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Jesus Fish 3

New Testament Survey: The Book Of Galatians

Written By: Steve Shirley

The Book Of Galatians


  • Paul (Gal 1:1-2)(Gal 5:2)
    (For more on Paul see: Survey: Biography Of Paul)
  • The similarity between Galatians and Paul’s letter to the Romans is unmistakable. Compare:
Gal 3:6 Rom 4:3
Gal 3:11 Rom 1:17
Gal 3:27 Rom 13:14
Gal 4:9 Rom 1:19
Gal 4:30 Rom 4:3
Gal 5:14 Rom 13:9
Gal 5:16,25 Rom 8:4
Gal 6:2 Rom 15:1
  • There are phrases Paul used only in 1 & 2 Corinthians / Galatians that are found no where else in the New Testament.

A little leaven: (Gal 5:9)(1 Cor 5:6)
Circumcision is nothing: (Gal 5:6, 6:15)(1 Cor 7:19)
Be not deceived: (Gal 6:7)(1 Cor 6:9, 15:33)
They that are Christ’s: (Gal 5:24)(1 Cor 15:23)

Another Gospel: (Gal 1:6)(2 Cor 11:4)
Bring into bondage: (Gal 2:4)(2 Cor 11:20)
New creature: (Gal 6:15)(2 Cor 5:17)

  • The Greek word “ekkkeio” (exclude) is used only in (Rom 3:27) and (Gal 4:17).
  • The early church fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius) and others agreed that Paul authored this book.
    • As was the case with most or all of his letters, Paul apparently dictated this letter and wrote the last paragraph (Gal 6:11: He wrote with “large letters,” likely because of the eye disease discussed previously in 2nd Corinthians).
    • Most agree that this was the 1st of the 13 Epistles that Paul wrote, although there is some debate on this point based on two differing theories: The North Galatian Theory and The South Galatian Theory. We will discuss these below.

    The Stats:

    • Chapters: 6
    • Verses: 149

    Date Written:

    • Likely 48-50 A.D. (Possibly later if North Galatian Theory is true.)
    • In (Gal 2:1-10), Paul appears to be speaking of his visit to the Jerusalem Council, which happened sometime between 48-50 A.D. (Acts 15:1-29). If this is so, it would have been written after that. However, since Paul doesn’t “specifically” refer to the decisions of the Jerusalem Council in Galatians, it “could” have been written before that visit.

    Place Written:

    • Antioch (Possibly Ephesus or Macedonia if North Galatian Theory is true)

    Written To:

    • Christians in the region of Galatia. (This is the only letter addressed to churches in a region, and not a specific church: Gal 1:2)

    Key Verses:

    (Gal 2:11-16,20-21)(Gal 3:11,13,28)(Gal 4:4-7)(Gal 5:9,16-25)(Gal 6:1-3,7,9)


    • The Judaizers had been falsely teaching the Galatians that they needed to keep the Mosaic law: (Gal 3:1-2)(Gal 4:17,21)(Gal 5:2-11)(Gal 6:12-16). They were also trying to discredit Paul’s apostolic authority (Gal 1:1,10-12). Paul wrote this letter to refute these teachings. He did this in three steps:

    1. To defend his apostolic authority and show that the Gospel he taught was from the Lord (Chapters 1-2).

    2. To define what the Gospel of grace is, and to show that we are justified by faith, not by works or keeping the law (emphasis on refuting circumcision)(Chapters 3-4).

    3. To exhort the Galatian believers and show them how to practically apply the Gospel to their lives, as well as how to properly use their Christian liberty (Chapters 5-6).

    ** Paul was apparently so distressed about the situation in Galatia, that after writing the usual greeting that started his letters, he omitted the usual “thanksgiving” that usually followed the greeting.

    About The City:

    • Galatia was founded when a large number of Celtic (Gallic) people, who originally lived in Gaul (“Galatai” in Greek), invaded and conquered Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) in about 250 B.C. (This area is referred to as “geographic/ethnic” North Galatia.)
    • The Romans then invaded and conquered the Galatians in 189 B.C.
    • In 25 B.C., “geographic/ethnic” North Galatia was incorporated into Roman province by Octavian Augustus. In addition, areas south of where the ethnic Gauls had settled were also incorporated. (This area is referred to as “political” South Galatia.)
    • Galatia was a region, not a specific city, bounded on the north by Bithynia and Paphlagonia, on the east by Pontus, on the south by Cappadocia and Lycaonia, and on the west by Phrygia.
    • The native language of Gallic was spoken until about the 5th century. Undoubtedly, Greek was also spoken since they were part of the Roman province.
    • The Galatians have been described as a people who were proud, independent, superstitious, fickle, and often made quick impressions and sudden changes.
    • An example of how fickle they could be is found in (Acts Ch. 14). In verses 8-15, the crowds believed Paul and Barnabas were gods (Hermes and Zeus), and wanted to sacrifice to them because they had healed a crippled man. However, by verses 19-20, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city believing he was dead.
    • As we can see from the verses in Acts (Acts 14:11-13), as well as (Gal 4:8), they worshiped many false gods.
    • On the other hand, the Galatians were also considered to be courageous, enthusiastic, and very loyal to Rome.
    • It appears that the North region of Galatia was sparsely populated, but the South region was a major trade route.
    • Paul visited this region on each of his 3 missionary trips: (Acts 13:13-14:25)(Acts 16:1-6)(Acts 18:23), and planted the churches in Galatia on either his 1st or 2nd missionary trip (see: North or South Galatian theory).
    • The majority of those in the churches were former Gentiles and pagans (Gal 4:8)(Gal 5:2)(Gal 6:12).

    North Galatian vs South Galatian Theories:

    • There are many complicated arguments on each side of this debate that go into great detail, and we won’t get into that, but let’s look at a brief description of what each position states.
    • As we saw above, the term “Galatia” was used in both a geographic/ethnic sense (North Galatia) and a political sense (South Galatia).
    • Those who hold to the North Galatian Theory believe that Paul visited this area for the first time during his 2nd missionary journey, and planted the churches there at this time. If this was the case, then Paul would have been addressing this letter to these churches, and it would have to have been written from either Ephesus or Macedonia between 53-56 A.D. during his 3rd missionary journey.
    • Those who hold to the South Galatian Theory believe that when the term “Galatia” is used by Paul, he is referring to the “political” part of Galatia, not the “geographic/ethnic” Galatia. This theory states that Paul never visited the North part of Galatia, and each of his missionary trips went through “South Galatia.” If this was the case, Paul would have planted the churches during his 1st missionary journey, and written this letter to them from Antioch in 48-49 A.D.
    • The North Galatian Theory had been the prevailing theory up until the last few centuries, however, the South Galatian Theory is now held by most modern scholars. The main reason for this is because we have found more manuscript and geographic evidence supporting this position than they had several centuries back. In addition, neither Acts (which Paul’s letters fit into) nor Galatians ever mentions the cities of North Galatia, or that Paul ever went there. However, numerous cities from South Galatia are mentioned (i.e. Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch).

    Special Emphasis:

    • One of the main Mosaic laws that the false Judaizing teachers were trying to impose on the Galatians was circumcision. As a result, Paul placed heavy emphasis on refuting the necessity of this (Gal 5:2-11)(Gal 6:12-16).
    • Paul’s letter to the Galatians is often referred to as the “Magna Carta Of Christian Liberty.” Paul strongly emphasized the liberty that Christians have, especially in (Gal 5). In fact, the word “liberty” (Gr: “eleutheria“) is used more in Galatians than any other book in the New Testament (Gal 2:4)(Gal 5:1)(Gal 5:13: twice).
    • The word “curse” (Gr: “katara“) is also used more in Galatians than any other book in the New Testament (3 times). The word “heir” (Gr: “kleronomos“) is used 4 times (tied for most with Romans), and the word “circumcised” (Gr: “peritemno“) is used 6 times (tied for most with Acts). 
    • The word “gospel” (Gr: “euaggelizo” / “euaggelion“) is used 12 times in Galatians, second most to Romans (13 times). Paul used the word “promise” (Gr: “epaggelia“) more times in Galatians than any other Epistle he wrote (8 times).

    Excursus: “Is Everyone A Child of God?”

    • The Bible is quite clear that we become a “child of God” through faith in Jesus Christ:

    (Gal 3:26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

    (Jn 1:12) But as many as received him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

    (Rom 8:14-17) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (15) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    *** If we have the Spirit of God, we are a child of God. We do not receive the Spirit until we accept Jesus Christ as Savior (Jn 7:38-39)(Gal 3:14)(Rom 8:9)(Eph 1:13-14).

    • Every person on this planet is a creation of God because God has created every single thing (Rev 4:11)(Heb 2:10)(Rom 11:36)(Isa 42:5). In fact, God knew each of us before we were even born (Ps 139:13-16)(Jer 1:5)(Isa 44:24)(Isa 49:1). However, being created by God does not equate with being a child of God. Once we put our faith in Jesus Christ, then we become a child of God, being “adopted” into God’s family (Eph 1:5-6)(Rom 8:15)(Gal 4:5-6).
    • God (the Father) loves each and every person (Jn 3:16)(Rom 5:8)(Titus 3:4)(1 Jn 4:8-9) and He desires that every person would be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4)(2 Pet 3:9)(Ezek 18:23)(Mt 18:14), and thereby adopted into His family. However, the only way to the Father is through Jesus (Jn 14:6)(Mt 11:27)(Eph 2:18). Jesus is the mediator between God (the Father) and man (1 Tim 2:5)(Heb 8:6)(Heb 9:15). Until a person puts his faith in Jesus, the Bible distressingly says that “Satan” is his father (1 Jn 3:8-10)(Mt 13:38)(Jn 8:44)(Eph 2:1-2). In other words, until you become a child of God, you are a child of Satan….
    • You can accept Jesus’ payment for your sins, and become a “child of God” here:


    • The book is in seven parts:

    1. Salutation, 1:1-5.
    2. Theme, 1:6-9.
    3. Paul’s Gospel is a revelation, 1:10-2:14.
    4. Justification is by faith without the law, 2:15-3:24.
    5. The rule of the believer’s life is gracious, not legal, 3:25-5:15.
    6. Sanctification is through the Spirit, not the law, 5:16-24.
    7. Exhortations and conclusion, 5:25-6:18.
    (Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)

    Copyright: © Steve Shirley