The writer of this epistle is the apostle Paul, Ch.1:1. The occasion of the book is self-evident. It had come to Paul’s knowledge that the Galatians had become the prey of Judaizing missionaries from Palestine. The apostle, therefore, wrote them that the Gospel of the Grace of God must not be mixed with any law conditions, or its character of pure grace would be destroyed.
The Galatian error had two forms. One was that obedience to the law should be mingled with faith as the basis for the sinner’s justification. The other was that the justified believer is made perfect by keeping the law. The first error was proven wrong by Paul in that justification is through the Abrahamic Covenant, and that the law, the purpose of which was condemnation, was given four hundred and thirty years later. The second error was refuted on the ground that the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier, and that mere observance of legal requirements would never perfect a man, even as it had never done so under the former dispensation.
The book is in six parts:
1. Ch.1:1-9. Salutation of Paul and theme of his epistle.
2. Chs.1:10 to 2:14. Paul’s Gospel a revelation.
3. Chs. 2:15 to 3:29. Justification by faith without law.
4. Chs. 4 to 5:15. Law and Grace, two separate systems.
5. Ch. 5:16-25. Sanctification through the Spirit.
6. Chapter 6. The new life in Christ Jesus.
SALUTATION OF PAUL AND THEM OF HIS EPISTLE.
The apostle Paul was better acquainted with the risen Christ than with the One Who taught His disciples before His crucifixion. He had been so thoroughly convinced of his call on his way to Damascus that he referred to his appointment as not of man, but by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Ch.1:1. The apostle’s message was very explicit and that was that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, and that this is the will of God the Father”, v.4. The theme of the epistle is mentioned, in vs.6-7. Other teachers had visited the church in Galatia and had taught something which was a mixture of law and grace. Paul called it “another Gospel” and denied its efficacy, and regarded it as a perversion of the truth. He also pronounced a curse upon those who advocated such teaching, vs.8-9.
PAUL’S GOSPEL A REVELATION.
For a number of years Paul had refrained from consulting with the other apostles. God had so clearly revealed Christ in him, that he felt there was danger of getting his message mixed with the ideas of others when the Lord was so ready to give him light, Ch.1:11-12, 15-17. After three years, Paul visited Peter and stayed with him for fifteen days. Some fourteen years later he met with the brethren in Jerusalem, but during the conference he said they added nothing to him. They gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, and were happy that they were ministering to the Gentiles, Ch.2:1,& 6,&9. Paul daringly preached salvation through grace, and went so far as to reprimand Peter for dissembling when certain Jewish believers
saw him eating with the Gentiles, vs.11-14.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH WITHOUT LAW.
Paul affirmed that the Jews themselves by accepting Christ had proven that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, Ch.2:15-16. The law had judged sin and by the crucifixion of Christ had slain the sinner. Now the only way to live was by the faith of the Son of God, vs.19-20. To go back to the works of the law was to frustrate the grace of God, v. 21. Receiving the Spirit was made possible through faith, and any ministry which was accompanied by the manifestation of Divine power was by no means the result of keeping the law, Ch.3:2,4. “Abraham BELIEVED God, and IT was counted unto him for righteousness”, and as God had said to him, “in thee shall all nations be blessed”, so the Gentiles now came in through faith, and not by the works of the law, vs.6,8-9. Christ has redeemed us from the punishment which should have been ours for breaking the law, for He was punished in our stead, and now we receive the blessing of Abraham by the Spirit through faith, vs.13-14.
The law was given to hold sin in check, but it could not give life, vs.19,21. All have been condemned for breaking it, but through the faith of Jesus Christ we can now be justified, vs.22,24. Through faith in Jesus we also become children of God. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free...all are one in Christ Jesus”, and this classes us as Abrahams seed, and makes us heirs by promise and not by works, vs.26,28-29.
LAW AND GRACE, TWO SEPARATE SYSTEMS.
The fullness of the time came and Christ was born of a woman, Ch.4:4. Up to then, the law was still in force, but we read in John 1:17 that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. By His life and His teaching the Lord Jesus exemplified the new walk, and by His death and resurrection he opened up the new way of approach to God. We are redeemed from under the law, and as sons, we receive the Spirit of God which makes our new relationship very real, Ch.4:5-6. To turn away from this glorious freedom and again come under the law, and observe days, and months, and times and years, is obviously a step backward, v.10. Paul likened it in a figure to the two some of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. One was born of the bondwoman and was disinherited, while the other was the child of promise and became the sole heir of his father, the first persecuted the second, but God said, “cast out
the bondwoman and her son.” Those who believe in Christ are in the Isaac class and become heirs of God through faith, while those who live by the law are rejected, vs.21-31. The summary of it all is given in Ch.5:1,6,13. We must stand for the freedom of the Gospel, have faith and love, and not use our liberty for fleshly profit, but by love serve one another.
SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE SPIRIT.
Man by nature is a slave to the law of sin within him. To overcome this, God makes the believer a new creature, but he also is still in the body, and subject to many temptations through his flesh. Victory cannot be gained except through faith and the power of the indwelling Spirit, Ch.5:16. He not only gives us this power of victory, but so changes our natures that we develop the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance”, vs.22-23. Because of this, Paul exhorted the Galatian believers that as they now lived in the Spirit, they should also walk in the Spirit, vs.25-26, and not labor under the delusion that it is by keeping the law that a believer is sanctified, rather than by the Holy Spirit.
THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS.
The apostle Paul was not only solicitous for his converts that they should rightly understand and live by the grace of God, but he was also desirous that they should live up to their new profession in Christ. He urged meekness in their treatment one of another, and that they should bear one another’s burdens, Ch.6:1-2. Also those who profited by the Gospel ministry should help to support those who ministered, v.6. Life is a period of sowing, and that if we sow in well doing, the promise is we shall surely reap if we faint not, v.9.In closing, Paul made one last reference to the futility of being circumcised as a means of grace, and said he gloried only in the cross of Christ which had accomplished not only his own (Paul’s) death, but also the death of the whole world, vs.14-15. Many as walk by this rule will have peace, and participate in the mercy of God through Christ Jesus.