Continuing in our study of Galatians, read through 1:6-24.
Paul’s letters usually contain a salutation, followed by thanksgiving. But here in Galatians the salutation is followed immediately by admonishment. “I am astonished! How could you?!!!” His words are very motherly/fatherly in tone–not harsh. But note he (led by the Spirit) does not dance around the issue. Too often in our relationships with one another we assume only elders address sin, or that it is simply none of my business. Paul is admonishing, but he instructed other churches in how to do this. Let this letter serve to us as a great example of how to admonish within the church, as we also learn the lessons Galatians needed. (see 2 Thesselonians 3:15, but also read in context of the chapter; seek the LORD that He would teach you how to love His church enough to carry out this part of our life together.)
Verse 6: Just as Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God had drawn near, so here Paul emphasizes that in Jesus the Kingdom is fully manifested, made known, led out to be seen. Deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ. But they are not deserting Him in an ultimate sense, for our union with Christ is sealed and our redemption is eternal. Remember Paul has already greeted them with the grace and peace that are directed toward true brethren, he assures them they are brethren, and continues to admonish them as such.
Through the rest of the chapter note that Paul uses second person speech towards brethren, third person toward “those disturbers.” This literary device reminds us that “they” (i.e. those disturbing the Galatians) are not in Christ.
Verse 7 introduces the false teaching brought by “disturbers of the peace.” They were perverting the gospel, by adding to it or qualifying it. (see 5:12) They were “disturbing you” which amounts to this group of false teachers upsetting the peace that believers should rest in. Paul’s tone is different with the disturbers of the peace than it is with those believers who were believing their false teaching. They are, as seen in vs 8-9, accursed. Not tolerated. Not kept on a leash. These are the types Paul would banish upon his return.
Likewise, if we please men, we too are accursed, verse 10. Every generation struggles with its own fads and opinions, temptations to please men rather than holding fast to the Word. It is good to ponder every now and then, when a new book is recommended, or a new music group rises in popularity, or a new conference comes to town, or a faction of your friends compel you toward a different authority in your life (as the Galatians were called upon to disregard Paul’s apostolic authority), “are these things rooted in the Logos, in the truth of the gospel which has been handed down to us in Scripture?
So in vs 10 we have a choice we have to make, because we cannot have it both ways:
Please God and love men
please men and disregard the Logos
Vs 11-12 Revelation is vastly different from the typical human way of learning. Paul did not merely repeat what a scribe taught: “he said, that he said, that he had been taught to…” Paul was not taught from a human teacher, but through revelation. And though many today would like a fresh revelation, a personal word, or to be an apostle, this is not what the Spirit has for us. As we heed His word, the Spirit illumines our understanding. It is in vain that we search outside of Scripture. To do so is to deny the Word, the divine Logos (the second person in the Trinity). Here the Galatians are learning not to pay attention to everyone who calls themself a teacher, or claims to be bringing further truth.
As elsewhere in other epistles, so here in verses 13-14 Paul rehearses his connection to Judaism. If anyone knew about circumcision, the keeping of days and seasons, and living by the Law, it was Paul. Yet, none of this is necessary for Gentile believers. Indeed, in Jerusalem, Jewish converts were still practiced these things, but Paul is led by the Spirit to teach that in Christ none of that is meaningful, it is passing away. Had Paul consulted with flesh and blood, by immediately going to Jerusalem, he may have been led by James and others to include ceremonial laws–but God was glorified in this course of events. And so it is! He preached the faith without mixing in a call to Judaism. So we must learn Christ in the same way, without mixing in a ceremonial religiousity that earns favor, or makes us look good, or gives the impression that we are adding to Christ’s finished work of atonement.
Perhaps you can think of ways in which you have seen this in your own experience. I’ve seen it in all the “heaven is for real” books; wherein heaven without Jesus is enjoyed and promoted. “The lost Gospel of Thomas” or others found by archaeologists; if you are wanting to study why those ancient manuscripts are not part of the cannon, I would love to point you toward some excellent books. Or in the case of California’s own Bethel Church (and Bethel Music) telling its members that Jesus did and spoke what He saw the Father speak. Likewise you must seek the Father for a fresh word, for fresh guidance, just like Jesus did. They bypass our Mediator, and put us on equal footing with the Son. They also claim that Jesus will heal everyone of faith, not one of us will ever suffer because Jesus purchased our healing. They have wrecked the faith of many, no doubt. (Here is one well written critique of Bethel: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-bethel-church-movement/
And now in the last verse we have the phrase “preaching the faith.” What is “the faith”? Usually “the faith” refers to doctrine. This “the faith” refers to what has been taught, the truth, the Gospel and all of the Law and Prophets that pointed towards Christ (i.e. Old Testament, for there is continuity).
Concerning “the faith,” spend some time meditating on these verses:
Jude vs 3-4
1 TImothy 6:20-21
2 Thess 2:15
1 Corinthians 16:13
Revelation 2:13ff (“My faith” verses false doctrine!)
Our parting word from Luther:
“It is the lot of God’s ministers not only to suffer opposition at the hand of a wicked world, but also to see the patient indoctrination of many years quickly undone by such religious fanatics. This hurts more than the persecution of tyrants.” 1