Courtney Jacob

Galatians: Understanding Salvation and What it Means for How We Live Today

At a young age, we learn that we can often do something to achieve a desired outcome. Want dessert? Finish your dinner. Wish you had spending money? Do your chores. It’s quite common to believe that if there’s something you want, you need to earn it.  

It’s easy to make that mistake when we think about our salvation. We’re so accustomed to needing to earn things that we want or need that it’s difficult to believe that God wouldn’t require something from us. But the apostle Paul is clear that is not the case. In his letter to the Gentile Christians in Galatia, Paul emphatically and clearly lays out the truth of salvation: we receive it by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. Join Groundwork for our series, “Galatians: Understanding Salvation and What it Means for How We Live,” to glean wisdom from Paul’s letter to these early believers. His message helps them – and us – discern the truths of salvation and God’s law and what they mean for how we live our lives today. 

The Church in Galatia

Galatia was a region in Asia Minor, an area the apostle Paul visited three times on his missionary journeys. Acts chapters 13-14 detail Paul’s efforts to share the gospel of Jesus in the cities there. During his travels, many people in those cities believed his message and gathered to start churches. He wrote the letter we now know as the Book of Galatians to these young churches after one of his journeys. Scholars generally date Paul’s writing of this letter between 49-55 A.D. 

As the gospel began to spread around the world early Christians were challenged to discern between truth, half-truths, and blatant fallacies surrounding the gospel message of salvation and how they should live as a result. Paul taught the new Gentile Christians that through faith in Jesus Christ, they could receive salvation—it was a free gift of grace. That is the good news of the gospel! But after Paul left, Jewish teachers came after him (whom he refers to as Judiazers) and convinced the people that there was more to it and that Paul hadn’t given them the whole message. When Paul heard, he was mad and wrote to them to correct their understanding of salvation. 

The Tricky Relationship Between Grace and Works

It turns out that the Galatians had let themselves be deceived by “the Judiazers.” They accepted a teaching that required them to participate in Jewish customs, like circumcision and kosher eating, in order to be part of God’s family. From Paul’s perspective, this belief altered the gospel and completely contradicted what he had taught them. 

We can have much empathy for the Galatians. Many of us today—new and old Christians alike— still get confused about the relationship between God’s grace and our works. Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to do good works, to love each other, and to serve each other. Paul himself even encourages it! Consequently, it’s an easy place for Satan to confuse us and suggest alternate ideas that lead us down the wrong path. Thankfully, we have the benefit of Paul’s clear teaching on this matter in his letter to the Galatians. When we have questions, we can return to his emphatic teaching that our works do not earn our salvation, but rather are the result of it! Our salvation transforms us and we behave and act differently because of it. 

Live in Christ

Studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians clarifies for us the freedom we have in salvation through Jesus Christ, it celebrates the expansion of God’s family, and it explains how the limits of God’s law lead to our flourishing, not our salvation. I invite you to deepen the roots of your faith through our Groundwork series, “Galatians: Understanding Salvation and What it Means for How We Live:”

...and together we’ll gain insight from Paul’s teaching to better understand what these truths mean for how we behave and act in our daily lives today and how following the guidance of the Holy Spirit out of gratitude for our salvation leads to Fruits of the Spirit and the transformation of our lives. 

Share this Post 

Never miss an episode! Subscribe today and we'll deliver Groundwork directly to your inbox each week.