If we had to work for our salvation, we would be in BIG trouble. Jesus has already done all the work!
What exactly were the Judaizers preaching that got Paul so upset? Let’s take a look as we delve into the reason for the letter to the churches in Galatia.
In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s grace and human effort were called “Judaizers.” The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” The word appears in Galatians 2:14 where Paul describes how he confronted Peter for forcing Gentile Christians to “Judaize.”
According to the Judaizers, a person couldn’t be a Christian without following the Jewish customs, which included circumcision. Paul used circumcision as the encapsulation of Judaism, of abandoning being saved by grace alone and “going backward,” trying to be saved through works again. Paul said,
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Galatians 3:2-3
Earlier in his letter, Paul stated how a person is justified,
“15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16
What can we deduce from this passage?
- Works of any kind do not save a person. Forgiveness has already been given by Jesus through His FINISHED work on the cross. To continue to work for something that has already been given is to discredit the gift.
- Jews already knew that the law could not truly justify them. It is why they looked for Messiah to come. Psalm 130:7-8 says, “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” The fact that they had to offer sacrifices each year reminded them that their sins were only covered and not washed away. Only Jesus’ blood shed on the cross could wash away their sins.
- Our belief (faith) in Christ’s redemption of the whole world is why the gospel was being preached in Galatia to the Gentiles along with the Jews. This good news was available to all who would receive it!
Paul concluded his letter with this unequivocable statement, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation” Galatians 6:15. Paul left no doubt about where he stood on the matter. We would do well to remember that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit love us as only They can love. Forgiveness is already given! Therefore, let’s give thanks to Them for that love, forgiveness and grace and live our lives in assurance and gratitude.
Abba, thank You for the saving work of the cross. It’s where Your self-giving love shone on us, and it’s where we receive Your forgiveness that You offer freely to all who will come. May we be lights for You that point others to the One who wants to save them: Jesus Christ. Amen.