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FRAMEWORKS: Paul's letter to the Galatians

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Frameworks: Galatians1


[Note: Because it is sometimes difficult to follow the flow of a letter like this, we have added a synopsis of each chapter & passage to help clarify where Paul is going with his writing.]

Why Read Galatians: Galatians is the classic text about the distinction between living according to self-centred desires by following religious rules, and living according to the leading of the Spirit having received a new life by faith in the work of Christ on the Cross. In chapter 1, Paul emphasizes that anything less than the Gospel of faith in Christ is no gospel at all. Having gone on, and continued in chapter 2 to explain his background, he declares that his gospel is not man-derived but given by Christ. In chapter 3 he confronts the Galatians with having back-pedaled and reverted to living by human endeavour. Thus it is no longer by faith in Christ and so he goes to some length to reiterate the basics of salvation by faith in Christ that means we are now children of God. In chapter 4, he explains we are now inheritors of the promise of salvation so we no longer have to conform to the dictates of the Law. In chapter 5 he emphasizes that we are now free in Christ to live by the Spirit the Christ-characterized life, with some details of how to live this life being seen in chapter 6.

The letter is an antidote to anyone who is trying to impress God by ‘being good' by following rules instead of receiving the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life, by faith. As a letter with a lot of detail and theology developed from the Old Testament, it is perhaps read carefully one chapter at a time, seeking to fully understand the points Paul is making in each chapter.



[Chapter Synopsis: Paul immediately confronts the problem, that the Galatians appear to have abandoned the gospel, by emphasizing that the gospel he preached did not have human origins but came directly from Christ and it was only a few years later that he made contact with some of the Jerusalem leaders.]

v.1-3 Greeting
v.6-10 There is no other Gospel
v.11-24 Paul's Calling & early experience



v.1-3 Greeting

[Passage Synopsis: As usual with Paul's letters he identifies himself as an apostle but emphasizes that he is one by God's calling. He needs to establish his credibility in what he is going to say. His 'grace & peace' greeting is fuller than usual, emphasizing the work of Christ.]


v.1,2(Paul identifies himself and his calling) Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

v.3-5 (he desires grace & peace for his readers, knowing this is what God, through His work through Christ, wants for them) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.



v.6-10 There is no other Gospel


[Passage Synopsis: He immediately ploughs in with his concern that they appear to have abandoned the Gospel with a substitute non-gospel gospel.]


v.6,7  (he is upset by the news that the Galatian Christians have been succumbing to a lesser confusing gospel) 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.

v.8,9 (may he [or anyone] be cursed if they preach a different Gospel) 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! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse!

v.10 (I'm not trying to win human approval) Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.


[Notes: In what follows, on into chapter 2, before Paul tackles the subject of the Jewish Christians returning to follow the Law, he seeks to establish his credibility as (a) having been called by Christ to preach the unchanging Gospel to the Gentiles, and (b) having been accepted by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Only then, in chapter 3, can he challenge them over what they have done.]



v.11-24 Paul's Calling & early experience


[Passage Synopsis: My gospel didn't have human origins but came directly from Christ, I didn't confer with church leaders until some years later.]


v.11 (the Gospel I preached didn't come from me) I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.

v.12 (it came directly from Christ) I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

v.13 (you know what I used to be, a Christian persecutor) For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.

v.14 (I was a devout, ambitious Jew) I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

v.15,16 (but when God revealed Jesus to me, that all changed. I was called to bring this Gospel to the Gentiles) But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

v.17 (I didn't consult any Christians, I went off into seclusion) I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

v.18,19 (three years later, and only then, I went up to Jerusalem and saw only two of the leaders) Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother.

v.20 (I am speaking the truth) I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

v.21 (I then travelled out of Israel) Then I went to Syria and Cilicia.

v.22 (so no Christians in Judea got to know me) I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.

v.23 (they simply heard that I had changed) They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”

v. 24 (and they praised God for what He had done) And they praised God because of me.


Continue to Chapter 2