Galatians: overview and 1:1-12

Below are the two parts of my sermon for All Saints Ealing (London) this Sunday. We’re starting a series of sermons looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, so the first part provides an overview of the letter (13 mins) and the second looks in more detail at the opening twelve verses (10 mins). I’d welcome comments and feedback.


8 Responses

  1. Hi Steve,

    I like your summary of Gal 1:1-12, but I think you make the common mistake of assuming that the agitators were appealing to the authority of the Jerusalem apostles, against that of Paul. Have you read my recent article on the background to Galatians (Biblica 2018)? In it I argue that the agitators were saying “You should be circumcised because Paul would approve, for he circumcised Timothy. Sure, he still delivered the Jerusalem decree to you, but he did so only to please the Jerusalem church leader, for he has always been ambitious for advancement. If he argues against circumcision to you, he is just trying to please the Jerusalem apostles”. That is why Paul distances himself form the pillars in Galatians. It is not because they disagreed, but because they agreed. In 1:10 Paul is saying that he is not a pleaser of the Jerusalem apostles. Acts gets it right: Paul and the Pillars were in agreement that circumcision was not needed (for Gentiles). Agitators had misrepresented the views of the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 15:24), and now they are misrepresenting Paul (deliberately or otherwise).

    Placing Galatians before the Jerusalem decree creates problems, such as a chronological strain. Paul fails to appeal to the Jerusalem decree because it was not a “trump card” at all. Mentioning it would have played into the agitators’ view that “Paul speaks against circumcision, not out of a sincere conviction, but merely because he wants to be a loyal messenger of the Jerusalem leaders, to advance himself within their ranks”.

    • Thanks Richard. You’ll have seen that I share the minority’s view that Galatians is pre-Acts 15. I find that the least bad fit of Acts with Galatians, with Bruce, Bauckham, Dick Longenecker, Marshall, Wright and others. So you can see from that why I don’t think the circumcision of Timothy is relevant, since it hadn’t yet happened. This was for my church, so it was neither necessary nor helpful to go into all the ins and outs of the scholarly debates, of course.

      • Yes, I understand the advantages that the pre-Acts 15 view possesses over the conventional post-Acts 15 view of other scholars. However, I am offering a third view that achieves the advantages of both schools, without the disadvantages of either.
        Have you read my article?

  2. Steve, Galatians is a book I plan to preach in the near future so I was keen to see your approach. Your introduction and overview really sets things up well. I also plan to borrow your brilliant Third Man illustration. The only constructive criticism I would mention is it would have been helpful if you had read the Gal. 1:1–12 text for us. Thanks so much for posting this!

  3. Thanks so much for this Steve, enlightening and powerful. Such a fabulous example of a sermon steeped in excellent scholarship. Your introductory background was brilliant. In part two, I particularly appreciated how you brought out the communal nature of Gospel message that Paul is preaching; the freedom to be God’s children and to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Thanks Emma! Yes, I’m sure the corporate dimension of the Christian life is central in Paul’s thinking.

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