Intro to Galatians

Introduction to Galatians(Galatians 1:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, October 21, 2018 

Let’s talk about rescue:

On a cold winter day Gabriel Estrada, a high school senior in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, did the unthinkable. When his 17-year-old girlfriend secretly gave birth to a baby boy on January 15, 2002, she dressed it and asked him to deliver it to a church. Instead, Gabriel wrapped the baby in a canvas bag and left him in a portable toilet in a nearby park to die. But against incredible odds the baby was saved.

According to police there was virtually no chance the infant would survive. Temperatures were well below freezing. Lack of snow meant the nearby sledding hill would not be frequented by kids. And the sanitation company’s scheduled pick-up at the port-a-potty was days away.

Village of Twin Lakes police credit a father and son for saving the child’s life. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon on January 16th a father (wishing to remain anonymous) and his young son stopped at the abandoned West Side Park in need of a bathroom. Hearing a whimpering sound coming from the port-a-potty, they knew something was wrong. They called 911 to report what they had discovered. 

When Officer Randy Prudik responded to the call, he pulled the canvas bag from the outdoor toilet and raced to nearby Burlington Memorial Hospital where the baby received emergency treatment.

“There’s no way he would have survived that,” Prudik said. “That little guy had somebody watching over him.” 

As a testament to the boy’s survival, the nurses at the hospital dubbed him William Grant: William for the will to live and Grant for not taking life for granted. 

On a grander scale, another Father and Son rescue team intervened on behalf of doomed humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).[1]

We are going to start studying Galatians and what we see is that Jesus rescues us. Jesus rescues us from this present evil age by giving Himself for our sins.

Today’s Theme: Jesus died for our sins and we are saved by His blood on the cross.

Application: I encourage you to have a relationship with Jesus that is grounded in your love for Him.

  1. Galatians, let’s talk about this letter:
    1. I am beginning a sermon series on Galatians and so it is helpful to think about this short letter.
    2. In this short letter Paul is rebuking the churches of this region for abandoning the TRUE Gospel and getting stuck on works based salvation.
    3. Paul is also defending his apostleship.
    4. Paul planted these churches and then some people came in and messed up his foundation. Often times we call these people judaizers as it appears they were trying to convince the people that they had to keep the whole law. The Archaeological Study Bible points out: Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that a number of ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were still binding on the New Testament church.
    5. The Archaeological Study Bible points out the following themes:
      1. Paul vigorously defended his apostolic calling (1:1, 15; 2:1–10) and his gospel (1:11–12). He was not trying to protect his wounded reputation as an apostle but was defending the truth of the gospel as it had been revealed to him by Christ.
      2. Salvation by faith alone: Paul’s definition of the truth of the gospel affirms God’s universal grace for all people: In Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for . . . all [are] one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Justification by faith, a doctrine central to this letter, creates harmonious community.
  • Legalism versus freedom: Believers do not need to be under the law to lead ethical lives (5:1—6:16). The Spirit, whom they receive when they believe (3:1–3), empowers them to live the way God wants (5:16–17, 22–25). The law can neither produce the fruit of the Spirit (5:22–23) nor restrain people from sinning. Its function is to identify sin and pronounce God’s judgment (3:19–24), and it is through the believer’s union with Christ that he or she is truly set free. This liberation is not freedom to sin, but freedom to “serve one another in love” (5:13).
  1. A Spirit-empowered life. Believers are not to rely on their own power to live the Christian life. The Spirit-led Christian does not live for self (5:16) but allows the fruit of the Spirit to shine through his or her everyday activities (5:22–23).
  1. Galatians is a circular letter written to the “churches” of Galatia, plural.
  2. It is debated where these churches were. The addressees may have been believers in northern Galatia in the region of Ancyra (these churches would have been founded by Paul during his second missionary journey; see Ac 16:6; 18:23) or churches founded by Paul and Barnabas (Ac 14:1–23) during Paul’s first missionary journey into southern Galatia included Pisidian Antioch as well as Iconium, Lystra and Derbe—the more widely accepted view.[2]
  3. This may have been Paul’s earliest letter, possibly written as early as AD 48.
  4. Now, let’s move on to look at the text.

Let’s read

Gal. 1:1-5:

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

  1. Notice Paul’s introduction in verse 1.
    1. In the introduction itself Paul is defending his apostleship.
    2. Paul is an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ…
    3. One source points out: Thus in the first clause he distinguishes himself from the false apostles, who did not derive their commission from God at all; in the second he ranks himself with the Twelve, who were commissioned directly from God. The prepositions therefore retain their proper sense.[3]
    4. The nickname (cognomen) “Paul” is from the Latin Paulus, which means little. The earliest physical description of Paul we have comes from a second-century apocryphal writing. It described Paul as “a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel.”9The apostle’s Hebrew name was Saul. As the apostle to the Gentiles he consistently used his Gentile name, Paul, in his epistles.[4]
    5. Apostle means “one who is sent” which can be used generically, but Paul meant this here as being sent from God.
    6. In verse 2 Paul includes others who are with him.
    7. Paul then addresses the “churches” of Galatia.
    8. Paul abruptly moves on to Theology.
    9. One Theologian points out since Paul abruptly moves on to Theology it is showing how deep their apostacy is.
    10. Usually Paul would give a commendation. One writes: The abruptness of the language here is remarkable. Elsewhere the Apostle adds some words of commendation. The Church of the Thessalonians, for instance, is ‘in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1): that of the Corinthians is composed of those ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’ (1 Cor. 1:2, comp. 2 Cor. 1:1). The omission of any expression of praise in addressing the Galatians shows the extent of their apostasy.[5]
  • Notice Paul’s Theology for Galatia in verses 3-5:
    1. Who died to save us: This is really important. Verses 3-4 is touching on exactly what their problem was. The churches in Galatia had almost taken away the blood of Jesus saving us from our sins. They had nullified the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).
    2. But Jesus gave Himself for our sins.
    3. Jesus did this in order to rescue us from this present evil age. In the New Testament we see a contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of God.
    4. This age is the present evil age and God rescues us.
    5. Rescue: Time magazine carried an interesting story about former President George Herbert Walker Bush. It described a trip he took back to the South Pacific. During World War II, Bush had been a bomber pilot, and was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire. The article detailed Bush’s return to the very spot where he was rescued from his downed aircraft. During his return visit, Bush met with a Japanese gentleman who claimed to have witnessed Bush’s rescue back in 1944. The man related that as he and others were watching the rescue take place, one of the man’s friends remarked, “Surely America will win the war if they care so much for the life of one pilot.”[6]
    6. Verse 5 is a beautiful doxology.


I encourage you to have a relationship with Jesus that is grounded in your love for Him.

Let’s think about some applications under the main application:

  1. We must recognize that we are not saved by works.
  2. We are to do good works in order to show our faith (James 2:14-18, specifically verse 18).
  3. We must trust in Jesus alone for salvation.
    1. We are not saved by church attendance, but should go to church to worship the Lord, grow in our relationship with Him, serve others and be disciples.
    2. We are not saved by our prayers, but pray to know Jesus and have a relationship with Jesus.
    3. We are not saved by serving people, but serve to love people.
    4. We are not saved by anything other than the blood of Jesus on the cross.
    5. We must not nullify the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).
  4. We must share this good news of the Gospel with others.
  5. We must worship Jesus for His atoning death.
  6. Galatians teaches that doctrine matters and wrong doctrine is DANGEROUS. We will watch over the church’s doctrine.

Are we grateful for our salvation?

Jared Wilson defines “gospel wakefulness” as treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly. He illustrates with the following:

Imagine you are driving down the road and your car stalls at a railroad crossing. You are understandably nervous as you try to reignite the car’s engine, but you become even more so when you see a train turn the corner in the distance and begin quickly closing the gap between it and you. The train engine’s horn is blaring and the engineer has thrown on the brakes, but you are too close and he’s coming too fast. You move from trying to get the car to start to trying to unfasten your seatbelt, but fear has made your hands stiffen and shake. You can’t get your seatbelt unfastened. The train is rushing toward you, and you know you’re going to be hit. And you are. Suddenly and from behind. A man in a truck behind you has decided to ram into your car and push you off the tracks, even as he is destroyed by the impact in the very spot you once occupied.

You get out of the car, shaken and still frightened. You are terrified by the gruesome scene, in shock over your rescuer’s sacrifice. You are grateful in a way that you’ve never been grateful before. … Even in your terrified awe, it feels good to be alive. You feel woozy, so you sit down on the trunk of your car, and as you’re trying to retrieve your cell phone from your pocket to call 911 and marveling at how little damage the violent shove did to the rear bumper, you hear a whimper from inside.

You didn’t know that before you’d left the house, as your kids were playing hide-and-seek, your youngest son decided to hide in the trunk of your car. As you open it up frantically and discover that he is miraculously unharmed, you suddenly realize the total greatness of the loss you almost suffered. Your gratitude, your amazement, your new outlook on life takes a giant leap forward. That is the difference between the gospel wakefulness of conversion and the greater wakefulness that often occurs later.[7]

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1]Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1-7-02); submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois

[2]Archaeological Study Bible

[3]Joseph Barber Lightfoot, ed., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations., 4th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), 71.

  1. 9 E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocraypha, 2:354.

[4]Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Ga 1:1.

[5]Joseph Barber Lightfoot, ed., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations., 4th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), 73.

[6]Canadian Edition, Time Magazine (11-23-02); submitted by Darin Latham, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

[7]Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness (Crossway, 2011), pp. 24-25; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

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