Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Galatians 1

Galatians 1
1Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers with me,

To the churches in Galatia:
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6I 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— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
18Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24And they praised God because of me.


Galatians is one of my favorite books. It is often referred to as the “Little Romans” as it is a precise and condensed version of Romans. Yet, within this epistle, there are many insights given that Romans alludes to, but does not fully expound upon. It is also known as the “Grace Epistle” the topic is of the Church of Galatians falling away from the Grace based Gospel that Paul had originally explained to them.

Paul is clear that he was not sent by men. He will often refer to the fact that unlike others, he received his knowledge from Jesus himself. Paul had a dramatic conversion. He was well known as an enemy of the “Christian” cult. Yet, to be far, Paul was truly a believer in Christ before his conversion. Paul, like most of the Jews of his day, believed in Messiah. The issue though was that Paul did not understand until Jesus gave the revelation of what the mission of Messiah, the Christ… or the coming King would be. He states in Acts 22 that he was taught under Gamaliel, a teacher of the law. N. T. Wright, in his book contends though that though he was taught under Gamaliel, he was most likely also taught or greatly influenced by Hillel who was a more political sect who believed that the Coming King would overthrow the Romans. Gamaliel was more passive in the sense that he taught that one could be a Jew and live at peace under Roman rule. Hillel saw that this could not be. His thoughts were that the Jew must be free from Roman rule. I believe both these influences, moved in and through Paul even after his conversion. I see that he moves between “be a good citizen” in Romans 12 to the subversive idea that Caesar is not the true God and King, and that Jesus truly rules all.

Paul gives a greeting that in itself deserves much more comment. The reference, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” is very significant that it must not be overlooked. For it was by the will of the Father Jesus came to save us. It was as John states, the “for God so loved the world He gave His One and only Son” of Galatians. It also can take us back to the idea in Ephesians 1 where Paul talks of being “predestined” in Christ Jesus “according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

From here, we move to chastisement! Paul jumps straight to what is on his heart. This is that the Galatians have begun to forsake the gospel they were originally called to. It seems there were some that had visited and preached a much different gospel than Paul. I will not go into this now, as Paul will elaborate more in the coming chapters. Yet, this other gospel had caused great confusion amongst the church in Galatia. Paul is so forceful in this initial rebuke that he states that even if an Angel appeared and taught them otherwise that this angel should be condemned! It is evident that Paul’s heart is breaking. I see that this opening shows the love he had for the church of Galatia. Paul even states that the people who taught them this other gospel should also be eternally condemned.

Paul is not concerned at this point about their feelings. He is stressing the point that he, unlike the men that came in “so-called” authority, did not receive his gospel from other men, but from Jesus Himself. This was to show that since there was perceived authority from the men who had caused this confusion, Paul had much more as his Gospel was from the authority of Jesus and not other men. Paul did not need men’s approval; he already had God’s.

From here, Paul retells a bit of his conversion story to show the power of the gospel. It is the power to change a man from a persecutor of the people of God to the one who cares most for them. This is the true power of the gospel, the power to change a man from the inside out. It is the power to give a man a new heart… to make a new man out of the old.

He then states that after his conversion and the revelation, he went and met with Peter and then James. From there he went to Syria and Cilicia where they had not known of him, yet had heard the story of him as one who once persecuted the church and was now changed. In this, they praised God over the change of Paul and the Power of our Great God who can change a man from a murderer, to a man who will be one of the greatest influences of the history of the Church.


J. R. Miller said...

Hi, I came to your site because of our shared interest in being a Friend of Missional. I am glad to make your acquaintance and visit your blog. God bless!

dlyn said...

Good teaching - Galatians is a favorite book of mine as well.