Full Text for Galatians- Volume 14 - What prompted Paul's letter to the Galatians? Who were the Galatians? (Video)

No. 14. >> Please let me ask one more question: What prompted Paul's letter to the Galatians? And who are these people we call the Galatians, the ones he is addressing with this homily? And finally, who are the people who appear to be upsetting Paul so much? >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: After Paul's initial greeting to the Galatians, we get a glimpse into the context in which this letter is sent. And your question very much puts your finger on the reason why Paul is sending this letter. Because there is a drama going on here in Galatia. And I think we need to know who the participants are. Clearly Paul is the main character. He is the apostle during his first missionary journey who is coming to this congregation and sharing with them the Gospel. Earlier I said there may have been some Jews at the very beginning of his work among the Galatians. But from all indications in the letter itself it appears as if the Galatians are essentially Gentiles. Who are converted from paganism into the Christian church. Now, what a lot of people don't know about Galatia is that this is where the Celtic people come from. You know the Irish? The Celts? They come from Galatia. And if you were living in the Roman Empire at the time of Paul, you would know that the Galatians were the mercenaries of the empire. If you needed soldiers to fight tough battles for you, you went to Galatia. These were the tough guys. The guys who were sent out by the Romans to fight the tough battles. And they are essentially men of the world. We're going to see how important that is as we get into the epistle. And we're going to see how Paul uses a lot of military metaphors and illustrations, which indicate that he is addressing a people who are deeply immersed in the life of a soldier. These Galatians embrace Paul. As he says in Chapter 4 as if he were an angel of God as Christ Jesus himself. And as you listen to this letter, you must listen to it knowing that Paul is addressing people who really don't have any of the issues that Jews would have concerning the law. When Paul came into the situation, here were people who were open and ready to receive this Gospel without any kind of preconceptions about what the Gospel meant in the Old Testament or how the law was to be understood. But if you remember when we talked a little bit before about Paul's situation in history, clearly somebody -- what oftentimes are called Judaizers -- but opponents of Paul who believed the Gospel needed to add the law in order to be the full Gospel, they had come into the congregation after Paul had been here. And they had told these Gentile Galatian Christians that in order to be a full Christian, they must be circumcised. They must follow the law in terms of food laws and the calendar. And they actually got these people to think about doing those things in order to be full-fledged Christians. That is why Paul right away -- and this is another reason why this letter is so unusual in its beginning, its opening. Right away, Paul chastises the Galatians. And I think you have to hear the passion in Paul's voice here. He says something like this: I am so amazed that you are quickly turning from the one who called you in the grace of Jesus Christ into another Gospel. Not that there is another Gospel. But there are some who are troubling you. And who are wishing to turn the Gospel of Jesus Christ into something that it's not. You see, Paul is deeply concerned that the Gospel is being perverted here. And that these opponents of his are presenting what they call is the Gospel, which really isn't a Gospel. Because there's only one Gospel. And Paul is shocked that these Galatians, these people who he had this wonderful experience with, this pastor and people, that somehow they are being turned from Paul's preaching to the preaching of these men. Now, what we're going to see is that these men are very powerful rhetoricians, which means they are powerful preachers. These are formidable opponents for Paul. And when they come into Galatia, they are capable of making grown men submit to circumcision. Think about that. You have to have a powerful preaching, a powerful rhetoric in order to get grown men to submit under the knife to be circumcised. So these men are not insignificant speakers. And they have a powerful persuasion. And Paul recognizes that when he writes this letter. And yet he calls them for what they are. He says: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to that which we preach to you, let him be accursed -- or literally anathema -- in other words placed before God where you can either be blessed or cursed. And in this case, it's a curse. Now, notice it's a Gospel contrary to what we preached to you. No matter who does it. Even an angel from heaven, if they were to do that. A Gospel that is contrary to what Paul preached. They should be cursed. Now, that reference to angel is important. Because later on we're going to see that there was a tradition not found in the Old Testament but found among the intertestamental literature. But certainly affirmed by Paul in the First Century. That the law on Mt. Sinai was delivered to Moses by means of an angel. Paul is going to refer to this later on in the epistle. It is also a reference to Chapter 4 of Galatians where the Galatians received Paul as if he were an angel of God as Christ Jesus himself. Now, Paul is saying even if an angel from God, a messenger, preaches you a Gospel contrary to what we preached to you, let him be accursed. Paul's opponents are saying that if an angel gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, then the Gospel that they bring, which is the Gospel plus the law, must also then be included as coming from God as the law was given by angels. Paul is so intent upon showing that they are accursed, he says it one more time. He says: What I said to you now I am speaking again. That if someone preaches to you a Gospel contrary to which you received -- namely from me -- let him be accursed. Now, this shows you that there are some powerful forces here in Galatia. And let me talk about the other characters. And I think we need to spend some time talking about who these opponents are. There's Paul. There's the messenger who brings the letter. There are the Galatians who are probably Gentiles, sincere believers who are being turned away from Paul by these opponents. There are faithful catechists, we'll hear of them in Chapter 6, who were left behind by Paul preaching the Gospel who were being persecuted by these opponents. But who are these opponents? Well, we've already talked about them a little bit in the early church history we gave. These are men probably from Jerusalem. They are saying they are from James. But they are not. Sometimes they are called Judaizers. But these are those Pharisaical Jews who are insisting on the law. Circumcision. Keeping the Sabbath. Keeping the food laws. Keeping the other calendar. To be a Jew first before being a Christian. These are probably classmates of Paul who went to the school of Gamaliel with him. They know each other. They know how they argue Scripture together. They are deeply conservative men. But they are men who are insisting that the Gospel have something added to it to be the full Gospel. And for Paul, if you add something to the Gospel, it is no longer Gospel. It's either the pure Gospel by grace through faith or it's not the Gospel. Now, I mentioned before that these opponents are probably coming to the Galatians and saying: We have the utmost respect for Paul. He was in our classes. He got the best grades. But he didn't tell you the whole truth. And now we're here to tell you the truth. That the true Gospel is the Gospel plus the law. Now, if you can't recognize that that has been a problem since the time of the apostles, that's the problem we have today. In Christianity today, the biggest problem in our churches is not sin, even though sin is a problem. It's the problem of those who think that they can earn their salvation by being good, by being pious, by doing works of the law. By cooperating with God. By surrendering themselves to Jesus. By giving themselves over to him. By discovering the goodness in themselves. And then having good reach out to them and they reach out to God. That's not the Gospel Paul preaches. And Paul says that such a Gospel is to be accursed. Look at how he ends the first ten verses, which is the first section of Galatians. He says very clearly there: For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Question. We know the answer. He's seeking the approval of God. Or am I trying to please man? No. If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Notice the man-God relationship there. It goes back to the beginning of the epistle. Is Paul's apostleship from man or from God? Is Paul trying to serve man or God? Please men or God? Paul is going to say that the Gospel, his apostleship, his service in the church, comes from God and God alone. And that is a direct contrast to his opponents. In the first ten verses of Galatians, Paul is putting the main issues on the table: His apostleship and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in the next section we're going to see what that Gospel entails.