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Sunday, June 5, 2005 - Galatians 1:1-10

Occasion of the letter

1:1 From Paul, an apostle (not from men, nor by human agency, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead) 1:2 and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 1:5 to whom be glory forever and ever! Amen.

Occasion of the Letter

1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and following a different gospel-- 1:7 not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. 1:8 But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! 1:9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! 1:10 Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!

After the standard salutation, in which Paul claims his apostleship, wishes grace and peace for his readers, and offers praise to God, he quickly cuts to the chase. The Galatian congregation is being swayed by false teachers preaching a "different" gospel from what Paul had taught them. Paul says to hell with these teachers, even if they happened to be angels. He strongly contends for the truth, caring not whether his readers are pleased with what he is saying or not.

It sounds like the false teachers were also raising doubts about the authenticity of Paul's apostleship, so once again he has to stop and defend his credentials. It seems that nothing comes easy for Paul, perhaps not too surprising considering his calling of turning pagans and Jews into Christians strong enough to stay firm in the faith, a tough assignment indeed. -sdg-

Saturday, June 25, 2005 - Galatians 1:11-24

In case you don't know who I am...

1:11 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 1:12 For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

1:13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. 1:14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 1:15 But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased 1:16 to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being, 1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.

1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. 1:19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 1:20 I assure you that, before God, I am not lying about what I am writing to you! 1:21 Afterwards I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 1:22 But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 1:23 They were only hearing, "The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy." 1:24 So they glorified God because of me.

You can almost hear some Galation say, "Paul writes well, but why is his gospel the only true one?" Well, because the gospel was revealed to Paul by Jesus Christ, that's why.

Paul's meaning in vss.13-17 seems to be that when his life was dramatically turned around on the road to Damascus, he didn't look to any human for explanation or confirmation. It seems that he disappeared from the scene for several years, and it was a new, confident Paul who finally emerged. I like to think that during those hidden years he worked long and hard with his hands (learning tent-making?) while God "spoke" to him through his mind and intellect. When the right time came, Paul sought out the disciples, submitted to their leadership, and the rest is history.

There's a lesson here for us lesser lights who seek God's will for our lives but have trouble knowing it for sure. The key is patience and time; time for God to work in our circumstances to let us know if we are acting according to his will or otherwise. This He will surely do. -sdg-

Monday, July 18, 2005 - Galatians 2:1-5

Confirmation from the Jerusalem Apostles

2:1Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, taking Titus along too. 2:2 I went there because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did so only in a private meeting with the influential people, to make sure that I was not running--or had not run--in vain. 2:3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek. 2:4 Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. 2:5 But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

I've never been sure just how the 3 years of 1:18 and the 14 years above dovetail into Paul's history, but he must have been a hard case. If it took God a decade or so to hammer the Apostle into shape, I might well despair of my own sanctification.

Paul sought confirmation of his ministry to the Gentiles by meeting in Jerusalem with church leaders. Paul considered himself accountable to them, and submitted his ministry to them for their judgment. I think this teaches us of one of the important roles of denominations, to provide discipline and accountability for the pastors in the trenches. I just wish certain denominations did a better job of it. -sdg-

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