What would we be missing if our Bibles lacked the book of Galatians?

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We would miss Christianity 101: what is the gospel? It is justification by faith alone in Christ alone, the formal principle of the Reformation. We would miss out on Martin Luther and Augustine.

Galatians was Paul’s first letter. He was a young man, and you can sense that as you read it. Paul is fiery in Galatians. He is hot in a way that he isn’t in 2 Timothy, where he is a wise, older man giving advice and a lot calmer. In Galatians, Paul comes out like John Wayne with all guns blazing.

Galatians is about the gospel. I was recording something for Ligonier’s ministry partners, and I chose Galatians 2 as my text: the clash of the titans in Antioch, Peter versus Paul. Peter had been sitting and eating lunch with the Gentiles. However, he withdrew from them when the men of James, the heavyweights from Jerusalem, came to examine what was going on in the Antioch church. And Paul blew a gasket. Why? I mean, is it about bacon or shrimp or crab? Is the menu the issue? Maybe that was part of it, but the gospel was the issue. In effect, Peter was saying you need to be saved and believe in Jesus, but you also need something extra. You need to obey the ceremonial law, the food laws. You need to obey the Sabbath laws: the “church calendar” of the Old Testament (the Sabbath versus the Lord’s Day), and you need to obey circumcision. I do not think these issues had been decided yet in terms of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. I think Galatians comes before Acts 15, or at least, the narrative in Antioch that Paul is alluding to comes before it. This chronology actually resolves some of those issues.

If you are not in Galatians, you’re missing one of the high-water marks of the gospel. You are missing what is at the heart of the gospel: justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from the works of the law. We have an instinctive tendency to bring in the damnable “plus” so that it becomes the gospel plus something else. That can send you to hell.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Derek Thomas and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.