What does it mean to receive a free gift? Have you ever stopped to consider that God chose you even before you were born? What undeserved mercy (1:15)! God has provided us with a mediator who allows us to be intimately connected with Him in the same way that Adam was. This mediator is Jesus Christ; God incarnate. In fact, Paul says, in the first verse of the book of Galatians, that he was not appointed by man, but from God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In this same way, we too have been chosen by God.
In the beginning of Paul's letter to the country of Galatia (as this letter was not necessarily directed to any single church), Paul wrote out of pure emotion. He was saddened and angry that the people of Galatia had begun to turn away from their faith and this "free gift" that Paul so adamantly clung to. Paul's emotions could have been spurred on by the fact that the Christians in Galatia may have, in fact, become converted through the work that Paul did there years earlier. In ways, Paul might have held the Galatians more accountable than any other one church that he wrote to.
But how easy it is for us to fall out of our faith of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ), just as the Galatians did. It is only natural that through our imperfection we look for something solid (i.e., reasoning, logic...the Law) rather than something impalpable (i.e., faith in the resurrection of our Lord). Plainly, it is easier to judge our walk by the works that we do -- how strictly we adhere to the Law -- than to live in the hope that we are serving our Savior through our belief in Him (3:22).
This is all we are called to do: "believe in Christ Jesus." And as believers, we can rest assured in our faith (not in the Law, 3:5) that God has promised us the same blessings that were bestowed upon Abraham. For it is not through the Law that Abraham was blessed, but because of the faith that he had in God. The thing that changes our hearts -- that gives us new life -- is not a set of rules, but the Holy Spirit given to us upon the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
It would be beneficial to us if we could all receive this kind of instruction now and again. Paul's letter was delivered to the Galatians in a time when they fell back on the laurels of their works rather than the promise of their faith. It is understood that being a believer of the Gospel is not so cut-and-dry. Our faith does not have a rule-set as other religions do. Performing rituals and keeping practices does not give us greater favor with our Maker. For, "God has no favorites" (2:6). We were all crucified on the cross with Jesus (2:19). Therefore, we have died to the Law because it would have never connected us with God. No, Jesus came to provide the connection that the Law prepared us for (3:24), because without the Law, we would have never known our guilt.
The directive in the first three chapters of Galatians is clear. We must believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through this belief -- this faith in the Gospel -- God will allow us to partake in a promise that can never be broken. This promise grants us salvation from the bonds of depravity and provides us with an eternal relationship with God; a chance to have abundant life for now and forever and to know what the humanity of Jesus Christ really means.
Thought for today: "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Gal 3:23-25)
In the latter half of his letter to the Galatians, Paul takes on a much more serious tone of rebuke towards the Galatiansí recent backsliding. Even so, it is difficult to mistake that Paul loves these people and cares for them deeply (6:1). But while Paulís concern for the people of Galatia is great, his intentions are clear Ė even piercing Ė that he desires them to turn from their devotion of the Law and place their full faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (5:4).
It is interesting to find that Paulís negative opinions of the Law are so harsh. He himself is a Jew who grew up in the Law, so it seems like he would appreciate its validity. But that is not the case, at least, while dealing with the Galatians. The forces that the Law guides us through, in Paulís eyes, are in a constant battle with the forces of the Holy Spirit (5:16-18). In other words, the Law only tells us how we should live our lives, while the Holy Spirit actually helps us to have pure hearts. How, then could we ever live in communion with the Holy Spirit if we are still slaves to the Law? "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there" (5:24).
This is how we have "freedom in Christ" (5:1). This is how Godís promise to us Ė the same promise that bore Isaac, the son of Abraham (4:28) Ė has become fulfilled. It is through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that we have become children of God (3:26), not through our competency of the Law. In fact, Paul is very clear when he says in verse 5:3, "If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised you must obey all of the regulations in the whole law of Moses." That is, even if we think that any one part of the Law is important, we must henceforth live in the Law in its entirety. Thank God for His loving nature that He sent His Son to free us from this bondage and provide us with a love that is like His own (5:13-14).
Yes, Jesus Christ has delivered us from the Law and He has forgiven us for our sins, but we are still imperfect human beings who are always growing in the Spirit. Even though we are not required to adhere to the Law, the Law was written on our hearts (Rom. 2:14) and it is because of the Law that we know sin (Rom. 7:7). Christians still live with the choice of whether to serve their desires or to serve the Holy Spirit (this battle that was spoken of before) and when a brother or sister falls, we must demonstrate the love that God has given us and help that person up (6:1). It is only by indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not the rules and regulations that we live under, that we can change from what we were into better humans. Our charge is that we become new and different people who, "should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters" (6:10).
Paulís plea to the Galatian people was simple: that they return to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But just because the concept is simple, it doesnít make our battle between opposing forces any easier. The Galatians were no different from how we are today. We appreciate the works that others do. We thrive on acclaim for doing well by others. We judge people when they donít walk or talk or think the same way that we do. But Paul says in verse 6:15, "It doesn't make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people."