Summary of the Argument 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.

Galatians 1–2         the opponents sought to discredit Paul’s authority and message by implying or teaching that Paul’s apostleship was not valid

Therefore,

  • Paul defends himself against the accusation that what he taught was done to please people (1:10).
  • Paul declares his independence from the apostles (1:16-17) as one who received his message, just as they did, directly from Jesus (1:1, 11-12). And showing that he had limited contact with the apostles (1:18-24).
  • Paul demonstrates that his message was affirmed by the apostles (2:6, 7-10), including the rejection of the pressure of the Judaizers in Jerusalem to require circumcision for Titus, a Gentile convert (2:3).
  • Paul displays (validates) that he was not a man pleaser and had authority by challenging Peter who was hypocritically bending to the same issues the false teachers in Galatia were proposing (2:11-14).

Galatians 3–4         the opponents’ message and use of the Old Testament to support their false teaching is challenged by Paul though series of Old Testament expositions

  • Appealing to Abraham as the key example of justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law (3:6, 7-9).

The false teachers may have used the “curse” of Genesis 12:3 as a threat to Gentiles—Paul used the “blessing” of Genesis 12:3 as the rebuttal, supported by Genesis 15:6.

Paul shows that any, Jew or Gentile, who respond to God in faith, as Abraham did, enter into the promises given to Abraham (3:9).

  • Demonstrating that the Mosaic Covenant was inferior (and temporary) to the promise and covenant God made to Abraham (3:16-18).

The false teachers may have placed the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant on par with each other and missing the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant and the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant.

Paul particularly points out that the promise was primarily about a singular offspring, the future Messiah (3:16).

  • Reminding them of two reasons the Law was given
    • Because of transgression (3:19)—to increase at minimum the realization of sin if not more so to increase the realization of their own need because of sin
    • Because of the Law’s roles as a guardian (3:24)—to be a disciplinarian until Christ came
  • Freedom from enslavement was provided in God’s timing through His Son who was born under the Old Covenant in order to remove the barrier of the Law which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to be adopted into God’s family (4:4-7).
    • So why would the Galatians desire to be enslaved again to the law? (4:9)
    • The false teacher sought to enslave the Galatians, not for the Galatians’ good, but to keep the Galatians in obligation to them.
    • Paul, on the other hand, wants them to have Christ formed in them (4:19).
  • Paul’s final Old Testament support is not expositional but illustrative (4:23-31) seeking to demonstrate through analogy that the Galatians were already free.

Galatians 5–6         the opponents’ message requiring circumcision is rejected and shown to invalidate justification by faith

  • Paul challenges the Galatians to stand firm in freedom not being forced back to the yoke of slavery—because adding to the gospel invalidates the gospel (5:1-6)
    • Freedom is lived out through the Spirit by faith in Christ Jesus resulting in certain anticipation of righteousness (5:6-7), and this faith is worked out through love.
  • Paul goes on to show the implications of the Gospel—as he had when personally present with the Galatians (5:21)—is Spirit produced (5:16, 18, 22, 25) godliness and unity (Negatively: 5:15, 20b-21a, 26; Positively: 5:13-14, 22)

Paul concludes his letter showing that the only way to overcome the works of the flesh is through the Spirit, whom they received by faith, not works of the law (3:1-6).

    • Contrasting the evidence of works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (5:16-26).
    • Providing practical instructions to assist in the restoration of unity (6:1-5).
    • Challenging them to take seriously what they are facing (6:7-10) and understand the real motivation of the opponents (6:12-15).

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