Backdrop of Paul’s Letter to the Galatian Churches—Source, The Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV)
• The Apostle Paul is writing to churches he founded in Galatia.
• His teachings are being challenged by unidentified Jewish-Christian teachers who are urging Paul’s converts to be circumcised and to observe other Jewish laws and rituals such as the sabbath, festivals and perhaps food laws.
• Paul says “no” stating that faith in Jesus is what binds all people. The gospel of Jesus Christ is primary.
Galatians 3:23-29 – New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.
Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—Pastor Pam
In one of the last scenes in the movie The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp Family is fleeing the Nazis who seek to prevent the family from leaving Fascist Germany. The nuns at the convent sheltering the family have a confession to make. Sister Margaretta says: “Reverend Mother, I have sinned.” Sister Berthe states: “I too, Reverend Mother.” And the Mother Abbess says: “What is this sin, my children?”
The nuns hold up parts from the Nazis’ car that they have dismantled. They have broken the law to protect the family. They have followed the direction of the Holy Spirit. Their faith in Jesus Christ has given them the courage and conviction to make a loving gospel response. Is that what Paul is talking about here? Is he saying that we can become imprisoned by religious law and practice to the point where we can’t see or hear the call of Jesus in our lives?
We’ve often heard discussions around “the spirit of the law” and the “letter of the law.” Paul is encouraging the Galatian churches to understand that Jesus has brought a new covenant to God’s people and that all people are welcome. Furthermore, it was always God’s intent for all humans to be God’s children. “There is no longer Jew or Greek,” there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” Paul asserts. Don’t allow yourselves to be imprisoned by the law. You are free in Christ.
Paul is talking about religious laws that were created to ensure that Jews faithful to the 10 Commandments given by God to Moses would not be broken. Humans created more than 600 laws around every aspect of human life so God’s Commandments would not be broken. Jesus, however, has a different take as he heals on the sabbath, breaks purity laws, allows a woman to touch his robe seeking healing, and spends time with people viewed as sinners. Paul is directing the Galatian churches to focus on their faith in Christ and the unity it brings.
Peace and Grace,