You can’t read these verses without realising that something really important is at stake here. They are not verses that you can read and say ‘that was nice’. Paul had planted the churches in Galatia early on in his ministry (Acts 13-14). Now others have come in and started to undermine the gospel and then Paul himself – v.6 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”
The gospel of grace is that we only need to trust in Jesus, to put our faith in Him, to be justified (declared not guilty of our sin AND righteous). God then freely fills us with the Spirit to enable us to live out that righteousness in practice. Now Judaisers are coming in to bewitch them, 3:1, (that’s pretty strong!) into adding circumcision and following the law of Moses in order to be righteous. John Piper, quoting “the Scottish minister, P.T. Forsythe”, said –
“The secret of the Lord is with those who have been broken by his cross and healed by his Spirit.” Galatians exalts these two things: the cross of Christ as the only way a person can get right with God, and the Spirit of Christ as the only way a person can obey God. ”
So Paul gets down to it pretty quickly!
v.1-2 – He is an apostle called by God, not his own idea. An apostle literally means a special messenger – to the Jews of the time it was a well defined word: “it meant a special messenger with a special status, enjoying an authority and commission that came from a higher body than themselves.”
v.3-5 – Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – this is the nub of the issue. Jesus died for our sins! To be right with God, we need faith in Jesus, not faith in Jesus plus….
v.6-10 – Paul is astonished they are deserting the gospel of grace for other teaching that is not the true gospel. If anyone preaches a law-based gospel, whether they claim to be an angel (when actually they must be a demon), or an apostle, or whatever – they are cursed. Paul is going to use strong language in this letter about curses – the only curse that is described as operating in New Covenant age is the curse that comes from going back to the Law to be righteous. The Law contained blessings and curses and to be under it puts you under its system of blessings and curses, 3:10. Having gone back to the Law, if you don’t keep it all, you are in trouble. Stay under grace!!!
v.11-24 – Paul tells some of his story – how he was thoroughly under the Law, persecuting Christians; Jesus revealed himself to Paul and revealed the gospel of grace to him too. As Paul writes, we can see the early dating of this, the first of his letters, in around AD 48-49. There’s no mention of the Council of Jerusalem – Acts 15, which pertains to the subject matter of the letter, so it must be before then.
Stay in grace! Faith in Jesus, who gives us grace is enough! The Spirit is freely given to you – you don’t have to earn His favour. You have favour already!
We are going to have some fun going through Galatians!