Theological Themes in Galatians
Faith active in love
The problem with concern for keeping the law is that it shortchanges the care that is due the neighbor. Those who insist on circumcision prevent hearing the freeing message of the gospel of God’s grace that releases people for a “faith working through love” (5:6). Such active love of the neighbor is the true fulfillment of what the law imagines.
The gospel of justification by God’s grace means freedom (5:1). But the central significance of this freedom in Christ is that freedom is not an end in itself. Those who are set free by the good news of the gospel are in turn enabled “through love [to] become slaves to one another” (5:13).
Fruit of the Spirit
The promise of the gospel is that those who belong to Christ are energized and empowered in a new life that is guided by the Spirit. Such new life no longer lives under the law and by the desires of the flesh, but instead produces a singular fruit of the Spirit that blossoms in community expressions of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:22-23).
Paul’s opening address announces the good news (gospel) that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that by God’s grace Christ gave himself to set us free from sin and the power of the present evil age. Fully thirteen times in the opening two chapters Paul makes reference to this good news by which God has called his readers and him to new life in Christ (1:6, 15). He pleads that the Galatians not risk losing this grace-filled gift by following the misleading and elusive promises of a deceitful “gospel.”
In 2:16, A Christian missionary who once persecuted the church… More for the first time substitutes the word to justify (“to be made right”) for the word gospel. Clearly in this letter “justification” (used a total of thirteen times from 2:16 on) is Paul’s synonym for the good news of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that we are made right by God’s Grace is the unmerited gift of God’s love and acceptance. In Martin Luther’s favorite expression from the Apostle Paul, we are saved by grace through faith, which means that God showers grace upon us even though we do not deserve it…. More through faith in Jesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God’s saving act for humanity… More Christ and not by works of the law.
Life in Christ
The certain promise of the gospel is that through Jesus was baptized (literally, “dipped”) in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer, at which time he was acclaimed from heaven as God’s Son, the Beloved. Much later baptism became one of the sacraments of the Church, the action by which a person is incorporated… More the Christian is literally joined with Christ’s death and resurrection. The old person is put to death with Christ (compare Romans 6:6) so that now God’s children live a new life by virtue of the loving gift of God’s Son, who lives in them.
New Creation, in biblical terms, is the universe as we know or perceive it. Genesis says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the book of Revelation (which speaks of end times) the author declares that God created all things and… More
At the letter’s conclusion Paul says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” (6:15). The promise of the gospel is that those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been linked with his cross, death, and resurrection. Now “clothed with Christ,” they live by virtue of Christ living in them (2:20).
Unity in Christ
“For all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). In language and vision that is almost unique in the New Testament, Paul asserts that, by virtue of their being common heirs of God’s promise in Christ, God’s children are united in a new relationship that transcends all traditional barriers of alienation or division. Unity in Christ brings with it the promise of a fundamentally changed social order.