With today’s passage we begin to read Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, a region in what is now Turkey. He wrote this between about 50 to 55 A.D. It is a great letter, worthy of much study. With emphases on the sufficiency of Jesus to save us from sin, the resulting freedom we experience, and the exercise of that freedom in loving others, this letter has profoundly shaped the hearts and minds of countless Christians.
Why did Paul write this letter? Certain Jewish Christians were roiling the Galatian churches. In contrast to the gospel Paul had received from Jesus, they insisted that Gentile (i.e., non-Jewish) Christians must observe Jewish ceremonial law and ritual (e.g., regulations about meals, observance of holy times, and circumcision). That is, they taught that Gentile Christians, in addition to accepting Jesus, had to follow Jewish requirements to experience salvation.
Paul denounced that perspective. He excoriated those who taught and those who accepted such skewing of the gospel, of the good news of Jesus. In fact Paul rejected it as gospel at all. There is no good news in it. The message of the true gospel, Paul insisted, is good news for at least two key reasons.
One, it comes from God, not from human invention. It is God’s best, incomparably better than our worst, and even our best! The good news of Jesus banks on God’s perfect character and action, not human speculation and imperfection.
Two, it stems from the full sufficiency of Jesus’ death and resurrection to take away our sin and free us for new life. Nothing needs to be added, nor can be added, to what Jesus has accomplished in obeying God and loving us, or to the “requirements” of our response to Jesus. All we need to do and can do is to accept God’s good news in Jesus through trusting love and belief, which is faith.
God perfectly knows and answers our need. In great love and mercy, he sent Jesus to remove our sin and free us for true life. We need no other. Nothing else will do. We just say “Yes!” to Jesus in the core of our being, and he begins to re-create us for transformed and transforming life. This message, and this alone, is good news!