Summary: You can
For literally thousands of years, perhaps longer, Christians have faced attempts by those outside the faith, or those with little understanding of the Christian gospel, to make the grace of God only partially sufficient for salvation. As Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey to establish churches in the Mediterranean area, they only preached a gospel of salvation by the grace of God.
In other words, no human effort will ever result in man gaining God’s forgiveness of sin except through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son; no human effort will ever result in eternal life in heaven with God on the throne and Jesus Christ seated at his right hand. It’s all because of the gift of God’s grace - God’s unmerited favor given to men and women, children of all ages. There is nothing else that can secure an earthly salvation and a heavenly eternity than the grace of God.
But men and women have tried, since the first century, to add something else to God’s grace. The first Jerusalem council met shortly after Paul and Barnabas completed their first missionary journey, to decide the issue. Many Jewish believers felt that Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to complete their salvation. Paul’s defense of God’s grace alone and no other human effort resulted in the council not adding circumcision to the requirement for salvation and church membership.
The strongest, and most southern Galatia church was the Antioch church which had commissioned Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey. The Antioch church had reached out to other Galatian cities and established churches in Derbe, Lystra, and Cappadocia. Now, some years later, men showed up and tried to add their own requirements to the grace of God. Word had been sent to Paul and he wrote the letter to the Galatian churches to refute these false teachers and preachers.
“Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God, the Father, who raised him from the dead - and all the brothers with them, to the churches in Galatia...” (1:1-2)
First thing, in every letter Paul wrote, he identified himself and his qualifications to write to the church. Usually in that introduction, the description Paul uses of himself is on purpose. To the Galatians, Paul identifies himself as an apostle that was sent by Jesus and God, not by man. This was said to refute the presence and claims of the false teachers and preachers who didn’t have those credentials.
In our churches today, before a church calls a pastor, it should always examine the credentials of the pastoral candidate. What are his qualifications? What credentials does he present? College graduate? Seminary graduate? Ordained minister? What kind of experience does he have as a pastor? Examine the credentials before you accept the teaching and preaching of the Word.
And even after calling a pastor, the church needs to make sure that his teaching and preaching remains true to the gospel and the Word of God. Many men have assumed pulpits across the world, begun good and well-meaning pastorates, only to later hear something new and tempting and all of a sudden their teaching and preaching is not from the Bible and leads people astray. Other spiritual leaders in the church should be wary of this and do all they can to confront the false doctrine before it ruins members and the church.
Apparently the Galatians, and other churches as well, were accepting and adopting the teachings of false teachers and preachers without checking their credentials. And Paul is writing to put a stop to their acceptance of these heretics. No matter how good, how logical, how correct it may sound, check it out!
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1:3-5)
Paul also included a blessing for the church and usually it was for grace and peace. In a time when there was a lack of peace due to the Roman rule and the type of ruler Caesar was, being a Christian could be anything but peaceful. There was also the challenge that came from Jewish synagogues because many new believers came from their midst.
Paul prayed for peace in all the cities and towns where a Christian church had been established. He also prayed for God’s grace to be upon the congregation so that they would be accepted and approved by those pagans and Gentiles in the places where they lived and worshiped.
The final part of this scripture acknowledges the belief that the Lord Jesus would soon return and rescue them from the “present evil age.” One of the teaching points that gave believers who were persecuted hope was that Christ would rescue them from their suffering at the hands of the Romans and legalistic Jews.