Wednesday, November 30, 2016

O Foolish Galatians

I recently completed a study of the book of Galatians with a group of women that I have great fellowship with. Galatians is a short book but it packs a much-needed punch. Every time I study the Word whether individually or with a group I am amazed at the new insights gained. But that's the premise of God's Word - it's never stale and will do what it is supposed to do.

The Galatians were confused by who or what to believe  - the Judaizers or Christ. The letter to the Galatians eliminated this confusion. Paul wrote this letter to lovingly correct while, at some points, he spoke very sternly to get the truth across.

After choosing to follow Christ, the Galatians were contemplating going back to a way that could not keep or sustain them as it relied solely on human effort. The book of Galatians is a declaration of independence from legalism. Legalism is following all the rules and hoping that in doing so it will get you to heaven. It's following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. The Law as laid out in the Old Testament is very detailed and has a rule for everything; basically, there is no way one could obey all the laws. But many tried. Failure to follow one part of the Law is a failure in following the entire Law. If your salvation depends on what you do, then we are hopeless. The Law is incomplete in that it cannot save anyone; it could only reveal your unrighteousness.

The Judaizers accepted the Gospel but claimed that no Gentile could be a Christian without first becoming a Jew by submitting to Jewish rites in particular circumcision. The doctrine of the Judaizers was a mixture of grace (through Christ) and works (through the keeping of the Law). This false doctrine was dealt with in Acts 15 and strongly condemned in the book of Galatians []. If you think about this statement, you'd realize how ridiculous it was but it held great sway at that time. False doctrine is often enticing because it has a grain of truth intertwined in it.

Because the Galatians were headed down the wrong path, Paul spoke harshly to them to get their attention and to help them realize the ramifications of their disbelief and confusion. This was literally a matter of life or death; freedom or bondage. It was the equivalent of a loving parent speaking sternly to a child; the parent speaks from a vantage point the child does not possess.

O Foolish Galatians - that's a phrase that will get anyone's attention. Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Galatians 3:1 [NLT] Strong words that make the case for faith to accept God's grace. Strong words that should clear up any confusion on the Galatians part.
Strong words that were spoken in love.

Chapter 3 is pivotal because after this seemingly harsh statement Paul used logic and wisdom to show the Galatians (and us) why following Christ was infinitely better than trying to keep all aspects of the Law - Christ did what the Law could not do in that He died for us to make us righteous. So instead of trusting in themselves they would have to trust in God and believe that He truly died for them; that they were indeed recipients of God's grace and that it was available to them through faith. This brought freedom and unity in Christ. Paul then encouraged them to exercise their faith in daily practical living. Christianity never remains in the spirit realm - it can be applied to every aspect of our life and this is how Paul closes this book. We are free from legalism, we are free to love, we are to free to walk in the Spirit. Freedom in Christ will yield fruit and maturity; it won't always be easy but it will be rewarding.

The next time you become misguided in your beliefs like the Galatians did - go back to the Word; be open to being rebuked by the Spirit or a close spiritual mentor in your life and then make the change so that you can impact others for the kingdom and live as Christ would have you live.

What have you studied recently? What insights have you gained? How will you apply it to your life? Are you now interested in the book of Galatians?

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