I would like to ask you about the book of Galatians and Paul. I was reading this book for one of my Bible studies. I had not done so before in-depth, only certain verses. As I was studying and reading, it seemed to me that what Paul was saying here was to give us an understanding of the difference between following the Old Law and why we should accept the New Law, under God's command of course. I think what I am asking you: is this what the message of Galatians is, mostly anyway, to show us why we are under the New Testament now? Nearly the whole book of Galatians seems to be pointing in this direction. But, I think I missed something here. I'm not sure I understand it fully.
Also, in Galatians 2:2, he talks about running or had run in vain. Would you please explain this?
And in verse 4-6, he talks about 'false brethren' who sought them out to bring them into bondage. Is this an example, from Paul's own experiences, of the persecution suffered by the Christians then? Was Paul the target of this persecution, or did it include all those at that congregation?
And also, it seems that Paul was very intelligent, highly educated, and after becoming a Christian, suffered a great deal. Do you know how long Paul preached? In Galatians 1:18, he says after 3 years he went to Jerusalem. In Galatians 2:1, he says 'after fourteen years, he went again to Jerusalem'. But I can't figure out just how long he was able to maintain his ministry.
And then, in Galatians 6:11, what is the significance of his writing in such big letters?
Lastly, in Galatians 6:17, he talks about bearing on his body, the marks of Jesus. Is this a reference to the beatings he suffered?
I apologize for asking so much, but I don't want to forget what my questions were, so I just asked them all at one time. Thank you.
Your summary of the book of Galatians is good. The churches in Galatia, what we now call northern Asia Minor, were composed of Christians from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. This caused problems as some tried to make Christianity into a sect of Judaism. The letter to the Galatians addresses many of those problems. Galatians 5:1 is considered to be the key or central verse to the letter, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."
"And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain" (Galatians 2:2).
Paul went to speak to leading members in the church at Jerusalem about his work among the Gentiles. "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question" (Acts 15:1-2). He feared that the Judaizing teachers, who were coming from Jerusalem, were undermining his work and he was concerned that if the leaders in Jerusalem were behind them or supporting this false doctrine then all his efforts would be worthless. The destruction would go faster than the building up.
"And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But from those who seemed to be something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me" (Galatians 2:4-6).
He is not talking about persecutions directly, but his battles against those trying to spread false doctrine. As many false teachers do, they had spread their doctrine in a quiet fashion, drumming up support with the view of coming out openly after they felt they had enough backing. But Paul realized what was happening and stated that following their beliefs would bind people under the Old Law which Christ had died to set us free from.
Paul preached for about 30 years. There is an interesting timeline at http://apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/timeline_01.htm that you can browse. In Galatians, Paul is stating that he had made two trips to Jerusalem from the time he was converted to the time Galatians was written. The first occurred about three years after his conversion and the second one happened fourteen years after his conversion.
"See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!" (Galatians 6:11).
Paul didn't write most of his letters personally. Instead, he dictated them and someone else served as the scribe (Romans 16:22). Paul is stating that either this letter was personally penned by him or that he is writing this section of the letter personally and they can tell because of his poor handwriting (see also I Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18). It was a personal touch to let the Galatians know how much they meant to him.
"From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17).
Yes, Paul here is referring to the scars he had gained while in service to Jesus (II Corinthians 11:23-25).