Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is straightforward and razor sharp. Most would not consider his approach to be tender and loving. There is a reason for Paul’s no-nonsense approach – the gospel of grace was being perverted. In Galatians 1:6 we find the church turning away; the Greek word here is used for a military desertion, punishable by death. The believers whom Paul was addressing were voluntarily deserting grace to pursue the legalism taught by the false teachers. Paul regards this teaching as damnable, and will spend the next two chapters defending the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. It is no wonder that Luther, at the dawn of the reformation in Europe, found in Galatians something that resonated in his own soul. He would write of this letter, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife.” Philip Ryken has said that by trying to base their justification on their sanctification, the Galatians were in danger of exchanging God’s grace in the gospel for performance-based Christianity. But the apostle Paul rightly warned them that any form of works-righteousness is unfriendly, antagonistic and hostile to the good news of salvation, arguing “that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16). When properly understood, the gracious gospel taught in the book of Galatians liberates us from legalism. Since we are legalists by nature, the book challenges many of our preconceptions about what it means to have a right relationship with God. This week, read through and meditate upon the epistle of Paul to the Galatians as much and as often as possible.