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 Introduction to Galatians

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PostSubject: Introduction to Galatians   Mon Jun 08, 2015 8:31 pm

Introduction to Galatians:

The letter to the Galatians claims the apostle Paul as its writer (1:1, 5:2), and this is attested by the brief autobiography in 1:12-24, as well as by the epistle’s language, style, vocabulary, and theology.

The letter is addressed “unto the churches of Galatia” (1:2), and its readers are called “Galatians” (3:1). The term Galatia was originally used in an ethnic manner, referring to north central Asia Minor settled by the invading Gauls. Later “Galatia” was employed in a political sense, referring to the Roman province that included the cities south of the Gaulish territory: Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. While it is uncertain whether the letter was sent to North or South Galatia, this problem has little bearing on the value or understanding of the epistle.

If the letter was sent to North Galatia, Paul and his missionary team planted the Galatian churches during his second missionary journey. So the epistle was written to them from either Ephesus (A.D. 54) or Macedonia (A.D. 55) while on his third missionary journey. But if the letter was addressed to the political (South) Galatia; then Paul started the church on his first missionary trip, writing to them at the end of this journey from his home church in Antioch (A.D. 49). Paul had led the Galatians to Christ (3:1). They had made a good start in the Christian life (3:3) and were doing well spiritually (5:7). Later, some Jewish teachers (called Judaizers) taught the Galatians that to be saved one must not only believe in Christ, but must also obey the Mosaic Law, the sign of which is circumcision. In preaching this heresy, they also attacked Paul’s apostleship and gospel. Their false gospel had a detrimental effect on the Galatians: it was beginning to hinder their obedience to God (5:7), they were starting to observe some parts of the law (4:10), and they were considering a complete acceptance of the law (12:6; 4:9).

Paul seeks to expose the error of the Judaizers’ gospel and their impure motives (6:12-13). His ultimate goal is to prevent the readers from embracing a false gospel and to encourage them to retain their spiritual freedom in Christ (5:1). The apostle does not want his dear converts to be tied up with all the now abolished rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law, which will lead them into legalism.
The central feature of the letter is justification by God’s grace through faith.

In chapters 1 and 2 Paul defends his gospel, arguing that it is the true message of salvation since he received it directly from Christ. Then in chapters 3 and 4 he defines exactly what his gospel is: man is justified (saved) not by keeping the law, but by God’s grace alone, that is, through his faith in Christ’s atoning death. Last, in chapters 5 and 6 the apostle briefly applies his gospel to various areas of daily living.
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