Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
Audience: Galatia was part of the country that we now call Turkey. Most of the people who lived in Galatia were Gentiles.
Paul consistently taught that Gentiles (non-Jews) didn’t have to keep the Jewish law in order to be Jesus-followers. False brethren insisted that Gentiles who believed in Jesus had to be circumcised, keep kosher, and observe the Sabbath and annual Jewish festivals.
Dominant themes in Galatians
1. Legalism: This letter shows that Christians are free from the restrictive laws of legalism. Paul made it clear that circumcision was not required for gentiles.
2. Justification by faith.
3. Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
The letter to the Galatians addresses a problem seen in many churches today: adding man-made requirements for being a Christian. This book beautifully reveals how free from external requirements Christianity really is.
Paul has to correct the idea that certain Jewish practices have to be added to what they already have.
He reaffirms the core message that faith in the Messiah is the basis of membership in God’s new community.
Paul’s main argument is that Gentiles who become followers of Jesus don’t need to be circumcised or keep other key provisions of the law..
Gentile believers don’t need to be circumcised or follow the Jewish law. He explains that the Holy Spirit lives inside the believers, giving them the power and the desire to live as God wishes.
Instead of external restraint, there will be inner transformation. Paul concludes his main argument by describing what this transformation should look like. He describes the character qualities that make up the fruit of the Spirit and how these qualities should be lived out in the community of Jesus-followers. Paul ends this letter, like some of his others, with a greeting in his own handwriting. This gives him the opportunity to repeat his main theme: Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.