Paul's Passing Thoughts

Galatians Introduction

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 25, 2018


Note: teacher’s script does not follow video exactly. The following is not transcribed from the video.

Greetings truth lovers and welcome to our first study in Galatians. Again, we are sticking with our focus on justification and the book of Galatians is a perfect book to top off our study after finishing Romans. From here we will be going to the book of Ephesians, and hopefully a focus on sanctification moving forward. This ministry has focused mostly on justification in our first ten years, but we are really looking forward to a sanctification focus starting with the book of Ephesians.

It’s not my custom to do a lot of geographical and historical background study unless it is absolutely necessary for some understanding in a given book, and the case with Galatians follows; what is being said is pretty clear as stated.

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers  who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

The best I can tell from what background study I have done on this book, Paul is writing this letter from where he wrote Romans, and around the same time. So, this letter is probably written from Macedonia which was a spiritual stronghold for Paul. Note that the letter is not only from Paul himself, but “all of the brothers who are with me.” And in most cases the letters address everyone in the assemblies. Biblical truth was never dissected according to some theoretical ability to understand or an authoritative strata.

This is because the assemblies were and are bodies, not top-down hierarchies. Assemblies are bodies with various members defined by gifts, and working together cooperatively. The bond of unity is working together for the “one mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16, Phil 2:2) as each is convinced in their own minds and aided by those who are apt to teach, or in other words, have an extraordinary (extra ordinary) gift for teaching. Such should be recognized as elders, but this is a gift and not an office of authority. It is leadership as opposed to authority. Again, where there is authority, leadership is completely unnecessary. Even the gift of apostleship was a leadership position. Note here that Paul uses persuasion throughout the letter rather than declaring some sort of divine edict.

Nevertheless, Paul emphasizes his validity as an apostle. Why does this matter? Because the New Covenant was predicated on the “apostles’ doctrine.” We are going to take some time this morning to drive some deep stakes with no apologies to anyone. DOCTRINE matters. The one mind of Christ is articulated in the apostles’ doctrine. This ministry does not go for the “Jesus is a person not a precept” mumbo jumbo. Our unity derives from being individually persuaded about the apostles’ doctrine.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (KJV).

This was the total mindset of the “1st century ‘church.'” With all of the talk about getting back to the glories of the “1st century ‘church,'” this will not happen unless recognition of the apostles’ doctrine is taken seriously. Agreement on that as each is persuaded in their own mind (the mind of Christ given to every born again believer) is key to unity and life more abundantly. It centers on a mutual love for THE truth, not A truth.

Hence, Paul begins by validating his apostleship.

Before we get into that, a couple of other mentions. The letter is to the assemblies (not churches) located in Galatia, that’s in the plural, and this would have been assemblies meeting in private homes. Secondly, another stake we will drive here totally without apologies is on a Trinity. What’s the Trinity all about? Well, excuse us, but so far this ministry has been busy carrying all of the water on justifcation by new birth, so, we aren’t there yet on a developed position on the Trinity. Yet, we see it here. God didn’t raise Himself from the grave, He raised Jesus from the grave according to The Promise. What is The Promise? It is the heart of the gospel; it was a promise to Christ and Abraham that Christ would be raised from the dead and thereby establish the baptism of the Spirit which baptizes Jew and Gentile into one body.

Is the Trinity “logical”? Are you talking about the concept of three being one, or the relationship between the three members? At John’s baptism was God really talking to Himself and calling Himself the Son while being the Father? Which answer is the most illogical?

This is an aside, but a good place to mention it because of the claim that the Bible contradicts itself in regard to the Trinity. Justification is both simple and very complex. In regard to the complexity of justification; once you understand it and see its consistency from the beginning of the Bible till the end, you know that the Bible is clearly validated as being true in regard to one way of salvation and godly living. The idea that the law is ended in regard to us being judged because Jesus ended the law through the new birth is pretty simple. Being able to use the law to love without any fear of condemnation is pretty simple, but as we will see here in Galatians justifcation can be very complex as well. The consistency of Scripture in that complexity is what validates it.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

So, even in Paul’s initial greeting we have a bunch of gospel theology and doctrine that he unpacks as we go along. One emphasis is Paul’s validation as an apostle apart from the credentials of men. How do we receive our gifts and salvation apart from men, and how are we to apply our new life apart from man’s authority?

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 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.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant  of Christ.

Full stop. Clearly, who does Paul designate here as judge, jury, and authority regarding the discernment of truth? That’s right, the assembly of God’s people at large. This assumes the individual is able to ascertain truth, and in the end, the only one culpable before God. What is a major theme in this letter? The authority of men and their lofty credentials that they use to intimidate. Look, even if an angel appears to you and preaches a gospel, you are responsible to pass judgement on the truthfulness of that gospel according to what you yourself understand about the Bible. Clearly, the point Paul is making here is that even apostleship is not vested with an authority that supersedes personal conscience. Paul makes this clear in the strongest possible way and repeats it for emphasis; let ANYONE no matter who or what be accursed if they teach a contrary gospel. And in my book, that includes those who take away from God’s truth by failing to teach what Paul called, “the full counsel of God.”

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,  and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to  me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;  17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

This is the big picture of Galatians in a nutshell: Jewish academia and all of its supposed authority was intimidating the Gentiles to come under its authority. We need to stop right here and define what Paul means by a justifcation through law. Obviously, the big tradition that was in the law is circumcision, and the Jewish academics were making this a condition of salvation. Circumcision, and other traditions, were posed as acts that justified the individual. This is little different from the idea that we are justified by the act of water baptism. Hence, when Paul speaks of a justification by law he is talking about stuff in the law that justifies in regard to the mere ritualistic act.

First, Paul was a Jew’s Jew in the tradition of the fathers and a Jewish academic par excellent and rejected it all for the revelation of Christ. Secondly, Paul refutes their authority by noting that he studied the gospel on his own and preached it for 15 years before he even consulted the who’s who of the Jewish faith. Thirdly, given that, even if he preaches a gospel contrary to his original message, let him be accursed. Fourthly, those with him who were uncircumcised were not required to be circumcised. And fifth,

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.  13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

When Peter, the designated apostle to the circumcised compromised the gospel because he was intimidated by the Jewish academics, Paul rebuked him publicly. And further along, not taking note of this is to disregard the whole ministry of the mystery of the gospel that came with visible power and miracles (Galatians 3:5: sixth). Seventh,

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

True Jews know that no man is justified by the law.

Paul begins by reminding them of what is obvious; what the Judaizers were pushing makes no common sense in regard to their own experiences and how the mystery of the gospel and the revelation of Christ unfolded historically before their eyes. And, if what they were teaching was true, Paul’s own experiences made no sense (eighth). Let’s review Paul’s initial argument:

  1. Paul, as a former Jewish academic beyond those who were disrupting the Galatians rejected their gospel.
  2. Paul was convinced of the truth through his own independent study apart from the authority of men, and what he had been doing for fifteen years was confirmed by those who matter.
  3. Nevertheless, if he or anyone else preaches a contrary gospel, let them be accursed.
  4. The uncircumcised were not required by the Jerusalem counsel to be circumcised.
  5. Paul rebuked Peter publicly for compromising the gospel in regard to other Jewish traditions as well.
  6.  To accept the contrary gospel is to reject the powerful and miraculous experience that came with the mystery of the gospel.
  7. Even true Jews know that justification is not by the law.
  8. Paul’s own experience makes no sense if the contrary gospel is true.

Now, with all of that said, Paul moves to the doctrinal or theological argument, or if you will, Scriptural argument beginning with what justifcation by the law really is: antinomianism. In justifcation by the law, as we will see, there are initial salvific acts that initiate salvation, in this case, circumcision, and other traditions that maintain salvation like what we eat and the recognition of days. What does this end up being? A dumbing down of the true spirit of the law that circumvents love.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Look, when you take a shortcut and obey a few rituals in order to get to heaven, the hard work of love goes by the wayside. Also, your primary concern is maintaining a handful of rituals to make sure you get in and stay in. Love is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t get you into heaven. Taking a little bit of the law for justifcation as a shortcut to heaven circumvents the true spirit of the law. Instead of being informed by the law as to how to die to the law so you can live for God, you attempt to find life in the law for justification through the recognition of a handful of ritualistic traditions of men.

And ironically, because the church is the same Galatians problem to a T, they love to interpret this very passage accordingly:

“See, see, we are still dead in trespasses and sins and Christ does everything through us. Yes, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. If I obey the law [actually, love], it is I who lives, but if Jesus obeys the law for me, it is Jesus who lives my life for me.”

Of course, this isn’t what Paul is saying at all. The “I” that died with Christ is the former man who is no longer under the law so Christ has no need to obey it for us. This is a thumbnail of what Paul had taught the Galatians  in-depth about the new birth. It can be seen in Romans 7.

Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

This is how justifcation by new birth frees us to obey the law aggressively in love without fear of condemnation. The typical church interpretation of this passage indicts it as a modern day example of law justifcation. It’s salvation by church membership, and the maintaining of it by being faithful to church ritual/tradition. This leads to a relaxing of the law for love purposes and explains every nuance of what church looks like in our day. It’s antinomianism resulting from a twisted interpretation of  justifcation apart from the law. It is not a gospel that ends the law for righteousness, but makes perfect law-keeping the standard for justifcation instead of the new birth. Hence, the believer is still legally married to the first spouse and is under law. There is no freedom to serve Christ with love as defined by the law.

Next week, we will delve into this truth further.


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