The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

by Oliver B. Greene

Copyright 1962

The Gospel Hour, Inc. Greenville, South Carolina

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The Law and The Gospel do not keep company. They do not walk together because they are not agreed. They are by nature as far apart as the East is from the West - and I do not believe you have ever heard of an "East pole" and a "West pole." The Law and the Gospel are by nature as far apart as life and death. The one (The Law) is the ministry of death. The other (The Gospel) is the ministry of life. The Law is the whip-lash of the Judgment of Almighty GOD. GOD thundered out, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die!" Sin is the transgression of GOD's Law.

The Gospel of the marvelous grace of GOD - the Good News of salvation - is a silver bell ringing out the anthem of GOD's indescribable love. The Law provides a work to be done . . . the Law says "Do." The Gospel presents a Word to be believed . . . "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word." "He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life."

The Law is the reflex of one side of the nature of Almighty GOD. The Law is the reflex of Almighty GOD's terrible holiness and His exact justice. The Law reveals what man is not. That is, man is not holy - and the holy Law of Almighty GOD shows man just how unholy he is.

Man is not righteous - and the righteous Law of GOD shows man exactly how unrighteous he really is.

Natural man is not accepted before GOD. They that are in the flesh cannot please GOD. The natural man receiveth not the things of GOD, for they are spiritually discerned and he cannot know them, he cannot receive them. The Law reveals what the natural man really is. He is a sinner, he is vile, he is ungodly, he is hopeless, he is hopelessly lost, without GOD.

The Gospel of the marvelous grace of GOD is the Good News that the Law has been honored, the claims of the Law have been met. JESUS fulfilled every jot and every tittle of the holy Law, and satisfied Almighty GOD. The Good News is that JESUS honored the Law in every minute detail of His living; that He met the penalty of the Law in His sacrificial death. At the right hand of Almighty GOD, the risen man - the Man CHRIST JESUS - is witness of GOD's eternal satisfaction concerning the finished work of His only begotten Son, who took a body that in the flesh He might do what the Law had never done (nor could ever have done in the flesh).

The Gospel brings the Good News that there is forgiveness with GOD now, since JESUS satisfied the Law of GOD. The Gospel brings the Good News that life eternal can be ours if we will only accept the gift that GOD purchased in the death of JESUS, through the shed blood of His cross.

The Gospel brings a new life . . . a new life in which and by which we may live above the Law - but only by faith, resting in the finished work of the Lord JESUS CHRIST. The Gospel brings new life, binding us to the heart of GOD in the vital union with His Son JESUS CHRIST, through the miracle of the new birth, which comes about through the incorruptible seed (The Word). If we accept the Son of GOD, and are born into the family of GOD, we will not stand before Him to be judged. We are heirs of GOD and joint-heirs with JESUS CHRIST through the miracle of the new birth.

The Gospel puts within our heart a new life, binding us to the heart of GOD in vital union with His Son, that we need no thunder of judgment to keep us right, and keep us in the straight and narrow way; but this new life so fills us with CHRIST that if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another . . . fellowship with the Son, and with the Father, and with the Spirit. We love one another as brethren and neighbors in the Lord even as we love ourselves. We love the GOD and Father of our Lord and Saviour, JESUS CHRIST, and we joy in GOD, who so loved us that He surrendered His only begotten Son that we might be saved through His shed blood.

The truest way to bring to GOD men who trust in the Law (so that His will may be righteously obeyed in their lives) is to preach to them the Gospel . . . the Good News of GOD's love; the Good News that JESUS fulfilled every jot and every tittle of the Law; the Good News that CHRIST is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one who believes; the Good News that " . . . what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, GOD sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" that we might become the righteousness of the Law in JESUS - but ONLY in JESUS. We need to preach the Love of GOD to these men.

We will never be able to help those who are led about by divers doctrines by quarreling or fussing with them concerning their religion. JESUS said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." He was signifying the death He would die; but if we will lift Him up in our daily living, in our testimony, in our walk and in our talk, we will prove to sinners and to deceived religionists that it is not commandments, rituals, or laws - but the gift of GOD - that saves and keeps men out of hell.

"By the deeds of the Law there shall no flesh be justified . . . " (Romans 3:20). "Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law" (Romans 3:28). "That no flesh should glory in His presence . . . Christ Jesus who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:29-31).

- O. B. G.


Great Bible teachers of the past have called this Epistle "Paul's Crucifixion Epistle," and "Paul's Explosive Epistle." One outstanding Bible teacher said, "Every sentence in it is a thunderbolt." Another great man of GOD said, "Every word in Galatians is a stick of dynamite." Martin Luther testified, "Galatians is my Epistle. I am married to Galatians."

Certainly the book of Galatians was the pebble from the brook, with which (like David) Luther went forth to meet a giant . . . not a giant like unto David's Goliath, but a much more deadly giant - the Papal giant. Like David, Luther came out victorious. With the pebble of Galatians, he smote the Papal giant in the forehead!

Without a doubt, the Epistle to the Galatians was used of GOD more than any other portion of the Bible, to bring about the Lutheran Reformation and the great stirring among the people of GOD.

Galatia was a Roman province. It included Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, all of which cities were visited by Paul, and in them he ministered on his first great missionary journey. You will find the record in Acts 13 and 14. Please read these two chapters carefully. Time and space will not permit me to give you the text here.

In Acts 13:19 we have the account of the stoning of the Apostle Paul at Lystra. (There is strong evidence that Paul actually died . . . was stoned to death . . . and a great miracle was performed . . . he was raised from the dead.) But whether or not he was actually killed, a great miracle was performed. After Paul had been stoned and dragged outside of the city for dead, while his disciples stood round him mourning his death, "HE ROSE UP, AND CAME INTO THE CITY: AND THE NEXT DAY HE DEPARTED WITH BARNABAS TO DERBE" (Acts 14:19-20).

Except for the miraculous power of Almighty GOD, it would have been impossible for a man to rise up and walk in such a short time after the stoning Paul received. Had it not been for the marvelous grace of GOD, Paul would not have gone immediately back into the city where he had been stoned, and from which he had just been dragged - supposedly a dead man!

Before Paul was stoned in the city of Lystra, he and Barnabas had actually been set up as gods, and the people worshipped them. Although the stoning was done by "certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium," the people in the city of Lystra were themselves persuaded to join these ungodly men in stoning Paul. However, the record tells us that Paul was permitted to remain in Lystra the night after the stoning, without further harm or disturbance. It is possible that the people were persuaded that there was something supernatural, something unusual, something extraordinary about this strange little man, Paul.

The city of Galatia was the home of the legend of Baucis and Philemon. According to the legend, the gods Jupiter and Mercury, traveling in disguise, visited Baucis and Philemon, and had given them the desires of their hearts. Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra, and GOD used them in the healing of the impotent man, "being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked."

The people supposed that the gods had come again to Lystra; therefore they lifted up their voices and cried out:

"The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people crying out, saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them" (Acts 14:8-18).

As I have already pointed out, it certainly did not take long (nor did it take very much) to turn these fickle, unstable, wishy-washy Galatians from an attitude of worship to one of hostility and brutal murder.

In Galatians 4:13 we read, "Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first." This "infirmity of the flesh" may have been the result of Paul's experience at Lystra, which could have so disabled him that he was hindered from going on in his scheduled journeys and missionary endeavors; therefore, he preached the gospel to the Galatians instead. It could be that the stoning of Paul was a great blessing in disguise. It could be that this was GOD's way of giving to the church the marvelous book of Galatians.

Paul tells us in II Corinthians 12:1-10 that he knew a man (whether the man was in the body or out of the body he did not know) but such a man was caught up into the Third Heaven, into Paradise, and saw and heard things that were unlawful to tell. Since Bible authorities believe that II Corinthians was written about A. D. 60, it could be that Paul was referring to himself and his experience at Lystra when he was stoned and dragged outside the city for dead. He states "above fourteen years ago," and that would place the experience at the time of his stoning at Lystra. Personally, I believe he was referring to this experience; I believe Paul was dead; I believe they killed him, and his spirit ascended into Paradise. I believe the prayers of the saints, the faith of the saints, brought Paul's spirit back to his body, and he was literally raised from the dead!

In this marvelous testimony in II Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul speaks of a "third Heaven... Paradise," and of the wonderful revelations he received there - revelations which were unlawful to make known. He said, "Lest I should be exalted above measure . . . there was given to me a thorn in the flesh."

He prayed three times that this thorn in the flesh might be removed, but GOD did not see fit to answer his prayer; but He assured Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul responded to this wonderful revelation by saying, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:7-10).

Regardless of where Paul preached, he had one message: "JESUS CHRIST - crucified, buried, risen, coming again!" He preached the Gospel to the Galatians. He went throughout the province of Galatia, preaching the Gospel of the marvelous grace of GOD . . . salvation by grace, through faith, plus nothing! Many believed and were saved. Later, Paul addressed these believers as "the churches of Galatia," referring to the local assemblies which had been organized by the believers in the province of Galatia.

However, false teachers followed Paul, preaching a double error, double heresy, and because of this Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians.

These false teachers preached that the way of salvation for the sinner is partly by faith in the grace of GOD, and partly by works and obedience to the Law of Moses.

In the second place, these false teachers taught that the way a saved person is kept saved and finally perfected in the Lord and glorified, is by means of his own good works, good living, and obedience to the Law of Moses. That is, they preached that we are saved by grace, but keep our salvation by keeping the Law of Moses. Thus, the double error.

Paul answered these false teachers by proving salvation is by grace, through faith in the finished work of the Lamb of GOD - plus nothing. He showed to the Galatians that salvation had been going on for hundreds of years before Moses was born, before the Law of Moses ever came into existence. Paul preached that the way of salvation was then as it is now - as it always has been and always will be: through faith alone, apart from works or the keeping of the Law. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified . . ." (Romans 3:20a).

In Galatians, Paul shows that the Law of Moses has no part in keeping a believer saved; nor does the Law of Moses have any part in the believer's final perfection and glorification. A saved person is kept saved by the "power of God" who dwells within us, and not by anything he or she may do.

The HOLY GHOST of GOD, the Third Person of the Trinity, abides in the bosom of every believer. He draws us to CHRIST, He "borns" us into the body of CHRIST, He seals us until the day of redemption, He leads us in paths of right living - and in the sweet bye-and-bye He will quicken our mortal bodies and we will have a glorious body like unto the body of the Lord JESUS after His resurrection. To the Galatians, Paul preached that it is GOD who saves us, that it is GOD who keeps us - and that GOD alone can keep us. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

While all Scripture is inspired and is profitable to us (II Timothy 3:16) it would be utterly impossible for me to overemphasize the importance of the Epistle to the Galatians. This Epistle was probably written A. D. 60, during the third visit of Paul to the city of Corinth. It had come to Paul's knowledge that Galatians who were not Greeks, but who were Gauls - "a stream from the torrent of barbarians which poured into Greece in the third century before Christ" - had become prey of the Jewish legalizers. These Judaizing missionaries from Palestine were the false teachers who preached a mixture of Law and Grace for salvation - and for the keeping of salvation.

According to Dr. Scofield, the theme of Galatians is "the vindication of the Gospel of the grace of GOD from any admixture of law-conditions, which qualify or destroy its character of pure grace."

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