Unlike the theological treatise in Romans, Galatians seems to be written to particular people known to Paul, and with a particular situation in mind – Jewish Christian preachers who were calling for restoration of Biblical Principles (observance of the Old Testament law).
So after the greeting, Paul starts combatitively in Gal 1:6-10. In the light of this he needs to spend the rest of chapter 1 and all of 2 defending himself as an Apostle. Chs 3-4 the centre of the epistle. They present again the core gospel that we need not, cannot earn salvation but that we can receive it as a free gift. As with Romans the last major section chapters 5-6 show what this means in practice.
In our reading he starts by showing that liberty is not licence, that our freedom in Christ is freedom to become better not freedom to sink into depravity. How given salvation as a gift, we also receive the gift of the Spirit which is the power to overcome our base desires and to really live in freedom.
Running through the passage are two metaphors:
- fruitfulness: “fruits of the spirit”, “you reap what you sow”
- dying and rising with Christ.
If in Christ we die to our “old” natural – broken spoiled and twisted human nature – then with Christ we can be raised to a new and healthy life, because the Spirit produces lifegiving fruit:
…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)