Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
Galatians 1.6-9 is the key passage of the book. God chose them through grace, but they were abandoning grace for Jewish customs. Paul wrote one of the strongest warnings in all of scripture here — “anyone who modifies Jesus’s teaching will be cursed.” It’s hard for us to let our own baggage go (our worldviews, preferences, past beliefs, or traditions), but God’s feelings about adding to or taking away from his requirements are crystal clear.
This isn’t the only letter where Paul warns about putting too much stock in traditions. Colossians also addresses this issue pretty clearly, as do sections in I Corinthians and Romans. And it doesn’t matter who’s doing the teaching — even if an angel tries to teach something that modifies God’s plan, they will be cursed. If we view this section rationally, it makes perfect sense. The one who created this plan is the same one who has unlimited power, ability, and intelligence, and who created our planet in a vast universe. Who are we to take issue with anything in God’s word?
Interestingly, Paul also addressed an issue that has existed since the church was established: Christians comparing themselves to others, or judging another’s level of spirituality. A more spiritual Christian would also observe traditions. The specific application throughout the book (2.3-5, 11-17; 3.11-13; 5.1-6) is that adopting Jewish traditions is required to be right with God. A more modern understanding is that we shouldn’t look down on Christians who don’t follow all of the customs we’ve observed for the last couple of centuries. We must be very careful about making judgments of other Christians based on whether or not they observe our traditions in addition to God’s. Galatians refutes the idea that someone who observes more than what God requires is intrinsically more spiritual.
“Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work and see if you’ve done anything to be proud of” (6.4).
“It doesn’t matter if anyone is circumcised or not. The only thing that matters is this new life we have from God” (6.15).