18 February 2017

Stone 42 - Galatians

This week we take a look at Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let's find out what he had to say.

False Gospels
Paul starts off quickly by addressing the people on the issue of turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6). Even subtle differences from the message of Christ can be a false gospel and we must be diligent in our testing against scripture.

Galatians 1:10 asks, "For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God?"

**Such a powerful question! I know I am guilty of trying to please people. If we are honest, I think all of us are at some point. The question for me is where the line is drawn between people and God. What I mean is that it seems reasonable that pleasing God at some point could have the effect of pleasing some people as well. Is it not a heart issue? What is the motivation for pleasing people versus pleasing God? Is it for selfish reasons - for some personal benefit? What if these things collide?

In Galatians 1:11, Paul writes that the gospel he preaches is not based on a human point of view. Paul shares of his former life when he persecuted the Christians. Paul states rather plainly that his radical change of heart was not a result of hanging out with the Apostles but it was because God set him apart (Gal 1:15-17).

So, as I understand it, Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians because some Jewish Christians were insisting that the gentile Christians must be circumcised and begin to follow the laws of the Torah. Paul worked hard to debunk that by telling the people that circumcision is not a requirement.

**I like what is said in chapter two verse six - "...God does not show favoritism." The gospel message is for everyone! Then in verse 16 - "yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ."

Paul wants them to know that it is not by following the law that one is saved but by following Christ. Paul writes, "...if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." (Gal 2:27). Wow! It seems clear that Paul recognizes the futility of people trying to follow the law. All of us are hopelessly lost in our sin and inability to follow the law. Now, in Christ, we can have hope.

Paul asks a great question - "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Our flesh is not capable of doing what is necessary to gain everlasting life. This is why we are in need of a savior who is capable of making us complete.

Paul goes on to write that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of failing to live under the law. Jesus took on the curse in our stead that we may be free to live in Him. Paul talks about the law being a guardian until Christ came such that we would no longer be under a guardian but rather justified by faith (Gal 3:24).

The Pain of Truth
As I was reading through Galatians, I took note of Gal 4:16 where Paul asks, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

The truth can be quite painful, even when it is delivered with gentleness and respect. This is especially true when the truth speaks contrary to what our flesh wants to corrupt within our hearts. Paul speaks often to the Galatians about circumcision and that it is not a requirement any longer since it was under the law. Rather, we are called to circumcise our hearts (Deut 10:16, Jer 4:4, Rom 2:24-29, HCSB).

Do you seek the truth? If you do and are serious about it, be prepared for some shocks to the system, as it were, as truth does not care about your feelings. Truth stands independent of what anyone thinks.

Paul calls out the works of the flesh as obvious (Gal 5:19-21).
Isn't that interesting? These things run rampant in our society and there are many that would label these things as "normal". Do these things not have some sort of inherent dissonance within us? Do we not write off the dissonance for the sake of pleasing people rather than God? Peer pressure is a powerful force. I pray that we are given the strength and wisdom to stand up against those forces when faced with them.

On the flip side, Paul indicates what the fruits of the Spirit are as well (Gal 5:22-23). I think it is fair to say that these things are universally accepted as good and many would legitimately lay claim to evidence that demonstrates having exhibited any of them.

Cast away the works of the flesh and tire not of doing good as Paul encourages (Gal 6:9). Boast not of yourselves but of Christ, who makes you a new creation and through who all things are possible (Gal 6:14-15).

Please enjoy the video on Galatians from our friends at the Bible Project.

Until next time,

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