Galatia was a Roman province which included Lycaonia, Isauria, and parts of Phrygia and Pisidia. It is now southern Turkey. The purpose of this letter was to eradicate the doctrinal errors which had been recently introduced by hostile Judaizers and to urge the Galatian Christians to hold firmly to what they had been taught by Paul at the beginning. The people were generally impressionable, fickle, and quick-tempered (see Gal.4v13-16; Ac.14v8-19). Paul had started these congregations on his first missionary journey (Ac.13 and Ac.14) with considerable success, proclaiming "the door of faith" as being open to them (Ac.14v27). Then he revisted them on his second missionary journey (Ac.16v1-6) and again on his third missionary journey (Ac.18v23). In the meantime, Judaistic teachers had subverted his work by teaching a new type of legalism to these innocent Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. These Jewish traditionalists refused to accept the true apostolic teaching (Ac.15v1-31). They felt that they had the "copyright" on Jesus! They zealously undermined and unsettled these new converts who were unstable and not grounded, persuading them to defect from Paul's teaching. They suggested that Paul had learned his ideas "second-hand" from the apostles who were the true pillars in Jerusalem. These false teachers felt that they themselves had the inside story!

Judaizers were insisting that non-Jewish believers in Christ could not be true Christians until they submitted to circumcision (a Jewish rite from the Old Testament) and by keeping the Law of Moses. The naive Galatian Christians listened to them with the same enthusistic receptivity that they had given to Paul originally. Paul did not deny the importance of circumcision or any other Jewish custom to Jews. In fact, Paul was formerly a high-ranking Jewish leader himself, and he had even participated in religious practices in the Temple late, in his ministry (Ac.21v17-26) to prove that he could be "all things to all men." (1Cor.9v22). However, Paul clearly taught that circumcision had nothing whatever to do with personal salvation!

The Judaizing threat ended at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Prior to that time, all Jewish Christians (Messianic believers) were considered to be a "sect" (Ac.24v5), a new branch of Judaism. But, after A.D. 70, all Christians were on their own; they were recognized as separate from Judaism.

Paul contended that his apostleship was genuine, not from any human authority, but from God. He had proclaimed the true "good news" (GSN2098 - euaggelion) to them. The Judaizers were tampering with the essential thrust of the very nature of the Gospel. There was much at stake. If the Judaizers were right, then Christ died on the cross for nothing (Gal.2v21)! Paul taught that a proper relationship with God was based upon believing in Jesus Christ, not by trying to "make points" through obeying law! Christians already had freedom and should not have been made to feel that they were in bondage again. In this brief letter Paul forever settled the question about the relationship which we have with the Law of Moses.

In Galatians there are a series of important contrasts: - a different type (GSN2087 - heteros) of "gospel" versus the authentic Gospel (compare Gal.1v6) - man's reasoning versus God's revelation - law versus grace; works versus faith - the curse of death versus the blessing of life - condemnation versus exoneration - servants in bondage versus sons in freedom - defeat versus victory - the old covenant versus the new covenant - living in the flesh versus walking in the Spirit - the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit - falling from grace versus standing firm in grace - the world (self) as the object of boasting versus the cross of Christ. Paul recapitulates by saying that the Christian life is the natural fruit which flows from love (Gal.5v6).

The date of Paul's writing is uncertain, but it is thought that it was before he wrote the more detailed Book of Romans concerning much of the same subject matter.

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