Study of Galatians – Summary

Wb Moore is studying the book of Galatians and I thought that I might take along. There is nothing better than a good, getting to the nitty gritty, bible study. I believe that he is using the NIV (update, WB informs me that he uses the NIV for the divisions and the NASB for the text). I will use the NKJV, with a little NLT, NET, and NRSV thrown in. He has already posted his summary, so here is mine:

There is a darkness eating away at the Gentile converts to Christianity. Although Paul never mentions this cancer by name, it involves a forced acceptance of the Law of Works, which Paul finds in particular distaste as it stands against the Law of Grace. This is only letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of congregations, which tells us that Paul was not simply battling a false teacher reserved to one town, but to a doctrine being spread by other ‘apostles.’ In the first and second chapters, Paul puts to rest the notion that his gospel is the false gospel because it is his gospel what was approved by the Apostles that had walked with Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us that he had already faced a fetal instigation of these people, but was able to rebuff them because the pillars of the Church extended to him the right hand of fellowship, instead of the others. For Paul, the ‘return’ to a Messianic Judaism was to be rebuffed in all people, no matter the position, for he had found Peter too timid to eat with Gentiles, while preaching the grace of God was to all men.

After establishing his foundation as an Apostle and the endorsement given by the Church at Jerusalem – the center of Judaism – he moves on to cast a separation between the works of the flesh (the Law) and the works of the spirit (Grace). For Paul, these two systems are opposed to each other, and only one – the spiritual – is to be considered godly. He shows the Galatians, who by this time was steeping in Messianic Judaism, that we can understand by the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, that there is a child of slavery (the Law) and a child of the promise, of liberty (Grace), and we are the children of Grace. Because we are these children, we have no more use for the Law.

He finally gives instructions to believers, to lift each other up, and to keep their hearts towwards God.

The letter is especially important today when we have so many people demanding that we get back to our ‘Jewish roots’.

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46 Replies to “Study of Galatians – Summary”

  1. This is a good summary of the book of Galatians. I appreciated your point in the first paragraph that Paul was obviously battling [a] doctine(s) being spread by false apostles in numerous locations.

    Do you feel that the doctrine/practice of tithing today (especially when it’s done to avoid a curse) mirrors the issue of circumcision in Paul’s day? In other words, if tithing was being taught as necessary in the Galatian church the way circumcision was, would Paul have taken on this teaching with just as much vigor? After all, one of the same primary excuses used by tithe teachers today could have been used by circumcision teachers at the time: there are instances where this practice occurred before the Law was given through Moses…

  2. I can’t speak for Polycarp.

    However, Paul spoke out against going back to the Law as a means of being with God. He rebuked the people for turning to something other than faith in Christ alone.

    However, if we have faith, that faith should engender change in our lives, including obedience to God.

    Tithing (and any other form of obedience to God) should be an expression of the faith in God. Tithing IS something we should do, but not as a replacement for the righteousness of Christ that comes to us through faith in Christ.

  3. Polycarp and W.B. Moore,

    Thank you for your feedback. I hope I don’t hijack/haven’t hijacked this post by bringing up the issue of tithing. Yes, I think you understood what I meant, except that I don’t believe that tithing is required of us today. I believe that freewill giving is taught instead in the New Testament, and that tithing is no more an obligation today than circumcision is (or any other part of the Law of Moses, for that matter, which is not repeated in the New Testament). I believe you said as much in your summary of Galatians when you stated, “Because we are these children, we have no more use for the Law.” Galatians 3:10-14; 19-26 is especially relevant here.

    Regarding Jesus’ words to the Pharisees on tithing (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42), my view is that He was speaking to those who were still under the Law, since He had not yet gone to the Christ. As such, then, this was not a command to us that we should continue to pay a tithe. In any case, we are in agreement that tithing is not meant to keep a curse off of us, and that it is this teaching that results in a denial of the work of Christ on the cross (especially in light of Galatians 3:10-13).

    There is so much more I could say on this subject, but I lack the time right now, and as I said I hope to not hijack this post. Although I arrived at my present thinking on this subject apart from Pastor Russell Kelly, I have found his thesis/teaching on this subject to be very comprehensive and resourceful. His website is here: http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/

  4. Perhaps I should have said voluntary sacrificial giving, rather than tithing. The Old Testament shows a giving to God of about 23%, if the numbers I’ve seen are accurate. A tithe should be a starting goal. However, we should not be legalistic in an amount of giving.

    But just as all other things in the Old Testament, people end up doing things for the wrong reasons. I believe we should give, out of love. God gives to us because He loves us; we should do the same to Him for the same reason. While we are not under the law, it still points out right and wrong – what God expects from and for us in concrete terms. Some things obviously no longer apply. But other things do. The New Testament teaches many of the same things the Old Testament teaches but specificies the reason – love for God and love for our brother. Our outward lives should manifest the internal love and holiness we have.

  5. I agree, it IS a private matter between us and God. If God moves us to give, then we should. I know too many churches try to get people who are joining to commit to tithing to the church. I think the money is God’s and if He leads you to give to the church, then do so. If He leads you to give elsewhere, then do so.

  6. Polycarp – oh most certainly so. Its a shame. However, I’ve seen just as many never mention it. I happen to think we should preach/teach through the Bible. When it comes up in the Scriptures, then we should preach what the word says about it. Otherwise, we should trust God to give us what we need when we need it.

    Of course, I tend to be in a minority there. Some never want to hear it (and there are preachers more than willing to accomodate), others want to hear it so they can feel proud of themselves or judge others (and there are pastors willing to accomodate that too).

    Personally, I think God mentioned money so often because He wants us to learn to manage it better than most of us do (myself included). But He mentioned a lo9t of other things as well. Preaching and teaching needs to focus on helping us become who God wants us to be and helping us live out our faith in expressions of love and true religion. But too often it becomes about money for the church or pet peeves or trivial matters or about what we have no control over.

  7. WB, I reckon I look at a lot of things differently than most. If you do something because you have to, I would rather you do not it. The same is said with holiness, worshiping God, etc… Does these things because you want to.It’s like reading the bible, perhaps, if you read it because you have to, you rebel and get nothing from it. Read it because you want to – but then again, I am a bit odd.

  8. Polycarp,

    That sounds good, but I don’t think it follows the model of Paul. We dont always want to do what God wants, though we should. I agree we should WANT to leave sin and walk with God.l We are supposed to walk away from sin. But sin is attractive, and we dont always want to, or we have conflicting desires. Sometimes we don’t do things because we are afraid to start. Sometimes its because we dont want to leave behind something. Much of what the NT focuses on is holy living, leaving sin behind, loving one another, obeying God. Do you think this is because the people wanted to embrace holiness? I think its because they were either ignorant of what God wanted or they didn’t want to do it and were being “encouraged”.

    I think the same is true for offerings for God (be it time, effort, or money).

    From my perspective, the ideal is for us to love God, that should change us internally with little/no effort on our part so we crave/desire to be holy, to walk in faith, to give offerings to God, etc., all voluntarily. However, while that is ideal, experience shows that sometimes I just need to start (or stop, as the case may be), just because I know it is something God wants or has commanded – even if I dont want to. Then the desire comes. Sometimes the desire comes first, and then the courage to do (or not do) the thing.

  9. I have conflicting thoughts on this matter. sigh… now I have to do a study on this topic.

    I do not think doing anything simply because its a rule will help us live our faith. We have to have our hearts changed – as the man said to Jesus, “help my unbelief”. I agree our fear will not last. It will turn to hatred or apathy.

    Yes, I agree, we need to have the desire to do what God wants simply because we love Him and God wants it. And I think gifving to God is one of those things we should have in our hearts to do (I’d guess its a maturity and surrender to God thing).

    Having said all that…. here are my other thoughts on the issue:

    hmm. When I started discussing this with you, my thoughts were ‘dont do it to escape a curse’. I’ve done some reading on this, but I I have not done a complete study on it. Having said that, now I’m feeling like the more we discuss this, the more i need to do a complete study on tithing/giving.

    I hate the idea of doing something to ‘escape a curse’. And maybe that’s not the right word. Maybe its too strong a word for my personal liking. I’m not sure. I need to reflect on this more. But it does seem to me at least in Malachi, the Israelites were told they were under a curse because they robbed God and if they tithed, then He would bless their livelihood. It looks like the carrot and stick to me. By the same token, this does not mean the promise/curse is for us – I’d have to research further. I think some promises are for everyone, some for Israel, and some for believers in Christ.

    But I DO know there are certain things we are told to do in the NT, and giving is one of them. I know we are told that if we love God we will obey Him (again, motivation is important – the condition of our heart matters to God). I know God is love. But I also know He disciplines those He loves.

    sigh… I dont know if I’ll do an exhaustive study or just one deep enough to feel like i have a decent grasp of what Scripture says. time time time, where does it go…..

  10. WB,

    I know what you mean about time getting away from you, but I encourage you to go ahead and do a comprehensive study at some point on the subject of tithing/giving. I did such a study in 2006, and it was one of the most profitable things I’ve ever done. I ended up writing a 29-page term paper on the subject later that year.

    If this helps you (and anyone else) to get started, I’ll list all 17 references in the Bible which directly mention tithing, by category:

    A. Described prior to the Law of Moses in the lives of Abraham and Jacob
    1. Genesis 14:8-24
    2. Genesis 28:8-22
    B. Prescribed under Mosaic Law: three different tithes
    3. Leviticus 27:30-33
    4. Numbers 18:21-32
    5. Deuteronomy 12:5-19
    6. Deuteronomy 14:22-29
    7. Deuteronomy 26:12-15
    C. Dealt with as part of the reforms of King Hezekiah, Nehemiah, and the prophets Amos and Malachi
    8. II Chronicles 31:4-12
    9. Nehemiah 10:28-39
    10. Nehemiah 12:44
    11. Nehemiah 13:4-13
    12. Amos 4:1-5
    13. Malachi 3:5-12
    D. Spoken of in the New Testament by Jesus and the author of Hebrews
    14. Matthew 23:23
    15. Luke 11:42
    16. Luke 18:9-14
    17. Hebrews 7:1-10

    Besides taking an in-depth look at the Scripture passages above, I also looked at George Barna’s research on the subject of tithing. I discovered (for example) that 59% of American Protestant Christians believe that one must tithe in order to be in obedience to God, but that only 6% put this belief into practice. What kind of guilt are those 53% of Protestant believers needlessly under?

    For my term paper, I also looked into Church history regarding the doctrines of tithing and giving. It seemed apparent that tithing only became a widespread practice in the Church when it was decreed by Pope Adrian 1 in 787 AD. Russell Kelly (cited in one of my above posts) and even Wikipedia were notable sources, but here’s the best historical source I came across: http://prayershack.freeservers.com/tithing/. On this site, David Yeubanks has compiled more than 100 quotes on tithing from encyclopedias, dictionaries, commentaries, and other sources. It was interesting to note that among the well-known early Church fathers who clearly and explicitly opposed the practice of compulsory tithing were Clement of Rome (c95), Justin Martyr (c150), The Didache (c150-200), Irenaeus (c150-200) and Tertullian (150-220).

    Regarding the Malachi passage, which is often cited to say that those who don’t tithe are cursed and those who do tithe are blessed, I’ve come to this conclusion: God was simply restating what was already clear in Mosaic Law. The Law of Moses required the Israelites to keep many laws (of which tithing was just one) in order to receive blessings. They were automatically under the curse of the Law if they failed to keep even one of the 613 commands [one possible figure] in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:10, James 2:8-11).

    [Interestingly, when Nehemiah led the Israelites in his time back to a commitment to bring their tithes, offerings (neither of which consisted of money), and firstfruits into literal storehouses, the people “entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD [their] Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes” (Nehemiah 10:28-39). This is clearly Deuteronomy 27:26 vocabulary, as I believe Malachi 3:9 also is.]

    We are not “of the works of the Law,” and therefore we are not “under the curse.” The implication, intended or not, of placing one’s self under the curse of Malachi 3:9 for failing to tithe is that Christ’s death on the cross is regarded as not enough to redeem us from the curse of the law. Tithing is what is needed to bring us out from under the curse. To be fair, I try to give the benefit of the doubt that leaders are somehow not identifying the curse spoken of in Malachi 3:9 as the curse of the Law. If they do, and they still teach that we are under this curse if we don’t tithe, something is terribly wrong. Well, the pastor of the church where I grew up (in Canton, Ohio) did just this in his sermon on December 21st, to my shock and horror.

    In any case, sadly, I believe that the Word of Faith movement has used both greed and fear to motivate people to tithe (as they see it, certainly not as eligible Israelites once practiced tithing). In doing so, many WOF teachers have essentially denied the power of the cross. It’s for these reasons that I believe Paul’s teaching in the book of Galatians opposing mandated circumcision could easily apply to the teaching and practice of mandated tithing.

  11. If it’s OK to also post this, here is an excerpt from my term paper under the section on New Testament giving…

    The following is a brief overview of a number of passages which show the progression, patterns and principles of New Testament giving. It’s clear that the poor, needy, and widows are still a priority [as they were under the old covenant]:

    [A] Acts 2:44-45 (The earliest believers were together, had all things in common, sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all based on need.)
    [B] Acts 4:32-37 (There was great unity. No one claimed personal possessions, as they had all things in common. No one lacked. Lands and houses were sold. The proceeds were brought to the apostles, who distributed them based on need.)
    [C] Acts 6:1-4 (The number of disciples had grown. The Hellenists complained that the Hebrews were leaving their widows out of the daily distribution. Seven men were chosen to be overseers.)
    [D] Acts 11:27-30 (During a time of great famine, the disciples, “each according to his ability,” sent relief to believers in Judea. Paul and Barnabas brought the supplies to the elders.)
    [E] Acts 18:3 (Paul earned some of his salary in his trade as a tentmaker.)
    [F] Acts 20:34-35 (Paul did secular work to help support himself and his companions. He also wanted to demonstrate that “you must support the weak.”)
    [G] Romans 15:26 (Believers from Macedonia and Achaia contributed to poor saints in Jerusalem.)
    [H] I Corinthians 4:11-12 (Paul, at times, went hungry, was poorly clothed, was beaten and was homeless. He and his companions also did secular work with their own hands.)
    [I] I Corinthians 9:1-18 (Paul was being examined, and defended his apostleship. He was possibly seen as inferior to the other apostles because he was working. He quoted from Moses to show that those who serve deserve to be supported. Paul had not even used his rights, though the Lord had made a provision for “those who preach the gospel [to] live from the gospel.” He preached the gospel out of his duty to the Lord, but he had chosen to also do secular work on the side so that he could “present the gospel of Christ without charge.”)
    [J] I Corinthians 16:1-3 (Paul didn’t want to take up a collection for the Jerusalem saints in person when he came. So the Corinthian church, like the Galatian church, was to “lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper,” on the first day of the week. They had already promised to help the needy Jerusalem saints, affected by the famine.)
    [K] II Corinthians 8:1-24 (Paul did much collecting on behalf of others. He rejoiced that the Macedonian Church received the grace of God, and had given freely, willingly, and beyond their ability [cf Romans 15:26]. The Corinthian church had already taken a year just to assemble their gift, even though they were wealthy. Paul desired financial equality in the churches. Titus and another brother had been sent to collect their gift on behalf of the needy.)
    [L] II Corinthians 9:1-15 Paul announced that he would visit Corinth. Paul sent the brethren ahead to urge the Corinthian believers to have their promised gift ready before he arrived, out of “generosity and not as a grudging obligation.” Giving was to be done [1] as one purposes in his heart [2] “not grudgingly or of necessity” [3] cheerfully and [4] by God’s grace. Their service would supply the needs of the saints.)
    [M] Philippians 4:10-19 (Paul had learned to be content, whether hungry and suffering need, or full and abounding. He was grateful to the Philippian believers for often sending for his necessities. They would receive fruit in their own accounts, and Paul promised that God would supply all their needs.)
    [N] I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:7-9 (Paul and his companions labored and toiled night and day, so they wouldn’t be a burden to the believers. They did it to be an example.)
    [O] I Timothy 5:3-18 (The church was to relieve genuine widows, who had no one to take care of them. But if a widow still had believing family members, they were to take care of her. Those failing to provide for their own households had “denied the faith.” Younger widows were advised to remarry. Elders who ruled well were to be “counted worthy of double honor.”)

    Giving from the heart was not a new concept in New Testament times. In the time of Moses, Scripture records numerous instances of freewill giving (e.g. Exodus 25:2, Exodus 35:4-5, Exodus 35:21-29, Leviticus 22:29). The people’s hearts were stirred, and they gave as they were willing. On one occasion, they gave far too much! They had to be restrained from bringing anymore (Exodus 36:2-7).

    New Testament teaching is that we belong completely to God, and we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (e.g. I Corinthians 6:19-20). Everything we have belongs to God, and we are to be good stewards of all that we have temporarily been given (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48, 16:1-13, 19:11-27). Regarding the subject of giving, F.F. Bruce concludes:

    “Each Christian must come to a conscientious decision on this subject before God, and not be content to submit to the dogmatic statements of others; and it will be surprising if grace does not impel him to give a larger proportion than ever the law demanded” (David Yeubanks, 2006).

  12. Adam,

    Good stuff. What you write about free will giving is my understanding of what scripture say as well. I particularly appreciated our verses on free will giving in the Old Testament. Its my understanding that little in the New Testament is actually new – other than the mystery of Christ. The difference is the inner man was the focus of most teaching in the NT, while outward expression of the faith people were supposed to have was the focus in the Old Testament.

    It’s not just word of faith preachers who preach the need to obey God by tithing. I think that’s the wrong word. I think we need to give offerings, sacrificially and with an eager heart.

    I noticed a few verses you did not mention (or have a different summary than you):
    1 Tim 5:17-18 (elders, like other workers, deserve their wages)

    1 Cor 9:3-18 (Like priests, those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. Paul has the right to food and drink, and to support a wife, but chose to work for his living)

    2 Cor 2:17 (Paul did not peddle the gospel)

    2 Cor 11:7-9 (Paul did not charge for preaching the gospel, . Macedonian provided for his needs, like a missionary supported by a sending church).

    Hebrews 7:6 (Abraham gave a tenth before the Law was given)

    I think its evident we should give. Otherwise how would the elder get their support from the Gospel? But again, the question is motivation. God wants us to want to give. I happen to think God will discipline us for not doing as we should (Hebrews 12:6-7), but will reward us for seeking Him (Hebrews 11:6). This is NEW Testament teaching, but it sounds a lot like Old Testament teaching. I think seeking Him includes doing what He wants – obedience. But it should not be limited to a tithe, and neither should it be a requirement of an individual church. It should be something between man and God.

  13. WB,

    I never did thank you for your last response. I appreciated the additional passages you provided which touch on New Testament giving. I added them to my own list as a personal reference.

    No doubt, the NT is clear that we are to give generously with an eager heart, as you said.

    Thank you, Polycarp and WB, for the study and example outlines, etc. on the book of Galatians. Very good stuff.

  14. Adam,

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m planning on using the verses you provides as a starting point for my study on tithing. I’m sure I’ll post it once I think its complete enough for my purposes.

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