Galatians

Galatians

Γαλάτες

Reading 0,22 - 6 Chapters - 149 verses - 3,098 words

Vital Statistics

Author

The opening verse identifies the author of Galatians as the apostle Paul. Apart from a few 19th-century Interpreters, no one has seriously questioned his authorship.

Date and Destination

The date of Galatians depends to a great extent on the destination of the letter.There are two main views:

1. The North Galatian theory. This older view holds that the letter was addressed to churches dated in north-central Asia Minor (Pessinus, Ancyra and Tavium), where the Gauls had settled when they invaded the area in the third century B.C. It is held that Paul visited this area his second missionary journey; through Acts contains no reference to such a visit. Galatians, it is maintained, was written between AD. 53 and 57 from Ephesus or Macedonia.

2. The South Galatian theory. According to this view, Galatians was written to churches in the southern area of the Roman Province of Galatia (Antioch, lconium, Lystra and Derbe) that Paul had founded on his first missionary journey. Some believe that Galatians was written from Syrian Antioch in 48-49 after Paul's first journey and before the Jerusalem council meeting (Ac 15). Others say that Galatians was written in Syrian Antioch or Corinth between 51 and 53.

Occasion and Purpose

Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed, among other things, that a number of the ceremonial practices of the OT were still binding on the NT church. Following Paul's successful campaign in Galatia, they insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity abide by certain OT rites, especially circumcision. They may have been motivated by a desire to avoid the persecution of Zealot Jews who objected to their fraternizing with Gentiles (see 6:12). The Judaizers argued that Paul was not an authentic apostle and that out of a desire to make the message more appealing to Gentiles he had removed from the gospel certain legal requirements.

Paul responded by clearly establishing his apostolic authority and thereby substantiating the gospel he preached. By introducing additional requirements for justification (e.g., works of the law) his adversaries had perverted the gospel of grace and, unless prevented, would bring Paul's converts into the bondage of legalism. It is by grace through faith alone that people are justified, and it is by faith alone that they are to live out their new life in the freedom of the Spirit.

Theological Teaching

Galatians stands as an eloquent and vigorous apologetic for the essential NT truth that people are y justified by faith in Jesus Christ—by nothing less and nothing more—and that the are sanctified not by legalistic works but by the obedience that comes from faith in God's work for them, in them and through them by the grace and power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It was the rediscovery of the basic message of Galatians (and Romans) that brought about the Protestant Reformation. Galatians is often referred to as "Luther's book," because Martin Luther relied so strongly on this letter in all his preaching, teaching and writing against the prevailing theology of his day. It is also referred to as the "Magna Carta of Christian LIberty." A key verse is 2:16.

How to read Galatians

People who care about nutrition often read the labels before buying packaged foods. Why? To check for additives and ingredients that may be harmful. In a similar way, Galatians describes the toxic effect of mixing legalism and human works into the simple gospel. This book offers a spiritual health check—a clear explanation of what it means to be saved by faith.

The usual format of a common first-century letter follows a different pattern from what we are accustomed to today. The expected literary flow would begin by stating who the letter was from and to whom it was directed (like an email header). Then this would be followed by a brief greeting and a prayer of blessing or thanksgiving before proceeding to the main body of the correspondence. But this was no normal letter. After the expected cross-cultural greeting (“grace” for Gentiles and “peace” for Jews—the normal terms used by Greek-speakers and Hebrew-speakers; Gal 1:3), Paul forgoes the prayer of blessing. Instead he curses his readers! Twice! (see Gal 1:6-10). Wow! Now he had their attention! Does he have yours? He didn’t care about literary conventions. He wanted to rescue his beloved Galatians from the danger of following a false gospel.

Paul proceeds with a passionate and dramatic retelling of his own encounter with Christ. He vehemently shares ministry highlights that establish his credentials as an apostle. His own experience of how Jesus changed his life is what has equipped him to be a defender of the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Next he unpacks a number of Old Testament characters to illustrate that the gospel he proclaims is in keeping with God’s purposes ever since the days of Abraham! If this is true then there is no more room for bondage to old legalistic religious systems. He practically shouts, “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1). He then explains the practical implications of the gospel upon a life set free by grace and lived out under the control of the Holy Spirit. This life is characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

Galatians will take you back to the basics—what the gospel is, how you receive it, and how you can apply it in your daily life. At times, Paul gets downright feisty, even resorting to sarcasm, to grab the Galatians’ attention and win them back to a gospel of liberty. May his passion jolt you back into the shocking news of just how free we are in Christ!

Galatians Interpretive Challenges

    1. First, Paul describes a visit to Jerusalem and a subsequent meeting with Peter, James, and John (2:1-10). There is a question to be resolved in that text, as to whether that was his visit to the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15), or his earlier visit bringing famine relief to the Jerusalem church (Ac 11:27-30).

    2. Second, those who teach baptismal regeneration (the false doctrine that baptism is necessary for salvation) support their view from 3:27.

    3. Third, others have used this epistle to support their attacks on the biblical roles of men and women, claiming that the spiritual equality taught in 3:28 is compatible with the traditional concept of authority and submission.

    4. Fourth, those who reject the doctrine of eternal security argue that the phrase “you have fallen away from grace” (5:4) describes salvation.

    5. Fifth, there is disagreement shether Paul’s statement “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand” refers to the entire letter, or merely the concluding verses.

    6. Finally, many claim that Paul erased the line between Israel and the church when he identified the church as the “Israel of God” (6:16).

Outline

Galatians Horizontal

God's character in Galatians

  1. God is merciful - 6:16

  2. God is powerful - 2:8

  3. God is a promise keeper - 3:16-19, 21, 22, 29; 4:4

Christ in Galatians

The book of Galatians deals with the freedom that Christ gives to believers. The Galatians were tempted by Jewish legalists to trade away that freedom and return to slavery under the law (2:4). Paul's letter urges believers to "not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" but to hold to their position of liberty in Jesus Christ (5:1).

Notes