The Author of the Epistle
The apostle Paul is mentioned as the writer (1.1; 5,2). This is further substantiated by the personal details of the first two chapters. Compare also 1.13-14 with Acts 8.2; 22.3-5 and 2.7 with Acts 9.15; Eph 3.8; 2 Tim 1.11.
The Churches of Galatia
Although the region of Galatia is mentioned in Acts 16.6 & 18.23 (see also 1 Cor 16.1; 2 Tim 4.10; 1 Pet 1.1) there is no consensus as to the exact location of that region. Some maintain it is the northern part of the Roman province. Others insist that it refers to the larger southern section. Neither theory affects the teaching of the epistle.
The Date of the Epistle
The exact date of the epistle cannot be fixed as it depends upon the view taken of certain historical events. However, it can be safely stated that the date falls somewhere between AD 48 and AD 58.
The Place where it was Written
In spite of the note at the close of the epistle in the AV that it was written from Rome there is just as much disagreement among scholars about this as concerning the date of the epistle and the region of Galatia.
The Purpose of the Epistle
The apostle has a twofold reason for writing the epistle: (1) To counteract the false doctrine of Judaizing teachers who had turned the Galatian believers from the true spiritual character of the gospel (1.6-7) to a system of ceremonialism. Two problems arose from this Judaistic teaching, (I) salvation by works instead of by faith alone (2.16), (ii) perfection by works rather than by faith (3.3). The apostle had led them to faith in Christ (4.19), they had run well, but they had been hindered (5.7) and had turned from the truth, sorely grieving Paul. (2) To establish his apostleship and authority to preach, which the false teachers had undermined. Thus he commences the epistle with his divine appointment (1.1), and states that the leaders of the assembly at Jerusalem approved of his labors and had given him the right hand of fellowship (2.6-10). The apparent severity of the epistle indicates the dreadful consequences for the Christian testimony and character of the assemblies of Galatia if their defection from the truth continued.
Key Chapter: 3. Doctrinal – Justification by faith.
Key Verses: 2.20; 3.11.
Key Words: liberty, law, faith, justified.
Key Thought: “Stand fast in the liberty” (5.1).
Key Expressions:– Do good unto all” (6.10); “Glory in the cross” (6:14).
Trace the negative value of the law, e.g. 3.2, 5, 10, 11, 18;
Note the individuals named in the epistle.
Contrast the Spirit and the flesh in 5.16-6.8.
View the quotations from the OT in chapter 3; Compare 3.5-14 with Rom 3.31-4.16;
Consider the references to the cross and crucified;
Look at bondage and liberty;
Think of God being emphasized in chapters 1-2, Christ being emphasized in chapters 3-4 and the Spirit being emphasized in chapters 5-6.
The Division of the Epistle
Chapters 1-2 Historical & Personal – The Independent Revelation – The Gospel of Grace and its Source – Pauls Apostleship or Appeal
1.1-5 The Purpose of God
1.6-12 The Perversion of the Gospel
1.13-2.21 The Proof of Pauls Apostleship and Authority
Chapters 3-4 Theological or Doctrinal – The Inadequacy of the Law – The Gospel of Grace and its Sufficiency – Pauls Arguments
3.1-14 Law and Faith
3.15-29 Law in the Purpose of God
4.1-31 Law and Sonship
Chapters 5-6 Practical – The Invigoration of Liberty – The Gospel of Grace and its Power – Pauls Application
5.1-15 Liberty in Contrast to Bondage
5.16-16 Life in the Spirit in Contrast to the Flesh
6.1-10 Love Manifesting Itself
6.11-18 The Law of the New Creation