Authorship and Audience

This letter was written by Paul to the churches in Galatia which were made up of primarily Gentile believers.

Date and Context

This letter was likely written sometime around 49 AD. There is some debate as to whether Paul's visit to Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1-10 was his attendance at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:4 or Paul's earlier visit to Jerusalem when delivering the money he collected for the poor as noted in Acts 11:30. While there are some difficult questions associated with both views, I believe that the book was most likely written before the Jerusalem Council. Regardless of the exact chronology, Paul was writing to the Galatian believers who were dealing with false teaching from so called 'Judiazers' who were teaching that true believers needed to follow Mosaic law in order to be saved and sanctified. Thus, Paul writes this letter to clarify the purpose of the law and the true means of salvation.

Theological Themes

The letter to the Galatians can be summed up as a contrast between two teachings:

  1. Gospel according to man
  2. Gospel according to Paul (and the Apostles)

All in all, the main point of this letter is to define what the Gospel is and what the Gospel is not. Continually throughout this letter, Paul will contrast three, key differences between the gospel according to man and the true Gospel taught by Paul:

Gospel according to man Gospel according to Paul
Powered by: Flesh Spirit
Leads to: Slavery Freedom
Means to Righteousness: Law Faith
  • Law vs. Faith In this letter, Paul is writing to refute the mistaken belief that Christians need to adhere to, at least parts of, the Law (this is referring to the Mosaic law, especially circumcision) in order to be truly saved. Paul establishes that the Gospel revealed to him by Christ leads to righteousness when believed in faith (with no works of the Law required) and even in the Old Testament, righteousness was through faith. Paul provides the Galatians with a wonderful explanation of the role of the Mosaic law in the plan of God in chapters three and four.
  • Slavery vs. Freedom This letter establishes the foundational principle that believers in Christ are free from slavery to the law and any other restrictions as means by which they must earn/achieve salvation. This principle is often called Christian Liberty and Paul will explain why Christians have freedom in Christ (3:10-14) and how it ought to be used (see 5:13).
  • Flesh vs. Spirit The Judiazers were telling the believers in Galatia that they had to do something in their flesh (meaning physical bodies) in order to earn salvation (3:3, 5:2, 5:4). Paul points out that salvation and the Christian life itself is not based on keeping the law in the flesh, but on walking in the Spirit (3:3, 5:4-6). Latter in the letter, Paul uses the term 'flesh' to refer not just to our physical bodies, but specifically to the sin nature made manifest in our bodies. He contrasts this sinful flesh with the Spirit in passages like 5:13-26.


0. Introduction [1:1-5]

I. Paul Defends his Gospel and The Role of Faith Therein [1:6 - 2:21]

II. Faith, Law, and Righteousness [3:1 - 5:1]

III. How to Live Out Our Freedom Through the Spirit, by Faith [5:2-26]

IV. Interpersonal Principles [6:1-10]

V. Conclusion [6:11-18]


  • We see a glimpse into the workings of the early church and a reminder that even the Apostles were not perfect in Galatians 2:11-15. Here, Paul records his confrontation with the Apostle Peter when Peter was hypocritically "fearing the party of the circumcision" (2:12).
  • From this letter, we get a good sense of the true authority behind the Gospel message... it isn't authoritative because of any merit in the one proclaiming it, but because Christ Himself is revealing it as noted in 1:11-12 (see also 1:8-9).
  • Paul's argument in the first two chapters is a wonderful example of persuasive writing in that it simultaneously addresses multiple 'layers'. For example, in Galatians 2:1-10 he establishes the credibility of his message by describing the history of his conversion while laying the groundwork for the argument he will address later in the book (namely, whether or not circumcision is a requirement for Christians). He even throws in a little jab at those who judge people based on reputation more than content in 2:6.
  • In Galatians 2:2, I do not believe Paul is concerned that he was preaching the wrong gospel in the sense that his view of Christ and Christ's role in salvation was incorrect; he is referring to the way he is communicating it to the Gentiles and the implications of his gospel for Gentiles. I'm basing this opinion on the following logic: First, if Paul were concerned with preaching a false gospel, I do not think he would have waited fourteen years (see Galatians 2:1) before addressing it. I believe Paul waits fourteen years because he wants to get input from the Apostles on recent phenomena (namely, Gentiles coming to faith in Christ and the Judiazer movement). Second, notice in Galatians 2:2 that his question specifically deals with the gospel which he "preach[es] among the Gentiles". Paul isn't concerned that salvation is possible apart from repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ; he is concerned that he and the apostles are teaching the same implications of the gospel for Gentile believers.

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