Epistles of Thomas

November 12, 2008

Galatians 1-3

Filed under: New Testament — Thomas @ 14:50
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At this point we are almost finished reading the New Testament. It may not seem that way because the number of books left is quite high but everything remaining is quite short, with the exception of Hebrews and Revelation. We will be finishing a book every day or two now through Hebrews. Try to read carefully and get the most you can out of these occasional epistles to the early Christian churches.

Galatians begins quickly and Paul skips the standard thanksgiving section to get down to business. He cannot believe they have so quickly deserted the Gospel which he preached to them. Paul gets right down to brass tacks: “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that person be under God’s curse” (1:8). In case people missed his point he immediately repeats himself! He then explains the origin of his Apostleship, making it clear that it was straight from Jesus and he did not gain his knowledge from men, not even Jesus’ other apostles. Fourteen years after receiving his commission he went to Jerusalem and was accepted by the other apostles. They acknowledged that he was preaching the truth and only recommended that he remember the poor, “the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (2:10). In 2:3, he introduces the problem – some are requiring that Christians be circumcised in order to make them slaves.

Paul was so confident of his gospel that he even opposed Cephas (Peter) when, because of fear from some sent by James, he stopped eating with Gentile Christians. Paul made it clear to Peter that Christians are justified by faith in Christ. To return to the Law is to reject the faithfulness of Christ. In 3:2, he makes the point that Christian identity is bound up with having the Spirit (our inheritance) and the Spirit came through believing what they had heard, not the Law. In contrast to those who try to have faith through the Law, it was by becoming a curse in the sight of the Law that Christ redeemed them (3:13). Jesus accepted being cursed by the Law to this end: “in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (3:14). The coming of faith to the Gentles and the coming of the Spirit are intrinsically linked. Can you have one without the other? Paul’s opponents seem to think so but he categorically denies it. The Law did not bring life, but death. The Law did not bring the Spirit of freedom, but demonstrated that they were in bondage to a sinful nature.

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