Stand Fast in Christian Freedom!
Highlights From Galatians
JEHOVAH is the God of freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17) His Son, Jesus Christ, said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) And in imitation of Christ, the apostle Paul preached the good news of freedom.—Romans 6:18; 8:21.
By declaring that freedom-giving message, Paul established the congregations of Galatia (a Roman province in Asia Minor) during his first missionary tour (47-48 C.E.). The Galatians knew of the governing body’s decision that circumcision is not required for Christians. (Acts 15:22-29) But Judaizers were seeking to bring them into bondage by insisting that they get circumcised. So Paul stressed Christian freedom in the letter he wrote to the Galatians from Corinth or Syrian Antioch about 50-52 C.E. For instance, he said: “For . . . freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”—Galatians 5:1.
Paul Defends His Apostleship
Paul first showed that his apostleship was “through Jesus Christ and God.” (1:1–2:14) Because of a revelation, Paul (with Barnabas and Titus) went to Jerusalem regarding the circumcision question. There James, Cephas (Peter), and John recognized that he had been empowered to be an apostle to the nations. And when Peter later separated from Gentile believers at Antioch because he feared Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, Paul reproved him.
How Declared Righteous?
The apostle also made the powerful point that only by faith in Jesus Christ can anyone be declared righteous. (2:15–3:29) The Galatians received God’s spirit, not because of works of law, but because of accepting the good news in faith. True sons of Abraham have faith, but individuals trying to prove themselves righteous by “works of law are under a curse.” Why? Because they cannot keep the Law perfectly. Actually, the Law made transgressions manifest and was a “tutor leading to Christ.”
By his death, Christ ‘released those under law.’ But his followers must stand fast in Christian freedom. (4:1–6:18) So the Galatians needed to resist anyone trying to induce them to accept a yoke of slavery. Moreover, they were not to abuse their freedom but were to shun “works of the flesh” and display the fruitage of God’s spirit. Those seeking to bring them into bondage to the Law wanted to “make a pleasing appearance in the flesh,” avoid persecution, and have a cause for boasting. However, Paul showed that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything. Rather, “a new creation is something.” He prayed for peace and mercy to be upon spiritual Israel, those of that new creation.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians helped them to resist those seeking to enslave them spiritually. May it also help us to display the spirit’s fruitage and stand fast in Christian freedom.
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Brand Marks: “Let no one be making trouble for me,” wrote Paul, “for I am carrying on my body the brand marks of a slave of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17) Among some ancient pagans, slaves were branded to designate their owners. Various designs were burned or inscribed into their flesh. Doubtless, the many physical abuses administered to Paul’s body because of his Christian service left certain scars, testifying to his claim as a faithful slave belonging to Christ, one persecuted for His sake. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) These may have been “the brand marks” Paul referred to, or he may have been thinking of the life he lived as a Christian, displaying the fruitage of God’s spirit and carrying out his ministry.
Roman slaves were compelled to serve their masters, but Paul was a willing and joyful slave of Jesus Christ