The book of Galatians is Paul’s most ardent defense of the Gospel. In Romans, we might say Paul is laying out some of the key arguments in understanding the intellectual side of Christianity; in Corinthians Paul is writing about specific moral issues that need to be cleared up or he is defending his status as an apostle with authority from God to proclaim the good news; in Philippians, Paul is urging Christian unity; in Timothy and Titus, Paul is focused on helping other missionaries plant churches; but in Galatians, Paul is defending the heart of the Gospel.
Which, of course, makes Galatians a very interesting book.
And perhaps what makes Galatians even more interesting is that Paul never lays out exactly what the Gospel is during the course of this book. He doesn’t take a systematic approach to describing the Gospel, but instead focuses on two main topics: circumcision and the Law.
Or perhaps a better way to say that is to say that Paul doesn’t focus on the defining the Gospel as we might be tempted to define it.
Because as we read through this book, I do think that Paul lays out what the Gospel is (more on this in future weeks) and what it does to us. But not in the ways that we might expect and not in the ways that we might want.
We might expect or want Paul to give us the 5 steps to salvation, or to describe in detail the process of moving from faithlessness to faithfulness in baptism. And while Paul does talk about baptism and faithfulness, it is not in the sort of way that we might imagine. Instead, Paul focuses on these two issues that have disrupted the community in Galatia and that have even grown to the point that Paul declares the message being preached about circumcision and the Law “another gospel.”
And as we continue to read in chapter 1 (verses 13-16), we are reminded that Paul knows very well what these other gospels can be and what they can do to a person.
Paul, formerly Saul, himself lived according to one of these other gospels. Paul sought out the early church and followers of Jesus and sought to imprison them and bring them to harm, even death. Paul knew well the gospel of circumcision and of the Law. He was a chief proponent of this gospel.
But God, through the grace that comes through Jesus, revealed the true Gospel to Paul. And in verses 15-16, we are reminded of the opening of Paul’s eyes–the opening of his eyes to this Gospel. The Gospel, in chapter 1 of Galatians is quite simple: it arrives through grace (v. 15), and it is all about the Son, Jesus (v. 16). Because of this, Paul can do nothing other–he has no other choice now that he knows what he knows–than to preach this Gospel of grace about the Son of God, Jesus, to the Gentiles.
And so, today, may we be bearers of the true Gospel in the world. May we bring grace because grace was first brought to us, and may we lift up the name of Jesus, for it is by no one and nothing else that we receive good news.