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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Galatians

- Galatians

by James Gray

GALATIANS INTRODUCTION

The Acts of the Apostles records that Paul visited the province of Galatia in Asia Minor twice, on his second and third journeys, but no mention was made of any particular city or town at which he stopped on either occasion.

Acts 16:6 ; Acts 18:23 . It was on the third journey, and probably during his long stay at Ephesus, though some would say at Corinth, that this epistle was written. The occasion for writing it carries us back to the fifteenth chapter of Acts and the story of the first church council held at that time. The Judaizing teachers there referred to tracked Paul’s footsteps everywhere, seeking to circumvent the preaching of a free Gospel and teaching the need of circumcision and other observances of the Mosaic law in order to salvation. They had good soil to work on in Galatia, for the people seem to have been of a demonstrative and fickle mind. (Galatians 1:6 ; Galatians 4:9 ; Galatians 4:15-16 ; Galatians 5:15 .) That this was the condition of things in the church, and that many had already fallen into the snare of seeking to supplement faith by works is further evident from Galatians 1:6-9 ; Galatians 3:3 ; Galatians 4:9-11 ; Galatians 5:3 ; etc. The object of the epistle, therefore, is to restore these people to the faith, and in the working out of that object the epistle becomes an inspired classic on that fundamental doctrine of Christianity, justification by faith.

It would seem that the false teachers in order to undermine the confidence of the people in the Gospel itself, must first accomplish the same purpose with reference to the apostolic authority of Paul. They must first destroy his authority as an inspired apostle before they could weaken the foundations of the Gospel he preached. This they sought to do using Peter as a sort of comparison and contrast. The last-named preached no different Gospel from Paul, but being the apostle to the circumcision, i.e., the Jews (Galatians 2:6-9 ), presented it from the Jewish standpoint, while Paul as the apostle to the uncircumcision did the same from the Gentile standpoint. We can see how there may have been some differences in the mode of presentation which gave opportunity to these unsanctified Jewish Christians to denounce Paul as unorthodox. They had an advantage also in that Paul was not one of the original twelve.

The plan of the Epistle lends itself to a three-fold division. Chapters 1-2 are of a personal character in which Paul defends his apostolic authority; chapters 3-4 are doctrinal, in which he defends the Gospel of justification by faith; while chapters 5-6 are practical and contain the application of the doctrine to the daily life of the individual Christian.

QUESTIONS

1. How often did Paul visit Galatia?

2. What two cities have been named as the abode of Paul at the time of writing this epistle?

3. Tell the story of Acts 15:0 .

4. Describe the Galatian people.

5. What was the object of this epistle?

6. What was the method of the false teachers?

7. Name the three divisions of this epistle.