Galatians IRR

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Andrew Worley
Dr. Bandy

Galatians IRR

Introductory Issues
The authorship of Galatians is generally accepted to be from Paul. In the first verse of
Galatians, the Apostle Paul clearly states that he is the one writing. There is plenty of other
internal evidence to affirm Paul’s authorship; for example, all historical references in the first
two chapters agree with those in Acts, the doctrine fits the characteristics of Paul’s teaching, and
the letter has the same “intelligence, passion, logic, and style of Paul in every detail”.1 Even
church fathers, such as Clement of Rome and Polycarp, all affirm Paul as the author of this

It is pretty easy to see that Paul was the author of Galatians, and only some radical
critics would argue otherwise.
The dating of the letter of Galatians is a little more debated than the authorship.
Generally, most agree that Paul wrote the letter about 49 A.D. prior to the Jerusalem Council
which took place in 50 A.D., which discussed the topic that Paul addresses in Galatians.3 This
would make it one of the first of Paul’s letters, if not the first. However, not all scholars are in
agreement on this. When comparing Paul’s letters to Acts, there are three different ways one can
come to a conclusion on the date of Galatians. The first is based on his Jerusalem visits, the
second is based on his meaning of “former” in Galatians 4:13, and the third is based on the

1 Richison, Grant C., Dr. “Galatians.” (1997): 1-156. Web. 23 Mar. 2017., 5
Ibid., 5
3 Smith, Jay. “Galatians Summary.” Galatians Summary. Bible Hub, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017., 1
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location of the churches in North or South Galatia that he writes to.
4 The Jerusalem visits point
of controversy comes in when trying to match up Paul’s visits to Jerusalem in his letters to that
of Acts. Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 11:27-30 are debated whether or not they are the same visit or
not. If they are the same visit to Jerusalem, then Paul must have wrote Galatians prior to the
Jerusalem council. If not, then he would have had to of written the letter after, around 50 A.D. to
57 A.D.5 The other most debated is the issue on the dating has to do with where Paul wrote to. If
he wrote to North Galatia, then, based off of Acts, that would date the letter around A.D. 53 to
57. On the other hand, if he wrote to South Galatia, then the letter would have written in 49 A.D.
before the Jerusalem Council.6
The occasion or purpose Paul wrote Galatians for was to counter Judaistic legalism and to
prove that the law could not save. He wrote to expose the false teaching of the Judaizers, who
sought to make living under the law a requirement for the Christian faith. This false teaching had
gained influence in Galatian churches, and Paul wanted to clarify that it is through faith alone
that we are saved. We see this clearly in Galatians 2:16 when Paul says, “a person is not justified
by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ”. Paul also writes to defend his apostleship,
as well as his message. He spends the first two chapters of Galatians defending these two things.
The recipients of Paul’s letter were addressed as “the churches of Galatia”. However, as
discussed above, there is an issue of whether Paul wrote to the churches in North or South
Galatia. The evidence seems to point that he wrote to the churches in South Galatia.7 Paul
generally classified churches he founded according to the provinces they were in. So naturally,

4 Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters A Compendium of
Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. S.l.: InterVarsity, 2015. Print., 327
Ibid., 328
Ibid., 328
Ibid., 326
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he would have referred to these churches, which were in Pisidia Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and
Derbe, as the “churches of Galatia”.8 Paul would have founded these churches during his first
missionary journey, and so he would have known them personally as you can tell in Galatians
1:8. These recipients of Paul’s letter where those that had received the gospel from Paul, but had
been swayed by the Judaizers to add to the gospel to include keeping the Mosaic Law.9 Many of
them had a negative view of Paul and his gospel because of this, and this is why he goes into
great detail describing his own apostleship and where his gospel came from.
Interpretive Summary
Paul’s letter of Galatians can be split up into five different parts; his introduction, his
defense and proof of apostleship, his argument that justification is by faith alone, his practical
exhortation, and his conclusion. The structure of the letter is similar to other Hellenistic letters
during the same time, and this structure is known as the “rebuke-request” form.10 When looking
at Galatians in light of this structure, we see that Paul starts off with a common salutation (Gal
1:1-5), then transitions into his rebuke of the Judaizers (Gal 1:6-4:11), then his request (Gal 4:12-
6:10), and he ends it with a subscription (Gal 6:11-18).11 The major theme throughout Galatians
is that justification comes through faith alone in Christ and that works of the law do not save us.
It is only by grace through faith that allows us to live out the Christian faith. The word faith is
repeated 21 times, and the word law is repeated 32 times, which makes sense considering faith
and the law is the main issue in Galatians.12

8 Hawthorne, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters., 326
Ibid., 327
10 Ibid., 329
11 Ibid., 330
12 Richison, Galatians., 7
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Galatians starts off with Paul’s salutation to the churches of Galatia. This greeting is a
standard greeting that was common of that day. It is in this greeting that Paul establishes that he
is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He emphasizes his apostleship on purpose to defend his message
that he formerly brought to them and would affirm in the rest of his letter. In two ways he denies
any dependence of authority from man and shows that it was Jesus Christ and God the Father
that sent him and his message (Gal 1:1). Interestingly, this greeting is different than most of
Paul’s letters because it does not include a section of thanksgiving. Paul now shifts from the
greeting to start his rebuke of the churches. He starts off by expressing his amazement at how
quickly the churches have “turned to a different gospel” by saying that he was astonished (Gal
1:6). In light of the structure of the letter, Paul’s use of the word “astonished” would have
indicated dismay at the recipients of the letter.13 Paul continues to show his dismay that they
have strayed from his gospel until Galatians 1:11.
From Galatians 1:11-2:21, he shifts to talk about his conversion, calling, and the origin of
his gospel. He does this to defend the authority he has been given, which translates into the
authority his gospel has. He provides a fairly detailed autobiography in these verses. Paul writes
about himself “to present an example to his converts and to provide contrastive models between
his ministry and that of his rival” or also to “present himself as an example of the working of the
14 In Galatians 1:11-12, Paul repeats himself, and once again clarifies that his gospel
does not come from man by special revelation from Jesus Christ. He goes on about his gospel in
Galatians 1:13-2:21, and defends it with two different augments; first, Paul received his gospel
by direct revelation, not by any man; second, Paul authenticates and confirms his gospel in three

13 Garlington, Don. “A Shorter Commentary on Galatians.” (2007): 1-193. Web. 23
Mar. 2017., 33
14 Ibid., 39
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ways. Paul affirms and authenticates his gospel three times in Galatians 1:18-24, 2:1-10, and
2:11-21. These verses show: Paul preaching a message that was not from the other apostles or
men; Paul going to Jerusalem after at least fourteen years to check if his gospel lined up with the
rest of the apostles; Paul opposing legalism and sticking to the gospel that Christ had given him
for the Gentiles.15 The legalism in that Paul opposed at Jerusalem had to do with the issue of
circumcision, as well as, continuing to keep other aspects of the law in order to be justified in the
Christian faith.
16 These are the same issues that Paul writes to address in the rest of the letter of
In Galatians 3:1-4:31, Paul shifts from his autobiography and defense of him and his
message back onto the churches in Galatia, also keep in mind that this is all still part of his
rebuke of the Galatians. This is where Paul gives his doctrinal vindication of justification by faith
alone and is the main theological heart of his letter.
17 He begins this section by calling the
Galatians foolish for not holding to “their own experience of the Holy Spirit when they first
18 and supplementing an unnecessary legalistic aspect into their faith. The gist of
Galatians 3:1-5 is that from the Galatians’ personal experience with the gospel they should be
able to tell that the Spirit makes the law obsolete. Paul also tries to oppose this legalism by using
evidence from scripture using Abraham’s life in Galatians 3:6-14.19 He claims that God justified
Abraham because of his faith, since God had not given the law yet. Paul continues to argue for
justification by faith alone in Galatians 3:15-16 by talking about human covenants and how God
will never change justification by faith because his character never changes.20 Paul aims to prove

15 Richison, Galatians., 17-48
16 Ibid., 28
17 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 90
18 Ibid., 92
19 Richison, Galatians., 53
20 Ibid., 61
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his doctrine by explaining the purpose of the law in Galatians 3:17-29. Since Paul gave strong
reasons for the Galatians to not submit to a legalistic view of the law, he explains the reason for
the law in the first place.21 However, his explanation is somewhat ambiguous, but the “most
satisfactory interpretation is the one which best comports with the words ‘until the seed should
come’ and with the proposition of v. 24 that the law was a disciplinarian to bring Israel to
Christ”.22 Galatians 4:1-11 stresses the contrast between the Galatians’ previous condition of
slavery to the world with their present position in Christ.23 Paul questions why they would ever
want to return back to slavery. He even goes as far to say that he was afraid that he had wasted
his efforts on them, which is a very harsh jab at the Galatians (Gal 4:11). In Galatians 4:12-20,
Paul shifts his approach from doctrinal to a personal appeal to the Galatians, and this is also
where he starts the request part of his letter which lasts until the subscription of the letter.
24 We
see Paul try to proof himself by asking the Galatians to remember their prior embracing of Paul
and his doctrine. They were so welcoming that Paul even said that they would of given their eyes
to him if they could have (Gal 4:15). Paul’s last proof of his message comes from Galatians 4:21-
31. He tells of the Old Testament story of Hagar and Sarah, the mothers of Abraham’s children,
and he very likely does this “because his opponents had taken up these materials in order to
prove their case”.25 Using the story, Paul makes a clear contrast between legalism and grace. He
shows them their true relationship to Abraham, and then and reveals that freedom comes from
being under grace, not under the law.26

21 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 109
22 Ibid., 109
23 Ibid., 117
24 Hawthorne, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters., 332
25 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 129
26 Richison, Galatians. 87
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Galatians 5-6:10 is the rest of Paul’s request section of his letter. These verses are fairly
terse, pithy, pertinent exhortations to the Galatians that call them to live in the freedom of the
Holy Spirit.
27 It is here where Paul makes his practical appeal that good works do not save, but as
followers of Christ, they must desire to obey God and life a holy and righteous life for Him. In
first section, Galatians 5:1-12, Paul talks about life under legalism, and how faith is Christ sets us
free from that burden. There are five specific things he talks about concerning legalism: it
enslaves the believer; it puts believers in debt; it alienates the believer from Christ; it hinders
orientation to grace; and it removes the necessity of the cross because it would give man all it
needs to save himself.28 Then, in Galatians 5:13-15, Paul explains that even though you have
been justified, you should not continue sinning. He then sums up the law with one phrase, “Love
your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). Paul then tells them in Galatians 5:16-21 to live life by the
Spirit under the grace of God, and that it is freedom to live for God, not the freedom to sin. In
Galatians 5:22-26, he talks about the fruit of the Spirit, and how the Spirit empowers the believer
to live for God. He uses the contrast of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19 and the fruit of
the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 to show how the Spirit allows us to have the freedom to walk like
Christ.29 Paul then shifts to talking about how they should live out the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2)
and serve people in grace in Galatians 6:1-10. Paul tells them four ways to live out this grace:
serving the sinner; serving the poor; serving those leading over them; and serving everyone
else.30 This closes out the end of the request section of the letter and brings up the last part, the
conclusion. Galatians 6:11-18 are the last verses in Paul’s letter, and he makes a point that he
writes this part with his own hand (Gal 6:11), which shows the authenticity of this letter. This

27 Richison, Galatians., 48
28 Ibid., 7
29 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 155
30 Richison, Galatians., 7
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last bit essentially summarizes and ties together the heart of Paul’s argument. He reveals the
motives of the Judaizers, which is to avoid persecution for following Christ (Gal 6:12). Then
Paul contrasts their motives with his own, effectively showing Paul’s own heart for the Galatians
to follow the true gospel. Lastly, in Galatians 6:18, Paul gives his benediction, in which he calls
the grace of Christ to be with them, to end his epistle.
Sample Exegesis
Galatians 1:6-10 starts the rebuke section of Paul’s epistle. The language and tone that
Paul uses towards the Galatians in these verses is harsh, and he is very blunt with them because
the gospel was at stake.31 It starts of in Galatians 1:6 with Paul expressing how displeased he was
with them, so much so, that Paul did not include a section of thanksgiving or prayer in his
greeting like in his other letters. Paul quickly sets the tone of “disappointment and reproach” in
Galatians 1:6, by saying that he was astonished at how quickly they turned from his gospel to a
false one. Paul viewed their turning away as desertion. He was so harsh towards this because he
cannot “allow the alternative message of his opponents to stand because Gentiles could not and
would not be accepted as they are”.
32 Galatians 1:7 continues to talk about the Judaizers’
“gospel”, which Paul calls “no gospel at all” (Gal 1:7). The Judaizers’ “gospel” was the same as
Paul’s, except it added the requirement that the Gentiles had to follow the Law of Moses. The
Judaizers are the “some people” Paul references in Galatians 1:7. They were the ones leading the
Galatians astray from the true gospel Paul preached and effectively enslaving the Galatians into a
false legalistic faith. Paul then goes to condemn anyone who preaches another gospel in
Galatians 1:8-9. He uses very strong language when he does this because the true gospel is at

31 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 33
32 Ibid., 35
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stake, and he wanted to make sure that the Galatians know that his gospel is the truth. Paul even
goes as far as cursing angels that preach a different gospel than him. In regards to the angels that
preach a different gospel, he says to, “let them be under God’s curse” (Gal 1:8). This is most
likely a reference to Deuteronomy 21:23, which refers to a person hanging on a tree as being
cursed by God.33 Paul does not hold back when defending the gospel from those who pervert it.
Galatians 1:9 continues this rant on those preaching a different gospel than him. Paul is
essentially tells them that anyone who perverts the gospel should be damned to hell. Once again,
this is very strong language, and Paul uses this to get his point across. From Paul’ language we
can conclude that “it is not enough to reject the teaching of false teachers but we should hold
them in abhorrence”.34 Paul shifts in Galatians 1:10 from his introduction to the main body of his
letter. The question Paul askes of if he trying to please people or God can be viewed as a sort of
climax of the introduction. The rhetorical question affirms Paul’s motives of pleasing God and
reveals the Judaizers’ motives of pleasing people.35 Paul gets out the fact that the gospel is not
always popular. It is offensive towards man and their failures, but to change or add to it is simply
not the way to deal with that issue.
Concluding Thoughts
Paul’s letter of Galatians revealed to me just how important it is to understand the gospel
correctly and to teach it truthfully. The way Paul reacted to the false teaching in Galatians was
something I simply glossed over in the past, but now I see how it was of utter importance that
Paul dealt with that as harsh as he did. Paul’s doctrine on faith alone is what justifies us was

33 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 37
34 Richison, Galatians., 15
35 Garlington, A Shorter Commentary on Galatians., 37
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familiar to what I have always held to, but his strong opposition to even the thought that of
adding some other requirement to faith was somewhat eye opening. This book challenges me to
not sit by when I hear false teaching, but to stand up and oppose it for the sake of the gospel.
However, in order to do this I have to have the proper knowledge of the scriptures to argue for
the true gospel like Paul. One question that I had was about Galatians 4:11 when Paul says he
fears that he wasted his efforts on them. Does this mean that efforts that do not produce fruit are
wasteful? If I were to go to a new church plant and preach without having anyone come to faith,
then surely I would not just leave and call my time there a waste? How does this match up to
Isaiah 55:11 that says the word of the Lord will not return void? Overall, I generally enjoyed
working through Galatians, and I saw things for the first time that I had just skipped over during
previous readings of it that I thought were interesting.


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