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by Stanley L. Derickson
Mr. D’s Notes on Galatians
Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D.
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Paul writes to people that he had established in the Lord to warn them of their falling away from the Gospel that he had taught them and that they had received.
Judaizers had entered into the assembly and were teaching that Paul had it wrong, that he had misled them in their salvation, and that he had no authority to teach them what he did.
How true it is that an established church can accept in those that will teach them falsely - to their own detriment. This should be a clear warning to the church leadership to be very careful of those that would be members in their church. Indeed, be careful of those that attend your church - they may be leading your people astray in clear view of your oversight.
One of the duties of a shepherd is to protect his sheep from the wolves and all other dangers. If he does not involve himself in this work, then his sheep will suffer injury and he or his master loss.
Acts 20:28 "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
The book was written prior to the Jerusalem Council in 50 A.D. so most date it around 48-49 A.D.
I would suggest as the key verse 5:1, "So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law"
We will see in this brief book a clear authority set forth for Paul’s directing the Galatians, we will see a clear clarification of what the law was, we will see a clear restatement of the Gospel, and we will see a clear declaration that we as believers are free from the law and its requirements.
Before we get too far, this book is the solid cure for a malady that has struck the church in recent years. That malady being the labeling of anything smacking of a list of do’s and don’ts or anyone that tries to live a godly life with the term legalism, or legalist.
This malady is a catchall phrase to put down anything that makes you uncomfortable. I was in a Sunday school class taught by a man that constantly labeled anyone conservative that lived by a standard that they felt was Biblical as a legalist. He was constantly talking about anyone with a list of do’s and don’ts being trapped by legalism.
One day I took a few moments and explained to him (in the class) what Biblical legalism was - that it was any attempt to put someone else under the law for salvation - this being the clear problem of this book we are about to study. I then suggested that if we were to accept his definition of a legalist - one that has a list of do’s and don’ts - that God Himself was a huge legalist, because the Word is full of lists of do’s and don’ts.
It wasn’t but a few minutes later that the teacher again suggested someone was a legalist because he didn’t do certain things. Old habits are hard to break I guess.
If, indeed, anyone is following a list of do’s and don’ts so that he can be saved, then yes, that is legalism in a slightly different respect than the book of Galatians points out. In Galatians the problem was that the believers were trying to keep the law to insure their salvation - this is not Grace but is law and not acceptable to God.
To set up a list of any sort that you try to follow to seek righteousness is an adaptation of legalism and must be set aside for the grace that was given by God.
I used the term Judaizers earlier, and should explain that term briefly. It is simply a term that describes one that is trying to put an Old Testament law spin on the Gospel of grace. It is one that would attempt to integrate a keeping of the Mosaic law into the Gospel that Paul so clearly espoused in all of his letters.
This problem cropped up early in the church as the apostles dealt with similar problems in the book of Acts when they dealt with circumcision. This can be seen in Acts 15:1-41 when some were attempting to add circumcision as a requirement for salvation.
There is a sense in which anyone adding to the ordinance of baptism is attempting to add to God’s requirements. Some suggest that baptism is required for salvation. This is something that we do - a work if you will - something we do in obedience to our God, not something we do to gain access to a God we do not know yet.
Others suggest that if you are not baptized by one of their denomination, then you are not properly baptized and that you cannot be a member of their church. They go on to believe that if you are not a member of their denomination that you cannot partake of the other ordinance - the Lord’s table.
Now, think about that for a moment. You can’t be a part of their church, nor the Lord’s ordinance unless you follow their methodology. Seems quite close to legalism by way of the Biblical definition to me.
How sad to not be able to be a part of a church group that you agree within most areas. You can’t partake of the Lord’s ordinance of His table because you do not follow their narrow belief concerning baptism. Indeed, you can’t be a part of Christ’s church if you don’t follow their teaching on baptism.
This in essence is saying you can’t be a part of the Lord’s people unless you follow our plan of baptism.
There is one modern day importance to the book that many need to consider. The Seventh Day Adventist group are considered by most to be "Christian" though by the meaning of Paul in this book one might question whether they are or not.
Paul flatly states that keeping the law is not the way of salvation. The Seventh Day person relates his life quite closely to the law. Now, if they are looking to the law to gain their ultimate salvation then they are lost and most wrong, however if they are trusting Christ for their full and final salvation, then they are with us in brotherhood.
From what I have seen and heard from the few Seventh-Day folks I have met over the years, I believe those individuals to be brothers, though I believe them to be in error relating to security. One individual admitted finally after some amount of pressing that he felt he needed to continue in good works to retain salvation.
The key is whether they are trusting Christ and His work on the cross or their own works of the law to obtain salvation. If Christ is only part of the process then I would believe that they are in error.
Nothing I’ve said is meant to detract from what they are trying to do in their lives. They live a most godly life, at least from outward appearances, and from what I’ve seen they are some of the healthier looking folks in the church realm. Their dietary ideas aren’t that far from what the doctors are finally getting around to telling us to do.
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR GALATIANS
Barnes Notes on Galatians; Barnes, Albert
Galatians: The Gospel of God’s Grace; Deffinbaugh, Robert L. Th.M.; firstname.lastname@example.org; Biblical Studies Press; 1998
Notes on Galatians, 2003 Edition; Constable, Dr. Thomas L.; 2003; Sonic Light http://www.soniclight.com
Notes on Galatians; Gill
Notes on Galatians; Henry, Matthew
Week one: 1:1-9 salvation presented, and questioned by life
Week two: 1:10-24 Paul’s account of his qualifications to present truth
Week three: 2:1-10 Paul’s backing from the apostles
Week four: 2:11-21 Paul explains a false issue
Week five: 3:1-12 Paul contrasts salvation by faith and condemnation by law
Week six: 3:13-27 Paul contrasts Abraham’s promise to the law
Week seven: 3:28-4:7 Paul explains the oneness of believers, both of old and of new
Week eight: 4:8-20 Paul reminds them of his labor and love for them
Week nine: 4:21-31 Paul explains the difference between Isaac and Ishmael
Week ten: 5:1-15 Circumcision is of no value, we are free
Week eleven: 5:16-26 A walk in the Spirit is a must for the believer
Week twelve: 6:1-10 Good works should be our goal
Week thirteen: 6:11-18 We walk in freedom because of Christ (review/overview)
Eve of Ascension