Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
The book of Galatians is written in the context of the Jerusalem Council in Acts. There is some debate as to whether or not it was written before or after much like James. One theory goes that Paul may have written this at the end of his First Missionary Journey but others say he might have waited until after the council as it would then have had more force with the letter the council sent to the Gentiles. The point is though I don’t think the council’s decision would have changed the content of Galatians one way or another from Paul’s perspective. The Jewish-Gentile question even with the Jerusalem Council decision is a long way from over. The odd thing to me is that had the Jerusalem Council taken place before Paul wrote this letter, then it seems he would have mentioned it, but he does not so to me it lends some credence to the idea that he might have written it as soon as he heard that there were problems in the churches he had just established.
The writer of Galatians is Paul and what we need to remember more than anything that he has only just complete his first missionary journey. There is much that Paul has yet to establish and this is really his first letter of this type and will probably show a more early development of his theology. What you will probably also see is a more youthful and energetic defense of his views. He calls himself an apostle but clarifies that this was not the agency of men that called him to this but the agency of God. He also points out that all the brethren with him are also greeting them.
The recipients of the letter are the churches in Galatia. Given that he has just finished his first Missionary journey from this area, it is all the churches that he has just established. He greets them with grace and peace with hopes that they all will soon be rescued from this present evil age but leaves it to the will of God. This is a far broader audience than James’ letter in that it includes both Jews and Gentiles but narrower geographically.
I think this sets the tone quite well but it should be noted that it reveals an attitude in the early church that all was to be submitted to the will of God and that it was God who called the leaders to his service. Paul does not stand his own authority however and instead gives it to God and joins with the brethren with him in addressing these churches together.
Next: Perversion of the Gospel (Chapter 1:6-10)