The Country. (1) Politically it was the Roman province which included Lycaonia, Isauria, and parts of Phrygia and Pisidia. (2) Geographically it was the center of the Celtic tribes, and in this sense it seems to be used in this epistle and in Acts (Gal. 1:1; Acts. 13:14; 14:6; 16:6).
The Celtic People. They were descended from the Gauls who sacked Rome in the fourth century B. C. and in the third century B. C. invaded Asia Minor and northern Greece. A part of them remained in Galatia. predominating in the mixed population formed out of the Greek, Roman and Jewish people.
They were quick-tempered, impulsive, hospitable and fickle people. They were quick to receive impressions and equally quick to give them up. They received Paul with enthusiastic joy, and were then suddenly turned from him (Gal. 4:13-16).
The Churches of Galatia: Just how and by whom these churches were established we do not know. The great highway from the East to Europe passed through this region, making it possible for some of those present at Pentecost to have sown the seed of the gospel there.
It could have sprung up from work done by Paul while at Tarsus from the time of his return from Arabia to his going to Antioch with Barnabas. But the scripture gives us no word about this.
On the second missionary journey Paul visited them (Acts 16:6) and seems to have been taken sick while passing through and to have preached to them while unable to travel (Gal. 4:14-15). They gladly received his teaching, and churches seem to have sprung up.
Paul also visited them while on the third missionary journey (Acts 18:23) and instructed and established them in the faith.
The churches were running well when Paul left them, but Judaizing teachers had now come in and, acting upon their fickle and unstable nature, had greatly corrupted the simplicity of their faith.
The Occasion of the Epistle.
(1) Judaizing teachers had gone among the Galatians, claiming that the Jewish law was binding upon Christians, admitting that Jesus was the Messiah, but claiming that salvation must, nevertheless, be obtained by the works of the law. They especially urged that all Gentiles be circumcised.
(2) In order to gain their point and turn the Galatians from their belief, they were trying to weaken their confidence in Paul, their spiritual teacher.
They said he was not one of the twelve, and therefore, not one of the apostles, and his teachings were not of binding authority.
They suggested that he had learned his doctrine from others, especially from the apostles who were pillars of the church.
The Purpose of the Epistle. The purpose of the epistle was to root out the errors of doctrine introduced by the Judaizers and to hold the Galatians to their earlier faith. To do this it was necessary to establish his apostolic authority and the divine origin of his gospel.
He also desired to show the practical value or application of his teaching. He especially shows the value of Christian freedom and at the same time shows that it is not license.
In fulfilling these purposes he gave us an inspired classic upon the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith and forever settled the disturbing question of the relation of Christians to the Jewish law.
Author and Date. It was written by Paul, probably from Corinth in A.D. 57.