posted on Jan, 8 2016 @ 05:03 PM
“There’s a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails,
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails” – Robert Browning, “Soliloquy of a Spanish cloister”
The dangerous text is never identified, but it’s easy to guess why the study of this letter might have been problematic in a nineteenth-century
For among the letters of Paul, Galatians will stand out as presenting the contrast between Faith and legalism.
I propose to survey most of this letter, and I’ll begin by looking at Paul’s comments in the first chapter.
vv1-2 As usual in these letters, Paul announces himself as an apostle.
But this time he makes a point of stressing that his authority doesn’t come from human agency.
He is not an apostle “from men”; that is, he didn’t get his appointment from any man or group of men.
Nor is he an apostle “through human power [DI’ ANTHROPOU].
His authority as an apostle comes directly, not indirectly, from Christ himself and the Father who raised him from the dead.
v4 Paul is a messenger sent by Christ, and his message is about what Christ has done.
So this must be outlined in more detail.
The essential point is that Christ “gave himself”.
Paul then puts forward the different kinds of reason for doing this.
It was HYPER; “on account of”. Christ gave himself “on account of our sins”, this being the immediate circumstance which made the act
It was HOPOS; “in order that”. Christ gave himself in order to break us loose from, in order to free us from , the present evil AION, this being
the purpose of the action.
AION gets translated as “world” or “age”. “Age” is valid, because a contrast is intended between the present age and an age which is to
come. But “world” is also useful, because the thought here approaches what John means when he talks about the KOSMOS.
It was KATA; “according to”. Christ gave himself in accordance with the will of the Father, who formed the original intention which gave
rise to the action.
Paul has already introduced the point that Christ was raised from the dead, which is the other main plank of the gospel which he teaches
vv6-9 So the Galatians heard a gospel messenger sent by Christ, and the gospel they heard from him also comes from Christ, because it’s the “good
news” about what he accomplished.
Which makes it all the more strange, he thinks, that they should allow themselves to be diverted from this message.
He charges them with deserting that God who had called them, through the grace of Christ, into a new relationship with himself.
He charges them with giving their attention to a completely different [HETERON] message.
It cannot be called “another” [ALLO] gospel, because there is no genuine alternative to the gospel of Christ.
There can only be attempts to falsify the true message.
Since the gospel message is God’s message, Paul calls down a curse upon anyone who changes it, and he repeats that emphatically.
They are to be considered ANATHEMA –marked for destruction as hateful to God.
The curse would be appropriate whatever the status of the culprits- even in the extreme and unlikely event that the contradictory message was coming
from himself or an angel from heaven.
v10 Evidently someone has accused him of “trying to please men” (we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation here).
This would probably come from the traditional Jews, on the grounds that his treatment of the Law was designed to “please” his Gentile converts.
He turns the charge round by setting out to show that “pleasing men” would have had the opposite effect.
If he had been the kind of person who was anxious to “please men”, he would have been intent on “pleasing” the traditional Jews.
He would certainly not have been calling them ANATHEMA.
And his readiness to please them would not have allowed him to become a Christian, let alone a preacher to the Gentiles.
vv11-24 His life-history confirms that nothing in his gospel teaching came from men, and everything came direct from Christ.
As long as he relied on human teaching, the result was that he advanced in Judaism and persecuted the church.
But God had different plans.
He had already earmarked Paul and “set him aside”, even while he was in his mother’s womb.
He had already “called” Paul through his grace. I see the final speech of Stephen as part of this calling.
Then, at his own chosen time, “he revealed his Son in me”, so that Paul should begin proclaiming him to the Gentiles.
That is, he enabled Paul to recognise Christ for himself, and Christ’s place in himself.
Thereafter, Paul almost evaded contact with the original Christian leadership. He spent three years in Arabia and Damascus instead of returning to
Jerusalem. When he did visit Jerusalem, he stayed there fifteen days, and spoke only with Peter and James.
He may have been reluctant to expose himself to retaliation from his previous masters. But whatever his reasons, the effect was that the other leaders
could make no claim to have taught him the gospel of Christ.
Nor did the church in Judaea send him to preach to the Gentiles. They did not even know what he looked like, and they learned of his work in that
field (and glorified God because of it) only after he had already started.
His teaching and his mission had both come direct from the source.
And that is the point.
Paul’s gospel, he declares, did not come from men, and therefore men cannot rightly interfere with it.
His gospel comes from Christ.