Paul begins the book of Galatians by establishing his credentials as an apostle appointed by Christ himself. He was neither voted in, nor was he appointed by a human higher-up on the Great Chain of Being. He greets the church with “the great words, grace and peace.” “Grace”, because it is how God has freed the people, and “peace” because the people have been rescued and now find peace in God. With this introduction, he loads both barrels, and takes aim…
He accuses the Galatian church of being traitors. Their crime? It seems that the traditionalism of Judaism is not a minor offense when compared to God’s grace; “it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God.” It is God’s message turned upside down and could not be further from the truth of how God operates. And those that preach a message of anything other than grace and peace? They are false teachers, to be cursed.
Paul knows that this is not a popular message and is completely ok with it. He states that if popularity were his goal, that he “wouldn’t bother being Christ’s slave.” His message, grace and love, is from God and he is going to share it. And by share it, he includes boldly preaching against a false gospel. As if to demonstrate his passion, he reminds the readers of his past: a man so bent on the protection of tradition, that he went to the extremes of imprisonment, persecution and even the killing of those who promoted grace. But…he was wrong.
So God, because of the grace and peace offered, pulled him out, and revealed Jesus to him! Why? So that the gentiles could receive the message. This began with the Christians in Syria and Cilicia, the one who persecuted out of tradition and against grace and peace is now preaching grace and peace…because he found it in Christ alone.
- Paul has been called by God to preach the message of grace and peace.
- The Galatian church is being caught up, consumed, and in bondage to the gospel of tradition.
- Paul is going to call them on it.
For your consideration:
- Of what benefit is tradition?
- Of what benefit is “grace and peace”?
- Paul accuses the Galatian church’s gospel of being “a lie about God.” Do you agree with Paul’s claim that human tradition is a counter gospel? Why?
- How might the defense of tradition lead to persecution?