“I myself can hardly believe that I was so verbose as this book shows when I publicly expounded this letter of St. Paul to the Galatians.” Martin Luther
While there are varying opinions on which part of Galatia Paul was writing to, there is no doubt about the importance and focus of this letter. God’s grace can not be compromised. Jewish Christians (Judaizers) believed that Gentile believers had to participate in the Old Testament ceremonial practices, especially circumcision. By not stressing the importance of the law, their complaint against Paul is that he was watering down the Gospel to make it more attractive to the Gentiles. This book is often referred to as “Luther’s Book” because of his many references to it as he debated during the Reformation. If we want to “Be the Church” it is important to get the teaching of grace correct.
Here are some readings and questions to guide you through reading the book in a week.
MONDAY – Galatians 1:1-9 – An Introduction
How can Paul be so certain of his authority as an apostle? Are you certain of your calling as a child of God? Are you surprised by his language “let him be eternally condemned” (literally go to hell)? What “distorted” gospel upsets you the most?
TUESDAY – Galatians 1:10-2:21 – The way Paul lives his life
Paul didn’t make up the gospel (verse 11), if you were to make up a religion, would it be based on works or grace? What got Paul off the legalism track and on the gospel track? If you had to discuss the power of the gospel in your life, what example would you give? Some say 2:16 is a key verse for understanding grace, what difference would it make if you had to keep the OT laws to earn your way to God? Re-read 2:21, if we mingle legalism it destroys grace and Christ died for nothing. Do you remember Jesus praying in the garden, “Father if there is another way…?”
WEDNESDAY – Galatians 3:1-4:31 – The Teaching of Grace
In 4:9, Paul asks them how they are “turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” What bad spiritual habits do you have a tendency to “fall back” to? What happens to you when you turn away from the true Gospel that you can’t earn (see 4:15)? Read 4:18, how can zeal without knowledge be bad? How can knowledge without zeal be bad?
THURSDAY – Galatians 5:1-6:10 – Living Free
What is Paul’s warning to those who are trying to be justified by the law (see 5:4)? Have you ever seen Christian freedom abused? Notice the words “will not” in 5:16, what does this mean? If you are living by the spirit, what should be true of the list in 5:19-21? How about 5:22-23?
FRIDAY – Galatians 6:11-18 – One last thought
What is the danger of just trying to “make a good impression outwardly?” How is living by grace a much better way to live?
In Luther’s commentary, he refers to active righteousness (what we try to earn) and passive righteousness (that which is given to us). The law can push us to an active righteousness and hence to a “different gospel that is really no gospel at all.” As this battle rages in us, Martin Luther shares these thoughts…
“You want to climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, do you Law? You want to reign over it and reprove sin and take away the joy I have by faith in Christ and drive me to desperation? Keen within your bounds, and exercise your power over the flesh, but do not touch my conscience. By the Gospel I am called to share righteousness and everlasting life. I am called to Christ’s kingdom, where my conscience is at rest and there is no law, but rather forgiveness of sins, peace, quietness, joy health, and everlasting life. Do not trouble me in these matters, for I will not let an intolerable tyrant like you reign in my conscience, which is the temple of Christ, the Son of God. He is the King of righteousness and peace, my sweet Savior and Mediator; he will keep my conscience joyful and quiet in the sound, pure doctrine of the Gospel and in the knowledge of Christian and heavenly righteousness.”
LETTERS FROM PAUL BLOG
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