Psalm 91: 1&2 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.
I would like us over the next few weeks to study Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. Paul was aware that the churches were being influenced by Jewish Christian fundamentalists who thought that the Gentile believers also needed to be circumcised, not eat meat, and keep the sabbath. Paul was angry with a group who had twisted and manipulated the gospel of freedom back into the old way of the Law. Paul’s response to this issue challenges the heart of the Jewish faith. He writes in Chapter 2:16 ‘we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.’ In other words, to quote a famous film title, we are ‘Born Free’.
We shall be following an outline as follows:
Theme: Chapter 5: 1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery’
Personal: Grace and the gospel – chapters 1&2
Doctrinal: Grace and the Law – chapters 3&4
Practical: Grace and the Christian life – chapters 5&6.
Last week we looked at Paul taking his first step as he prepares to tackle the false teaching arising from the churches in Galatia. He began by Explaining his Authority (in verses 1-5, he outlined his ministry, his message, and his motive). This week we shall see how he Expresses his Anxiety and Exposes his Adversaries.
Galatians 1:1-10 1Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- 2and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the churches in Galatia: 3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6I 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- 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But 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! 9As 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! 10Am 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 Expresses his Anxiety (6-7).
Paul was astonished at how quickly they were deserting the grace of God. God had called them in his grace and saved them from their sins. Now they are moving from grace back into law. They were abandoning liberty for legalism. Warren Wiersbe says that we must never forget that the Christian life is a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A man does not become a Christian merely by agreeing to a set of doctrines; he becomes a Christian by submitting to Christ and trusting him (Romans 11:6). You cannot mix grace and works, because the one excludes the other. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. To turn from grace to law is to desert the God who saved us.
Not only were they guilty of deserting the grace of God but they were perverting the gospel of God. The Judaizers were preaching a different message. They were suggesting that they believed in Jesus Christ but there was something else that was needed to be added. The Judaizers were arguing that ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved’ (Acts 15:1). No wonder Paul was anxious, his friends in Christ were deserting the God of grace, perverting the grace of God and reverting to living by their own resources.
Having explained his authority and expressed his anxiety, Paul now takes the third step.
Paul Exposes his Adversaries (8-10).
Paul waged war against the false teachers, he identified the false gospel that they preached, and also the false motives that they practised. Paul was not a politician; he was an ambassador. His task was not to ‘play politics’ but to proclaim a message. The Judaizers on the other hand were trying to please both Jews and Gentiles, the compromise would end up pleasing nobody, and was actually displeasing to God.
Paul’s first approach was of a personal nature. The next section of the letter is autobiographical and establishes he is not a ‘counterfeit apostle’, but that his message and ministry were true to the faith.
Next week we shall see that Paul was a persecutor, a believer, and a preacher as we study Galatians 1: 11-24.