Introduction
This letter of Paul is addressed “unto the churches of Galatia,” a region in central Asia Minor (1.2). The tone of the letter is defensive and combative, and in it Paul's emotions are running high. The problem he addresses is one that he feels seriously threatens the integrity of the gospel he has proclaimed in Galatia, as well as his own credentials as an apostle of Christ. Paul has learned that other evangelists have come to this region and are seeking to “correct” what he has preached. In particular, they say that Gentiles must obey certain basic Torah commandments, including circumcision, or they are not fully Christian. Based on the monumental decision reached in a.d. 50 at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15.1-12), that faith alone was necessary for both Gentiles and Jews who have come to believe in Christ (Acts 15.9-11), Paul argues that such Torah compliance is not required for Gentiles. Indeed, Paul worries that adopting such requirements would suggest that the salvation God has accomplished through Christ for all who believe is something other than a free gift of God's grace received by faith. Paul further expounds on the scope of God's grace by asserting that unlike other religions practiced throughout the Mediterranean world in which ethnic, class, and gender restrictions are imposed, for Christians, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (3.28).
Paul mentions in 3.1 that he first preached the gospel in Galatia when he had needed to recover from illness there while on a mission journey. Paul seems to have been well-received (4.13-15) and he indicates a possible return visit (4.20) to this region he had visited on his second and third mission journeys (Acts 16.6,7; 18.23). Precise dating of this letter is impossible, but it could have been written while Paul was in Ephesus (a.d. 54–56) or in Macedonia (a.d. 57). Theologically, Galatians is very close to Paul's Epistle to the Romans (a.d. 58), and may well have been the base from which the more elaborately reasoned Romans was developed. In Paul's opening defense of his calling as an apostle, he declares that his call came directly from God and no human authority. Further, he says that his call is to the Gentile peoples—to share the good news of God that it is through faith, by the grace of God, that all people are made right with God—or “justified by faith” in the parlance of the KJV (2.16; 3.24). In concluding, he shows how right conduct of life flows directly from right faith.
Outline
Paul Defends His Standing as an Apostle and his Message (1.1—2.21)
Faith in Christ Is the Way All People Become God's Children (3.1—4.31)
Christ Gives Freedom and the Spirit of God Guides (5.1—6.10)
Final Warnings (6.11-18)
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