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Galatians

General

We can see the letter to the Galatians as a kind of 'little Roman letter'. That is to say: Much of what Paul writes later in the letter to Romans can in principle already be found in the letter to Galatians. We especially think of the difference between the life of the Spirit and the life of the flesh. Among the latter, Paul also includes the efforts of men to be justified by works of the law. 'It proceeds from the flesh and is therefore contrary to the Spirit', says the apostle, as it were. And so we can actually say that in the letter to Galatians - as in a number of chapters in the letter to Romans - it is about 'law or grace'.

Writer, origin and destination

The opening verse of the letter shows us that the letter was written by Paul and according to chapter 6:11 he did so "with his own hand" and in "large letters".

The second thing that becomes clear from the opening verses is that he was writing to the "churches of Galatia" (v. 2). According to Acts 16:6, during his second missionary tour, Paul passed through the "Phrygian-Galatian land". This area was centrally located in Asia (modern Turkey). According to that same verse, the Holy Spirit prevented Paul and Timothy from speaking the Word there. This may have something to do with Paul's physical condition when he was there for the first time (see Gal. 4:13 and 14). In that - probably short - time he preached the gospel to them; however, he soon had to move on to Mysia, an area in the far west of Turkey. The fact is that when Paul visits the Galatians for the second time - namely during his third journey - there are disciples who had to be strengthened (Acts 18:23). That they were "fruits" of Paul's proclamation is apparent from Galatians 4:19, where he describes them as his "children." After his journey "through the highlands" (Acts 19:1), thus strengthening the disciples in Galatia, Paul came to Ephesus, where he dwelt a total of three years (Acts 20:31) and from where he wrote the letter to the Galatians wrote. This brings us to the year 57/58 as the time when the letter was written.

Structure

A. 1:1-5 Letter style and greeting.
B1. 1:6-2:14 Concern.
C1. 2:15-4:11 Doctrinal correction.
B2. 4:12-20 Concern.
C2. 4:21-6:10 Doctrinal correction.
B3. 6:11-14 Concern.
C3. 6:15 Doctrinal correction.
A. 6:16-18 Letter style and praise.

Purpose and content

As the structure makes clear, Paul was very concerned. This concern was particularly concerned with the Galatian faith life. Because of the influence of Judaism (which wanted to bring the believers back under the law), Paul expressed the fear: "You began with the Spirit, now you end with the flesh?" (chap. 3:3). But before Paul goes into the substance of the matter, we see at the beginning of the letter how dramatic the situation is among the Galatians, because the apostle first elaborates on his apostleship. The tone in this regard is already set in the first verse of the letter: "... an apostle, not of men, nor of man, but of Jesus Christ, and God the Father ...". And see also chapter 1:12, 17 and 20. Apparently it was the way of his opponents to cast doubt on the apostleship of Paul. And if there's no trust, the basis for getting things across is basically gone. And it seems as if the apostle writes his letter from that fear and worry. The Galatians' ship of faith was sinking. Some of this we taste in the following verses - and read them in your Bible: chap. 1:6, 10 and 11; 3:1-4; 4:9-11, 16-20; 5:13 and 6:7.

Paul alternated the parts in which he expressed his concern by writing how it was all doctrinally set up for the Galatians. But where there is no trust, the truth of God's Word is no longer believed.

If this letter is about Spirit and law, then there is actually talk of the new and the old covenant. After all, the Galatians letter was also written at the time of the start of the new covenant. We know from historical sources that at that time in Galatia there was a large and prosperous colony of people who came from the ancient covenant people of God. And of course, in accordance with the Acts time, they had been told to take their place in the covenant relationship with God. But this great gospel to Israel was destroyed by people who confused them and perverted the gospel of Christ (chap. 1:7), who, as it were, bewitched them (ch. 3:1), who wanted to put them out of grace. (chap. 4:17), who got in their way (ch. 5:7).

Without the necessary confidence, Paul could no longer convince the Galatians that one can only be justified by faith in Christ (as it is twice literally stated in Gal. 2:16).

core text

"Thou art apart from Christ, if thou through the law righteousness (ch. 5:4)