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My Commentary On Paul's Letter
To The Galatians

Next Section - Chapter 1:1 - 5

This commentary is based on the NIV translation of the Book of Galatians. Each section of this study corresponds with the sections found in the NIV, 1994 edition.

The People

Around 278 BC a group of people called the Gauls migrated from southern Europe to the Northern shores of what we know as modern day Turkey. In 232 BC their state became known as Galatia.

 In 25 BC Galatia became a Roman province. It is important to know that Galatia is not a city but a province. When Paul wrote this letter, he was writing to a number of churches in various cities within the province of Galatia.  We should also understand that each city had one church, one community of believers.

The northern part of  Galatia is where most
of the Gauls lived, although they dod live
in the south as well. These people in the north were agriculturally orientated by occupation. The southern part of the province had a major east west road crossing through many cities along its path. This area in the south was the economic heart of Galatia, mainly due to this road that made for easy travel and commerce. There was also more than Gauls living in the southern region. Romans, Greeks and Jews could also be found in this more prosperous part of Galatia.

There have been two trains of thought
concerning just what Galatians Paul was writing to.  Some say he was writing to the northern Galatians, which would have been more ethnic in nature.  Others say he was writing to the southern Galatians which would have included non-ethnic Galatians.  This is important because depending on what view you hold to will determine the dating of this letter.  I tend to believe that Paul was writing to those in southern Galatia.  I will talk about this later.

The Church

Most of the churches were found in the southern parts of Galatia, in the bigger cities.  Luke, in Acts 18:23, says that Paul visited the disciples in the north. Because Luke says he visited disciples and not churches in the north, some suggest that there were fewer Christians in the north and therefore did not have established churches.  That might be one reason why some scholars believe Paul was writing to southern Galatians; because he said he was writing to churches in Galatians 1:2.

According to Kenneth Wuest in his commentary on Galatians, he says that Paul established churches roughly along the line of the Roman provinces. He would lead people to the Lord in the major cities, establish the church in those cities, and then link them all with smaller town churches that could be found along the road ways that connected these cities.

The churches of Galatia first consisted of Jewish Christians as a result of natural movement westward by Jews and also as a result of persecution from religious Jews in Israel.  As a result of Paulís trips through the region, many Gentiles became Christians. These Gentiles did not have the same heritage the Jews had. The Jewish Christians still saw Jesus as the Messiah who would restore the nation of Israel to them.  The Gentiles saw Jesus as the Lord who would bring salvation to the world.

We should take note of who the Judaizers are in the Galatian churches as they are called by Bible teachers.  I mention them because there seems to be two trains of thought concerning who these men were.  Many say they were the false teachers as seen in Galatians 1 who taught another gospel.  They could be, and probably were, the spies in chapter 2, verse 4, as well.  If they were the spies and the false teachers, they probably weren't true Christians because they would have compromised the gospel.  Over the years I've tended to understand the Judaizers to be the false prophets Paul was coming against in his letter, and I still tend to believe this.  However, some Bible teachers believe the Judaizers were real Christians, men like Peter, James, John, and many other Jewish Christians, who simply did not fully comprehend Paul's teaching.  I am going to try to avoid using the term Judaizers because the word is not found in the text, and because there is more than one way of viewing who these men were.          

The basic point to Paul's letter to the Galatian Christians concerns what he calls "human effort," that is, adding to what Jesus did on the cross by things we do, and in this case, the additions are obeying the Law of Moses.  Paul strongly maintains that when it comes to salvation, it's all about Jesus and nothing else.  It's Jesus and nothing.     

In my thinking, there are four groups
of people spoken of in this Galatian letter.  There is Paul and his associates who preached the gospel of Christ alone.  There were the leaders of the Jerusalem church who struggled over Paul's exclusion of the Law of Moses from the gospel of Christ.  There were the Galatian Christians who were caught between the true gospel and the false gospel.  Then there were the false teachers who taught that Gentiles had to become Jews, get circumcised, and obey the Law of Moses in order to be really saved. 

Date and Authorship

It appears that Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians himself, although some scholars suggest that he just wrote the last chapter himself and not the whole letter.  As far as we know, this is the only letter by Paul that he actually penned himself.  He did not dictate the letter to someone else to write, as was his practice, that is, assuming he didn't just write the last chapter.

Paul wrote this letter sometime between 48 and 56 AD.  From my understanding, I tend to believe this letter was written around 48 or 49 AD.  As I pointed out earlier, depending on what Galatians you think Paul wrote this letter to, that is, the northern ethnic Galatians, or the southern multi-cultural Galatians, will determine the date.  If Paul wrote this letter after his first missionary trip, this letter would have been written in and around 48 to 49 AD.  If he wrote this letter after his second or third trip, then you date this Galatian letter around 54 to 56 AD.  More and more, scholars are dating Galatians as 48 or 49 AD for various good reasons that I won't get into here.

Galatians is understood to be the first letter that Paul wrote.  It is also the earliest dated book of our New Testament.  It was written before the four gospel accounts, before Acts, and before all of the books in the New Testament.  It shows us that the Christian community struggled with issues from the very beginning.    

I would like to say something about Paul at this point.  It's my thinking, as Moses was to God's people in Old Testament times, so the Apostle Paul is to God's people in New Testament times.  Both men were well educated.  Both men met the Lord on a personal basis. Both men were instructed by God to relate His will to His people in their respective era.  So, as I always say, "If Paul got it wrong, all Christendom is in major trouble", because, more than anyone else in the Bible, including Jesus, Paul defined the gospel of Jesus.  That is the case because of the volume of revelations Paul received from Jesus.  There is also a practical matter to this as well.  Jesus did not define the gospel as clearly as Paul because that which makes up the gospel truth was not fully accomplished until His ascension, and really, we should probably include the Day of Pentecost found in Acts 2.  The giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer is part of the gospel message.  So for this practical reason, Paul could define the gospel much clearer than Jesus.  It's clear that Jesus chose Paul to both define the gospel and preach the gospel.  Paul was the first New Testament theologian and he was one very special person.  He and his teaching has not only shaped the church as we know it today, he and his teaching has shaped the western world as we know it today.    

Although all books in the Bible are important, Galatians is very important for the Christian.  It gives in concise form the essentials of the gospel and how they are worked out in our lives as Christians.  It is a shorter version of the book of Romans.  The book of Galatians more than any other book in the Bible was that which spurred on the period of history known as the Reformation.  To fully understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, one must understand both the book of Galatians and the book of Romans.  Both of these books are what I call "thinking men's books" because to understand their content, it requires serious thought, something many Christians these days are not willing to take the time to do.  

Next Section - Chapter 1:1 - 5

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