ANCHORED DAILY: Intro to Galatians

posted by Bethel Communications | May 11, 2022

Greetings and salutations, podcast enthusiasts!  Let’s play a quick game: Finish these perfect pairings for me by filling in the blank:  Peanut butter and _______.  Hammer and ________.  Fred Astaire and ______________.  Faith and __________.  This is Angie, and today we’re going to explore together that last pairing as we discuss an introduction to the book of Galatians. Did you get all those famous pairings correct? We will focus today on Faith…and works…

 

The major issue Paul addressed in the letter to the Galatians was a false teaching that was challenging the true gospel. You’ll find that in Gal. 1:7, 4:17, and 5:10. Paul was preaching that believers were justified by faith in Christ alone, apart from the works of the law. The Jewish teaching favored the law of works to earn favor. These doctrinal debates that were creating a lot of confusion. 

 

One of my seminary professors put it this way, “The practical result of these doctrinal debates was an atmosphere of critical fighting (Gal. 5:25), snobbish dismissal rather than restoration of sinning believers (Gal. 6:1-3), and a general tendency to give up and lose heart (Gal. 6:9). The Galatian squabbles were not simply doctrinal niceties. They were damaging the fiber of the believers’ compassion and perseverance.” 

 

Even today, this is a concept that many people wrestle to understand. Some fall heavy on the side of faith without works, and others fall heavy on the side of works without faith. But Paul was pretty clear that faith and works were a dynamic duo, and we cannot have one without the other. You know, like peanut butter and jelly.

 

One of the biggest issues that confused the Galatians was who was speaking the truth? Both Paul and the Jewish leaders were well respected, but both claimed the authority of God and the scriptures. So, whose teaching was correct?

 

Dr Carl Laney gives us context, saying “The issue for the Galatians was much deeper than a theological squabble between Christian leaders. Paul’s critics claimed that the Law of Moses could save people from hell. But to imply that the law brought salvation denied the power of what God had done through Christ’s death and resurrection. The legalistic stance of Paul’s opponents also missed the point of God’s work through Abraham. More personally, legalism left the Galatians in bondage to fear of failure. It bound them to trying to save themselves through obedience rather than allowing them to relax and enjoy the freedom of fully won forgiveness in Christ.”

 

Paul’s letter was an attempt to bridge the gap that existed, in order to present the one true Gospel. On the one hand, as Christians we must admit that we sin, while acknowledging that we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of that sin, yet with thankfulness we rest in God’s complete forgiveness that comes by faith in Christ alone. On the other hand, however, that doesn’t give us free reign to sin repeatedly and live a life of debauchery, caring selfishly for

only ourselves. Scripture reminds us that there should be evidence of our faith commitment through good works and deeds.

Dr. Laney notes the tension saying, “There is a conscious effort at times for believers to earn at least a piece of their own salvation by doing good and piling up merit. The struggle between humbly receiving and legalistically meriting God’s grace can be complicated by God continually asking his people throughout scripture to obey him. What are believers to make of God’s continual commands to keep his laws? Must believers keep laws to gain his favor? Or do they keep his commands because they already have the full measure of his favor?”

 

Paul sought to bring clarity and understanding about how faith and works go together. You know, like a hammer and some nails. Faith alone opens the door to God’s full and unmerited grace into our lives. And once as believers we are inside that door of grace, we willingly fulfill His commands by reliance on the Holy Spirit through acts of love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. By faith, we have already obtained His grace and by works we in essence say “thank you” by putting our faith into practice, sharing that gift of grace by serving others in His name.

 

Faith and works are not enemies. Both are part of God's grace in our lives. James reinforces this belief in James Chapter 2, reminding us that our faith in Christ and our actions to serve others must always be united. Just like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, we partner together with God to create a beautiful dance of faith and works. Or as Rich Mullins used to remind us, “faith with out works, like a song you can’t sing, it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”

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