Facts About Joy

Galatians 5.22

Joy given by the Spirit is to be maintained. Here are biblical facts about its character and achievements, and how it may be lost. Here also are the rich sources from which Christian joy is drawn.

Galatians is a very remarkable letter – written, so it’s thought, around about AD 50 possibly from Corinth at the very beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. If this is the case, which seems highly likely from the information within the letter, it is the earliest of Paul’s epistles. It was written to a group of churches in the Roman province of Galatia. Note that they are called churches in the plural. It isn’t ‘the Church of Galatia’. Every individual church has its autonomy before God.

Galatians is chiefly concerned with people who we call Judaisers. In the evangelism in Jerusalem, at the beginning of the church, there seemed to have been a number of people impressed by the message of Christ. They may have seemed to have become Christian, but they weren’t.  They were a minority of the church at Jerusalem in those early days.

But these people, who we call Judaisers, they had not been truly converted.  And they soon came to hold a kind of hybrid position. And their position was this: ‘we are Jews, we believe in Christ, we believe he died on the cross and rose from the dead. But we believe that we must remain as Jews and that it is essential that we earn the favour of God by going through the Jewish ceremonial and ritual And our male children must be circumcised, and we must conform to the ancient law of Moses. And without that, we cannot be saved.’

Somehow, they mixed both messages. When they heard of the Apostle Paul, and the conversion of Gentiles in region after region, they were so inflamed to hear that Paul was not insisting that these converts from paganism were circumcised and observing the Jewish feasts and ceremonies that they sponsored and financed messengers to go out after Paul and his fellow preachers. When the missionaries had moved on and the church was established, they would say most emphatically: ‘without circumcision you cannot be saved; without conformity to the ceremonial law your souls are lost.’ And they caused no end of trouble, particularly in the region of Galatia.

So Galatians was written, by Paul’s own hand, for the defence of the faith. It’s, along with the letter to the Romans, the key statement of justification by faith alone.

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