What is the Book of Galatians About?

Read this 4-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Galatians!


Historical Context

The apostle Paul wrote this letter. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Galatians for your good and to lead you into joy.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 48. The Galatians are probably believers in the churches of the southern region of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul is more critical of his audience here than in any of his other letters. 

The Setting of Galatians 

c. AD 48

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was likely written to the churches he had established during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28). He probably wrote the letter from his home church in Antioch in Syria, sometime before the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1-31). 

—ESV Global Study Bible

This letter addresses a social and racial division in the churches of Galatia. The first Christians in Jerusalem were Jewish, but as the gospel spread out from that center, increasing numbers of Gentiles began to receive Christ. However, a group of teachers in Galatia were now insisting that the Gentile Christians practice all the traditional ceremonial customs of the law of Moses, as the Jewish Christians did. They taught that the Gentiles had to observe all the dietary laws and be circumcised for full acceptance and to be completely pleasing to God.

—Tim Keller

Source: Tim Keller, quoted from his book, “Galatians for You,” p. 10-11.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

How to Be a Good Christian and Other Religious Nonsense by Britt Merrick

In this 14-part sermon series, Pastor Britt Merrick walks us through the book of Galatians. He highlights the good news about the wonderful grace of God towards us sinners. His preaching will lead you to joy, and into a deeper understanding of God’s great love for you. 

Galatians Dictionary

As you read through Galatians, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

To praise or make holy. The word bless is used in different ways in the Bible: (1) When God blesses, He brings salvation and prosperity and shows mercy and kindness to people. (2) When people bless, they (a) bring salvation and prosperity to other persons or groups; (b) they praise and worship and thank God; (c) they give good things or show kindness to others.

The Greek word that means “God’s Chosen One.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning the same thing. Jesus was the Christ.

To cut an unneeded flap of skin, called the foreskin, from the penis. For the Israelites, circumcision was a sign of the special agreement (or covenant) they had with God: If they worshiped and obeyed Him, He would be their God and they would be His people. Abraham was the first Hebrew to be circumcised. After Abraham, Hebrew baby boys were circumcised when they were eight days old. Leaders in the Early Church said that it was not necessary for men or boys to be circumcised to become part of God’s family.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

(1) To be certain about the things we cannot see or to trust someone because of who he or she is. For example, a Christian has faith that Jesus is God’s Son. (2) The whole message about Jesus Christ—that He is God’s Son and that He came to take the punishment for our sin so that we may become members of God’s family. This describes the faith of a Christian.

All people who are not Jewish.

(1) Literally, “good news.” The good news of the Bible is that God sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for sin and then raised Him from the dead so that any person who believes may have new life. (2) The story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ told in the first four books of the New Testament. The books are also called the four Gospels.

Someone who has the right to receive the property or position of another person when that person dies. In Bible times, the heir was usually a son. The Bible says that anyone who is a member of God’s family is His heir. God will never die, but because we are His children, God keeps on giving us great love, care and kindness.

Money, property, or traditions received from another person. Often a person receives an inheritance after another person’s death. The Bible tells us that everything that is God’s belongs to Jesus Christ. By His death on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to share His inheritance with Him.

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love Him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A person who settles differences or arguments between two or more people. Jonathan was a mediator between David and Saul. Moses was a mediator between God and Israel. By paying the punishment for sin, Jesus became the mediator who makes it possible for us to have peace with God.

(1) To gather ripe grain and fruit. (2) The reward or punishment people receive for their actions (see Galatians 6:9).

To buy back. In Bible times, a person could buy a slave and then set the slave free. The slave had been redeemed by the person who had paid the price and then given the slave freedom. The New Testament tells us that by dying, Jesus paid the price to buy us back and set us free from our slavery to sin.

To make known something that was hidden or unknown.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

(1) A wooden bar that goes over the necks of two animals, usually oxen. The yoke holds the animals together when they are pulling something such as a cart or plow. (2) Two oxen yoked together. (3) A word picture for any burden or demand. Slavery, imprisonment, taxes or unfair laws may be called yokes. (4) A partnership.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions