Lesson 20

The Epistle to the Galatians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

5:7 You were running well! Who interfered with you that you should not obey the truth? 5:8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 5:9 A little yeast grows through the whole lump. 5:10 I have confidence toward you in the Lord that you will think no other way. But he who troubles you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

5:11 But I, brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling-block of the cross has been removed. 5:12 I wish that those who disturb you would cut themselves off.

Today's Lesson 

Paul had brought the gospel of Christ to Galatia. He had told them that Christ had died as a sacrifice for their sins. He had told them that through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ God was reconciling Himself to a fallen world. Through faith in Christ, the Galatians could become part of the family of God, could inherit all that God possessed. In Christ, there is no division between Jew and Gentile, man or woman, rich or poor. Now they were free to serve the Holy God as beloved children. This was the basis of the gospel of Christ that Paul preached to the Galatians.


But after Paul had left Galatia another evangelist had come to them. This person or persons had begun to preach another message to them. Paul called these people "the Judaizers." They taught that in order to be fully accepted by God one must embrace the Law of Moses and the Covenant of Israel. In effect, a Gentile must become a Jew in order to serve God. In particular, the Judaizers taught that Gentiles must be circumcised. These teaching were directly contrary to the gospel that Paul had delivered to them. Yet, the Galatians had apparently begun to accept the teaching of the Judaizers and were welcoming them into their community.


So, Paul writes this scathing letter to coerce and shame the Galatians into realizing that in order to embrace what the Judaizers were teaching they would have to reject his own gospel. He wrote to them and told them that in accepting even a little of the Old Covenant, they were obligating themselves to live under all of the law. He told them that if any man accepted circumcision that Christ meant nothing to them. The grace and mercy of Christ was offered to sinners in need of salvation sinners of any race and nationality. Those who seek to be justified by the law are outside of the covenant of grace.


The Galatians had been running well, but someone had come in and interfered with their Christian service. The Judaizers and their interference were not from God. Paul had given to them the full gospel of Christ. Someone else had come in and tried to poison that relationship and Paul wanted them to know that this poison had deadly consequences. It was like yeast that once entering into the dough spreads itself throughout the whole loaf. This was a corruption that could not be tolerated in any way.


Paul did not want them to think that the situation was completely lost. He had confidence that they would comprehend the urgency of his message and turn away from the teaching of the Judaizers. Paul's confidence was not in the Galatians. Paul was always supremely confident in the power of God to save. It was God that would convince the Galatians of what they must accomplish. He may choose to do this through Paul's words, but the power and the accomplishment of this was God's own work.


For the Judaizers, Paul has only condemnation. The one that troubled the Galatians would "bear his judgment." Then, what Paul writes about the Judaizers is quite shocking and demonstrates the depth of his own revulsion of what they were doing. The clear meaning of verse 12 is that Paul writes that he wishes that those who were teaching that they must become circumcised would go a step further and emasculate themselves!


We may be shocked to find such harsh words in sacred scripture, but Paul is in deadly earnest. He saw the Judaizers as the single largest destructive force within the early church. God had placed in Paul's heart that the salvation of the Gentiles would be the future of the church. The Gentiles must be fully accepted as complete partners in the work of Christ on earth. They could not be relegated to being less-than human, as they often had been under the older covenant. Such a practice would make a mockery of what God was doing in the Gentile communities. The Spirit of God was at work in Paul's evangelism. Gentiles were being brought into a saving relationship. God was working in their lives. Paul had once worked against the Spirit of God when he was persecuting the church. Never again did Paul want to find himself working against the outpouring of the Spirit.


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