THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE
O U T L I N E
Purpose of the book. Galatians was written to converted Gentiles who had been deceived by Judaizing teachers into putting themselves under law. It was written to correct two errors of legality: (1) that the law is needed for justification and (2) that the law is needed to maintain a holy life. Both of these errors are common today, although the second is more prevalent in protestant Christianity. In this epistle, Paul uses the sternest language that we have in the New Testament, because the Galatian error was so serious. Had this error prevailed, the gospel would not have continued very long (Gal. 2:5). Many Christians are under law. It doesn’t have to be the law of Moses, but any legal standard set up by man, whereby men measure themselves for acceptance or holiness. The principle of law puts souls in bondage, and produces the works of the flesh, not of the Spirit. This epistle was written to deliver souls from the bondage of legality.
Writer. This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, who – when he was Saul of Tarsus – was the champion of Judaism. His history is traces out on the first chapter. After being arrested by the grace of God and converted, Saul was fully delivered from the law, and became Paul – the champion of the gospel of the grace of God. He writes to these “foolish Galatians” as the champion of grace with all the experience of the ex-champion of law. Paul is therefore the perfect instrument to warn the Galatians of the trap they had fallen into, and to explain what they needed to do to be delivered.
Carefulness concerning evil doctrine. In 1 Cor. 15:33 we have a very solemn statement: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” Paul gives a principle: that corrupt doctrine (“conversations” or “communications”) leads to a corrupt walk (“manners”). How often doctrine is dismissed as unimportant, and impractical. The very opposite is true. Practice flows from doctrine. He says “be not deceived” because there is a human tendency to be deceived on this point. The two epistles that deal primarily with warnings against evil doctrine are 2 John and Galatians. In the former the danger is evil doctrine concerning the Person of Christ, and in the latter it is evil doctrine concerning the work of Christ. In both cases, the language employed is among the strongest in scripture.
Acts, Romans, Galatians develop the gospel. The doctrine of Galatians is individual, just like Romans. It is a natural sequel to the book of Romans, because it defends the truth laid out in Romans.
- In Acts Paul is preaching the Gospel.
- In Romans Paul is teaching the gospel.
- In Galatians Paul is defending the gospel.
Galatians compared to Ephesians. The Epistle to the Galatians never takes up the standing of the Church properly. It doesn’t go beyond the inheritance of promise. The blessings of Galatians are certain privileges that we share in common with every saint. for example: Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. We too believe and are justified. on a basic level, faith has the same blessings at all times; i.e. justification from sins. We christians are children of promise, entering into the portion of faith as past saints have done before us, although we have them in a greater way, such as being “in Christ”, etc. But it does not rise up to the level of Ephesians, where God is bringing out brand new, heavenly privileges. If we take our doctrine only from the epistle to the galatians, we might get the idea that christians are no more than “graduated” old testament saints. that is why we need the truth of Ephesians along with Galatians. if we read both we see this double truth:
- Galatians – The community of blessing throughout all dispensations
- Ephesians – the special privileges that result from the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
Setting. Written within 5 years of Paul’s bringing the Gospel to them, Acts 16:6. The error had come in through the efforts of Judaizing teachers, false brethren.
Judaizing teachers are mentioned in many of the Epistles: they had made inroads among the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:22), the Philippians (Phil. 3:2), the Colossians (Col. 2:18), but nowhere with as much success as among the Galatian assemblies. The tendency towards natural religion has been the bane of Christianity.
Lines of truth in various epistles.
In Romans you get “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1) but it is only in the negative sense – what the position saves you from. But in Ephesians it is the positive side (Eph. 1:3) – what the position brings us into. In Romans you get “dead” in the aspect of “dead to sin” or separated from sin as to be no longer affected by its action. But in Colossians it is “dead with Christ” in a personal way.
- Smith, Hamilton. The Epistle to the Galatians: an Expository Outline. E.I.D. Reid.
- Hole, Frank B. Galatians to Philemon. Scripture Truth Publications, 2007.
- Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians: with a New Translation. Books for Christians, 1973.
- Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.