Summary of Galatians

I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Galatians twice this year and feel like I was just finally getting a handle on this wonderful book. So I decided to continue working on summarizing the book. And to capture the book I developed 3 different summaries.

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Preview / Review

Justification by faith

Galatians 1-2 Personal defense

Defend—authenticity of the message

1:1-5 Paul introduces his God-given authority and his message—forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil age.

1:6-10 Paul introduces the problem and warns the Galatians of the seriousness of their current situation (deserting and distorting the gospel, the grace of Christ)—anyone who proclaims (for the purpose of convincing others toward) a contrary gospel, is accursed.

1:11–2:10 Paul seeks to establish the credentials for himself and his message—reaffirming that his message was from God, not men.

Paul proves it by showing that he did not receive it from other Apostles, though they affirmed his message. And proving it by not requiring a Gentile co-worker to be baptized, which was also affirmed by the Apostles.

2:11-21

2:11-14 Paul provides additional proof (demonstrates that his authority and message come from God independent of men) by recounting his correction of Peter, who gave in to the pressure (in one specific situation) to make the gospel and Christianity too closely associated with Judaism (Jewish traditions and law-keeping).

2:15-21 Paul begins to answer the question of the relationship between Gentiles and practices of the Law by focusing on the core of the gospel—being declared righteous (justification) by faith in Christ not by works of the law (that which the Law required).

Galatians 3-4 Theological defense

Declare—the gospel of grace through faith

3:1-9 Paul continues to vindication justification by faith. For the Galatians, having received the Spirit is proof that justification is by faith not the works of the Law. Which indicates that they are benefiting from the blessings of Abraham and therefore are children of Abraham by faith—not by works of the Law.

3:10-29 Paul continues to vindicate justification by faith, by demonstrating that Abraham’s justification was by faith not by the Law. Therefore, works of the Law are not means of establishing or maintaining a relationship with God. And the Abrahamic promises were not invalidated by the Mosaic covenant, which was temporary. This naturally leads to the question of the purpose of the Law, to which Paul provides two answers—to reveal sin and to serve as a guardian until Christ. It is through Christ that anyone (Jew or Gentile) by faith can be sons of God receiving the promised blessing of Abraham.

4:1-11 In God’s perfect timing, He broke into the history of humanity (who were enslaved to the weak and worthless controlling principle of the world) to send His Son in full human form, under the weight of the Old Covenant for the purpose of redeeming those who were under the law, resulting in adopt as sons. The benefits: an intimate relationship with the Father and intimate access as that of the firstborn heir.

Why go back to a lesser status? Nothing more is needed to relate to God. Nothing more to receive, nothing more can be earned by works of the Law. Already fully approved by God as evidence of being included in as part of His family.

4:12-31 Paul returns to delineate his personal relationship with the Galatians—reminding them of their acceptance of him and his message. He questions the motivation of his opponents while passionately declaring his desire for the Galatians to have Christ formed in them. He then uses an extended illustration to show that not all the biological children of Abraham are children of promise. Reinforcing his belief that the Galatians are children of promise.

Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5-6 Practical application

Describe—the outcome of the message

5:1-15 Paul encourages the Galatians to enjoy, preserve and protect their freedom.

5:1-12 Paul pivots to the demonstrate that justification by faith provides freedom so the Galatians should stand firm in that freedom and not allow anyone to force them back under the yoke of slavery which is the Law. They must understand that they cannot pick-and-choose aspects of the Law—if they choose to accept the need for circumcision, they must keep the whole Law. But this would sever them from Christ and the hope of righteousness produced through the Spirit by faith.

5:13-15 But this freedom does not lead to antinomian recklessness, but enables them through love to serve others—thereby, carrying out the ultimate ethical aspect of the Law—to love one’s neighbor, rather than opposite—destructive, antagonistic behavior.

5:16-26 Paul challenges the Galatians to continually depend on the Spirit for the power to obey God, even as they continue to battle the desires of the flesh. Paul provides a list of vices and virtues which provide the evidence of whether one is carrying out the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit.

This section helps support the fact that a faith relationship with God, through Christ, is not antinomian. Paul describes the present battle and power source for Christians—the Spirit.

5:25–6:10 Since believers are still in a battle against the flesh which is often evident by an exaggerated self-conception, Paul provides instruction for how walking by the Spirit should be evident within the household of faith. Walking by the Spirit results in personal and community responsibilities—including restoring one who sins and assisting the overburdened. And while this can be wearying, Paul exhorts them to not give up.

6:11-18        Summary

Paul’s concluding section, written in his own handwriting as the mark of authenticity, reviews the key issues addressed throughout the letter and makes it clear that the primary issue the Galatians were facing was pressure to be circumcised as a means for obtaining a proper relationship with God. But what should be their boast is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for through it the world no longer has influence over them.

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