Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Exegesis and Meditations on Gal 1:11-24

Finally getting back to Galatians and Paul's defense of the Gospel. It seems fitting, though it was never my plan to delay this exposition so long, that I should return to the subject after completing Church History 2 at the Southern Seminary. Paul's defense and focus on the Gospel is key in today's age of uncertainty about what it means to be a "Christian", what the Gospel is truly, and those issues in relation to "unity" among "Christians" who differ.

As I already explored earlier in Galatians, Paul is precisely direct about calling out the Galatian believers to take account for their treacherous attitude to the original and genuine Gospel message. These brothers were in danger of defecting to an enemy side and no longer holding to the message of truth and grace Paul Chiasticly expresses in his greeting (v.1-5). They would be joining ranks with those that Paul calls "cursed"--destined for destruction. In light of a plain and undiluted understanding of these proclamations of Paul, it is astonishing to hear prominent preachers speak of all people being accepted by "god" no matter what they believe, teach, or do in this life. But Paul clearly teaches what truth, what "gospel", you believe is very relevant.

Paul still being confident that these are his brothers, those whom Christ "gave deliver [them] from the present evil age" and false doctrines, gets to the heart of the matter. Who are you trully trying to please?

Paul puts himself forth as divinely crafted contrast to the false teachers who only want to "trouble you" and as he later says "desire to...boast in your flesh". He declares something very bold and, when taken as personal challenge, very terrifying. "If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ!"

He reminds them that the gospel he is preaching was not his original message but was from a "revelation of Jesus Christ". His first message was one from his culture and tradition--Judaism. His life was passionately seeking to advance beyond his contemporaries. He was in a violent pursuit to please men and suppress the truth. Almost 100% of the time a man pleasing message and goals comes from tradition and worldly culture. Paul exemplified this problem.

But God had a greater plan for this desperately wicked man-pleaser; he gloriously revealed the risen Jesus Christ to him. He was the last one to see Him and the only biblically recorded man to see him after His ascension. He was charged with a message straight from God. His former conduct was to go back and check with Elders, dead traditions of Fathers. But now he trusted whole-heartedly in revelation of Christ and committed himself to it just as passionately. He dealt with the rejection, disbelief, persecution that came for teaching this truth and did not even consult with others for three years.

Not that he was a brazenly arrogant in his proclamation of this message. These first three years were spent in fellowship with the Lord and His Church; he was not a cavalier man but had a time of growth and learning--shaping. In fact, he did not began his "official" Church planting and missionary work until after visiting church leaders in Jerusalem and being identified by his local church in Antioch as some preaching the true revelation of Christ.

You may ask how is this later behavior different from his life as a zealous Jewish leader? The difference is the purpose, the focus. Is former goal was to be better then all the rest. His new goal was to only be known as the one for whom "they glorified God." He no longer sought self-praise but God praise. Thus he demonstrates, by God's amazing power and grace in him, a contrast with false teaching.

False teaching will always have at it's core selfishness, humanistic idolatry, and arrogance. All three of these are as insidious as false truth itself. They are black-holes that look like bright stars. They are theving liars cloaked as generous wise-men. How then do you see through it? Paul has already given the first pillar of foundation which is often long forgotten in our rationalistic and post-rationalism age: Revelation. But more on that later.

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