Before we consider Paul’s defense of his gospel message, we will summarize the issues in Galatia.
(1) Jewish people were exempt from participating in pagan festivals and sacrifices.
The Roman government gave them an exception because they were extremely resistant to any form of idol worship.
(2) Even though Jewish followers of Jesus were separate from their Jewish relatives, they would have agreed with them about what constituted membership in the family of God.
They would have insisted that Gentile converts accept circumcision, food laws, table fellowship, and sabbath observance as a requirement to joining the faith of their fathers.
(3) Gentile citizens wanted every member of the community to participate in festivals and sacrifices to the pagan gods.
They believed that calamities happened when people didn’t give proper respect to the multitude of idols.
(4) Paul’s gospel to the Gentile converts put them at odds with their Gentile and Jewish neighbors.
Faith in the crucified and resurrected Jewish Messiah (Jesus) produced freedom from bondage to sin and idols through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It was not necessary for Gentile converts to engage in festivals to idols and the requirements of the Jewish Law.
Both pagans and Jews objected to Paul’s message. The letter to the Galatians focuses on the Jewish objections to his good news message.
— Galatians 1.6-7 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and is turning to a different gospel
Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
New Christians are easily confused and the Galatian followers of Jesus were no exception. Instead of living in the grace of Christ, they were receptive to the message of Jewish followers.
What was the risk?
What is the big deal if the Galatian converts added circumcision, food laws, and sabbath requirements to the gospel?
To do so would be to make the life, death, and resurrection nothing more than an “add-on” to the Jewish faith.
Jesus was not an “add-on,” instead he was the fulfillment of God’s project with the Jews that began with Abraham.
Paul identified his mission with the prophecy of Isaiah.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49.6)
Paul knew that Jesus was the Servant of the Lord, but in a smaller way that he was a servant of the Lord, too.
Paul partnered with Jesus for salvation to reach the end of the earth.
The gospel message of faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit was enough.
A Big Deal
Paul was accused of preaching an easy message to obtain the Gentiles’ acceptance of it. We will consider more of this accusation as we read further into the letter.
Not only did Paul disagree with his critics, but he also declared that his message was the only gospel.
— Galatians 1.8-9 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!
Application for Today
This passage should remind us of some Bible truths we should put into action.
(1) Every follower of Jesus has a responsibility and privilege to help other people experience the love of God through Jesus Christ.
If we ask God to show us creative ways to help friends, neighbors, and co-workers come into contact with the grace of God, he will help us.
(2) New followers of Jesus are like newborn children. The wrong baby formula may cause the child to be sick or worse.
We do well to “keep the main thing the main thing.” We do well to keep culture wars and confusing points of theology away from new Christians.
(3) The gospel is simple but powerful. When people hear that Jesus died for their sins and was raised by the Father to authenticate everything he said and did, and when they put their trust in that message, God’s power of salvation is released in their lives.
Paul had it right when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s saving power for everyone who believes” (Romans 1.16).
Rudy Ross and I have produced a YouTube video on this passage. It can be viewed on the Bob Spradling channel.
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