Galatians was a favorite of the Reformers. Martin Luther said of the book: “This is ‘my’ epistle. I am wedded to it.” Galatians has also been a favorite of evangelicals, given our focus on salvation. As we start the epistles of Paul, there may be no better start. Paul gives us the gospel, stripped down and simple, and leads us to the Holy Spirit as our power for spiritual living.
Almost no one questions whether Paul wrote Galatians. In fact, Galatians may be his first letter, or at least one of the earliest. Whether Christians have to be circumcised is a big question in the letter, and this was an issue that was settled definitively in Acts 15. Strangely, Paul never cites that decision in Galatians, possibly suggesting this letter was written even before the events of Acts 15. That would mean that the events of Galatians 2 refer to Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Acts 11:30. Regardless, what we have here is some of Paul’s earliest thinking.
Historically, there has been no agreement on whether Paul is writing to Galatian Christians in the northern part of that Roman province or to Christians in the southern cities of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, converts from his first missionary journey. Remember back to Acts 13-14, how Paul had quick success in this region only to be followed by fast opposition from the Judaizers, Jewish Christians who believed that one had to become a good Jew in order to be a good Christian. It makes most sense to me that Paul is writing the Galatians in the southern province as a rapid rebuttal to the Judaizers who are jeopardizing his work.
What do you have to do to really be considered a Christian? What is it that truly saves a person? These are the questions Galatians will take up in a big way. They are also questions we often ask today as well. There will be much that is helpful in this short book.