Friday, July 20, 2012

Thoughts on Galatians 1

Galatians is not one of the more accessible books.  It has a lot of verses that are taken out of context because they sound good and promising, and they are, but being out of context hurts our understanding of the fullness of their meaning.  I am reading it now, after having taken a long hiatus in devotional literature and deciding its time to get back into the actual scriptures.

In Galatians 1, I would say the core truth is that we can choose to please God or men. 

Paul has to defend his apostolic authority in this book, as in others.  Here his defense is

1.       The significant, radical turnaround in his life, to which everyone is a witness;

2.      The seclusion of three years in Arabia before he tried to contact the apostles in Jerusalem; in other words, he spent that time learning and studying and didn’t try to pass himself off as something before the time;

3.      His own record of rejection and persecution, not elaborated on her but alluded to;

4.      His deferral to Peter and James early on;

5.      His statement, “If I change from what I preached before—a gospel of total grace—I should be accursed.”  False teachers say, “I am evolving. . . . so what I believed before is no longer valid . . . “  When speaking as an apostle, you don’t get that privilege.

6.      That he did not look for a position of prominence in the “megachurch center” at Jerusalem, but went into the hinterlands, to the Gentiles, and let his critics be his critics. 

7.      At the same time, when it came to a confrontation, he did not back down for the the gospel of total grace. 

Paul also starts, and stays, theological and Christological.  He is not so much angry as aggrieved by the Galatians defection to Judaistic practices; it is understandable in a way that, even as Gentiles, or especially as Gentiles, they would be taken in by ceremonialism and ritual. This is a continual fight.  We humans love ritual, as long as it doesn’t extract anything from our self-will, from our love of money, sex, self, and power.

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