9.15.2013

Message Notes: The Letter of Paul to the Galatians | 1:1-10


The Letter of Paul to the Galatians
Galatians 1:1-10

Introduction

1:1 Paul makes his claim as an apostle. According to the book of Acts, there are two qualifications to being an apostle: 1) be an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus Christ and 2) be commissioned by Christ Himself.
Some in the church were dismissing Paul as being an apostle, most likely for his work in spreading the Good News outside of Jewish culture.
Luke advocates for Paul's apostleship in Acts, and we see in Paul's experience on the Damascus Road that his apostleship is legit, since he encounters Jesus and is commissioned to take the Good News to the gentiles.
Paul responds that it was the Resurrected One who commissioned him, and who can argue with that?!
1:2 Now, normally, Paul would name his travelers and fellow missionaries, but he chooses not to share their identity. Paul does this so it doesn't give the impression that his Gospel requires additional support, but that it was directly received from God and is the same doctrine of all the Christian Church and missionaries.
1:3 The interesting thing here is that Paul is wishing grace and peace to the Galatians, the very thing they have forgotten. They have turned away from grace to a works-based system of living and have turned peace away by being extremely legalistic. Paul's desire in the letter to the Galatians is that they return to the grace of God, not works, and live in peace, loving and making room for people's mistakes and junk.
1:4-5 Here Paul is reminding the Church that it is God's will that matters and that His glory will reign forever. This serves to remind us all that it is not about us. It's not about what we think is right or what we think might be best, but it is about Jesus, the one who gave His life for our sins that we might be rescued.

Perversion of the Gospel

1:6 The irritation Paul is feeling is shown by the tone and wording of these verses. 
  1. The Galatians are "deserting" the one who had called them to faith in Christ Jesus. The word used here is the same as the word for "military revolt" and change of attitude. This revolt was not caused by outside influences, but by something they were freely doing to themselves. The hope here is that they were in the early stages of deserting, so they could possibly be redeemed.
  2. There is a personal element in the way Paul describes their desertion. They are not just departing from a person or a movement, but from God the Father, who called them to faith. Embracing legalism or any other -ism (CONSUMERISM, MATERIALISM, etc) means rejecting God, because it means substituting a noun (person, place or thing) for God in one's life. It is also interesting to note that Paul once again reiterates the nature of the Gospel: a) it is of God, who does the calling & b) it is of grace, not merit.
  3. Paul was also ticked that they were deserting so quickly, nearly immediately after conversion.
  4. And by embracing the -ism(s), they turned their back on the Gospel for "a different gospel."
1:7 Now Paul wants to elaborate on this "different gospel." He is not suggesting that there are different gospels of Christ to choose from, but instead he is stressing that there is but One Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to abandon it is to abandon Christ. Anything that takes away from it is counterfeit. 
Paul mentions the false teachers and objects to two aspects to their conduct.
  1. They are perverting the Gospel.
  2. They were troubling the Church.
1:8 The Glory of Christ and the salvation of the human race are at stake here, so Paul makes the bold claim that if anybody, angels (actually referring to Satan and his "ministers") or he himself, they are to be cursed. The word Paul uses here is where we get the word "damnation."
1:9 Paul repeats the "anathema," or damnation, here for emphasis.
1:10 Here is the sweet spot of the letter's introduction. Paul had long been called a people-pleaser and accused of "bending" the truth to do so. So Paul, in one fell swoop, addresses his accusers by pronounce damnation against those who teach false gospels.
It's important to point out that Paul should not to be compared to belligerent and fault-finding religious crusaders. Paul often was a people-pleaser and actually strived to be such, as we see in I Corinthians 9. But when the gospel is at stake, Paul always was chiefly concerned with pleasing God. Whenever it came to pleasing God or people, God always won out.
And finally, this leads us to one of the most beautiful paradoxical teachings in the world, that real freedom is to be found in bondage--bondage to Christ.
The choice of the word "servant" is interesting because this letter is about freedom, freedom that comes with grace and not the slavery of legalism.

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