Having Begun in the Spirit

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul addresses a growing danger. Certain “men from Jerusalem” claim that Gentiles must keep the deeds of the Mosaic Law to “complete” their faith, or at least, some of them. They are “compelling Gentiles to Judaize” by adopting circumcision, calendrical observances, and perhaps the Levitical dietary restrictions.

Paul would have none of it. Unlike his other letters, this time, his opening salutation was curt, and he immediately chastised the Galatians and launched into a diatribe against the Judaizing faction from Jerusalem.

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Limits of the Law

In responding to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised, Paul appeals to the common experience of the Spirit received by the Galatians.  Did they receive the gift due to a “hearing of faith” or “from the works of the Law?”  Having begun in the Spirit, why do they now seek “completion” based on “flesh” by submitting to circumcision?

Next, he cites the example of Abraham who was “reckoned righteous from his faith,” and not from the rite of circumcision that he received later. Thus, Abraham became the “father” of all who are “from faith.”

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SYNOPSIS – The key dispute at Galatia was whether Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep some, at least, of the required deeds of the Torah

The Letter to the Galatians is often read as a broadside by the Apostle Paul against “legalism,” the belief that right standing with God is “earned” through good works and human effort.  This reading stems from the influence of Reformation theology, which tends to see Divine grace and human obedience in constant tension, if not inherently incompatible with each other.

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The Law was an interim stage with a termination point. Christian believers are no longer “under the Law,” instead, they are “in Christ”Galatians 4:1-7.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul points out that if Christians adopt the rite of circumcision, they will regress to that which is rudimentary, and to an earlier stage in Salvation History. The adoption of a Torah-compliant lifestyle means a return to a minority status and the reintroduction of social divisions.

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SYNOPSIS – Paul presents the points of agreement and disagreement with his opponents at Galatia – Galatians 2:15-21.

In the first two chapters of his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul explains how he received his gospel for the Gentiles by divine revelation, a commission confirmed by the leaders of the Jerusalem church. He also details how certain “false brethren had slinked in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus” in an earlier but similar controversy at the church in Antioch of Syria – (Galatians2:1-5).

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