I’m super excited about our new study on Galatians because the book is exceedingly practical! If you’ve ever struggled to embrace something new while preferring the old way – you’ll get Galatians!
The old way was Old Testament Judaism of following the law.
The new way was Paul’s gospel of grace that he received from Jesus.
The issue of what to do with the God-Fearing Gentiles who want to worship the Jewish God had been simmering for 14 years by the time we arrive in Paul’s book to the Galatians (remember, “Galatia” was a region, not a city). The Jews in Galatia lived there because they wanted to escape the vulgar paganism of Rome, and they took pride in their adherence to the Jewish customs and laws, and, here’s the problem - they expected any God-Fearing gentile to do the same.
Acts 15:1 states “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Although the God-Fearing gentiles could worship their Old Testament God, they’d never be accepted as a true brother or family member. They remained distant, like some awkward cousin who was not allowed to sit with the family at meal times. But Paul received a new gospel directly from Jesus and he was trying to help both the Jews and the Gentiles in Galatia accept this new gospel. It was not an easy road for either the Jews of Galatia or the God-Fearers of Galatia. It was difficult for the Jews because to believe in Paul’s new gospel meant they would have to lower their standards and stop requiring the God-Fearing gentiles to follow the law to be saved. They just couldn’t do that. It was difficult for the God-Fearing gentiles because if they believe in Paul’s new gospel they’d miss out on the “Jewish Exception” that Jews (and even proselytes) enjoyed from mandated Emperor Worship.
So, this Jew/Gentile tension results in the book of Galatians in which Paul argues for the biblical foundation of salvation based on grace, not on the law.
In Sunday’s sermon, I closed with these Key Questions:
Who do you see as “Those People”?
Are you believing an “old” gospel of performance, achievement, discipline, advancement, recognition?
Do you define yourself by what you don’t do?
As you navigate life based on the freedom of Paul’s new gospel of grace this week, I’d encourage you to take a look at these expanded connection questions that flow from our look at Galatians 1:1-10. Why not copy them to your phone and discuss over breakfast, dinner or a commute with someone?
How would you define the gospel?
Who is the gospel for? Are there any people groups that are off limits to the gospel? Any groups that make you feel awkward sharing the gospel to, or that you’d rather not hear the gospel message?
What role does your performance play into your understanding of your relationship with God?
Can you relate to the difficulty the Galatians had, in switching from an old way of believing and relating to God, to a new way of believing and relating to God?
How has your past religious experience enhanced or stifled your walk with God?
We all have our own mental “lists” of things we value; things we like and we don’t like – that’s normal. But, have you noticed any trending towards defining yourself through what you don’t do like the Jews in Galatia?
How could you define yourself in a way more aligned with the gospel?