- “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men,
nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father,
who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the
churches of Galatia…” (Galatians 1:1,2).
Thus begins the letter that Paul sent out to all the churches in a rather
wide area. Though there is some question as to the letter's exact date, many
believe it to actually be the first one that was written by the inspired pen
of the apostle Paul.
Galatia was a Roman Province located in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).
Sometimes, the term “Galatia” would be used not just of Galatia proper, but
also of the culturally similar area, including such towns as Antioch,
Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Surprisingly, the people of the region were
Celts, the ancestors of some of the French, Scots, Irish and so forth who
would migrate north in the following centuries (these would be my ancestors-J.Q.).
The Gospel Preached
The first record of the gospel coming to Galatia was during the first
Missionary Journey (46-48 A.D.-see Acts 13,14) The trip began with Barnabas
and Saul and ended with Barnabas and Paul because it was during this trip
that Paul took upon himself the name by which he would teach and preach the
gospel. John Mark, who would later write the gospel that bears his name,
also joined them as well. The journey began at Antioch (Syria). (Acts
13:1-4) When Galatia was reached by the gospel preachers, the journey
continued as follows:
Iconium (13:51- 14:5)
Lycaonia, Lystra, Derbe (14:6-20)
As the group returned to Antioch, they again passed through many of the
towns where churches had been established by God through their work to
strengthen the new Christians (14:21-25)
We know of other follow up visits (Acts 16:6; 18:23).
Following this journey (often referred to as Paul's “first missionary
journey”), there was a visit by Paul and Barnabas to the apostles in
Jerusalem to help settle an issue: namely, are these Galatians and other
Gentile converts required to keep the Old Testament Law (specifically, the
law of circumcision) in order to be faithful Christians? There is a meeting
and discussion of the issue, and the apostles issue their inspired judgment
on the matter, thus assuring that the answer came from God (Acts 15:1-35).
After this is settled doctrinally by inspiration (though it will continue to
be a problem among those who refuse to accept it) Paul and Silas take the
second missionary journey which includes revisiting the churches of Galatia
before heading toward new territory; Europe.
Paul, the apostle chosen personally and directly by Jesus is the author. Not
only does Paul say so (Galatians 1:1,2), but the personal history and
circumstances discussed in the book show that this is so.
For example, it was the writer who taught them the gospel at first
(Galatians 1:8). The visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas is also mentioned as
having taken place (Galatians 2:1-4; this was 14 years after his first
visit; see alsoGalatians 1:18-19), which, in turn, was 3 years after his
conversion (Galatians 1:15-17). Following this visit to Jerusalem to settle
the Gentile question, he went to Syria (where Antioch is).
There are differences of opinion about the specific date. We know it was at
least 17 years after his conversion (34 A.D.). I believe that somewhere
around 49-52 A.D. (coinciding with the conclusion of the conference at
Jerusalem about some trying to bind the Law of Moses on the Gentile
converts) is probably correct. The reason would be that the chief problem
addressed in the book is the same one. As Paul traces his personal history
(Gal. 1:11-2:210, he begins with him as a persecutor, and continues through
his conversion, accounts for the following 17 years (bringing us up and
through the Jerusalem council), and then a few subsequent events related to
the same problem.
However, some put the book a little later, and it is true that some
continued to disturb the new Gentile converts by trying to add the
circumcision requirement of the Old Covenant to what they must do to be
saved. Putting it a little later might make it the third letter Paul wrote
instead of the first; the first two being 1st and 2nd Thessalonians.
A Problem Addressed
The chief problem was some Jewish disciples were trying to bind the Old Law
on the new Gentile believers. The answer in the Galatian letter written to
predominately Gentile churches was that we are not justified by the Law of
Moses, and Gentiles are under no obligation to keep it. Note that the letter
does not teach us that “we are saved by faith alone” Neither the phrase nor
the idea is in the book. But it does tell us that we are justified by God's
grace and apart from obeying the Old Law. Several passages plainly show that
salvation by faith is not the same as salvation by belief alone. “For you
are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were
baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians
3:26-27; see also 3:23-29; 5:6,7; 6:7;9).
There are many other things we could say about the author, Paul, and this
epistle, and his relationship with the brethren in Galatia. Here is
something that stands out to me.
Note this passage: “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear
on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17). And then note this
from Luke's record of the preaching trip in Galatia: “But Jews came from
Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the multitudes, they stoned Paul
and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the
disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day
he went away with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14:19-20).
Paul's wounds and injuries would have been well known to the brethren in
Galatia. He asks, “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the
truth?” (Gal. 4:16). He had risked his life and suffered horribly in their
behalf. His reprimand was not that of an enemy, but of a friend. And as a
friend, He did not want their salvation to be destroyed by a fall from grace
It is difficult for me to imagine a much stronger piece of evidence of a
man's love for his neighbors than that which was obvious in the work and
life of the apostle Paul. The world should see similar devotion and
selflessness in us!
From The Bradley Banner 3/22/2009
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway