Galatians: We Are All Equal In Christ!
There is neither Greek or Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Jesus.
A friend of mine came to me overwhelmed by the complexity of the Book of Romans. It is certainly one of the most complex books in the Bible! I suggested she should read Galatians first. Here was my reasoning, it was written before Romans and is considered a primer to Romans. Certainly less burdensome in its length and the deeply elegantly prose written by Paul in Romans is replaced with a simpler to the point prose of Paul. So while Galatians isn’t as theologically rich, it is far more accessible. By comparison, Romans has sixteen chapters and Galatians has six. But both contain many of the same thoughts.
The letter was written to a church in Galatia, a region of present-day Turkey. The date of the letter is late 40’s AD, maybe 50 AD. This one of Paul’s first letters. What I personally love about this letter is a verse in chapter 3:28, where it says; There is neither Greek or Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Jesus.
I would call this a foundational statement by Paul. A statement that we can use to measure other writings or verses written by Paul. Here it is a well-crafted sentence written for the Galatians that tells all about how Paul thinks. He believes that All people, and I cannot stress ALL enough! His message is that ALL are equal and worthy to Jesus. It doesn’t matter where you come from, your gender, what you believed before you were born again, we are ALL equal. And we ALL start as Christians first and everything else second.
Knowing this foundational message by Paul will not only open up Galatians but also help in the reading of Romans.
In this verse, is also the statement that while we should view others as equal, it also means; just because you are rich doesn’t mean you are better in God’s eyes. Whether you are Republican or Democrat isn’t important to God. But your personal character and values are what God cares about.
Another fundamental statement for Paul in Galatians is in Chapter 2:16, where it says; Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus. As much as any other verse in Galatians this is a critical message. We can do all the good we are capable of, but without our faith in Christ, we cannot be justified with God. In other words, we can’t work our way into heaven, and that shouldn’t be our goal. Our goal is to simply believe completely, and most importantly have faith in Jesus.
Now, let’s be careful here, this doesn’t mean that we can intentionally live in sin and believe our faith frees us. Nope, that is not what this means. Partially, because it doesn’t make sense. If you believe fully in Christ Jesus, why would you not want to always do good? Rather if we are doing only what we want, rather than following the words of Christ than it is a good indication we have a faulty sense of faith.
Simply, we want to do good, because we fully believe and have faith in Jesus.
The difference is our attitude to faith if we say we believe only for a selfish purpose of eternal life, this isn’t true faith. If we have faith because we believe in Jesus, we exhibit this faith by our unselfish being. But faith comes first and being good is a by-product.
Now we should also remember, we will all fail and have difficult moments even with a strong faith and I excel at these moments. This gets us to Paul’s point about God’s grace and forgiveness. The grace and forgiveness of God is unmerited and is freely given for just these moments. Repeating our failures and difficult moments intentionally, however, will eventually separate us from God.
Now there is a very deep difference in how the Catholic church thinks about doing good as a testament of our faith; versus Protestants. Protestants believe they are justified with God through faith alone. While Catholics believe that our faith is shown in our works. Personally, I think Paul is telling us that both are right. Faith comes first, but it manifests itself in our good works.
In Chapter 5 Paul handles this rather well, where he says, For you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve each other.
So you might also ask, why doesn’t Paul mention the law or the ten commandments as our guide. Well, he says something different, he agrees with the law but says the Jesus wants us to walk with the Spirit. That by doing this we gain freedom. For the Spirit will not lead us to sin. So trying to follow the law by ourselves is not enough, and this the point Paul is making. He states that as believers in Christ we are better off to walk with and trust the Spirit. And in turn this is a more effective way of complying with the Ten Commandments
One final point is why Paul wrote this letter to the church in Galatia because other people had visited the church and tried to change the minds of the people of the church in Galatia. Things like, you have to be circumcised to be a Christian or confusing suggestions about what faith really was. This letter, like Romans, was designed to get this church back on track.
But be careful in judging the Galatians, this was a very early church and it shouldn’t surprise us they struggled. What is important in this letter is that not only does it apply to the church in Galatia, but for churches two thousand years later. Any modern church could and perhaps even should review Galatians and test their own spiritual practices, by asking themselves; Are we following these principles?
Galatians was a well-crafted primer for Christians and churches in the 1st century, but also for us in the 21st century.
Read Galatians with these thoughts in the back of your mind and see how they apply to your life. Then read Romans, you will be prepared and ready!
And as always, remember to bring the Holy Spirit along as well.
Listen to the Full Podcast –Galatians: We Are All Equal in Christ
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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