Like a good detective, let's examine this book.
Paul is so upset. He had shared the Gospel of Salvation with the people in the city of Galatia. Right after he left, a group called the Judaizers came in and told the people they must observe the law to "level up" as Christians. Paul has to reteach the Galatian church what freedom is from sin and freedom to righteousness. Paul is not saying we are free so now we can sin all we like. He is saying we are free from the need to medicate our broken places with sin. He strongly attacks legalism to the point you might think he hates the law. This isn't true. He just hates how people weaponize the law to take away freedom. You can see this play out in Acts 15.
- Justification is by faith alone, in Christ alone.
- We cannot earn salvation. Only receive it.
- Living by the flesh and living by the Spirit both have consequences or bear fruit.
Who wrote it: The Apostle Paul.
Who is the original audience: Paul is likely writing this in the city of Antioch just after finishing his first missionary journey.
Where are we: The handy thing about many of the New Testament books is they are titled after the cities to whom they were written. Galatians was written to the ancient Gentile city of Galatia. More about modern day Galatia.
When was it written: This likely one of Paul's earliest letters. Approximately 49 AD.
What is the big idea: Paul is pleading with the church to not fall into legalism but to stay in love with Jesus. He hits hard against error and exposes false teaching.
Why is this book important: It is easy to get "lost in the weeds" of Christianity. God's Word is not silent on what sin is and how to stay free. However, we don't obey God's Word to receive His love. We obey God's Word because we already have it.
How can I apply it?: We must be careful to serve the Lord out of sincere love and not the feel of earning His favor. We can learn the byproducts of living in the rhythms of the Holy Spirit are... the fruit of the Spirit.
- See more on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
Quick Thoughts on Each Chapter
The letter to the church in Galatia is a response to a group of people called the Judaizers. These people came to the city after Paul left and tried to add to Paul’s teaching. They said church must become Jewish, including being circumcised if they were to be true Christians. Paul is refuting this saying that only Jesus saves. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The opening verse speaks of Paul going to Jerusalem to visit the church leaders and make sure he was teaching correct doctrine. You can find this interaction in Acts 15.
Verses 10-14- God’s Word teaches us that the foundation of our relationship with God is not our righteousness, but in our believing loyalty. We trust in Jesus and the finished work on the Cross as our confidence in salvation.
Verse 6- Through salvation, we have been adopted into the spiritual family of God. We are no longer spiritual orphans. God desires a personal relationship with each of us. That’s amazing.
Verse 1- Jesus has no ulterior motive for setting you free. It is only so you can be free. Praise the Lord.
The first part of this chapter is a sobering reminder that we do not take lightly the sins of our Christian followers. Our goal is not to shame them but to do our best to assist their walk toward freedom and wholeness. This is through prayer, patience, and “bearing one another’s burdens.”