A General View of Galatians

Galatians  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
There are 149 verses in the epistle to the Galatians. (We must remember that the chapters and verses are made by men, not by God’s Holy Spirit. When Paul wrote, he made no chapters or verses but wrote only one letter.) In these 149 verses, we find the Lord’s name at least 45 times, so we may say that truly the great subject of our epistle is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice also the number of times we find the cross of Christ in this epistle: “The scandal of the cross” (ch. 5:11).
Persecuted for the cross” (ch. 6:12).
“Boast... in the cross” (ch. 6:14).
“With Christ I have been crucified [or, nailed to the cross]” (ch. 2:20).
“Jesus Christ has been publicly placarded—nailed on the cross” (ch. 3:1).
“They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh” (ch. 5:24).
“The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (ch. 6:14).
We will see also how often Paul speaks of the death of Christ and how often he shows Him to be the Son of God. We find the Spirit of God mentioned about sixteen times in this short epistle. We read again and again of the law, and of circumcision and uncircumcision. Seven times we read of grace. These words will give us the theme of the epistle. Are Christians under law or grace?
We will find that the epistle is divided into three great subjects, though it is difficult, or impossible, to say exactly where one ends and another begins, for the writer unconsciously goes from one to the other without any clear mark between them. There are six chapters in the epistle and, speaking in a general way, we may say there are two chapters to each subject.
The first two chapters are largely a history of Paul’s early life, conversion and intercourse with the apostles at Jerusalem. In these chapters Paul clearly shows that his authority as an apostle and the gospel which he preaches both alike came to him directly from the Lord Jesus Christ and were not given to him by the other apostles or by any man.
The second division, which we find in ch. 3, 4, gives us the doctrine concerning the mighty subjects of law and grace.
The third division, ch. 5, 6, gives us the practical life of a Christian under grace, free from the bondage of law.
There are those who tell us, “We believe in Christ alone for salvation, but we need the law for ‘a rule of life’.” We will see the epistle to the Galatians has an answer for this also.
This epistle is the mighty sword which Martin Luther used to attack the falsehoods of his opposers. He used to say, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle; I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife.”
In the present day this epistle is of just as great importance as ever. In every human heart there is the natural desire to be under law. Every one of us knows we are sinners, and we think the law is the way to keep down sin. The natural heart does not understand grace and cannot believe that God is “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:22And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. (Jonah 4:2)).
In the present day there are those who teach the law, just as the false teachers did in Paul’s day. There are those who say, “The earliest form of Christianity was just Judaism, changed a little, or with a little added to it.” The epistle to the Galatians shows clearly that this is a lie. On the contrary, the earliest form of Christianity is the very opposite of Judaism. This epistle shows that it is utterly impossible to mix Christianity and Judaism; and yet that is exactly what we find men today trying to do everywhere. This epistle shows us that Christianity is CHRIST, CHRIST ALONE, CHRIST ONLY, with nothing added to Him.
“Christ! I am Christ’s!
And let that name suffice thee!
For me it hath abundantly sufficed!”
Today there are few, if any, books more important for Christians to clearly understand and to have more deeply hidden in their hearts than the epistle to the Galatians.
Everywhere today we find those who preach the law, both by word of mouth and by books and magazines. There are thousands of men today, just like those false Jewish teachers, seeking to add the law to simple faith in Christ. We find men telling Christians that the Jewish Sabbath, not the Lord’s day (the resurrection day), is the day they should observe.
The epistle to the Galatians is a mighty two-edged sword, the sword of the Spirit, to meet all this false teaching.
Thanks be to God for giving us the epistle to the Galatians!