Martin Luther wrote these words about the doctrine of justification by faith: “If faith yields on this point, the death of the Son of God will be in vain. Then it is only a fable that Christ is the Savior of the world. Then God is a liar, for he has not lived up to his promises. Therefore our stubbornness on this issue is pious and holy; for by it we are striving to preserve the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to keep the truth of the gospel.”
As we close our month’s study of Galatians, Paul emphasizes once again that Christ and His work are at the center of the gospel. Any other teaching is a corrupt message and heresy.
That’s why verse 17 is a strong warning to the Judaizers: No more troublemaking! When Paul said, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus,” he might have been referring to the sufferings he had endured for Christ’s sake. His body literally bore scars earned in the cause of the gospel. He might also have been referring to his complete allegiance to Christ; figuratively speaking, he bore on his body a slave’s mark or brand indicating he belonged to Jesus. To make trouble for Paul was therefore to invite the righteous anger of his master, Christ Himself. The legalist claimed the mark of circumcision, but that was trumped by the mark of Jesus.
As is common in Paul’s epistles, the closing verse is a benediction (v. 18). “Grace” is particularly appropriate in this letter, given its emphasis on salvation by grace not works. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone, so that we can walk in the Spirit and express our faith through love. In the gospel of Jesus we find faith, freedom, and fruit!
Apply the Word
D. L. Moody once said, “The Bible is not given to increase our knowledge. The Bible is given to change our lives.” That’s the purpose behind Today in the Word as well! How has studying Galatians this month changed your life? What has God done—and what is He still doing—in your life through His Word as a result of this study?