In his epistle to the Galatians, the apostle Paul passionately defends his apostleship and the gospel he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ against the error of legalism which is a performance-based religious system. He deals with this error In relation to both justification (Gal 2:16) and sanctification (Gal 3:3). This epistle has 6 chapters, 149 verses, and 3,084 words.
The apostle Paul established the churches in the region of Galatia (area of Asia Minor, north of the island of Cyprus) during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6) and went back to strengthen them in the faith during his third journey (Acts 18:22-23). He may have written this epistle at the time of Acts 18:22 around 52 AD. This is the only epistle that Paul addressed to a group of churches (Gal 1:2). It is also unique in that it was written by Paul’s own hand (cf. Gal 6:11; Rom 16:22).
Legalists loved to come in behind Paul’s ministry in an area to try and influence the churches he established away from his message of grace. They taught the people that they must be circumcised and do the works of the law to be saved and sanctified. They were having success in Galatia (Gal 1:6-7, 2:16, 21; 3:1-3; 4:8-21; 5:1-12; 6:11-17).
Scripture not only reveals sound doctrine, but it also reproves and corrects for failure to believe and live by that doctrine. A balanced and Bible-based ministry not only teaches (positive aspect), but also reproves and corrects (negative aspect).
Although the apostle Paul wrote Galatians before Romans, it follows Romans in order of the church epistles because it is a letter of correction for doctrinal failure. The churches, at Galatia were listening to doctrine contrary to the doctrine of salvation by grace as laid out in Romans (Rom 3:19-28).
Doctrinal and moral failure is not to be tolerated in the church because it takes just a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. Leaven represents corruption that spreads (1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9). Doctrinal corruption produces moral corruption (1 Cor 15:33; 2 Tim 2:15-18). Sound doctrine produces godliness when it is genuinely believed (Titus 1:1).
I. Personal (1-2) — The grace message defended
Il. Doctrinal (3-4) — The grace message explained
Ill. Practical (5-6) — The grace message applied
The first two chapters clearly establish that Christ gave Paul a message and a ministry that was distinct from the twelve apostles. God inspired Paul to defend his distinct apostleship and ministry (not himself as a man) because it was constantly under attack.
In the middle two chapters, Paul uses Abraham to prove the historical precedent of God imputing righteousness by faith before the Law. We are children of Abraham in the spiritual sense that we are in Christ and are also counted righteous by faith. We did not replace Israel, and neither are we spiritual Israel (Gal 3:27-28; 6:15-16). The Body of Christ is a new creature.
In the last two chapters Paul shows that the law is not required to live a righteous life (1 Tim 1:9). Many that preach salvation by grace teach sanctification by works. Putting believers under the law does not stop sin, it actually increases it (Rom 6:14; 1 Cor 15:56). The grace life is lived on a higher plane than the law system (Gal 5:13-26). We are not under the law of Moses, but the law of Christ, and of sowing and reaping that still apply today (Gal 6:1-10).