Galatians

Galatians Chapter 6

This teaching is directed to people who have decided to follow Jesus. Not on whim, this is that lifetime commitment thing, where you are drawn by the Holy Spirit to get really, really, close to Jesus and His ways of living.  

The first sentence got my attention. I’m dealing with this very issue, ‘for reals’ as the young people like to say these days in my work community. 

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Life Together in Christian community compels me to be engaged with my brothers and sisters.  It is the fabric of an authentic Christ centered life. In that engagement Paul comments on what that looks like for the church in Galatia. But, I see this as for the church today.  Paul’s letter intertwines both warnings and encouragements to any disciple of Christ.  It assumes that in the body of Christ there is sin and that some of us will be called to engage with others in that conflict.  Through the Spirit we will be agents to restore someone in our community.  Here’s one warning, and this is important do not lose sight that you to can be ensnared while helping a brother/sister caught in sin. One tool to avoid ensnarement is to “Carry each other’s burdens”.  

In several places Paul warns Jesus followers that our basis for any action needs to be genuine, come from a place of humility and Spirit led.  Another warning. We could easily perform our actions from the ‘flesh’. In the Kingdom of God one approach leads to eternal life (Spirit Led) and the other (flesh) doesn’t. And yet, Paul’s implies that in our personal will, “…don’t become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  hmmmm.  Paul goes on to say we are opportunists for doing good for ‘all people’ and especially our brothers and sisters.  Discerning when its our own personal will rather than an action requested by the Spirit is a critical ability for the Jesus follower.

I chuckled out loud, when Paul writes, “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!”  It’s funny to think this was the ancient version of ALL CAPS that people might use in an email to shout out.  This is important!  Paul emphasizes the dangers of the flesh, I’m taking this to be living a rule based/checklist lifestyle. The ‘look at me aren’t I a good person’ lifestyle vs. pointing to and leaning into Jesus as a new creation in Christ.

Galatians Chapter 5

Paul’s letter to the Galatians address problems that Paul hears are happening in the church.

Many teachers in the Church are insisting non-Jewish Christians conform with Jewish law and become circumcised. It’s not the act of circumcision that Paul is opposed to, but what the circumcision represents.   5:6 for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

He also admonishes the church for they have strayed from faith in Chirst and fallen into following the many Jewish laws. 

Paul’s message is to refocus, and live by the Spirit.

During the Roman Empire, the new apostolic church must have been expressed to many different religions and cultures. Pagan beliefs spanned Europe to India to Africa. I imagine it must have been easy to stray from the basic teachings of the new Christian church.

Paul, in his letter, admonishes the church, stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (religious law). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Amazing that Galatians’ message is so relevant today.   With the internet, the world has become a smaller place, information at our fingertips. Also, misinformation thrives. That’s why for me, I have to stay in the Word so I can discern what is true and what is false.

Galatians Chapter 4

Paul gives two interesting analogies in this passage. The first analogy starts by explaining how young children who have an inheritance waiting for them after their father dies are actually not much different than slaves.  While the inheritance is in their name, they don't have access to do whatever they want with it because they don't yet have the maturity to deal with it.  Instead, they depend on their guardians to help step in the place of their parents to provide for their needs, but the full inheritance is not given until they are of mature age.  In a similar way, God's people were subjects and slaves to the law until Jesus himself came to fulfill the law and buy us our freedom.  The difference is that instead of God just becoming our guardian, he steps in as our adopted Father as if we were His own.  And as one of his children, not only are we not slaves, we receive an inheritance of infinite value that is already given to us.

 The second analogy is also related to our relationship to the law vs freedom.  Abraham had two wives who each had sons, but one (Ishmael born to Hagar) was born into slavery, while the other (Isaac born to Sarah) was born into freedom.  Just the same way Mt Sinai was the location the people of Israel  were brought the law and being made subject to it, also the heavenly Jerusalem represents the freedom God intended for us.  Again, because of the sacrifice of Jesus we have the privilege and honor of being born directly into freedom, becoming adopted children of the Father and receiving an inheritance as one of his own children.

Galatians Chapter 3

Paul sounds a bit annoyed at the outset of chapter three. Apparently the Galatians have been listening to some false teaching and lost their focus on the truth they first believed. There seems to be some confusion about the role of the law in securing salvation—Paul has to remind them of the place the law does have and the more important freedom-securing role of faith.

I love what this chapter has to say. In verse eight, we learn that “ the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith.” I happen to be a Gentile, and I love that there was a provision for my inclusion in God’splan all along!

But more to the core of the message, I celebrate the release from bondage to the law. Of course we are still to keep God’s laws, because he designed them for our protection and well-being. But being right with God doesn’t depend on how good I am. Rather, God’s promise to Abraham of a relationship with him predates the law, and the later gift of the law doesn’t wipe out the earlier promise: For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise” (v 18).

Somewhere along the way in my childhood, I internalized that my being okay with my parents, teachers, the world, and God depended on me doing everything right and on doing all things well. That’s living in bondage—walking in fear of messing up somehow and when we do mess up adding a new burden of shame to the load we carry.  

Although I grew up in a Christian home with many advantages I am grateful for, it has taken a long time to break free of this pattern of thinking, this deeply rooted way of feeling about myself. I’m so thankful to look back on the path that God’s taken me down and see how much progress he’s made in me in this area. I’m sure I haven’t fully internalized this truth yet, which is why I’m glad that Paul took pen to paper (quill to papyrus?) to correct the Galatians’ thinking and that this truth has endured for me to read and mull.

Galatians Chapter 2

Church politics can be messy.   Witness the major social upheavals like Henry VIII and Luther’s 95 Thesis and you can see that those divisions can separate the church body. We see in Paul’s day that it was ugly then. If Paul did not stand for the principles of our faith, what might the Church be today?

Prior to Paul confronting Peter in Antioch, Paul and Barnabus had been working there teaching the new believers.  Now Jewish Christians came to check on the progress being done.  These men were strict about the kosher laws. They wouldn’t eat meals with the Gentiles or eat what they ate.  

Peter became afraid of those Jewish Christians and didn’t want his reputation ruined with them so he too refused to dine with the Gentiles as he once did. As a result Paul called Peter a hypocrite publicly.  Who would have thought that Peter “The Rock” would fold again as he did in the past?

As it turns out, Paul risked his reputation but brought the other believers around not to require Gentiles to be circumcised but that we were “Made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not the law”-v.16.

How freeing it is to not to live under the law that held us captive and condemned us because of our failure to uphold it! Trusting in the Lord is what can unite us as brothers and as sons and daughters of the Most High.

Galatians Chapter 1

Paul starts out, in his letter to the Galatians, expressing concern that some people are turning to a word other than The WORD.  Apparently there was a controversy over the Gentile Christians and whether or not they were following the Mosaic Law (circumcision, etc, etc, etc).  Paul reiterates that we are not saved by obedience to a set of external laws.  The law was set up to lead us to Christ, where we are justified by our faith.

Reminds me that some religions hold to the premise that you earn your way in to salvation based on your shopping list of good deeds that you have performed.  How many times have you heard “I’m basically a good guy (gal), am kind to people and don’t commit any major foul deeds, so I think I am solidly on the heaven track”?

Paul says he didn’t consult any man (verse 16) or go to Jerusalem to see those who were the apostles before him (verse 17), but preached the gospel received by revelation from Jesus Christ (verse 10).  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, as that could prove to be quite a responsibility), we don’t get phone messages/texts/facetimes/personal visits from Christ Himself but we get His message in the New Testament.  We still have valid direction and the ultimate truth of what we should be following and sharing about the good news.   Go share it.