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Of all Paul’s letters, the epistle to the Galatians is undoubtedly his most fiercely worded. One commentator calls it 'spiritual dynamite'. It was written in the white heat of battle over how a sinner is justified before God and how he remains in such a state.
The problem in the churches in Galatia was that they had heard the gospel from the great apostle Paul, but then proceeded to modify it. A little poison in the cup may be all that is needed for the cup to be toxic. To be specific, the Galatians began to listen to the Judaizers who were telling them that they needed to be circumcised, keep the Jewish holy days, and, by implication, maintain Jewish food laws which prevented them from eating with Gentiles.
It is well known that the epistle to the Galatians played a highly significant role in the sixteenth-century Reformation, and Martin Luther was to refer to it as ‘my own Epistle, to which I have plighted my troth…’ He thought that ‘This doctrine can never be taught, urged, and repeated enough.’ Galatians takes us to the very heart and core of the message of God to us in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, its message is simplicity itself: law condemns, Jesus saves. This is a message which the modern evangelical world needs to hear in a new and fresh way.
Peter Barnes is the pastor at Revesby Presbyterian Church in Sydney, Australia, and also the lecturer in Church History at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney. He is married to Lyn, and they have six children.