You don’t have to measure up (Galatians 1)

You don’t have to measure up (Galatians 1)

Last week I was in the US for some meetings with colleagues. Some of them serve as missionaries to Japan, and what they shared was shocking and disturbing for me. Today, the country of the rising sun is probably the darkest place on Earth spiritually, due to the idol altars set up in the majority of the Japanese homes. The compulsion to conform and the fear of failure and shame on its heels keep people in a dungeon. Many of the youth lack a vision for the future and opt for suicide on the first day of the school year, marking 1 September with black yearly. More and more grown ups choose to live in isolation, rarely leaving their flats, doing shopping at night or with home shipping services just so they wouldn’t need to engage in relationships.

Compulsion to conform is not only a Japanese but a global phenomenon though. We have to measure up in our families, in school, in the neighborhood, at work or simply on the street. Religion is just one more system of regulations. People think of a God who has severe expectations that are impossible to meet.

Galatians was written to Christians who – though set free from the world which is both sinful living and religion of regulations – entered the evil cycle of compulsion to conform once again. The topic of the letter in one word is freedom. As I’m launching this series, my prayer is that these posts would help us all to live in freedom. Something God’s passionate about.

This epistle was not addressed to a certain individual or church, but a group of churches started by the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey in the area of Galatia. Paul of course had to go on driven by the desire to preach Jesus in other places as well, but his heart remained with the freshly launched churches having a concern for their well-being. And in case of the Galatians, this was a valid concern.

He received news of them and the groups of judaizers that visited them. These were Jewish Christians that taught that faith in Jesus is but a starting point not sufficient for salvation on its own. Galatian disciples with a simple faith in Jesus who worshipped Zeus and offered sacrifices by sleeping with temple prostitutes just a few months back and recently receiving Jesus upon hearing the Gospel were now taught that they also need to keep a few other rules and regulation in order to please God. Unfortunately, the Galatian bought in to this and started to keep a lot of Jewish customs in hope of finally making God happy.

Now, we don’t see Paul to be angry too often in the Bible, but this heresy called legalism really pushed the red button for him. He didn’t wait long but grabbed some paper and pen and started to write this epistle – his only writing in Scripture written by his very hands, and his only writing where he has no praise for his addressees. He even had kind words for the Corinthians who were fine with obvious sins within the church that even outside were hard to find. But not here. It seems that Paul was more upset by legalism appearing in a church than sin.

He has a clear message. Galatians have deserted the God that called them by Christ’s grace. Grace in essence is the message that God doesn’t accept us based on our performance but only for our belief in Jesus’ sacrifice. What a shocking thought that anyone who adds to this simple faith and teaches that one has to keep other rules as well to be saved deserts the God whom he tries to please so hard. Paul is not tender: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” – he writes. Why is he so angry?

Jesus was one asked about what work pleases God. He replied by saying: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” If we want to please God, it’s very important that first we understand what pleases him and to not experiment with something calling for an opposite reaction. If you believe in Jesus, God’s pleased with you. Once you get this compulsion to conform in whatever form will have no power on you. God wants his kids to be free.

This is what this series will discuss. I hope you’ll have the feature image for this series in your minds all along: the horses of the carousel that become self-conscious, jump out and then run freely. This is what can happen to you upon believing what I wrote here. But if you are free already, watch out for anyone trying to get you jump up to another carousel.


Galatians 1:1-9 (NIV)

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”

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