There is a total of sixty-six (66) books in the Holy Bible. Each one is part of the inspired and “God-breathed” Divine revelation of God to man. There are thirty-nine (39) books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven (27) in the New. Each book is unique. Each has its own special purpose but together these sixty-six (66) books provide for us everything we need to know about God, ourselves, and His plan for all of creation. As Lutherans, we understand that the over-arching theme of the Holy Bible is comprised of two separate but equally necessary themes, the Law of God and the Gospel of God. The Law reveals the very essence or character of God. He is holy, righteous, just, merciful, compassionate, gracious, and loving. We also see the nature of God revealed to us as eternal, without beginning and without end, as well as the works of God in creation and providence in which He rules with authority and power over all His creation. God and God alone created the heavens and the earth, all things visible and invisible. He created the physical universe and the spiritual realms. He alone is the Almighty God, the Creator of all things. He is also the only redeemer of His people. The month of July is the month in which we as a nation consider God’s gracious gifts of freedom and liberty bestowed upon us by His sovereign grace. More than any other people in the history of the world, we daily take for granted these most excellent gifts of God. This month, I want us to consider two very important topics: (1) our freedom in Christ, and (2) the importance of Paul’s epistle to the Galatian Christians. Both of these topics are bound together in Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches and it is for this reason I think we should take this month and read the book of Galatians during our personal devotion time or during a time of family devotions. The book of Galatians has been called: The Magna Carta of the Christian faith, the battle cry of the Reformation, and the Christian’s Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther wrote these words regarding his personal love for the epistle – “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am, as it were, in wedlock. Galatians is my Katherine [the name of his wife].” Luther, perhaps more than any other epistle, saw in the book of Galatians the bondage and drudgery of God’s Law and the marvelous grace of God in Christ sets the Christian free from the power of sin and the Law and results in our eternal freedom in Christ and Him alone. In Christ and in Him alone, there is forgiveness of sins and eternal security in Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us. Through His earthly life and ministry, Christ fulfilled the Law’s requirement. Through Christ and in Christ, every true believer is clothed in His righteousness both in this life and in the life to come. The apostle Paul and his fellow labourer in Christ, Barnabas, established churches throughout the region of Galatia on their First Missionary Journey. The epistle to these churches was written by Paul to these Christians with a very specific purpose in mind. The apostle wrote to correct and to challenge them! Word had reach Paul that many in the Galatian churches were turning from the truth of the Gospel and embracing a false gospel. In reply, Paul challenged and even chastised the churches. He wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). In light of the heresy or even the apostasy of Christians turning their backs on the one true Gospel, Paul wrote to encourage the churches, to call them back to the truth of the eternal and unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to encourage and to correct the Galatians. He called them to remember the things they had been taught. He even gave them this severe warning, “If anyone is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:23). I’ve been told this is a true story and it certainly underlines the apostle’s message and call for all Christians to daily remember and embrace the message of the Gospel of Christ. A number of years ago the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story about then President George Bush. The President was visiting south Florida to survey tremendous hurricane damage. During his visit the President went to a certain nursing home. As he entered the nursing home, he began shaking hands with the staff and residents. As President Bush walked down the corridors of the nursing home, he encountered one particular lady. She was sitting all alone. The President walked over to her, extended his hand, and asked, “Ma’am, do you know who I am?” The lady looked at him for a moment as though lost in deep thought. Then she said, “No. No, I don’t know who you are; but if you will go over to the desk and ask the nurse, I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you who you are.” There were many Christians in the Galatian churches that needed to be reminded who they were in Christ. The same is very true for the churches in the world today. As you read the epistle to the Galatians this month – it’s only six chapters – keep in mind Paul’s purpose to remind us as Christians who we are in Christ and what our responsibility to Him really is as well as our duties to our neighbors. The entire message of the epistle can be summed up these words, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the Gospel that was preached by me is not man’s Gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). The Gospel revealed in the Holy Scriptures is the divine revelation of God given to us. The Gospel is the most important message the world has ever received. Therefore, in a day when so many so called “Christian churches” and so many individuals are seeking to change the Gospel to meet the contemporary wants, desires, and lusts of a post-modern society and culture, you and I are have been called and commissioned by God to “stand firm” upon the unchanging Word of the Living God. As a friend recently sent me in an email, “The Bible doesn’t need to be rewritten, it needs to be reread!” So, during this month of July as we reflect on our national freedoms and liberties, join me and read Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. As we celebrate national freedom may we not forget our spiritual freedom and liberty in Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord! “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery …If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1, 25). Thanks be to God! Amen. God’s peace! Pastor Jim

Galatians – God’s Epistle of Freedom!

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