Passion and Purpose

The first thing you notice when you read through this short letter, is that it is written with great passion and feeling. Paul, the great apostle, is very concerned about his friends in Galatia. He writes:

Ch 1:6       “I am astonished…..

Ch 3:1       “Oh foolish Galatians…..

Ch 4:12     “I plead with you, brothers…..

Clearly, for Paul at least, something important is at stake. Something that, - if ignored – will have terrible consequences in the lives of his friends. But what error, what practical harm, is before these people?

At first reading, the issue at stake seems to have little to do with us. Paul is warning his friends not to accept the teaching of a particular group who have come to them, teaching them that they need to be circumcised. (See Ch2:3, 2:12) Paul says that this is a serious error, to the point that if they allow themselves to be circumcised, they will not be saved, and Christ can be of no use to them. (Ch5:2) So upset is Paul with these “false teachers” that he tells the Galatians he hopes they (the “agitators”) go the whole way with circumcision on themselves (5:12)

But why such passion? What is Paul’s purpose in writing? And does all this matter to us today? After all, we do not have people urging us in this area. Well, Paul’s purpose is, in the end, that his friends do not lose their salvation. With this, Paul knows that because some have accepted this teaching, great division and conflict has arisen between the christians in Galatia. (See, e.g. Ch 5:15). More, the result is that the Lord Jesus is being dishonoured, because of the work of these “agitators”.

The centre of the practical problem, is that the Galatian christians are losing the freedom that is theirs, as christians. As we begin reading this letter, it is worth pondering whether we have a sense of this freedom as a result of knowing Christ.

My conviction is that there are great threats to our freedom, to our freedom to love, today. While not from the teaching about circumcision, other similar errors are around us.

Our challenge as we read this letter will be to so clearly understand how the gospel of God is meant to work in us, that we are alert to teaching that enslaves us. Alert to teaching that robs the gospel of its power. Only then, can we be freed to love, in response to the great generosity of God to us, in Christ. So that with Paul, we can say:

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave          himself for me.”

May God enable us, as we consider this letter, to be able to say this, for ourselves.

Kerry Nagel

September 2015

Download a copy of the study here - Bible Study - Galatians October 2015

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