This early NT book written by the Apostle Paul is more of a polemic to defend the doctrine of justification by faith rather than a personal letter to the church. That is why Paul does not include any words of commendation as he does in all of his other epistles. The integrity of the gospel message meant everything to Paul. Here he exposes the error of the Judaizing teachers who were seeking to bring the Christians back under the bondage of legalism. They were demanding strict adherence to various legalistic and ritualistic practices – thus perverting the simplicity of the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. In addition, the believers needed to be reminded that their sanctification also had to be pursued within the framework of freedom by virtue of the grace of God – not by works or personal merit. These are major theological issues and demand our attention. Paul goes on to contrast the difference between walking by the Spirit rather than by the flesh. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (5:25).
Never Surrender the Liberty of Our New Life in Christ to the Bondage of Religious Legalism –
Our New Life in Christ:
– Entered Into by Faith (Apart from Any Works)
– Energized by the Holy Spirit
– Expressed in Loving Service to Others
Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
(1:1-10) INTRODUCTION — LOYALTY TO THE ONLY TRUE GOSPEL (= PAUL’S GOSPEL)
I. (1:11-2:21) PERSONAL: DEFENSE OF PAUL’S APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
II. (3:1-4:31) POLEMIC: DEFENSE OF THE CORE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (WHICH HAS SET US FREE AND MADE US HEIRS) —
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH EXCLUDES ANY DEPENDENCE ON RELIGIOUS LEGALISM FOR SALVATION OR SANCTIFICATION
III. (5:1-6:10) PRACTICAL: APPLICATION OF LIBERTY = TO WALK IN LOVE BY THE SPIRIT
(6:11-18) CLOSING SUMMARY / BENEDICTION —
THE BRANDMARKS OF LOYALTY TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• To warn us to safeguard the integrity of the gospel message and the doctrine of justification by faith which lies at the heart of God’s salvation plan.
• To help us see the proper role of the law of God.
• To encourage us to stand fast in the liberty and freedom that belongs to us by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ.
• To expose the dangers of any form of legalism that would draw our dependence away from Christ alone.
• To help us to understand the process of sanctification in the life of a genuine believer.
Ray Stedman: Galatians comes to grips with the question of what real Christian life is like. The answer can be characterized by one word, “liberty.” The Christian is called to liberty in Jesus Christ. The cry of this epistle is that Christians might discover the liberty of the sons of God in accordance with all that God has planned for man in the way of freedom and enjoyment. Its aim is freedom of our human spirits to the utmost extent, restrained only as necessary for us to exist in harmony with the design of God. Therefore, this letter has been called the “Bill of Rights of the Christian Life,” or the “Magna Carta of Christian Liberty,” the “Emancipation Proclamation” from all forms of legalism and bondage in the Christian experience.”
David Malick: His Big Idea for the book –
“In view of the historical and theological veracity of the gospel message that salvation and sanctification are acquired by faith, Paul urges the Galatians to separate from the false teachers who desire to entangle them, and to express their freedom through loving service of one another under the enablement of the Spirit.”
John MacArthur: Paul wrote Galatians to counter Judaizing false teachers who were undermining the central NT doctrine of justification by faith. Ignoring the express decree of the Jerusalem Council (Ac 15:23-29), they spread their dangerous teaching that Gentiles must first become Jewish proselytes and submit to all the Mosaic law before they could become Christians. Shocked by the Galatians’ openness to that damning heresy (cf. 1:6), Paul wrote this letter to defend justification by faith, and warn these churches of the dire consequences of abandoning that essential doctrine.
Merrill Tenney: “Objectively, Galatians asserts that salvation is freely bestowed by God in response to faith which is founded upon His personal revelation through His gospel… Christian liberty originates in the revelation of God which define human weakness and which makes available God’s saving power. In this truth man finds his true liberty, for liberty consists not in the ability to disobey God with impunity, but in the ability to obey Him spontaneously without effective hindrance…
Subjectively, the inner life of the Christian is discussed here in its relation to God. The destruction of sin, the creation of a new man, the exercise of faith, and the enjoyment of consequent liberty are all presented in the natural setting of actual experience, illustrated by biographical allusions. This book is a series of pictures of what spiritual life should be, not just a formulary of precepts. The writer was describing what he himself was enjoying after having lived a large part of his life in legalistic bondage.… Inner fruitfulness of the spirit is more important than outward conformity of the flesh; and if the Holy Spirit is dominant within, the action of the outward man will be governed accordingly…
Objectively and subjectively, then, Galatians is the charter of freedom from externalism in worship and from frustration in personal spiritual life.”
Swindoll: Theme — Liberation through the Gospel
I. (1:11-2:21) ISSUE OF TRUTH
The Gospel is Authentic (Its Source)
The Authority of Paul’s Apostleship
II. (3:1 – 4:31) NATURE OF SALVATION
The Gospel is Superior (Its Defense)
The Falsity of Legalism
– Works versus Faith
– Legalism versus Justification
– Bondage versus Freedom
III. (5:1 – 6:10) PRINCIPLE OF HOLINESS
The Gospel is Liberating (Its Impact)
The Power of God’s Spirit
– Don’t be enslaved.
– Serve through love.
– Walk in the Spirit.
– Bear one another’s burdens.
– Let us do good.