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Galatians 1:69, 1112, 1516; 2:16comment (0)

June 4, 2009

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Galatians 1:69, 1112, 1516; 2:16

Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Galatians 1:6–9, 11–12, 15–16; 2:1–6
Recognize the True Gospel (1:6–9)

Galatians is different from the apostle Paul’s other letters. He moved with great abruptness from his brief greeting into the body of the letter itself. He wrote with urgency because he was responding to a crisis. It could have happened like this: A messenger had brought him a report about the churches in Galatia. The word was that the churches were adding the Law of Moses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This was the teaching of the Judaizers, the Jewish-Christian legalists who came from Jerusalem to do follow-up on Paul’s evangelism. They wanted to make Gentiles become Jews before they could become Christians. They wanted to add works of the Law on to faith in Jesus Christ as the basis for salvation.

No sooner had Paul heard this report than he started composing his response. He wrote this letter because he was afraid the Galatians were abandoning the Christian faith. Paul was genuinely shocked at how quickly his disciples had begun to desert the gospel. The Galatian believers were in the process of forsaking the gospel; their apostasy was not yet complete. By adding extra requirements for salvation to what Jesus Christ has done once and for all, the Galatians were turning away from God. 

These young, fragile believers were being taught to follow a different gospel, which was actually not a gospel at all. The true gospel Paul was so careful to distinguish includes God’s mighty act of deliverance through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the benefits of salvation — such as the forgiveness of sins, a right standing with God and the gift of the Holy Spirit — which are appropriated only by grace through faith.

These Judaizers were troubling the Church by tampering with the gospel. You cannot touch the gospel and leave the Church untouched, because the Church is created by and lives by the gospel. The greatest troublemakers for the Church are not opponents on the outside but rather those on the inside who try to change the gospel. Paul was unsparing in his condemnation of these perverters and seducers of the young believers. Paul pronounced a curse upon anyone proclaiming a counterfeit gospel. “A curse be on him,” anathema in the original, means let him suffer the eternal retribution and judgment of God.

Realize the Gospel Is Divine (1:11–12, 15–16)
If Paul did not get the gospel from his own fertile imagination or from Peter or the other apostles, then where did it come from? The answer is that it came from God Himself. Paul received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. The gospel was not an invention or a tradition, but rather the gospel was a revelation. The gospel was unveiled by God.

As this truth sinks into our minds and saturates our hearts, we are emboldened by the gospel. There are implications for us as we realize the gospel is divine. This is God’s gospel and we have no right to change it. We are to proclaim God’s good news to all the peoples of our world. No one is to be excluded. We do not need to be afraid as we go to the hard peoples and hard places because our mighty God will be with us and He has promised to use His gospel to save sinners (Rom. 1:16–17).

Refuse to Accept a Compromise (2:1–6)
The gospel is God’s powerful good news. Humanity can have acceptance with the holy God of the universe, and humans can have fellowship with other humans. The gospel brings us into intimate fellowship with God and one another. The gospel produces unity among God’s people. But the Judaizers were trying to make circumcision a prerequisite for Gentiles to be truly saved. Paul refused to compromise. To accept that condition would be to renounce the truth of the gospel, that is salvation is by divine grace manifested in Jesus’ completed work on the cross, the benefit of which is received through personal faith in Christ and that alone. If a Gentile believer had to submit to circumcision, then this would amount to salvation by works. The outcome of this issue was crucial both for the integrity of the gospel and the unity of the Church.

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