Galatians 1:6-7 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
The Apostle Paul, in the book of Galatians, partly writes to the churches in Galatia in order to challenge and to correct the false teachings of some of “those who would want to make a good showing in the flesh” by forcing the Greeks to circumcise. (Gal. 6:11-16) In Gal. 1:8-10 Paul exhorts the brethren to compare what is being taught in the area against what he formally taught them. Paul reinforces this point by reminding them that his message to them was not of his own (vs. 11-12), but rather came directly from Jesus Christ.
Many Jews at this time, along with many Greeks due to the pressure from the Jewish brethren, were having trouble letting go of the old law and moving forward with Christ. Whether the motivation was the desire for prestige and honor among men (Gal. 6:12b), or whether they were holding on to the glory of being directly connected to “God’s chosen people” (John 8:39), many desired to keep themselves enslaved to the old law.
Paul refutes this line of thinking throughout the book of Galatians, but there is no clearer language and instruction for those who were still grasping on to the old law than the beginning of chapter five. Gal. 5:1-6 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Paul reiterates this point again in the sixth chapter when he writes “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision , but a new creation.” Paul is re-preaching the gospel to the Galatians referencing the crucifixion of the old self and the raising up of a “new creation”. He is pointing them back to Christ. He is leading them away from slavery and towards the Promise Land!
Whoever penned the Hebrews letter (many believe it was the Apostle Paul, though no one can confirm) went on to contrast the old law vs. the new law in many instances. The first verses of the first chapter speak about how God had previously spoken to His people through the prophets, but now He speaks through His Son. In chapter eight the writer through the Holy Spirit states “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” And finally, in chapters nine and ten the writer compares the sacrifices offered in the old and new covenants. Hebrews 9:13-14 “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Hebrews 10:11-14 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
There are many applications one can draw from Paul’s letter to the Galatians and from the Hebrews letter, but I want to focus on the concept of individuals “holding on to the past” and the consequences that can and will arise from not taking up our crosses and following after Jesus day by day. There are various potential obstacles that can challenge our path to following Jesus; family members, jobs, worries, hobbies, and probably the most common one, sin. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians because that is what the people needed to hear. What do you and I need to hear? Are we willing to pick up God’s letter to us and read his will for us? Are we ready to put away or to keep out the old sin, habits, selfish thinking and to follow after Christ?
Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”