Summary: In this intro to the book of Galatians, Paul addresses his authority and the grace that changes everything.
I Can’t Dance
This may shock you but…I can’t dance. I do dance but just not well. I’m stiff, have very little rhythm, and most of the time look like I’m having some sort of fit.
My father tells the story that my mother was one of the best dancers he ever knew. Sadly, I did not inherit any of that talent.
Maxine has two left feet as well, and when we dance together, we mostly just sway back and forth.
I’ve often been jealous of people that could really dance.
But, it’s different if I know the steps to the dance. When my oldest son Josh was in junior high, I chaperoned one of his dances. He was mortified when I ended up leading one hundred junior high students in the Casper Slide.
Another time, Maxine and I were on an anniversary cruise on Lake Michigan and the song “Gangnam Style” came on. The kids at church had taught me the dance and, much to Maxine’s horror, I ended up in the middle of a bachelorette party teaching them the dance.
When I know the steps, I’m feel free. I don’t feel as self conscious and don’t care what others think near as much.
That leads me to the quote that will anchor our entire series:
“Those who dance are thought crazy by those who can not hear the music.”
In the pages of this letter by Paul, we will be learning the steps of a dance - the dance of grace found in the book of Galatians. Only those who know Jesus can dance this dance and it will make us look weird to the world who can’t hear the music.
This dance will free us from the idea that following rules can make us righteous before God. It will also help us understand that our freedom is to be used to help others learn the same steps.
A Long Time Coming
For about 15 years, I’ve wanted to preach and teach my way through the book of Galatians. It’s my favorite book in the Bible and I’ve read it and studied it for years.
I want to tell you up front that I’m going to preach through these verses pretending that you know absolutely nothing about the Bible. For some of you who know the Word inside and out, that may be a bit simplistic. But I want to make sure that everyone understands what Paul is trying to say.
I want to encourage you to read the book of Galatians. It’s only 149 verses and takes about twenty minutes to read. The book contains six chapters so if you read a chapter a day, you will finish in less than a week.
The book of Galatians is in the New Testament. The Bible is divided into two parts. The Old Testament is the story of the children of Israel before Jesus came. The New Testament is the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and the birth of the church.
The book of Galatians was written in AD 49 making it the earliest NT book. This is less than twenty years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Other than the book of Romans, Galatians is the most concise description of the Gospel in all the Bible.
It’s been called the “Magna Carta of Christianity,”the “Declaration of Christian Liberty” and the “Cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation.”
It was in his studies of Galatians that Martin Luther was saved and it was through Martin Luther’s commentary on the book of Galatians that Charles Wesley was saved.
In fact, Martin Luther went as far as to say that the book of Galatians was like a wife to him!
In our study of the book of Galatians, we will learn to dance to the rhythm of grace and freedom.
Tim Keller writes,
“The book of Galatians is dynamite. It is an explosion of joy and freedom which leads us to enjoy a deep significance, security and satisfaction - the life of blessing that God calls his people to.”
Jesus + Something = Nothing
Before we begin, let me make one more point. Galatians is a very different letter than most of Paul’s writings. Its tone is sharp, angry at times, his words strong, and his message crystal clear.
In the churches that Paul and Barnabas had planted in the region of Galatia, false teachers had infiltrated into their ranks.
These false teachers questioned Paul’s authority. Their teaching went something like this:
Listen, we agree that faith in Christ is important but there’s just more to it. Paul, whoever he is, watered it down for you so you would accept his message.
Jesus? Yes. But you also need to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic dietary laws. In other words, you Gentiles need to become Jewish first.