And they were glorifying God because of me.Galatians 1:24(NASB)
Galatians is one of the most important denunciations of legalism in Scripture, and is a well-structured polemic against Judaism. It denounces justification by works of the law, insists that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, and like the epistles to the Romans and Hebrews, it quotes the singular, most noteworthy verse from Habakkuk that prompted the great 16th century reformation, "The just shall live by faith."
Galatians confirms the reformers' premise that the Bible is the plumb-line for truth, with Scripture being the sole authority in matters of faith as it relates to the salvation of the soul. It stresses that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It reminds us that salvation is for the glory of God alone, and that our salvation is the primary evidence of the outpouring of His undeserved grace and favour on all who believe.
Paul opens his letter with some strong, condemnatory remarks about the Galatian believers, who had quickly been influenced away from the true Gospel of God to another gospel. "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you..?" is Paul's stern outburst. "I am shocked that you are so quickly turning away from Him, Who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel." The apostle makes no attempt to hide his deep frustration and justified anger, and pronounces a curse on anyone, including himself or even an angelic being, if they promote a different gospel from the one he, himself had taught them.
The Galatians had been so quickly and easily deceived into believing a false gospel, that Paul felt it necessary to validate his own, God-given apostolic authority, by reminding them WHO gave him the gospel he preached and WHERE the good news came from so that he could legitimise his teachings. The gospel Paul preached was not from any human source, including the other apostles. It came by direct revelation of the risen, ascended Jesus Christ. Paul then gave a detailed description of how he had persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it, to demonstrate God's amazing grace towards him.
Paul's testimony was the most glorious example that salvation is by God's grace and not by man's merit or works of the Law. He spoke of his advanced learning in Judaism and zealousness for his ancestral traditions, which were superior to many of his contemporaries. Paul's intense hatred of legalism was because he himself had been entrapped in its web of deception, and it pained him to see these dear folk in Galatia being so brutally deceived by this legalist teaching that places men back under the curse of the Law, after having been liberated by God's grace through faith.
Paul detailed the time he spent in Arabia and Damascus, and that 3 years after his conversion he travelled to Jerusalem and spent 15 days with Peter and James. At first, Paul was not even recognsied by some well-established churches in Syria and Cilicia. They did not know Paul personally, but they kept hearing, "he who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." These churches, "were glorifying God," for what had happened to Paul.
When he wrote, "and they were glorifying God because of me," Paul was not promoting himself. His desire was to bring glory to God alone, Who picked Paul up out of his own legalistic religiosity, and brought him out of darkness of the Law, into His glorious light of the gospel of grace. Paul was praising God for saving his soul from damnation and setting his feet on the pathway to peace with God, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and he did not want the Galatian believers to put themselves back under the Law, as these Judaisers were teaching.
Paul considered himself as the least-worthy of sinners and certainly not deserving of salvation, yet it was by grace that God looked down at this legalistic man, who was ravaging the church, entering house after house and dragging off men and women, putting them in prison and mercilessly persecuting the body of Christ, and decided to use him as His apostle to the Gentiles! Surely the people in Galatia should see that his own conversion was by God's grace and not because of Paul's good works!!!
Religiosity, legalism, Judaism, 'Lordship' salvation, and many other teachings that promote salvation by works are unscriptural, and yet are promoted in many churches today. They are an affront to God, because they teach that Christ's finished work on the cross was insufficient to pay the full price for our sin!!! No wonder Paul said that anyone who teaches a different gospel other than salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, is to be cursed. But there are many today that promote this ungodly, unscriptural teaching.
May we be ready and willing to study the Scriptures so that we know the truth. May we be willing to stand up for the Gospel of Grace, when legalistic teachers tell us that salvation requires something in addition to faith.
Paul did not glory in his apostolic appointment, but pointed us to Christ. May the testimony of our own lives glorify God and not ourselves. May we live lives that point others to Christ and not to ourselves so that others may see that our salvation is by God's grace and not our own merit, and glorify our Father in heaven.
Dear Heavenly Father, I realise that adding anything to the simple message of salvation by grace through faith, is an affront to You, and a devaluing of Christ's finished work on the cross. Give me the wisdom to discern when legalists are teaching another gospel. Expose any false teaching and prevent me from being influenced away from the truth of the glorious gospel of grace. Thank You for the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf. To Him be all praise and glory, AMEN.