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Galatians Front and Center

Paul statue

Statue of the Apostle Paul, Basilica die Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, Italy.

The third part of this Galatians series addresses relevancy. If we can’t apply what we’re learning, what’s the point? My favorite question in studying the Bible is just two words: “so what”?   It’s similar to  three simple guidelines when pouring over a text, similar to the methods we’ve explored in these two months of blogs (Jonah and Galatians).

  1. What does the text say?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What does it mean to me?

So what are we seeing in Galatians that speaks to us today? Here are a few areas that come to me and will hopefully spur many more for you. I’ve commented on only a few and hope  you will address the others, as well as add to the overall list.  And hopefully you’ll do this with friends and share what you’ve all learned– one of the great joys of Bible Study.

  1. How does legalism show up in churches and faith communities today?
  2. Religious additives
  3. Fickleness
  4. Seductive influences
  5. Background and character of those new to the Gospel
  6. Tilling the soil to plant a seed that will stick
  7. Moving from anger to love
  8. How we have ‘authority’ in sharing the Gospel

We’ll look at three and hope you’ll tackle the others.

1. Legalism – Paul warned the new converts to watch out for legalism – excessive adherence to laws and religious forms. Such artificial form-over-substance practices would snuff out the hearts-on-fire spirituality of those moved by the Holy Spirit into fresh and inspired Christly paths for sharing the Gospel. It would creep into all our institutions – marriage, church or government – and we allow it at our creative peril.

2.  Religious additives – Just as we witness the “foodie” culture that prefers organic and pure food over artificial additives, so Paul understood that demanding the ‘additive’ of circumcision took away from the simple purity of the Gospel. Additives today can be worn-out practices that ‘we’ve always done that way’ that drive away the spiritual entrepreneurs seeking new ways to reach the un-churched and de-churched. Paul would have been on guard, and so must we!

3.  Fickleness – We’ve either been there ourselves or know people who get emotionally overcharged on issues. The Galatians were a temperamental lot, excitable and enthusiastic but without deep roots until Paul could work with them again. How do we plug away with such tendencies (emotional receptivity not grounded in spiritual logic) either in others or ourselves?

Paul’s example is staggering in its love. Early in the letter he’s mad — rebuking, denouncing, asking them if they’re going to overthrow everything they initially learned from him. Yet by Gal. 5:10 we see the softening imprint of Love:

            I am trusting the Lord to bring you back to believing as I do about these things. God will deal with that person, whoever he is, who has been troubling and confusing you.

Here is the great apostle leading by example, giving us insight as to how he continued year in and year out, yielding to the Christly love he encouraged others to experience for themselves.

This kind of spiritually unpacking of Galatians helps us glimpse that Paul’s letters are addressed not just to different geographic areas, but to differing mentalities and character tendencies, providing us concrete guidance on how to work with similar traits as they cross our path today.



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July 3, 2015 5:23 am

So relevant right now. Just had a discussion about the overcharged emotions surrounding the confederate flag conversations. How did I deal with it? By asking for perspective. By asking for alertness to those seductive influences that would keep us from discussion of the real issue rather than getting caught up in the peripheral debate about symbols.

July 3, 2015 9:47 am

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful. I have your talk on Galations that I listen to on nights of anxiety. I am so filled with gratitude for Paul. His passion, and articulation in these wonderful 6 chapters is calming, sure and abundant with hope and clarity. Thanks again.

Tawny Cleveland
Tawny Cleveland
July 3, 2015 12:02 pm

Thank you for helping unpack Paul’s message.

It is easy to lose sight of the heart of the matter, Love. This was a timely reminder as our family of many faiths, cherish our dad in his passing. How often I have been tempted to share Christian Science, but sadly, not always out of Love but out of disagreeing with their Christian point of view.

How dear of Paul to know and to share with us in this book, that it is God we trust to lead by the Spirit.

Grateful to be part of this Bible study!

August 13, 2015 6:21 am

Boy, Paul’s insights and admonitions are sooooo relevant to us today! I hear reports often that all organized churches are losing their members — the numbers of the faithful are dropping. I don’t think this is because people don’t need God anymore, or even that people don’t believe in God anymore. I think it’s because the churches, having been around for a long time, have fallen into old, worn out thought patterns through human dogma and doctrines that just don’t work for people anymore. Perhaps, rather than leading people to God, church institutions can actually be barriers between the individual… Read more »

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