As I read the remainder of Galations, it is very apparent that Paul’s message to the church at Philippi and the church at Galatia were different. Philippians was so encouraging and more of a “keep on keeping on” idea. In Galations, it appears Paul is pissed…..or maybe that’s just me. It has a much more angry tone, I think.
Paul seems to focus on the idea of legalism verses faith….or maybe more appropriately stated, faith verses legalism. There are a couple of things that pop out to me….
First verse Galations 2:12 “For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself….” The he here is Cephas who had been in ministry with Paul. Paul is calling out Cephas publicly here. Paul did not really mince words or think twice about calling somebody out if needed …. even his own friends. Ouch.
What stuck out to me in this verse was how Cephas was hanging out with Gentiles (who did not follow Old Testament rules and laws like the Jewish citizens did) but then he gave them a cold shoulder when others were looking. He was afraid of what others would think because they did not view Gentiles as equals. This is not how God looks at people, and Paul knows it. Paul knows Jesus died for everyone — Jews and Gentiles — and in his eyes we are all equal.
The next verse that stood out to me goes with this one…..Galations 3:9, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Again, this goes back to those Old Testament laws of the Israelites. The reason why some in that time may have viewed Jewish citizens more highly or favored by God is because they still followed the customs of their ancestors such as Abraham. They followed the OT law. However, when Jesus arrived on the scene, He changed all of that. The law was no longer the way to God. Jesus was. But old habits are hard to break and some still believed the law was the standard.
In Galations Paul pointed out the law was now irrelevant as a way to God. Faith was superior. And faith is available to everyone — Jews or Gentiles. So many Christians are still OT thinkers. We have to do or say this or that. You can’t wear blue jeans, you can’t have a tattoo, you can’t listen to this kind of music, you must use the KJV of the Bible, you must admonish those who sin, you must vote this way or that way, you can’t drink, you can’t smoke, you can’t cuss (I’m in trouble!)…..blah, blah, blah. None of this is true. In churches we prioritize sins. In our communities, we ostracize others. In our minds we think of ourselves as more Christian than others. All of these are lies. That is not to say life is a free-for-all when you are Christian because sins, the law, it doesn’t matter. That’s not true at all. However, we follow God’s laws through a path of faith. We don’t get to faith through a path of the law.
Let me write that again…..that’s powerful stuff. We follow God’s laws….that is, we feel compelled to follow God’s commandments …. by first walking a path of faith. We never experience faith by following a path of dos and don’ts.