THE NEW TESTAMENT
THE BOOK OF ACTS
Paul writes Galatians - Part one
The Albert Barnes Bible Commentary shows the very wide
spectre of scholastic views as to the date when Paul wrote
Galatians. The range of dates extends from before the Jerusalem
"circumcision debate" - hence around 49 A.D. (which would in most
views holding this date, be Paul's first epistle) to the time
Paul spent in Rome, in house arrest (the last chapter of Acts).
Naturally, the PLACE where Paul wrote this epistle will vary
with the date that people may choose.
As Albert Barnes writes, there really is no way of
pin-pointing the exact date of Galatians, but he thinks if it was
written AFTER the "Jerusalem circumcision debate" of Acts 15, it
was not too many years after, as it is obvious from the epistle,
circumcision and ALL Old Testament laws was the hot teaching of
some, who were claiming salvation is gained by the "works of the
law" and not through "faith in Christ." See below Albert
Barnes' "Design of the Epistle."
I have then simply decided to put the epistle to the
Galatians here in the New Testament Bible Story. The date and
place is not really that important to know, as of course could be
said for all other writings of the New Testament. It has VERY
important teachings on the truth of the matter from Paul, as to
the way to be saved. Most really do not see the deep seated
teaching of the false teachers that had turned the Galatians
away from "Christ" and to "works of the law" in order to be
"justified" or to "receive the Spirit" (see chapter 2:16 with 3:
From the Albert Barnes' Bible Commentary - quote:
CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE
Galatia was a province of Asia Minor ... It was one of the
largest provinces of Asia Miler, and covered an extent of country
almost as large as the state of New Jersey ...
The name Galatia is derived from the word Gaul, and was given to
it because it had been conquered by the Gauls, who, having
subdued the country, settled it - Pausanias, Attic.cap.4 ...
This invasion of Asia Minor was made, according to Justin, (lib.
xxv. cap.2,) about the four hundred and seventy-ninth year after
the founding of Rome, and, of course, about 273 years before
Christ ... Such was their number, that Justin says, "they filled
all Asia (i.e. all Asia Minor) like swarms of bees. Finally, they
became so numerous that no kings of the east could engage in war
without an army of Gauls ... Such was the terror of the name of
Gauls, and such the invincible felicity of their arms ...
Their original Gaulish language they retained so late as the
fifth century, as appears from the testimony of Jerome ... At the
same time they also spoke the Greek language in common with all
the inhabitants of Lesser Asia, and therefore the epistle to them
was written in Greek, and was intelligible to them as well is to
The Galatians, like the inhabitants of the surrounding country,
were heathens, and their religion was of a gross and debasing
kind. They are said to have worshipped "the mother of gods,"
under the came of "Agdistis." Callimachus, in his hymns, calls
them "a foolish people" ... Paul addressing them as "foolish,"
The possessors of Galatia were of three different nation., or
tribes of Gauls; the Tolistobogi, the Trocmi, and the Tectosagi.
There are imperial medals extant, on which these names are found
... The Gauls are mentioned by ancient historians as a tall and
It is not possible to ascertain the number of the inhabitants of
Galatia, at the time when the gospel was preached there, or when
this epistle was written ... and it is probable that Galatia was
thickly settled at the time the gospel was preached there. It was
in the central part of Asia Minor, then one of the most densely
populated parts of the world, and was a region singularly fertile
- Strabo ... That there were many Jews also, in all of the
provinces of Asia Minor, is apparent not only from the Acts of
the Apostles, but is expressly declared by Josephus, Ant.16:6.
THE TIME WHEN THE GOSPEL
WAS PREACHED IN GALATIA
There is no certain information as to the time when the gospel
was first preached in Galatia, or the persons by whom it was
done. There is mention, however, of Paul's having preached there
several times, and several circumstances lead us to suppose that
those churches were established by him, or that he was the first
to carry the gospel to them, or that he and Barnabas together
preached the gospel there on the mission on which they were sent
from Antioch, Acts 13:2,seq. In Acts 16:5,6, it is expressly said
that they went "through Phrygia and the region of Galatia." This
journey was for the purpose of confirming the churches and was
undertaken at the suggestion of Paul, (Acts 15:36), with the
design of visiting their brethren in every city where they had
preached the word of the Lord ...
The same thing may be evinced also from the expression in chap.
4:15, where he says, "I bear you record, that if it had been
possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given
them to me" an expression which leads us to suppose that they had
formed for him a peculiar attachment, because he had first
preached the gospel to them, and that there had existed all the
ardour of attachment implied in their first love.
It is quite evident, therefore, I think, that the gospel was
preached among the Galatians first by Paul, either alone or in
company with some other one of the apostles ...
It is a circumstance also of some importance on this point, that
Paul speaks in this epistle in a tone of authority, and with a
severity of reproof which he would hardly have used unless he had
at first preached there, and had a right to be regarded as the
founder of the church, and to address it as its father. In this
respect the tone here is quite different ... as to what is
observable in the epistle to the Romans. Paul had not been at
Rome when he addressed the church there by letter, and his
language differs materially from that which occurs in the
epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians. It was to them the
very respectful and mild language of a stranger. Here it is
respectful, but it is the authoritative language of a father
having a right to reprove.
THE DESIGN OF THE EPISTLE
It is easy to discern from the epistle itself that the following
circumstances existed in the churches of Galatia, and that it was
written with reference to them.
(1) That they had been at first devotedly attached to the apostle
Paul, and had received his commands and instructions with
implicit confidence, when he was among them, chap.4:14,15; Comp.
(2) That they had been perverted from the doctrine which he
taught them soon after he had left them, chap.1:6.
(3) That this had been done by the persons who were of Jewish
origin, and who insisted on the observance of the rites of the
(4) That they claimed to have come directly from Jerusalem, and
to have derived their views of religion and their authority from
the apostles there.
(5) That they taught that the apostle Paul was inferior to the
apostles there; that he had been called more recently into the
apostolic office; that the apostles at Jerusalem must be regarded
as the source of authority in the Christian church; and that,
therefore, the teaching of Paul should yield to that which was
derived directly from Jerusalem.
(6) That the laws of Moses were binding, and were necessary in
order to justification. That the rite of circumcision especially
was of binding obligation; and it is probable (chap.5:12) that
they had prevailed on of the Galatians to be circumcised ...
(7) It would seem, also, that they urged that Paul himself had
changed his views since he had been among the Galatians, and now
maintained the necessity of circumcision, chap.5:11. Perhaps they
alleged this, from the undoubted fact, that Paul, when at
Jerusalem, (Acts 21:26) had complied with some of the customs of
the Jewish ritual.
(8) That they urged that all the promises of God were made to
Abraham, and that whoever would partake of those promises, must
be circumcised as Abraham was. This Paul answer, chap.3:7; 4:7.
(9) That in consequence of the promulgation of these views, great
dissensions had arisen in the church, and strifes of an unhappy
nature existed, greatly contrary to the spirit which should be
manifested by those who bare the Christian name.
From this description of the state of things in the churches of
Galatia, the design of the epistle is apparent, and the scope of
the argument will be easily seen ...
The first object, therefore, was to show that he had received his
commission as an apostle, directly from God. He had not received
it at all from man; he had not even been instructed by the other
apostles; he had not acknowledged their superiority; he had not
even consulted them. He did not acknowledge, therefore, that the
apostles at Jerusalem possessed any superior rank or authority.
His commission, though he had not seen the Lord before he was
crucified, he had, nevertheless, derived immediately from him.
The doctrine, therefore, which he had taught them, that the
Mosaic laws were not binding, and that there was no necessity of
being circumcised, was a doctrine which had been derived directly
from God. In proof of this, he goes into an extended statement,
(chap.1) of the manner in which he had been called, and of the
fact, that he had not consulted with the apostles at Jerusalem,
or confessed his inferiority to them; of the fact that when they
had become acquainted with the manner in which he preached, they
approved his course, (chap.1:24; 2:1-10;) and of the fact that on
one occasion, he had actually been constrained to differ from
Peter, the oldest of the apostles, on a point in which he was
manifestly wrong, and as one of the points then under
The second great object, therefore, was to show the real nature
and design of the law of Moses, and to prove that the peculiar
rites of the Mosaic ritual, and especially the rite of
circumcision, was not necessary to justification and salvation;
and that they who observed that rite, did in fact renounce the
Scripture method of justification; make the sacrifice of Christ
of no value, and make slaves of themselves. This leads him into a
consideration of the true nature of the doctrine of
justification, and of the way of salvation by a Redeemer.
This point he shows in the following way:
(1) By showing that those who lived before Christ, and especially
Abraham, were in fact justified, not by obedience to the ritual
law of Moses, but by faith in the promise of God, chap.3:1-18.
(2) By showing that the design of the Mosaic ritual was only
temporary, and that it was intended to lead to Christ, chap.
(3) In view of this, he reproves the Galatians for having so
readily fallen into the observance of these customs, chap.
(4) This view of the design of the Mosaic law, and of its
tendency, he illustrates by an allegory drawn from the case of
This whole discourse is succeeded by an affectionate exhortation
to the Galatians, to avoid the evils which had been engendered;
reproving them for the strifes existing in consequence of the
attempt to introduce the Mosaic rites, and earnestly entreating
them to stand firm in the liberty which Christ had vouchsafed to
them from the servitude of the Mosaic institutions, chapters 4
The design of the whole epistle, therefore, is to state and
defend the true doctrine of justification, and to show that it
did not depend on the observance of the laws of Moses.
In this general purpose, therefore, it accords with the design of
the epistle to the Romans. In one respect, however, it differs
from the design of that epistle. That was written, to show that
man could not be justified by ANY works of the law, or by
conformity to ANY law, moral or ceremonial.
The object of THIS is, to show that justification cannot be
obtained by CONFORMITY TO THE RITUAL OR CEREMONIAL LAW; or that
the observance of the ceremonial law is not necessary to
salvation. In this respect, therefore, this epistle is of less
general interest than that to the Romans.
The argument, if I may so express myself, is more JEWISH. It is
more in the Jewish manner; is designed to meet a Jew in his own
way, and is, therefore, somewhat more difficult for all to
follow. Still it contains great and vital statements on the
doctrines of salvation, and, as such, demands the profound and
careful attention of all who desire to be as saved, and who would
know the way of acceptance with God.
END quotes from Albert Barnes
TWO KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING GALATIANS
We have seen in past chapters, especially concerning Acts
15, and the physical circumcision issue, that there was a group
of "believers" (from the Pharisee party in the past, as was the
apostle Paul) who still thought physical circumcision was
essential for salvation, or in order to be saved. The group of
false teachers that Paul is here denouncing is NOT so much, if at
all, from that group of "believers" in the Church of God, but
ANOTHER group altogether. They went one huge step further. Albert
Barnes was very correct when he said this epistle is more
"Jewish" in nature. For these false teachers were teaching the
Galatians (and making some headway, to the dismay of the apostle
Paul) that Jesus Christ was NOT NEEDED in salvation AT ALL! Make
a clear note of that in your mind. The false teachers that had
come among the Galatians were indeed Jews who DID NOT believe in
Jesus Christ, and Him as Savior, in order to be justified or
forgiven of sins and at-one with God. Christ was not needed in
their teaching of justification and salvation. What they
were teaching was that you obeyed ALL the Old Covenant laws of
Moses, and especially the "blood" at-one-ment of circumcision,
and you were a child of God, and you were saved. They were lying
about obtaining their teaching from the Jerusalem apostles, as
they were lying about other things they said.
Their teaching is still basically the teaching of the
religious Jews of today, who do not believe in and do not accept
Jesus Christ as God's Son and Savior from sins.
There was in the 1990s a "religious" gathering of leading
teachers from the Christian faith and the Jewish faith. The
Jewish leaders openly proclaimed, when it was their turn to
speak, that THEY, "without Jesus in their life or theology" were
JUST AS MUCH children of God, and "saved" as were the Christians.
The New Testament teaches over and over that such a claim by
Jewish religious people as above is UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE!! There is
ONLY ONE way to be saved, and that MUST BE through Jesus the
Christ, who was and is the Son of God, and Savior of the world.
As Peter said in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in ANY
OTHER: for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by
which you can be saved."
But the false teachers that Paul is denouncing in Galatians,
taught that Jesus was NOT needed in justification and salvation.
They taught if there was any BLOOD to spill, it was YOUR blood in
the rite of physical circumcision, and not some other person's
blood. For them the way to be saved was by continuing UNDER the
WHOLE Old Covenant. There was NO New Covenant in their theology,
with Christ at the center.
Hence the SECOND key to Galatians is that if you read it as
about TWO COVENANTS - the Old Covenant and the New Covenant - it
will open up to you as never before. Some false teachers were
teaching that the way to be saved was by following the WHOLE Old
Covenant, period. Paul argues emphatically that there is a NEW
Covenant since Christ, and the CENTRAL part of the New Covenant
was that the forgiveness of sins and being justified with God was
through FAITH in the SACRIFICE of Christ. He argues that
salvation WAS EVER only through the promise of God that a Savior
would come and die for the sins of all mankind. Paul argued that
it was not the blood spilt with physical circumcision that saved
from sins or somehow made you at-one with God, but that it was
Christ's shed blood on the cross that took away your sins and
made you at-one with God, and so it was through FAITH in Christ,
that you were justified.
Paul argued a NEW Covenant, as it had ALWAYS been promised
by God, while the other false teachers argued that Christ was not
needed and it was obeying the whole Old Covenant and physical
circumcision that justified you and saved you.
Paul opens with stating he was an apostle, not of men but of
God and Christ. He immediately says the Lord Jesus Christ gave
Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil world.
This would re-establish in their minds what Paul taught them,
that Jesus the Christ, was the way to have sins forgiven - be
He tells them he is shocked that they could be "so soon
removed" from the grace of Christ and follow another so-called
"gospel" (good news), which he straightaway denies is good news,
but is he says, a perversion of the gospel of Christ. And he
tells them that any person, or even if an angel would come, and
tell them anything different than what "we have preached unto
you" is the Gospel, then let them be accursed. He give emphasis
to this by repeating what he just told them.
He again asserts that the Gospel he preached to them was NOT
from human beings, but that he received it by the revelation of
Jesus Christ. Then he starts to explain about how this
"revelation of Christ" came about. They knew of his past "high
marks" above his equals in the "Jew's religion." They knew that
he had been "exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my
fathers." This has nothing to do with God's basic Ten
Commandments, which were never "traditions of the fathers." But
it has to do with "the Pharisee religion and their traditions" as
he states in other writings, and it was all this that he was
zealous about. But it pleased God to call him, to reveal His Son
to him, that he "might preach Him among the heathen." He tells
them how he then did not confer with flesh and blood, neither did
he go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before he was
called to be an apostle. He went into Arabia, and then, after an
unspecified time there, returned to Damascus. It was after three
years in Damascus that he finally went to Jerusalem. He saw and
stayed with Peter for fifteen days. He visited in no specific way
with any other apostle, but James the Lord's brother.
He tells them what he writes, is the truth, God's knows it
is, and he does not lie. After being in Jerusalem he went to
Syria and Cilicia and was basically an unknown apostle by the
Churches of God in Judea. All they knew was that they heard that
he who had persecuted the Church of God, was now preaching "the
faith" he had once wanted to destroy, and they praised the Lord
for what He had done with Paul.
This all sets the stage. He is trying to show them how God,
in a personal way, through Christ, brought him to speak on His
behalf, to preach the TRUE Gospel of justification and salvation
to them, and to others. Hence what he taught them IS the ONE
and ONLY truth to being saved from sin.
It all sets the stage, but he still needed to demonstrate
even more to them that he really is not only an apostle of God,
but that no other apostle is above himself, that he has to answer
to no human man anywhere, including those apostles in Jerusalem.
All this he begins to do in the second chapter of Galatians.
TO BE CONTINUED