We have all known brothers and sisters in Christ who at one time ‘’were running a good race.’’ (7). There is always a reason why we find them sitting in a crumpled heap beside the track. It may not be the same one that we find in Galatians, but there will be a cause. It is never less than heart-breaking to see someone drop out of the race.
Something was happening in the churches of Galatia that was not of God (8). The believers were being affected (and infected!) by false teaching, and a little drop of that poison can do a whole lot of damage (9). You don’t need a huge portion of it to wreck the local church. A grain or two on your plate will be enough. The ‘’offence of the cross’’ (11b) is, at least in part, the message that faith in Jesus’s sacrifice alone will save you. You don’t have to add any other good works into the mix. This applies to circumcision – a rite that was so important to Jews (11). Paul was ‘’persecuted’’ because he preached that salvation is by grace alone and through faith alone. Simple trust in Christ will suffice. He reserved the strongest language for those who wanted to pervert the gospel message (12). ‘’Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!’’ The Message. Tough words!
The battle for the faith was not something to be taken lightly (Jude 3). There were people who were spreading the rumour that Paul was preaching circumcision. He absolutely refutes this, saying that he would not be experiencing persecution if it were true. The Judaizers would let him alone if that were the case. But he had not given up hope for the Galatians (10), and believed that they would not turn away from the true gospel. He was clear in his mind that false teachers would get their punishment.
As Christian people we are ‘’free’’ (13-15). We are free from trying to save ourselves by our own efforts. We are freed from that self-defeating approach to life. But this ‘’freedom’’ does not then become a license to sin (see also Romans 6). People who misunderstood or misrepresented Paul’s teaching would argue that this is what he said. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are free from a man-made, do-it-yourself religion of works. Even more important, we are free from the guilt of sin. But Paul also emphasises that we are free to live right and responsibly, before God and with each other. ‘’It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.’’ The Message. ‘’Law works by compulsion from without, but grace works by compassion from within.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.770
Sadly, many Christians have proved the truth of (15), probably without knowing (or remembering) that these words are in the Bible: ‘’But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another.’’ The Good News Bible.
Prayer: Thank you for this wonderful freedom in Jesus; a liberty to do right and not do wrong. I am free indeed. Thank you Lord.