Before jumping into the book of Galatians, let’s take a look at the background and purpose of this letter. This book was written by Paul to the believers of Galatia, present day Turkey, which was his first missionary trip. What was happening is that there was a group of Jewish leaders, Judaizers, who were saying that believing in Christ was not enough for salvation and that they had to follow Jewish laws as well as believing. Paul’s letter that we are about to get into talks about how we are saved by faith alone. “As you read Galatians, try to understand this first-century conflict between grace and law, or faith and deeds, but also be aware of modern parallels. Like Paul, defend the truth of the gospel and reject all those who would add to or twist this truth. You are free in Christ — step into the light and celebrate.” (application)
Authenticity of the gospel
1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul Called by God
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
After his first missionary trip to Galatia, Paul gets accused by some Jewish Christians that he is making salvation too easy so that the Gentiles are willing to accept it, that it wasn’t true that salvation was through faith alone and that these Gentiles had to become Jews first, follow the Jewish laws, before they could become Christians. This letter is Paul’s response.
I think it is important we touch on verses 3-5. Being free in Christ does not mean that we are taken out of the world and the evil that’s within it, rather it means that we no longer have to be “enslaved” by it; that we were saved in order to live for God not this world. “Does your life reflect your gratitude for being rescued? Have you transferred your loyalty from this world to Christ?” (application)
Look at verse 6, it talks about “a different gospel”. What is meant here is that it was being preached that like we talked about above, faith wasn’t enough, that in order to be saved, you had to follow Jewish laws and customs, especially circumcision. According to these teachings that Paul is responding to, faith in Christ simply was not enough and that was simply not the truth! We all have the gift of salvation and we are all saved through Christ. In what area of your life are you working for deeds to try and earn God’s love instead of simply accepting it?
Our application had a lot of information on verse 7 and I wanted to touch on a couple points: “God does not accept man-made religion as a substitute for faith in Jesus Christ.” “[These false teachers] were zealous Jewish Christians who believed that the Old Testament practices…were required of all believers. Because these teachers wanted to turn the Gentile Christians into Jews, they were called Judaizers.” “When Paul called their teaching a perversion of the gospel, he was not rejecting everything Jewish. He himself was a Jew…But he was concerned that nothing get in the way of the simple truth of his message — that salvation, for Jews and Gentiles alike, is through faith in Jesus Christ alone.” What can you take away from these points? Does this change any previous thinking you may have had?
I don’t know about you, but I love verse 10, but it is also a challenge. It is so incredibly hard to not seek human approval, but this scripture is telling us that living to please people and being a servant of Christ can’t both happen. We are either living one way or the other. Who do you try to please? If you find yourself seeking the approval of others, we can ask God to change our hearts and help us to seek his approval above all. He can do it!
Let’s jump to the end of this passage to verse 23 and 24. Remember, before Paul had an encounter with Jesus and accepted his gift of salvation, he was quite a horrible person, persecuting Christians and all. But, that is what makes the letters written by him all the more powerful, his messages came from God and his life transformation was only possible through God. As our application puts it “Paul’s changed life had brought praise from those who saw him or heard about him. His new life had astonished them. They had praised God because only God could have turned this zealous persecutor of Christians into a Christian himself. We may not have had as dramatic a change as Paul, but still our new lives should honor God in every way. When people look at you, do they recognize that God has made changes in you?”
Heavenly Father, thank you for this letter, we too praise you for the life transformation of Paul. Because of his transformation so many books of the Bible that we learn about you are written by him and we are so grateful for the insight he gives us into life as a Christian and what that means and the trials we will face because of it. It is easy to relate to what is happening in this passage God, our world is surrounded by false teachers and the constant pulling of us to need others approval, bring us, our hearts, back to you, help us to keep you at the center, to desire to please you only and not care what others think, help us to decipher what is true and what is false, help us to be on high alert for false teachings and to focus on what your word says alone. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!