Daily emails from the Vicar re-start tomorrow. We will be looking together at Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This then is to give an introduction –
Galatians is perhaps less well-known or preached on in its entirety than many of Paul’s other letters.
However, there are some familiar passages, especially the description of the Fruit of the Spirit in Chapter 5 vs.22-23, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc etc.
Also the description of the great bringing together in salvation, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Ch.3 v.28)
The verses that have struck me afresh this Christmas time, ‘But when the set time (or the right time) had fully come God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the adoption as children.’ (Ch.4 vs.4-5)
So who are the Galatians and why is Paul particularly writing to them?
Galatia was a Roman province in what is now modern-day Turkey, and visited by Paul on all 3 of his missionary journeys recorded in the Scriptures, although in the 1st journey there is more detail of the places that he visited like Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts. Chs.13 & 14).
These were places where there were Jewish synagogues, but was mostly Gentile territory and where many Gentiles would have heard the Gospel for the first time and come to faith.
However, in the wake of Paul’s campaign, there grew some opposing voices from Jewish Christians, sometimes known as Judaisers, who were insisting that these Gentile converts also took on a number of OT ceremonial practices and rituals, especially circumcision, to be truly Christian; and therefore they also argued Paul wasn’t an authentic apostle if he wasn’t insisting on this.
So this letter sets out Paul’s credentials plus enforcing the truth of the Gospel that it is by grace through faith alone that a person is justified, put right with God, nothing less and nothing more; and it is by faith alone that someone is to live out their new Christian life in the freedom of the Spirit.
We might think (quite rightly) that insisting on circumcision is not an area of dispute and conflict in the church today, and therefore wonder what the letter to the Galatians might have to say to us today? However, throughout the ages the church has often fallen into the trap of adding to the Gospel of grace and faith, and it was the rediscovery of the basic message of Galatians that brought about the Reformation. And there are probably other things since then that are sometimes added if someone is to be a “proper” Christian.
So come journeying with me over the next couple of weeks or so, as we read this important letter together.