Good morning! Today and tomorrow we read through the book of Galatians, written to churches in the Roman region of Galatia. That region evidently had a movement of rival preachers who claimed that certain Jewish practices and customs—especially circumcision—must be practiced by Gentiles in order that they could be called Christians. Paul sharply rebukes (as he is wont to do) those who suggest there is anything beyond belief that is needed for salvation. This book is sometimes nicknamed “Luther’s book”, because it most fully underscores Luther’s conviction that justification before God comes through faith and not works of any kind. Paul will get into the theological argument in what we read tomorrow, but today in Galatians 1-2 he claims full apostolic authority to instruct them based on his biography to this point.
From the opening verse of introduction, Paul asserts the divine mandate that commissions him to ministry, particularly among the Gentiles. Since the early verses of a book generally set the scene for what’s to come throughout, pay attention to Paul’s characterization of Jesus, the one who came “to set us free from the present evil age”. Freedom is a core tenet of this letter, and the evilness of the age includes the desire to place limits on that freedom.
The rest of today’s passage is Paul’s account of how he comes to this ministry on behalf of Jesus Christ. He references the encounter with Jesus that changed him into a Christian, and he suggests that even from that moment he recognizes a special call to minister to Gentiles. He underplays the extent to which he was coordinating with Hebrew Christians like Peter/Cephas (though Acts by comparison wants to emphasize how much they were in lock step). How interesting that here Paul emphasizes that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, yet in Acts 16 we read that Paul apparently compels Timothy to be circumcised for the sake of his successful proclamation. I’m sure that both Paul and the writer of Acts have reason to emphasize what they do, and the facts of the matter are somewhere in between. Paul finishes chapter two by contrasting works/law with faith/grace, a frame to which we will return tomorrow. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Galatians 3-6. Thanks for reading!