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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

This powerful statement, made by the apostle Paul, is found in his letter written to the Galatians.  This letter was likely penned to “churches that Paul founded in the Roman province of Galatia on his first missionary journey – cities like Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra (Acts 13-14)[note] Richards, L.C., Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, pg. 440 [/note].”  This letter addresses one of the biggest threats the early Christian church came in contact with: the Judaizers.

The Judaizers were “a sect of Jewish Christians who, not willing to accept the teaching of the apostles on the question of circumcision (Acts 15), continued to insist that Christians must come to God through Judaism, and that therefore a Gentile, in order to be a Christian, must first become a Jewish proselyte, be circumcised, and keep the Jewish Law[note] Halley, H.H., Halley’s Bible Handbook, pg. 722 [/note].”  A summary of their beliefs would be as follows: “Believe in Jesus, become a Jew, and keep Moses’ Law, and you will be saved [note] Richards, L.C., Ibid, pg. 444 [/note].”  One can imagine the confusion a Gentile convert was experiencing with this conflicting report on the gospel of Jesus.  On the one hand, Paul was proclaiming the freedom Christ gives through grace which we cannot earn and on the other, the Judaizers were proclaiming Jewish customs and laws were the way our salvation is confirmed.

This great conflict, which led to the Galatians forsaking the teachings of Paul and taking on the teachings of the Judaizers, is the catalyst behind Paul’s writing.  In the first two chapters, Paul defends his apostolic authority and the gospel he proclaims as deriving from the Lord.  Following these chapters, Paul argues faith in Jesus is what gives us salvation while the law is only capable of resulting in bondage.

2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?5So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard (Galatians 3:2-5, NIV)?

These arguments result in Paul concluding his letter with the proclamation of freedom given through Jesus the Christ.


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