Our Sunday morning Bible reading for the next three weeks is the book of Galatians. Perhaps this summary will help you follow it better.
The letter begins with Paul’s amazement that the Galatians were so quickly deserting the gospel of Christ—the gospel Paul preached—for a perversion of it, one which says we must also keep the Law of Moses (1:1-10). That quickly leads into the book’s three sections, approximately two chapters each.
The first section emphasizes the source of Paul’s gospel. He received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1:11-12). It was opposite his training in Judaism (1:13-14). He had no opportunity to learn it from the other apostles due to limited contact with them in the early years following his conversion (1:15-24). When they did gather in Jerusalem to discuss it (see Acts 15), all were in agreement (2:1-10). Paul later found it necessary to rebuke Peter when he did not practice what he preached and acted sympathetically with those who insisted that Gentiles keep the Law (2:11-14).
Paul’s rebuke of Peter serves as a transition to the second section of the book, the essence of Paul’s gospel: we are justified by faith in Christ, not by keeping law (contextually, the Law of Moses). After summarizing this truth (2:15-21) and asking why the Galatians had shifted away from it (3:1-5), Paul proceeds to explain it further.
Abraham illustrates that we are made righteous on the basis of faith, not law-keeping (3:6-9). The Law itself pronounced a curse on anyone who did not keep it perfectly (3:10-14). Our salvation is part of the blessings God promised through Abraham’s seed: Christ. Since the Law came centuries after that promise/covenant, it could not be the basis of those blessings (3:19-22). Now, all who are in Christ are heirs of that promise (3:23-29).
Prior to Christ, when the Law was still in effect, Jews and Gentiles were like children and slaves: neither was in a position to inherit. In Christ we are heirs. Why would anyone want to go back (4:1-11)? Paul was perplexed (4:12-20). History reinforced his point. Isaac, the son of promise, was the blessed one, whereas Ishmael, the slave son, was cast out (4:21-31). Like Isaac, we are free. Christ set us free. Going back severs us from Him and God’s grace (5:1-12).
Freedom in Christ brings Paul to the third section, the application of his gospel. Freedom is not license to do as we please, it is freedom to serve as God directs. It means loving your neighbor as yourself, which the Law also required (5:13-15). It means denying fleshly attitudes and conduct, developing the fruit of the Spirit instead (5:16-26). It means bearing one another’s burdens and tirelessly doing good (6:1-10). Peace and mercy are upon those who are crucified with Christ and become a new creation (6:11-18).