Who were the Galatians? Galatia was a northern province of today's Turkey. Once Paul had stopped there when an illness had prevented him from pursuing his journey. He had visited the Galatians again before settling in Ephesus and he had aksed them to help the poor in Jerusalem.
Paul is writing because the community is in danger. Strangely enough, Paul does not make any reference to scandals, laxity or to conflict of authority, as it was the case in Corinth. There were tensions and doubts as some people wanted to go back to Jewish practices. However it seems the community was not expecting such a warning from Paul. He had shown greater foresight. Some people wanted to return to religious practices because they had failed to understand that being Christian was primarily living one's faith rather than practicing religion.
For the Galatians, discovering the Gospels had been like a bath in freedom. Those who were Jewish were freed from the constraint of religious practices and those who were Greek (and Pagan) were freed from the prejudices of their society; it was like a great cleansing. But were they able to follow Paul when he declared that Christ was able to fill our lives and that the spirit is a much better guide than any religious obligations?
At first, the Galatians had experienced what was at the core of Paul's life.But the community found it difficult to maintain itself along such a new line. After their initial enthusiasm, most of these new Christians felt a need for rules and practices. They did have faith in Christ but it was asking for a lot to want all of them to be 'spiritual' people.
It was precisely at that time that preachers of Jewish origin were exhorting them to be circumcised and to observe the customs of Israel by promising them a life superior to the life obtained by conversion to Christ.
Belonging to Judaism would have brought material security to the Galatians since the Israelites religion was protected by Roman Laws. If they refused both idolatry and the Jewish religion, they were running the risk of being persecuted. On the contrary, if they adopted the Jewish nationality and the customs of Israel, they would have avoided persecution but that would have been the same as saying that Christ had died for nothing.
This is the reason why Paul reacted passionately, All of us, Jews and pagans, we are solely saved by the generosity of God who has forgiven our sins and who has given us along with his spirit the freedoms of love. When we give too much credit to the rules and practices of religion, we are locking ourselves into a system, an order in which we expect, even without saying it, a reward for our good deeds. On the contrary, faith means surrendering to God and his mystery that is as awesome as its symbol the cross. Faith also means believing that God wants the salvation of all human beings, regardless of their nationality.
This should be enough to understand that this letter to the Galatians is still addressing us in our time when so many people reduce religion to practices. Moreover, it is in fact that to the extent that the Church has to sustain many Christians who have a very limited experience of the life in the freedom of the spirit, it tends to bring itself to their level and to become a religion. That is why the Church has to regain the awareness of its identity and to rediscover the meaning of living by faith.
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Chapter 1; Verses 1 to 5
Bench & Date (1905)
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age,..."
Chapter 1; Verses 6 to 10
There is No Other Gospel
"Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Chapter 1; Verses 11 to 24
Paul's Vindication of his Apostleship
"Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother."
Chapter 2; Verses 1 to 10
Paul & the Other Apostles
"...they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised."
Chapter 2; Verses 11 to 14
Paul Rebukes Peter at Antioch
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"If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"
Chapter 2; Verses 15 to 21
Jews and Gentiles are Saved by Faith
"We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ."
Chapter 3; Verses 1 to 14
Law or Faith
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"Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?"
Chapter 3; Verses 15 to 18
The Promise to Abraham
"It does not say, 'and to offsprings', as of many; but it says, 'And to your offspring', that is, to one person, who is Christ."
Chapter 3; Verses 19 to 29
The Purpose of the Law
"Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed."
Chapter 4; Verses 1 to7
Minors and Slaves
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"So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God."
Chapter 4; Verses 8 to 20
Paul Reproves the Galatians
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"... you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
Chapter 4; Verses 21 to 31
The Allegory of Hagar & Sarah
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"One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise."
Chapter 5; Verses 1 to 15
The Nature of Christian Freedom
"Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law."
Chapter 5; Verses 16 to 21
The Works of the Flesh
"Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these."
Chapter 5; Verses 22 to 26
Fruit of the Spirit
Portal to Atlantis
"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. gentleness and self control."
Chapter 6; Verses 1 to 10
Bear One Another's Burdens
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"Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ."
Chapter 6; Verses 11 to 18
Final Admonitions & Benedictions
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"For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything: but a new creation is everything!"