The book of Galatians is one of the two “theological” epistles written by Paul for the primary purpose of systematically organizing his beliefs about sin, law, grace, and redemption. The other is the longer, more developed book of Romans. There is a fair amount of scholarly debate over the timing of the authorship of the book. Some place it during Paul’s third missionary journey (circa 57 AD), others date it during his first missionary journey prior to the Jerusalem Council (around 48 AD), while many believe it was written immediately following the Jerusalem Council as a response to what was happening. For our reading plan, we have opted to place the book in the time frame of the Jerusalem Council.
Basically, Paul was ticked off at a group of people called “Judaizers.” Religious Jewish Christ-followers who insisted that Gentiles must become Jewish before becoming followers of Christ. Paul got pretty steamed about that. Actually, he got really upset at any cultural obstacle or personal preference that someone might throw down between a seeker and Jesus Christ.The church of Galatia had been adversely impacted by false teachers who proclaimed lots of excess baggage and ritual, so Paul took out his pen and started writing against those of the “circumcision party”—those who advocated that all Gentile believers must be circumcised. Paul wrote rather forcefully and candidly, “As for those agitators, I wish they would go all the way and emasculate themselves.” (NIV)
Paul’s primary theme in his letter to the Galatians was salvation by grace through faith alone (Galatians 2:20). Through Jesus Christ, salvation has come to all people in a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that through his descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed (Galatians 3:8, Genesis 12:3). In this new age, Christians no longer are required to live by outward ceremony or adherence to a law but by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 522-23)
As you read the book of Galatians, think about the following: 1) What is the relationship between law, faith, and grace? 2) What other “gospels” do you quickly turn to instead of the gift of grace? (Galatians 1:6), and 3) What cultural baggage or personal preferences do you place on others that are considering a relationship with Jesus?