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Galatians Overview

Galatians is the 48th of the Bible’s 66 books; the 9th of the New Testament’s 27 books; the 4th of Paul’s 13 letters.

Galatians is probably the first letter Paul wrote. More than likely he wrote it from Antioch or Jerusalem after the first missionary journey, which after going to Cyprus had been to the southern part of Galatia.

Galatians was probably written about AD 48. Only James was earlier, about AD 45.

That’s interesting, because both concerned themselves with the topic of works. Some read those two books and think they contradict each other, but properly understood they correct the extreme errors often made when talking about works.

Galatians clearly teaches that works don’t save a person, they are justified by faith.

James clearly teaches that saved people will be zealous to do good works, so faith without works is dead, it is not true faith! 

Put together, the New Testament doctrine is this:

Works don’t save a person, but after salvation a true Christian will do good works!

Galatians is a clear rebuke of legalism; James is a clear rebuke of antinomianism.

That means anti-law.

There is a good purpose of the law that we need to respect.

And we need to recognize that Christians are expected to by faith obey the moral law, which is repeated as commands to believers in the New Testament.

But thank God, Gentile believers do not need to become Jews to be saved, or to observe the priestly or civil laws of the Old Testament.

The priestly law has been fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. The civil law of Old Testament Israel is obsolete now that Christ has come!

Galatians was Martin Luther’s favorite book! After years of trying to obey the extra-biblical requirements of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther found in its defense of justification by faith freedom from his legalistic shackles!

One writer called Galatians “The Magna Charta of Spiritual Emancipation.” 

In Galatians Paul teaches that “the function of the law is that of a tutor who helps people see their need of Christ.” -Dr. Harry Adams

Some have called it the “rough block” of Romans, as its themes come back and are treated in fuller fashion in the letter Paul writes to the Romans about a decade later!

Ephesians 2:8-10  

Of course I prefer the phrase “fruit” to “works” because it shows the organic connection of how who we are in Christ is the source of what we do for Christ!

John 15:5

Look at Jensen’s chart: Main Subjects of the New Testament Books!

What an awesome chart!  What a brain!

Now Galatia was given its name because the people were a branch of the Gauls, originally from north of the Black Sea. The main group migrated toward France, but some wound up further south in Central Asia Minor in the 3rd century BC. 

Read parts of Acts 13 and 14.





In Galatia the response had been much better among the Gentiles than among the Jews. Paul encountered much opposition from the Jews in Galatia.

After he left, false teachers arose who tried to convince the new believers that something was lacking in their faith, and that they needed to obey aspects of the Mosaic law like circumcision.

Paul’s main purpose in writing Galatians was to confront this false teaching by these “Judaizers” who taught that certain works like circumcision were necessary to be saved.

The letter was probably written between the end of Acts 14 and the Jerusalem Council mentioned in Acts 15.

“Christians are free from restrictive Jewish laws.”             -Paul Kent

Paul is so passionate about this that Galatians is his most severe letter. There are no words of commendation at all (Wilmington).

Paul establishes his apostolic authority in chapters 1-2, giving us some great biographical information as he does!

There were three parts of the Old Testament law, and there is a New Testament book to explain each part’s role to the gospel.

What book goes gives perspective on the Moral Law?

The Book of Romans

What book gives perspective on the Priestly Law?

The Book of Hebrews

What book gives perspective on the Civil Law?

The Book of Galatians



Paul establishes his authority            Source of the gospel                 Ch. 1-2

Gospel of grace defended

Paul contrasts law and faith              Defense of the gospel               Ch. 3-4

Gospel of grace explained

Paul teaches the freedom of grace    Application of the gospel         Ch. 5-6

Gospel of grace applied


Other references to Galatia:

Acts 16:6               Paul travels through the region again, enters Europe instead of Asia!

Acts 18:23             Paul again travels through, “strengthening the disciples.”

I Cor. 16:1-2          Paul gives Corinthians same instructions he had given Galatian churches.

2 Timothy 4:10      Paul says Crescens has gone to Galatia.

I Peter 1:1              Peter includes dispersed Christians in Galatia among the recipients of his letter.


A Closer Look at the book of Galatians:

1:1     Only letter written to a group of churches, although Paul encouraged other letters to be circulated (see Colossians 4:16).

1:6-9 He gets right to the rebuke, no commendation!

Don’t consider anyone a true representative of Christ who doesn’t bring the delivered gospel to you – even if it is us!

A curse be on anyone who brings a false gospel!

1:11-12        The true gospel is from God, not humans!

1:13-14       Paul testifies – he came out of what the Judaizers would have them go into – legalism instead of faith in Christ!

1:15             Compare this with Jeremiah 1:5

1:17-24        Lets us know that James was also considered an apostle

2:1-5           When we talked about the gospel in Jerusalem we were agreed


2:11-16       But things were different in Antioch, and I had to confront Peter and Barnabas when they acted differently when “men from James” came!

WOW!         Paul had to remind Peter, Barnabas what they knew!

It is critical that we understand that Barnabas and Peter accepted this rebuke and agreed with Paul.

Turn to Acts 15

Acts 15:1-21

Back to Galatians!

Attempts to say Paul and James disagreed because of the different contents of the letters fail to appreciate James role in chairing the Jerusalem Council that vindicated justification by faith!      

2:19-21        I live by faith in the Son of God!         Say that!

3:1-3 We don’t just begin by the Spirit/ we continue by the Spirit!

Don’t fall into a “works” make God accept me more mindset!

How freeing!

3:6-11         Understanding how the Abrahamic covenant relates to the New Covenant!


3:19-26       Understanding how the Mosaic law relates to the New Covenant

The law defined sin, and no doubt curbed some sin in Israel.

Read I Timothy 1:8-11

The law revealed the need of a Savior, since everyone came up short of God’s glory.

“Run John Run, the law demands, but gives him neither feet nor hands.

Far better news the gospel brings, it bids him fly, and gives him wings!”

-John Bunyan

The doctrine of Adoption        Galatians 4:1-7

The instant you were born into God’s family you got the following privileges:

1.       We were in bondage, now we’re free!         Freedom!              v. 3

2.       Holy Spirit                                                                                  v. 6

3.       We can call God ‘Abba’ Father                                                v. 6

4.       We have an inheritance, joint heirs with Christ!                     v. 7


4:8-11         It’s about Christ, not religious observances

4:19-20       These verses mean so much to me in prayer!


5:1-6           Sum of Paul’s argument!         Look at verse 12!


5:16-26       The Fruit of the Spirit vs. works of the flesh

Justification by faith does not mean we don’t pursue holiness: we do!

But not to save!


6:1-10         Precious pastoral words!