What did Paul write in the epistle to the Galatians?
We might expect that Paul would begin this
letter with his usual salutation and thanksgiving, but that is not what we
find in the first eleven verses of Chapter 1. Paul does open by announcing
his allegiance to Christ and offers grace and peace and peace to them in
the name of the Lord who is our savior and deliverer. He then moves
quickly to his motivation in writing this letter. He marveled at the way
in which the Galatians had traded the liberty found in the person and work
of Christ for bondage according to the Jewish law. The message of the true
gospel was not that we attempt to be good enough to be saved, but rather
that we view ourselves as bad enough realizing that we need to be saved.
The works of the law declare us guilty in ourselves and the gospel of
grace declares us righteous in Christ. Paul could not find it in his heart
to offer thanksgiving for the Galatians because they had abandoned the
truth, defaming the gospel and dishonoring the Lord.
Paul, in an attempt to regain a platform
of authority among the Galatians defends his ministry by making it known
to them that the gospel that he came to preach was not of man, but it was
received by him through the revelation of Jesus Christ. No other gospel,
nor any other God is able to change a murderer of His followers into a
preacher of His grace. Paul went on further to display the authenticity of
his leadership as he tells of the Council at Jerusalem and how he wasn't
intimidated by any of the high ranking authorities, claiming his
commission by Christ himself. His apostleship was recognized as they
stretched out to he and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and
extending him blessing in taking the gospel to the gentiles. Paul doesn't
quit there! In order to give further weight to his apostleship, he tells
them of his bold confrontation and reprimand of Peter, a strong apostle to
the Jews and a hero of the Christian faith, for his misapplication of the
gospel. He wasn't attempting to discount the authority of Peter, but
rather to emphasize that there was no apostle greater than he and to
correct his view of the unity of the church. He inserts here a theme
common among the writings of Paul - that is, that both Jews and Gentiles
alike are saved by faith and not by the works of the law. Paul concludes
this section with His example of faith in the sufficiency of the gospel.
He explains that he has died to himself and to the law and now being
crucified with Christ it is no longer Paul that lives, but Christ that
lives in and through him. This stands both as a model for the Galatians to
follow and as a proof of his authority in Christ.
It's as simple as "do" vs. "done."
It is the difference between what the law was unable to "do" and
what Christ had "done." He clams that he had so vividly preached
the message of the cross before them, that it was as though Christ had
been crucified in their midst. Paul is defending the gospel of Christ and
in doing so he opens chapter 3 with his rebuke of the Galatian Christians.
Neither is the Spirit given according to the law, but by faith in the
gospel. Paul commends to them the example of Abraham in the Old Testament.
The way of God has always been the way of promise and faith. The law was
only given until its fulfillment came in Christ. This leads to Paul's
astonishing conclusion that all human distinctions are irrelevant. Christ
came to be a curse for us all and to bring salvation to all who believe.
He reminds them that there is only one family of God and they are together
heirs of promise unified in Christ. Christ has rescued us from the bondage
of slavery giving us life and liberty inside the Hs covenant family. He
pleads to them to cease in their rejection of the true gospel, making
themselves slaves again under the curse of the law.
The gospel takes on a personal dimension
when we claim individual freedom from the law in Christ. We are justified
in Christ by our faith alone and are free from the law that seeks to
enslave us. Along side this all-important message of justification by
faith is a warning that in our freedom we are to "walk by the Spirit."
Living in the freedom of the gospel of grace means living according to the
spirit, to keep you from indulging in your sinful nature. Those who do not
live and walk according to the spirit yield to the deeds of the flesh,
they will not inherit the kingdom of God, and display no signs of the
fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul concludes his letter to
the Galatians by giving them instructions on living as a collective unit,
bearing one another's burdens and sharing all things. He gives one last
reminder that no longer does circumcision or uncircumcision carry any
relevance for the people of God. What is important is being a new creation
in Christ and being marked by Him.