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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Why Should I Read Galatians?

by Stephen Roberts posted July 12, 2022

Do you ever wish that people would just say what they mean? If something is wrong, say it’s wrong! No clever arguments or gentle persuasion. There are times we all need tough love. And there’s no better example of tough love in the New Testament than what we find in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul throws down the gauntlet so that the Galatians—and you and I with them—will know the stakes of holding to the truth of Jesus Christ. Here’s why you should read Galatians:

1. The Drawing of Lines

Paul doesn’t mince words when it comes to the teaching of the Judaizers—people who told Christians that they needed to get circumcised and obey the Law of Moses alongside their belief in Jesus. In the very first verse, Paul sets the tone for the whole book by introducing himself with the word not: “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). By setting up this contrast, Paul indicates that he’ll be carefully delineating what’s true from what’s not.

Then he digs in. In verse 6, he says the Judaizers are teaching a “different gospel”; in verse 7, they “distort the gospel”; and in verses 8–9, he twice calls it a “gospel contrary” to what’s true. Notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that his opponents might be mistaken or that that they could do better. There are no prizes for 50% here. He’s saying that they’re preaching a different religion.

Perhaps this is why both Luther and Machen—two of the great defenders of the faith—not only loved this book but also both wrote commentaries on it. Every age calls us to draw wise and winsome lines for the gospel, and Paul helps us to do so with this inspired epistle. There’s always a need for greater clarity when it comes to the gospel, and you find such clarity here.

2. Mic Drop Moments

Paul also doesn’t pull punches. When describing this false gospel, he invokes God’s wrath on his opponents: “Let them be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8–9). The word for accursed is anathema in the Greek—a word that Roman Catholics later used to condemn the very gospel that Paul proclaimed. It could be roughly translated as “Be damned!” or “Go to hell!” You might not prefer Paul’s choice of language, but God ordained it, so we should sit up and notice.

There’s another mic drop moment where we find logic set aflame by godly humor. Paul has meticulously set forth the argument that adding a little law (in this case, circumcision) to the gospel ruins the gospel. If law is added to the gospel, how much law is needed to please God? You must keep the whole law (Gal. 5:2), which means that grace means nothing (Gal. 5:3). And then Paul adds the perfect analogy: “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (5:12).

At the risk of being crass, he’s saying this: If you think only taking the tip of the law is enough, you have another thing coming. You must take all of it. God doesn’t require a bit of obedience—he requires all of it. For those who think we should be saved in this way, they should prove it by taking not only the tip in circumcision, but all their male member. Are you taken aback by such an image? How much more should you be taken aback by such a perversion of the gospel?

3. Captivating Pictures

Finally, Paul presents some breathtaking pictures of the gospel. There are few passages that better distinguish the gospel of grace from salvation by works than in Galatians 3:10–12. Yet this contrast between the free grace of God with the petty works of man concludes in stunning fashion: Those who seek to live by works are accursed because they can’t truly do so, but Christ became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). He endured the accursed cross and bore the death we so rightly deserved.

But Paul doesn’t just leave us in the glorious picture of Christ’s work on our behalf, as wonderful as that is. He pictures for us the life we now have in the Holy Spirit who was given to us. The Spirit makes us to bear fruit, and it looks like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). This is what the Lord does in those who believe he really is that good. Even as Paul throws down the gauntlet, he reminds us that we’re caught up in the love of God. And we can rest there.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the book of Galatians, check out this Core Bible study.

Photo of Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts is an Army chaplain and also writes for Modern Reformation and The Federalist. He is married to Lindsey—a journalist—and they have three delightful and precocious children.

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