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From the Pastor’s Pen:
“To The Churches of Galatia:” (Galatians 1:2)

Zachery Byrd

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“To the churches of Galatia:”
(Galatians 1:2)

When we read Paul’s letters, a different shade of Paul arises. When we read Philippians, we read of an encouraging and joyful Pastor Paul. When we read Romans, we read Pastor Paul the logician, defining the gospel with utmost clarity. But when we read Galatians, we read of a fiery, fist-pounding Pastor Paul. He bypasses any word of thanksgiving and precedes to pronouncing anathemas upon the troublers of Galatia, going so far as to tell them to “emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12) And Paul has good reason for jumping ugly with the churches in Galatia. These troublers are corrupting the gospel, defaming the glory of God in Christ Jesus. These false teachers are cheapening the gospel, and that makes Paul angry (as it should us).

But notice something peculiar. Paul refers to them as “churches.” Marred, misfit, and mistaken on key issues, and yet Paul refuses to call them “synagogues of Satan” at this point (Rev. 2:9, 3:9). This forces us to ask two brief questions - what makes a church a “church,” and why should we bear patiently with her?

The marks of a true church are threefold: the pure preaching of the Gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and the exercise of church discipline for pursuing the purity of the church. Christ instituted these three tools in order to build us up in holiness. In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17) Therefore, we preach the Word, we see the Word, we eat the Word, we exercise the Word, we are corrected by the Word. The Word is central, for the Word sanctifies us. With the acceptance of false teachers, all three of these marks are destroyed. The false teachers are exalted above God’s Word, the sacraments lose their luster due to false doctrine, and the holy and righteous as persecuted - as we will see with Paul.

When these are in disarray, what should we do? Be patient. When we look at our own hearts, we find much impurity. If we had no impurity, we would have no need of the Word to sanctify us. If we are impure as individuals, do we think that a large congregation of us will suddenly be perfectly pure? As the Westminster Confession states: “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error (1 Cor. 13:12; Matt. 13:24-30, 47).” As Paul models for us, our task today is to point the body to Jesus Christ “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Let us find our purity as we are cleansed at the feet of Jesus Christ.

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