I am so excited to be studying the book of Galatians with so many women from around the world, and I can’t believe the first week is coming to an end. I am sure Galatians will stretch us but also grow us in our love for truth. Let me share with you what I have been learning this week…
There wasn’t a church in Galatia until Paul came in preaching and making disciples, probably during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28). Shortly after Paul plants this church and moves on, the church falls under the spell of false teachers. These false teachers, also called “Judaizers,” were telling the church that in order to be “real” Christians they would have to basically become Jewish. This was a false gospel because they were teaching that salvation comes through our works + Jesus’ works.
When Paul finds out he is flabbergasted. How could the Galatians so quickly buy into this “different gospel” (Gal 1:6)? How could they turn their backs on what they had been taught by Paul through the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Paul couldn’t keep silent. He cared deeply for these brothers and even more so for truth and therefore had to lovingly but firmly correct them.
Paul loved the souls of men, and to tolerate spiritual poison is to aid and abet the murder of souls. ~ Charles Spurgeon
It looks like at this point some of the people were questioning Paul’s authority, so he quickly reminds them that the truth he received did not come from men, but from Christ himself (1:12).
He says to the Galatians something like this: “You want to know that I am speaking the truth; that I am an Apostle? Then look at what I once was and who I am now. I was once a die-hard Jew–a pharisee! I was ruthless in upholding the Jewish customs and beliefs to the point of murder. Then Christ revealed himself to me and it was only through the workings of God that a man like me, who formerly took great joy in persecuting the church, would now be willing to risk life and comfort, to teach the very message I was once so set against.”
He wanted them to understand that he was not just repeating some other man’s doctrine, but that what he had taught them came to him in a supernatural way from God. He was the last real Apostle.
There are three implications here that are important for us all take with us:
1. The gospel we preach must be protected from false teachers. It is very important that we are careful and precise with the way we talk about Christ’s work on our behalf and the salvation we receive from it. We are not saved because of a prayer we pray or an aisle we walk. We are not saved because of how much hospitality we show, how generous we are, or how clean our speech is. God does not accept us because of how often we read our Bibles, our political positions, or our attendance at church.
Salvation comes only through faith in Christ and this also is a gift from God so that no one can boast.
2. No one can mess up so much that God cannot save them. Look at the life of Paul before his conversion. He was one messed up, scary man. He was filled with hatred, self-righteousness, and murder – all in the name of religion. And yet despite possessing such deep blinding sin, God reached down, gave him faith, changed his heart, and used him not only as an amazing missionary and church planter, but also as one who would write most of the New Testament. This is amazing grace and this same grace is able to work in our lives as well.
3. Any of us have the potential of being lured away by false teaching. As strong as you think you are, and solid as your faith is, anyone can become confused and start wandering from the truth. Let’s not be so proud that we think such sin is beyond us. We must be a people of the word who examine not just what is being taught by others, but also what be believe in our own hearts.
The gospel is precious because it cost God everything and us nothing. It is also precious because it is powerful. It brings forgiveness that we cannot earn, change that we cannot muster up, and acceptance by God that we so desperately need. No wonder Paul was incredibly passionate about preserving the integrity and truth about this gospel. Let’s pray for this kind of passion in our own lives.
Looking to Jesus,