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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"The Gospel of Christ" -- Galatians 1:1-9

The First in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Galatians

With good reason, the Book of Galatians has been called the magna carte of Christian liberty.  There is perhaps no portion of Holy Scripture which packs the punch of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia.  In this letter Paul sets out what is perhaps the most passionate defense of the gospel found in all the New Testament.  The apostle is angry when he writes this letter–he calls the Galatians “foolish” (3:1) and even tells them if they want to begin with circumcision, they might as well to go the whole way and emasculate themselves (5:12).  Strong words from the apostle, but much is at stake.  

The church to which Paul is writing is one which he himself helped to found not long before.  This same church was now tolerating, if not openly embracing, a form of teaching which directly contradicts what the apostle previously taught them about the saving work of Jesus Christ.  For Paul, this is a spiritual battle to be fought over the meaning of the gospel.  He is fighting for the very soul of these churches.  He minces no words with those whom he regards as enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Before we work our way through this letter, it is necessary take a look at the historical background which led to its composition.  Paul’s circular letter to the churches in Galatia (a region located in what is now south-central Turkey) and was written in AD 48, just prior to the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15:1-21.  By looking at Paul’s comments here in light of events recounted in the Book of Acts, we know that Paul visited the southern part of Galatia at least twice during the missionary journey described in Acts 14:21.  In Galatians 2, Paul describes his visit to Jerusalem on the occasion of a great famine which hit the city as described in Acts 11:27-30.  In Galatians 4:13, Paul refers to having preached the gospel to the Galatians previously.  
This indicates that Galatians was written in the days preceding the Jerusalem Council, when the pressing question of Gentile conformity to the Law of Moses was hotly debated before being definitively settled by the leaders of the church.  The pressing question was “must Gentile believers in Jesus live like Jews in order to be faithful Christians?”  These circumstances provide compelling evidence that Galatians is Paul’s earliest letter included in the canon of the New Testament, and the doctrine of justification is the basic gospel message Paul proclaimed from the very beginning of his ministry as apostle to the Gentiles.

As a result of Jewish opposition to Paul’s proclamation of Christ crucified in the synagogues of the region, Paul and Barnabas turned to preaching to the Gentiles.  Many were converted.  Soon after Paul and Barnabas left Galatia, Jewish converts to Christianity began teaching in the churches that Gentile converts must submit to the Law of Moses and undergo circumcision in order to be regarded as “right before God” (justified).  In Galatians 1:7, Paul refers to unnamed individuals who he says were throwing the Galatians into confusion soon after he had departed the area.  

Known to us as the Judaizers, these false teachers were undermining Paul’s gospel by claiming that his preaching was actually dangerous since it did not require obedience to the law of God as a condition of deliverance from the wrath of God.  Furthermore, they claimed, Paul’s authority was inferior to that of other apostles such as Peter and James, who were more closely associated with Jesus, the Jerusalem church, and with Judaism (1:1; 6:17).

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