Galatians — the Magna Carta of Christian Liberty

While Paul was in Antioch of Syria after his first missionary journey (AD 48-49), he learned that the churches which Barnabas and he had founded in Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe were being won over by false teachers whom we call Judaizers. They told the churches that Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic law, in addition to believing in Jesus Christ, to be saved. They also denied that Paul was an apostle. Paul wrote an emotionally charged letter to the churches to refute the teaching of the Judaizers and to reaffirm the gospel that he had preached to them.

Paul addressed the letter, his first canonical letter, to “the churches of Galatia” because all four communities were in the Roman province of Galatia. (Many scholars think that “Galatia” refers to ethnic Galatia in north-central Asia Minor instead of to the Roman province of Galatia. Paul may have visited ethnic Galatia on his second and third missionary journeys [Acts 16:6; 18:23]. These scholars think that Paul wrote Galatians from Ephesus or Macedonia during his third missionary journey [AD 52-57].) We know it as “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians” or simply “Galatians.” Its theme, justification by faith, gives it a major place in any consideration of Pauline theology. It was a cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation, and Martin Luther called it “my own epistle, to which I have plighted my troth, my Katie von Bora [his wife’s name].”

Key verses in the letter are:

[W]e know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (2:16, ESV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (5:1, ESV)

Key words are “law” (32), “faith” (22), forms of “just” and “righteous” (13), and “gospel” (12), the number in brackets being the number of times that the word appears in the King James Version of Galatians according to Strong’s concordance.

I plan to use the following outline in preparing the series of articles on Galatians which this article introduces:

1. Introduction (1:1-10)
A. Salutation (1:1-5)
B. Occasion for Writing (1:6-10)
2. Autobiographical (1:11-2:14)
A. Former Life and Call (1:11-17)
B. First Post-conversion Visit to Jerusalem (1:18-24)
C. Second Post-conversion Visit to Jerusalem (2:1-10)
D. Incident at Antioch (2:11-14)
3. Doctrinal (2:15-5:12)
A. Theme of Galatians (2:15-21)
B. Observing the Law or Faith? (3:1-14)
C. The Law and the Promise (3:15-25)
D. Sons, Not Slaves (3:26-4:11)
E. Personal Appeal (4:12-20)
F. Hagar and Sarah (4:21-31)
G. Christian Freedom (5:1-12)
4. Practical
A. Living by the Spirit (5:13-26)
B. Doing Good to All (6:1-10)
5. Conclusion (6:11-18)

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