Summary: Controversy tore the early church. Judaizers taught that Gentile Christians had to submit to Jewish ritual laws & traditions in addition to believing in Christ. Paul confronted this issue.
GALATIONS 1: 1-5
A family, carefully executing their escape plan, dashes for the border at midnight...a man standing outside prison walls, gulping fresh air, awash in the new sun...a young woman with every trace of the ravaging drug gone from her system...they are FREE! With fresh anticipation, they can begin life anew.
Whether fleeing oppression, stepping out of prison, or breaking a strangling habit, freedom means life. There is nothing so exhilarating as knowing that the past is forgotten and that new options await. People yearn to be free.
Galatians is a trumpet blast for freedom in Christ. Martin Luther considered Galatians the best book in the Bible. It has been called “the battle-cry of the Reformation,” the great charter of religious freedom,” the Christian declaration of independence,” etc.
The book of Galatians is the charter of Christian freedom. In this profound letter, Paul proclaims the reality of our liberty in Christ-freedom from the curse of the law and the power of sin, and freedom to serve our living Lord.
Most of the first coverts and early leaders in the church were Jewish Christians who proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah. As Jewish Christians, they struggled with a dual identity: their Jewishness constrained them to be strict followers of the law; their newfound faith in Christ invited them to celebrate a holy liberty.
This controversy tore the early church. Judaizers-an extremist Jewish faction within the church-taught that Gentile Christians had to submit to Jewish ritual laws and traditions in addition to believing in Christ. As a missionary to the Gentiles, Paul confronted this issue many times.
Galatians was written, therefore, to refute the Judaizers and to call believers back to the pure gospel. The Good News is for all people-Jews and Gentiles alike. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus and nothing else. Faith in Christ is intended to bring true freedom (5:1).
I. THE BACKGROUND
II. THE AUTHORITY
III. THE RECIPIENTS
IV. THE RESCUE
Verse 1 begins with the author and his calling. Paul, an Apostle.
Paul and Barnabas had just completed their first missionary journey (Acts 13:2 - 14:28). They had visited Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, cities in the Roman province of Galatia (present-day Turkey). Upon returning to Antioch, Paul was accused by some Jewish Christians of diluting salvation to make it more appealing to Gentiles. These Jewish Christians disagreed with Paul’s statements that Gentiles did not have to follow many of the religious laws that the Jews had obeyed for centuries. Some of Paul’s accusers had even followed him to those Galatian cities and had told the Gentile converts they had to be circumcised and follow all the Jewish laws and customs in order to be saved. According to these men, Gentiles had to first become Jews in order to become Christians.
In response to this threat, Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian churches. In it, he explains that following the Old Testament laws or the Jewish laws will not bring salvation. A person is saved by grace through faith. Paul wrote this letter about A.D. 49, shortly before the meeting of the Jerusalem council, which settled the law versus grace controversy (Acts 15).