Romans and Galatians
New Testament Survey, Lesson 5 of 13
The letters to the Romans and to the Galatians are often studied together because they have the same theme—salvation from sin is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not through the Law of Moses (Romans 1:16, 17; 3:21, 22). There were false teachers called Judaizers in the early church. Judaizers were Jews who believed in Jesus as the Christ. However, they refused to accept the truth that the New Testament had replaced the Old as the law and guide for God’s people. They taught that Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved.
When Judaizers came to Antioch, Paul and Barnabas stood against their false teaching. Since these false teachers had come from Jerusalem, and also claimed the church in Jerusalem believed as they did, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to discuss the matter. They met with the inspired apostles and elders who agreed with them that Gentiles were justified by faith without keeping the Law of Moses. These inspired men wrote a letter to the churches stating this (Acts 15).
Judaizers continued to trouble the Lord’s church for many years. Because Paul strongly opposed them, they attacked him. They denied he was really an apostle. They tried to destroy his influence so they could destroy the Gospel he preached (1 Corinthians 9:1-4; 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:6; Galatians 1:6-2:21). The book of Romans was written by Paul to the church in Rome. It was written about A.D. 57 while Paul was in Corinth. He was staying in the home of Gaius, a Christian he had baptized with his own hands (Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). Paul had often planned to visit the church in Rome, but up to this time, he had not been able to do so (Romans 1:10-13). He planned to go on from Rome to Spain to preach the Gospel. He hoped the church in Rome would assist him in this work (Romans 15:23, 24).
The church in Rome had been in existence for some time when Paul wrote to them. No mention is made of Peter or of any of the other apostles being in Rome. We are not told how the church in Rome was started or by whom. We do know Jews from Rome were in Jerusalem on Pentecost. They heard Peter preach the first Gospel sermon (Acts 2:10). It is possible some of them became Christians and carried the Gospel back to Rome. Paul commended the church at Rome because their faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world (Romans 1:8).
The letter to the Romans teaches that righteousness (justification) is only possible through the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16, 17). The key to understanding Romans is the phrase unto obedience of faith which is found at the beginning and at the end of the book (Romans 1:5; 16:26). Sinners cannot be saved by works of their own devising. Neither can they be saved by the law of Moses. They can only be saved by loving, trusting obedience to the system of faith which is the Gospel of Christ.
On Paul’s first missionary journey, he and Barnabas preached in several cities of Galatia. They established churches in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. They visited these churches on their return journey and appointed elders in each of them (Acts 13:1-14:23). Paul and Silas visited these same churches at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-6). Timothy joined them when they came to Lystra. They delivered the letter to the churches from the elders and apostles at Jerusalem. In spite of this, Judaizers came among the churches and spread their false teaching. Many of the Christians were led astray by them.
At the time Paul learned of the divisive work of the Judaizers in Galatia, he was unable to visit them. He wrote to warn them the Judaizers were teaching a different Gospel which would cause them to be lost (Galatians 1:6-9). The date of Paul’s writing is not known for certain. Probably Galatians was written from Greece about 55 or 56 A.D. Paul identifies himself as the author (Galatians 1:1). The first two chapters of the book deal mainly with Paul’s life as a Christian. The style of writing is so clearly that of Paul that very few have ever denied he is the author.
In the first two chapters, Paul tells how he was chosen by God to be an apostle (Galatians 1:15-17). Further, he states the Gospel he preached was not received from man. It was revealed directly to him by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12). After he had preached this Gospel for three years, Paul went to Jerusalem where he visited Peter and James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:18, 19). Fourteen years later, Paul, Barnabas and Titus went to Jerusalem to discuss the question of circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses. James, John, Peter and other leaders in the church gave them the right hand of fellowship. This showed they approved of Paul’s work and the Gospel he preached (Galatians 2:1-10).
In the letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul argued that being circumcised in the flesh had nothing to do with salvation (Galatians 5:6). He showed that salvation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ was promised to Abraham long before the Law of Moses was given. Therefore, keeping the Law had nothing to do with man’s salvation (Galatians 3:15-18). What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19). The Law of Moses was a temporary covenant. It was added because of sin. It lasted until Christ came and His system of faith was revealed. When the Law had fulfilled its purpose, it was taken out of the way (Galatians 3:22-25; Colossians 2:14).
Some today, like the Judaizers of Paul’s day, tell us we must keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Those who leave the gospel of Christ for the Law have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12). No one can be justified by keeping the Law or any part of it such as offering animal sacrifices, keeping Jewish feast days, burning incense, using instrumental music in worship, keeping the sabbath, etc. Salvation is in Jesus Christ for all upon one basis - obedience to the faith of Christ!
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