Preliminary Comments

Who wrote the letter?

It is pretty clear that the apostle Paul wrote this letter (Gal 1:1; Gal 6:11).

To whom was the letter written?

This book is written to the churches in Galatia (Gal 1:2).

Why was the letter written?

The letter was written to correct a serious doctrinal error that had crept into the churches of Galatia.

When was the letter written?

Scholars say that this book was written sometime between 58 AD and 62 AD. This was one of Paul’s first letters. This letter was bold, confrontational and direct. The tone of Paul’s later letters was mellower I think.

Initial comments

Paul was on a missionary journey, and he was passing through Galatia. While doing that he fell sick (Gal 4:13). The Galatians nursed him back to health even though he was a total stranger to them. He took that opportunity to preach the gospel to them and did some miracles in their midst (Gal 3:5).

Time passed, and sometime later he found that some Jews had convinced the Galatian churches that they needed to be circumcised to be born again.

Paul was furious. He spent a lot of energy fighting the Jews on the requirements for salvation and so he now writes to the Galatian churches with the aim of correcting that doctrinal error.

Note that Paul wrote to them to correct a doctrinal error, not a behavioral error. That tells me that God is not just interested in us having proper behavior but also in us having proper doctrine.

Let’s watch how he does it and learn from the Holy Spirit through Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

But before we do that, let’s take a step back and get a broader picture of what was happening…

Think of God as the leader of a motorcycle gang. Following behind Him were Caiaphas (the high priest), Gamaliel (Paul’s one time mentor), Paul, and most of the Jews. They were all riding along this highway called the Old Covenant.

Then one day, Jesus comes along, and establishes the New Covenant (according to God’s plan). In our picture, it is like the building of a new and better highway called the New Covenant. So God takes the Jesus exit from the Old Covenant highway to the New Covenant highway.

But God is so far ahead of Caiaphas, Gamaliel, Paul and the Jews that they miss seeing God taking the exit. As a result, they keep going along the Old Covenant highway, all the while thinking that they are following God. They are not troubled that they don’t see Him anymore. They are used to being out of touch with God.

When God sees that Paul missed the exit He taps on Paul (i.e. He knocks Paul off his motorbike) to get his attention, saying to him, “Hey Paul, I’m on a different highway now.” Paul is initially confused, but finally ‘gets it’, and responds – he jumps back on his motorbike and turns around and races to the exit and begins riding on the New Covenant highway, trying his best to catch up with God.

Paul’s fellow bikers see Paul get off their track and say, “Hey Paul, are you nuts? God’s still over here. Why are you getting off this highway?” But Paul retorts, “Nope. God is now longer on that highway but on this New Covenant highway.” They see Caiaphas with them. They see Gamaliel with them. And they tell Paul that he is wrong and that if they ever see him again they will truly beat the hell out of him.

That is a picture of what happened, and the reason for the whole mess in Galatia – people out of contact with God thinking that they are in contact with God.

You can make the same mistake!

You can be out of contact with God and not even realize it!

You can see your pastor and your church elders hold on to a way of life, or to a particular theology, and think that since they share your behavior or beliefs therefore it must be okay – and you can be totally wrong!

Why did God take the trouble to tell Paul that Paul was no longer on the right track? Paul asked himself the same question, and he wrote his conclusion in 2 Thess 2:7-12 – God allows people to get deceived (in fact, He will intentionally deceive them) because they didn’t love the truth but took pleasure in wickedness.

That is why we should love the truth and not take pleasure in wickedness.

If there is one thing that you should get out of Paul’s letter to the Galatians it is that you need to be in contact with God, so that when God turns you will turn too, and when God exits you will exit too. Man shall live by every word that comes (present tense, not ‘came’ (past tense)) from the mouth of God.

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