“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Galatians 1:3-4)

Paul begins this letter with well chosen words of greeting designed to stress that his apostolic commission came to him from the Lord, not from any man. Yet he reminds his audience that the Lord’s original apostles had also acknowledged his apostolic authority as did the church at Antioch. He does this because there were false teachers among the church in Galatia. As is the church at Corinth and other places, these false teachers disparaged his authority as well as the mercy and grace of the gospel. These false teachers maintained that true believers must keep the Law of Moses which meant not just dietary laws but circumcision as well.

All forms of legalism are contrary to the gospel. Believers have peace with God not because they keep the Law (they cannot) but because God extended grace to us in Christ. Jesus is our sin offering who fulfills the Law on our behalf. Paul chastised his readers for turning away from this truth, the very gospel that he had preached to them. He was so concerned for their welfare that he pronounced strong condemnation upon the false teachers. He is not out to win friends and please people; his desire was to please the Lord. And so he must preach the truth. And as we know people do not like the truth of Christ. It insults them by labeling them hopeless sinners, wretches as Newton’s hymn proclaims. Mankind, as a whole, refuses to admit that no one can by any amount of good deeds or works of charity ever earn God’s love and favor. Mankind loves self-reliance and self-exaltation and hates the thought of relying on Christ alone for peace and eternal life.