The book of Galatians is the charter of Christian freedom. In this profound letter, Paul proclaims the reality of our liberty in Christ – freedom from the law and the power of sin, and freedom to serve out living Lord.
Most of the first converts and early leaders in the church were Jewish Christians who proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah. As Jewish Christians, they struggled with a dual identity: their Jewishness constrained them to be strict followers of the law; their newfound faith in Christ invited them to celebrate a holy liberty. They wondered how Gentiles could be part of the kingdom of heaven.
In response to attacks from false teachers, Paul wrote to defend his apostleship and to defend the authority of the gospel. The Galatians were beginning to turn from faith to legalism. The struggle between the gospel and legalism is still a crisis. Many today would have us return to trying to earn God’s favor through following rituals or obeying a set of rules. As Christians, we are not boxed in, but set free. To preserve our freedom, we must stay close to Christ and resist any who promote subtle ways of trying to earn our salvation.
As you read Galatians, try to understand this first century conflict between grace and law, faith and deeds, but also be aware of modern parallels. Like Paul, defend the truth of the gospel and reject all those who would add to or twist this truth. You are free in Christ – step into he light and celebrate.
Written by Paul, “an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead)” (Galatians 1:1).
About A. D. 49, during the time described at the end of Acts 14 and beginning of Acts 15, after Paul’s first missionary journey. Written from from Antioch, prior to the Jerusalem council (A. D. 50).
To Whom Written:
To “the ekklesia of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2) that he had visited on his first missionary journey to the southern portion of the province of Galatia in Asia that included Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.
The purpose of the book of Galatians was to address the leadership in Galatia regarding those who were quickly turning away from the gospel Paul had taught them by the Holy Spirit to a new gospel, spread among them by false teachers. These were urging the “Greeks” (Greek-speaking ancestral Jews not adhering to a Jewish lifestyle) among them to circumcise themselves and start keeping the law. Paul wrote to remind them of the gospel he had proclaimed and the grace in which they believed.
The initial purpose for Paul writing his pre-Acts 28 epistles, beginning with Galatians, was to provide God’s message for the believers living during the Acts period. Paul backed up his ministry to each of the places he went in the Acts period with a letter that followed his visit (with the exception of Rome, where the letter preceded his ministry). These letters were written first and foremost to help the people at that time.
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