New Testament Lesson

Come, Follow Me Sept. 23-29; Galatians
September 20, 2019
New Testament Lesson
Come, Follow Me Sept. 23-29; Galatians
Author BYU Studies Staff

“Walk in the Spirit”

Paul tells the Galatians that he had been extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers—the law of Moses. But once he learned that Christ was the Savior, he became zealous in teaching the grace of Christ’s gospel and the higher law. As some in Galatia forced a return to the law of Moses, Paul chastised them.

“Law and Liberty in Galatians 5–6,” Gaye Strathearn, in Go Ye into All the World: Messages of the New Testament Apostles, 
A dispute over whether converts had to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses led to the convening of the Jerusalem Council, yet tension remained. “We find one of the most significant examples of this tension in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. When Paul originally arrived in Galatia he taught the people the gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:6–11). The letter suggests that he taught the gospel in a context of the fulfillment of the law of Moses….It would be inaccurate to think that Paul’s view of Christian liberty was independent of law. The force of his teachings in Galatians is specifically directed to those who claim that the law of Moses is the means of achieving liberty.”

“The Occasional Nature, Composition, and Structure of Paul’s Letters,” Eric D. Huntsman, in How the New Testament Came to Be: The Thirty-fifth Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium “
The letter to the Galatians, conventionally dated AD 54–55 but perhaps composed as early as AD 48 if it were written before the Council of Jerusalem in AD 49, was written in response to a very specific and real problem in the churches spread throughout the southern or northern parts of the Roman province of Galatia. These congregations also consisted largely of Gentile converts, but in Paul’s absence a subsequent group of missionaries had disturbed the new converts by teaching them “a different gospel” (see Galatians 1:6–10). Paul’s succeeding arguments, especially in Galatians 5:2–12, have suggested that these false teachers had convinced some of the Galatians of the necessity of adopting certain aspects of the Mosaic law—notably circumcision—leading many modern scholars to refer to them as “Judaizers.”  [9]  This context and Paul’s efforts to counter this false teaching are necessary to understand properly one of his central points in the letter: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (2:16; emphasis added). On the other hand, Paul may have had a second group of opponents, because his letter later seeks to counter the efforts of those who think that the grace of Christ had made all obedience and law unnecessary. In reaction to the false teaching of these “libertines,” a second emphasis is found in a strong ethical section of the letter, where Paul enjoins the Galatians to reject the works of the flesh in favor of the fruits of the Spirit (see 5:16–26).

“Chiasmus in Galatians,” Chart 15-19, in Charting the New Testament
The full six chapters of Galatians can be seen in a chiastic pattern, shown here, and the central chiasm in Galatians 4:1-7 points to Christ redeeming those under the law.

“Galatians,” from Charting the New Testament, Chart 14-4
A brief overview of the main themes in Galatians.