Law or Grace?
Paul and Barnabas stayed in Syrian Antioch a long time (more than a year) with the disciples. Possibly, Paul wrote his Letter to the Galatians during this stay since he does employ the decision of the Jerusalem Conference in it. On the other hand, there is no evidence that he used the letter’s arguments there. Hence, it might be dated after Paul’s second missionary journey. If so, it was written to a much larger audience in Galatia. In either case, we will consider it written at this juncture.
LETTER TO THE CHURCHES OF GALATIA (A.D. 50). This letter is the first of thirteen that Paul wrote to explain the New Covenant. It is the Magna Charta of Christian liberty, the Charter of Evangelical Faith. It is Paul’s only letter addressed to a group of churches. Throughout the book Paul assumes the position of the founder of the churches. He directly addresses them as his spiritual children and clearly states that he brought the Gospel. He is amazed at the sudden and impulsive defection of the churches from the message of grace. He pointed out that they were not only abandoning the truth but the God of truth.
The letter is Paul’s protest of Judaizers (Jewish Christians who believed circumcision and a number of the ceremonial practices of the OT were still binding on the NT church). In protest to this error, Paul develops the doctrine of justification by faith, which is the cornerstone of the NT Scriptures. Justification denotes “to be declared righteous.” Taking Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous will live by his faith,” Paul proves that law keeping or works of any kind do not contribute to God’s pronouncement of justification. Man is declared righteous by his faith.
Several important doctrines are developed for the first time: Grace over law; the conflict of Spirit and the sinful nature; liberty over law; living in/by the Spirit; and crucifying the flesh along with a clear presentation of the role of the Trinity in salvation.