Introduction to the Book of Galatians
Written by George Goldman
Around A.D. 200 the Roman province was reduced to include only the ethnic Galatians (Celtics) and the double use of the term disappeared. The traditional view became that Paul, on the second missionary journey, established churches in northern Galatia (Acts 16:6) and wrote the letter to the Galatians from Ephesus on the third missionary journey about A.D. 56.
In the nineteenth century Sir Williams Ramsey popularized the “South-Galatian theory.” This view is almost universally accepted today. This theory maintains that while Luke uses ethnic-geographic designations (Acts 16:6; 18:23), Paul’s general practice was to use political designations (Gal. 1:1; 1 Cor. 16:1). Therefore, the letter to the Galatians was addressed to Christians in southern Galatia, or churches established on the first missionary journey (Acts 13 – 14).
Galatians is the only Pauline letter addressed to a group of congregations. They were all established by Paul (Gal. 1:8, 11; 4:19f), and were affected by the same disturbance (Gal. 1:6, 9; 5:7-9). This disturbance was the age-old problem of prejudice. Jewish teachers were trying to convince Gentile converts that they had to become Jews before they could become Christians. That is, they had to pass through the channel of Judaism, circumcision, before they could obey the gospel. This makes up the doctrinal section of the letter (Gal. 1 – 4).
The gospel has always been hindered by prejudice and bias. Peter and Barnabas were even affected when it came to eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2). Today we hinder the gospel when we prejudice ourselves against rich or poor, educated or uneducated, black or brown, yellow or white. Souls will be lost on Judgment Day because of prejudice. The gospel is for all (Heb. 2:9). We sing it, why do we not practice it?
In the ethical section of his letter (Gal. 5 – 6), Paul points out the vast difference between Christianity and worldliness. There is a tremendous difference following fleshly appetites (Gal. 5:19-21) and spiritual guidelines (Gal. 5:22-26). Therefore, let us bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Realizing that we reap what we sow, let us not grow weary in well doing but as we have opportunity, let us to good to all men, especially members of the church (Gal. 6:2, 7-10).