Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead– and all the brothers with me. To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5 NIV)
I am going to try something…
Today we begin a study of the book of Galatians. The book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul, to the churches in southern Galatia, to address the problem of Judaizers in the church. Please realize the problem was not with Jews in the church, as the church was very Jewish. Rather, there was an element in the church that believed followers of Jesus should also adhere strictly to the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant, such as the practice of circumcision and rites of purification and celebration of special days.
Even in a fully Jewish church, this legalistic spirit would have been a problem. But as the church spread beyond Jerusalem, and Greeks came to follow Jesus, the notion that Old Testament practices were binding on Christians threatened the unity of believers and the very heart of grace as it was poured out on Calvary.
This divisive issue is why Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians. After all, he was the Jewish apostle chosen as a special messenger to the Gentile world. Who better to speak on the subject?
Our passage this morning is a simple greeting from Paul, but one filled with a conciliatory spirit and a clear focus on Jesus as Savior. Jesus was, and is our peace, and He brings peace to brothers and sisters who struggle against one another.
So what is this thing I am going to try?
Well, it is very difficult to study the book of Galatians without sounding like a broken record. To be true to the context, it is necessary to focus on the Judaizer problem, which means it is hard to get through a single study without mentioning circumcision, or other representations of the Old Covenant.
But I am going to try. While reminding us, on occasion, of the context of Galatians, I am going to intentionally seek less obvious lessons for application to our lives. This doesn’t mean I will ignore the overwhelming tension between “law” and “grace” that permeates Paul’s message. Rather, I am going to do my best not to cover old ground.
Therefore, I ask for grace as you enter into this study with me. Don’t think I am ignoring the obvious. Instead, share with me in my search for the obscure.
Perhaps, in this way, Galatians will reveal some overlooked perspectives and truths. And whatever we discover, it will be from God…not Paul…not any man. Ask Him to open our minds and hearts to His Word.
Dear God, show me peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.