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Leading Question:

“How do we relate to Scripture? And what authority does it have in our lives?”

Key Passages:

  • Galatians 1:1-24 – Paul defends his apostolic authority and the divine origin of his gospel.
  • 2 Peter 3:15-16 – Paul’s writings are classified as Scripture (and difficult to understand).
  • Galatians 5:12 – Paul desires that those who insist on circumcision would castrate themselves.

Key Points and Questions:

1. Galatians and the Pauline Corpus: Although Paul does not say when he wrote his letter to the Galatians, many scholars believe it is probably the earliest of all of his New Testament letters. If this is true, Paul’s letter would have likely been written to the churches Barnabas and he found in Galatia during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28). Shortly after Paul and Barnabas left Galatia, the churches there became divided on the issue of whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised. Before this issue was decided at the Council in Jerusalem in A.D. 49 (see Acts 15), Paul responded to this issue himself via his letter to the Galatians.

A. Does the fact that Paul’s letters follow the pattern of all ancient letters say anything about how God reveals himself to us and how we should view Scripture? Or does the “humanness” of Paul’s writing process undermine the divine “authority” of his writing?

2. Paul’s Authority: Today Christians acknowledge that Paul was chosen by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles. When Paul’s ministry was first getting started, not everyone accepted Paul’s status and authority as an apostle. One of the indications of the early date of Galatians is Paul’s lengthy defensive of his apostolic authority in the opening verse. Paul’s ministry was relatively new and his authority had not been as widely recognized, as it was later.

A. Paul’s opponents in Galatia were challenging his apostolic authority. In what way is the authority of Scripture being challenged today? Is Scripture an authority in your personal life?

3. Paul’s Sharp Words: On account of the rather strong words Paul uses with his opponents (see Gal 1:6-9; 5:12), Galatians is often characterized as Paul’s most fiery letter. Paul was so upset with what his opponents were teaching that he not only skips the traditional prayer of thanksgiving that occurs in all his other letters, but he wishes they would be “accursed.”

If we believe that Paul was inspired, how do we deal with Paul’s harsh words? Should they be dismissed as an ill-advised outburst inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus? Or were they spoken under the guidance of the Spirit?

Paul was insistent that there was only one way of salvation and that that was through Jesus alone. The popular view among most people in the world today is that there are many different ways to God. What would you say to someone who is of that opinion?

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