A. Introductory Questions Author: The author of the Epistle to the Galatians is Paul (Gal 1:1, Powell p326). Date: The date of the letter is in question however it was probably written in the mid 50CE (Powell p.327, HCSB, p. 2182). However, Galatians could have been one of Paul’s earliest letters written in 48-49 CE (HCSB, p 2182). Audience: Is an unspecified number of gatherings in the province of Galatia and their exact location has been a long-standing debate (HCSB, p 2181). The location of the gatherings has effect on the dating of the epistle. Scholars do know these gatherings were well established prior to Paul writing to them (Gal 1:2, 4:13-14). Genre: This is a letter of the style of letters in antiquity. Paul writes part of the letter in his own hand (Gal 6:11, Powell p326).
B. Outline Diagram and Summaries
An “Other/Non-Gospel” Paul can’t understand why the Galatians have listened to someone giving them a message contrary to the one he gave them. Anyone proclaiming another gospel is ἀνάθεμα (Gal1:8-9). “Damascus” Paul assures the Galatians he did not give them a second hand gospel or a story that was given to him by other apostles. He received the gospel he shares from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12). Paul reminds them he persecuted the church (Gal 1:13-14) but when God met him and set him apart he didn’t confer with other humans he took what God gave him and proclaimed it (Gal1:15-17). The Jerusalem Conference After 14 years Paul, with Titus and Barnabas, went to Jerusalem and met with the acknowledged leaders in private and laid before them the gospel Paul had been preaching (Gal 2:1-2). That circumcision was not needed to be a follower and Paul and Peter could take the gospel to different groups, Paul the uncircumcised and Peter the circumcised (Gal 2:9). Antioch Paul rebuked Peter for eating with Gentiles and then deciding not to in fear of the circumcision faction (Gal 2:11-12). Peter shouldn’t ask the Gentiles to live like Jews when he lives like a Gentile and is a Jew (Gal 2:14). Justification We are all justified by grace in Christ and not by works (Gal 2:16). We are not justified by the law but by faith in Christ “and it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Retelling of a Genesis Patriarch Abraham “believed in God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gal 3:6) so we are descendants of Abraham. And if we rely on works through the law we are cursed. But Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by hanging on a tree and becoming a curse for us. (Gal 3:11-13). So the gospel can be given to all (Gal 3:14). One in Christ Now that followers of the way have faith we are freed to be one with Christ and children of God (Gal 3:25-26). For there are no separations and all are equal and one under Christ (Gal 3:28). “Abba” as Father God We were all enslaved to the world but when the time came, God sent Jesus to be born under the law to free us all from the law so we can cry Abba Father and be heirs with Jesus to the kingdom (Gal 4:1-7). Mother Paul Paul is perplexed at how the Galatians cared for him in his infirmity and yet have turned away from the gospel he gave them. Paul is in pain of helping the Galatians be the people Christ is calling them to be (Gal 4:12-20). Retelling of a Genesis Matriarch Do you want to be subject to the law, listen to the law, Abraham had two sons, one of a slave woman born of flesh and one of a free woman born of promise (Gal 4:21-23). And the one born of flesh is held to the law while the one born of promise is an heir. We are children of the promise and not under the law (Gal 4:28-31). Redefinition of Freedom We are free but need to use that freedom not for self-indulgence but in service to the other (Gal 5:13-15). Works of the Flesh and of the Spirit Works of the flesh are for our own satisfaction while works of the Spirit help others (Gal 5:16-18). Stay away from self-gratification for that leads to not getting the kingdom (Gal 5:19-21). And by contrast the Spirit produces love (Gal 5:22-25). Law of Christ We should restore our siblings in Christ and bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1-2). Sow in the spirit and do not look to the flesh (Gal 6:3-10). New Creation Circumcision or non-circumcision mean nothing without a changed life. Flesh doesn’t obtain the covenant, a changed life does (Gal 6:11-18).
C. Interpretive Issues An issue to be thought about is Paul’s Authority. He claims he did not get his understanding of the gospel from humans and it came directly from a revelation to him from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12) and this gospel was the same as the apostles’ gospel (Powell, p 329). This sets Paul up as the last authority and really doesn’t leave room for new revelations or interpretations. Paul expands on this by reminding the Galatians of his previous life in Jerusalem, where he violently persecuted followers of the way (Gal 1:13-14) but his late coming was not an issue as his opponent’s might say (Powell, p 329). Paul reminds the Galatians he did not come to his understanding of the gospel from other apostles and his understanding of the gospel does not differ substantially from the apostles understanding (Powell, p329). Paul tells a story of a time in Antioch where Peter was proven wrong by Paul (Gal 2:11-14, Powell, p 331) to show his authority is not from the apostles, but God.
D. Ministerial Application Paul makes a clear argument that the kingdom of God is inclusive of all people. Galatians 3:28 tells us that separation by status, ethnicity and gender are removed. It does still pose issues of saying that while these separations are not defining us they still exist, and we must work to make them not be dominant, as “Brad Braxton asserts that Galatians 3:28 encourages faith communities ‘to strive for more equitable relationships across ethnic, economic, and gender lines’; ethnic differences are maintained but dominance is obliterated.” (Smith, Hagar’s p59). At Treehouse, the campus ministry I serve, we are an RIC ministry and work towards full inclusion of all people. We say “We are a grace-filled, Christ-centered community, welcoming to all students and young adults. That includes you! Whether Aggie/Buc, silly/serious, quiet/crazyoutgoing, conservative/liberal, country kid/city kid, LGBTQIA+/straight, got-it-all-figured-out/just faking it, confident/seeking, or whatever else, there’s a place for you at Treehouse.” God’s kingdom is open to all as they are, Paul makes that clear in Galatians and I strive to help Treehouse live that out by not excluding anyone.