Commentary on Galatians – Introduction

Author:  Apostle Paul

Date Written:  Uncertain. Either A.D. 48-49 or 53-58

Addressed To:  The churches of Galatia (A region of modern Turkey)

Central Themes:

Judaizers:  Jews who embraced Christianity but insisted on keeping the law for salvation.

The central issue among the churches of Galatia was in regard to grace and the law of the Old Testament. Judaizers had come into their midst teaching that salvation consisted of both faith and works of the law. These Judaizers made circumcision a primary requirement.

Paul heard about what was going on, and wrote this letter to correct this false teaching that the Galatian Christians were now embracing. In order to firmly establish his authority, and their confidence, he talked about his former zeal and advancement in the Jewish religion, which let them know that he had the proper background to instruct them in such matters.

He told them about how God had set him apart for the gospel of Christ, even while in his mother’s womb. He told them that the gospel message that he preached was not taught to him, but that he received it by way of direct revelation from Christ Himself. He also told them about the approval he had received from the Apostles and Elders of the church in Jerusalem. 

All of this was for the purpose of showing the Galatian Christians that Paul had been called by the Lord, and had been firmly established and recognized as a true Apostle of Christ, who also had the proper understanding of the law as a former Pharisee. It was necessary for Paul to validate himself in this way in order to refute (with authority) the teachings of those who were discrediting Paul and what he preached.

Therefore, for the first 4.5 chapters of this book, we see Paul condemning those who were troubling the Galatian churches with false teaching, and setting them straight regarding the purpose of the law, and the grace that we have in Christ.

Beginning with verse 16 of chapter 5, Paul focuses more on the practical aspects of living the Christian life, beginning with instruction about walking in the Spirit. He informs them that if we’re being led by the Spirit, we’re no longer under the law….a clear contrast between law and grace.

Paul gives the Galatian churches a warning, actually a second warning, about the the consequences of practicing the works of the flesh, rather than walking in the Spirit. He contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit – one that leads to “corruption,” and the other that leads to “eternal life.”

Paul ends his letter the same way he began it, with a final note about false teaching. He informed them that there’s value in neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, that it’s meaningless. He then tells them that what matters is whether we’re a “new creation.” This is an allusion to what is perhaps the most well known verse in this book:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  (Gal 2:20)