The Gospel in Galatians
The letter Paul wrote to the Galatian believers is one of the most important documents in defense of “Justification by Faith.” In the letter to the Romans, Paul explained in a very didactical way the process of salvation. In his message to the Galatians, he explains the same fundamental truths, but with another purpose—to correct gross heresies which were creeping in among the believers.
After preaching the gospel in the region of Galatia, Paul and his coworkers organized a prosperous church in that area. The believers were strongly established in the truth, believing in Jesus as the only hope of the sinner.
In the apostle’s absence, some Jews from Jerusalem came to Galatia and other areas, teaching that the converted Gentiles couldn’t be saved unless they would be circumcised. Basically, they were teaching that believing in Christ wasn’t enough for salvation; that the believers supposedly need to practice some ceremonial precepts in order to be saved.
The apostle couldn’t tolerate such a heresy. Besides that, the false teachers tried to disqualify the authority of Paul, mentioning the fact that the apostle wasn’t like those who had personal contact with the Saviour for so long a time.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul establishes his authority as one who was taught by the Saviour and had received his commission directly from Jesus on his way to Damascus.
However, the main subject of the epistle is the doctrine of justification by faith and kindred doctrines. Paul declared that if the believers accepted the idea that they could be saved by the works of the law, Jesus had died in vain, and those who accepted this heresy had fallen from grace. He makes clear that we are saved solely by grace, and not by any good work. However, he also makes clear that those who accept Christ as their only and sufficient Saviour are guided by the Holy Spirit and produce the fruit of the Spirit.
During the General Conference of 1888 held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the letter from Paul to the Galatians was in the center of a fiery debate. Some of the pioneers firmly believed and taught that the law mentioned by the apostle was only the ceremonial law. On the other hand, E. Waggoner taught in that conference that the law in Galatians was the moral law. E. G. White declared that the law mentioned in that epistle was both the moral and ceremonial laws, but the main application was to the moral law.
Still today, we have very much to learn from the letter to the Galatians written by the inspired apostle Paul.
The epistle to the Galatians is a powerful Christian treatise designed to declare the truth of salvation by grace alone and the goal of such a salvation; namely, a life of joyous freedom from sin’s tyranny, on the one hand, and increasing enslavement to Christ on the other. It is surely, as one author has called it, “The Charter of Christian Liberty.”
Its importance for understanding Paul and the core of his doctrine of justification by faith alone can hardly be overstated, with the result that it has received a long and extensive treatment by the church. It had a tremendous impact on the Reformers, including Luther, who said, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Catherine.” Boice, commenting on its impact since the Protestant Reformation, says, “Not many books have made such a lasting impression on men’s minds as the epistle of Paul to the Galatians, nor have many done so much to shape the history of the Western world.”
Ellen White wrote: “Paul had presented to the Galatians the gospel of Christ in its purity. His teachings were in harmony with the Scriptures; and the Holy Spirit had witnessed to his labors. Hence he warned his brethren to listen to nothing that should contradict the truth which they had been taught.”1 May the Lord help us to learn His wonderful truth, and unlearn wrong ideas which are in opposition to a “Thus saith the Lord.”