Galatians: The Ministry and the Minister

The Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians to reinforce the fact that salvation cannot be obtained through one's work or merit, but only through faith in Jesus Christ (2:16). It was directed to the Gentile Christians of Galatia who were influenced by the false teachings of the Judaizers (Jewish Christians who advocated the observance of the Law and Jewish customs as a means of salvation).

The Book of Galatians refutes the fallacy that Judaism is a prerequisite of Christianity and shows the futility of law-keeping as both a means of, and in addition to, one's salvation. In defense of his apostolic right and authority, which had been challenged by the Judaizers, the Apostle Paul points out the divine origin and nature of the ministry to which he had been called, as well as the responsibilities of the minister in carrying out God's will for his life.

Paul emphasizes that the ministry to which he had been called was the result of divine grace (1:1).

In addition, the gospel message that he had been called to preach was not a product of human sources (1:11-17), the Judean churches (1:18-24) or the Judaizing apostles from Jerusalem (2:1-10). Rather, it was of divine origin and, as such, its contents were too vital to be altered by human pressure groups (2:11-21). Furthermore, for the ministry to be really effective it must have the recognition and support of the Church and its leadership (1:23-24; 2:7-9; 6:6).

Another aspect of Paul's ministry to the Galatians was his desire for the establishment of church unity.

Existing dissension would be eliminated and church unity established by living one's life through the power of the Holy Spirit (5:16-18, 22-23), by bearing one another's burdens (6:2), and by manifesting love and goodwill toward all people, especially toward fellow Christians (5:13-14; 6:1-10). The divine grace that characterized Paul's call to the ministry, the nature and results of his preaching, and the recognition and support that he had received from the Church and its leadership enabled Paul to successfully refute the false teachers of Galatia, as well as continue in his God-given ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul's epistle to the Galatians also discusses the responsibilities of the minister in carrying out God's purpose in his life. First and foremost, the minister must never add to or subtract from the gospel message in his preaching (1:9). The minister's goal should be to please God at all times (1:10), for his call to the ministry originated with God (1:15,16). Second, for the minister to have an effective ministry his call must be recognized and supported by the Church (2:7-9, 11-21; 6:6). Third, when counseling a backslidden brother the minister should manifest a spirit of meekness, for the minister too is a human being and is also subject to temptation (6:1).

The minister should remember that his call to the ministry is a God-ordained call.

He should never take any personal glory for it, but rather glory in doing the will of God (4:12-20; 6:11-16). He should also be willing to suffer hardships when God's will calls for him to do so (6:17).

Although the Book of Galatians was written to a group of first-century believers, its context and teachings can certainly be applied to contemporary Christianity and especially to the Christian ministry and minister. Christians today, like their Galatian counterparts, are confronted with false teachers and doctrines, many of which are camouflaged under the guise of "Christian legitimacy." This pseudo-Christian movement has become a cancerous growth threatening to expand within the Church. To successfully combat and defeat this satanic threat, the Church must spiritually and physically close ranks and unite.

The message of Christianity must remain scripturally sound.

Her leaders must remain spiritually, emotionally, and physically strong. The ministry of the Church must consist of individuals who possess a genuine divine call and direction, as well as adequate preparation, and they must have the undivided support of their congregations and church leadership. The gospel message must never be compromised, and each minister must honestly and actively seek to carry out God's will in his life.

Jesus Christ referred to His church as the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (Matt. 5:13-14). Let us all pray that our salt never loses its saltiness and that our light never dims.

© 2013 Howard W. Stevens