As we progress into the teachings and instructions that the Apostle Paul gave to the first century churches, we begin to notice a pattern in Paul’s style of communicating. He beautifully blends into every letter a combination of the following: personal; doctrinal and practical. Even though letters such as Galatians and Romans seem to be more bent on doctrine, when one looks closer you will note that Paul was very much into how the truths of the gospel should affect a disciple’s behavior.
Preaching and teaching today should strive for the same type of balance. All doctrinal preaching (what I grew up on) builds strong convictions but leaves little to live life by. All practical, behavioral style motivates one to right living but can leave one hungry for some biblical depth. And any type of preaching that is not personal (pastoral in nature, sharing from one’s life) certainly opens the door for dullness and Pharisaism (“rather tell you than show you”).
As you read through Galatians this week, linger on the thought of how we can apply the freedom from “Law” to our lives today. We are certainly enslaved to not only the laws of this world (sin) but also the laws of many who distort the gospel today (universalists, cults, authoritative sects, mainstream “religion” to name a few). For those of us who come from the roots of restoration thinking, we would do well to savor the emphasis Paul gives to living by faith and following the law of love. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
Plus we must always be on the alert for two types of false teachers and what they seek. One, the charismatic leader who by his or her charm has a way with words that can control one’s emotions. Two, the authoritative leader through his or her emphasis on doctrine or discipleship creates expectations which can control one’s mind. These leaders and their respective movements lead many down a path that doesn’t clearly align itself with Paul’s teachings and leaves one “astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” (Galatians 1:6).
Live in the freedom of God’s love and according to God’s truth. If you focus on a relationship with Christ instead of the religion of Christ, it’s not as hard and complex as we make it out to be. Live free, “but do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13)
Five Day Reading Plan for Galatians
Day 1 – chapter 1 - Paul’s authority from God
Day 2 – chapter 2 – two Apostles clash over the Law
Day 3 – chapter 3-4 - legalism versus God’s grace
Day 4 – chapter 5 – the Freedom Chapter of the Bible
Day 5 – chapter 6 – our response to others