Galatians=By Grace We Belong!
Bible Background: We jumped from Acts 15 (new believers do not have to first become observant Jews) to a similar theme of Paul’s in this letter. “Galatia” is a region in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Paul is adamant that the freedom we have in Christ means we are saved by grace and not by earning our place in God’s family by keeping the law.
Digging Deeper: 1. In Galatians 1:13-17, Paul uses his own example: He was a model Jew, keeping the Law of Moses. This led him to zealously persecute the first Christians-because of his devotion to protecting Jewish faith and teachings. But when God changed his heart and mind, and when grace had taken over his life, he became the passionate missionary to the Gentiles. He makes clear that this wasn’t his idea-this was God’s doing.
2. In 2:11-21, Paul tackles the false teaching that has been leading people astray. Cephas (Aramaic name for “Peter”) knew of how God welcomed the non-Jewish believers into the church. And he mingled with Gentile believers. But then, under pressure, he drew back. Paul accuses Peter and Barnabas of being hypocrites for waffling on whether these new believers have to follow Jewish ways or not. Why do we like rules so much-especially when they apply to others? Do they give us certainty? Or is it just easier to live by a set of religious rules than to be responsible for the freedom Christ gives us?
3. “Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” Think of replacing the idea of “justified” with the idea of “belonging”. How do we belong to the household of God? By trusting in Jesus! By trusting in God’s grace! In what ways is this easy to accept? How is it challenging?
4. Paul ends this argument for grace with a beautiful and deep picture of what it means to belong to Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is how Paul applies Christ’s death and resurrection to us. We die to sin and self; we don’t stake our hope on our own goodness-or on our ability to keep God’s law. We trust that in Christ’s death and resurrection, we are made new, and we are given new lives to live! The love of Christ has transformed us, completely! And (as Paul will point out in Chapter 5) that allows us to display the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.