The Epistles Analyzed: Galatians

The Author

This is one of the most personal of all of Paul’s writings. The first two chapters are autobiographical in nature. All of this helps to establish that Paul is the author of the letter.

The Audience

Differences exist as to whether this was written to assemblies in Northern Galatia or Southern Galatia. There is more internal evidence as well as logical consistency that he was writing to the assemblies in Southern Galatia, in light of Paul’s labors in that region. He and Barnabas had visited this area in their first missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13-14. They established local testimonies. But with surprising swiftness the seeds of false teaching entered and were in danger of marring the purity of the gospel Paul had preached.

Things Absent

Something of the fervency and urgency of Paul’s burden can be seen in the absence of certain things which seem to otherwise characterize his writings:

No greeting

No request for prayer (the only other time was in writing to Philippi, but for an entirely different reason)

No prayer for them

No commendation of them

No mention of love

No mention of the rapture

No amanuensis

No closing personal remarks

The Apostasy

There are two great issues which Paul refutes in the epistle. Both are seen as crucial to the gospel. The first is that law keeping was necessary to salvation along with the work of Christ. The second is that law keeping was necessary for growth and pleasing God. Paul viewed the errors as critical: anything which mars the purity and truth of the gospel calls into question the solitary dignity and sufficiency of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ added to, is Christ detracted from.

The Attack

The attack was not only on the message, but on the messenger as well. The attack on Paul’s apostleship was an attempt to undermine Paul’s authority for teaching and preaching. This is why there is so much of personal nature and vindication of his apostleship in the letter.

The Alarm

Paul’s response is more violent than even his condemnation of sin in the assembly at Corinth. Perhaps this is because the errors struck at the very person of Christ.

The Arrangement of the Epistle

A. ch 1-2 Historical and Personal

ch 1 Freedom from Human Agency – the Source of His Message

ch 2 Freedom from Human Authority – the Seal of His Apostleship

B. ch 3-4 Polemic and Expositional

ch 3 Faith the Means of Blessing – Salvation by Faith

ch 4 Finality in the Gospel – Superiority of Sonship

C. ch 5-6 Practical and Moral

ch 5 Fruitful and Free – Life of the Spirit-led Man

ch 6 Fragrant and Full – Life of a Spiritual Man

The Approach He Takes

In ch 1 he will take up the source of his message

In ch 2 he will take up the source of his apostleship

Look in ch 1 at all the mentions of “man”(1, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 12) and “gospel” (6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 16, 23). In ch 1 the emphasis is on: not of men, neither by man (1), after man (11), neither of man (12), not by flesh and blood (16), neither apostles (17), other … none (19).

Man or men: 1, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 12.

The word “Gospel” and its cognates is found in verses 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 16, 23. It stamps itself as the theme of this chapter. See also 2:2, 5, 7, 14; 4:13.

Consider the outline of just one chapter: Chapter 6 The Spiritual Man 

A. vv1-10 Portrait of a Spiritual Man

v1 Compassion for Erring Saints – Restores

v2 Concern for Burdened Saints – Relieves

vv3-5 Conscientious in Service – Responsible

v6 Care for those who teach – Recognized Debt

vv7-8 Companionship with Faithful – Reaps

vv9-10 Consistency – Renders

B. vv11-16 Position of a Separated Man

v11 Burden for Others – separation is not isolation

vv12-13 The Badge of the Law Keepers

vv14-15 Boast in the Cross

v16 Blessing on Others

C. vv17- 18 Pathway of a Scarred Man

I bear in my body – personal

The brand marks of the Lord Jesus – devotional

Brethren, grace be with you – humble

Additional Reading:

Lenski, R. C. H. Galatians in The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles; Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis. Mn. 1937.

Willis, G. C. Meditations on Galatians, Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, Ill.

Hunter, Jack; Galatians in What the Bible Teaches; John Ritchie, Kilmarnock, Scotland, 1983.

Tenney, Merrill C., Galatians, The Charter of Christian Liberty; Wm. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Mi. 1950.

Vine, W. E.; The Collected Writings of Vine, Vol. 2; Gospel Truth Publishers, Glasgow, Scotland, 1985.