Galatians: Freedom From the Law

galatians

The book of Galatians

Galatians is the only letter Paul specifically addressed to a group of churches. Galatia was not a city, but a region of Asia Minor, which included many towns. Its name originated in the third century B.C. when a tribe of people from Gaul migrated to the area. In the first century A.D., the term “Galatia” was used geographically to denote the north-central region of Asia Minor, where the Gauls had settled, and politically to designate the Roman province in south-central Asia Minor

In response to attacks from false teachers, Paul wrote to defend his apostleship and to defend the authority of the gospel. The Galatians were beginning to turn from faith to legalism. The struggle between the gospel and legalism is still a crisis. Many today would have us return to trying to earn God’s favor through following rituals or obeying a set of rules. As Christians, we are not boxed in but set free. To preserve our freedom, we must stay close to Christ and resist any who promote subtle ways of trying to earn our salvation.

This epistle shows that the believer is no longer under the law but is saved by faith alone. Galatians is the Christian’s Declaration of Independence.

Writer of Galatians

Written by Paul, “an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead).” No epistle in the New Testament has better claim to come from Paul than does Galatians. The epistle bears his name (1:1), tells his story (1:11-2:14), and expounds the truth that occupied his life – justification by faith in Jesus Christ (2:16).

Date Written

About A.D. 48, during the time described at the end of Acts 14 and beginning of Acts 15, after Paul’s first missionary journey. Written from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A.D. 48/49).

The main indicator is the lack of reference to the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Although this is an argument from silence, many commentators have regarded this as a “deafening silence.” It would have been enormously helpful to Paul’s argument if he could have mentioned the decision of the council that Gentiles should not be circumcised: this, after all, appears to be a major point of contention between Paul and the false teachers influencing the Galatians. Since the council took place in A.D. 48/49, and Paul evangelized South Galatia in A.D. 47/48, some time around A.D. 48 is a plausible date for the composition of Galatians.

To Whom Written

To “the ekklesia of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2) that he had visited on his first missionary journey to the southern portion of the province of Galatia in Asia that included the towns of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.

Historical Setting of Galatians

After Paul evangelized the churches of Galatia, he received disturbing news that they were falling away from the gospel he had taught them. Certain religious activists had visited Galatia after Paul’s departure, persuading the Christians there that the gospel presented by Paul was insufficient for salvation.

Theological Contribution

The gospel that Paul had delivered to the Galatians was not his own, nor was he taught it; but it came “through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Those who presumed to change it were meddling with the very plan of God: that Jews and Gentiles are justified before God by faith alone.

Purpose of Galatians

The purpose of the book of Galatians was to address the leadership in Galatia regarding those who were quickly turning away from the gospel Paul had taught them by the Holy Spirit to a new gospel, spread among them by false teachers. These were urging the “Greeks” (Greek-speaking ancestral Jews not adhering to a Jewish lifestyle) among them to circumcise themselves and start keeping the law. Paul wrote to remind them of the gospel he had proclaimed and the grace in which they believed.

The initial purpose for Paul writing his pre-Acts 28 epistles, beginning with Galatians, was to provide God’s message for the believers living during the Acts period. Paul backed up his ministry to each of the places he went in the Acts period with a letter that followed his visit (with the exception of Rome, where the letter preceded his ministry). These letters were written first and foremost to help the people at that time.

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.


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