1. DELIVERANCE FROM SIN
a. How did Paul introduce his epistle to the Galatians? Galatians 1:1–5.
“Paul and his fellow workers proclaimed the doctrine of righteousness by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. They presented Christ as the one who, seeing the helpless condition of the fallen race, came to redeem men and women by living a life of obedience to God’s law and by paying the penalty of disobedience.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 207.
“By giving His life for the life of the world, Christ bridged the gulf that sin had made, joining this sin-cursed earth to the universe of heaven as a province. God chose this world to be the theater of His mighty works of grace. While the sentence of condemnation was suspended over it because of the rebellion of its inhabitants, while the clouds of wrath were accumulating because of the transgression of the law of God, a mysterious voice was heard in heaven, ‘Lo, I come . . . to do thy will, O God’ (Psalm 40:7, 8). Our substitute and surety came from heaven declaring that He had brought with Him the vast and inestimable donation of eternal life.”—This Day With God, p. 84.
2. DISTRACTION, SENSUALITY, SLANDER
a. What had occurred in Galatia that caused Paul concern? Galatians 1:6, 7.
“While tarrying at Corinth, Paul had cause for serious apprehension concerning some of the churches already established. Through the influence of false teachers who had arisen among the believers in Jerusalem, division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the believers in Galatia. These false teachers were mingling Jewish traditions with the truths of the gospel. Ignoring the decision of the general council at Jerusalem, they urged upon the Gentile converts the observance of the ceremonial law.
“The situation was critical. The evils that had been introduced threatened speedily to destroy the Galatian churches.
“Paul was cut to the heart, and his soul was stirred by this open apostasy on the part of those to whom he had faithfully taught the principles of the gospel. He immediately wrote to the deluded believers, exposing the false theories that they had accepted and with great severity rebuking those who were departing from the faith.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 383, 384.
b. What can cause such things to happen? Proverbs 16:28; Amos 2:4.
“In almost every church there were some members who were Jews by birth. To these converts the Jewish teachers found ready access, and through them gained a foothold in the churches. It was impossible, by scriptural arguments, to overthrow the doctrines taught by Paul; hence they resorted to the most unscrupulous measures to counteract his influence and weaken his authority. They declared that he had not been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no commission from Him; yet he had presumed to teach doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter, James, and the other apostles. Thus the emissaries of Judaism succeeded in alienating many of the Christian converts from their teacher in the gospel. Having gained this point, they induced them to return to the observance of the ceremonial law as essential to salvation. Faith in Christ, and obedience to the law of ten commandments, were regarded as of minor importance. Division, heresy, and sensualism were rapidly gaining ground among the believers in Galatia.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1108.
3. FOLLOWING GOD’S WAY
a. Why should we all heed the strong words Paul was constrained to declare to the churches in Galatia? Galatians 1:8, 9.
“Many have invented a gospel of their own in the same manner as they have substituted a law of their own for God’s law.”—The Review and Herald, September 3, 1901.
“To substitute external forms of religion for holiness of heart and life is still as pleasing to the unrenewed nature as it was in the days of these Jewish teachers. Today, as then, there are false spiritual guides, to whose doctrines many listen eagerly. It is Satan’s studied effort to divert minds from the hope of salvation through faith in Christ and obedience to the law of God. In every age the archenemy adapts his temptations to the prejudices or inclinations of those whom he is seeking to deceive. In apostolic times he led the Jews to exalt the ceremonial law and reject Christ; at the present time he induces many professing Christians, under pretense of honoring Christ, to cast contempt on the moral law and to teach that its precepts may be transgressed with impunity. It is the duty of every servant of God to withstand firmly and decidedly these perverters of the faith and by the word of truth fearlessly to expose their errors.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 387.
b. Explain Paul’s position as God’s servant—and how it was reminiscent of Christ’s words on the Sermon on the Mount. Galatians 1:10; Luke 6:26, 22, 23 (first half).
“The truth of God has never been popular with the world. The natural heart is ever averse to the truth. I thank God that we must renounce the love of the world, and pride of heart, and everything which tends to idolatry, in order to be followers of the Man of Calvary. Those who obey the truth will never be loved and honored by the world. From the lips of the divine Teacher, as He walked in humility among the children of men, were heard the words: Whosoever will be My disciple, let him take up his cross, and follow Me. Yes, follow our Exemplar. Was He seeking for praise and honor of men? Oh, no! Shall we then seek for honor or praise from worldlings? Those who have no love for God will not love the children of God.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 491.
4. FOUNDED UPON THE ROCK
a. How was Paul’s faith in Jesus established—and, while we may not have met Christ in a visible way as the apostle did—upon what is our faith likewise to be firmly grounded? Galatians 1:11, 12; Romans 16:25–27.
“It was through instruction received from God Himself that Paul was led to warn and admonish the Galatians in so solemn and positive a manner. He wrote, not in hesitancy and doubt, but with the assurance of settled conviction and absolute knowledge.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 386.
“The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God.
“The life thus imparted is in like manner sustained. ‘By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4) shall man live.”—Education, p. 126.
b. Why did Paul emphasize the life-changing transformation involved in his calling? Galatians 1:1, 13–16.
“In his effort to regain the confidence of his brethren in Galatia, Paul ably vindicated his position as an apostle of Christ. He declared himself to be an apostle, ‘not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.’ Not from men, but from the highest Authority in heaven, had he received his commission. And his position had been acknowledged by a general council at Jerusalem, with the decisions of which Paul had complied in all his labors among the Gentiles.
“It was not to exalt self, but to magnify the grace of God, that Paul thus presented to those who were denying his apostleship, proof that he was ‘not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles’ (2 Corinthians 11:5). Those who sought to belittle his calling and his work were fighting against Christ, whose grace and power were manifested through Paul. The apostle was forced, by the opposition of his enemies, to take a decided stand in maintaining his position and authority.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 387, 388.
5. ALONE WITH GOD
a. Explain God’s leading not long after Paul’s conversion—and what we can learn from the benefit of it. Galatians 1:17; Job 22:21.
“As Paul continued to appeal to his astonished hearers to ‘repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance’ (Acts 26:20), he ‘increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.’ But many hardened their hearts, refusing to respond to his message, and soon their astonishment at his conversion was changed into intense hatred like that which they had shown toward Jesus.
“The opposition grew so fierce that Paul was not allowed to continue his labors at Damascus. A messenger from heaven bade him leave for a time, and he ‘went into Arabia’ (Galatians 1:17), where he found a safe retreat.
“Here, in the solitude of the desert, Paul had ample opportunity for quiet study and meditation. He calmly reviewed his past experience and made sure work of repentance. He sought God with all his heart, resting not until he knew for a certainty that his repentance was accepted and his sin pardoned. He longed for the assurance that Jesus would be with him in his coming ministry. He emptied his soul of the prejudices and traditions that had hitherto shaped his life, and received instruction from the Source of truth. Jesus communed with him and established him in the faith, bestowing upon him a rich measure of wisdom and grace.
“When the mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 125, 126.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why is it important for all to know the main purpose of Christ’s mission?
2. How is the type of treatment Paul faced in Galatia often repeated today?
3. What is often the hidden motive behind criticism among God’s people?
4. Why and how did Paul vindicate his authority as an apostle of Christ?
5. How can I arrange to have a period of greater quietude alone with God?