Friday, June 2, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 1: Gal. 1:1 - 2:10

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
According to the Scofield notes in my study Bible, Galatians is one of the earliest epistles Paul wrote.  The date is listed as either 49 AD or 52 AD...if it's 49, then it is the first one, predating 1 Thessalonians by about 2 years.  But it appears that most scholars favor the 52 date, which would make it one year younger than both 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but still just the third letter.

Paul visited several cities in Galatia on his first missionary journey...among them Iconium, Lystra (where he was stoned and left for dead) and Derbe.  The pagan people of the area were completely amazed by the power of the Spirit in Paul's ministry and many believed, but Jewish leaders in those and surrounding towns were extremely provoked by Paul's ministry to the Gentiles and stirred up riots nearly everywhere he went.  After he moved on in his travels, other teachers came and began teaching the folks in those cities that, to be true followers of Jesus, they had to submit to circumcision and follow the Law of Moses as Jews.  Apparently a number of the Galatian believers were convinced that it was what they should do and began to incorporate the Jewish rituals into their worship and lifestyle.

Paul got word of this development and was so distraught that he sat down at once and began writing a letter to them himself, apparently having no one handy to act as his secretary.  It's difficult for Paul to write (evidenced in 6:11, when he describes his handwriting) but he feels he needs to correct the error immediately.

Indeed, he begins his letter with a flat statement of the authority given to him to teach...(All quotes today taken from the NIV 84).

Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father... (1:1)

Right off the bat, he wants them to realize that what he's about to tell them isn't just his own opinion or the opinion of other leaders, but something he received from Jesus. That immediately sets him apart from the folks who are touting tradition as their authority.

Then, he reminds the Galatians of the work Jesus did:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and 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. (1:3 - 4).

He's already setting up his argument:  1) he has authority to teach from Jesus and 2) Jesus gave himself for our salvation...which is shortly going to be contrasted with the works-based theology they've been hearing.

Paul doesn't beat around the bush.  He's angry, and it comes through.

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. (1: 6-7a).

Any person who has taught the Word to people who subsequently walk away from what they were taught can identify with Paul.  This anguish will come through again and again as we go through Galatians. These converted pagans were people who had a radical paradigm shift in their view of faith and life,  babies without much training. Now they were being taught error but they didn't know enough themselves to realize it.   Hey, those folks that came after Paul seemed authoritative.  They certainly sounded like they knew what they were talking about.  The Galatians didn't know any better.

Paul has some choice words for those folks who were teaching error:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1: 9b)

Strong language.  It's actually repeated twice in verses 8 and 9... no one should misunderstand Paul's opinion of someone who is perverting the gospel they originally heard.

Then, by way of reminder, he reviews the history of what they heard and how they came to hear it and why they can trust that Paul is really telling them the true gospel.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. (1: 11)

He reminds them of his personal he --a zealous, Christian-persecuting Pharisee-- had a personal revelation of Jesus and a call to preach the gospel.  He reviews his early history...his time in Arabia, his introduction to Peter and James, and the impact his testimony had on the churches in Judea.

They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."  And they praised God because of me.  (1:23-24)

Then he cites the Acts 15 conference at Jerusalem, the one in which all the leaders in the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and elsewhere met together to discuss the very issue that was currently troubling the churches in Galatia.

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.   (2:4)

Paul states that he shared the message he was preaching to the Gentiles with the leaders there, and
those men added nothing to my message. (2:6)

In fact, he said, they did not require Titus, a Greek who was with him, to be circumcised (2:3), and they recognized that

God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. (2:8).

The only thing they asked Paul to do, he reports, was to remember the poor, which was something that was already on his heart.

Nowhere was there any indication that the Gentiles to whom Paul was sent should observe any Jewish requirements.

But he's still laying the foundation for his argument.

Have you been on either side of this situation?  Have you found yourself wandering from the Gospel you first believed, because someone who seemed to have authority told you something that didn't line up but made sense to your human nature?  How did you realize  and deal with the error?
Or, have you poured into new believers and then watched them turn and listen to worldly or religious-based reasoning and walk away from the truth you had given them?  Did you have an opportunity to correct them?  Or, like me, are you still praying for them to wake up and see how far they had drifted?

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