The Gospel in Galatians
Paul’s letter to the Galatians has been compared to
spiritual “dynamite,” and rightly so. Except
for Romans, no other book in the Bible has sparked as much
spiritual revival and reformation. One could argue that out
of the pages of Galatians (along with Romans) Protestantism
itself was born. It was while reading Galatians that Martin
Luther first was touched with the glorious good news of
righteousness by faith. “The Epistle to the
Galatians,” he said, “is my epistle. To it I am
In turn, it was Luther’s gospel-centered writings
that, on Aldersgate Street in London on May 24, 1738,
transformed the life of John Wesley, who then spearheaded a
spiritual revival that swept not only through the British
Isles but across the entire English-speaking world.
Seventh-day Adventists also are indebted to Galatians.
Through the study of Galatians, E. J. Waggoner and A. T.
Jones helped the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 1880s
and 90s rediscover the truth of righteousness by faith.
What is it about Galatians that has made it such a
backbone of spiritual revival? Why has it been able to touch
the hearts of so many? In a manner unlike any other book in
the Bible, Galatians addresses a number of themes crucial to
the Christian soul. It is in Galatians that Paul tackles
issues such as freedom, the role of the law in salvation, our
condition in Christ, and the nature of the Spirit-led life,
as well as the age-old question, How can sinful humans be
made right before a holy and just God?
Of course, other books, such as Romans, address some of
these same questions, but Galatians is different. Not only is
it more succinct, but its rich themes are written in a
powerfully personal and impassioned pastoral tone that
can’t help but touch hearts open to the Spirit of God,
Although Paul’s letter speaks to us personally, our
understanding can be strengthened if we are aware of the
original historical situation that Paul, under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit, was addressing.
Many scholars believe that Galatians may be the earliest
of Paul’s letters, perhaps written in A.D. 49, after
the famous Jerusalem council (Acts
15). The book may be the oldest Christian document
known. As Acts and Galatians make clear, the early church
found itself in a fierce battle over the nature of salvation,
especially in the case of Gentiles. According to a group of
Jewish believers, known as Judaizers, belief in Jesus alone
was not good enough for Gentiles. Gentiles must also be
circumcised and follow the laws of Moses (Acts
15:1). It is no surprise, then, that when Paul
founded a church of Gentiles in Galatia, some of these
Judaizers traveled there to “straighten things
When word of this problem reached Paul, he reacted
fervently. Recognizing that this false gospel of salvation by
faith and works threatened to undermine the work of Christ,
Paul wrote the Galatians an impassioned defense of the
gospel. In the strongest of words, he identified this false
teaching for what it really was—legalism, pure and
This quarter’s Bible study guide invites us to
journey with the apostle Paul as he pleads with the Galatians
to remain true to Jesus. At the same time, it also gives us a
chance to reflect on our own understanding of the gospel.
It’s my sincere hope that, over the course of this
quarter, God’s Spirit will spark a spiritual revival
in our hearts as we rediscover what God has done for us in
Carl Cosaert, PhD, is an associate professor of New
Testament and early Christianity. He teaches at Walla Walla
University, College Place, Washington.
Giardina Sabbath School Study
Jerry Giardina of Pecos usually prepares a
series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He
includes all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry
has chosen the "New King James Version" of the scriptures
this quarter. It is used with permission. The study helps are linked from each lesson and
links to the whole quarter's Helps are provided here.
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Carl P. Cosaert
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Last updated on December 25, 2011