New Testament Lesson 40 (Galatians)
September 25–October 1


When, Where and Why Paul Wrote to the Galatians

● There is much debate about when and where Galatians was written (Galatians 6:19). Many believe it was written at the same time as Romans, and therefore could not have been written from Rome as this verse indicates.

● Though neither the place nor date of writing of the letter to the Galatian Saints can be established with any positive certainty, the evidence favors that it was written from Corinth in AD 57.

● While other theories exist, the strongest evidence suggests that Paul was writing to the southern regions of Asia Minor, including such towns as Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium—towns he visited on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13–14:23 and Acts 16:1–9). This theory is supported by what we know from both the record of Acts and Paul’s other incidental references.

● Paul’s primary purpose for writing to the Galatians was to remind them that true freedom can be found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that holding onto Mosaic ordinances would destroy the freedom they had found in Christ.

● Paul demonstrated that although the Mosaic law was of value for the children of Israel prior to Christ’s mortal ministry, its need was now superseded by the higher law.

● Paul begins his epistle with a familiar greeting, similar to those of all his others (Galatians 1:1–5). Note again his clear distinction between the Father and the Son.


Paul Chastises the Galatian’s Apostasy

● Paul upbraided the Galatians for the apostasy already arising among them (Galatians 1:6–9). This shows that the apostasy began even before the Apostles were all taken from the earth.

Paul’s Conversion, Authority and Doctrine

● His gospel was not of man; he learned it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10–14). Note that Paul was a valedictorian in his rabbinical class in Jerusalem (v. 14).

● After three years he went to Jerusalem for 15 days, seeing only Peter and James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:18–20).

● After this short visit he preached in Syria and Cilicia, but was personally unknown to the Church branches in Judea (Galatians 1:21–24). They only heard that their former persecutor was now preaching the faith.

● Paul’s next trip to Jerusalem was fourteen years later (Galatians 2:1–2). He went seeking official sanction for the work that he, Barnabas, Titus, and others were engaged in.

● Paul did not receive the gospel from the Apostles; he already had it (Galatians 2:6–9; 1:15–17). They recognized the hand of God is Paul’s calling, and authorized him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. They continued to work with the Jews. He was probably ordained at that time.

● A controversy arose between Paul and Peter over basic matters of Church policy (Galatians 2:11–14). Several serious disagreements appear among early Church leaders in the book of Acts and in Galatians (Acts 15:36–40; Galatians 2:11–14).


The Law vs. Grace

● To be justified is to be made righteous, holy, or worthy of salvation (Galatians 3:11).

● Paul, who had been an ardent disciple of Mosaic laws and traditions, now put down the law of Moses, because it was not enough to save them (Galatians 2:16–17, 21).
— We are not saved by our obedience to the law (v. 16).
— If obedience to law alone saves us, Jesus’ atonement was in vain (v. 21).

● Christ’s atonement saves us “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

The Gospel of Christ Pre-dated the Law

● The gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to Abraham in his day (Galatians 3:8).

● The doctrine and covenants of Christ pre-dated the law of Moses (Galatians 3:16–17).
— The gospel was given to Abraham by God.
— The gospel was preached to him in the name of Christ.
— The law of Moses came along 430 years later.

● The gospel in its fulness was also preached at Mt. Sinai (Hebrews 4:2).

— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “When the Israelites came out of Egypt they had the Gospel preached to them, according to Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, which says: ‘For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it’ (Heb. 4:2). It is said again, in Gal. [3:19] , that the law (of Moses, or the Levitical law) was `added’ because of transgression. What, we ask, was this law added to, if it was not added to the Gospel? It must be plain that it was added to the Gospel, since we learn that they had the Gospel preached to them.”1

● The law of Moses was added after the gospel was rejected (Galatians 3:19).

— The Law was a “schoolmaster” for the children of Israel (Galatians 3:24–25). “Schoolmaster” translates the Greek word paidagogus, from which comes our pedagogue, or “teacher.” In Paul’s time a paidagogos was a special tutor who was not only responsible for the child’s education, but was also expected to prepare and train the child in all ways so that he was brought to maturity. The closest equivalent we have in modern times would be the English nanny, who lives right in the house and has direct responsibility for the children’s upbringing. Paul’s usage of the word conveys the true purpose of the Mosaic law—to prepare the “children” of Israel for the “adult” laws and ordinances of the gospel.

We Can Become Joint-Heirs with Christ

● Baptized disciples of Christ are children of God and heirs of the blessings and promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26–29).

● Through Christ we can we become joint-heirs of God with our Savior-brother (Galatians 4:1–7).

— “Abba Father” was their way of saying “Daddy,” thereby revealing the very personal nature of our relationship with God the Father (Galatians 4:6).

The Burden of the law of Moses is Past

— Paul advises them to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel of Christ and not be burdened by taking back the yoke of the Mosaic law (Galatians 5:1–6).

— The law is fulfilled in one thing: Loving our neighbor (Galatians 5:13–15).

Living and Walking in the Spirit

— The works of the flesh are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, and heresies (Galatians 5:19–20).

— The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22–23).

— “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Showing Mercy and Kindness to the Weak

— Real Christians humbly help those who are weaker (Galatians 6:1–2).

The Law of the Harvest Is Still in Effect

— Eventually our deeds will be recompensed, for “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7–8).

— Justice will prevail in the end (Ephesians 5:8–11).

— “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).


Continuing in the Faith: (Galatians 3:1–5). In some of the strongest language he ever used, Paul rebukes the Galatians for forgetting principles of the gospel he taught them.

Following Paul’s Personal Example: (Galatians 4:8–12). Paul expresses his concern about the Galatian Saints and advises them to follow his personal example of faith.

The “Allegory” of Hagar and Sara: (Galatians 4:21–31). In this allegory, Hagar represents the old temporal law and its representative place of origin, Mount Sinai; Sara represents the new spiritual law, which could be symbolized by one of its places of origin, the Mount where Christ gave the Beatitudes.

Bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus: (Galatians 6:17). Our English word stigma is drawn from the Greek word which was used here, stigmata—a wound or scar, or a brand with which slaves were marked. Paul uses it here to suggest that our “scars” of adversity are marks of faithfulness in the face of persecution.


1.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 60–61.

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