By Richard Blaylock
“You were running well. Who hindered you so that you were not persuaded by the truth?”
While many of my childhood talents continue to erode over time, my knack for getting lost stubbornly endures. In fact, after living in my particular neighborhood for over a year and a half, I still manage to mistake Breckenridge Lane for Taylorsville Road with embarrassing frequency. My sweet wife has had to learn the art of navigating that awkward moment when I inevitably turn right when I was supposed to turn left (“That’s okay love, now we can drive through Starbucks!”) or left when I was supposed to turn right (“That’s okay honey, we can take the scenic route!”). Thankfully, she has developed a subtlety that allows her to redirect my course without crushing my ego (at least not completely). In this way, I manage to hold on to some semblance of manly dignity while she ensures that we arrive at our destination, albeit a few minutes later than expected.
Now, the reason I share this less-than-flattering information is because it bears some analogy to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Galatians is also an attempt at redirection: Paul is attempting to redirect some churches from their current course. These churches were at one time running well with respect to the true gospel (Gal. 5:7). Yet the arrival of some troublemakers led them astray (Gal. 1:6-7). Once Paul caught wind of this development, he acted swiftly to set them straight. But unlike my wife, Paul employs the subtlety of the proverbial bull in a china shop:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from the one who called you into the grace [of Christ] for another gospel!” (Gal. 1:6)
“O Foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was graphically portrayed as having been crucified?” (Gal. 3:1)
“You who seek to be justified by law, you are estranged from Christ! You have fallen from grace!” (Gal. 5:4)
Why the harsh tone? Because the Galatians were at risk of losing more than just a few extra minutes of their time. They were at risk of losing the gospel (Gal. 1:7), of besmirching Christ’s cross (Gal. 2:21), of falling under God’s curse (Gal. 3:10), of returning to slavery (Gal. 4:8-9), of losing the freedom that Christ had won (Gal. 5:1), and ultimately, of missing out on the mercy and peace of God (Gal. 6:16). The stakes were unfathomably high and Paul’s demeanor reflects the severity of the situation.
Sadly, all of us to some degree or another are in similar danger. False gospels continue to abound, troublemakers continue to wreak havoc, and Christians continue to be enticed away from the path of the one true gospel. Furthermore, as some painfully know through firsthand experience, entire churches can be gradually misled over time so as to actually depart from the faith. These are some of the reasons why Paul’s letter to the Galatians continues to warrant careful study, which is precisely what I will endeavor to do through this series of blogs.
Over the course of the next few months, I plan to work through the text of Galatians in order to accomplish three goals: 1) to strengthen believers by helping them understand what Paul intended to say in the letter to the Galatians, 2) to aid believers in learning how to read their bibles more profitably, and 3) to demonstrate the benefits of expository sermons as an encouragement to pastors to adopt the practice in their own preaching. I am well-aware that these are lofty goals and that my own blindspots may sully the results. Still, God is able to do much through weak vessels, and that is what gives me the confidence to proceed. My prayer is that God will use this series as a means of redirecting all our hearts towards the true gospel, all our ministries towards more faithful exposition of His Word, and all our churches towards deeper fellowship with our gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Richard Blaylock is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter @richardblaylock.