by admin on September 26, 2016

Galatians 1:1-9
Reflections for 25 September 2016

Read Eugene Peterson’s Intro to Galatians.

Geographically central Turkey.

Ethnically Celtic tribes invade area in 3-1st centuries BC, hence Galatians = Gauls. They were pagans, idolaters, Gentiles, NOT circumcised. Important to remember this background as converts. No previous experience with either Judaism or Christianity.

The upshot: Life and death struggle for the faith of these Christian communities.

Since Paul’s work there other preachers have invaded the territory and presented another version of Christian faith necessity of being connected to Jewish tradition and observing Jewish laws and rituals prior to entering into Christianity.

As Galatians heard this revised version they became convinced that it makes sense to become Jewish to become Christian. These preachers also discredited Paul and undermined his authority by insisting that he wasn’t a first rate kosher teacher. Discredit the messenger to discredit the message.

Aristotle’s formula for persuasion logos, pathos, ethos.

Naturally St. Paul doesn’t take this sitting down. He is passionate about this issue on two fronts: his own credibility and authenticity as apostle; his message and its radical claim of Jesus Christ alone is the way to God the Father. He is the most combative in Galatians out of all his New Testament letters.

Example of this the letter beings bluntly, without any of the usual commendations and thanksgiving. Paul gets right to the task What are you guys thinking?

V2 all the brethren Paul’s traveling companions on the 3rd missionary journey. These same people would have been responsible for the offering collection taking place in Pauline churches. Cf. 2 Cor and Philippians. This offering was headed to Jerusalem for famine aid. Recall that event speaks of the generosity made evident from strangers to strangers. It’s been a model of Christian generosity ever since.

V3grace and peace standard Pauline greeting; NB Galatians lacks the usual extended greetings and thanksgiving.

Vv4-5gave himself for our sins…forever and ever. Amenpre Pauline creedal statement It is foundational to Paul’s theology: Jesus is the self volunteer, willing sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Jesus becomes the Mediator of salvation. From this creed Paul will use the foundation of sacrifice to end all sacrifices, i.e. Jesus finishes all the religious works of satisfying deity and opens an entirely new existence to humanity. God the Father is not another god who needs satisfied, but is the god who reconciles the world to himself and us to each other.

Remember: Paul is always looking for practical applications to Gospel.

Present evil age apocalyptic sense of two eons: evil present and the age to come = salvation. Death of Jesus delivers us from the threat and power of the present evil age. Hence Paul’s insistence on living a qualitatively different life. Jesus is the empowerment for living differently. The presence of the resurrected Jesus frees us for living in the Spirit now.

This in exactly in line with Jesus teaching of the Kingdom of God. Faith is trust that Jesus is alive via resurrection and working in our own lives, more than a copilot or buddy, it is his very presence in the believer.

It is this work of Christ that shows what kind of God there is. C.f. Paul in Athens.

V5 to whom be glory….Doxology. This is proper response to so great of news.

Vv6-9I am astonished….let him be accursedWhat is up with you guys? You deserted so quickly= shameful change of mind. Here Paul argues that the message his rivals have presented is not a different gospel, not another version, opinion, thought; but no gospel at all. In Paul’s mind there is only ONE SINGLE apostolic Gospel—the one he has presented. There can be no substitutes or second opinions. The Gospel has Jesus Christ as its content. Trust in this one’s sacrificial work, which includes his teaching and death/resurrection—and you will experience such a vision of life that will stand you on your feet for the living of your days.

Vv8-9 but even if we or an angel from heavenThere is no middle ground; either one proclaims the Gospel of God’s grace in JC or he is cursed. NB, Paul says this 2x. Cursed is anathema. Consigned to the fires of hell (Hades), expelled from the community, committed to destruction. Big deal. All this argument is designed to call the Galatians to recognize they are playing with fire—this is serious business to turn to another gospel.

1. Paul’s Apostolic Gospel. The good news of the sole sufficiency to Jesus Christ as God’s way for deliverance from the power of sin, death and devil. Any other version of how humanity is to be delivered is a perversion. Sole sufficiency means nothing added. Not necessary to become Jewish to be Christian. Getting in right relationship with God means getting into right relationship with each other.

This is one of the complicating marks of faith communities; being thrust together with other kinds of people. Paying attention to Jesus teaching and his sacrificial death, looking for the practical implications and applications is a constant challenge.

2. Apostolic Gospel. Paul says that through the death and resurrection of Jesus an entirely new paradigm for living is available. It is called the New Age. The Kingdom of God realized here and now. This moves Jesus from the realm of a philosopher with nice ideas to a teacher who not only can be heard but heeded. Jesus words have authenticity and power precisely because of his sacrificial death and resurrection. Paul would have believed in Jesus physical rising from the dead, not some mythological idea.

How many perverted notions of Christianity abound? I am constantly astonished at how we add on some many indicators, signs, requirement to what it means to be Christian. This election is a test never before of authentic Christian faith in our culture. Religion is highly responsible for the divisiveness we all know. Trust in Jesus Christ — if you believe in your heart and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead you will be saved—is the only requirement. All other stuff is icing—largely distraction.


Staying on the beam means to have a clear idea of the singular message of the Gospel and its empowerment to the qualitatively different life of engagement. Less about arguing your positon and more about living the truth of Jesus resurrection. My experience is that the ones doing the most bellicose apology for their standards are the least Christ like. Tend to you own knitting.

What’s up from here?
–1:11-21—Defense of legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship
–2:11-21—Defense of total sufficiency of JC as way
–3—Defense of total sufficiency of trust in JC vs reliance on law
–4—Futility of returning to old way of thinking and acting
–5:13-26—Proper use of Christian freedom
–6:1-10—Conduct in church

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