What is the gospel?
That is the question that lies at the heart of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Of course, one could argue that this is always the question when interpreting scripture. However, it especially the case with Galatians. Paul had preached to Gentiles that they could be followers of Jesus and therefore a part of the true Israel without being circumcised and without maintaining Jewish food laws. It seems that some other preachers came to Paul's churches in the province of Galatia after he had left and said that he didn't quite have it right, that Paul was misrepresenting the gospel, leaving it incomplete. These preachers said that these gentiles did indeed have to be circumcised and follow the whole Jewish law if they were to be a part of the people of God.
To this Paul says "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all." Paul will go on to argue in the letter that for these gentiles to be circumcised is nothing short of forsaking the gospel which they recieved by grace. If these gentiles must follow the Jewish law then there is really no good news in the gospel because it means things have not changed, a new era has not begun in Jesus Christ. For these gentiles to follow the rules of old era is to deny the victory that Christ accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection.
While circumcision and food laws may not be the most pressing issues facing Christians today, the question remains; what is the gospel? And what does it mean for the way we live life? Like Paul, we must begin with the world changing event of the cross and work everything else out from there. The Christian life is not so much about a spiritual checklist of rules and disciplines. It is about evaluating every aspect of life in the shadow of Jesus' cross and the light of his resurrection.