Galatians 1:1-2 – Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia…
Most of the time, when we are communicating with someone, we treat the conversation like an old car – we start slowly and let it get warmed up. In times of crisis, however, we skip the chit-chat and rush right to the point because things are urgent. This is precisely how Paul starts his letter to the Galatians. Unlike his other writings, there is no extended introduction, prayer, and mention of things he appreciates about the church. Instead, like a jet taking off a runway, he throws us back in our seats and takes off forcefully.
The church that was planted under Paul’s preaching in Galatia was founded upon the grace of God given through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners. But, shortly after he left, false teachers came in and began demanding that the Gentile Christians also adopt additional religious and cultural demands. Paul was religious, then saved by the grace of God. His hearers were saved by the grace of God and now going back to the same kind of man-made religiosity that he was saved from!
Here is how Paul explains his testimony in Philippians 3:4-9:
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
That word “rubbish” is a strong one. If you’ve ever flushed a toilet or taken out the trash you can understand what he’s talking about. No matter how serious we take our man-made religions and religious traditions, it’s all foolishness and offensiveness to the God of the Bible.
Is there any legalism, tradition, or self-righteousness that causes you to let man-made religion creep into your relationship with God?