Read Galatians 1:1-5
1Paul, an apostle — sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)
As we begin our look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, I would like to point out how Paul’s letters were written in the style most letters of that age were written in. Because of the climate conditions in Egypt, many documents and letters were retrieved from the trash heaps there. What they found in reading many of the letters was there was a standard format.
The typical letter contained 5 parts. First was the greeting which we see in verse 1 and verse 2. Then there is a prayer for the health of the recipient. This is the first part of verse 3. Third is a thanksgiving to God which we see in the 2nd part of verse three.
This is then followed by the main body which we will study and then finally, the last part which is special greetings and salutations.
As we look to the purpose of the letter to Galatians, we see that Paul is responding to an attack on both him and the Gospel he preached. The church was at a critical point as to its theology. When one studies the history of the church, we see that there are times where the church is attacked for what it believes. I think we are moving into one of those times in our own country. The attack for Paul was that the Jews who had come to believe in Christ still held that faith is for Jews alone. For a Gentile to be received, that person must first become a Jew. Paul believed this went totally against the work of Christ and his teaching. So Paul will talk about the Law and Grace in this letter to speak to what each does.
Galatians is written near the end of Paul’s Aegean ministry. The tone of the letter is exasperated, sarcastic at times and is as a parent dealing with an errant child. Galatians is similar to Romans. As we will see, the central argument is justification by faith in Christ and not works of the law.
The first two chapters of the letter are autobiographical information about Paul. 2:15 to 4:31 of Galatians is the heart of Paul’s theological argument in the letter and finally, chapters 5 and 6 deal with lifestyle and freedom.
Paul makes his argument based on Habakkuk 2:4 where it is written that the righteous shall live by faith. The thrust of his argument with Abraham is that he was deemed righteous in Genesis 15 which preceded the covenant of circumcision given in Genesis 17-19, therefore giving faith priority over the law.
Paul argues against those who put forth a model of getting to God through the Jewish community and thus the law (Torah). He affirms that this model is valid for Jews, but is not a valid model for Gentiles and in fact, for Gentiles to follow this model will result in their becoming slaves to the law and thus relinquishing the grace given them.
I hope and pray that we can learn something new as we read through Galatians.
Blessings and Peace