Galatians (Gal)

The ninth book of the NT, has 6 chapters. Written by Paul about AD 49 to the churches in Galatia (present day Turkey). Time to read: 20 mins. 

Key people: Galatian believers, Paul, Peter, Barnabas, false teachers.

Outline. Paul identifies himself, outlining his credentials and previous lifestyle, as one who had persecuted the church but is now preaching Christ. He is known as the apostle to the Gentiles or non-Jews (Gal 1:16,23, 2:7,8). He establishes a solid basis to present his message of faith and freedom in Christ, refuting the belief that the Gentile believers must obey the Jewish laws to be saved.

Main lesson. It is futile to try to attain and retain by human effort what can only be accomplished through the spiritual dimension because the Law can’t redeem (Gal 3:3, 5:4).  It is essential to have a correct understanding of our position in Christ and the resources available to us because of His sacrifice on our behalf. Christianity is not based on blind adherence to a set of rules but rather a relationship with Christ, hence the exhortation to “Live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16).

Key verses and thoughts: * “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting God…and turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all…The gospel I preached was not something that man made up…but I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:6,7,11,12). Then he asks, “Why are you turning back to the old ways? Do you want to be enslaved again? It’ll be a wasted effort. You were running a good race. What went wrong?” (Gal 4:9-11, 5:7). The solution is to get rid of ‘the flesh’, as it can’t inherit any spiritual blessings (Gal 4:30). There is ongoing conflict between natural human effort with its tradition, and the spiritual freedom only found in Christ. It’s for freedom Christ has set us free, not for our personal benefit but to enable us to bless others in genuine service (Gal 5:1,13). Salvation is based on accepting the work Christ did at the cross, not the following of any ritualistic requirements. However, as we grow in Christian maturity other godly practices will develop.

* Paul said, “My old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ and He lives in me.  Self has been put to death but now I live a new life in Christ” (Gal 2:20). Is this my testimony too? Don’t just give mental assent to this concept but outwork it in your experience.  Later he added, “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). 

* The fruit of the sinful nature or flesh (a life lived outside of Christ) is contrasted with the Godly characteristics that are produced in us as we yield to the Holy Spirit.  Fruit grows and develops over time. Paul states, “those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:19-24). Is this true of me or do I still entertain the old carnal lifestyle? Be warned, “A person reaps what they sow”, either good or bad (Gal 6:7-10). What wrong fruit needs to be destroyed in me and what good fruit needs more cultivation?

* In humbleness, we are required to respond correctly to sin in the lives of other Christians restoring them when they have fallen into sin. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-5).  There are some things we are completely responsible for ourselves and in other areas we are our “brother’s keeper”, dealing with divisive matters, holding them accountable, encouraging and spurring them on (Gen 4:9; Mt 5:23,24, 7:3-5; Heb 10:24,25). Do I watch out for and challenge other believers in their walk with God?

See also: cross (taking up our), flesh, freedom, fruit (of the Spirit), godly/godliness, Paul, sow and reap.