Continue to Believe the Truth
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
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Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Paul wrote this letter about 50 years after the birth of Jesus. He wrote in the Greek language. The people called Galatians lived in part of the country that we now call Turkey. After his usual greeting, ‘I pray that you will have *grace and *peace’, Paul did not continue with gentle, loving words as he always did in his other letters. He was not pleased with them.
Many people in Galatia had become Christians. Some of these people were *Jews. Before they became Christians, they had tried to obey all of the very strict laws of Moses. They had tried to please God in this way. Now some of these Christian *Jews wanted to go back to the strict laws. They wanted to *circumcise all Christian men. They said that *faith in God was not enough. In this way, they refused what Paul was teaching.
To start, Paul said three important things:
1. He said that he was a true *apostle (1:1).
2. He said that his message was the only true message (1:6-10).
3. He said that he got his message from Jesus himself (1:12).
In all his letters, Paul says that God raised Jesus from death. And he says that Jesus is alive again. This is extremely important. Paul also says that ‘all the *brothers’ agree with him and with his message (see also 1:24 and 2:9). In the Greek language, the word ‘*brothers’ can mean a group of both men and women. When Paul says ‘*brothers’, he does not mean people of his own family, but other Christians.
Paul began with a prayer for all the Christians at Galatia. He prayed that they would have *grace and *peace. People who used the Greek language spoke a lot about *grace. And people who used the *Jews’ language, Hebrew, spoke a lot about *peace. He wanted to teach both the *Gentiles (those who were not *Jews) and the *Jews something. When they obey Jesus, they are all Christians together. That is what he wanted to teach them. ‘Free from this evil world’ means free in their minds. He wanted their minds to be free from the ways of the people of the world.
Paul tells how he received the *good news in verses 11-17. He wants the Christians at Galatia to know why his message is the true *good news. There were no Christian teachers in Arabia at that time. Paul wanted to learn from God, by himself.
This was Paul’s third visit to Jerusalem. The first visit was after he had trusted in Jesus (Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18-19). The second visit was to take gifts (Acts 11:29-30; 12:25). The third one was to talk to the other *apostles (Acts 15:1-4). You can read about Paul’s fourth visit in Acts chapter 21. That was his last visit of all to Jerusalem.
Paul was very wise. He knew that troubles were coming. All the *apostles must agree together about the true *good news.
At this time, the *church leaders really believed the *good news. They could see that *circumcision does not make a person right with God. And to try to obey the laws does not make him right either.
It is not always right to agree with people. It is important to know what the Bible teaches. Then you will know what is right. And you will know what is wrong.
These people were strict about the *Jewish laws. They came from the church in Jerusalem, where James was a leader. And they persuaded Peter not to eat with the *non-Jews. Peter should have realised that God accepted these *non-Jews as Christians. And Peter too should have accepted them.
Some people think that Peter was the most important *church leader. These verses show that Peter could make serious mistakes, like all of us. Barnabas was a good Christian but he did something wrong. Christian leaders must be especially careful about their words and their actions. If Christians do wrong things, trouble is the result. Other people do the same things.
Good Christians can tell each other when they have done something wrong. Paul and Peter both loved God. They both wanted what is right. So they remained friends.
We do not have *peace with God because of our efforts. It is Jesus himself who gives us *peace. Our trust may be a weak thing. But Jesus is able to save completely all who come to God by him (Hebrews 7:25).
Paul no longer trusted in the laws to have *peace with God. Jesus put away Paul’s *sins on the cross. Now Paul trusted in what Jesus had done. He knew that no person can make himself right with God. That might make people call him a ‘*sinner’. But that would not mean that Jesus had caused him to *sin. ‘That cannot be true’, said Paul. ‘Jesus does not cause people to *sin.’
Jesus died instead of me. He died for me. I died to my own way when I trusted in him. Someone has called verse 20 ‘the whole point of the *good news’. Any honest person who can say verse 20 is a real Christian.
Here is what the Christians at Galatia had received:
• Paul, who brought the *good news (4:14).
• The *good news itself (1:9, 12).
• God had brought them into his family (4:5).
• The *Holy Spirit (3:2).
They had received all of this. Paul cannot believe that they could forget.
Some people think that we do not need the *Old Testament. But we could not understand verses 6-9 without it. God is angry with those who trust in keeping rules. We know this because the *scriptures say so. (See Deuteronomy 27:26.) This is because people cannot keep all the rules. (See Deuteronomy 31:26.) Nobody has ever obeyed all the laws (Romans 3:10). If a person does not obey one part of the laws, he is also guilty of the other parts. This shows that the person is against God (James 2:10).
Because of what Jesus did, God will not punish us. Jesus took the punishment on himself to make us free (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
We are not able to *earn our *salvation by what we do. And we are not able to *earn it by what we do not do. The laws show us that. When we see that, we are ready to go to Jesus for help.
The purpose of the laws and the rest of the *Old Testament was to lead us to Jesus (Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:16). When we are right with God, we can show our love for God. God’s *Holy Spirit (verse 14) helps us to love God. And he helps us to obey God.
Moses stood between God and the *Jewish people. God used *angels to give his laws to Moses. (See Hebrews 2:2; Acts 7:53; Deuteronomy 5:5.)
*Baptism is an important action. People who want *baptism should be ready to live to please Jesus. Paul writes more about *baptism in Romans 6:1-8.
This verse teaches that every Christian person is in God’s family. God is a loving Father, who cares for each Christian. He appreciates men and women, servants and rulers, and people from all countries. God does not prefer one person to another person. Things like colour of skin and wealth can divide people. In Christ, they are no longer important to us. He wants us to live at *peace with each other (John 17:20-23).
Verse 4 says ‘the right time came…’
• Never forget that God knows all things. We see and know only a little. He knows the right time to act in world affairs and in personal affairs.
• There was one world language, Greek, at the time of Jesus and his followers. So language was not a problem.
• There was one world government, from Rome. The *Roman rulers had good roads to all places. It was easy to go from place to place.
• The *Roman rulers kept the *peace everywhere, so wars did not prevent Christians from travelling with the *good news.
Romans 8:9 makes it clear that if we are Christians, the *Holy Spirit lives in us. ‘Abba’ means ‘Daddy’.
The *scriptures often tell about the false gods of some of the *Jews (Jeremiah 1:16). The *non-Jews also had false gods (Acts 17:23). Even ‘good’ people who did not know God made a false ‘god’ of the rules of this world (Colossians 2:20-22). People were ready to blame other people because they did not obey the rules (Colossians 2:16-17).
Paul’s great fear for the Christians at Galatia should have warned them about their danger. Paul wanted:
• his *good news to bring people to Christ;
• his Christians to grow in *faith and in love;
• his new Christians never to go back to their old ways.
Paul wanted the new Christians to be like him. He knows why he can never go back to his old ways. He wants them to be as sure as he is about laws and *grace.
Many people think that Paul had an eye disease (Galatians 6:11; Galatians 4:15). Or perhaps he was referring to some other trouble.
True Christians want other people to know Jesus. And they want them to grow in *faith and in love. You must want this too! (See Colossians 4:12.)
The *Jews said that they were the real sons of Abraham. In the *human way, they were, as Jesus taught (Luke 13:16). But Jesus said that, in their spirits, many of them were not (Matthew 3:9). See also Romans 9:1-8.
God promised Abraham a son but Abraham did not wait. Instead, the son of the slave was born. (Read Genesis 15:1-4 and Genesis 16:1-4.) But afterwards, God still allowed the free woman to have her son. (Read Genesis 18:10; 21:1-3.) So Abraham had to wait 14 years for the son that God promised. His name was Isaac.
See Isaiah 54:1. This *scripture is about the *Kingdom of God and the *Gentiles who have *faith in Jesus. Paul means that God chose the *Jews. God gave them all that they needed, ‘husband and children’. He gave them himself and the family of *Jewish children. But many *Jews did not trust Jesus.
Today, God invites the *Gentiles as well as the *Jews to trust him. The *Gentiles who trust God will now be like Abraham and Sarah. They will bring many ‘children’ to God. These ‘children’ are the people who become Christians. They become Christians when the *Gentiles tell them the *good news. So God’s people are now both *Jews and *Gentiles. Everyone who trusts in Jesus is a real Christian.
Ishmael, the son of the slave, was cruel to Isaac (Genesis 21:9). When he laughed at Isaac, he was also laughing at God’s promise to Abraham. You can read more about Abraham’s sons in Genesis 21:10-14; 25:5-6.
The Christian is free to *circumcise for health reasons. Paul is speaking about the *circumcision that the *Jewish laws ordered. The *Jews believed that this was the way to please God. The *Jews said that *circumcision was extremely important (Genesis 17:10-14). *Circumcision was a sign of the agreement between God and the *Jews. That agreement lasted until Jesus came (Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:16). Jesus brought a new agreement between God and all people everywhere (Matthew 26:27-28; Hebrews 12:24).
Paul warns three times against the *circumcision which was part of the old laws:
• ‘Christ will be of no use to you’ (verse 2).
• ‘You will no longer have power from Christ’ (verse 4).
• ‘You will be cut off from *grace’ (verse 4).
The Christian must live by *faith. This is so important that God has said it four times in *scripture (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
We may have *faith without love. We will not bring people to Jesus that way. We may have love that is only a *human love. That will not bring people to Jesus either. *Faith and love must work together.
If we make bread without *yeast, the loaf will be flat and hard. Even a little bit of *yeast affects the whole loaf. In the same way, says Paul, a little *sin can spoil many people. (See the same idea in Hebrews 12:15.)
Paul speaks very strongly here. He does so because he loves the Christians at Galatia so much. He is very angry with those who try to lead the Christians at Galatia away from Jesus.
From verse 13 to 6:10, Paul talks about a serious *heresy that came into the *church.
This *heresy disagreed with the plain message of Jesus. We now call it antinomianism. The false teachers said that Christians are free from the laws. They may do anything that they want to do. Jesus helps us to understand the laws, which God gave to us through Moses (Matthew 5:17). Paul taught that the laws are good (Romans 7:12). This is because they show us our *sin (Galatians 3:24). And they also help us to keep close to Jesus. They also help us to be kind to other people. See Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 7:12.
Christians should love God and people. And they should be humble. Christians like that show that they are obeying Jesus. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness depends on things like money, food, home, possessions and friendships. Joy comes when God forgives our *sins (Psalm 5:11). *Peace and patience come by knowing God (Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20; Isaiah 26:3). God tells us to be kind to other people (Romans 12:10). God expects us to be true to him (Luke 16:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 4:2). He is true to us (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 John 1:9). We must be gentle to other people (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13). If we do not control ourselves, we do not please God.
Paul is speaking here about the kind of *sin that takes a person by surprise. The best people can do wrong things. Paul is warning Christians to remember that, apart from the *grace of God, anyone can make a mistake (Matthew 7:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
The law of Christ is plain. It is love, love, love (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11). We should not always need the *approval of other people (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
*Human life is like when we sow seeds. And later we gather in the plants. Every day, we do things that will have results in the future. We do so in our thoughts, words and deeds. It is possible for a Christian to act from his *human *nature. See Galatians 6:7.
A person can get tired of doing good deeds when people punish him for it. People can get tired when other people do not appreciate their good deeds. Read what Paul’s advice is in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Paul may have told a helper what to write. Some people believe that Paul himself wrote the last few verses with large letters. They believe that it was in order to show the importance of the letter. Other people believe that he had weak eyes. They think that this caused him to write with large letters.
The false teachers said that they were Christians. But they wanted the *Jews to accept them.
Although Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia is short, he talks about the death of Christ 13 times. He wants us to see how important the death of Christ is. Paul also tells us to be like dead people to *sin and to the world (Romans 6:11; 7:6; 8:13).
Many Christians believe that ‘the Israel of God’ means the *church. Other Christians believe that it means *Jews who have become Christians.
People were cruel to Paul because he told the *Good News. Anybody could see his *scars. (See 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, 9; 11:23-27).
amen ~ that is right; let it be so; oh, yes!
ancestor ~ ancestors are people years ago that your parents came from.
angel ~ a servant from God who brings messages from God’s home.
apostle ~ a man that God chose to lead his *church.
approval ~ when someone agrees with what someone else has done.
baptism ~ when they put a person under water or put water on a person; it is to show that they want to obey Christ.
brothers ~ people who are part of God’s family; When Paul says ‘brothers (and sisters)’, he does not mean people of his own family, but other Christians.
church ~ a group of people who obey and believe in Jesus Christ.
circumcise/circumcision ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or man.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
earn ~ gain by work.
envious ~ to want things that other people have; or to be angry with them because they have them.
faith ~ belief in something; or belief and trust in someone; or belief and trust in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews.
good news ~ the good news that God saves people from *sin by Jesus Christ.
grace ~ a gift from God that we do not deserve or *earn.
guardian ~ a person who takes care of children instead of the natural parents.
heaven ~ the place where God and Christ are.
Hebrew ~ the language of *Jewish people; a Hebrew is a *Jewish person.
heresy ~ an opinion that is different from an accepted opinion in religion.
Holy Spirit ~ also called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ and the Comforter. He is equal with and he is joined to God and Christ. Jesus sent God’s Holy Spirit to help people.
human ~ people, not animals or other things that are alive.
Jew ~ a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children; or a person who believes what Jews believe.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to a *Jew.
Kingdom of God ~ the Kingdom of God is where God rules.
Lord ~ the name for God in the Bible; it means that he is head over all; a name that we call Jesus; we call Jesus Lord when we obey him; someone with authority.
Lord’s Supper ~ when Christians eat bread and drink wine to remember Jesus.
miracles ~ wonderful works which God does by his power.
nature ~ how someone is or their mind or their ways.
non-Jew ~ a person who is not a *Jew.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible.
peace ~ when we are friends with God and with other people.
Roman ~ a person from Rome. Rome was a powerful city; it had a strong army.
salvation ~ when God frees us from the results and power of *sin; the rescue of a person from evil things and their results in their life; God forgives us when we are sorry for our wrong ways.
scars ~ marks left when a person is hurt.
scripture ~ a book of God’s holy message.
sin/sins ~ when people do things against God or other people.
sinner ~ someone who *sins.
uncircumcision ~ when a person is not *circumcised.
will ~ a person writes a will; it says who should get his possessions after his death.
witness ~ a person who was present to see or to know something.
yeast ~ a powder that makes bread soft when you are making it.
W. Barclay ~ The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians ~ St. Andrew’s Press
J. Calvin ~ Galatians and Ephesians ~ Calvin Translation Society
M. Henry’s Commentary ~ Corinthians to Philippians ~ W. Mackenzie
Hogg and Vine ~ Epistle to the Galatians ~ Pickering and Inglis
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown ~ Bible Commentary ~ Oliphant
R. Lee ~ The Outlined Galatians ~ Pickering and Inglis
Petersen ~ The Message ~ Navpress
Weymouth ~ The New Testament in Modern Speech ~ J. Clarke and Co.
Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible
New King James, The New Testament from 26 Translations ~ Marshall, Morgan and Scott
© 1997-2005, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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