This letter written by Paul is addressed to the believers in the region of Galatia. He opens with a clear greeting that he was not sent by man but by God. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1:3) The churches of Galatia, which is now known as modern day Turkey included; Antioch, Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. All were founded by Paul himself.
Many false teachings were circulating throughout the region. Paul was furious to discover that the good news was being corrupted. The people of God were being coerced into keeping the rituals and the regulations of the Old Testament. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” (1:6) The believers were being thrown into confusion by those who were perverting the truth. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (1:8)
Paul was emphatic that the gospel he preaches is not something he made up. What he was teaching came by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. He reminds those listening that when he was intensely persecuting the church of God, he was doing so under the law of Judaism. “I was advanced in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.” (1:14)
Paul reports that for three years he was preaching only what was personally revealed to him by the Spirit of Jesus. After his first three missionary years he traveled to Jerusalem and hung out with the apostle Peter for fifteen days. The only other apostle he met during his stay in Jerusalem was James, the brother of Jesus. Paul assured them before God that what he was writing was no lie. “Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas….” Paul spoke with the leaders privately for fear that he had run his race in vain. “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” (2)
Paul admits that he opposed the apostle Peter to his face in Antioch. Paul had observed that Peter separated himself from the non-Jews, otherwise known as the Gentiles. It was obvious to Paul that Peter feared being ridiculed by those Jews who practiced circumcision under the Old Testament. “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (2:14)
Paul’s point was that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and Gentile are people of God through their faith in Jesus. All who are baptized into Christ have clothed themselves with the righteousness of Christ, and we are adopted into the family of God. Our Father does not consider us a Jew, a Greek, a New Yorker, a Californian, a Chinese, a male or female, for we are all His children. We are all One in Christ Jesus. Jesus came to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons and daughters “in Him”. Remember we are saved by grace, and grace is NOT just a word that God used. Grace is His action issued; grace is His way of showing love. Grace is our Father’s response to a deceived person.
“God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (4:6) Paul encouraged the people of Galatia to stand firm and remain free, not burdened again by being a slave to the law. For those who are trying on their own to be justified as followers of Jesus are in fact alienating themselves from Christ as they are falling away from His grace. “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you.” (5:7) This letter is a reminder to us all to live by the Spirit and remain free, not to use our freedom to indulge in our sinful nature, but what pretty much sums up the law, we are to love one another. “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (5:14)
His final warning is that we are not to allow ourselves to be deceived. Each believer is to test his own actions. Then he can be humbly dignified in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else. God cannot be mocked! A person “in Christ” will reap what they sow “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (6:7)
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved.
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“It is finished.” 5/19/19 Good Friday