by Rev. Jesse Burns
Martin Luther once said: “The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle, to which I have wedded myself. It is my Catherine Von Bora.” There is excellent reason why Luther would make such a statement! This epistle so clearly proclaims the Gospel message that sinners are saved, not by works of the law, but by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.
Jesus Christ and His work on behalf of sinners is the very heart and center of St. Paul’s letter to the Churches of Galatia. Likewise, this was the very heart of the Lutheran Reformation, and it remains the very heart of what it means to be a Christian today, for this message never changes. “It’s Still All about Jesus!”
Even Paul’s words of greeting to the Galatians herald, loud and clear, that “it’s all about Jesus!”
Take a moment and read Galatians 1:1-5.
- In verse 1, Paul introduces his letter by stating his name and office, as he often does in his other writings (Ro. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1). The title “apostle” means “one who is sent,” and here it refers to his specific office as one sent “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” Whose word is Paul recording? How might this have instructed the Galatians in how they were to receive Paul’s letter?
- Luther wrote about this verse, “For they are not listening to Paul; but in Paul they are listening to Christ Himself and to God the Father, who sends him forth.” What does this teach us about listening to Holy Scripture?
- Why might Paul add to his greeting in verse 2, “and all the brothers who are with me”? Is the doctrine Paul is teaching the Galatians his own, or is it the confession of the whole Church? Why is that important?
- Paul extends a blessing to the Galatians when he writes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words are often spoken by the pastor when he begins the sermon. Luther wrote of this greeting: “Grace and peace – these two words embrace the whole of Christianity. Grace forgives sin, and peace stills the conscience.” How do these words prepare you to hear the preaching of the Law and Gospel from your pastor?
- Paul adds in verse 4, regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, that He “gave himself for our sins…” How do these words reveal the magnitude of sin’s power over man?
- Verse 4 does not simply say that Jesus “gave himself” for sin but “for our sin.” Why is the use of this pronoun significant for you, both in terms of the Law and in terms of the Gospel?
- Luther wrote about this pronoun: “[D]o not permit your sins to be merely sins; let them be your very own sins. That is, believe that Christ was given not only for the sins of others but also for yours.” Why does this pronoun give you comfort, especially in those times when you are haunted by the remembrance of your sin?
Every word of Scripture is dripping with the blood of Jesus, shed on behalf of sinners like you and me, and Paul’s greeting in the epistle to the Galatians is no exception. Each word in this short passage directs you to Jesus, who has given himself for you. This was the heart of the Reformation message, and it remains the very heart of the Christian faith today. Let us ever hold fast to this message!
The Rev. Jesse A. Burns is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Ventura, Iowa.
 Luther, Martin. What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian. (Edwald M. Plass, Ed.). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House,1959., page 989
 Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963., page 16
 ibid., page 26
 ibid., page 38