Why Am I Saved?
What Does That Mean?

A Study of Galatians
Part Five

by David Chadwell

Background Overview Introduction -
Galatians 1:1-5
Section 1 -
Galatians 1:6-10
Section 2 -
Galatians 1:11-2:21
Section 3 -
Galatians 3:1-22
Section 4 -
Galatians 3:23-4:31
Section 5 -
Galatians 5 and 6


Section 2: Galatians 1:11-2:21

Paul verified that the gospel he presented came directly from Jesus Christ.

  • "The gospel I preached to you did not come to me through another human."

    1. "I received it through direct divine communication, not through human communication (1:11-17).

      1. "Jesus Christ, not an apostle, was my teacher.

      2. "This should be obvious:

        1. "When I lived in Jerusalem where the apostles were I was devoted to destroying the church.

        2. "My devotion to Judaism consumed me; I was not teachable.

        3. "No one was a more learned student, a more accomplished student, or a more zealous advocate of Judaism.

      3. "From the time of my birth, God intended to call me by His grace .

        1. "God intended to reveal Jesus to me.

        2. "God intended for me to preach the good news about Jesus to non-Jewish people.

      4. "When God revealed Jesus Christ to me, I did not go to Jerusalem to be trained in the message of the gospel by the apostles.

        1. "I went from Damascus to Arabia.

        2. "Later I went from Arabia back to Damascus.

    2. "Three years after my conversion I made my first trip to Jerusalem (1:18-24).

      1. "I went to meet Peter, and I visited with him for fifteen days.

      2. "Aside from James who was Jesus' brother, I did not meet any other apostles.

      3. "I am telling you the truth!

      4. "Afterward I traveled to areas of Syria and Cilicia.

      5. "But the Christians in Judea did not know me personally--at that time they would not have recognized me if they saw me.

        1. "They heard that I had been converted and was preaching for Christ.

        2. "They rejoiced in that news.

    3. "My second trip to Jerusalem came fourteen years later (2:1-10).

      1. "I made the trip with Barnabas (remember that Barnabas was converted in Jerusalem and active in the church there [Acts 4:36,37; 9:27; 11:22-24]) and with Titus (a Christian who was not Jewish).

        1. "A revelation directed me to make this trip.

        2. "On this visit I submitted the good news that I preached to the church leaders in Jerusalem.

          1. "I privately disclosed the message that I had been preaching.

          2. "I wanted them to verify the good news that I presented to people who were not Jewish.

      2. "This was the result of that visit:

        1. "The apostles did not instruct Titus to be circumcised.

        2. "The apostles did not endorse the position of the false brethren who tried to bind us to the rituals of the law.

        3. "The apostles declared that God had given me the mission of presenting the good news about Jesus to non-Jews just as He had given Peter the mission of presenting the good news about Jesus to the Jews.

        4. "James, Peter, and John gave Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship; they affirmed our message to non-Jewish people.

        5. "They made only one request of us: remember the poor; and we were doing that.

    4. "My status as an apostle was confirmed by an incident that involved Peter (2:11-14).

      1. "When Peter visited Antioch, he made a serious mistake that was nothing short of hypocritical.

        1. "When he arrived, he freely ate and associated with non-Jewish Christians.

        2. "Later, when a group of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem came to Antioch, he stopped associating with the local Christians.

        3. "He did so because he was afraid of the powerful group in the Jerusalem church who insisted that non-Jewish converts be circumcised.

        4. "No only did he stop his association, but he even convinced Barnabas to stop his association with these Christians he helped convert.

      2. "I publicly told Peter, 'You are forcing non-Jewish Christians to comply with a Jewish conviction that you, as a Christian, reject.'

    5. "This is what I told Peter (2:15-21):"

      1. There is a distinct difference between:

        1. A Jewish Christian practicing circumcision as a Jewish rite to endorse his Jewish heritage and culture, and

        2. Demanding that a non-Jewish sinner be circumcised in order to have salvation.

      2. Jews and non-Jews are all justified before God in the same way--by faith in Christ.

        1. (In this statement Paul stressed this truth: only by trusting the atonement God made through the death of Jesus could anyone receive forgiveness.)

        2. (When a Jew, as an act of heritage and culture, was circumcised, that act did not justify him.)

      3. Faith in Christ (trusting God's accomplishment in Jesus' crucifixion) will justify anyone.

      4. Obeying the instructions and practicing the rituals of Jewish law will justify no one.

    6. Paul then directed the focus of the argument to himself. In my personal judgment, he was trying to remove the potential for irrational emotion. His point had emotional, explosive potential for both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians.

      1. "If, after I accept justification in Christ, I sin, does my sin make Christ the minister of sin? Did Christ enable me to sin by justifying me?"

        1. "Absolutely not!"

        2. "I prove that I transgressed when I rebuild what I destroyed."

      2. "As a Jew, committed to the law, I died to law in order that I might become alive to God."

        1. Remember: Many Jewish Christians believed that obedience to the law made one alive to God.

        2. To these, the idea that a person under the law was not alive to God was unthinkable.

        3. To many of them, the necessity of dying to the law to become alive to God was a strange concept.

      3. "I died with Christ so the I don't live any more."

        1. "Because I accepted justification in Christ, Christ lives in me."

        2. "My physical existence is ruled by faith in God's son, the one who loved me and died for me."

      4. "I will not cancel God's grace by teaching people to trust law instead of trusting Christ."

      5. "If it is possible to become righteous before God by law, then Christ's death was unnecessary and without purpose."

    Observation: We previously noted how Paul's enemies in the church attacked his credibility by attacking his credentials as an apostle. This final argument likely reflects the core information Paul stressed in his confrontation with Peter. It provides us with an insight into the manner that some Jewish Christians attacked Paul's message.

    1. Many of these former idol worshippers who had been baptized into Christ likely "looked and acted" spiritually crude when compared to the moral and ethical sophistication of the typical Jewish Christian.

    2. In their spiritual infancy, likely some of their actions and deeds "offended" Jewish Christians.

    3. Jewish Christian argument: "Surely people who had been forgiven and saved would not conduct themselves like that! If faith in Jesus is responsible for them living and acting like that, Jesus must be teaching them how to sin instead of delivering them from sin!"

    4. Paul's declaration: Because they are spiritually unlearned and unsophisticated does not mean that Jesus teaches them to be sinful. Forcing them to adopt Jewish rituals to improve external appearances to Jewish Christians is not the answer. Jewish law and ritual cannot and will not make them righteous. Only by trusting Christ (the source of atonement and sanctification) can they be righteous.

    Important realization: Being righteous does not depend on how we are perceived or evaluated by human eyes. Being righteous depends on how we appear in the eyes of God. Faith in Christ changes us in God's eyes.


    Background Material to be
    Studied at the End of Galatians 2

    A central issue in the controversy between the Jewish Christians and Paul was the rite of Jewish circumcision (Galatians 5:1-6; 6:12-15). The Jewish Christians from Jerusalem falsely taught that non-Jewish Christians must accept Jewish circumcision, Jewish law, and Jewish practices in order to be saved. Why? Why did Jews (those who were not Christians and many who were Christians) place such emphasis on circumcision?

    1. Genesis 17:9-14--The original covenant (agreement) God made with Abraham. (Remember that all Israelites, all Jews, were and are the direct descendants from Abraham.)

      1. The covenant that God established with Abraham was to be observed "throughout their generations" (by all his descendants in any age) [verse 9].

      2. Every male would be circumcised [verse 10].

      3. Circumcision was the continuing symbol of the covenant (agreement with its promises) that God established with Abraham that would include all his descendants [verse 11].

      4. Every male should be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth "throughout your generations" [verse 12].

      5. Those males to be circumcised included sons, those who were born as servants to the family, and those who were purchased to be servants for the family [verses 12,13].

      6. This was an "everlasting covenant" [verse 13].

      7. Any Israelite male who was not circumcised was not to be regarded as an Israelite [verse 14].

    2. Genesis 17:22-27--Abraham obeyed immediately by having all his male servants, Ishmael, and himself circumcised.

    3. Exodus 12:44, 48, 49--A part of the Passover instructions to Israel.

      1. Passover was the most important religious observance in Israel.

        1. It commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt by the acts of God.

        2. It renewed their memory of how they became a free people.

      2. A slave owned by an Israelite could not eat the Passover meal until he was circumcised [verses 44,48].

      3. No uncircumcised man born of Israelite parents could eat the Passover [verse 49].

    4. Leviticus 12:3--The male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth.

    5. Joshua 5:2-7--Israelite males were circumcised before the military campaigns began against the inhabitants of Canaan.

      1. Preparations were made to circumcise "the sons of Israel" [verses 2,3].

      2. All the males who left Egypt (forty years earlier) were circumcised [verse 4].

        1. All the males of adult age (men of war) died in the wilderness before the nation invaded Canaan.

        2. This was their punishment for refusing to listen to God the first time He gave them opportunity to enter Canaan [Numbers 13,14].

      3. All the males born during the time Israel was in the wilderness were not circumcised [verse 5].

        1. These males were circumcised before invading Canaan.

        2. The oldest were as old as 40 years old (if their mothers were pregnant when they left Egypt).

    6. For us to note the force of circumcision, consider Leviticus 19:23-25.

      1. When they arrived in the land of Canaan, they would plant fruit trees.

        1. For the first three years, the fruit of those trees was to be regarded "uncircumcised" and not to be eaten.

        2. On the fourth year the fruit was to be considered "holy" and offered to God.

        3. On the fifth year they could eat the fruit.

      2. To signify that the fruit was not to be used at all in the first three years, they were to look upon it as "uncircumcised" or strictly forbidden and excluded.

    7. There is an aspect of circumcision stressed by God that often failed to register in the understanding of the people.

      1. While the physical act of circumcision was necessary to obey God, the fact that the physical act occurred meant nothing unless it reflected the condition of their hearts.

        1. A male could be circumcised on the eighth day, and still not be in relationship with God.

        2. The whole nation could practice circumcision, and still not be in relationship with God.

        3. The physical fact of circumcision meant nothing if the person did not have "a circumcised heart."

      2. Leviticus discussed in detail the consequences and punishments that would occur if Israel turned away from God, were disobedient, and practiced evil.

        1. However, if such occurred, it did not have to be an irreversible condition.

        2. Leviticus 26:40-42 stated that God would remember the covenant that he made with their forefathers and would "remember the land" (bring back the blessings) if these things occurred:

          1. If they confessed their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers,

          2. If they humbled their uncircumcised heart,

          3. If they make "amends for their iniquity."

        3. Note circumcised bodies and uncircumcised hearts meant that God would turn from them and react to them with hostility.

        4. Deuteronomy 10:12-16--What did God require of Israel?

          1. Fear (reverence, respect) Him.

          2. Walk in His ways.

          3. Love Him.

          4. Serve Him.

          5. Do the above with all their hearts and souls.

          6. Keep the Lord's commandments and statues.

          7. Circumcise their hearts and refuse to be stubborn.

      3. To see the stress and emphasis on the importance of the circumcision of the heart as well as the body, read Jeremiah 4:3,4 and 9:25,26. Paul made this point to the Jews in the first century in Romans 2:24-29.

    David Chadwell

    Galatians Study Guide (part 5)
    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.
    previous next section

    Background Overview Introduction -
    Galatians 1:1-5
    Section 1 -
    Galatians 1:6-10
    Section 2 -
    Galatians 1:11-2:21
    Section 3 -
    Galatians 3:1-22
    Section 4 -
    Galatians 3:23-4:31
    Section 5 -
    Galatians 5 and 6

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