Tomorrow, Sunday June 28th, we are beginning a new sermon series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. This is an amazing letter wherein the Apostle elaborates over and over the glory of the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus Christ. I hope you will join us as we explore the wonders of the Good News with Paul. Below is a brief introduction for you as your prepare.
The Apostle Paul. This is virtually undisputed.
This is an epistle, or letter. It is an example of what is known as “deliberative rhetoric”. It is stern, emotional, rational, and persuasive. It contains elements of a category of writings known as ancient “letters of rebuke”. It is intended to get the people of the Galatian churches to change their behavior and beliefs.
The main arguments around the date of this letter center around whether or not it preceded the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, which is generally dated to 49 AD. There is debate over whether or not Gal. 2:1-10 mentions this council or not. It seems likely that it does, and therefor we would date this letter to around the mid-fifties AD. At any rate this is a very early New Testament writing.
This letter was written to the churches which Paul planted in Galatia, a region of Asia Minor. This would refer to the southern part of Galatia, and would include the churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, all mentioned in Acts 13-14. See map below.
Paul is writing because Jewish Christian missionaries have come to these churches after him undermining his authority and preaching a different gospel. They are adding requirements of the Jewish law onto the gospel for gentiles. So for example, they are requiring gentile Christians to be circumcised in order to be saved. In effect they are requiring gentiles not only to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, but also to become Jewish too. By adding law to the gospel they are binding up their freedom in Christ and negating the grace of Jesus Christ that saves. Paul regards this as a heresy and an ananthema (curse). See Gal. 1:6-9
So, Paul is writing to address a racial and cultural conflict between Jews and Gentiles that has been caused, or perhaps reinforced, by a misunderstanding of the gospel. And the solution to this dilemma is a corrective to the true Gospel, which is indeed, good news for all of us!