“What then has become of the blessing you felt?” (Galatians 4:15a, ESV). The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatiansis rich with earnest, doctrinal arguments, cultural illustrations and an insightful allegory clarifying the truth of the gospel. His approach to justification has been celebrated and debated in the historical teachings of the Christian faith. Applying doctrine produces the church’s experience. The doctrine of the gospel and justification produced the experience of joy and happiness. Justified Christians felt blessed after embracing the gospel Paul preached. In contrast, the false gospel of agitators distorted God’s gift of justification and injected upset that blighted their former feeling of blessedness.
Very influential Jewish Christians of the party of the Pharisees demanded Gentile compliance with the Law of Moses. Some claimed James, the brother of the Lord, authorized their command. The gravity of their influence even swayed the apostle Peter. Peter used to eat with Gentile Christians, but pressure from these guardians of the Law caused Peter, Barnabas and many other Jewish Christians to stop eating with the uncircumcised Gentiles. Therefore, in earnest the apostle Paul publically confronted Peter about his hypocrisy that supported the sabotage of their new freedom of crossing the old boundaries hindering fellowship. Paul called the false teachers spies because their mission restored justification according to works of the law, which once again empowered the traditions that prevented God’s promise to Abraham from being realized. The false doctrine affected practice. Those who left the truth of the gospel fell out of step with the new freedom of fellowship bestowed by justification by faith.
The gospel produced the feeling of blessedness and happiness in God who now knew them as His adopted sons. The Spirit of Jesus, the Son of God himself, guaranteed and imparted the reality of God’s promise to Abraham. Jew and Gentile both received justification from God just like Abraham, according to their faith in God’s promise. The promise of God to bless all nations through Abraham’s descendant had been fulfilled by Jesus so that the blessing of justification was offered through faith in Christ. In Galatians Paul fought to define a common experience of justification through faith rather than through law or the elementary principles of the world. They had been enjoying the experience of justification in fellowship together at the table, as one family, without the burdens and barriers of their former transgressions, traditions and taboos. In this one family, through the seed of Abraham, Christ the Son of God, and by the Spirit of the Son, they shared in the future hope of God’s promise of righteousness. The only thing that mattered now was faith expressing itself through love; because in Christ they equally belonged to the one family of God.
The spies and agitators threatened to destroy the realization of one family through God’s promise. Contrary to God’s promise, they held the Law defined the ground of justification, which really would only entitled the doer of the Law full acceptance, equality and status in God’s family. Yet these charlatans were really boosting their own pride and self-interests. They sought to secure circumcision and outward adherence to the traditions of Judaism to avoid persecution from fellow Jews by removing the offenses of ethnic and cultural uncleanness. Thus Paul corrected Peter, because if Jews could not in fact succeed as doers of the Law, then it was hypocritical to so burden Gentiles. Instead, as transgressors of the Law all Jews were living under the curse of the Law. Even the Messiah died under the curse of the Law; howbeit, unjustly. He was crucified not because of his own transgressions, but because of his people’s transgressions. Through their rejection, jealousy and evil false accusations, they delivered an innocent to his crucifixion. The cross embodied the complete, sinless faithfulness of Jesus Christ to God’s covenant. Therefore, Jesus — who is the Son of God, the seed of Abraham, the appointed Messiah [Christ or King] and mediator between God and man — represents both God and man in a new covenant. Therefore, Paul clearly exposed an insidious hypocrisy and defended the cross as God’s method for granting justification, the blessing of belonging to the family of Abraham and enjoying the promise and blessing of God’s new creation.