Introduction: We begin a new study of one of the most important books
of the New Testament! While the books of the Bible are all important,
Galatians is critical to a correct understanding of our salvation.
However, before we dig into the actual text of the book of Galatians,
let’s first look at the background of the man who wrote it.
Understanding this context, helps us to better understand Galatians!
- Advancing the Kingdom?
- Read Acts 7:57-60. This is our first introduction to Saul.
He seems to be something like a coatroom clerk. Is that
what we should conclude? (No. The witnesses who are
stoning Stephen apparently know Saul, he is one of their
group because they leave their clothes with him as they
get about the sweaty task of killing Stephen.)
- Read Acts 6:8-10. How good is this group when it comes to
arguing with Stephen? (They cannot stand up to him.)
- Read Acts 6:11-14. If you cannot stand up to Stephen’s
logic and skill in arguing, then you just lie to have him
killed. What kind of people do something like that?
- Recall that it appears that Saul knows these
witnesses. Are they all members of the same
“Synagogue of the Freedman?” (There is debate about
what kind of group this is, but this suggests to me
that Saul is one of them. At least some in the group
think that a certain religious philosophy is more
important than honesty.)
- Look again at Acts 6:14. Keep in mind that the charge
against Stephen is that he is part of a group who
wants to “change the customs Moses handed down to
- Read Acts 8:3 and Acts 9:1-2. Has Saul moved up in the
movement to destroy Christians? (He is no longer just
watching coats, he is a leader for he is directing the
persecution in Damascus.)
- Read Acts 9:3-5. If you only knew what we have read so far
about Saul, you would conclude that he had a dark side?
What does this event show us? (God is interested in Saul.
Even though we can see a dark side to Saul, Jesus’ appeal
here is religious. Jesus identifies Himself with those
being persecuted. Jesus believes that Saul’s problem is a
theological error, not a character defect.)
- What would be going through your mind if you were
- Read Acts 9:6-9. Why not eat? (Saul is going through great
distress. Not only has he lost his sight, but learns he is
harming, not helping, God.)
- Read Acts 9:10-11. What do you think Saul is praying
about? (Does this eliminate your concern about Saul’s bad
side? In a time of real distress, he turns to God.)
- Read Acts 9:12-14. What concern does Ananias have about
restoring Saul’s sight? (Ananias is certain that Saul is a
bad guy. Saul is an enemy of the gospel. Ananias is
concerned that God doesn’t know this important fact. We
now know that at least part of Saul’s prayers have to do
with restoring his sight.)
- The New Mission
- Read Acts 9:15. What is God’s mission for Saul? (It is a
very big mission.)
- Read Acts 9:16. How do you think Saul will react to his
mission and this statement that he will have to suffer?
(There is a sense of justice in this. Saul has been
causing suffering among God’s people. I have little doubt
that Saul wants to advance God’s Kingdom, but he has been
doing it the wrong way. God gets Saul’s mission on the
- Read Acts 9:17-19. What is critical to Saul’s new mission?
(He needs to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”)
- Why do you think that Jesus blinded Saul? Why not
have his donkey talk to him? Why not a vision?
(Consider the symbolism in this. Originally, Saul
does not see the light. Instead, he is persecuting
the light – trying to put it out. In this singular
event, Saul now sees the truth. Scales fall from his
eyes both literally and spiritually.)
- Why was Saul baptized? (Read Saul’s later account of
this in Acts 22:13-16. He wants his sins washed away.
Saul is convinced that he has been on the wrong path,
and he is convinced about Jesus.)
- What prophesy does Ananias make about Saul and
Jesus? (He will see Jesus (“the Righteous One”)
and be taught by Him.)
- Why does Saul eat now? (The confusion, the trauma,
the guilt, the conflict are now resolved. His able to
- Read Acts 22:17-20. Is Saul arguing with Jesus? (Saul
believes that his background as a persecutor will cause
those who formerly agreed with him to convert to
Christianity. Jesus tells Paul that he is wrong about
- Read Acts 22:21. What is Saul’s immediate mission? (To
leave Jerusalem and preach to the Gentiles.)
- Has this happened to you? You think you are best
qualified for a certain kind of work for God, and God
sends you on something completely different?
- Read Acts 11:19-21. How has the killing of Stephen
advanced the gospel? (It caused the early Christians to
flee Jerusalem and spread the message.)
- Read Acts 11:22-24. Who do the Christian leaders send to
Antioch to advance the gospel among the Greeks?
- Read Acts 11:25-26. Was God using Saul even when he was
helping to kill Stephen? (Read Romans 8:28. God did not
want Stephen killed, but God makes something good out of
this terrible event by using it to advance the gospel. Now
we learn that this tragedy sets the foundation for Saul’s
work to convert Greeks to the gospel.)
- The Defining Controversy
- Read Acts 15:1. According to these men, on what is
salvation dependent? (Circumcision.)
- Read Genesis 17:9-11. Is it fair to call this a
“custom taught by Moses?” (The men from Judea could
have put this much more forcefully – circumcision is
a God instituted sign of a person’s covenant with
- Read Acts 15:2-3. Why would Saul (now called Paul) take
the side of those who opposed circumcision? Why would the
Antioch Christians send Paul to make the case against
circumcision? (Paul has been working with the Greeks to
convert them. Can you see how circumstances help you to
better understand a problem – and be sympathetic to it?
Saul goes from being someone who thinks changing the
“customs Moses handed down” ( Acts 6:14) deserves the death
penalty, to someone who wants to change those customs
based on concern about converting Gentiles.)
- Read Romans 4:11. What does Paul call circumcision here?
(“A seal of righteousness.”)
- Does this mean that the people calling for
circumcision had it exactly right? (If you look at
the context in Romans 4:9-12, Paul argues that
Abraham was given righteousness by faith both before
and after he was circumcised. It was a sign of an
existing right relationship with God.)
- Read Colossians 2:11-12. What is the new “circumcision”
according to Paul? (Baptism!)
- Since circumcision was to take place eight days after
birth ( Genesis 17:12), what does this suggest about
infant baptism? (I used to think that infant baptism
followed by a “confirmation” when the child was old
enough to understand, was completely un-Biblical.
This comparison between circumcision and baptism
helps me to understand the practice.)
- Read Acts 15:4-5 and Acts 15:12. Then read the decision of
James in Acts 15:19-21. What persuasive argument does
Paul make for not requiring circumcision? (The power of
God was displayed in their work to convert the Gentiles.)
- Think about this logically. We believe the Holy
Spirit works on the hearts of those who are
converted. But, we also think new converts should
change after they are converted. On what does James
rest his decision? (Re-read Acts 15:19. James says
that it is appropriate to tear down the barriers that
prevent people from turning to God.)
- Where would you draw the line on this idea?
Should any line exist at all?
- Friend, consider the life of Saul. He was a zealot who was
willing to hurt people to keep Judaism pure. God turned
his life around, and made him (now Paul) an advocate for
tearing down those things that he previously thought made
a person religiously pure. What about you? Are you more
like Saul or more like Paul?
- Next week: Paul’s Authority and Gospel.