We tend to believe that we live in the most modern age in the most advanced country with the most powerful military and currency on earth, equipped with the latest technology. You will be amazed at the parallels we have with the Roman civilization about 2000 years ago.
Let us have a bird's eye view at the Epistle of Galatians.
Brief background on Galacia:
Galacia was under the Roman empire and many believe it is where the French came from. Galacia was a prosperous country economically as a result of garment export and many traders used to conduct. Due to economic prosperity, and the influence of Greek culture, people used to lead a lavish and carefree lifestyle.
About St. Paul:
St. Paul is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds who ever lived and the chief architect of Christian church. As with any author, we get to take a peek into the author's mind by reading his/her works. In this case, by reading his epistles, we get to glance into his heart and can even learn the secrets of his power. In him, we can find a man of highest intellectual and spiritual powers, equally great in passion and action. Further, he repeats, "It's not I; It's the Christ that lives in me", thus expressing the zeal towards Jesus.
Trips to Galacia:
St. Paul visited Galacia three times between AD 51 and 54. The first trip was in AD 51, and he was not feeling quite well at that time. During these trips, he founded few churches spreading the word of Jesus Christ, converting numerous people (towards Christianity). He continued his travels to other places such as Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc., leaving preaching and church administration to others. During the absence of Paul, these preachers conveniently succeeded in troubling and perplexing the faithful - the formula they used to mesmerize the crowd was that of half-truth - i.e., revealing only parts of the scripture thus bending the truth in their favor. Ultimately, these preachers were preaching a whole new 'gospel' and sure enough, it was favored by many.
Word reached Paul about those happenings at Galaaice, and during his later visits (to Galacia), he found such uneasiness in the way people were leading their 'Christian life'. The plain speaking apostle considered issuing them a warning in the form of a handwritten letter - which is known to us as the Epistle to Galatians.
In Galatians 1:8-9, it says, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!"
This is precisely the song we sing at church, "Paul the Lord's Apostle said... " or Paulosu slee-haa, dha-nnya-nn choll-kka-ttaee.... " It is referring to those priests in Galacia who were teaching the 'other gospel.'
Theme of the letter:
The overall language of Paul to Galatians is quite harsh. We find some of the toughest language here such as in chapter 3:
1 "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
4 Have you experienced so much in vain - if it really was in vain?
5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”.
One of the biggest topic being debated in Galacia (during the absence of Paul) was about circumcision - which stemmed from the doubt whether Christians should follow the law of Moses or not. Christianity was viewed pretty close to Judaism at that time. Next, Paul talks about righteousness and the importance of faith. He concludes that circumcision is not really necessary for those gentiles being converted into Christianity, and faith brings righteousness.
He then encourages Galatians to walk by the Holy Spirit, and warns not to walk in the desires of the flesh. Flesh is what is possessed by a human body and what we own in our own power. Walking in the power of flesh, it is even possible to carry out religious activities - to go to church, preach a sermon, etc.. The deeds of the flesh are evident and certainly visible when the flesh is not led by the Spirit. Just like today, every activity of the flesh we can think of, was being practiced by the Galatians in a much louder sense.
In the letter to Galatians, Paul says, "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." - 5:17.
Next, Paul goes on to explain the deeds of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. Those deeds of flesh really does not require much explanation, being so common around us. The fruits of the Spirit - well, deep inside we know they are noble traits which every human being appreciates. It is an irony that men journey in the ways of flesh, searching and desiring those fruits of the Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace, Forbearance, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.
If we plant a mango seed, we can expect to grow a mango tree with mangoes - not a coconut tree. This is what Paul writes in Galatians 6:7-10.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
My dear readers, ignorance of the Holy Scripture lies at the foundation of our religion and how unfortunate that we are ignorant about our own ignorance. Our church teachers tend to shy away from discussing about the general outline of this epistle and the intricate details, because it's quite embarrassing to explain this particular letter. To me, it is analogous to picking up a mirror, looking at my face and seeing my own ugly reflection in it. For those who are thirsty, the scripture it out there to be picked up and read.
Wisdom and truth are out there in plain sight so much to the extend that we utterly fail to see it; some pretend they did not see it. Amid the clash of contending opinions, there is one infallible source of truth - The Holy Bible. In the midst of numerous teachers, there is one infallible guide - The Holy Spirit. Both Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit are guaranteed to guide us in the right direction - always! The real question is, "Do we want to be heading in the right direction?" The idea of heading in that right direction sounds good to our ears, however, "Thank you - maybe later" is what mostly many of us may think - plus, "The Bible and the Holy Spirit can always wait - right now, let me enjoy a bit more."
Know that Paul wrote some parts of the epistle in uppercase and even in large letters - just how we emphasis importance using large fonts and uppercase while yelling at someone. Even that is documented by Paul in his letter.
See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! - Galatians 6:11.
I encourage you to read this epistle when you get a chance - it contains just 6 chapters. Being a slow reader, I completed all 6 chapters in 15 minutes.
Of all the books we read and study during our lifetime, the one we tend to ignore the most - the Holy Bible is crucial for an individual. It contains all the wisdom required to lead a wonderful life in the eyes of God. For an occasional reader, it may be hard to understand what's written in it; but believe me - if anyone looks for it as for silver and searches for it as for hidden treasure, the Holy Spirit will guide us in mysterious ways. All I can tell you is that, my friends, God is still in the business of working miracles around us. As a priority, our allegiance should always be to the one God who created us, who gave us a chance to live our life, and He who takes care of our entire needs - and not toward any human beings.
Finally, of all the books we read, every one of it becomes old fashioned during the course of time. The only one that withstands the test of time and lives forever, is the Bible - wonder why?