Freedom in Christ

Fall 2005 SS Class Notes

Week 1: Sept 11, 2005

Jeremy Wise


Introduction to the Book of Galatians


Martin Luther, argued by many to be the greatest name in Protestantism, held most dearly the book of Galatians.  From six short chapters, Luther wrote well over seven-hundred pages of commentary and exegesis.  Galatians was clearly his favorite book, as his own words show, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle.  To it I am as it were in wedlock.  It is my Katherine.


Galatians is often referred to as the “Magna Carta of the Reformation” and Luther’s “Katie von Bora.”


Richard Longenecker, a modern commentator, writes that how one views Galatians will largely affect to what gospel he will cling because it holds with it a view of the law, of grace, of the Church, and of the Spirit.


Why is this book held in such high regards?  What does it hold that so many great followers of Christ would put it at the top of all of Scripture?  In the next 15 weeks, we are going to take a journey through its contents with the hope of renewing our hope in and love for the Good News of Christ.




The book of Galatians, more than any other book in the New Testament, is solidly attributed to Paul’s authorship.  Even the most critical commentators freely grant that this book is surely Paul’s own work.  There is a great deal of evidence both within the book and outside the book which support this claim.

·                          Every canon of Scripture since the time of its writing includes the book of Galatians (usually because it was Pauline).

·                          Paul mentions himself as the author both in the beginning of the book (1:1) and also toward the end (5:2); see also 6:11.

·                          There are many coincidences (conceptual, verbal, historical, etc.) which agree with what we know of Paul (e.g. from the book of Acts).

·                          There is nothing inside the book that would lead us to believe it isn’t Pauline.


Destination and Audience


Until Ramsey in the 1800s, it was always assumed that the book was written to the churches in North Galatia.  However, in the last hundred years, much evidence has shown that it was most likely written for the churches in the southern regions of Galatia.  Most scholars date the book around 48-49AD, very early in Paul’s ministry.  We can be pretty sure that this letter predates the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).


Theme of the Book


The key verse is v. 2:16:


          A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.(NASB).

The churches in Galatia were being infiltrated by Judaizers who wished to pervert the glorious gospel of Christ by requiring believers to submit once again to rules and regulations.  Paul was astonished that these believers were so quick to abandon Christ and wrote to urge them to hold fast to the Gospel which saved them


In general, there are three things this book deals with:

1)     A defense of Paul’s apostleship (1:11-2:21) since the very message of his gospel was at stake;

2)     a defense of what that message entails in terms of justification by faith (3:1-4:31) since the Galatians’ standing before God is at stake; and

3)     a defense of Christian liberty which grows out of justification by faith (5:1-6:10) since the Galatians’ walk with God was at stake.


In the coming weeks, we will take a look at these three areas as well as what significance this 2,000 year old book has on our lives today.  By the conclusion, it is my hope that we all will have a fresh, invigorating understanding of Gal. 5:1 – “It was for freedom Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery!(NASB).