Hello and welcome to Thursday’s Podcast. As you will have heard at the beginning of this recording, we’ve now moved on to look at another of Paul’s letter – Galatians.
Paul’s earliest letter was written from a place of deep frustration. His frustration is borne out of the crisis that had beset the Galatian church. Paul writes in verse 6 and 7: 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.
It’s helpful for us to know some of the background here. Paul had visited the region of Galatia on one of the missionary journeys. He preached the Gospel there, people become believers and churches were birthed.
What went wrong? By the time of this letter, the Christian movement – which had started primarily amongst Jewish people – had now spread to areas such as Galatia, areas where people weren’t Jewish! And as the two people groups came together in following Jesus, a question arose. Did you have to become a Jew in order to be a follower of Jesus? It seems that many Jewish Christians believed that the answer to that question was ‘yes’. And as result, some of these Jews turned up at the churches in Galatia and began to preach a new message to the believers there. A message which said, ‘You must do x, y and z in order to be saved’. Sadly these Jews were persuasive in their teachings and many began to turn this new ‘Gospel’. The result? A very divided and confused church. And so Paul writes this letter to address the situation there and reiterate the Gospel message – that it’s Jesus. He’s the way we’re saved. Not through following rules and regulations.
It sounds messy. Perhaps we can see why Paul felt he had to write this letter to the Galatians but what’s the relevance of it to us? We now know you don’t have to be a Jew in order to be a follower of Jesus so what’s the message for us today?
Paul writes that he is astonished how quickly some of the believers have deserted the faith and turned to this new belief system. The reality for us is this – If we are a follower, we generally don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to stop being a follower of Jesus today. I am deserting the faith’. So how does a person get to that point? One thought would be this – Choices. It comes about through a series of choices which gradually lead a person away from God until a person makes that final choice – and then they walk away completely.
As part of my role at STC, I find myself leading assemblies in our local secondary schools. One of topics I often speak on is ‘Choices’. Generally the central message to the students is this: The choices we make today, shape the sort of person we are becoming tomorrow.
Our choices matter. As followers of Jesus every day when we wake up, we have a choice – We can choose to follow Jesus. Or we can choose something else.
For the Galatians, it started with choosing to listen to people who told them that doing more meant you were a better person. It started with eating certain foods, separating yourself from certain people groups or changing your appearance to fit in with the in crowd. Is this so different to the choices we face today?
Choosing to work all the time and not building rest into our daily rhythms because we want to succeed. Choosing to gossip in the staffroom in order to ingratiate ourselves with the team. Choosing to have another Sambuca shot at the bar because it’s part of a drinking game. Like the Galatians, we are faced with choices each day – choices which could potentially lead us away from living out the truth of the Gospel.
What’s Paul’s response to the challenges the Galatians are facing? What would he say to us today? Choose to remember the Gospel. V4 – he (Jesus) gave himself over for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age. We have been rescued! Jesus died so that we might be rescued, be set free from the world – a world where others seek to persuade us down paths that ultimately lead to nowhere. Jesus has rescued us from that. He has secured us a place in another world – a new world that He is creating, that He rules over and will one day be fully realised.
Let’s choose His way over the present world’s way today. Let’s choose Jesus – the only way, the truth and the life.
Jesus, thank you that you went the way of the cross. That you chose death and separation from God so that we might live. Lord, thank you that we can choose you this day. That you have made a way for us to know you God. We pray Jesus that through the power of your Holy Spirit you would lead us in paths of righteousness for your names sake this day. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
READING: Galatians 1:1-9
Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!