The Apostle Paul may have had a more difficult job preaching the gospel to the Gentiles than those who preached the gospel in Israel because of the pagan worship practices of the heathen. The Gentiles were used to offering human sacrifices to please their gods. In many ways, human sacrifice confused the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul’s first and probably his primary challenge in preaching the gospel was to establish the concept of grace as the basis for salvation. In order to do that, Paul focused on the belief that the Gentiles would be excluded from God’s kingdom. Paul stated in Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Paul wanted the Galatians to see themselves as children of God that were entitled to the same inheritance as the Jews. Because the Gentiles had been excluded from God’s blessing for thousands of years, it was probably difficult for them to believe God had included them in his plan of salvation.
Paul used the concept of adoption to explain how a person could become a child and receive the rights of inheritance through redemption. In essence, what Paul was doing was leveling the playing field and making it possible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven. Speaking of the Jews, Paul said, “Even so we when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:3-6).
When Paul first started preaching, he used his experience on the road to Damascus as a dramatic testimony of his conversion. Some of the Galatians may have been eye witnesses to his altered way of life, therefore, his preaching had a big impact on them. Over time, as the Gentiles became more integrated into the Christian community, Paul was concerned that the Galatians had forgotten they were equal with the Jews in their standing with God. Paul used the story of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, to illustrate the change in status of the Gentiles. Paul pointed out that the Israelites were in bondage to sin, just as much as the Gentiles were, before Jesus came and established a new covenant with them (Galatians 4:25). Then Paul stated, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). Paul’s reference to the Galatians as brethren was intended to clarify that all believers were not only members of God’s family, but descendants of Isaac by faith.
Paul wanted the Galatians to realize that their salvation was just as secure as the Jews’ was. On the day they put their faith in Jesus Christ, they became co-heirs of God’s kingdom. Paul concluded his argument with the admonition, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). The Greek term that is translated stand fast, steko (stay’-ko) means to be stationary or to hold your position (4739). Basically, what Paul was saying was the Galatians needed to persevere and not give up the victory over sin Jesus had won for them at Calvary.