Friday, January 3, 2014

Galatians: Introduction

Happy New Year! The start of a New Year is always exciting, because it brings a fresh sense of anticipation. What does the LORD have for us this year? What will He bring to challenge and strengthen us? How will He bless us with a new awareness of His presence and working in our lives? 

Seeing the date of 2014, I’m also somewhat amazed that we are already this far into the new century! When I was a little girl and looked ahead to this “science fiction” era, it seemed so very far away. Yet, I’ve barely blinked and have been carried along to this latter part of my life in an instant! I’ve so little time ahead to really grasp what the LORD has called me to become. I don’t want to miss a minute more!

I decided several months ago that I wanted to start this year in the book of Galatians. I’m anxious to get into Paul’s letter(s). Not sure where we’ll go for the entire year, but it may be that we will look through all of his letters. This one has its special challenges, and I was facing it with some trepidation, because it is so strong with conviction. But I’ve decided that there can be no apology for Paul’s directness. This is the inspired Word of God, and, as Paul wrote to Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

Don’t you want to be taught and prepared for everything God has for you, even if it means you may have to endure reproof and correction?? I do! So, with humility, I am going to jump into this book (after downloading several commentaries onto my iPad yesterday to read every possible opinion on Galatians, including Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Matthew Henry). The funny thing is that after reading them all, I found such agreement, and decided that Jon Courson’s commentary is actually the best expressed!

All agree that this is a book written to defend the pure and simple gospel of salvation by grace. I wrote in the margin of my Bible that in this book, probably the first letter written by him, Paul is “fighting the ‘Jesus Plus’ gospel.” There were already men working within the church to turn the people of Galatia away from the gospel Paul preached to them (we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone) to a different “gospel” that relied on Jesus PLUS the need to keep Jewish laws and rituals.

In response to this threat to undermine the work of Christ, Paul sends this letter to firmly remind the Galatians of just what Christ actually accomplished on the cross - something that all of the good works we might attempt could NEVER do!

Galatia was a region which included Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, cities visited by Paul in Acts 14. The people there were a fickle crowd. After a lame man was healed through their ministry, the people bowed down to Paul and Barnabas and worshiped them (which appalled these ministers, so they quickly pointed them to the living God). But by evening, their opinion had been turned by some Jewish agitators and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead! A capricious crowd indeed! So, when Paul heard that they were turning away from the simplicity of the gospel he delivered, he felt compelled to squelch the heresy immediately. This is where we will pick up as we begin this book. Paul’s passion is unmistakable! I’m hoping we will feel that same excitement as we look into this marvelous doctrine of grace.

May the LORD open our hearts to receive what His Word teaches so that we may walk in newness of life into 2014.  

No comments:

Post a Comment