It is an audacious claim, I know. I really do believe, though that churches do not like Galatians. Having just preached through the letter I received encouraging comments and I do believe our church appreciated the time spent in the study. But that doesn’t mean we liked it!
Galatians is an abrupt and pointed letter. It’s not flowery and pretty, it’s rugged and sometimes accusatory. Galatians demonstrates how the gospel is not just for our own personal salvation, but also connects our hearts with other believers and demands a level of acceptance we may be uncomfortable with. Here are some reasons why churches do not like Galatians.
Galatians calls into question your understanding of the Gospel. Even if you feel very secure in your understanding of your faith in Christ, the assertive and bold statement of Apostle Paul makes you take a second look. I do not know if you can read the following verses without taking a moment of self-examination … have I been called away from the true faith of the Gospel? You know…that’s never a bad question to ask. It’s uncomfortable. And I do not think the church likes to re-examine their own commitment. But I think it is needful.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. ~Galatians 1:6-7
Galatians doesn’t look the other way when fellow Christians are being ignored. The Jew/Gentile hatred was to be destroyed in Jesus Christ. If anyone should have known that, Cephas (Peter), should have. He had direct revelation from God in a vision, an encounter with the Holy Spirit, and even defended a good Gentile man who had become a Christian. So why he was reverting back to his ways of turning up his nose at Gentile believers, I do not know. Even the beloved Son of Encouragement (Barnabas) was caught up into this sin. Paul could have considered that Peter was a powerful figure in the early church, Barnabas a valuable asset… maybe they just made a mistake. No. I wonder how this would play out in our local churches if wrong were declared openly – even if the person doing the wrong were loved, wealthy, powerful, an elder or preacher? I would think a godly person would welcome the instruction. Paul called this attitude and action of mistreating the Gentile Christians the setting aside of grace. You’d have to set aside grace to treat a brother or sister like this.
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.~Galatians 2:11
Galatians tears down the societal walls behind which we cower. Paul asserts that Jesus isn’t interested in perpetuating the idols of our heritage, our social structures, or our sexist attitudes. When we were baptized we were clothed with Christ. THAT is what we are supposed to notice, that is what makes us one and that is what gives us the promise of being heirs. Churches have a hard time tearing down the walls of race, sex, and economic/power structures. I probably do not have to demonstrate that for you.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~Galatians 3:26-29
Galatians calls our sin problems what they really are – a refusal to walk in the Spirit. The flesh is reigning in so many of our hearts that we cannot experience the freedom that comes from following Christ. Paul’s graphic and specific list of the works of the flesh hits us all from one direction or another. Yet how many continue to stifle the spirit, becoming husks of the spiritual people they were meant to be?
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. ~Galatians 5:16-17
Galatians calls on people of faith to get busy doing good and to never give up. There’s no time to have elongated debates on faith verses works. We must get busy serving others – especially those in the church! Today it’s out of fashion to serve those in the Family of Believers … that’s called narrow and inward thinking. Paul says to do that especially. If we could stop talking about whether we are being saved by our good works or doing our good works because we are saved … and just start doing some good works I believe we would reap some great things from our service. We all agree that faith belongs in Christ. He doesn’t set us free to be lazy, but to be active in service.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. … Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. ~Galatians 6:7-10
Now if you can read through that list and think that churches are eager to hear these messages – I congratulate you. You must be in a family of believers that has their sights set in the right place. To be honest I am not sure we are meant to enjoy these teachings so much as hear and accept them. When I see what we talk about, how we act toward one another at times, and the bitterness expressed toward those who disagree with our doctrine… I must come to the conclusion that the church doesn’t like Galatians. And certainly some (many?) Christians have no plans to follow Paul’s instructions here.
Remember, we are sowing…and we will reap!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.~Galatians 6:18
Thanks for reading!