Route 66 - Stop 48: GALATIANS

Audio File: 
Dr. Rich McCarrell
Sunday, March 4, 2018


The Apostle Paul (1:1). Note again the emphasis Paul places on his apostleship here in verse 1.



This is tough because within the book no location, time or events are given to help with fixing a date. It is widely believed that this book was written before Paul penned the more detailed book of Romans, which concerns much of the same subject matter. Romans was written in the late A.D. 50’s. Also, Paul doesn’t mention the conclusions reached by the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) which occurred around 50 A.D. Though its conclusions bear directly on Paul’s arguments here. But we also recognize that historically the churches in North Galatia were founded later than those founded in South Galatia. So, if he is addressing Northern Galatia this was written on his third missionary journey, probably written from Ephesus around A.D. 52. If addressing Southern Galatia, then this was written after his first missionary journey, probably from Antioch, around 49 A.D. which would make it one of his earliest letters.



The churches and believers of Galatia (1:2, 3:1). Galatia was a Roman province in central Asia Minor. It was in the geographical area which is now southern Turkey. Paul planted these congregations (note plural) on his first missionary journey (Acts 13 and 14). He re-visited these churches on his second missionary journey with Silas (Acts 16) though forbidden to preach by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6). He then visited a third time in the opening years of his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23). The Galatian people were called Gauls and originally migrated from western Europe. In Paul’s letter we see that they were a people that could be very warm-hearted and generous (4:15), but also fickle and easily misled (1:6, 3:1-3, 4:13-16). Also they could be quick-tempered and quarrelsome (5:15).



The theme can simply be stated as: a passionate defense of the true gospel and a passionate defense for Christian liberty! The two key verses would be 1:8 and 5:1. Justification by faith plus nothing and sanctification by the inner work of the Holy Spirit not the external works of the Mosaic Law.



Galatians is an important book, written to strongly proclaim its theme. Both aspects of our faith are seen. This is a book that should be studied alongside Romans. Romans shows the need of  man finding God’s righteousness and practically maturing in this righteousness, and Galatians shows the way of obtaining this righteousness and maturing in it. We today especially need to keep these two books always in the forefront of our minds and churches in order to prevent error from creeping into our presentation of the gospel. In fact, Galatians 1:6-9
(one author stated) should be read and memorized by every believer!



In the purpose for Paul’s writing we see the foundation for his theme. In between Paul’s visits to these churches, judaistic teachers, or as they were called Judaizers had subverted Paul’s work by teaching a new type of legalism to these “new” Gentile believers, who were naive in their faith. Judaizers were Jewish traditionalists who felt they had the copyright on Jesus and His teachings. They undermined new converts who were unstable and not grounded, continually persuading them to defect from Paul’s teachings. Judaizers insisted that non-Jewish believers in Christ could not be true Christians until they submitted to circumcision and were striving to keep the law of Moses. These new believers listened to them and gave them credibility, as they claimed to be coming in the “name of the Lord”.


These Judaizers were obstructing the work of Paul in various places. They had particular      success in the province and churches of Galatia (1:6-7, 4:17, 5:12, 6:12-13). To sum up     their teachings, their error was not so much substituting works for faith (that would be so obvious that no one would listen to them) but rather attempting to combine works and faith.      In other words, a sinner is saved by faith, plus works and one that is saved is sanctified through faith, plus works as they keep the Mosaic Law.


Paul does not use diplomacy. He with great conviction dives right in with a stern       exhortation to these believers  (1:1-10). Paul goes on to contend that his apostleship was genuine. It was not from human authority, but from God Himself. He contends he was proclaiming the true gospel of Christ. He also asks an intriguing question in chapter 2 and verse 21 when he states that if the judaizers were right, then Christ died on the cross for nothing. Paul talked throughout this entire book that a right relationship with God was based on believing in Christ, not trying to earn favor through obeying the law. Secondly, once one becomes a Christian, we need to grow in grace and in the freedom that the Holy Spirit brings to our hearts and lives.


(Summary of Purpose)

  1. To defend the true gospel.
  2. To expose and condemn false teaching.
  3. To show the true purpose of the law.
  4. To show how the believer is practically perfected by walking in the Spirit (5:16). Remember Hebrews 12:2a !!!



We see a unique feature in this book as there are a series of important contrasts.      

A different Gospel                           vs.      The authentic Gospel

Man’s reasoning                             vs.      God’s revelation

Law                                                    vs.      Grace

Works                                                vs.      Faith

The curse of death                          vs.      The blessings of life

Condemnation                                 vs.      Exoneration

Servants in bondage                       vs.      Sons in freedom

Defeat                                                 vs.      Victory

The old covenant                              vs.      The new covenant

Living in the flesh                              vs.      Walking in the Spirit

The works of the flesh                      vs.      The fruit of the Spirit

Falling from grace                             vs.      Standing firm in grace

The world as the object of boasting    vs.      The cross of Christ



The book of Galatians is a very easy book to think through: 6 chapters, 3 divisions of 2 chapters each.       

  1. Paul’s personal vindication of his apostleship and message
  2. Paul’s doctrinal explanation of the contrast between the Gospel of grace and the law
  3. Paul’s practical application of the Gospel unto holy living.


** If you truly desire to learn and grow in this area of your spiritual walk and to understand this concept of liberty in the Spirit versus legalism of the Law ~ I recommend you read a sermon by Pastor Ray Stedman from May 14, 1972 on Galatians 5:13-26 and can be found at

             Here is a portion of that message – “Legality is a mechanical and external behavior growing out of reliance on self. It is religious performance, scrupulous and meticulous in its outward form but inwardly relying on self instead of the Spirit of God. It is operating for and on behalf of one’s own personal glory. The thing to remember is that God knows our hearts. He sees us as we are and turns off the inner power immediately when a legalistic spirit is present. So repent of it, don’t justify it, don’t excuse it, don’t call it  something else. Don’t try to cover it up and pretend it is acceptable. Examine legalistic attitudes within us and judge them in the light of the Word. Because legality is death, it is hypocrisy, it is phony Christianity, and it is a false way of trying to appear right before a God of truth who loves honesty in the hearts of His people. Legality is one of the favorite weapons of the enemy. When he can get Christians to be legalistic, he   has destroyed their enjoyment of the Spirit, and will use them to spread havoc among the company of  believers.”