Paul was angry when he wrote the book of Galatians. When he visited the church at Galatia, he saw that they were being influenced by the Judiazers, who taught that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep the Jewish law if they were to become Christians. They also were questioning Paul’s authority as an apostle.
In most of Paul’s letters, he starts out with a greeting and talks about how thankful he is for the people he’s writing to. But Paul starts the letter to the Galatians by laying out the reason for his authority, since the Galatians were questioning his apostleship. Then he does say the traditional “Grace to you and peace,” but there are no other words of thanksgiving. He immediately says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.” (Gal. 1:6). The Galatians were going along with the Judaizers so they wouldn’t be persecuted.
Paul packs a lot of information into this chapter. He says, in essence, “I outrank the Judaizers because I was taught by Jesus, like Peter, James and John.” (The Judaizers claimed to have learned from Peter, James and John.)
In chapter 2 Paul relates how when he brought Titus, a Greek, with him on a missionary journey, that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised. He also talks about a time when he opposed Peter to his face. Peter was eating with the Gentiles regularly. This may have been referring to the Eucharist, since it was originally served at the Passover meal. Paul also ate with the Gentile Christians. But then when certain men came to visit, Peter walked away from the Gentiles and ate only with the Jews. Peter was implying to the Gentiles that they should keep Kosher. Paul confronted Peter about this and told him he was wrong.
In Galatians 2:16, Paul states that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. The works of the law he is referring to here are the Jewish law—keeping Kosher and being circumcised. He is saying that if these things save you, then there is no nee dfor Christ.
In verse 20, where Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he is alluding to baptism, since baptism is a way to identify with Christ in his death and resurrection. (The Orthodox practice immersion for all, even infants. In fact, they immerse three times – in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.)
Jesus is the fulfillment of Abraham. In Gal. 3:6, Paul reminds the Galatians that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness before he was circumcised.
Several other times in the book of Galatians, Paul refers to the problems caused by the Judaizers:
- 4:10: Observing days and months and seasons and years
- 5:1: The yoke of slavery (Mosaic law)
- 5:4: You have become estranged (severed) from Christ – graphic language that refers to circumcism)
- 6:13: Even the Judaizers do not keep the whole law themselves.
Paul ends with a familiar greeting, but he is still disturbed about the beliefs about the Galatians.