Introduction: When you want to persuade someone to your point of
view, how do you go about it? Do you tell them that you are from the
government? Do you tell them that you have a lot of education? Do you
tell them that you are smart? Do you tell them that you have special
insight into the problem? Do you tell them about your experience?
Paul faces this very issue. The Christians in the Galatian church are
getting off track in their understanding of the gospel. Paul needs to
persuade them to get back on track. Let’s plunge into our study of
the Bible and see how Paul does it! While we are at it, let’s pay
close attention to what Paul has to say about salvation.

  1. Letter Authority

    1. Read Galatians 1:1-2. A customary letter writing practice
      in Paul’s time is to begin with the author’s name and then
      write to whom the letter is sent. What do you think about
      the way Paul describes himself?

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 1:1. How is Paul’s introduction
      different here?

    3. Read Luke 6:12-16 and Matthew 10:1-2. Recently, I read a
      resume of a person who holds an advisory position to the
      government that is identical to one I hold. However, that
      person stated the position in a way that made it seem very
      important. At first I thought this is “resume inflation,”
      then I asked myself, “Should I be calling it this on my
      resume?” What do you think? Should Paul be calling himself
      an “apostle” when he is not one of the twelve?

    4. Re-read Galatians 1:1. What is Paul’s argument to support
      calling himself an apostle? (He says that he was sent by
      Jesus and God the Father. In this way he is just like the
      twelve original disciples.)

      1. Why do you think Paul states his authority at the
        highest level possible? (He is telling his readers
        that he has the highest level of authority to write
        what we will be studying. This is the beginning of
        his argument about why they should believe him.)

  2. Grace and Peace

    1. Read Galatians 1:3-5. Re-read Galatians 1:1. What does
      Paul emphasize when he describes Jesus? (In verse 1 he
      mentions Jesus’ death. In verse 4 he mentions the
      crucifixion (“gave Himself for our sins”). Jesus’ perfect
      life, death on our behalf, and resurrection to heaven is
      the foundation for our righteousness by faith, the
      essential element of grace. Paul works this into his
      introduction. Again, this is part of Paul’s argument to
      the Galatian church.)

    2. Read Galatians 1:6-7. What is the problem in the Galatian
      church? (They are “turning to a different gospel.”)

      1. Do you see now why Paul states his highest level of
        authority in the beginning of the letter?

    3. Let’s skip ahead for a moment to better understand what is
      involved in the “gospel” debate. Read Galatians 2:15-16.
      What does Paul mean when he writes about the “gospel?”
      (Righteousness by faith alone as opposed to righteousness
      by works.)

    4. Read Galatians 1:8-9. How does Paul describe those who are
      arguing against the gospel of righteousness by faith?
      (They are perverting (verse 7)the gospel, and Paul says
      (twice) that they should be “eternally condemned.”)

      1. These are pretty strong words! Should we condemn
        those who are arguing against grace in such strong

      2. This morning I was thinking about the slogan “safe to
        save.” This reflects a teaching that essentially says
        in order to go to heaven you have to be “safe” – in
        the sense that you will not introduce sin into the
        perfection of heaven. At one point I thought this
        made sense, and I asked myself if I was “safe to
        save.” Upon further reflection, I realized that this
        is just a works gospel. To be saved, I have to make
        myself “safe.” When I hear someone repeat that
        slogan, should I call them a “pervert” who should be
        “eternally condemned?”

        1. Why do you think Paul used such strong terms?

        2. Read 1 Peter 3:15. Are Paul’s strong words
          consistent with showing “gentleness and
          respect” to those who disagree? (I keep going
          back and forth on this. When we discussed
          Peter’s letters, I taught that respect is the
          goal. However, both Paul and Jesus (Matthew
          23:33)used very strong language which I would
          not consider to be respectful if they were
          referring to me!)

  3. Paul’s Authority

    1. Read Galatians 1:10-12. Paul writes that he is not taking
      his position on the gospel to be popular, and he is not
      taking it because some person taught him to do so, or
      because he made this up on his own. What is Paul’s reason
      for taking his position? (Paul’s view comes from a
      revelation from Jesus. We see again why Paul states that
      he is an apostle. Claiming a direct revelation from God,
      of course, is the ultimate authority.)

    2. Read Galatians 1:13-14. Is Paul telling us that we should
      believe him because he is a high achiever? He is advanced
      among his peers? (No. It is true that he says he was doing
      better than others. But, his point is that he had no
      earthly reason to change his views. He was a success, not
      a failure, in his old life.)

    3. Read Galatians 1:15-16. Who changed Paul’s mind? (God
      intervened to change his life. This was always God’s plan
      (“who set me apart from birth”) for Paul’s life.)

    4. Read Galatians 1:16-17. Is this a bit arrogant? Why not
      get help from the leaders of the church? Why not get help
      from those who heard Jesus preach?

    5. Read Galatians 1:18. Paul tells us (verse 17) that he went
      “immediately” into Arabia and Damascus where he (verse 18)
      spent three years. What do you think Paul was doing during
      those three years? (Paul does not say it directly, but it
      appears that Paul spent the time being taught by God,
      reflecting on his past life, and coming to an
      understanding of the gospel. Paul’s main point is that his
      message came from God and not humans.)

    6. Read Galatians 1:19-20. Why would Paul want to emphasize
      that he did not spend time with the apostles, other than
      Peter? They are the leaders of the church! (Although they
      are leaders, they are not as good a source of doctrine as
      Jesus Himself.)

    7. How would your understanding of the gospel be different if
      you had not read and accepted the books of the New
      Testament written by Paul?

    8. Read Matthew 25:31-36. Compare Matthew 25:41-43. How would
      you understand salvation if you had only this discussion
      to consider?

      1. How does this square with Galatians 2:15-16?

      2. Paul says that he received his understanding of the
        gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians
        1:11-12). This means that the same Jesus who told
        the parable of the sheep and the goats, also gave
        Paul Galatians 2:15-16. If you believe Paul’s claim
        to authority (and I do), then obviously, this
        apparent conflict requires more study! This, of
        course, is what we are going to be doing during the
        rest of this series of lessons.)

    9. Read Galatians 1:21-24. What is Paul’s reputation in the
      Judean churches?(He cannot shake his past. But, Christians
      praise God because of the change in Paul’s life.)

    10. Friend, are you convinced of Paul’s authority? Are you
      convinced that his gospel comes directly from Jesus? If
      so, then let’s carefully study what Paul has to teach us
      as we move deeper into our study of the letter to the

  4. Next week: The Unity of the Gospel.