Galatians

Who wrote the book?

Galatians has always been among those Pauline epistles least challenged on the issue of authorship. Paul wrote to the churches in southern Galatia after having a hand in starting them on his first missionary journey to Asia Minor. Paul’s close relationship to these churches helps to explain the extremely strong tone he took with them from the very beginning of the letter. Galatians exhibits Paul at his angriest, as he risked the good favor of the converts in those churches to make sure they were on the path of truth and not led off into deception. In fact, to emphasize the seriousness of his purpose, he took the pen from his scribe and wrote the end of the letter himself in large letters (Galatians 6:11).

Where are we?

Upon arriving back in Antioch from his first missionary journey after eighteen months on the road, Paul received a report that the churches he had started in Galatia had fallen into hard times—specifically, they had fallen into error. A group of Judaizers—those who sought to make living under the Mosaic Law a requirement of the Christian faith—had gained an influence in the Galatian churches. Paul wrote the book a few months before his attendance at the Jerusalem Council in AD 49, a meeting where the apostles would take up this very topic (Acts 15:1–30).

Why is Galatians so important?

In advance of the Jerusalem Council, Paul’s letter speaks wisdom and clarity into the first real controversy that plagued the church in its early years—the relationship between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. Paul’s aggressive tone shows just how important it was to him that the people embrace unity in Christ, no matter their racial distinctions. For him, this was no minor issue, as he went so far as to call the Galatians deserters of Christ, people turning from the truth toward a gospel contrary to the one they had received from Paul (Galatians 1:6–9).

What's the big idea?

When the Galatians fell away so quickly from the gospel of grace Paul had preached to them, they also made clear their disloyalty to Paul’s authority as an apostle. Therefore, Paul began the letter to the Galatians by spending two chapters defending that very issue. Only in chapter 3 did he begin to get to the heart of their error; namely, that these Galatians sought to be justified by the Mosaic Law. In contrast, Paul presented his argument that justification comes to people by faith in Jesus Christ, not by their works under the Law.

Part of the problem that confronted the Galatians came in one of the arguments made by the Judaizers. These false teachers suggested that to live by grace and in freedom meant to live a lawless and therefore degenerate life. And so in the final chapters of the letter, Paul made clear that justification—an act of grace through faith—need not result in a sinful lifestyle. Because Christians have been freed from bondage to the sinful nature, we now have the path of holiness open to us.

How do I apply this?

Unfortunately, the false teaching brought to the Galatian churches by the Judaizers has been extremely difficult to root out even today. We must walk a fine line—on one hand, we do not want to fall into the legalism that the Galatians struggled with, but on the other, we cannot just live as if anything goes. The Christian’s commitment to Christ is based on the free gift of grace through faith, but as Paul articulated at the end of Galatians, it also results in a life of walking by the Spirit.

Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your life, or do you find yourself living according to the flesh or “the compulsions of selfishness” (Galatians 5:16–26 MESSAGE)? Too often we lose ourselves at the extremes, ending in a legalistic attempt to earn our salvation or a devil-may-care attitude about our sin.

Use Paul’s words in Galatians as an encouragement to pursue a life of holiness, not in your own strength but in the knowledge of God’s empowering grace in your life.

Related Articles

30 Days to Coping with Delay

This article is designed to create a better understanding of how to cope with delay. For the next 30 days read the questions and allow them to spark deeper personal reflection and life change. Everyone is waiting for something. An answer to prayer, a change of situation, or the removal of difficulties all create stress […]

Read More

30 Days to Making Your Life Count

Ever wonder how, with all the transitions of life, you can feel significant and have your life count for something? Moses wrote Psalm 90 as he and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness waiting for the rebellious older generation to die. For that generation their purpose for leaving Egypt and hope of settling in the […]

Read More

A Reason to Smile

Joy—it makes people wonder at your secret. Yet joy is no secret to the trusting Christian. When we choose to grow closer to God, resting in His character and provision, joy spills over into our lives so that others can’t help but notice. Do you want to be a person of joy? Silly question, isn’t […]

Read More

Act Medium

The children worked long and hard on their little cardboard shack. It was to be a special spot—a clubhouse, where they could meet together, play, and have fun. Because a clubhouse has to have rules, they came up with three: Nobody act big. Nobody act small. Everybody act medium. Not bad theology! In different words, […]

Read More

Easter is Over…Now What?

A tick. What does it mean? It’s a symbol of approval indicating a bold, clear, definitive ‘Yes.’ ‘Spot on!’ ‘That’s right.’ ‘That’s good.’ It carries the authority of the one doing the ticking. They have declared that something is right or complete. Have you ever thought of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as God’s tick? […]

Read More

Eliminating the Pornography Snare

At a recent church meeting of twenty fathers and their preteen sons, the group leader asked which of them had never struggled to stop viewing pornography. Only one man raised his hand. Nearly all had experienced, or were experiencing, a desperate struggle with ensnaring temptations and sins related to viewing pornography. When asked when and […]

Read More