In the first of a two-part Christmas series, we studied the announcement in Luke 1:26-38 that the angel Gabriel made to Mary about the baby she would bear. We focused on who was involved in this announcement, where it happened, and what it meant. Next week we will study why it had to be this way.
In the dramatic concluding section, Galatians 6:11-18, Paul brought the whole message of the letter together by writing about boasting. He contrasted worldly religious boasting with Christian boasting. Christians are to boast only in something that was and is despised by most people: the instrument of execution known as a cross.
In Galatians 6:1-10, Paul took the general principles of the fruit of the Spirit (which we studied last week) and applied them to three situations in the church in order to provide concrete examples of Christian living. The three situations are: when a Christian falls into sin, when ministers need support, and when any member needs help. The way we treat sinners, ministers, and the needy demonstrates the reality of our faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Continuing the theme of the results of faith in Christ, Galatians 5:16-26 lists specific manifestations of the flesh (sinful nature) and of the Holy Spirit. The outward evidence of living by the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
After four chapters of telling us what Christ has done for us and urging us to have faith in him alone in order to be right before God, Paul turned in Galatians 5:1-15 to explain the main thing that faith produces in our lives, which is love. While we are saved by faith alone, faith is itself never alone in the lives of believers but always accompanied by love.
In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul gave an interpretation of the story from the Old Testament about Abraham and the two sons he had, one to Hagar the slave woman, and the other to Sarah his wife. The false teachers in Galatia were perhaps using this story to try to force non-Jewish believers to become Jews. However, Paul showed how the story itself supports his main thesis that both Jews and non-Jews may receive God’s promised blessing through faith, not through law-keeping.
Having described the experience of Jewish Christians as coming into their full inheritance, Paul described the conversion of Gentiles (non-Jews) in Galatians 4:8-20. Simply speaking, they (we) had not known God but then came to know him. However, the Galatians later turned back to a form of religion that was similar to what they had when they were enslaved to idols. Therefore, they serve as a constant reminder to all of us not to revert to a religion of law-keeping but to continue to trust in Christ alone.
Although it is impossible to say what is the best thing about being a Christian, the theme of Galatians 4:1-7 is an excellent candidate for “our highest privilege.” In fact, the privilege is so exalted that it sounds at first like we have gone too far and said too much when we speak of it. Indeed, we would never dare to suggest it if it were not so clearly taught in God’s word.
With so much insistence in Galatians on our being right before God through faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, we might well wonder what is the purpose of the law. In Galatians 3:15-29, Paul raised this question and gave a partial answer to it by laying out what is called the first use of the law. As it turns out, the law is not against the gospel but in fact prepares us for and drives us toward faith in Christ.
In the previous section, Paul asserted that no one can be right before God by observing the law but rather through faith in Christ. In Galatians 3:1-14, he presented three strong arguments to support his assertion. He laid out in the clearest terms the difference between two systems of salvation: relying on the works of the law and relying on Christ.