The Great Emancipation -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 09:2 (Winter 2000)
Article: The Great Emancipation
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

The Great Emancipation1

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.2


Galatians is Paul’s most explosive letter. It is the letter in which the apostle, so disturbed by the defection of the Galatians from the doctrine of grace, abandoned his usual custom of writing by means of an amanuensis and penned the epistle in his own labored, scrawling, sprawling hand. “Look at these huge letters I am making in writing these words to you with my own hand,” he said (cf. 6:11, Phillips). It is plain that the apostle was deeply caught up by his emotions as he sought to rebuke his “foolish Galatians” (3:1) for their desertion from the purity of the gospel.

It is not surprising, then, that Martin Luther, deeply involved also in the Reformation struggle over the grace of God, should find this letter so suited to his spirit. Alluding to his wife, he wrote of this favorite of his, that it was “my own Epistle, to which I have plighted my troth. It is my Katie von Bora.”3

This “Magna Carta of Spiritual Liberty,” as it has been called, has had great practical effect on how we live in the western world. It is the contention of some

that it has had a greater practical effect on our lives in the United States than the Declaration of Independence, or the constitution of our republic. If ham or bacon is eaten today, it is because of truths found in the Epistle to the Galatians. Before the time of our Lord’s crucifixion, the people of God were not able to eat pork. If garments of mixed materials are being worn, it is because of Galatians, for in the Old Testament period a person could not wear any garment of diverse materials. All clothing had to be of one material, wool or linen, for example, but not wool and linen. In the kitchen any pot or pan may be used for cooking, but our Jewish neighbors, if they keep the Law of Moses, have one set of pans for meat and another for anything cooked in milk. All of this stems from Exodus 23:19, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” What freed the world from the bondage of kosher cooking? It was the truths that are set forth in Galatians.

Galatians is a kind of rough draft of the Letter to the Romans. Like Romans, it deals with the Pauline gospel, although not nearly so extensively. It concentrates on the doctrine of justification by grace. Its emphasis, vio1ating all contemporary counsel, is upon ...

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