Paul’s main concern in his letter to the Galatians is conveying the message that a person can be justified only by faith in Christ—nothing more and nothing less. Paul addresses these concerns in the letter by defending his apostleship in the face of opposition and applying the true gospel, with its emphasis on freedom in Christ and living by the Spirit, to the Galatian believers.
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“Paul has two main concerns in his letter to the Galatians, one theological and one practical. The main theological message is that a person can be justified only by faith in Christ—nothing more and nothing less. On a practical level, this means that Christians should use their freedom in Christ to treat one another with love and mutual respect since all—regardless of ethnicity, social status, or gender (Gal 3:28)—have been justified by the same means. Thus Galatians is less concerned with the question of ‘legalism’ (see McKnight 1995, 19)—that is, grace versus works—than with a version of Christianity that attempted to combine faith in Christ with observance of the law as an obligation.” (source)
“However, the conspicuous absence of a thanksgiving section—which customarily followed the opening section of a letter (compare Eph 1:1–14)—sets a serious tone for Paul’s harsh but hopeful letter to the churches in Galatia.” (source)
“Regardless of their exact location, perhaps the most important thing to note about Paul’s audience is their apparent acceptance of ‘another gospel’ (see Gal 1:6–9) and their willingness to observe parts of the law, especially circumcision (Gal 3:1–5; 4:21; 5:1–6).” (source)
“these churches were likely composed primarily of Gentiles, since circumcision was such a serious concern” (source)
“The date of the letter is determined partially based on its relationship to the Jerusalem council mentioned in Acts 15:1–29 (compare Gal 2:1–10) but primarily by the question of recipients. If the letter is addressed to the southern Galatians, then it was probably written around ad 49–50; if it is addressed to the northern Galatians, then it was written sometime between ad 52–57. Either way, Galatians was probably one of Paul’s earliest letters and thus gives us unique insight into the faith and practice of some of the first churches in Christian history.” (source)
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Derek R. Brown is a contributing editor at Lexham Press. He holds a PhD in New Testament Studies and Christian Origins from the University of Edinburgh and a Masters of Christians Studies in New Testament Studies from Regent College.
Douglas Mangum is an academic editor for Lexham Press. He holds a PhD in Hebrew from the University of Free State and holds an MA in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is a Lexham English Bible and Lexham Research Commentary editor, a Faithlife Study Bible contributing editor, a Studies in Faithful Living co-author, a regular Bible Study Magazine contributor, and a frequently consulted specialist for the Lexham Bible Dictionary.