Galatians Commentary, Summary, and Key Verses

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

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:

www.youtube.com – Galatians 4 Q &A John MaCarthur

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret Yohanna August 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm

My favorite verse in Galatians is Gal:5vs10.Thank you.

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Jack August 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thank you Margaret. This is a hard decision for me to make since there are so many great verses in this book by Paul. I appreciate your comment and visiting the website. Please return again and I thank you so much. The verse you pick is certainly outstanding. I wish I had included it now.

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JessicaW July 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I would like to make a point at where you stated that “believer’s are not saved by works”…Oookay, so if that statement is true then does James 2:17-21 mean absolutely nothing? Becaus e if all of the bible is right, it would all make sense and not contradict itself. Please share with me the views on this issue.

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Jack Wellman July 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thank you Jessica for your comment. I did not say we are not saved by works but by grace alone in faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Paul said it many, many times:

Galatians 2:16 “know 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.” Also read Romans 3:20, 28 and dozens of other places.

We are not saved by works but by faith alone but that faith is not alone for our faith produces works. We are not saved by works but FOR works. What James is talking about is that if there are no works, then there must be no true saving faith for truly those who are saved will naturally produce works. James is saying that this shows the genuineness of our faith. If there are no works at all, then we are not saved…but if we are saved, we will naturally have works. Are you saying that works are the way to salvation? James 2:17-21 says if a man says he has faith then show me works to prove it. I would love you to read 1 John chapter 3 and see what I mean. I really appreciate you bringing this up because many have found these James’ verses perplexing and I should have included this in this article, so I apologize for that and I thank God for you Jessica for bringing this up. Please come back again soon.

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Mark July 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Agreed, works can only come into play once one is saved – before that it’s filty rags.

Once saved, the newness of life produces works.

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Jack Wellman July 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Amen Mark. Works are not a way to salvation…they are a result of it. The “newness of life produces works” is well put my friend. I wish I had thought of that. Well done brother. God bless and thank you for visiting us and commenting. Please do come back.

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Dorothy Meltebarger August 11, 2012 at 10:17 am

Dearest Brother Jack,
I love the Book of Galatians for it tells me that “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ who liveth in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Gal. 2: 20. It’s all about Jesus, that precious, lovely, Son of God. Keep writing about Him, Jack, and thanks for your words of wisdom which the Spirit alone gives to you, Love in Christ, Dorothy Meltebarger now 82 Yrs. young

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Jack Wellman August 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

Hello Mrs. Meltebarger. What a precious and lovely comment. I just love your words where you said that you live by faith in the Son of God and telling me to “keep writing about Him (Jesus).” I thank God for you ma’am, for such godly, wise, and loving women of faith like you. God bless you Mrs. Meltebarger and please do come back to visit us again soon.

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Bob Farrell October 6, 2012 at 8:50 am

Galatians 2:21 converted me….at least was truly an epiphany verse!
Having grown up in the Catholic tradition, I believed that my works played a role in my salvation. I viewed grace as a commodity …..I could get more if I did more….less if I did less.
“if righteousness could be gained by keeping the law Christ died for nothing.”
I knew that Christ died for me and all of mankind…..that by His sacrifice alone could I receive the “life that is truly life”.
Nothing I did or could’ve done would make me right before God . A gift cannot be earned!
Now works that honor Him and are for His glory are evident in my life.
I understand: ” that we are Gods workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He had planned for us to do.”
I embrace these works with gratitude and for His glory.

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Francis N.G. November 7, 2012 at 12:52 am

Thanks Jack for your great articles. Was great finding your commentary. Is it too late to indicate my favourite pick this season is Gal. 5. 22-23. Blessings

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Jack Wellman November 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hello Francis. No, it is never too late. Great suggestion and so I just did add Galatians 5:22-23. How could I have ever overlooked those! Thank you so much. Done!

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Donnie January 8, 2013 at 8:07 am

Dear Pastor Jack,
Faith without works is dead! True saving faith is serving faith. Read that somewhere a few years ago. Thanks for your encouraging writing!

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glen jones January 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

Dear Pastor,,,,,,,,,,,The fact of which paul wrote about the law is only to point out sin,,it was added to the Abrahamic covenant,which it cannot change the promise god made with him,,,the law was to keep the jews inline till christ came to nail both sin an all sacrifices plus cerimonies to the cross,,our rightiouness is based on faith,,(the just shall live by faith),,The work we must now do is the ones that the spirit leeds us to do,,we’re to abide in the vine(christ)to bare fruits (fruits of the spirit)feed the hungry,poor,naked,broken hearted,sick,those in prison,,an be patient in long suffering,charity,good concience,unfeinge faith,,,

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Ebuka collins January 24, 2013 at 5:12 am

Nice commentary sir. I will like an explanation on gal 5 verse 4. Cant one strive to be righteous even when the grace is abundant. Lets take an example where a man uses his friends item without informing his friend and he has the idea of taking back the item. I just cant understand cause its a thin line between not striving to sin with faith of grace and not purposely sinning.

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Debbie January 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Greetings Pastor Jack! Thank you for the well written article. Very well done. I have a question I would like to see what your thoughts are on it. Galatians 3:19 “purpose the law serves . . And it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator “. . exodus tells us Moses met with God on the mountain, God wrote the 10 commandments with His finger . . No mention of angels bringing the law. I’m confused. Thanks I appreciate your time and thoughts. Blessings deb

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Jack Wellman January 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

Thank you Debbie for your comment and question. This verse has caused great confusion because we know that God gave Moses the Law and he was the initial mediator and later Jesus was and today is our Mediator between the Father and us. Paul designates the origin of the law in his statement that the law was put into effect through angels by a mediator (v. 19). By this Paul does not mean that the law was given by angels rather than by God. He is merely pointing to the well-known Jewish tradition that God gave the law through the agency of angels as well as by a mediator, namely Moses. References to the agency of angels in the giving of the law can be found in the Greek version of Deuteronomy 33:2 and Psalm 68:17. We can also see this tradition about angels in Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2.

The presence of angels and the mediation of Moses in the giving of the law were understood by the Jewish people to signify the great glory of the law. But Paul argues that the giving of the law through a series of intermediaries, angels and Moses, actually demonstrates the inferiority of the law. His argument is cryptic and enigmatic: A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one (v. 20). Literally, this sentence reads, “But a mediator is not one, but God is one.” A contrast is being made between the plurality of participants in a process of mediation and the oneness of God. In the larger context of Paul’s argument here, there is also the implied contrast between the promise given directly by God to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ, the seed of Abraham, and the law given through numerous intermediaries.

Does this clear it up my friend? I pray it does.

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Anonymous May 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Did the people spoken of in Galations 5:4 lose their salvation? Is that what “alienated from Christ” means?

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Jack Wellman May 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm

This is NOT talking about a person or a people (a local church actually at Galatia) losing their salvation but becoming estranged or like alienating Christ because they want to add works to their salvation which will not help. You must read all of that chapter and not just one verse. Never, ever just take one verse out and make it stand alone. For example, Gal 5:1-6 says “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

See? He is reminding them that they should not be adding works to their already achieved salvation.

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moses June 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

my favourite is Gal 6:9, Gal 2:16

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Glen jones July 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Dear pastor jack,,,paul demostrates that we are saved by god’s Grace an grace alone through Faith in Christ jesus,james explains that faith without works is dead,but as we should understand christ life is what we should demonstrates in our lives being Ambassador for him,to do righteousness which is the works of faith,, feeding the poor,visiting the sick,praying for the broken heartred ,be charitable,,an to bear the fruits of the spirit,,,just believing an showing our belief through faith,,if we say we have faith an dont demonstrate it ,then its jus belief ur left with,,,so let our yea be yea,,,

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Jack Wellman July 3, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Amen Mr. Jones. So true. I am glad that we are saved by faith and not by works and yes, we should have works that demonstrate we actually have faith. Well said. Great comment sir. We are not saved by works but for works and that is we are saved by faith alone but by a faith that does not end up alone but has works as proving fruit of our salvation. Thank you sir for your comment.

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jeff July 30, 2013 at 9:11 am

what is the really message of paul for the book of Galatians.. thanks Jack….

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Jack Wellman July 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Thank you Jeff for your question. This epistle has been called the Christian’s “Declaration of Independence” and so it is! Its teaching was a first step in securing a religious emancipation for God’s people from the domination of man. The message is as valid today as it was when Paul wrote it.

Paul was upset with the Galatians. They had become enamored by men, even with Christian leaders who resided in Jerusalem, and Paul had to correct their ways. “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). Then, for the next two chapters, Paul shows that he did not get his Gospel from any man, not even from the Christian apostles who were at Jerusalem. In fact, Paul stated very clearly that he had had so little contact with the apostles at Jerusalem, that for a seventeen year period, he went to Jerusalem only once and then he only saw the apostle Peter for fifteen days and James for a brief time (Galatians 1:18–19). What an admission on Paul’s part! He went to “headquarters” only once for a whole period of seventeen years, and yet he lived only about 400 miles north not much more than a ten-day trip away. He must not have thought it was all that important for him to have remained away so long. The truth is Paul was not interested in getting any approval of men in order to please men, even if it meant the “apostles before me” [those who were apostles before Paul in time] (Galatians 1:17).

So what do we have with the Book of Galatians? Again I say, it is the Christian’s “Declaration of Independence” from the bondage of men and from outdated religious practices. If people would apply the message of Galatians, and practice the fruits of the Spirit, they would finally begin to understand what true freedom is all about. That freedom involves no keeping of Old Covenant Sabbaths, holydays, circumcision, new moons, sacrifices, tithing, clean and unclean laws of purity, etc. It does mean that one will exercise the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. This involves love, joy, peace, faith, etc. (Galatians 5:22–23). When one begins to practice a true love to all, in order to glorify Christ in heaven, then he can know what real liberty in Christ means.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

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Aidan Melody. January 19, 2016 at 5:31 pm

A very good article and to the point.To be saved we have to have Faith in Jesus our Messiah.You are right in what you say but Faith in Jesus means a lot more than you are saying or not saying.There are many Testimonies in the Holy Gospel that truthfully state that Jesus is the Only Son of God,a Prince and an Heir to the Throne of God.This is the Faith you need for whoever believes in the Son also believes in the One who sent Him.Salvation is only obtained through the Son of God and if you do not believe in the Only Son of God you can not obtain Salvation.Believing in a Trinity Jesus,an Eternal Jesus etc is not believing in the True Gospel Jesus and the sooner you realise this the better for time is very short.

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Henry Dam July 28, 2018 at 12:41 pm

My favorite Bible verse from the book of Galatians is

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.”

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