Why Am I Saved?
What Does That Mean?

A Study of Galatians
Part One

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

A brief review of the introductory background material:

  1. Paul was very upset with these young congregations (new Christians) in the Roman province of Galatia.

    1. Paul's other letters to congregations expressed gratitude or contained a section of praise and encouragement immediately following the greeting of the letter.

    2. In Galatians, following the greeting, there is no expression of gratitude or word of encouragement.

    3. The message of the letter began by stating Paul's confusion and concern.

  2. Why? Why was Paul so concerned?

    1. An influential group of Jewish Christians opposed the conversion of people who were not Jews if these people had not been first converted to Judaism.

    2. The book of Acts reveals how this influential group evolved in the church in Jerusalem.

      1. Acts 10:9-34 documents how difficult it was for even the apostle Peter to understand (directly from the Lord and the Spirit) that people who were not Jews could be taught about Christ, baptized, and become Christians.

        1. The Lord took unusual steps to convince Peter to go see Cornelius.

        2. Only after Cornelius explained why he sent for Peter did Peter finally realize that people who were not Jews could be Christians (verse 34).

      2. Acts 11:1-18 documents the strong reaction in the Jerusalem church against Peter visiting Cornelius and others who were not Jews.

        1. Those who opposed Peter's visit "quieted down" (NASV) [literally, "became silent"] only when they heard that the Holy Spirit came upon those people who were not Jews.

        2. But that did not end the matter.

      3. Acts 15 documents the visit of some Jewish Christians from Judea (the Jerusalem area) to the sizable Antioch, Syria, congregation (Christians who were not Jews).

        1. Verses 1-5 state the Jewish Christians told the non-Jewish Christians that unless they were circumcised (a Jewish religious ordinance) and lived by Jewish customs, "you cannot be saved."

        2. This powerful statement was made to first generation, non-Jewish Christians who had limited or no background in the God of Israel, Jewish history, or the scriptures we call the Old Testament.

      4. Verses 6-21: when Paul and Barnabas were unable to end the confusion created by these visiting Jewish Christians, this question was referred to leadership of the Jerusalem church (the apostles and elders) .

        1. The church leaders held an open conference and considered all the evidence on this question.

        2. The decision was to not require people who were not Jews to be circumcised or follow Jewish customs.

        3. These Christians were requested to abstain from the "pollutions of idols," fornication, eating things strangled, and eating blood.

      5. Verses 22-29: a letter that confirmed this decision was sent to the Antioch church (hand delivered), and the letter was without doubt shared with other congregations that were not Jewish.

    3. However, neither did this bring the disagreement and its issue to an end.

      1. There were Pharisees who had become Christians who insisted (at the conference) that it was necessary for Christians who were not Jews to be circumcised and to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:5).

      2. From the information in Acts 21, evidence indicates that these Christians became the largest, most influential group in the Jerusalem church--eventually they dominated the views and feelings of the Jerusalem church.

        1. Years later Paul and Barnabas visited the leadership of the Jerusalem church to report the ways that God was working to save people who were not Jews.

        2. The leaders were delighted to hear that news (21:18-20).

        3. But the leaders also feared the reaction of the congregation to Paul and his work (21:20-21).

          1. "Thousands" of the Christians in that congregation were "zealous for the law" or were committed to the law of Moses.

          2. They also heard a false report that Paul was teaching Jews outside of Palestine to no longer practice Jewish customs.

        4. In the attempt to take the emotion out of the situation and to correct the misinformation about Paul, they requested Paul to assist four Jewish Christians as they took vows in the temple.

        5. Jews (who were not Christians) from Asia (where Paul did much of his mission work) recognized Paul and accused him of preaching against Judaism, the law, and the temple.

        6. They almost succeeded in killing Paul.

      3. The hostile emotion and fury generated when people who were not Jews became Christians without being circumcised is evident.

    4. The strategy of Jewish Christians devoted to Judaism and the law who believed that Christians who were not Jews must be circumcised to be saved:

      1. When Paul established congregations in a new area by converting people who were not Jews:

        1. These teachers visited those congregations as soon as Paul left the area.

        2. They told them that they were not saved because they had not been circumcised.

        3. They told them in order to be saved that they must be circumcised, learn Jewish law, and keep Jewish customs.

        4. They created major confusion among new Christians who were not Jews and had little or no background in Jewish scripture or Jewish law.

      2. This is what occurred in the province of Galatia.

        1. When Paul left the area, Jewish Christian teachers demanding circumcision and obedience to Jewish law visited these young congregations.

        2. The result:

          1. These new Christians abandoned Christ as the complete Savior.

          2. They turned to Jewish law and Jewish customs for salvation.

      3. Paul was astounded that:

        1. They left Christ.

        2. They believed that Paul taught them an incomplete gospel message.

      4. Paul's letter addressed this situation.

David Chadwell

Galatians Study Guide (part 1)
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.
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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