I'm awful with directions. Ask me which way is north, and I'll probably point toward the sky. My wife however, is a regular Daniel Boone - or Danielle Boone. More than once she has plotted our way out of one of my shortcuts. I do know that way finding points are important when you're lost. When approaching a particular passage of Scripture, the acrostic P-A-T-H-S provides way finding points to help you understand the Bible. Let's use P.A.T.H.S. to help us understand Galatians.
P - Place
What place does this text or book have in redemptive history?
Redemptive history, without trying to sound sarcastic, is the history of redemption. Redemption is the story of God rescuing His people from the curse. The curse is the collective work and effects of sin in the world. Redemptive history is the beautiful picture of God pursuing, rescuing, and transforming His people.
Galatians falls in the New Testament. The Old Testament can be summarized as "Promises made by God." The New Testament can be summarized as "Promised kept by God in Jesus." Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promises, and the books of the New Testament detail how God has fulfilled his promise of redemption in the life, death, burial, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus. Galatians is a letter to the church at Galatia. Jesus has already lived a perfect life on our behalf, died the death that we deserve, and he rose from the dead giving us victory over sin, sickness, and death. Christ has yet to come again to bring us into glory.
A - Author
Who is writing this particular text or book?
Paul is the writer of the book of Galatians. Like many in the church of Galatia, Paul is of Jewish origin. In fact, Paul was like a super Jew. In Philippians 3, Paul even calls himself a "Hebrew of Hebrews." In general, a Hebrew is a Jewish person. As a Hebrew, Paul knows that it's like to live and think as a Jewish person. He understands the thought processes of the Galatians, and the Lord uses Paul intentionally to pen the words of Scripture.
T - Theme
What is/are the theme(s) of this text or book?
Themes in Scripture are important because they help us navigate through passages that are difficult to understand. The three most important rules in interpreting Scripture are context, context, and context. By surveying the commonalities in the text, we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.
First, false teaches have visited the church in Galatia teaching them that new believers must first become Jewish before becoming a real Christian and participating in the church. Second, and subsequently, the church has become divided over this theological issue. Third, and most importantly, we see the theme of the importance of the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel in salvation. In other words, we are justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.
Faith alone - only by our faith can we be saved. We cannot be saved by good deeds, mere church attendance, sacraments, or avoiding terrible sins.
Christ alone - Jesus is the only one who can save. Good intention of faith in someone or something other than Jesus cannot save us.
Grace alone - God gives us salvation not because of what we have done, but by what Christ has done for us. We do not deserve salvation, but God gives it to us in grace.
H - Hearer
Who is the hearer in this particular text or book?
The Galatian church is comprised of both Jew and non-Jew. The Galatian church had a large number of people who had come to faith in Christ from a non-Jewish background.
S - Sort
What sort of writing is this text or book?
Galatians is a letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul's letters meant to encourage, equip, and correct the churches theology or practice of their Christian faith.
In March and April of this year, I preached through the book of Galatians and asked some of the Northside men to help me put out a daily blog post of the wisdom we learned from God as we read. The archives of that Galatians-specific blog are below, starting with this introduction.