Galatians: The Wondrous Grace of God

Galatians: The Wondrous Grace of God

by John MacArthur

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718035099
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 12/29/2015
Series: MacArthur Bible Studies
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 695,242
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

John MacArthur has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. His ministry of expository preaching is unparalleled in its breadth and influence. In more than four decades of ministry from the same pulpit, he has preached verse by verse through the entire New Testament (and several key sections of the Old Testament). He is president of the Master’s University and Seminary and can be heard daily on the Grace to You radio broadcast (carried on hundreds of radio stations worldwide). He has authored a number of bestselling books, including Twelve Ordinary Men, and One Perfect Life.

For more details about John MacArthur and his Bible-teaching resources, contact Grace to You at 800-55-GRACE or gty.org.

Read an Excerpt

Galatians

The Wondrous Grace of God


By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3528-0



CHAPTER 1

Departing from the Gospel

Galatians 1:1–9

Drawing Near

How and when did you first hear the good news of Jesus Christ? Explain.

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A common question asked by many evangelists when speaking to people about their spiritual condition is this: "Suppose you were to die today and found yourself standing before the heavenly gates. God Himself meets you there and asks, 'Why should I let you into heaven?'" What response would you give? What are some of the most common replies people give to this question?

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What would you say to that question? What do you think are the essentials of the gospel?

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The Context

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news to rebellious creatures facing the righteous judgment of a holy God. It is, in fact, the best news ever announced. The gospel liberates. It transforms. It saves.

This unearthly message of deliverance and hope changed the apostle Paul's life and radically redirected him. The transformation in Paul was so thorough that this former enemy of the gospel committed his life to traveling the known world to tell his marvelous story to anyone and everyone who would listen.

On his first missionary journey, Paul journeyed through Galatia (modern-day Turkey) preaching and establishing churches. Within a very short time, however, a number of prominent Jewish legalists (called Judaizers) infiltrated these grace communities and began teaching that faith in Christ alone was not enough to make a person right with God. Salvation, according to their convincing arguments, also required strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. The result was confused congregations and, ultimately, an angry apostle. Paul's deep concern over the churches' defection from the gospel is evident from the opening paragraphs of this letter, which lacks his customary commendations and courtesies and is, instead, brief and impersonal, with a sharp tone.

Is the purity of the gospel important? Is it all right to take an eclectic approach to spirituality — to mix elements of radically different faith traditions with the message of grace in Christ? Paul answers with a resounding "No!"


Keys to the Text

Gospel: The Greek word translated as gospel means "a reward for bringing good news" or simply "good news." In His famous sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 to characterize the spirit of His ministry: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel [good news] to the poor" (Luke 4:18). The gospel does not reveal a new plan of salvation; it proclaims the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation that was begun in Israel, was completed in Jesus Christ, and is made known by the church. The gospel is the saving work of God in His Son Jesus Christ and a call to faith in Him. Jesus is more than a messenger of the gospel; He is the gospel. His life, teaching, and atoning death declared the good news of God. In turning from grace to a legalistic system of salvation by works, the Galatians had ignored the significance of the death of Christ. (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary)


Unleashing the Text

Read 1:1–9, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.


Galatians 1:1–9 (NKJV)

1Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),

2and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

3Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

4who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

5to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

6I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,

7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.

8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

apostle (v. 1) — In general terms, this word means "one who is sent with a commission." The apostles of Jesus Christ — the Twelve and Paul — were special ambassadors or messengers chosen and trained by Christ to lay the foundation of the early church and be the channels of God's completed revelation (Eph. 2:20).

not from men ... but through Jesus Christ (v. 1) — To defend his apostleship against the false teachers' attack, Paul emphasized that Christ Himself had appointed him as an apostle before he met the other apostles (see vv. 17–18; Acts 9:3–9).

raised Him from the dead (v. 1) — Paul included this important fact to show that the risen and ascended Christ Himself had appointed him; thus Paul was a qualified witness of Christ's resurrection (see Acts 1:22).

churches of Galatia (v. 2) — the churches Paul founded at Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14–14:23)

Grace to you and peace (v. 3) — Even Paul's typical greeting attacked the Judaizers' legalistic system; if salvation is by works as they claimed, it is not of "grace" and cannot result in "peace," since no one can be sure he or she has enough good works to be eternally secure.

for our sins (v. 4) — No one can avoid sin by human effort or law-keeping (Rom. 3:20); therefore it must be forgiven, which Christ accomplished through His atoning death on the cross (Gal. 3:13).

present evil age (v. 4) — The Greek word for "age" does not refer to a period of time but an order or system and, in particular, to the current world system ruled by Satan (Rom. 12:2; 1 John 2:15–16; 5:19).

the will of our God (v. 4) — The sacrifice of Christ for salvation was the will of God designed and fulfilled for His glory (see Matt. 26:42; John 6:38–40).

turning away (v. 6) — This is better translated "deserting." The Greek word was used of military desertion which was punishable by death. The form of this Greek verb indicates that the Galatian believers were voluntarily deserting grace to pursue the legalism taught by the false teachers.

so soon (v. 6) — This Greek word can mean either "easily" or "quickly" and sometimes both. No doubt both senses characterized the Galatians' response to the false teachers' heretical doctrines.

called you (v. 6) — This could be translated "who called you once and for all" and refers to God's effectual call to salvation.

grace of Christ (v. 6) — God's free and sovereign act of mercy in granting salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, totally apart from any human work or merit

different gospel (v. 6) — the Judaizers' perversion of the true gospel; they added the requirements, ceremonies, and standards of the old covenant as necessary prerequisites to salvation.

trouble (v. 7) — The Greek word could be translated "disturb" and means "to shake back and forth," meaning to agitate or stir up. Here it refers to the deep emotional disturbance that the Galatian believers experienced.

pervert (v. 7) — to turn something into its opposite. By adding law to the gospel of Christ, the false teachers were effectively destroying grace, turning the message of God's undeserved favor toward sinners into a message of earned and merited favor.

the gospel of Christ (v. 7) — the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 15:1–4)

we, or an angel from heaven (v. 8) — Paul's point is hypothetical, calling on the most unlikely examples for false teaching — himself and holy angels. The Galatians should receive no messenger, regardless of how impeccable his credentials, if his doctrine of salvation differs in the slightest degree from God's truth revealed through Christ and the apostles.

let him be accursed (v. 8) — The translation of this Greek word refers to devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell (see Rom. 9:3; 1 Cor. 12:3; 16:22). Throughout history, God has devoted certain objects, individuals, and groups of people to destruction (see Josh. 6:17–18; 7:1, 25–26). The New Testament offers many examples of one such group: false teachers (see Matt. 24:24; John 8:44; 1 Tim. 1:20; Titus 1:16). Here the Judaizers are identified as members of this infamous company.

As we have said before (v. 9) — This refers to what Paul taught during an earlier visit to these churches, not to a previous comment in this epistle.

anyone (v. 9) — Paul turns from the hypothetical case of verse 8 (the apostle or heavenly angels preaching a false gospel) to the real situation faced by the Galatians. The Judaizers were doing just that and were to be devoted to destruction because of their damning heresy.

1) How did Paul defend his apostleship? What was his primary argument?

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(Verses to consider: Acts 9:1–15)

2) What was Paul's history with "the churches of Galatia"?

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(Verses to consider: Acts 13:14–14:23)

3) According to Paul, what is the one and only solution for the problem of our sin?

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(Verses to consider: Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8–9)

4) What did the death of Christ have to do with the will of God?

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(Verses to consider: Acts 2:22–23; Rom. 8:3–4, 31–32; Eph. 1:7, 11; Heb. 10:4–10)


Going Deeper

In Paul's letter to the church at Rome, he expounds on many of the same theological issues as in Galatians. Read Romans 3:19–28 for more insight about works and grace.


Romans 3:1928 (NKJV)

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

25whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,

26to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.

28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.


Exploring the Meaning

5) How does the Romans 3 passage address the same problem facing the believers in Galatia?

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6) Read 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14. What does this say about the "call of God"? Why is this concept important for those who are tempted to turn away from grace and trust in works?

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(Verses to consider: 2 Tim. 1:8–9)

7) Read 2 Corinthians 11:3–4. What did Paul mean by a "different gospel"?

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(Verses to consider: Gal. 3:3; 4:9)


Truth for Today

The most destructive dangers to the church have never been atheism, pagan religions, or cults that openly deny Scripture, but rather supposedly Christian movements that accept so much biblical truth that their unscriptural doctrines seem relatively insignificant and harmless. But a single drop of poison in a large container can make all the water lethal. And a single false idea that in any way undercuts God's grace poisons the whole system of belief.


Reflecting on the Text

8) What is the simple gospel? Why do so many people find it hard to accept this?

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9) Why do you think Paul reacted so harshly to the message of the Judaizers?

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10) What is the danger of mixing grace with works?

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11) List some relatives, friends, or neighbors who need to embrace the gospel of grace. Pray for them this week, asking God for the opportunity to speak with them about the good news of forgiveness and freedom in Christ.

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Personal Response

Write out additional reflections, questions you may have, or a prayer.

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Additional Notes

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CHAPTER 2

Defending the Gospel

Galatians 1:10–2:10

Drawing Near

In this section, the apostle Paul defends his credentials in order to prove the authority and authenticity of his message. In what ways do you think credentials are important?

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In what settings do you view a person's credentials as irrelevant?

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The Context

After establishing churches in the region of Galatia on his first missionary journey, Paul learned that his work there was being undermined by a group commonly identified as the Judaizers. These Jewish loyalists were fiercely devoted to Mosaic ceremonies, standards, and practices and felt that Paul's gospel message was too far removed from its Jewish roots. They also argued that Paul's teaching was too easy and did not properly require enough demands of its adherents.

The Judaizers' response to this troublemaker named Paul was to try and thoroughly discredit him by attacking his credentials as an "apostle" of Christ.

The strategy worked. Some Galatian believers began to question Paul's authority and legitimacy. Furthermore they questioned his motives. Most important, they began to doubt his message.

For all those reasons, Paul set out to defend his apostleship (1:10–2:10), explaining that he had been appointed by God and not by human beings. He offered a brief biographical sketch of important events in his life to further defend his calling and prove the authenticity of the gospel of grace he proclaimed. Then by recounting the details of his most significant trip to Jerusalem after his conversion, Paul offered convincing evidence that the message he proclaimed was identical to that of the other twelve apostles. By his coming, his companions, his commission, and his commendation, Paul powerfully demonstrated that he was of one truth and one spirit with the other twelve apostles. His gospel was independent in terms of revelation but identical in terms of content.

Paul's concern was not his own popularity or personal success, but God's truth. At stake was the very integrity of the gospel.


Keys to the Text

Apostle: "One who is sent with a commission." An apostle was chosen and trained by Jesus Christ to proclaim His truth during the formative years of the church. In its primary usage, the term applied to the original twelve disciples chosen by Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry to lay the foundation of the early church. Jesus also gave them the power to perform healings and to cast out demons as verifying signs of their divine authority. Because Paul was not among the original twelve, he needed to defend his apostleship. One of the qualifications was witnessing the risen Christ (Acts 1:22). Paul explained to the Corinthian church that between His resurrection and ascension Jesus "was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. ... After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also" (1 Cor. 15:5–8). Paul witnessed the resurrected Christ in a unique way as he traveled to Damascus to arrest Christians there (Acts 9). Further personal appearances of the Lord to Paul are recorded in Acts 18:9; 22:17–21; 23:11; and 2 Corinthians 12:1–4.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Galatians by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction to Galatians, 1,
1 Departing from the Gospel Galatians 1:1–9, 5,
2 Defending the Gospel Galatians 1:10–2:10, 13,
3 Crucified with Christ Galatians 2:11–21, 23,
4 Justification by Faith Galatians 3:1–9, 33,
5 The Law and the Promise Galatians 3:10–18, 43,
6 The Purpose of the Law Galatians 3:19–29, 53,
7 Children of God Galatians 4:1–11, 63,
8 Christ in You Galatians 4:12–20, 73,
9 Children of Promise Galatians 4:21–5:1, 83,
10 Called to Freedom Galatians 5:2–15, 91,
11 Walking in the Spirit Galatians 5:16–26, 99,
12 A Grace-Filled Life Galatians 6:1–18, 109,

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