The Gospel in Galatians

Galatians may in many ways be said to chiefly concerned with the battle for the true gospel.  Paul’s apostleship is only debated as it relates to his legitimacy as a messenger of the true gospel.

The life of law and life of the Spirit passages found in Galatians 5-6 have to do with the difficult issue (so difficult and controversial in fact that we are still talking about it in the so-called New Perspective on Paul) of what does the gospel life look like.

Having said that my question becomes how does Paul define the gospel in Galatians:

It is tempting to say as Luther said it so brilliantly:


By Grace Alone

Through Faith Alone

In Christ Alone.

I will resist using this to sum up the gospel message for two reasons:

1. I want to try to actually capture the words/concepts that Galatians itself uses.  Not that Paul would not agree with Luther’s summary of the gospel.

2. Whilst a brilliant summary of the gospel in many ways what it lacks is any mention of the life of faith (as I understand it this is the starting point of the New Perspective critique of NT Wright among others).

Whilst it captures the heart of the message in many ways it fails to describe the goal and effect of that message.  As James 1:14 reminds us faith without deeds is hopeless.

A disclaimer I am not saying that we are saved by our works or that they play any part in our justification past or future.  But as Newbigin (?) said we not only have the message of the good news we are the good news.  The gospel must change and mould our lives.

Our lives are a foretaste, sign and a firstfruits (that is definitely Newbigin) of the hope contained within the gospel message of restoration and reconciliation.  If the message does not change our lives then it cannot be anything beyond mere words.

So how would I try to define the gospel in Galatians:

We are not saved (justified) by what we do (the law)

But by what Jesus has already done…

That is all we need.

We are made alive by faith and we live by the  Spirit at work in us.

What do you think of this attempt?

PS. If you want to read more on the New Perspective on Paul try this excellent article by Tim Chester

Or read this interesting interview with NT Wright by Trevin Wax

~ by John on January 16, 2009.

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