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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Proffitt

Galatians: Grace, the Gospel, and Getting it Right

Galatians is probably one of the more well-known books in the New Testament. It describes a deep theology of the difference between law and grace, how believers are to be led by the Spirit of God, and how that plays out practically.

The Church at Galatia was the first generation of believers after the death of Christ. From our modern perspective, we often think that the early church should have sound theology and be more biblical. Isn’t that what we hear in Christian circles? We want to get back to the first-century church. After all, these early churches learned from those who had seen Jesus in the flesh!

However, as close as these believers lived to the time of Christ, they faced serious theological challenges. In the case of the church at Galatia, many church members wanted to return to the Old Testament law and follow works-based gospel, which, as we will see, is no gospel.

Who Has Bewitched You?

Paul’s heart ached for this church. He hoped that they would not abandon the gospel of grace they received from Paul and turn to another gospel which, as Paul says in Galatians 1:7, is not another gospel at all. There is no good news if we are saved by works because, as Paul’s theology tells us in Romans 1-3, there is no hope for us because no one seeks God. Left outside of grace, we are on our own and bound for hell.

Knowing this, Paul cried out to this church, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” (Galatians 3:1). It is foolish to abandon salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) to pursue salvation by works. While repentance (acknowledgment of sin) is needed to receive the gospel, it is not received on the basis of our repentance but on God’s grace.

Grace or Works

This issue is extremely black-and-white for Paul. There is no middle ground. It’s either works or grace. It is black-and-white for John the Apostle as well. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Paul expounded on this in Galatians 3:24-25: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Doesn’t Paul contradict himself? He says that we are not saved by the law but by grace. So what role does the law play in the life of a Christian?

Our Tutor

John Calvin, in his New Testament commentary, gives helpful input when he says of Galatians 3:25, “Those who were under the custody of the law were partakers of the same faith. The law did not restrain them from faith; but, that they might not wander from the fold of faith, it kept possession of themselves… their portion of light resembled the dawn, which was enough to preserve them from all error, and guide them to everlasting blessedness.”

The law served as our guide—leading us and helping us see our great need for a Savior. Once the law accomplishes this purpose in the heart of a Christian, it is no longer needed. Now, we live by the Spirit, who enables us to live lives that are pleasing to God.

Freedom in Christ

Paul concludes Galatians with an admonition to the church, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Believers are not meant to carry the burden of salvation by works. In Paul’s words, this is “slavery.” We are called to freedom of being the recipients of the grace of God through Christ. When we grasp the depths of this freedom in the grace, love, and mercy of Christ, we will naturally desire what God desires and our lives will be fountains of living water.

“Fill me with grace daily,

That my life be a fountain

Of sweet water”

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Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So We Speak.


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