Updated: Dec 24, 2020
Is a person saved by faith alone or by a combination of faith and observance of the law? Paul’s letter to the churches he established in the Roman province of Galatia proclaims salvation through faith alone, emphasizing the freedom in Christ we have to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our relationship with God isn’t based on our performance, but on the finished work of Jesus. On his travels through Asia Minor, Paul spoke in the synagogue in towns he passed through. His God-given mission was preaching to the Gentiles, but the churches in Galatia were composed of both Jews and Gentiles. I hope you enjoy this short animation, an overview of Galatians by those clever folks at the Bible Project.
With a good overview of all six letters, let’s start with Chapter 1. Paul begins with a declaration of his Apostolic authority, personally bestowed on him by Christ Jesus. Paul learned some of his converts in Galatia were abandoning the doctrine he preached to them of justification by faith alone. Some Jewish converts were inserting elements of Jewish law into the one true gospel. Paul’s letter reiterates the truth in unmistakable terms, that Christ laid down his life to remove sin from human hearts, replacing it with peace and freedom from fear. Paul’s credibility as an apostle was attacked by these same men, so Paul, trained lawyer that he is, argues in defense of his apostleship.
Paul starts all his letters by identifying himself and greeting his readers. Galatians is Paul's assertion of his apostolic authority and his usual thanks or praise are replaced by rebuke. He reminds the Galatians that salvation is available to Gentiles as well as Jews simply by believing in Christ Jesus. Gentiles did not have to become Jews or follow the dictates of the Torah to become members of God’s family, only to put their faith in Jesus for Salvation. Then he curses anyone or anything that distorts or adds to the Good News.
Read Chapter 1 and then join me in the following discussion. For a smoother experience, scroll from the edge on my blog and from the center on the Scripture reading. Oh yes, one other thing. By subscribing to this blog, you can add your comments or even ask questions.
The Galatians were in danger of losing the freedom gained through their belief in Christ. Paul was astonished they turned so quickly from the gospel of grace to one of ritual. Every rite or ceremony interposed between man and God creates distance between them. Instead of intensifying communion with God, ritualism only invites superstition and puts souls at odds with Him. Salvation by ceremony is the antithesis of salvation by grace, a perversion of God's good news to man. It’s the devil's work to complicate salvation with rites and ceremonies, making it harder to approach God. There are no simpler terms of forgiveness than are offered in the gospel. Paul, as we just read, is so certain of the gospel of grace that he invoked a curse on all who preach another version.
Paul didn’t visit Jerusalem to receive any authority from the hands the other Apostles as his authority came directly from Christ, who personally undertook Saul's conversion. In the solitude of the Arabian desert, the Holy Spirit entered Saul, giving him Christ's mind, heart, and compassion. It was there that Christ communed with Paul and laid the foundation of his theology, his knowledge of the gospel and authority from the risen Christ to proclaim it. Paul’s meeting with Peter and James was merely to confirmed they all preached the same gospel. Paul was well known by the Judaean Churches as their arch-persecutor. They praised God for raising him to become a chief preacher of the faith he once despised.
What the world needs now is what it needed then—men like Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, radiating the truth about Christ. The problem Paul faced with the Galatian churches remains a problem today. Many still question whether we’re truly saved by the work of Christ on the cross, or if something more is necessary. Paul’s letter to the Galatians established the completeness of the Good News—that salvation is available to all through faith alone. It also established the unity of God’s people. A division no longer exists between Jews and Gentiles or between different classes or races. We all come to God and gain new life by the same means: faith in the risen Christ.
Food for Thought:
Paul found nothing to praise in the Galatian church, hence his curt greeting. What amazed him about the Galatians?
Despite receiving the Gospel directly from Paul, why did the Galatians accept apostasy in their midst?
Why did Paul evoke God’s curse on anyone—even angelic beings—who preached a different gospel from the one he preached?
Why would Paul mention that he violently persecuted God’s church, that he intended to destroy it, and that his zeal for Judaism surpassed his peers?
After his conversion, why did Paul go into the Arabian desert and then to Damascus before consulting with Peter and James in Jerusalem?