Letter to the Galatians (book of the Bible)

Epistle to the Galatians. (abbreviated Gl) New Testament Book of the Bible . It is a letter written by Saint Paul of Tarsus to the Christian community or Church of Galatia .

Summary

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  • 1 Author
  • 2 Date and place of writing
  • 3 Recipients
  • 4 Main Themes
  • 5 The Magna Carta of the Church
    • 1 Key Text
  • 6 Galacia
  • 7 Purpose
  • 8 Content and structure
    • 1 Content outline
  • 9 See also
  • 10 Sources

Author

The Apostle Saint Paul of Tarsus , who was the author of most of the New Testament letters .

Date and place of writing

Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians probably in Corinth, between the years 55 and 60, shortly before or shortly after having written to the Christians in Rome .

Addressees

The churches in Galatia , a district in Asia Minor , whose boundaries have not been determined with certainty.

Main topics

A defense of the doctrine of justification by faith , warnings against reversion to Judaism , and the vindication of Paul’s apostolate.

The Magna Carta of the Church

This letter has been called by some writers. The main argument is in favor of Christian freedom, as opposed to the teachings of the Judaizers. These false teachers insisted that observance of the ceremonial law was an essential part of the plan of salvation.

Key Text

Galatians 5: 1
“Stand firm, then, in the freedom with which Christ made us free, and never again be subject to the yoke of bondage.”

Galacia

Galacia

The Epistle to the Galatians (= Gl) is a precious source of information about the first steps of the gospel in Galatia. Thanks to her we know of the activity carried out by Pablo in a region that covered a large part of the central zone of Asia Minor , and that since the s. I BC was attached to the Roman Empire with the category of “province”.

The descendants of ancient Celtic tribes (or “galas”, from where the name of the country comes) that three centuries before had migrated from the center of Europe were then inhabited by Galatia . Some of them reached Asia Minor, they settled and then gradually spread over the vast territories within the limits of present-day Turkey .

Out of the epistle, Galatia is mentioned only five times in the NT. (However, despite this paucity of news, its importance to church history is evident . We know from Paul’s personal testimony, that he announced Jesus Christ there , and there is no doubt that he also founded a number of small Christian communities scattered throughout the province.

For those churches he wrote the epistle. But not in particular for a single and determined one, but for those of Galatia in general, made up of believers who, mostly or possibly entirely, came from paganism.

Purpose

The Galatian believers showed great satisfaction at first because of the gospel; and for a time they had lived their Christian faith with the same joy and confidence with which they had also welcomed the presence of the apostle. But, not long after, that first joy and fervor seemed to cool, which coincided with the appearance among them of serious doctrinal problems. For this reason, Paul was moved to write this letter, in which, on the one hand, he reproaches the fragile faith of the Galatians and, on the other, denounces the activities of certain “false brothers who had secretly entered among us, to spy on our freedom – that which we have in Christ Jesus ».

With these and other harsh expressions, he refers to some groups of Jewish origin that toured newly formed churches and upset them with teachings that were alien and even opposed to the gospel, and that also attacked their authority and the legitimacy of their apostolate .

Those whom Paul branded as “false brothers” tried to convince the Galatians that the gospel of Jesus Christ, to be perfect, had to remain subject to the law of Moses and keep in force certain practices of Judaism, in a very special way the circumcision . They were, therefore, Judaizers, who, trying to perpetuate the validity of norms that in Christ had been surpassed, urged believers to depart from “the truth of the gospel”, which is the foundation of “the freedom with which Christ made us free.”

Paul quickly realized how serious the danger was for the Christian congregations visited by the Judaizers. He understood that it was a real danger, that it affected basic questions for the faith and the life of the church and that it came to disturb the sense of the unique gospel of salvation by Christ .

Content and structure

The Epistle to the Galatians is thematically related to Romans . It begins with a presentation of the matter to be dealt with (1.1–10) and, contrary to Paul’s custom, does not contain any thanksgiving or expression that testifies to a feeling of joyous affection. It simply consists of a concise heading and a few words of blessing and doxology followed by the main statement of the letter: There is no more gospel than that of Jesus Christ .

The epistle is divided into three sections: In the first (1.11–2.21), Paul defends the authenticity of the evangelical message that he had preached in the Galatian churches (1.11–12). In this way he claims the legitimacy of his work as an apostle called and sent by God to announce Jesus Christ among the Gentiles (1.15–16). He also refers to some aspects of his life and conduct: his previous Jewish fanaticism, which led him to persecute “exceedingly the church of God” (1.13–14); the recognition of his ministry by the apostles of Jerusalem (2.1–9), and his confrontation with Peter in Antioch of Syria (2.11–14). Finally, it highlights the value of faith, by which God justifies the sinner (2.15–21).

The second section (3.1–5.12) begins with a warning to those who had fallen into the trap of external fulfillment of the Law and thus underestimated the grace of God (3.1–5). There follows a consideration about Abraham’s faith (3.6), how God’s blessing and promises reach Gentiles (3.14, 28–29), and what is the current validity of the Mosaic law (3.19– 24; 4.1–7). The rest of the section (4.8–5.12) is an invitation to remain “firm in the freedom with which Christ made us free” (5.1).

The third part of the epistle (5.13–6.10) consists of an exhortation to make good use of that same freedom, which must configure the life of the Christian according to the norm of love: to serve “out of love for one another” ( 5.13) and bear “each other’s burdens” (6.2). This is the law of Christ (6.2) and the way in which the Spirit of God leads the church (5.16–18, 25). This section includes the catalog of vices and virtues better known as “the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit”.

The conclusion of the epistle includes some summary observations (6.12–17), a note written by Paul in his own handwriting (6.11) and a brief final blessing (6.18).

Content outline

  1. Prologue (1.1–9)
  2. The gospel announced by Paul (1.10–2.21)
  3. Christian faith and freedom (3.1–5.12)
  4. The use of freedom (5.13–6.10)
  5. Epilogue (6.11–18)

 

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