When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them “in their place.” The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. The problem is that the freedom turns out to be short-lived.
(The Message Remix, p. 2109)Galatians was written to refute the Judaizers. Judaizers taught that Jewish believers had to obey Jewish laws in order to be saved. They were even pressing the requirements of Jewish laws on believers from Gentile backgrounds. The book was believed to have been written around A.D. 48-49 from Antioch of Syria before the conflict was officially resolved by the church leaders at the Jerusalem Council in A.D. 50 (Acts 15). This book was also written to encourage believers to walk by faith and freedom in Christ.
The churches in South Galatia were established on Paul's first missionary journey. They possibly included the towns of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. At the time of the New Testament, it was a Roman province. According to the Holman New Testament Commentary - Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians (Reference Books), the people of the region were Celtic Gauls, originating in the British Isles, especially Ireland (p.2). Although Galatians was written for these specific people, the letter is applicable to all believers throughout time.
Like the book of Romans, Galatians deals with the topic of justification by faith. Consequently, it is often called "a short Romans." It is also called the "Magna Carta of Christian Liberty."
Paul wrote to the Galatians because he was shocked that they had turned away from the wonderful gospel of grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ to the old system of works and law. They had made the Good News not the Good News at all (1:7 in the New Living Translation). He condemned anyone who would teach them anything but the grace of God! He asserted that he learned this message from Jesus Himself (A.D. 35). He went to Arabia for three years to be grounded in his new faith from God alone. After this he met with Peter and James (the Lord's brother) in Jerusalem (A.D. 38) but had to leave because of a threat on his life (Acts 9:29). He made at least one trip to Jerusalem in A.D. 44 (Acts 11:29), but he did not meet the Jerusalem Council until A.D. 49/50, 14 years after his conversion. He proves that God was the one who taught him and changed him from a persecutor of the church to an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Galatians is a book about the grace of God. I have already reflected in previous posts about my breakdown. One of the most significant things I learned was how much my life and ministry did not operate according to God's grace. It was in my head but not in my heart and actions.
At the time of my breakdown, the book Free for the taking: The life-changing power of grace, by Joseph Cooke was recommended to me (maybe by Helene or perhaps the counselor she found for me named Pearl). It truly was life-changing to learn of the grace of God from a missionary in Thailand who also had a nervous breakdown!
Years later in 1988, when I came back from a short-term to Thailand with intentions of going back long term, I contacted this wonderful author and had a delightful visit with him and his wife up in Seattle! I got to see him one more time before he passed away when my mentors, Ginny and Lorraine (They were workers in Japan after World War II.), had him over before I left for Southeast Asia in 1997. It turns out they had been good friends for years! Isn't it a small world?
Fast forward this to today. I got a message from a young woman who reminds me so much of myself back then. Just this morning, I was praying that she would have a good rest and told her so in a message. She responded this afternoon, while I was composing this post and wrote, "God is refreshing my relationship with Him and wants me to know his love more. So, I can minister out of overflow, instead of burnout and obligation."
God wants to pour His grace all over us so that we walk in freedom rather than obligation. He does want our ministry to be overflow!
I heartily recommend the above book as an application! I have permission from the author to copy it, but I see that Amazon has several used copies available for a very good price.
Lord, help us to walk in freedom through the grace given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.