Tomorrow, we step into a new chapter of the New Testament (no pun intended). Galatians kicks off what's known as the "prison epistles", four letters written by Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome (see Acts 28:30-31).
When the Gospel spread from the Jewish to the non-Jewish (Gentile) people, a complicated issue arose: for these who were not raised under the law of Moses, did salvation through Jesus mean that you had to keep the Jewish law?
We saw in the book of Acts that often when Paul was preaching God's grace and love through Jesus, often a group of people from Israel would find and oppose him (see Acts 15). These "Judaizers" said that you must be circumcised and adhere to the law of Moses in order to be saved.
Galatians deals with a body of believers who were beginning to listen to these Judaizers, thinking that law and legalism were the way to salvation. I believe this is a very relevant issue today, as it has been throughout the history of the church: we have always had to battle the thought that salvation is dependent on what we do, not what Jesus did.
I love the letter to the Galatian church so much because Paul doesn't stop with only preaching grace and freedom from the law. If he left it here, we might be inclined to think that once we are saved we can live however we want. But this is far from the truth!
When we are born again and "in Christ", our life should look different than it did before. In the fifth chapter, Paul lists the ways we want to live apart from godliness ("the cravings of the self-life"). Then he explains what "fruit" our life should produce when God's Spirit is in us: the fruit of love.
I hope you enjoy Galatians. I pray that God will speak to you and reaffirm and rejoice that faith in Jesus has made you righteous. For the next week that we read, ask God to speak to you and enlighten you while reading this letter. Ask God to show you if you have let yourself think that you have to earn His pleasure. Ask Him how you can walk more by the Spirit, and less by the cravings of your self-life.
The letter to the Galatians is so packed with wonderful truths and directions for God-inspired living—but then so are all of the epistles!