Galatians Commentary, Summary, and Key Verses

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Galatians Commentary

Paul’s purpose for writing the book of Galatians, scholars believe around A.D. 49, was to reveal that Paul’s apostleship was from Jesus Christ and not from men.  But Paul’s real emphasis was that salvation is not works oriented and that the Galatians liberty should not be used as an excuse to continue in sin.  There is also the fact that Paul stresses that Christian liberty is not a license to sin or to live as they choose.  A great analogy is that people have the right to drive if they have a license, however this license does not give the driver the right to indiscriminately break the traffic laws.

Paul saw grace being trampled under foot by the Galatians and to a certain extent, this is happening today in many Christian circles.   Since the Galatians knew that they were not saved by works, they equated this freedom as a license to sin.   It is true that salvation is by grace alone, found in faith alone, from Christ alone and believers are not saved by works; they are saved for works.  Even so, Paul still reminded the church that salvation is not from any works of the law but from Christ’s own redemptive work.  They went from one extreme; works based salvation, to another; using grace as a license to not worry about doing any good works at all.

This works-based salvation was brought in by the traditional Jews who thought that the Galatians, largely Gentiles, should be circumcised and not base their salvation on Jesus Christ alone (2:3-5, 5:2, 6:12-15).  Certain Jewish groups were still trying to convert the Gentiles into the Jewish customs which were becoming points of agitation with Paul since Jesus Christ is the One and only way to salvation.

Galatians Summary

Paul was so concerned that the Galatians were already turning from grace to works so soon after he had planted that church; that it was turning into another gospel (1:6).  They were perverting the gospel so badly that Paul addresses the problems of trying to gain salvation through works in several different areas:

The first thing Paul did was to vindicate the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone.  To gain salvation by the Mosaic Law meant that Christ died for nothing.  Even the Holy Spirit came as a free gift to the church at Galatia.  The Holy Spirit and Jesus’ death were both unmerited by works.

He kept reminding them that the works of the Law can not help sanctify a believer nor was it of any help toward their ongoing sanctification.  Even miracles are not a result of law keeping but by divine power alone and unmerited.

Another way was to remind them of Abraham’s example of faith and not of works of the Law.  Abraham had saving faith long before any Mosaic Law ever existed.  Saving faith is a provision of God and not of man.  Besides the Law brought a curse upon any who could not keep it and no human could ever keep it perfectly.  Only Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in a perfect way.  The idea that human performance could help acquire salvation was shattered in the Old Testament and only served to condemn men and that throwing themselves upon the mercy of God in faith was the only means possible.

Another way that Paul mentioned was that Christ’s work is the only work that can save a person and no person’s own work can ever save them since our best efforts are like filthy rags before a holy God.  The curse of the Law brought death but Christ became a curse for our sake.  The curse was borne by Christ instead of believers or in place of the believers.

Another way Paul tried to make the Galatians understand this point was to understand the purpose of the Law.  The Law would never be permanent since it was intended to serve the people only until the Promised Messiah (the Seed) would come.  The Law was never intended to bring eternal life or an eternal promise in faith.  Even the old sacrifices could never permanently leave the people free from the penalty of sin.  The Law held captive all the world and only Christ and faith in Him could set the believer free from this curse.  The Law was intended to be the schoolmaster and disciplinarian until Christ could justify us by His sacrifice and by faith.  If they want to start keeping the Mosaic Law they would have to keep the whole Law which is associated with its curse if kept imperfectly.  Paul asks them if salvation is by grace or by works?  If it is works, Paul tells them clearly that they’ve fallen from grace

Finally our incorporation into God’s family came after we were children and grown up into Christ and baptized into Him.  When we reached this relationship, being clothed in Christ, we had the full standing of being justified before the Father and we were then incorporated into His family.  If we are believers in Christ, God sees us as Abraham’s seed (3:29).  Abraham’s faith was a saving faith.  Abraham’s faith came before the Law was established.    Legalism and grace do not mix.  The cross put an end to the Old Covenant works and the obligatory rituals, washings, and sacrifices so it made no sense to keep pursuing righteousness through works of the Law.

There are no shortages of churches and Christians today that say “we don’t do that, we don’t that this, we don’t do such and such” but one evangelist said there is another group of people that are just like that; they are in the cemetery.

Galatians Key Verses

Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

Galatians 2:16know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Galatians 3:7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.”

Galatians 3:29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 5:4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 6:1-2Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

What is your favorite Bible verse from the book of Galatians? Share it in the comments!

Resources: – Galatians 4 Q &A John MaCarthur

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