A study of the Galatian letter, which is dated somewhere around 51 a.d., shows that the inspired message intends to combat the error of the Judaizers. They were reverting back to the Old Testament Law of Moses and were insisting that the Galatians do so. They were “false brethren” (2:4), like the “men from James” (2:12) who influenced Peter, Barnabbas and others to withdraw fellowship from Gentile Christians. Their religion was not the cross of Jesus, but rather it was about the fleshly circumcision and the keeping of days, times and years (6:12,13; 4:10). Thus Paul says that those who are seeking to be justified by Law have been “severed from Christ” and have “fallen from grace” (5:2-4). Thus the consequence of eternal separation from God and His grace if the Galatians listen to the false brethren and reinstitute the old law with its regulations.
The true path of righteousness is through faith in Jesus Christ. It is a faith that is demonstrated at baptism and clothed the Galatian with Christ: i.e. His righteousness, His sinless perfection (3:26,27). It is a faith that is not alone: it is a working faith (5:6). It is as James says:
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?…Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself….But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?…You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone….For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:14,17,20,24,26).
This faith does good works (5:6; 6:8-10). It is obedient to the truth and, through love, serves others. A judaizer has faith in his works, but a Christian has an obedient faith in God alone. He does not trust in works to save, because,
“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
Especially poignant are the words of Paul: “for through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God” (2:19). In this verse Paul says he “died to the Law” and in the next verse he says he was “crucified with Christ.” In Paul’s death, burial, and resurrection (Galatians 3:27; cf. Romans 6:3-5), Paul started the new life in Christ and left behind the Law he died to. Those who kept insisting on the Law with its dietary rules and requirements of circumcision and sabbath keeping were not “living by faith in the Son of God” (2:20).
In the Galatian letter, Paul shows that baptism and faith are compatible: baptism is a work of faith. “For you are all sons of God through faith. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Being made sinless by faith in the cleansing blood of Christ is what is meant by being clothed with Christ. The initial moment of salvation happens when the person is baptized (adult immersion, Acts 8:12,38) in faith. This parallels Paul’s words to the Colossians: “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Col. 2:12). The justification by faith first happens when one is raised by his faith in the working of God.
What can we learn from Galatians?
1. Faith in Christ in the only path to righteousness.
2. Faith in our own works, is sowing to the flesh and will reap the opposite of eternal life, which is corruption (6:7,8).