Sunday School Bible Survey:      GALATIANS

Theme: Salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works.

Key verse: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (1:8).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle Paul (1:1)

DATE: Galatians was probably written A.D. 60, during Paul's third visit to Corinth. The occasion of the Epistle is evident. It had come to Paul's knowledge that the fickle Galatians, who were not Greeks, but Gauls, "a stream from the torrent of barbarians which poured into Greece in the third century before Christ," had become the prey of the legalizers, the Judaizing missionaries from Palestine.

THEME: The theme of Galatians is the vindication of the Gospel of the grace of God from any admixture of law-conditions, which qualify or destroy its character of pure grace.

The Galatian error had two forms, both of which are refuted. The first is the teaching that obedience to the law is mingled with faith as the ground of the sinner's justification; the second, that the justified believer is made perfect by keeping the law. Paul meets the first form of the error by a demonstration that justification is through the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:18), and that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after the confirmation of that covenant, and the true purpose of which was condemnation, not justification, cannot disannul a salvation which rests upon the earlier covenant. Paul meets the second and more subtle form by vindicating the office of the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier.

The book is in seven parts:

  1. Salutation (1:1-5)
  2. Theme (1:6-9).
  3. Paul's Gospel is a revelation (1:10--2:14).
  4. Justification is by faith without law (2:15--3:24).
  5. The rule of the believer's life is gracious, not legal (3:25--5:15).
  6. Sanctification is through the Spirit, not the law (5:16-24).
  7. Exhortations and conclusion (5:25--6:18).


  1. Galatia was originally a country in northwest Asia Minor. It was settled by the Gauls who gave the area the name "Galatia."
  2. Later Galatia was taken over by the Romans, who enlarged it and incorporated it into the Roman Empire as a province.
  3. J. Vernon McGee said, "Paul visited the Galatian churches on each of his three missionary journeys. There is no mention in the epistle of another visit to the churches. The epistle was evidently Paul's last word to these churches, written after he had visited them on the third missionary journey" (Thru the Bible).
  4. Paul's epistle to the Galatians played a very influential role during the Protestant Reformation. It was Martin Luther's favorite epistle, and his Commentary on Galatians became widely read.
  5. Paul asserted his authority as an apostle in the first chapter (1:1). He wanted them to know that he received the true Gospel message directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, and not from men (1:11, 12).
  6. Paul was amazed that the Galatians would depart from the true Gospel, and he used strong language to emphasize the danger of the error of mixing law and grace (1:6-9).
  7. "Let him be accursed" (1:8, 9) literally means, "Let him spend eternity in hell."
  8. Strong's Concordance says the word means, "a person doomed to destruction."
  9. As he did in his epistle to the Romans, Paul showed that Abraham had been justified by faith before the law was given (3:6).
  10. A.T. Pierson said, "Here is the key to the Epistle to the Galatians: 'In Christ Crucified, yet living unto God.' As a believer I am in Christ, and therefore I am dead to the law and to its penalty; I am in Christ, and therefore alive unto God, and dead to the world (6:14) and to the old self-life, and to the power of the flesh (5:24)" (In Christ Jesus).

Outline (from J. Vernon McGee):

  1. Introduction, (1:1-10)
  1. Salutation — cool greeting, (1:1-5)
  2. Subject stated — warm declamation (1:6-10)
  1. Personal, Chapters (1:11—2:14)
    Authority of the apostle and glory of the gospel
  1. Experience of Paul in Arabia (1:11-24)
  2. Experience of Paul with apostles in Jerusalem (2:1-10)
  3. Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter (2:11-14)
  1. Doctrinal, Chapters (2:15 4:31)
    Justification by Faith
    Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage
  1. Justification by faith — doctrine stated (2:15-21)
  2. Justification by faith — experience of Galatians (3:1-5)
  3. Justification by faith — illustration of Abraham (3:6 — 4:18)
  4. Justification by faith — allegory of Hagar and Sarai (4:19-31)
  1. Practical (5:1 — 6:10)
    Sanctification by the Spirit
    Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage
  1. Saved by faith and living by law perpetrates falling from grace (5:1-15)
  2. Saved by faith and walking in the Spirit produces fruit of the Spirit (5:16-26)
  3. Saved by faith and fruit of the Spirit presents Christian character (6:1-10)
  1. Autographed conclusion (6:11-18)
  1. Paul's own handwriting (6:11)
  2. Paul's own testimony (6:12-18)
  1. Cross of Christ vs. circumcision (6:12-15)
  2. Christ's handwriting on Paul's body (6:16-18)
    (The new circumcision of the new creation)

Hagar and Ishmael

The epistle to the Galatians contains an allegory (or parable), that of Hagar and her son Ishmael
(Gal. 4:22-31; cf. Genesis 21:9-21).

  • According to Paul's allegory, Hagar represents Mount Sinai, "which gendereth to bondage" (4:24, 25).
  • Sarah represents grace, and Isaac, her son, the liberty of faith. Hagar represents law, and Ishmael, who is her son, represents the bondage which unbelief engenders.
  • "The two are incompatible and irreconcilable. Faith and unbelief, liberty and slavery, love and fear, hope and despair, cannot abide together" (Pierson).
  • Paul cites Sarah's statement from Genesis 21:10, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son," to reinforce his argument that there can be no common inheritance for the son of the bondwoman (representing bondage to the law) and the son of the freewoman (representing the liberty of faith).
  • "Faith reconciles; faith saves, not only from hell, but from the inward slough of despond and the torments of fear...All these lessons are summed up in that one verse: 'That, like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life'" (Pierson).

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —