Lesson 1 of5
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Summary of Galatians

SUMMARY

Paul writes to the Galatian Christians out of deep concern that they are forsaking the gospel that he has preached and are listening instead to the message of certain Jewish Christian evangelists who are arguing that Gentile Christians must be circumcised according to Jewish law. Paul insists that people are justified by faith in Christ rather than by keeping the requirements of Torah. By faith, they participate in the death and resurrection of Christ and now live as God’s children and heirs of God’s promises. By the Spirit’s leading, this life of faith is no longer marked by sinful works of the flesh but bears fruit in freedom that serves the neighbor through love.

SO WHAT?

Galatians achieves its goal when those who read it are enabled to hear the good news that God has called each one of them by the grace of Christ. All are justified and made right with God by faith in Christ and not by doing the works of the law. That we are children of God according to God’s promise in Christ is not just wishful thinking; it is the promise that in the cross of Christ we are really a new creation–freed, transformed, and empowered by the Spirit’s leading for loving service of the neighbor.

WHERE DO I FIND IT?

Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is the ninth book in the New Testament. It is situated in the midst of the “Pauline corpus,” the collection of letters attributed to the Apostle Paul (the books of Romans through Philemon).

WHO WROTE IT?

The Letter to the Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to Galatian churches founded earlier during one of his missionary journeys through Asia Minor. The letter was occasioned by Paul’s hearing about conflicts over the message of the gospel stirred up by some who argued that the Galatian Christians needed to be circumcised to be included as part of the children of God.

WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?

While all the so-called genuine letters of Paul were probably written between 51 and 57 C.E., the precise dating of Galatians within that span depends largely on the locations of the churches to whom the apostle wrote. The more satisfactory theory that these recipients were in north Galatia, together with the fact that a number of the letter’s central themes are worked out in more depth in the Letter to the Romans, suggests a date closer to the writing of Romans, perhaps 55-56 C.E.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Paul writes a letter out of disappointment and concern that proponents of circumcision are placing the Galatian churches at risk of forsaking the good news of the freedom that is theirs by God’s call through faith in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit’s leading.

HOW DO I READ IT?

Galatians is one of the most intense of Paul’s letters, and it is important to read it in a way that appreciates this intensity. Also, the letter presents a tightly woven argument in support of a central thesis about the nature of the gospel. This gospel of justification through faith in Jesus Christ is anchored in the cross of Jesus and in the gracious call of the God who raised Jesus from the dead, thereby inaugurating a new creation that lives by the power of God’s promise in Christ Jesus. The faithful reader will need to be open to hearing that call, experiencing the gift of freedom that has the power to transform people into those who express such freedom in practical love of the neighbor.

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