About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Commentary On Paul's Letter
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
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
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
part of Galatia
is where most
There have been
two trains of thought
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
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
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
In my thinking,
there are four groups
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.
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
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.