Background of Galatians

What Is the Book of Galatians About?

Time: 7 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

Do you ever find yourself worrying that God doesn’t love you, or that one day you may stand before him unapproved, or found to be unpleasing to him? You’re not alone. Two thousand years ago, a man named Paul wrote a letter to a group of new Christians in an area in the Roman Empire called Galatia.

His letter, found in our Bibles as the book of Galatians, addresses the crucial question of how we can have a right standing before God.

Before writing this letter, Paul visited Galatia on a missionary journey; you can read about this in Acts 13-14. Paul shared the good news about Jesus Christ, and many of the Galatians became Christians.

Unfortunately, after Paul left Galatia and the young church he planted there, other people came teaching the Galatians a different message about Jesus (Galatians 1:6-9), and the Galatian Christians were beginning to believe these false claims. Paul wrote this letter to the Galatian believers to correct them.

These false teachers told the Galatians that having faith in Jesus alone wasn’t enough to secure for them a right relationship with God. They said you must add something more to the work of Jesus in order for God to approve of you. These false teachers preached a “Jesus-plus” message.

They did this in three ways:

  1. First, they told the Galatians that their ethnicity mattered. Because the Galatians were Gentiles (non-Jews), the false teachers said that unless these people first converted to Judaism, they could not have a relationship with God.
  2. Second, they said that certain religious rituals must accompany their faith in Jesus, for God to approve of them. This mainly involved receiving the Jewish sign of circumcision and following the rituals and customs of the Jewish law.
  3. Third, the false teachers told the Galatians that they must practice good works to find favor with God. By good works they meant obeying the Jewish law.

All three of these false requirements added something unnecessary to the complete atoning work of Jesus, which paid fully for our sins and reconciled us to God. Jesus did all the work needed for us to be righteous. He paid the full price for our sins. By faith alone in Jesus, trusting his work on our behalf, we receive God’s loving approval.

The false teachers taught that Jesus wasn’t enough. You needed Jesus plus the right ethnicity, and Jesus plus the right rituals, and Jesus plus your own good works.

Paul rejected the beliefs of the false teachers so strongly that he said they would be eternally condemned for teaching it (Galatians 1:8-9)! If you read Galatians carefully, you will hear Paul’s strong distressed tone (Galatians 4:19-20; 6:11). The wonderful, good news about Jesus is that we become righteous by faith, and Paul feared that the Galatians would be deceived about the thing that matters most—their salvation.

The wonderful, good news about Jesus is that we become righteous by faith.

Paul gives the Galatians the truth about Jesus. His message is authoritative because he received it straight from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12), he was sent directly from God (Galatians 1:1), and his message is corroborated by the other apostles (Galatians 2:9). Paul points out the false teachers’ perversion of the gospel of Jesus (Galatians 1:7) and contrasts the freedom in Christ the true gospel yields with the slavery they experience under the Jewish law.

The Jesus-plus message puts the emphasis on me, what I need to do to earn God’s approval. But the good news is that Jesus has already freely ushered us into the favor of God.

Saying that salvation is “Jesus plus anything” takes away the freedom we have in Christ and makes us slaves (Galatians 2:4). Do you see this sort of false teaching today? Have you heard that the way to be right with God is Jesus plus good works, or Jesus plus anything?

The way to be accepted by God and freed from his condemnation is by faith in Jesus alone. There are no cultural, racial, or socio-economic requirements for you to receive God’s salvation. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Paul explains that we are not slaves to manmade rules and regulations; we who have faith in Jesus are God’s son or daughter. Being children of God comes with huge blessings. We are no longer slaves and we have an eternal inheritance from God our Father (Galatians 4:7). We also receive the Holy Spirit who transforms us so that we bear his fruit and resemble him (Galatians 5:22-23).

All of this comes through faith alone in Jesus’ work. We can stand approved and pleasing before God because of Jesus and his love for us. Read Galatians and discover all that Jesus has accomplished for you.