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Sessions with Galatians. Finding Freedom Through Christ Introduction to Galatians and Paul’s Greeting (1:1-5). Map of Paul’s Journeys. Map of Galatia. About the Galatian Church.

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sessions with galatians

Sessions with Galatians

Finding Freedom Through Christ

Introduction to Galatians and Paul’s Greeting (1:1-5)

about the galatian church
About the Galatian Church
  • The name Galatia does not come from the land itself, but actually from the people who settled in it—the British Celts, the French Gauls, and the Asia Minor Galatians—during the 3rd century, BC
  • The word Galatia actually means, “land of the Greek-speaking Gauls.”
  • In 25 BC, the Romans gained control of the area and created the province of Galatia, applying the name to an area larger than the lands occupied by the ethnic Galatians.
about the galatian churches
About the Galatian Churches
  • In the southern part of Galatian we find the cities of Lystra and Derbe, two of the cities that Paul visited during his first missionary journey (Acts 13-14).
  • During this first visit Paul founded a few churches in the southern province.
  • During his second missionary journey, Paul founded churches in the northern part of Galatia.
  • We can’t be sure if Paul is writing his letter to the southern Galatian churches, the northern Galatian churches, or both. However, it is important to note that regardless of their location, they would have been considered Gentiles.
what s happening in galatia
What’s happening in Galatia?
  • After Paul visited Galatia and founded the churches there on the basis that they must put their faith and trust solely in Jesus Christ, he left to continue his journey elsewhere.
  • Soon after his departure, a group of rival Christian missionaries that obedience to the Jewish law (circumcision, dietary laws, etc.) must be added to their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • To Paul’s horror the Galatians were listening! So Paul’s letter is to refocus the Galatians on the idea that their faith must not be in Jesus Christ and the law, but solely in Jesus Christ.
the details of the letter
The Details of the Letter
  • As was mentioned earlier, scholars are not sure of the churches Paul was addressing (southern, northern, or both). But, the educated guess is that Paul wrote the letter during the mid-50’s AD.
  • Paul’s letter is filled with information refuting the necessity of following the law.
  • Unfortunately, Paul is not only fighting against the false religion that his rival missionaries are offering to the Galatians, but he is also fighting against the defamation of his character by the rival missionaries.
galatians 1 1 5 nrsv
Galatians 1:1-5 NRSV

Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all members of God’s family who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

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

paul s defense begins
Paul’s Defense Begins…
  • With Paul’s first sentence he lets the Galatians know the he knows; he knows that they have been listening to the rival missionaries who are questioning his authority.
  • Perhaps the rival missionaries asked, “Was Paul truly an apostle set apart by Jesus, or was he set apart by himself or by some other human authority? Can he really be trusted?”
  • As we will find later in chapter 1, Paul knows about the rival missionaries’ implications that he learned the gospel from Jesus’ disciples in Jerusalem and then he changed it without their permission.
  • Paul nips that notion in bud, because he was truly sent by God. He seeks to please no person; he only seeks to please God.
greetings and blessings
Greetings and Blessings
  • Paul brings greetings from other Christians who, like Paul, are solely committed to Jesus Christ.
  • Then, as is the case in many of Paul’s epistles, he offers a prayer of blessing to the people:
    • May grace and peace be on you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who because our God and Father willed it so, gave his life for our sins, to rescue us from this present world with all of its evil. Glory be to God forever and ever. Amen. (Revised Standard Version)
present evil age
Present Evil Age…
  • In this blessing Paul argues that, on the cross, Jesus did more than die for our individual sins. In fact, what Paul argues is that Jesus died so that the “present evil age” would come to an end.
  • Well, what is this present evil age? Anything that leads people away from the love of God, neighbor, and creation.
  • What types of things?
  • In the 1930’s, German Christians followed the ideas of a narcissistic, evil leader, Adolf Hitler,who ascribed to his idea that all Jewish people should die.
  • These weren’t all bad people. They were Christian people, but they allowed their quest for National glory to lead their entire lives.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian, wrote, “How can one close one’s eyes at the fact that the demons themselves have taken over rule of the world, that it is the powers of darkness who have here made an awful conspiracy?
slavery and segregation
Slavery and Segregation
  • And what about in our own country? How have we allowed for the present evil age to influence us? Especially for people living in the “Bible Belt”?
  • All people who benefited from, participated in, or did not speak out against this system are responsible for our own sinful actions.
power of the cross
Power of the Cross
  • On the cross, Jesus invaded the present evil age and set us free from its power! He does not transport us out of this age or make us immune to its influence, but frees us from its ability to dominate our lives.
  • People who gave witness to a power greater than Hitler, slavery, and segregation lived out of a spiritual freedom that the Gestapo, slavery, and Jim Crow could not take away.
  • Such lives of freedom are made possible by the cross, follow the pattern of the cross, and point others to the cross.
task of the church
Task of the Church
  • The task of the church is to give witness to God’s new creation in the midst of the present evil age. Slowly but surely, the Spirit-empowered church advances further into the turf of the present evil age, but not through the means of this age.
  • With the cross as the example, the church takes territory not by violence but through sacrificial service.
  • The church relies on overwhelming love, not overpowering force. Instead of dominating the world from above, the church subverts the present evil age from within as salt and light and yeast in the dough.
task of the church1
Task of the Church
  • By insisting that Gentiles follow the law, the Missionaries of Paul’s day remained firmly planted in the present evil age. Keeping the rules mattered more to them than Christ’s liberating work.
  • If the Galatians followed the Missionaries, they would enter slavery to the law, another form of slavery to the present evil age.
  • If they remained focused on Jesus, however, they would experience a taste of God’s new creation. They would give witness to the new creation through lives of faithfulness and love.