Why Was Paul Amazed at the Apostasy in Galatia?

Text: Galatians 1:6-9; Acts 13-14

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was addressed to the churches of that region – Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. These churches were established during Paul’s first preaching journey (Acts 13-14). The Christians in this region experienced a lot of opposition to the gospel, yet this was not what caused them to slide into apostasy. Instead, their apostasy was caused by something much more subtle. This lesson examines the history of the establishment of these churches and what eventually threatened to lead them away from Christ.

Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14-52)

  • Paul began his work here in the synagogue (v. 14-16) – this was his custom (Acts 17:2-3); began with OT Scriptures and led them to Christ (v. 22-23, 32-33, 35-39)
  • Great interest in the gospel (v. 42, 44) – this led to great jealousy among the Jews (v. 45)
  • The Jews responded by contradicting Paul and blaspheming (v. 45) – they drew clear battle lines; no “you have your interpretation and I have mine”; they bitterly opposed Paul
  • The gospel spread throughout the region (v. 48-49) – but persecution drove Paul and Barnabas out (v. 50)
  • What the new disciples experienced here – open, heated debate; persecution

Iconium (Acts 14:1-7)

  • After being forced to leave Antioch, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium (Acts 13:50-51)
  • Again, they went to a synagogue to teach (v. 1) – many believed; both Jews and Greeks
  • Miracles were also being performed to confirm their words (v. 3; cf. Mark 16:20)
  • But again, the Jews turned the people against them (v. 2) – they divided the city (v. 4), conspired with the rulers to stone them (v. 5), and forced them to flee to Lystra and Derbe (v. 6)
  • What the new disciples experienced here – division; slander; threat of harm from civil authorities

Lystra (Acts 14:8-20)

  • Here, Paul performed a miracle to confirm his message (v. 8-10) – we know that some believed his message because Luke mentions disciples later (v. 20)
  • Others misinterpreted these events – tried to make Paul and Barnabas out to be gods (v. 11-18)
  • No mention of Jews from Lystra, but those from Antioch and Iconium came to cause trouble and stoned Paul (v. 19) – they were obviously very zealous in the opposition; Paul’s response was to go to Derbe (v. 20)
  • What the new disciples experienced here – false deification of the gospel preachers; trouble from outsiders

Derbe (Acts 14:21)

  • Not much is said about what happened in Derbe – preaching and many disciples were made
  • We can assume that the new disciples did not experience the same trouble as their fellow Galatians – but we can also assume that they heard about it
  • What the new disciples experienced here – uncertainly about whether the trouble seen in other cities would spread to them as well

What Threatened to Lead Them Away

  • The Christians in Galatia had endured a lot – division, controversy, persecution, uncertainty, etc.; but none of these things caused them to fall away
  • Paul returned to the troubled cities to strengthen them (Acts 14:21-23) – by preaching and appointing elders
  • Despite everything that they endured and the steps Paul took to strengthen them, they would quickly turn from Christ (Galatians 1:6)
  • Their greatest threat came from those who were changing the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)
  • This different gospel was a perverted version of the true gospel – changing truth makes the message into error (Acts 20:27, 30; 2 Peter 3:16)
  • No one has any right to preach a different/changed gospel (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 4:11) – those that were preaching a different gospel were posing a threat to the souls of the Galatian Christians

Conclusion

  • Many do not believe that matters of “doctrine” are important – they say we may have conflicting beliefs, but we are all following Christ on the road to heaven
  • The brethren in Galatia endured so much – but deviations from the divine pattern threatened them
  • This is how apostasy happens – let us hold fast to the pattern (2 Timothy 1:13; Colossians 3:17)
  • Do not allow past successes and victories to make you proud and vulnerable (Philippians 3:13-14)

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