The Epistle to the Galatians
This Epistle was written by the spiritual father of these churches, the Apostle Paul, about the year A.D. 59. The churches had been founded by him during his first visit to their province in the year A.D. 52. The record of this visit is to be found in Acts chapter 16. He revisited them, according to Acts 18:23, about A.D. 54.
The purpose of the Epistle was to defend his own apostleship and to expose the errors of legalism as it was being taught among the saints by Judaizers.
The Epistle falls into three parts, namely: The introduction (chapters 1 and 2), the disputation (chapters 3 and 4), and the exhortations (chapters 5 and 6).
There is a sad omission in this introduction, Paul does not express thanksgiving for their faith as he does in writing to other churches (1:1-5).
The Reason For Writing This Epistle (1:6-10).
Their turning so soon (between A.D. 52 and A.D. 59) to another (“heteros”) gospel of a different kind which was not another (“silos”) of the same kind. Paul’s use of these two Greek words is very interesting. By them he reveals that the Galatians had turned to a so-called gospel which was not in truth a gospel at all.
Paul’s Defence Of His Call And His Teaching (1:11-21).
He relates his own conversion from Judaism to Christianity (1:1-14).
He states his commission was from God and not of men, and refers to his retreat into Arabia (1:15-24).
He narrates his visit to Jerusalem and what transpired at that time (2:1-6). He declares that he was then recognized as the Apostle to the Gentiles (the uncircumcision) (2:7-10).
He rebukes Peter for his inconsistency (2:11-21).
He vindicates the truth of justification by faith alone (2:16).
This discussion covers three important subjects, namely Christian liberty in contrast to Judaic bondage, the dispensation of law in contrast to the dispensation of grace, the principle of faith in contrast to the principle of works.
He shows the folly of trying to perfect by the flesh (through law keeping) that which had been begun by the Holy Spirit (3:1-5).
He emphasizes that justification by faith is shown in the Old Testament Scriptures, as for example Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall by his faith”. The law can only bring condemnation.
He teaches that the Abrahamic covenant was based on promises and was received by faith. All the faithful are inheritors of Abraham’s blessing (3:14-18).
He demonstrates the true nature and purpose of the law (3:19-24). Believers are no longer children under the law, but they are sons by faith in Christ Jesus.
He asserts that all class distinction is lost in Christ, and that there, “in Him”, absolute equality exists (3:25-29).
He uses the analogy of the difference between children and heirs in general (4:1-11). Children (infants 4:1-3) are not different from servants, but sons are heirs (4:5-7). If so why should believers of the Church era return in servitude to the law?
He appeals to their former devotion to imitate him (4:12-20).
He illustrates the immutability of the promise as against the abrogation of the law from the history of Isaac and Ishmael (4:21-21).
At the close of this section of the Epistle, Paul is seen as the example of his own teaching and of the exhortations that he bases upon his teachings.
Stand firm in the liberty preached in the Gospel of divine grace, and beware of false teachers (5:1-12).
Love, and thus fulfil the law of Christ (5:13-26).
Act in the power of the Holy Spirit and thus hinder the works of the flesh. In this subsection the Apostle gives a warning: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresis, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in the past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” He also gave an exhortation: “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Live a spiritual life in all humility because “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (6:1-10).
The Apostle now declares his own intention, and in this we see him an excellent example to follow: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (6:11-17).
He closes the Epistle with the benediction: “‘Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”