There must have been some trouble in the Galatian churches. There must have been the kind of trouble that is at the very heart of the who and what the Christian community is.
Whatever was going on in the churches around the Galatian region in Asia minor, it was serious enough for Paul who was probably in Ephesus during his quite lengthy stay there to write a very strongly worded letter that names the trouble and speaks of the grace and mercy of God in a beautifully clear, even stark way.
There is a division in the churches. It isn’t a social and racial division that is undoing the gospel there. We will hear Paul challenging this “other gospel” as a problem of the heart, not only a racial and social problem. He will tell them that the real underlying problem in their division is indeed failing to live in obedience to God, but also then actually relying on their own obedience to God.
Paul and Barnabas and then Timothy and Gaius of Derbe had planted the church in this region in a few places. (Acts 16:6 and 18:23). But now some Jewish people from Southern Israel (Judea) have come up to Turkey (Galatia) to settle and have brought with them a very Jewish version of the gospel – too Jewish it seems.
They are teaching “another gospel, which is really no gospel (good news) at all”, as Paul puts it (Gal 1:6). They are confusing people at best, and turning people to a “gospel of Jesus + something else”. They are adding a whole other layer of rules based on the Old Testament Jewish law and now Jewish culture to the simple but profound gospel of forgiveness and life with God by God’s grace only received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul is not happy about this! The gospel is under major threat. And as is always the case when this happens, people’s well-being with the Lord is at stake. So he acts.
Galatians is dynamite! The language is explosive both ways – in the sense that Paul calls a spade a spade in no uncertain terms and roundly names the false teaching and those who peddle it, but also in its proclaiming of the joy and freedom of being gospel people at peace with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection over sin and evil and false teaching.
In our hearing of Galatians we will come face to face with the gospel – not as some nice little church doctrine tucked away in our memory banks or a set of right principles or a basic set of ABC’s mainly for non-Christians to hear so they can enter the Kingdom, but as a THE A-Z of life itself – the power of God that makes us and shapes us and takes us places we have not yet been!
We are going to hear that we Christians need the gospel as much as those not yet in the Kingdom – for every living moment and every good thing we do here at St Petri. The gospel is all. The gospel is us.
We are not going to hear God calling us to be good, but God calling us to be “gospel”. Galatians is not a message calling people to be better Christian but a letter to real everyday people in local churches calling them and us to live out the implications of the grace of God given fully in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.
Galatians Reading plan
Before June 2, (Week One) Introduction needs to be read
Before Week One Sunday June 2 Galatians 1:1-12 No other Gospel
Before Week Two Sunday June 9 Galatians 1:11-24 No other Grace
From Monday June 24 Galatians 4-6