The Country. (1) Politically it was the Roman province which included Lycaonia, Isauria, and parts of Phrygia and Pisidia. (2) Geographically it was the center of the Celtic tribes, and in this sense it seems to be used in this epistle and in Acts (Gal. 1:1; Acts. 13:14; 14:6; 16:6).
The Celtic People. They were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the fourth century B. C. and in the third century B. C. invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece. A part of them remained in Galatia. predominating in the mixed population formed out of the Greek, Roman and Jewish people. They were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable and fickle people. They were quick to receive impressions and equally quick to give them up. They received Paul with enthusiastic joy, and were then suddenly turned from him (Gal. 4:13-16).
The Churches of Galatia. Just how and by whom these churches were established we do not know. The great highway from the East to Europe passed through this region, making it possible for some of those present at Pentecost to have sown the seed of the gospel there. It could have sprung up from work done by Paul while at Tarsus from the time of his return from Arabia to his going to Antioch with Barnabas. But the scripture gives us no word about this.
On the second missionary journey Paul visited them (Acts 16:6) and seems to have been taken sick while passing through and to have preached to them while unable to travel (Gal. 4:14-15). They gladly received his teaching, and churches seem to have sprung up. Paul also visited them while on the third missionary journey (Acts 18:23) and instructed and established them in the faith. The churches were running well when Paul left them, but Judaizing teachers had now come in and, acting upon their fickle and unstable nature, had greatly corrupted the simplicity of their faith.
The Occasion of the Epistle. (1) Judaizing teachers had gone among the Galatians, claiming that the Jewish law was binding upon Christians, admitting that Jesus was the Messiah, but claiming that salvation must, nevertheless, be obtained by the works of the law. They especially urged that all Gentiles be circumcised. (2) In order to gain their point and turn the Galatians from their belief, they were trying to weaken their confidence in Paul, their spiritual teacher. They said he was not one of the twelve, and therefore, not one of the apostles, and his teachings were not of binding authority. They suggested that he had learned his doctrine from others, especially from the apostles who were pillars of the church.
The Purpose of the Epistle. The purpose of the epistle was to root out the errors of doctrine introduced by the Judaizers and to hold the Galatians to their earlier faith. To do this it was necessary to establish his apostolic authority and the divine origin of his gospel. He also desired to show the practical value or application of his teaching. He especially shows the value of Christian freedom and at the same time shows that it is not license. In fulfilling these purposes he gave us an inspired classic upon the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith and forever settled the disturbing question of the relation of Christians to the Jewish law.
Author and Date. It was written by Paul, probably from Corinth in A.D. 57.
I. Authoritativeness of Paul’s Gospel, 1:11-2 end.
1. It is independent of man, 1:11 end.
2. It is the gospel of an apostle, Ch. 2.
II. Teaching of Paul’s Gospel, Chs. 3-4. Justification by faith.
1. Their experience proves it, 3:1-5.
2. The example of Abraham attests it, 3:6-8.
3. The scripture teaches it, 3:10-12.
4. The work of Christ provides for it, 3:13-14.
5. Its superior results demonstrate it. 3:15-4:20.
6. The experiences of Sarah and Hagar and their sons illustrate it, 4:21 end.
III. Application of Paul’s Gospel to Faith and Conduct, 5:1-6:10.
1. He exhorts them to stand fast in the liberty of Christ; 5:1-12; 5:12. This liberty excludes Judaism.
2. He exhorts them not to abuse their liberty, 5:13-6:10.
Conclusion, 6:11 end.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The dangers of fickleness (1:6; 4:9; 15:16). (2) The methods of false teachers: (a) Their chief method is to attack men prominent in the movement, (b) They usually put forward some one else for leader; They would supplant Paul with Peter, (c) One may well consider how a man will often allow the influence of another to be undermined if he is himself exalted. (3) The reasons Paul gives to show that his teaching is not of man, 1:11 end. (4) The confirmation of Paul’s divine call, 2:1-10. (5) Difference between one under law and under faith, 4:1-7. (6) The lusts of the flesh, sins of body and mind are included, 5:19-21. (7) The fruits of the spirit, 5:22-23. (8) The words, liberty, lust, flesh, spirit, works of the law, live and die, servant and bondage, justified, righteousness, faith and believe. (9) For more advanced study list and study passages in Galatians that coincide with or correspond to passages in Romans.
The City. It was the capital of pro-consular Asia, being about a mile from the sea coast, and was the great religious, commercial and political center of Asia. It was noteworthy because of two notable structures there. First, the great theatre which had a seating capacity of 50,000 people, and second, the temple of Diana which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was 342 feet long and 164 feet wide, made of shining marble, supported by a forest of columns 56 feet high, and was 220 years in building. This made it the center of the influence of Diana worship, of which we read in Acts 19:23-41. The statue with its many breasts betokened the fertility of nature.
Next to Rome, Ephesus was the most important city visited by Paul. It has been called the third capital of Christianity, it being the center of work in Asia through which were founded all the churches of Asia, especially the seven churches of Asia to which Jesus sent the messages of Revelations. Jerusalem, the birth place of power, is the first, and Antioch, the center of mission work, is the second capital.
Paul’s Work at Ephesus. (1) Revisited there on the return from the second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21). and left with them Aquila and Priscilla. (2) On the third missionary journey he spent about three years there, (Acts 20:31). (3) During this second visit he had such influence as to check the worship of Diana to such an extent as to arouse the opposition of her worshippers and make it necessary for him to depart into Macedonia (Acts 20:1). (4) On the return from the third missionary journey he stopped at Miletus, thirty miles away, and sent for the elders of Ephesus to whom he delivered a farewell address (Acts 20:16-38).
The Epistle. The contents are much akin to those of Colossians, but also differ greatly from them. (1) In each book half is doctrinal and half practical. (2) Colossians discusses Christ-hood or Christ the head of the church, while Ephesians discusses church-hood or the church as the body of Christ. (3) In Colossians Christ is “All and in all”, in Ephesians the ascended Christ is seen in his church. (4) In Colossians we have Paul in the heated arena of controversy; in Ephesians he is quietly meditating upon a great theme.
It has been said to contain the profoundest truth revealed to men, and the church at Ephesus was, perhaps, better prepared than any other to be the custodian of such truth, since Paul’s long stay there had so well prepared them to hear and understand it. It may have been written as a circular letter to be sent in turn to several churches of which the church at Ephesus was one.
Date. By Paul, probably from Rome, A. D. 62 or 63.
Theme. The church, Christ’s mystical body.
I. The Spiritual Blessings of the Church. 1:3-14.
1. The origin of these blessings, v. 3.
2. The blessings enumerated, 4-14.
II. Prayer for the Readers, 1:15 end.
1. That God may grant them the spirit of wisdom, the Holy Spirit, 15-17.
2. That they may know what they have in Christ, 18-33.
III. The Great Work Done for Them, Ch. 2. Both Jews and Gentiles.
1. They were regenerated, 1:10.
2. They were organized, 11 end.
IV. Paul’s Mission and Prayer for Them, Ch. 3.
1. His mission to preach the mystery of Christ. 1-13.
2. His prayer for them and doxology of praise to God, 14 end.
V. The Duty of the Churches as the Body of Christ, 4:1-6:20.
1. Duty of individual members in relation to other members and to the world. 4:1-5:21.
2. Duties of individuals in their home relations, 5:22-6:9.
3. Duties of individual members in their relation to the organized efforts of the church. 6:10-20.
Conclusion, 6:21 end.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The Christian’s standing before God, Chs. 1-2. Such words as sealed, chosen, quickened. (2) The blessings of the church, make a list, 1:3-14. (3) The elements and characteristics of the new life, 4:25-32. (4) The different things done in an intelligent Christian life, 5:3-17. (5) The exalted nature and office of Christ, 1:2-33; 2:13-22. (6) The eternal purpose of God, 2:3-5; 2:4-7; 3:9-12. (7) Principles of Christian sociology seen in the home relations such as husband and wife, child and parents, and servant and master. (8) The Christian’s relation to Christ as seen in these relations.