Sunday, June 24, 2012

Galatians: Introduction

As the gospel began to spread, many Gentiles began to profess faith in the Lord Jesus. This led to difficulties between the Jewish Believers and the Gentile Believers. Questions began to be raised by some. Questions like: What is the relationship of the Gentiles to the Law of Moses? Were they allowed to ignore it completely? What about the ritual of circumcision? As time went on, more question arose. Some felt that the Church was only to be an extention of Judaism.Some were asking if faith in Christ was sufficient, does the law need to be kept along with salvation in order to enjoy complete justification.

When the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul heard that those in Galatia were turning back to the Law and that false teaching were influencing them, he wrote to them with deep concern. These false teachers were attacking Paul and his teachings in three areas.

1. They attacked his claim to be an apostle, seeking to undermine his authority.
2. The false teachers were claiming that the gospel Paul preached was good, but not sufficient.
3. They also were existing that the Law was necessary for a good healthy Christian life.

Paul addresses the first attack in chapters 1-2, the second attack in chapters 3-4 and the last attack in chapters 5-6. In the first two chapters he defends the message of the gospel of grace as well as his authority to preach such a message. In chapters 3-4, Paul goes into detail, teaching the sharp contrast between law and grace. In these two chapters Paul emphasizes that a relationship with God is based on faith, not on following the law. Then in the last two chapters, 5-6, Paul demonstrates how this life of faith ought be lived in the power of the Spirit of God.

Why is this book of Galatians pertinent for us today? Christianity is still threatened on one side by legalistic, self-righteous people and on the other side by those who would turn Christian liberty into license to sin. In this letter Paul addresses three issues that are the foundation of the Christian faith.

Paul defines and defends Justification by faith alone. He explains very clearly that Salvation comes by faith in Christ alone.

He describes the function of the Mosaic Law. He does not condemn the Law but shows that it has the purpose of serving as a tutor or a teaching driving us to the grace found in Christ.

Lastly, Paul instructs us on how live a balanced Christian life, not falling into the ditch of legalism or into the ditch on the other side of being liberal and loose with the grace of God using it as a license to live any way we want.
As you study Galatians try to understand this first century conflict between grace and law, faith and deeds, but also beware of moderns parallels. Even though this book was written sometime between 49-55 AD, it has valuable lessons to teach us today. Experience the Grace of God by living in the freedom that Christ has brought you into!

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