Galatians - Freedom in God's Grace

Galatia.jpg

Most of the first converts and early leaders in the church were Jewish Christians who proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah. As Jewish Christians, they struggled with a dual identity: Their Jewishness constrained them to be strict followers of the law; their newfound faith in Christ invited them to celebrate a holy liberty. As the church branched out among the Gentiles, they wondered how Gentiles (non-Jews) could be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. This was especially a problem as Paul started reaching large numbers of gentiles on his first missionary journey. Judaizers—an extremist Jewish faction within the church—taught that Gentile Christians had to submit to Jewish laws and traditions in addition to believing in Christ. Galatians was written, therefore, to refute the Judaizers and to call believers back to the pure gospel. The Good News is for all people—Jews and Gentiles alike. Salvation is by God's grace through faith in Christ Jesus and nothing else.

March 25 Is the Christian faith just a personal thing? Galatians 6:1-10 A lot of people don’t think that they need a weekly church or Bible class. It takes away from the one day that they have to sleep in. It means that they have to get up and put on at least clean clothes. Why bother. They’d rather read the bible by themselves at home. If they need church, they can watch it on television while they sit in their jammies and bunny slippers. The truth is that you will not survive well in this world if you don’t surround yourself with other Christians. Who is going to help you in those times of crisis?

March 18 - Living by the spirit - Gal. 5:16-26 One of the complaints about the Christian life is that it is too hard. We find God’s expectations for us to be difficult or overwhelming. In the end, a lot of people quit. If we don’t leave, we feel guilty for failing God. What is impossible for one can be done with a friend. We need someone who will exercise with us or help us stop smoking and keep us accountable. Jesus promises such a friend in the Holy Spirit. He has the power to help us do the impossible.

March 11 - Is Christianity just a bunch of rules? - Gal. 4:21-31 One of the criticisms of the church is that we are just a bunch of outdated rules. The church should get with the picture and update our theology. Yet is that really what the Christian church is? If we have given that impression to the world, then we have failed them. The Christian church is about faith and grace and not rules and piety. It is about freedom in Christ not slavery to Moses. This text is Paul’s concern that the Galatians were being pulled back to emphasize the rules and lose grace.

Mar. 4 - Does God keep His promises? - Gal. 3:15-25 Many have walked away from the church because they don’t think that they can ever keep up to God’s standards. They live less than perfect lives and abandon God because they think he can’t love them. Are God’s promises conditional? Do we have to keep the law to get the grace? Does that mean that God sometimes changes His promises or can we really depend on what he says?

Feb. 25 - Who is welcome in your church?   Galatians 2:11-21 We still struggle with the question of who is welcome. We feel uncomfortable with people who are dirty or who have broken lives. We are glad to help the homeless at a shelter but are not sure what to do when they appear on Sunday morning. We welcome the divorcee or the couple living together but we struggle with their sin. Paul did battle with Peter over the issue of welcoming gentiles into the early church. Who is welcome in our church is still a question we deal with today.

Feb. 18 – Is the Gospel enough? Galatians 1:1-10 The first missionary journey had been a successful trip. Hundreds had come to faith and Paul had planted churches on Cyprus and across Galatia. Then Paul found out that a group of Jews had gone behind Paul and Barnabas and sowed the seed of doubt in the minds of the people.  Is the cross enough? Don’t you have to do penance or give up dancing or alcohol? It seems too simple for Jesus to die on a cross and you are saved if you believe.