Galatians: Grace is enough

Galatians 1:1–24

We are human beings, not human doings. That could be one way to sum up Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Another way might be, in the words of Jack & Meg White, You don’t know what love is, you just do as your told:

Paul’s intended audience is probably represented by the same group he interacts with in Acts 13–14, the churches he planted on his first missionary journey in Pisidia Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Where letters like Romans, Corinthians, and Ephesians are written to congregations in cosmopolitan centers, Galatians has in mind a rural community.

Most letters of the ancient include a bit in the beginning about how great the writer esteems his audience (for example, Ephesians 1:15–23 or Philippians 1:3–11). But Paul skips that in this letter. There’s a crisis in this group of people, and he cuts right to the chase: the Gospel is being compromised among them.

Paul has come through, preaching that Jesus is King, new creation is here, established these congregations, and now someone else has come after with a message that the cross and resurrection are not enough. You have to do stuff to earn God’s favor.

And this makes Paul angry. Steam-coming-out-of-the-ears angry.

As we read Galatians, we want to keep this story in view. Otherwise, we can fall into a false “law verse grace” trap. (Remember, in Romans, Paul called the law holy, righteous, and good.) The relationship between law (or obedience to God, to put it a different way) and grace has tripped up the followers of Jesus for centuries and still does.

We do not obey God in order to receive grace. We obey God because of grace.

And this is what Galatians is all about.


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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