A Little Background
The book of Galatians, unlike Paul’s other epistles, was not written to a specific church. It was written to a group of churches throughout the providence of Galatia primarily in response to Judaizers who were stirring up dissention within the churches. They brought to question the doctrine of justification – teaching that grace wasn’t enough; The Law was also required. Paul doesn’t waste any time, after a brief greeting he immediately begins his exhortations.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–(Galatians 1:6)
These false teachers not only challenged the truth of the gospel, they challenged Paul himself – his character, reputation and authority. Paul had no choice but to offer a defense.
If you’ve been a Christian for very long I suspect that you have experienced at least some of what Paul was going through; I know I have. As Christians it seems like we are forever called to defend our faith. Confrontations: “why would I want to go to church, it’s full of hypocrites”? Allegations: “How can you do…. and call yourself a Christian”? Accusations: “If your God is so good, why does He let….”? Sadly, these kinds of attacks not only come at us from the outside, too many times they come from within our own body of believers – just as in Paul’s day. How do we handle such adversity, especially when it comes from within? How do we overcome the lies and distortions? How do we defend our faith?
This is where we can learn from the Apostle Paul.
Paul defends by his testimony
No sugar-coating here. Paul freely confesses his former life. He admits how he persecuted the church of God even to the point of trying to destroy it. But you will note that his testimony in no way glorifies his former life, to the contrary, it points directly to the grace of Christ. Paul doesn’t profess any self-achievement; no where does he say “this is what I did” rather his testimony is what Christ did!
Can you say the same for your own testimony? Is your testimony more about you and your own actions or is it about the grace of Jesus?
Paul defends by the gospel
The gospel of grace. The gospel of freedom. The gospel of justification. The Good News! Jesus said in John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We need not give human defense, God’s word is its own defense. His word is truth and it is all that is needed.
When confronted with doubters, judgmentalism, or even blasphemers, do you respond with human defenses or do you allow God’s truth to speak for itself?
All to to the glory of Christ
[The Lord Jesus Christ] who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5)
Throughout the letter, Paul testifies to the Person of Jesus. His sacrifice on the cross that gives freedom, redemption, justification, promise, hope. Jesus the giver of eternal life.
When our faith is challenged, our instinct is to fight back; we take it personal. So often our responses only serve to strengthen the argument rather than deflate it. We tend to make it about us and it quickly becomes a no-win situation. Speaking for myself, I especially struggle in this area when it comes to social media. I have had to learn when to speak (seldom) and when to walk away (often).
How do you respond? Do you get defensive, do you retaliate in anger or do you speak the truth in (genuine) love?
Time and again Paul had to deal with false teachers whose only aim was to discredit his ministry and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether out of greed, hunger for power or zealousness, then as it is today, there were those seeking to wipe out the name of Jesus. I wonder, if we are unable to overcome hateful words, what will become of us when faced with severe persecution? I’ve thought about this often, questioning what I would do if given the choice to deny Jesus or face torture or death. I know that I am weak and I’m pretty sure that in my own strength, I would be unable to stand up against such brutality. But here is the hope and assurance that I have,
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
And, I am reminded of the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. (You can read about him in Acts 7).
There is so much that could be said, so much we can glean from this wonderful book. If you haven’t spent some time reading and meditating on the beauty of it, I encourage you to do so – again and again. You will be blessed anew with each reading.
As I posted last week, this isn’t to be a comprehensive study of Galatians; maybe one day we will do so. For now we will devote our time to the study of chapter 5 with particular focus on the Gifts of the Spirit. I hope you will join me.
Thanks for stopping by,