Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 10 - Paul’s Letter to the Galatians)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul letter to the churches in Galatia.

Considering Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 

Around A.D. 53, Paul wrote a letter to gentile Christian communities in Asia Minor in response to Jewish Christians who suggested that Gentile converts were bound to accept Jewish practices and values.
  • Galatia was a Roman province named after a tribe that settled in the northern part around the third century. In the letter, Paul never mentions any cities. 
  • Paul established the Galatian churches during his missionary travels in Asia. The Galatians were gentiles. 
  • Jewish Christian missionaries had arrived, preaching that Gentile converts needed to adopt Jewish practice and values. 
Paul wrote that these missionaries were preaching a false gospel despite their used of Christian language. He offered four reasons:
  1. By emphasizing circumcision and Law, the missionaries were making our relationship with God conditional, negating God’s grace. Galatians 2:20-21
  2. The missionaries underestimated the power of the Spirit to guide the Christian community. Galatians 5:16-26
  3. The missionaries undermined the unity of Jews and Gentiles and Christ. Galatians 2:11-14
  4. The missionaries sounded as though the death of Christ didn’t change the world. Galatians 6:14-15
In contrast to the missionaries, Paul restated his gospel of grace, including the following:
  • People are put in a right relationship with God through faith, not obedience. Galatians 2:18-21
  • The cross is a liberating event. Galatians 3:13-14
  • As a result of the cross, the Spirit is given to all who are in Christ. Galatians 5:25
  • In the new community created by the Spirit, the old markers that separated Jews from Gentiles have been destroyed. Galatians 3:28
  • Those who recognize the saving work of God in Christ and live in the power of the Spirit experience freedom. Galatians 5:1
Structurally, Galatians can be divided as follows based on a thesis presented in Galatians 1:6-9: 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—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! 
  • Theology (“what”) – 1:6–4:31
  • Ethic (“so what”) – 5:1–6:18

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