Although not quite as long (or as complicated) as his epistle to the Romans, the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians is also focused on this primary question: Does one have to be circumcised in order to be a full Christian? Again, as he said in Romans, the answer is no. Circumcision is not necessary. It does not communicate grace. Baptism ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù not circumcision ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù communicates grace and enters us into God's covenant family.
St. Paul is writing to persuade Christians that the ceremonial laws and practices of the old covenant are no longer necessary. In fact, they are now harmful.
Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Old Covenant ceremonies ('works of the law' like circumcision, diet restrictions, and animal sacriÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉces) are retired. Jesus set us free from these ceremonial practices of the old covenant. Returning to them would be to reject the work of Christ and would do great
Before Jesus came, circumcision was the way in which someone entered God's covenant community (Leviticus 12:3). However, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus brought about a New Covenant which is much more powerful and will never end. In Jesus we are set free from the Old Covenant curses (Galatians 3:13) and have become a 'new creation' in Christ (Galatians 6:15). Jesus' work fulÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉlled the old covenant and established the new covenant of faith (Galatians 3:7) entered by way of Baptism (Galatians 3:27). This new covenant is much more personal than the old. Through Jesus Christ we have become adopted children of God (Galatians 4:1-7).
The important thing to focus on in this letter is the centrality of Jesus in everything. Jesus is our salvation. He gave up His human life in order that we might receive His divine life. Through Baptism we become God's divinely adopted sons and daughters. Christ gave us inÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉnitely more than we could ever deserve or imagine. Prayerfully read through this epistle, stopping to thank God along the way for all of the many blessings and gifts you see the apostle identify in its pages.
Here are some of the key themes and verses we discover in this letter:
- Faith in Christ is the key to salvation: 'Man is not justiÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉed by works of the law [i.e. circumcision] but through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16).'
- Jesus was sent into the world to make us divinely adopted sons and daughters: 'God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to 141 redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏAbba! Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (Galatians 4:4-7).'
- Faith and love are the key to the Christian life: 'For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).'
- Jesus made us free in order to love: 'For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the ÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâ‰Û_esh, but through love be servants of one another (Galatians 5:13).'
- The 'Fruits of the Spirit': 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).'
- Living in the Spirit: 'If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another (Galatians 5:25-26).'
- Care for others: 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉll the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).'
- Don't lose hope when things grow difÌÄåøÌâåÂÌâÌÉcult: 'Let us not grow weary in welldoing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).'
Baptism unites us to Christ: 'In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).'