Why Am I Saved?
What Does That Mean?
A Study of Galatians
by David Chadwell
A brief review of the introductory background material:
- Paul was very upset with these young congregations (new Christians) in the
Roman province of Galatia.
- Paul's other letters to congregations expressed gratitude or contained a section
of praise and encouragement immediately following the greeting of the letter.
- In Galatians, following the greeting, there is no expression of gratitude or word
- The message of the letter began by stating Paul's confusion and concern.
- Why? Why was Paul so concerned?
- An influential group of Jewish Christians opposed the conversion of people who
were not Jews if these people had not been first converted to Judaism.
- The book of Acts reveals how this influential group evolved in the church in
- Acts 10:9-34 documents how difficult it was for even the apostle Peter to
understand (directly from the Lord and the Spirit) that people who were not
Jews could be taught about Christ, baptized, and become Christians.
- The Lord took unusual steps to convince Peter to go see Cornelius.
- Only after Cornelius explained why he sent for Peter did Peter finally
realize that people who were not Jews could be Christians (verse 34).
- Acts 11:1-18 documents the strong reaction in the Jerusalem church against
Peter visiting Cornelius and others who were not Jews.
- Those who opposed Peter's visit "quieted down" (NASV) [literally,
"became silent"] only when they heard that the Holy Spirit came upon
those people who were not Jews.
- But that did not end the matter.
- Acts 15 documents the visit of some Jewish Christians from Judea (the
Jerusalem area) to the sizable Antioch, Syria, congregation (Christians who
were not Jews).
- Verses 1-5 state the Jewish Christians told the non-Jewish Christians
that unless they were circumcised (a Jewish religious ordinance) and
lived by Jewish customs, "you cannot be saved."
- This powerful statement was made to first generation, non-Jewish
Christians who had limited or no background in the God of Israel, Jewish
history, or the scriptures we call the Old Testament.
- Verses 6-21: when Paul and Barnabas were unable to end the confusion
created by these visiting Jewish Christians, this question was referred to
leadership of the Jerusalem church (the apostles and elders) .
- The church leaders held an open conference and considered all the
evidence on this question.
- The decision was to not require people who were not Jews to be
circumcised or follow Jewish customs.
- These Christians were requested to abstain from the "pollutions of idols,"
fornication, eating things strangled, and eating blood.
- Verses 22-29: a letter that confirmed this decision was sent to the Antioch
church (hand delivered), and the letter was without doubt shared with other
congregations that were not Jewish.
- However, neither did this bring the disagreement and its issue to an end.
- There were Pharisees who had become Christians who insisted (at the
conference) that it was necessary for Christians who were not Jews to be
circumcised and to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:5).
- From the information in Acts 21, evidence indicates that these Christians
became the largest, most influential group in the Jerusalem
church--eventually they dominated the views and feelings of the Jerusalem
- Years later Paul and Barnabas visited the leadership of the Jerusalem
church to report the ways that God was working to save people who were
- The leaders were delighted to hear that news (21:18-20).
- But the leaders also feared the reaction of the congregation to Paul and
his work (21:20-21).
- "Thousands" of the Christians in that congregation were "zealous for
the law" or were committed to the law of Moses.
- They also heard a false report that Paul was teaching Jews outside of
Palestine to no longer practice Jewish customs.
- In the attempt to take the emotion out of the situation and to correct the
misinformation about Paul, they requested Paul to assist four Jewish
Christians as they took vows in the temple.
- Jews (who were not Christians) from Asia (where Paul did much of his
mission work) recognized Paul and accused him of preaching against
Judaism, the law, and the temple.
- They almost succeeded in killing Paul.
- The hostile emotion and fury generated when people who were not Jews
became Christians without being circumcised is evident.
- The strategy of Jewish Christians devoted to Judaism and the law who believed
that Christians who were not Jews must be circumcised to be saved:
- When Paul established congregations in a new area by converting people
who were not Jews:
- These teachers visited those congregations as soon as Paul left the area.
- They told them that they were not saved because they had not been
- They told them in order to be saved that they must be circumcised, learn
Jewish law, and keep Jewish customs.
- They created major confusion among new Christians who were not Jews
and had little or no background in Jewish scripture or Jewish law.
- This is what occurred in the province of Galatia.
- When Paul left the area, Jewish Christian teachers demanding
circumcision and obedience to Jewish law visited these young
- The result:
- These new Christians abandoned Christ as the complete Savior.
- They turned to Jewish law and Jewish customs for salvation.
- Paul was astounded that:
- They left Christ.
- They believed that Paul taught them an incomplete gospel message.
- Paul's letter addressed this situation.
Galatians Study Guide (part 1)
Wednesday evening Bible class, 14 January - 3 June 1998
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Copyright © 1998
Permission is granted to freely copy and distribute with text unchanged, including author's name.
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