In the first two thirds of the Letter to the Galatians, Paul is engaged in a frank and sometimes angry, rhetorical defense of his apostolic authority and the gospel that he had been proclaiming among the Gentiles. In these sections, Paul argues that he is as much an apostle as Peter and his colleagues in Jerusalem and that his teaching—that Gentiles could become Christians and live accordingly outside the context of the Jewish law—is true and biblically valid.
This quarter’s lessons have been a helpful guide to the intricacies of Pauls’ discourse in Galatians and unfolding the gospel. Carl Cosaert has managed both, and I appreciate his work in these lessons.
The following thoughts explore listening to Galatians 3:26-4:11 from the audience perspective in its Greco-Roman social context. I would suggest having a Bible open before reading further.
This week’s Adult Bible Study Guide quotes Ellen White: “The law of God, spoken in awful grandeur from Sinai, is the utterance of condemnation to the sinner. It is the province of the law to condemn, but there is in it no power to pardon or to redeem.” (SDA Bible Commentary, VI, 1094). God’s power “to pardon and to forget” is, as the influential Adventist theologian G. D.
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?]4Have you experienced]so much in vain—if it really was in vain?
I find the title for this week’s study somewhat interesting: Jesus never used the term “justification” and the Bible never used the term “justification by faith alone.”
But Jesus surely spoke plainly about how sinners become right with Him. How many times does Jesus emphasize: “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:31, 34-36, GNB)
Scholars frequently fall into two camps on dating the book of Galatians. Those holding to the South Galatian theory believe Paul was addressing a group of churches in the southern regions of the Roman province of Galatia. This view would seem to cast Paul as single visionary, a man ahead of his time (and his church), who eventually catalyzed a process leading to the decisions in the Jerusalem council.