Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 1

It's been a long couple of weeks, but I feel I finally have a direction to go in for the next step of this blog. I have heard that books 7 through 10 of the New Testament can be remembered with the mnemonic device, "God Eats Potato Chips." That stuck in my head all day yesterday, so I decided to give it a shot and jump into the giant bag of chips that is Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Who better to guide us on a journey through the New Testament than Paul, who was only the guy who wrote most of it?

Galatians is an example of what it means to be saved by faith. At the time some false teachings had begun to seep into the structure of the church, so Paul wrote this letter in order to clear up exactly what the gospel was, how it can be applied, and it was written as a defense of Paul's character.

"11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." – Galatians 1:11-12

Just before these verses Paul began his letter with a strong rebuke against false doctrines. He condemned any gospel being preached except that which he had preached. The churches in Galatia were preaching a doctrine that insisted on keeping the Jewish laws and traditions, and this is not what Paul had taught. As we see in the verses above, Paul quickly defends himself by saying that it is not his message they are altering, but God's. As we continue in the chapter we see that Paul would be a person who had every reason to continue with the Jewish traditions because he was strongly Jewish before his conversion. He adhered to tradition so much he persecuted the early church because they weren't practicing these traditions. This is how strong his conviction was.

His message was simple: that faith alone in Christ was enough for salvation. Those in Galatia didn't think it could be this easy, but that is what Christ accomplished when he came to earth. He wanted to make it easy for us to come to him, and that is still a point of contention today. Some people simply can't believe that it is that easy, but it is.

Beliefs are the strongest things we hold on to. In the movie Dogma (one of my favorite movies) there is an interesting and truthful line given by the character Rufus. In the context of the movie Rufus was the 13th apostle. Though it is a work of fiction there is a bit of truth to some of the dialogue. The line I am referring to talks about changing beliefs. It's easy to change an idea, but changing a belief structure is different because people die and kill for their beliefs. This shows just how shattering Paul's conversion was. It was like if your best friends suddenly did a complete 180 in everything they did.

"15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I was immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus." Galatians 1:15-17

If anyone can change a person that suddenly, it's Jesus. Paul was changed so suddenly, so drastically, that he had no doubt about what he was supposed to do, just that he was supposed to do it. He was given a mission to take the message to the Gentiles, and he took that mission to heart. As a result he may have gotten a little ahead of himself, and that is the impetus behind this letter. People were blown away by his conversation, but as the chapter ends we see they were praising God because of it.

  1. What is god asking you to change in your life for His benefit?
  2. How did the gospel come to you when you first heard it?
  3. How does Paul's life before knowing Christ reflect your own?

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