The Apostle Paul: The Epistle to the Galatians

As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)

The Epistle to the Galatians was very likely the Apostle Paul’s first canonical letter. In Galatians 2, Paul described his visit to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, so he must have written Galatians after that event. Since most scholars date the Jerusalem Council to be around A.D. 49, the most likely date for Galatians is shortly after the council concluded and Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas delivered the council’s subsequent letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch.

In a strict ethnic sense, Galatia was the region of central Asia Minor inhabited by the Galatians. Paul and Barnabas founded churches in the southern Galatian cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:14–14:23).

Paul wrote The Epistle to the Galatians to refute Judaizing false teachers who were undermining the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Ignoring the expressed decree of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:23–29), the Judaizers spread their heretical teaching that Gentiles must first become Jewish proselytes and submit to all the Mosaic law before they could become Christians (Galatians 1:7; 4:17, 21; 5:2–12; 6:12–13).

In commenting about the doctrine of justification by faith, Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Paul defends that doctrine (which is the heart of the gospel) both in its theological (Gal. 3–4) and practical (chs. 5–6) ramifications. He also defends his position as an apostle (chs. 1–2) since, as in Corinth, false teachers had attempted to gain a hearing for their heretical teaching by undermining Paul’s credibility. The main theological themes of Galatians are strikingly similar to those of Romans, e.g., the inability of the law to justify (2:16; cf. Rom. 3:20); the believer’s deadness to the law (Gal. 2:19; cf. Rom. 7:4); the believer’s crucifixion with Christ (Gal. 2:20; cf. Rom. 6:6); Abraham’s justification by faith (Gal. 3:6; cf. Rom. 4:3); that believers are Abraham’s spiritual children (Gal. 3:7; cf. Rom. 4:10–11) and therefore blessed (Gal. 3:9; cf. Rom. 4:23–24); that the law brings not salvation but God’s wrath (Gal. 3:10; cf. Rom. 4:15); that the just shall live by faith (Gal. 3:11; cf. Rom. 1:17); the universality of sin (Gal. 3:22; cf. Rom. 11:32); that believers are spiritually baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27; cf. Rom. 6:3); believers’ adoption as God’s spiritual children (Gal. 4:5–7; cf. Rom. 8:14–17); that love fulfills the law (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:8–10); the importance of walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16; cf. Rom. 8:4); the warfare of the flesh against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17; cf. Rom. 7:23, 25); and the importance of believers bearing one another’s’ burdens (Gal. 6:2; cf. Rom. 15:1).”

The doctrine of justification by faith alone is central to the Gospel. To preach and teach something contrary is to invoke the damnation by God upon the preacher and teacher as today’s text clearly indicates. Let us resolve that we will not allow ourselves to be persuaded to believe a false gospel which denies justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!







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