The Expository Files

Introduction to Galatians

GAL 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), GAL 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:

The Region - Galatia was a Roman Province located in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Sometimes, the term "Galatia" would nit be used just of Galatia proper, but of the culturally similar area, including such towns as Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. The people of the region were Celts, the
ancestors of some of the French, Scots, Irish and so forth.

The Gospel Preached - The first record of the gospel coming to Galatia was during the first Missionary Journey (46-48 A.D.) (ACTS 13,14) The trip began with Barnabas and Saul and ended with Barnabas and Paul. John Mark also joined them. The journey began at Antioch (Syria). (13:1-4) When Galatia is reached, the journey continues as follows:

Perga (13:13-50)
Iconium (13:51- 14:5)
Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe (14:6-20)
Returned to many of these towns to strengthen the new Christians (14:21-25)
We know of other follow up visits (Acts 16:6; 18:23)

Following this journey, there is a visit to the apostles in Jerusalem to help settle an issue: namely, are these and other Gentile converts required to keep the Old Testament Law to be faithful Christians. (Acts 15:1-35). After this is settled by inspiration (though it will continue to be a problem among those who refuse to accept it) Paul and Silas take the second missionary journey which includes revisiting the churches of Galatia before heading toward new territory; Europe.

The Author -Paul, the apostle. Not only does Paul say so (Gal. 1:1,2), but the personal history and circumstances discussed in the book show this is
so. For example, it was the writer who taught them the gospel at first (Gal. 1:8). The visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas is also mentioned as having
taken place (Gal 2:1-4) (Note: this was 14 years after his first visit (1:18-9), which was 3 years after his conversion (1:15-17). Following this,
he went to Syria (where Antioch is).

The Date - There are differences of opinion about the specific date. We know it was at least 17 years after his conversion (34 A.D.). I believe that
somewhere around 49-52 A.D. (coinciding with the conclusion of the conference at Jerusalem about some trying to bind the Law of Moses on the
Gentile converts) makes the most sense. The reason would be that the chief problem addressed in the book is the same one. As Paul traces his personal history (Gal. 1:11-2:21; he begins with him as a persecutor, and continues through his conversion, accounts for the following 17 years (bringing us up and through the Jerusalem council), and then a few subsequent events related to the same problem.

A Problem Addressed - The chief problem was some Jewish Disciples were trying to bind the Old Law on the new Gentile believers. The answer: we are not justified by the Law of Moses, and Gentiles are under no obligation to keep it. Note; the answer is NOT "we are saved by faith alone" Neither the phrase nor the idea is in the book. But we are justified by God's grace and apart from obeying the Old Law. Several passages plainly show that salvation by faith is not the same as salvation by belief alone (see Gal. 3:23-29; Gal. 5:6,7; 6:7;9

Concluding remarks - There are many other things we could say about the author, Paul, and this epistle, and his relationship with the brethren in
Galatia. Here is something that stands out to me.

Note this passage: GAL 6:17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.

And then note this from Luke's record of the preaching trip in Galatia

ACT 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
ACT 14:20 But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the
city. And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.

Paul's wounds and injuries would have been well known to the brethren in Galatia. He asks, "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the
truth?" (Gal. 4:16). He had risked his life and suffered horribly in their behalf. His reprimand was not that of an enemy, but of a friend.

 

By Jon W. Quinn
The Final Page
From Expository Files 11.9, September  2004
 

 

 

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