Introduction: Last week we learned that Paul depended upon his
sterling education and past legal authority to defend himself
against the law-breaking charges brought against him. This week we
will see that Paul is again defending himself – and making some very
astonishing claims. What does this kind of defense tell us? It tells
us that Paul believes that serious challenges have been raised to
his credibility. How do you feel when someone attacks your
credibility or your self worth? It is difficult, right? Why do you
think Paul is under such serious attack? Let’s plunge into our
study of Galatians and see whether these attacks are justified!

  1. Paul’s Authority

    1. Read Galatians 1:1-2. How did your religious leader come
      to lead your congregation? (Normally, humans (hopefully
      led by the Holy Spirit)work out the arrangements.)

      1. What does Paul say about his calling? (It did not
        come from men.)

      2. Why does Paul say “not from men nor by man?” What
        does the “by man” add? (Jack Sequeira’s commentary
        reveals that enemies of the gospel had come to the
        Galatian church (a church founded by Paul) and told
        the members that Paul was “self-appointed.” He had
        no real authority for his teachings. Thus, in his
        language “by man” Paul is saying “I didn’t appoint

      3. Who did authorize Paul’s message? (He says both
        “Jesus Christ and God the Father!”)

    2. Let’s skip ahead and read Galatians 1:11-12. What is
      Paul’s claim here? (That Jesus taught him personally.)

      1. Why should we believe Paul? Jesus had returned to

        1. If we eliminate the books written by Paul from
          the Bible, we would probably have a different
          view of salvation. Jesus often refers to
          something a person needs to do to be saved.
          (See, e.g., Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 25:34-36;
          Matthew 19:21.) I know that these statements
          that seem counter to grace can be explained,
          but I’m doubtful many would attempt the
          explanation without Paul’s writings on grace.
          This means the question of where Paul got his
          ideas is extremely important – even today.

    3. Read Galatians 1:15-20. How does this affect Paul’s
      credibility? (I’m generally not impressed when someone
      has to deny that they are lying! “Honest, that is what
      happened!” What gives Paul credibility is that he gives
      the details of his instruction – he was three years in
      Arabia receiving instruction from Jesus.)

      1. Do you think Jesus spent three years with Paul –
        roughly the same amount of time Jesus spent with His
        disciples? (We just do not know. Paul does not claim
        Jesus was instructing him all of this time.)

    4. Read Acts 9:10-15. Who wrote the book of Acts? (We
      believe Luke wrote it, not Paul. Thus, Luke is convinced,
      based on a report from Ananias, that Paul was selected
      specifically by God to share the gospel with the

    5. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16. What does the disciple Peter say
      about Paul’s writings (other than they are hard to
      understand in some sections)? (That Paul’s writings come
      from the wisdom God gave Paul, that they are on the level
      of “other Scriptures,” and that ignoring or twisting them
      means the loss of salvation.)

      1. What does this tell us about Paul’s authority? (That
        the early church leaders, Luke and Peter, accepted
        Paul’s statements about the source of his authority.
        So should we.)

      2. Let’s get back to our original question: why do you
        think Paul’s authority was undue such attack? (If
        Satan wanted to stamp out the message of grace, Paul
        would be his main target.)

      3. Is grace (righteousness by faith alone) important?
        (Other than some of Christianity, all religions of
        the world are works based. That should tell us
        something important about the struggle between good
        and evil.)

    6. Before we leave this section, let’s read Acts 1:6. I’ve
      always thought that this question, presented to Jesus
      just as He was returning to heaven, must have been very
      disappointing. His followers seem to still be confused
      about Jesus’ mission. Is it possible that in light of
      this question, Jesus rethought the issue of using
      primarily former fisherman to promote the gospel, and
      decided that He would add an incredibly smart, highly
      educated theologian to His core group?

  2. The Gospel

    1. Now that we have settled Paul’s authority, let’s go back
      to Galatians 1:1. How does Paul describe Jesus? (“Raised
      from the dead.”)

      1. Why? (This is a central issue to salvation by grace.
        Either we live or die by the law, or we live or die
        by accepting the life, death and resurrection of
        Jesus on our behalf. The most important part of this
        (for Jesus and for us) is the resurrection part!)

    2. Read Galatians 1:3-5. Let’s not skip quickly over words
      we see all the time. What does it mean to have “grace and
      peace,” and why would Paul say these words instead of
      “riches and beauty?” (Grace, again, is our ticket to
      eternal life. This gives us peace with God. Jesus is
      raised from the dead, thus we have grace and peace
      available to us.)

    3. Read Galatians 1:6-7. Who is being deserted? (Paul seems
      to be referring to himself. He is the one who called them
      to grace.)

      1. What is the problem? (They are turning from the

      2. Think about this for a moment. When I think about
        being lost, my concern is that Satan will draw me so
        deeply into sin that I no longer care about my
        relationship with God. Paul seems to be warning
        about a different problem – a problem in which the
        supposed followers of God draw us into a false
        “pervert[ed]” gospel. What could that false gospel

    4. Read Acts 15:2-6. What does Acts record as the false
      gospel problem? (That the Gentiles must be circumcised
      and obey the law of Moses.)

      1. What is wrong with circumcision or the instructions
        God gave Moses? Did God give bad advice in the

    5. Read Acts 15:7-11. Peter stands up and he argues for
      Paul’s view. One commentary that I read noted that (Acts
      15:5) “the law of Moses” referred to the ceremonial law
      instead of the Ten Commandments. Is resolving that
      question important?

      1. Peter and Paul say that what is needed for salvation
        is faith alone. The false gospel people say what is
        needed for salvation is faith plus something else.
        Reduced to a mathematical formula: Salvation = Faith
        + X. Is the issue what “X” stands for? Or, is the
        issue whether salvation requires an “X” at all?

      2. If the issue is what “X” stands for, then we need to
        decide whether “X” is the Ten Commandments or the
        ceremonial law. But, if the issue is whether we need
        an “X” at all, no matter what it might be, then
        determining the identity of “X” is a waste of time.

    6. Read Galatians 1:8-9. How serious a matter is it to
      preach the false gospel? (Eternal life is at stake.)

    7. After discussion of this issue, James stands up and
      renders the decision of the early church. Read Acts
      15:19-20. As I understand this, circumcision and the law
      of Moses are out, refraining from eating certain foods
      and sexual purity are in. Is this the new “X”? Is the
      salvation formula now Faith + X, with X defined in verse
      20? (Scan 1 Corinthians 8. There, Paul argues that only
      those “whose conscience is weak” abstain from eating meat
      offered to idols. Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 8,
      and common sense, tell us that our eating practices and
      sexual purity cannot be the new “X”. Circumcision, the
      law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, proper eating
      practices and sexual purity are all good things. These
      instructions came from God to bless our lives and help us
      to walk in His ways. But, none of them are part of the
      salvation formula. Making them part of the salvation
      formula is a false gospel.)

    8. Friend, what about you? Do you accept that Paul’s message
      came from Jesus? Do you believe in salvation by faith
      alone? Or, are you promoting a false gospel that
      repentance and faith in Jesus needs to be supplemented by
      an “X” factor – however we define it? I’m a guy who is a
      competitor. I like to earn victory and hate defeat. But,
      when it comes to salvation my competitive nature needs to
      be thrown into the dirt. Nothing, absolutely nothing that
      I do (including writing these lessons) makes any
      difference to my salvation.

  3. Next week: The Unity of the Gospel.