For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Galatian church seemed to have fallen off the narrow road of discipleship in the opposite direction from the Corinthians. While the Corinthians erred in the direction of antinomianism, the Galatians tended toward legalism. Paul doesn’t waste time getting to the meat of the matter: after a few verses of polite greeting, he declares that “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” The major sticking point for the Galatians seems to have been the need to become Jewish in order to become Christian, including circumcision as an outward demonstration of of that identification.. In frustration, Paul exclaims, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you!” and later suggests that those who think circumcision is required go even further and castrate themselves!
What does Paul mean when he refers to ” the gospel of Christ”? Paul makes the rather bold claim “that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” I think Paul is pretty consistent in saying, both in his letters and in his recorded interactions in Acts, that “a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” The gospel, or good news, is that we don’t have to do follow certain rules or do certain things in order to be loved and accepted by God. God already loves us, and Jesus is the proof of that. Through his life and teachings we learn what God is like, and how God wants us to live. Through his death and resurrection we learn that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Through the power of his spirit, his followers will increasingly find their lives marked by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. It is those who can accept this truth who are really and truly free: the only law God is concerned about us following is the law of love.
And that’s good news to me!