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Paul, an apostle, wrote to the Galatian church in order to give them encouragement, because infiltrators were “troubling” its members by placing a yoke of Judaism upon their shoulders. Whoever these negative influencers were, they must have been quite effective, and it grieved Paul greatly. Of all of his writings, the letter to the Galatians is the most spirited to say the least. No where else did Paul ever write things such as…
Galatians 5:12 (HCSB)
I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!
So, what was it that got Paul so heated?
The preaching of a different Gospel. This notion was so upsetting to Paul that he would make the following point twice…
Galatians 1:8-9 (HCSB)
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!
To the Faithful Saints
Paul opens his letter to the Galatians as he does all of his other writings… with a sincere loving tone; bestowing grace and peace upon the reader; thoroughly grounding it in Christ. However, right after expressing what Galatian church members meant to him and to God, Paul got to what was of deep concern to him, and he didn’t pull any punches. He immediately got down to business…
Galatians 1:6 (HCSB)
I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…
Stunning words, especially if they were directed at you. How shocked the recipients must have been, eager to read this most special delivery, only to be alarmingly awoken to their compromise. But, in showing the concern that he had for them, Paul would quickly turn the tables upon himself, anticipating the need to put his sudden critique into perspective just as quickly as he had sprung it upon them.
The Source of the Gospel
It was important at this point for Paul to reiterate to the Galatians the origins of the Gospel… that it was “not based on human thought,” nor did he “receive it from a human source,” and nor was he “taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ.” This was extremely important for them to understand. They needed to be reminded of the Gospel’s source… Christ. Knowing this would help the Galatians to filter out what was “quickly turning” them “away from Him,” bringing restoration to their souls.
After reviewing his own background and pedigree as a former, but advanced, adherent of Judaism, Paul explained to them how he had (after conversion) spent time with Cephas and “James, the Lord’s brother” in Jerusalem; that he had spread the good news amongst the Gentiles throughout the Mediterranean region; and that he had later again returned to Jerusalem where the “pillars,” James, Cephas, and John had agreed that Paul should continue on, focusing on the Gentiles, while they remained centered on the “circumcised.” This brief history authentically demonstrated that Paul was qualified to address the burden being peddled by the imposters to the church in Galatia.
Paul then paralleled what the Galatians were going through with the infiltrators with a past experience that he had had with Peter. Peter understood that not only Jews, but that also Gentiles became brethren by faith in Christ. As a result, he would “regularly” eat with them. But, just as the Galatians were pressured into regression away from their newly found freedom in Christ by those who had troubled them, “certain men came from James,” who had troubled Peter through fear, “those from the circumcision party,” causing him to then wrongly separate himself from the non-Jewish believers. In other words, both Peter and the Galatians had each made the mistake of leaving behind what had liberated them for another gospel… one of yoke and heavy burden. Paul explained how he had confronted Peter, whose fear permeated beyond himself to other Jews, even duping Barnabas as well. The point, again, was to show the Galatians that he had already successfully dealt with this type of issue in the past, qualifying him to bring resolution.
Fear is a powerful thing. If utilized by those who intend to disrupt or to control others for the wrong reasons, it can lead to terrible outcomes such as the abandonment of the Gospel for “another Gospel,” as was happening in the Galatian church. Not that there is another gospel…
Galatians 1:6-9 (HCSB)
I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!
This is what Paul battled in Jerusalem and now again in Galatia: brethren leaving behind Christ for something which was alluring to the flesh and antithetical to the Spirit. It would draw out from Paul to write things which were unique to this letter from his other writings. What I mean is, not only would he express his desire to see the disrupters of the Galatians castrate themselves, but he would even label brethren in unflattering terms due to their error…
Galatians 3:1 (HCSB)
You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified?
It would not be hard to imagine that Paul would have the same reaction today, regarding Christians who are fooled by those who insist on burdening the brethren through fear and a yoke which exasperates the freedom which we now have in Christ. It’s hard enough for us to deal with this flesh battling against our changed hearts. We don’t need any additional complications due to adopting wrong positions which further thwart our life in the Spirit. The flesh alone is quite enough to handle. Paul made this very same point…
Galatians 5:16-18 (HCSB)
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
It is interesting to note that the Galatians were told by Paul that they were “not under the law.” This is so important for the Christian to understand. For whatever reason, since Peter until now 2,000 years later, brethren have been so easily mesmerized by rules and stipulation. However, what we are called to walk by (the Spirit) is in opposition to what our flesh desires (to be under the law).
This seems like an odd thing, doesn’t it? But, if you really think about it, it’s not.
Because, our flesh does not desire what is holy, what is of the Spirit… not being under the law. It instead desires what is unholy… bondage. This was exactly what the promoters of Judaism (those of the flesh) were attempting to yoke the Galatians with, stirring up a war inside each of them… which we also each experience.
So, how are we to deal with this?
Ponder the freedom that we have been given by Christ, and act on the ability which has been granted to us to overcome it…
Galatians 5:1 (HCSB)
Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Taking Part in Restoration
This raises a question…
Is there any law then, which we are to fulfill?
Yes… “the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:1-2 (HCSB)
Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
We are to do the exact opposite of what those who “troubled” the Galatians did. Instead of embracing the temptation to place burdens upon people by imposing the yoke of the law, thus, adding weight to their conviction, we are to carry their burdens, taking part in bringing about their restoration. In other words, if someone is found committing sin, we who live by the Spirit are to be compassionate and loving, building them up so that healing takes place. As for ourselves, we must also be careful when temptation arises within us. When we do this, we then satisfy the law of our Savior.
The Expert in the Law
There was another group of heavy yoke placers described in the New Testament, and our Lord rebuked them…
Luke 11:45-46 (HCSB)
One of the experts in the law answered Him, “Teacher, when You say these things You insult us too.” Then He said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers.
The “experts in the law” ironically missed what fulfilled the law, gaining for themselves, not praise, but rebuke from the true Expert in the law… Jesus Christ.
So, what burden does the Expert in the law yoke His people with?
Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
As Christians, we are to take part in restoration. We who are spiritual are to respond to those who have done wrong with a gentile spirit, taking upon ourselves their heavy loads, while at the same time being careful not to give into temptation ourselves. In the flesh, it might seem difficult. But, in the Spirit… it’s easy and light. And, when we do, we then do what we are called to do… to fulfill the law of Christ.
Godspeed, to the brethren!