Summary: Paul defines and defends the Gospel message against all counterfeit gospels.
One of the early Church Fathers said that, when reading Paul’s letters, he could hear thunder! Galatians is a thunderous epistle, filled with passion and warning. Martin Luther declared it his favorite book of the Bible. The German Reformer said that the message of Galatians would overthrow the devil, destroy his kingdom, and release slaves from the darkness of iniquity to God’s light and liberty.
Slavery comes in many forms: financial debt, destructive habits, toxic relationships, dead-end jobs, and sin. All slaves share a common dream--to be free, and Jesus came to set the captives free! (Luke 4:14-21). Paul knew many slaves, and he knew what it meant to be free. Paul met his Liberator, the risen Christ, on the road to Damascus.
Unlike other letters, Galatians was written to a Roman province, not a city, and to mostly Gentile followers of Christ, who were being pressured to convert to Judaism in order to be truly Christian. Galatians is a reassuring message of Good News, that Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation. Jesus supplies what the Father demands, making us right with God.
Verses 1-3—Paul is not writing as a stranger, but as the one who founded these churches. He was their spiritual father and an official representative of Christ. He begins by reminding the Galatians of his apostolic credentials, lest they question his position and message. His apostleship and authority came from the One who sent him. This distinguished him from the false teachers. In defending his calling, Paul indicates that the One who appointed him, was more than a mere man. Jesus is God-the-Son: He transcends all human categories; He is the origin of grace and peace.
Verses 4-5—Jesus has “rescued us from the present evil age,” from this fallen, broken world, desperately in need of redemption. Jesus died for our sins to deliver us from wrath. We who trust Him are freed from the secular worldviews of an increasingly godless culture. No one is born free; by turning to Jesus, we are liberated, released from the power and penalty of sin.
This deliverance doesn’t remove us from the world; it enables us to overcome the world. We live in an antagonistic, noisy world that entices us to embrace ideas that will harm our souls…“Watch this video, read this book, buy this product, listen to this music, check out this website.” When we come to Christ we leave a world of false ideas and enter a world of truth and light.
Verse 6—Paul’s greeting shifts abruptly to harsh rebuke. He is shocked that the churches of Galatia had so readily embraced falsehood and transferred their loyalty. Paul can hardly believe the report; they “deserted” the truth. The word “desert” means to be “carried away.” The author of Hebrews warns, “Don’t be carried away by various strange teachings” (13:9). In Ephesians, Paul warns us to “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (4:14).