A Passion for the Truth of the Gospel-Part 1 of 4


Text: "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:11, 17).

Thought: To say that the Apostle Paul is very concerned when writing the Galatian epistle is a gross understatement. You could say that he was grieved, bothered, distraught, angry, frustrated, and righteously "ticked." To allow such raw disgust to be expressed in Holy Writ certainly says something about the importance of the issues that Paul is addressing in the letter. To underline the seriousness of Paul's concerns, we need to note that Paul literally pronounces "anathema" on people as he starts the letter, expresses bewilderment and amazement along the way, and ends by telling the Galatians and everyone else not to cause him any more trouble (6:17). Paul was "hot" to say the least.

Just imagine giving birth to a bunch of children, and teaching them about life and how to live. And someone comes along behind you, when you are absent, and teaches these same children something that absolutely contradicts and renders null and void what you taught and what you stand for. Paul calls these Galatian believers "my little children" (Gal. 4:19). He was deeply concerned for his spiritual children and for their spiritual lives due to the teaching they had received that was not in keeping with the "truth of the Gospel." And he was angry about it!

This "righteous heat" continues right to the end of the letter. As Paul transitions into the close of the letter, he begins by drawing attention to the LARGE LETTERS he has written with his own hand as he closes the letter (6:11). Various ideas have been put forth for this statement on Paul's part, and the simplest and the most attractive to me is that Paul is stressing again ("boldfacing" so to speak) how important this letter really is. But regardless of the specific reason for the statement, verse 11 indicates that Paul is about to wrap-up his letter. And he does so purposefully and personally. He does not give various greetings or ask for greetings to be passed on. He doesn't end with a lengthy word of encouragement. Paul seems to bring the whole letter to a close by stating the bottom-line truths that he does not want the Galatians to forget, and then he tells them not to cause him any more trouble, because he has the scars of persecution for Jesus' sake on his very body!

To purposefully play on words, the crux of the matter for Paul was the cross of Christ, and therefore he needed to respond to those who would rob the cross of its meaning and significance. When we speak of those who would avoid or not boast in the cross, we are speaking of those who present a "different gospel," and specifically in Galatia those calling for submission to the practice of circumcision (and therefore submission to the Old Testament Law) as the means of salvation and sanctification.

There is no question that as Paul wrote the Galatian Epistle, he believed that the truth of the Gospel was at stake. And as he concludes this "letter of liberty," he really summarized the truth that he has sought to explain and defend in this powerful apostolic communication. And we will consider Paul's closing remarks in the coming months.

Thrust: How passionate are we about the truth of the Gospel? Do we sense or see how destructive false teaching can be, especially if it robs people of the fundamental truths concerning "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2)? Paul could demonstrate his commitment to Christ by pointing to physical evidence. To what evidence can we point to confirm our commitment to Christ and the truth of the Gospel?

David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

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