Daily Devotion Text

July 1, 2017

Galatians 1

By carmenhsu In Devotion Text, Galatians with Comments Off on Galatians 1
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A Study Through the Book of Galatians

The first word of the letter to the Galatians is “Paul,” and there has been widespread agreement by scholars down through the ages that Paul is indeed the author. The title in most Greek editions of the NT is “To the Galatians,” and the main body of the letter mentions the addressees as “the churches of Galatia” (1:2) and “foolish Galatians!” (3:1). The only debate is, which Galatians? (See Purpose, Occasion, and Background.)

Although the question of the date of Galatians is related to this question of “which Galatians,” some clues can probably be found in the letter itself. The main indicator is the lack of reference to the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Although this is an argument from silence, many commentators have regarded this as a “deafening silence.” It would have been enormously helpful to Paul’s argument if he could have mentioned the decision of the council that Gentiles should not be circumcised: this, after all, appears to be a major point of contention between Paul and the false teachers influencing the Galatians. Since the council took place in A.D. 48/49, and Paul evangelized South Galatia in A.D. 47/48, some time around A.D. 48 is a plausible date for the composition of Galatians. However, determining dates in Paul’s life is always somewhat uncertain, and so one cannot place too much weight on the date in the interpretation of the letter.[1]

Like 2 Corinthians 10-12, this letter is clearly three-sided—Paul, to the Galatians, against the agitators. Paul is obviously red-hot (just like God in the Old Testament when his love for Israel has been spurned). Full of the Holy Spirit and in keeping with the nature of rhetoric under such circumstances, Paul writes with passion and forcefulness. Here you will encounter caustic and biting jibes at the agitators as well as fervent, sometimes cajoling, pleas to the Galatians not to give in to them. What could have inflamed such intensity?

The answer: The gospel is at stake, especially as it includes the Gentiles, law-free, in the people of God—not to mention Paul’s own calling as apostle to the Gentiles. If the Galatians cave in to circumcision, everything God has done in Jesus Christ and is doing by the Spirit to include Gentiles in the people of God will have come to nothing (2:21). God’s story itself is on the line.

Thus Paul comes out with guns blazing. First, he takes on the agitators’ slander of his apostleship. In a series of three narratives, he starts by distancing himself from Jerusalem (1:13-24; his apostleship and gospel do not have human origins in any form), then points out Jerusalem’s concurrence with him (2:1-10), and finally notes that any failure to keep the accord came from Jerusalem itself (2:11-14).

He then uses his speech to Peter on the latter occasion to launch his argument with the Galatians (2:15-21). The rest of the letter fluctuates three times between argument, application, and appeal (3:1-4:7/4:8-11/4:12-20; 4:21-27/4:28-31/5:1-12; 5:13-24/5:25-6:10/6:11-17). His argument is that the cross of Christ and the gift of the Spirit have brought observance of the Jewish law to an end. Notice how his appeals run the gamut, sometimes reflecting on past relationships (4:12-20; 5:7-10), sometimes pointing out the consequences of their proposed actions (4:8-11; 5:2-6), and sometimes disparaging the agitations (5:7-12; 6:11-13). [2]

[1] ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008. 2241.

[2] Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002. 341.



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