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Left the Gospel: Galatians 1

In Summary: We move on from John—having finished his Gospel, I needed another place to go. I have chosen Galatians as the next New Testament book for the Through the Whole Bible series here on Learning, Teaching, and Laughing. If you don’t like Galatians, stick around! It’s a short book.

Galatians 1 opens with the standard Pauline greeting, establishing his identity, his companions, and his audience. He goes on to present a fairly normal greeting in the form of a blessing. It is a worthy exercise to compare all of the Pauline introductions in his letters, but I will not delve into that today.

The first chapter of Galatians is split between two major themes. The first theme is Paul’s frustrated amazement at how readily the Galatian churches had slid away from the Gospel. The second is Paul’s effort to demonstrate why his Gospel, his preaching, was what they should listen to.

This is the summary section, so this is the high point: the Gospel is the Gospel, and it does not change. Paul did not learn it from any earthly teacher but from God, and the Galatians need to not chase the latest winds of change that come to visit.
In Focus: Take a long, hard look at Galatians 1:6-8. Paul is astounded at the rapid departure from the truth in the church. It appears that some men had come in to the church and taught them something other than the True Gospel of Jesus.

We see several rebukes in the rest of Galatians which give us clues about who and what the problem was. It looks like it was the legalistic teaching we now call Judaizing, that is teaching that to be a good Christian, one had to obey all the Jewish Law first. (Whole books exist on the subject of this legalistic heresy, so that’s a real oversimplification.)

This false teaching was presented by people who sounded good, looked good, and preached good. Yet they were destroying the church. And there is one another issue to truly note:

Galatia’s not a town. It’s a region. This is not one church, it’s several. Rather than being self-correcting interdependent bodies, these churches had all fallen for the false teaching. We may hope there were individual holdouts, but the churches as a whole had become corrupt.
In Practice: What do we do about it? Here are three actions:

1. Know and hold the True Gospel: the grace of God, through the Blood of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit. That is how salvation comes, and how a relationship with God begins. If someone starts adding to that with rules, they are rejecting the Gospel. If someone starts taking away from that by, for instance, denying Jesus’ bodily resurrection, then they are rejecting the Gospel.

Reject that teaching in your life and church. Reject that person as a teacher.

2. Be wary of the fads and whims. We are so prone to this it’s almost not funny. Here is the latest and greatest…no, there is the latest and greatest. The core of who we are as Christians has not changed since Pentecost.

Reject the fallacy that old ideas must be discarded. The oldest and best must be maintained—for the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world.

3. No amount of personal charisma or perspective should draw a church from the Truth to another person. This is Paul’s plea about letting the one who draws the church away be “accursed.”

If an individual demands that the church be about him (or her) and not about Jesus, then they need to be cut out.

For further info: I have preached some of Galatians before. Here are the posts with those sermons.
In Nerdiness: Galatians is a fun book to take apart nerd-style, because it starts with a great mystery: Which Galatia?

At various times, Galatia was a region that was larger or smaller, generally in what is now Turkey. There are theories on whether Galatians is targeted at North Galatia or South Galatia—the mountainous region or the coastal one. I’m inclined toward the South Galatia view, but uncertain about it.

The other great question in chapter one is where all Paul went after his salvation, especially the three years in Galatians 1:17-18. Is he in Arabia the whole time, or just not in Jerusalem? There is much debating there as well.

I am a big fan of digging into these questions, but do not lose sight of Galatians 1:24: if people are not glorifying God because of you, no nerdiness is enough.

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