I’ve been teaching through the book of Galatians in our young adult Sunday School class at Missouri Valley recently. It’s a powerful book of Scripture addressing the freedom we have in Christ.
Here’s the background:
The churches in Galatia are in turmoil. Big-time.
There’s stress between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. The history between these two groups is not pretty. You think racism in the South was bad? This is nothing.
The Jewish people were God’s chosen group, and they knew it. They’ve lived as God’s people for over a thousand years. Trace their lineage back to Abraham. Were delivered from Egypt by Moses. Were given the commandments and the law. Were made into a mighty nation, and led by powerful kings. When they strayed, prophets were sent over and over by God to bring them back to Him.
The Gentiles? Well, they were the rejects… those outside of the Jewish lineage. Ostensibly rejected by God. And looked on as lower than dogs to the Jews. To associate with them was not only socially unacceptable, but made them unclean… unfit for worship of God.
Yet people from both groups are coming to faith in Christ. Becoming brothers and sisters, joint heirs of God’s Kingdom through a mutual faith.
You think your family has tension? Try uniting these two groups.
So here’s what’s happening in the church: Jewish believers, who have followed God’s commands for all of their lives, are stressed that these new Gentile believers have not. And you guessed it… circumcision becomes the issue of the day. The Jewish men were circumcized… the Gentiles were not.
And this was a BIG DEAL to the Jews.
Why, you ask?
Because circumcision was God’s sign of His covenant relationship with the Jews. This indicated that they were indeed God’s chosen people. For whatever reasons, the Jews believed it necessary for the Gentiles to undergo this procedure as well, submitting to the commands of the law given them over a thousand years previous.
If you’re a Gentile man, this is a BIG DEAL.
So there’s a major rift. And we think that OUR church feuds can get heated.
Enter Paul. He’s visited these churches. Preached the gospel to them. Lead many of them to Christ, helping birth these very churches.
He’s got to address this rift and heal the church.
The result? The book we know as Galatians. A POWERFUL treatise on justification by faith in Christ through the grace of God alone… salvation by grace, not works.
Lots of meat to sort through. Be sure to check back for subsequent posts as I walk through this book here at Toward the Goal. If you’ve got thoughts and comments, by all means, share.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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