Galatia is not a city but a providence, that is a territory. Galatia encompassed some areas of Southern Asia and the central portion of Asia Minor. These were the regions that were inhabited by Celtic tribes known as Galatia. This area corresponds to today's country, Turkey.
However, it is believed (not proved) that the letter was for the Southern Christian communities of Asia Minor, specifically,
- The above cities of Galatia were considered to be the more sophisticated and multi-racial portions of the providence.
II. SOME GENERAL FACTS RELATIVE TO THIS EPISTLE
- Because it contains the essence of what Paul taught and what he had received by divine revelation, the letter to the Galatians is one of Paul's most important letters.
- This epistle was a favorite of Martin Luther. In fact Martin Luther once said: "The epistle to the Galatians is my own little epistle."
- Galatians is a key teaching on Christian freedom which separated Christianity from the laws and customs of Judaism. Because of its teaching of salvation by God's Grace, the letter to the Galatians was the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation.
- It is the teaching in Galatians of justification by faith which helps us to understand the love of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ.
III. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE
This letter was written primarily to counteract the teachings of the Judaizers.
- Believed that the Gentiles, when and after they became Christians, should live like the Jews. Specifically, they believed the Christian should follow the Mosaic laws, customs and traditions.
- Actually, the Judaizers did not so much want to deny a Gentile the privilege of membership into God's Kingdom, but believed there was more to it than just faith. More specifically, they believed that if a Gentile wanted to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, they had to become a Jew to qualify.
- The epistle to the Galatians teaches us:
- God's saving Grace and Mercy through Jesus Christ excludes all works of the Mosaic laws, customs and traditions. It also excludes all good works towards others if they are motivated for gaining salvation.
- Specifically, the letter to the Galatians teaches us that if salvation could be attained as a result of good works, then Jesus Christ suffered and died for no reason.
- However, the epistle to the Galatians does teach us that salvation by faith alone does not mean that the born again believer should not perform good works. It does teach that good works towards others are to be accomplished as a result of faith and love for God and hence love for others.
- In other words, the good works of the born again Christian are to be the fruits of the Holy Spirit Who is living and dwelling within them. Hence, these works are not accomplished by complying with external laws, customs and traditions.
- Galatians teaches us that God loves all people, not just the Jew.
IV. THE STRATEGY
To counter the teaching by Paul, the Judaizers launched a threefold attack:
- They challenged Paul's authority as an apostle.
- They taught that the Gospel was incomplete.
- They expressed fear and concern that Paul's teaching towards the law would lead to immorality.
In defense to this attack, the letter to the Galatians was written. The letter can be partitioned into the following five sections:
- Introduction (Galatians 1:1-5)
- Paul's Apostolic Authority (Galatians 1:6-2:21)
- The Christian Doctrine of Justification (Galatians 3:1-4:31)
- The Effect of Christian Liberty (Galatians 5:1-6:10)
- Concluding Remarks (Galatians 6:11-18)
(see the Table of Contents for a more expanded outline of the letter to the Galatians)