The early Christian churches of Galatia, a region in Asia Minor including Turkey, were struggling with issues of faith. They were beginning to fall back again on Jewish laws and traditions as prerequisites to their faith. Paul writes this letter accusing Peter of hypocrisy. At one time, Paul states, Peter would eat at an integrated table of Gentiles and Jews. However, under the influence of legalists sent from Jerusalem by James, Peter had returned to the practice of Jewish laws that required circumcision and kosher foods in order to participate in the Christian Gospel. Peter’s decision to do this was causing uncertainty among Christian Gentiles and was creating a crisis of leadership within the early church.
Key Verses: (NCV)
15-16: “We were not born as non-Jewish “sinners,” but as Jews. 16Yet we know that a person is made right with God not by following the law, but by trusting in Jesus Christ.” – Paul reminds his readers of their attempts to live Holy lives through following certain religious practices. This pathway had always led to failure.
19: “It was the law that put me to death, and I died to the law so that I can now live for God.” – Failure to live up to the law and the resulting sin meant death and separation from God. Setting the law aside as a means to earning salvation turns our focus outwardly towards God and towards the building of His kingdom.
20: “I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore – it is Christ who lives in me.” – Christ’s death on the cross erased our burden of sin – it died that day on Golgotha. In its place, Christ lives within us putting us right with God and onto a pathway towards holiness.
21: “By saying these things I am not going against God’s grace. Just the opposite, if the law could make us right with God, then Christ’s death would be useless.” – Why would Jesus have to die if it simply meant life would go on as before? He died for a reason and that reason is changed lives made right with God.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you still trying to earn salvation?
Peter had experienced God’s grace first hand. He had seen Jesus hanging on the cross. He knew the sacrifice and he had felt the change, and yet, he slipped back into old familiar ways. In what ways are you still trying to earn God’s love? How are you slipping backward into the old and familiar patterns of your life and not trusting in Christ’s love for you? Do you always try to fix things or does your faith allow you to accept that God is control of your life?
Have you been put to death? Paul is referring to the sins and selfish motivations that had defined his life as Saul. In Christ, in your acceptance of Him as your Savior, has your Self been put to death? Are your sins and selfish desires been set aside and replaced by the Christ living within you? Or are you still clinging to guilt or giving into temptation? How can you use Paul’s letter to the Galatians to move forward in your walk in faith? Will you be able to accept that you do not need to be perfect to be a Christian? Can you allow Christ to blot out the memory of your failings and lead you along His pathway to holiness?
Was Christ’s death useless? Is God’s grace in vain? Do you feel at times that you fail to live up to the glory of this gift? Has God’s grace been wasted on you? What would happen if you simply accepted His love and stopped worrying if you deserve it? How might things change in your life if you could become less judgmental and more forgiving of yourself? Could it possibly result in a greater acceptance of others? Do you accept that God’s kingdom is built, one brick at a time upon the foundation of His grace? Promises of the Gospel:
The early church struggled with the importance of traditions and ceremony. Leading a holy live had always meant following certain steps, procedures, or rites. It was difficult to accept that nothing had to be done to earn God’s love. Today, in many ways, we still struggle with this issue. On a personal level, we seem driven to prove we are Christians through the myriad of works we involve our selves in. We assume that busyness must equal salvation but then we find ourselves worn out, separated and alone. At a church level we debate and argue over traditions and ceremony. We feel that there are specific ways to worship God, certain steps we must go through to grow in His love, and certain life styles that are acceptable to Him. We build walls that separate us from those with whom we disagree and we close doors to those who are unacceptable. Paul says to let those walls fall down and open our hearts to the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For if we do not then His death was for nothing.