After Christ, Paul dominates the New Testament writings. His letters were preserved for centuries in the church by scribes who copied the texts over and over to make certain the ravages of time would not erase his divinely inspired messages. These messages spoke volumes to the people within the cities to which he wrote. They convey their timely and timeless messages to us today.
Paul's first ministry was probably to Galatia, which is inland somewhat, in present day south-central Turkey. While visiting the cities of that province, he first preached at the synagogues (as was his usual practice) and then went out among the people. His ministry proved successful and though he converted some Jews he converted even larger numbers of Gentiles.
When Paul left Galatia, he left behind a vibrant but vulnerable church. Paul had enemies among certain groups within the church and these sent missionaries to Galatia to spread the word that Paul was not one of the primary apostles and that his teachings were not authentic. The teachings they particularly objected to were his insistence that adherence to the Mosaic Law was not essential to salvation.
Paul felt compelled to write a letter or epistle to the Galatian Church to clarify, first, his authority as an apostle and, second, to emphasize the true doctrine of Christ's teachings. Paul stressed that the fundamental basis for salvation is belief in the saving grace of Christ. Christ is the redeemer, Mosaic Law is not a part of that process.
The Epistle to the Galatians is a relatively short letter and might be covered in a single lesson or alternatively, may be the subject of an in-depth study spanning several lessons. It is interesting for several reasons. First, it highlights the conflict between the spiritual and the physical. Second, it reveals Christianity as a faith that faces outward, ever-expanding and inclusive, rather than facing inward in an exclusive manner. Third, it reveals the influence and power of an individual to spread the Gospel. Finally, it is an essential document in understanding early church history.
Galatians and Ephesians: A Life Application Bible Study is inexpensive and contains 13 lessons, charts, maps, study questions and notes. Visit our Life Application page for more information on how to use this work in a Bible study.
Galatians and Ephesians, by William Barclay is great both as an in-depth study of Paul's Letters for a group and as a daily guide for individuals. Visit our page on Barclay for more information on how to use Barclay's works in a Bible study.