This fall, I am teaching the book of Galatians to the Soul Sisters, a group of ladies that I have taught for the past four or five years at Zionsville Presbyterian Church. Galatians is the book that Paul wrote to a group of churches in what is now central Turkey. The people of the area were a rather difficult group who were steadfast in their ways and not the easiest group to get through to. Unlike most of Paul’s epistles, Galatians was not written to a specific church, but was more of a circular letter that made the rounds to the various churches in the area.
Galatians is one of the New Testament books that seems very clear when read. Paul doesn’t start out with a number of superlatives, or even telling his audience that he prays for them daily. Rather, he is amped up and launches out at the Galatians from the first sentence. He claims to be an apostle, and is quick wonder why they have already moved away from the Gospel that Paul has preached to them.
Paul brings up what has become a pervasive problem in the area. The Jewish population believed that in order to be saved, you had to be circumsized before you became a Christian. Paul had worked diligently to promote unity between the Jews and the Christians – in fact, it was common for them to eat together. But once Paul left the area, Judaizers would come in and undo the work that Paul had just finished. They reinforced the divide between the groups and insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity be circumcised first.
In other words, just in case Christianity wasn’t the right answer, then they could fall back to plan “B.” The circumcision all but guaranteed it, according to the Judaizers. Of course, one of the many things I find wrong with this argument is the fact that circumcision is a “sign” of the covenant just like the rainbow is a “sign” of the covenant that God made with Noah that He would never destroy the world again with water. Baptism is another “sign” that somebody has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. Just because you are baptized doesn’t mean you are saved! You have to accept the offer of eternal life! Sometimes people confuse the “sign” with the actual covenant and, as you can see, that can create issues.
While there are many important points that Paul makes in Galatians, there are three major things that it is important to remember when reading this epistle. First of all, Paul claims that he was chosen by God, and he doesn’t have any earthly ordination. Men had nothing to do with his divine mission. He also makes Jesus the center of everything he does – he has dedicated his life to pointing people toward Jesus and, finally, he seeks to glorify God in all he does.
I have suggested to the Soul Sisters that we should begin each of the next 10 weeks with this reminder of the claims that Paul makes in his opening verses. That way we will all be more apt to remember these important aspects of Paul’s letter.
Tonight’s verse is the first one in the book of Galatians. This opening line gives us a flavor of what is to come. Paul tells us, in Galatians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…”
As an aside, this is the verse that claims that God the Father was the One who resurrected Jesus from the dead. FYI, there is another verse that claims that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, and even a third verse that indicates that Jesus raised himself from the dead. In any event, God raised God from the dead!
My encouragement this evening is that the writers of the New Testament, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, wrote their books for the people of the time, as well as those of us who are living several thousand years later. The word of God is steadfast – it transcends time and space – and is as important today as when the New Testament was written. My prayer is that we can all be as passionate as Paul when it comes to promoting Jesus and living our lives motivated by glorifying God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…