Sessions with GalatiansFinding Freedom Through Christ Paul’s Personal Testimony Galatians 1:6-24
A different type of “Hello” • In most of Paul’s writings, after the greeting, he thanks the congregation for their faithfulness. • For example, in Philippians 1 Paul writes, “I thank my God every time that I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you…” • But in Galatians Paul says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel!” • Paul is angry, and rightfully so, because the Galatian people have been fickle. They have decided to follow the false gospel offered to them by the Judaizers(a gospel that includes both faith and law).
Now that I’ve got your attention… • Paul wasted little time grasping the attention of the Galatian church. He quickly reminds them that they are going against the “one who called them.” • Paul is not referring to himself in this instance (although he feels betrayed—Galatians 4:15-16), but instead he is referring to God. The Galatians have chosen to turn away from God. • By accepting the “gospel” of the Judaizers the Galatians have agreed to follow a “diluted” gospel, and they have given themselves a list of chores.
Now that I’ve got your attention… • By agreeing to these new conditions of faith, the Galatians are submitting to the “evil present age.” They are focusing on their own human achievement. • God, on the other hand, has called the Galatian people to forget their own human achievements and submit to the grace that come through Christ’s achievement on the cross. • Paul message is clear: The Gospel is what I shared with you. Nothing more. Nothing less. Anything else that you have been told is false.
Escaping Religion • Paul knew what the Judaizers were saying about him: • He was watering down the Gospel • He was preaching in order to receive notoriety • He was trying to be a people-pleaser • In verse 10, Paul speaks directly to the notion that he is preaching for his own gain. He says, • “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” • And in verses 11-12, Paul reminds the Galatians that the Gospel that he preaches came from Jesus Christ.
Judaism • The only time that Judaism is mentioned in the New Testament is in verses 13-14. • Paul is speaking of Judaism as a religious system that is law-heavy and difficult to follow. • Judaism was intended to be a faith passed down from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the system has turned God’s people attention to focusing on practices and laws. • This system has created an “us and them” mentality with the Jews and Gentiles.
Is Paul an Anti-Semite? • We have to address the idea that Paul is voicing Anti-Semitic views in Galatians. • Paul is not an Anti-Semite. He simply did not agree that the practices of Judaism were necessary for true discipleship. • Paul was not against the faith of his fathers. Instead, he was against the laws and the practices that made his fathers’ faith impossible to follow and live.
Defending His Calling • In verses 16-24, Paul argues against the notion that his Gospel message is watered down. • Beginning in verse 16 Paul says, • “…I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.” • This statement confirms that Paul did not receive his message from Jesus’ disciples, but from Jesus himself.
Defending His Call • God’s call is not simply a new assignment or even the source of Paul’s new direction in life. • Just as God invaded the present evil age through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God invaded Paul’s life when “God was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (1:16). • This invasion took place according to the will of God the Father, since God had set Paul apart before he was born (1:15).
Defending His Call • If Paul the Pharisee had followed Jesus by his own choice, surely he would have followed the same path as the Judaizersand simply added faith in Jesus to his existing practices. • How could Paul make up a gospel that has no place for the practices of Judaism? Only a direct invasion by God could erase a lifetime of training in righteous achievement and create a new life of receiving righteousness through Jesus. • Nothing short of a revelation from God could have pulled Paul out of his Jewish exclusiveness and sent him into the Gentile world, proclaiming a law-free gospel based not on human effort but on the gift of Christ’s faithfulness.
Life Lessons • The Missionaries charged Paul with seeking the approval of others. I suspect many of us are guilty of the same charge. More than we care to admit, our lifestyles, actions, and words are influenced by how we think others will perceive us. • God delivers us from such thinking as we allow God’s call to determine our lives. The call to follow Jesus communicates God’s love for the world (including us) and creates a new creation in which we are invited to participate. • In the new creation, the need to compete with others and advance beyond our peers disappears. The more we allow God’s call to reveal our presence in the new creation, the less concerned we become for the approval of others.
Life Lessons • In service to our need for approval, we create checklists by which we compare ourselves to others. How well a person keeps the checklists of a particular culture determines how others perceive that person. • Remember the weekly offering envelopes that we used to have that had a checklist indicating whether or not a person has read his or her Bible and Sunday school lesson during the week? • Personal Bible study and preparation for Sunday school are important spiritual disciplines, but if they become something to check off a “to-do” list or a way to be more spiritual than the person who left that item blank, they are human-centered religious acts, not responses to the living God.
Life Lessons • For many churches, the mental checklists may include how a person dresses, whether or not a person is considered “nice” and “easy to get along with,” and whether or not a person hangs out with the “right kind of people.” • Political loyalties or positions on social issues often find their way into checklists. Theological uniformity is a perennial checklist standard. • While such issues may need consideration depending on the context, they must not be used to exclude individuals from the people of God.
Life Lessons • Because we are sinners, checklists will be a part of church life until the new creation is fully revealed. Thankfully, God works among us and through us in spite of our checklists. • Paul and the Jerusalem apostles acknowledged that God called them to different areas of ministry (2: 7-9). Both groups were imperfect sinners trying to follow Jesus as best they could. • As we argue with churches and Christians that have different checklists than ours, it is good to remember that if God can work through imperfect sinners like us, then God can work through the people with whom we strongly disagree.