The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: G

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Gal, overview

Author: Paul

Time: AD 49

Summary: The letter to the believers in Galatia focuses on the divisions that Jewish Christians were causing among new Gentile converts. These "Judaizers" were trying to convince the Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised and to keep the ritual law in order to be saved. Paul argues that both Jew and Gentile alike enjoy in Christ complete salvation. Reliance on the Law was only a bondage to death and could not produce life-giving freedom, as only Christ could grant that freedom. Paul was showing that all legalistic variations of the Gospel are perversions of it and should be shown as such.

Judaizers: It could not have been easy for any Jew to ignore the things that he had been taught from childhood, especially fundamental things like circumcision, the observance of special feasts and the offering of sacrifices. Only the spiritually-minded, who had been taught by the Law of their own sinfulness and had come to understand their need for a redeemer, would have been ready to make the transition to Christianity.

Those who had kept the Law as a duty of conscience would have seen change as a betrayal of all their principles. Also, they would have seen it as forsaking all the privileges of their race. They would have assumed that the good things promised were theirs by keeping the rituals and they would have vigorously opposed any individual or sect that threatened their inheritance. It is not surprising therefore that the Jews posed a very real threat to the early ecclesias.

There was a class of Jew, however, who wanted a foot in both camps. He wanted the benefits of Christianity but wanted to avoid the wrath of the ritualistic Jewish elders. These Jews taught that Christianity was of the Jews and therefore it was necessary for its adherents to observe the Law and to be circumcised.

Indeed there was a decided reluctance in the early church to preach to the Gentiles at all. Although Jesus had told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, it still required a special vision to Peter and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to certain Gentiles before they were accepted as candidates for baptism. Even then, after a special council held at Jerusalem, it was recommended that certain aspects of the Law should be observed by the Gentiles, for they said, "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every Sabbath day."

Of course these stipulations were only a temporary measure. The limitations were given for peace in the early church and not as an essential for salvation. It should be noted that the counsel given did not include circumcision (Acts 15:14,29).

Thus a group of Jews known as Judaizers arose. From the Biblical records, it would appear that wherever Paul established an ecclesia, they would follow and would teach the necessity for circumcision. They are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and in most of the epistles of Paul but in none so prominently as in his letter to the Galatians. It was in Galatia they seemed to have had most success; so much so that Paul was discredited and the gospel seriously threatened. Paul feared for the ecclesias and was roused to set the record straight. Accordingly, his attack upon Judaism was dauntless and devastating.

Key verse: "We, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified" (Gal 2:16).


Introduction: Gal 1:1–9

Greetings: Gal 1:1–5

Purpose of letter: Gal 1:6–9

Paul's defense of his apostleship: Gal 1:10 – 2:14

Paul called by God: Gal 1:10–24

Paul accepted by apostles: Gal 2:1–10

Paul opposes Peter at Antioch: Gal 2:11–14

Salvation by faith not law: Gal 2:15 – 4:31

Justified by faith in Christ: Gal 2:15–21

The Galatians' experience at conversion: Gal 3:1–5

Experience of Abraham: Gal 3:6–9

Curse of the law: Gal 3:10–14

Promises before the law: Gal 3:15–18

Purpose of the law: Gal 3:19–25

Sons not slaves: Gal 3:26 – 4:11

Personal appeal: Gal 4:12–20

Allegory of Hagar and Sarah: Gal 4:21–31

The life of liberty and faith: Gal 5:1 – 6:10

Exhortation to freedom: Gal 5:1–12

Liberty is not license: Gal 5:13–15

Life by the Spirit, not by the flesh: Gal 5:13–26

Doing good to all: Gal 6:1–10

Conclusion: Gal 6:11–18

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