Monday, April 04, 2011

Galatians Part 1: Background and Outline

Rembrandt's "Apostle Paul"

Some time ago I did a study of Galatians and wrote my own notes on it. The notes are not in detail, but they are notes nonetheless!

I will be sharing those notes with you over several weeks on Mondays.


The author of the epistle of Galatians is the apostle Paul (1:1). No serious scholar questions the Pauline authorship of Galatians.

This epistle was directed at the “churches of Galatia.” (1:2). However, the epistle to the Galatians could have been written to one of two groups in the province of Galatia. There are two theories as to which Galatian group the letter was aimed at.

  1. The North Galatian Theory.
    If this view is correct, Paul probably wrote the letter after he passed through Galatia and Phrygia (Ac 18:23) during his third missionary journey. Paul could have written this epistle during his two-year stay in Ephesus (Ac 19) or perhaps as he was passing through Macedonia on his way to Greece at the end of the third missionary journey. This means, if all the above is correct, that Galatians was probably written around a.d. 53 to 57. This would put the writing of Galatians in the same time period as 2 Corinthians, Romans and Philippians. These letters share some common concerns. This letter was probably aimed at churches located in north-central Asia Minor, around Pessinus, Ancyra, Tavium). The Gauls settled here after they invaded the area in the third century B.C.
  2. The South Galatian Theory.
    The letter was written to the southern area of Galatia with cities such as Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Paul founded churches in these cities on his first missionary journey. If he did write to southern Galatia, he probably wrote to them early in his career. It could have been written soon after the time of the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15; Gal 2:11-14). The date therefore could have been as early as A.D. 49. This could make this epistle to be the earliest of Paul’s epistles in existence today.

Paul writes in the first chapter of his amazement that the Galatians were deserting God, who called them by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel (1:6). In fact, he explains that this different gospel is not another gospel but a distortion (1:7-9) by some who are disturbing the Galatians. These Judaizers agitated the Galatians in two ways. They preached a false gospel to the Galatians (1:6-7; 4:10) and  attacked Paul personally trying to get the Galatians to side with them (4:17). There are basically four  things that the Judaizers taught. First, they preached that one needed to be circumcised in order to be  saved (6:12). This, in simple terms, meant that they taught salvation by good works. In effect, one had  to follow the Law in order to be saved. Second, they taught that one had to be a member of the nation  of Israel to be accepted (Mt 3:9). Third, they included in their teachings that it was very advantageous  to occupy an ecclesiastical position in the religious system of Israel. Fourth, a righteousness  acceptable with God was only possible by faithfully keeping the Law (Rom 9:30-10:3). Naturally, the  Galatians listened to these rumours and it affected them. Since they had already started deserting the   true gospel, Paul had to respond. The epistle to the Galatians is the result.

Paul attempts in Galatians to persuade them that no Gentile needs to accept the Jewish Law in order to  belong to God’s people. Entrance into the community of faith is by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is very adamant that any gospel that adds the Law to it in any form is a cursed gospel (1:8-9).

In order for Paul to be persuasive, he shows that the rumours spread by the Judaizers about himself are untrue, and he continues to show them his true calling as an apostle (1:10-2:14). Once this is dead, Paul moves on to defend the gospel against the false teachers (2:15-6:16).

Paul shows that it is by faith alone that we are justified (2:15) and that anyone who wishes to follow the Law is cursed (3:10). In this he shows the freedom in the gospel. Christ redeemed us from the  curse of the Law (3:13). There is no need for any Christian to walk under any curse, since Christ has  redeemed us from the curse. Since Christ and faith have come, the Law is no longer our tutor  (3:23-25).

B. Galatians—Key Thought

Galatians 2:16 – We are justified by faith in
Christ and not by the works of the Law!

C. Galatians—Outline

A Defence of the Gospel apart
from the Law

I Introduction 1:1-2
II Reasons for writing 1:3-9
A Christ gave Himself for us 1:3-5
B Gospel being perverted 1:6-9
III Paul defends his apostleship 1:10-2:14
A God’s approval is supreme 1:10
B Paul’s authority from God 1:11-2:14
1 Called by Christ 1:11-12
2 Life in Judaism 1:13-14
3 Paul’s salvation 1:15-16
4 Paul’s visit to Jerusalem and beyond 1:17-24
5 Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem 2:1-10
6 Paul rebukes Peter 2:11-14
IV Paul defends the gospel 2:15-6:16
A Justification by faith
above the Law
1 The works of the Law cannot justify the flesh 2:15-21
2 Spirit comes by faith 3:1-5
3 Abraham’s children are those who believe 3:6-9
4 Curse of the Law is broken by Christ 3:10-14
5 Abraham’s promise realised in his ‘seed’-Christ 3:15-18
6 Law could not fulfil the promise meant for Christ 3:19-22
7 We are no longer in need of a tutor (Law) 3:23-29
8 From slave to son 3:1-7
9 Observing days are weak and elemental 4:8-11
10 Paul expresses concern about the false teachers among
11 Paul’s bond-woman and free woman allegory 4:21-31
12 Justification by the Law severs us from Christ 5:1-6
13 Galatians hindered from following the truth 5:7-12
B Called to freedom 5:13-26
1 Do not let freedom lead to the desires of the flesh 5:13-15
2 Walking by the Spirit will lead us away from the
desires of the flesh
C Attitudes under the
1 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought 6:1-5
2 You will reap what you sow 6:6-10
3 Boast in the cross, not the Law 6:11-16
V Conclusion 6:17-18

For more on this series, simply visit the Galatians label.
The next part in the Galatians series will be available next Monday!

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