles.
Since most of Christian believers and leaders are scattered, they are going everywhere– especially the Apostles. The Apostle Paul made his primary work reaching out to non-Jewish people with the message of the Jesus because some of the other Apostles were effectively taking care of the Jewish people.
So churches are being established. The Apostle Paul is traveling with a group of friends. Leaders are helping him set up communities of Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire. He takes several such trips, called missionary journeys. The first missionary journey occurred around the late 40s AD. We read about it in Acts 13-14. Some cities mentioned on Paul’s journey are Pisidia, Lystra, and Iconium.
The gospel (the good news of Jesus’ love for all people, his forgiveness, and the possibility of abundant life now and eternal life later) is being taken to the outermost parts of the world– like it was supposed to be. Paul has taken his first missionary journey, and goes to the area of Galatia.
Later on, he hears of some events going on there and writes a letter to those churches– in hopes of clearing up the problems there. The main problem was that, after he left, some people there began to distort the truth of his message. The book of Galatians was written to clarify what the Gospel is about and what it gives believers,
Let’s begin, reading verse 1-5.
Verse 1 clarifies that this book is an epistle, a formal style of letter. Unlike other letters in the New Testament, this one isn’t addressed to a specific person or a specific church– it’s written to a group of churches… all of which were positioned in Galatia (present-day Turkey). The letter went out generally to all of the cities in the region, because they were all dealing with the same issues at that time.
In this verse, Paul notes that he is called “of God.” His authority is from God, not from any denomination or group who thought he was a nice guy or a human organization who gave him ordination papers. God calls— all an organization can do is recognize a man is called.
In verse 2, Paul discusses the fact that he is not alone; there are men and women with him in his missionary travels. Paul refers to them because the Galatians know who some of those are (because these are people who traveled with him in Acts 13-14), and these others have credibility with the Galatians as well. So Paul is saying, “we’re still here— we’re still saying the same thing. We’re of one heart and mind on the issues we’ll discuss in this letter.” Strong Christians add to the credibility of Paul’s message— that was going on here. And the others also cared about the Galatians and wanted to say ‘hi’ as well.
Verse 3 is a typical Pauline greeting, wishing ‘grace and peace’ to the Galatians. Grace ALWAYS precedes peace in his letters. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Without grace, there can BE no peace.
In verse 4, Paul reiterates that Jesus died for sin. Sin is so vicious that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for sin. God planned that Jesus would die for sins. WHY? To rescue the world from itself, from self-destruction and from destroying others. Sin includes personal evil, societal wickedness, and territorial and spatial wickedness. Christ died to free people from all types of sin.
In verse 5, Paul breaks out in praise– all glory belongs to God forever and ever. Because God HAS rescued the world from evil through Christ— Christ’s work defeated the cause of evil and broke its power.
For that reason, Amen (true, yes!)