My plan is to serialize my Bible studies for my blog readers. Here is the Introduction to my verse by verse study of Galatians.
Galatia has been called the “Gallia” of the East…
Gallia, as the Romans called it, was the region of France, Belgium, and the areas of the west bank of the Rhine river in Holland and Germany.
The people in Galatia were a mixture of Gauls and Greeks, and were a result of a great Celtic migration which invaded Macedonia about B.C. 280. They were invited by a king as mercenaries to cross over into Asia Minor to assist in local wars.
These people ultimately settled here, strengthened by fresh groups of people of the same clan from Europe. They overran the central area of what we now know as Turkey. They were great warriors, and hired themselves out as mercenary soldiers, sometimes fighting on both sides in the great battles of the times. They were at length brought under the power of Rome in B.C. 189, and Galatia became a Roman province B.C. 25.
An edited quote from UNRV: The culture was basically Greek, The Galatians remained loyal to the empire throughout its history. Contributing to this loyalty, the Celts were inundated with Hellenistic culture… Celtic culture continued to flourish as well. The people were still known to speak a Celtic tongue… as late as the 5th century AD.
Paul arrived there on his first missionary journey. We read about it in Acts 13:
Paul, (Barnabas) and those with him left Cyprus, north to Perga where John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. They continued their trip from Perga and went to Antioch, a city in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets were read, the leaders of the synagogue sent a message to Paul and Barnabas: “Brothers, if you have any message that will encourage the people, please speak.”
Paul then preached a sermon much like the one given by Stephen in Acts 7, giving the history of the Jews, finishing up with Jesus. Unlike the reaction to Stephen’s sermon (which got him stoned), Paul’s speech received a different reaction. The Jews were impressed.
Why did Paul always try to go to the Jews first? How does this principle apply to us today? How does this apply to the church today? Church first?
Resuming in Acts 13:42:
While Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, many of the Jews and Jewish converts asked them to tell more about these things on the next Sabbath…
Continuing in verse 44:
On the next Sabbath day, almost everyone in the city came to hear the word of the Lord. Seeing the crowd, the Jewish people became very jealous, contradicted Paul and slandered him. But Paul and Barnabas spoke very boldly, saying, “We must give you the first chance to hear the gospel. But you refuse to listen therefore judging yourselves unworthy of having eternal life! So we will now go to the heathen (non-Jews).
Here Paul strongly affirms what his apostolic call was—to minister to the Gentiles.
Continuing in verse 48:
When the Gentiles heard Paul say this, they were happy and glorified the message of the Lord. And all the people who were chosen to have life forever believed the message.
So the message of the Lord was spread through the whole area. But the Jewish people stirred up some of the devout women of high standing and the leaders of the city, stirring up persecution of Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of the area.
So, Paul’s ministry in Galatia started with a major conversion event and ended with his first major persecution. He continued on through lower Galatia with the rabble-rousing Jews following and causing trouble. The Lord worked powerfully throughout this time, with miracles, and graciously saving many.
These Pisidian Jews continued to cause trouble and finished off Paul’s trip through Galatia in Lystra, by stoning him to death and dragging him outside the city. However, Paul got back up (it doesn’t say whether God raised him from the dead or simply that Paul really wasn’t dead).
Persecution or prosecution?
What if you are not being persecuted but you are simply obnoxious?
Regardless, It didn’t slow Paul down at all. He went back into town, ministered to the believers there and then headed back through the cities where he had been persecuted so severely: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. They finally went back to preach in Perga, on the shore of the Mediterranean. From there they sailed back to Antioch in Syria to the believers who had sent them out on the trip
So, when Paul writes back with his severe concerns about legalistic Judaizers (who were trying to bring Gentile believers back under the law) he is writing the people God used to bless the beginnings of his apostolic ministry. To say he was concerned is probably an understatement.