Saturday, 28 February 2009

Battle Galatia : Mission 'Gospel Preservation'

In Galatians 2:1-10 there are some rather interesting goings on… Paul seems to be in the middle of making sure that the Galatians know about his authentic, God revealed message… But then it seems that Paul wants to check that his message is actually the correct one… that he “hadn’t run in vain”… it seems odd to say this, particularly after he’s been so clear in chapter 1 to ensure the Galatians know just how separate he has been from the other apostles…

Has Paul now lost confidence in his message… does he now need to head to Jerusalem to check that his message is actually the correct one?

I think that Galatians 2:1-10 offers completely the opposite view to that… I think that these verses should give us great confidence in Paul’s message. But to do that, we need to think about placing the Galatian letter correctly in Paul’s itinerary.

Verse 2: “[Paul] went up [to Jerusalem] because of a revelation and set before them… the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” So what sends Paul to Jerusalem?

A bit of cross referencing to Acts can help us answer this – let’s have a look at the highlights:
Acts 9:1-19 – Paul’s conversion
Acts 9:19 – Paul is in Damascus
Acts 9:26 – Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, meets some of the apostles
Acts 9:30 – Paul heads to Caesarea and heads to Tarsus
Acts 11:25 – Barnabas heads to Tarsus to get Paul, to bring him back to Antioch
Acts 11:28 – revelation of a great famine
Acts 11:29 – disciples decide to send relief to brothers in Judea
Acts 11:30 – relief is sent to Judea by the hand of Paul and Barnabas (Paul’s 2nd visit to J’slm)
Acts 1312:25 – Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch from Jerusalem
Acts 13:2 – revelation of Paul and Barnabas being set apart
Acts 13:1-3: Paul heads from Crete to Antioch Pisidia
Acts 13:48-49 – Gentiles becoming Christian in the whole region
Acts 14:24-26 – Paul heads back to Antioch Syria
Acts 15:2-3 – Paul heads to Jerusalem to the council (Paul’s 3rd visit to J’slm)
Acts 15:22 – letter from the Jerusalem Council gets spread around
Acts 15:30-31 – letter received with massive encouragement

If we look through Galatians 1 – Paul wants to make clear that he has had no (or minimal) contact with the other apostles in Jerusalem. Gal 1:16-17, Paul stresses that after his conversion, he didn’t immediately consult, or go to Jerusalem, but went to Damascus (Acts9:19). Gal 1:18, then after 3 years, Paul visits Jerusalem, to see the apostles Cephas and James (Acts9:26). We then see Paul in Gal 1:21 head off to Syria and Cilcia (Acts9:30). Then in Gal 2:1 we learn that after 14 years, Paul goes up to Jerusalem again.

So, Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Gal 2:1 seems to be his second visit (i.e. that of Acts 11:30). Afterall, Paul’s emphasis in chapter 1 so far has been to make it clear just how “untouched” his Gospel has been from other apostles so why would he miss out a whole visit to Jerusalem from his itinerary in Galatians… it would make his case so flimsy that it’s basically destroyed. More than this, if the letter to the Galatians is to show them exactly how circumcision/the law fits in now Jesus has come, then why wouldn’t he just refer to the letter from the Jerusalem Council in his letter to the Galatians… there is no mention of it whatsoever. I guess that some might argue that Gal 2:1-10 is indeed that Jerusalem Council meeting, in which case I might still argue that Paul doesn’t really rely on the Council letter to persuade the Galatians, which seems a bit odd… but also the confrontation between Paul and Peter wouldn’t then fit in with the Jerusalem letter being issued… but also, we’re back to the chapter 1 argument – why would Paul miss out an early visit to Jerusalem, if he’s trying to persuade the Galatians that his Gospel has been untouched by those in Jerusalem.

If we run with this thinking, then the revelation that takes Paul to Jerusalem must be that of Acts 11:28 – the great famine that’s coming… so now we see how the potentially disjointed verse 10 fits in with Paul’s argument. When Paul and those who are influential agree to go their “separate” ways, i.e. proclaiming to the Jews and proclaiming to the Gentiles, then it would fit well that the brothers in Jerusalem are eager for Paul to still remember the Judean church/brothers in need – Gentiles financially supporting Jews is a big deal… and shows the “oneness” of the new church – Jew and Gentile together as one church, therefore aiding and supporting one another! It’s a big deal to Paul (Gal 2:10)! The aid symbolises much (cf Romans 15:24-27 where Paul takes a massive detour in order to take aid to Jerusalem believers – aid given by Gentile believers).

This then leaves us with a question. What does Paul mean in verse 2:2 by “in order to make sure I was not running in vain or had not run in vain.”?

Well, we’ve seen in chapter 1 that Paul is far from lacking confidence in his message as he’s been well keen for the Galatians to know the revelation he received from God has been untouched! So I don’t think Paul is checking whether his message is true or not in terms of “having run in vain with the wrong message”.

Verse 3 is helpful: “But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek”… It’s another verse that just seems to stick out in 2:1-10.

So, Paul confident of his message, is concerned of the message being proclaimed in Jerusalem… with all this false teaching going around, he wanted to ensure that the false teachers were not undoing all of Paul’s work… i.e. people turning to a different Gospel, and so Paul having “run in vain” as a result of people shifting from the gospel that he proclaims. He affirms then, verse 3, that Titus didn’t need to be circumcised (a confirmation that the brothers in Jerusalem haven’t been taken in by the false teaching) and then, verse 9 – they offer the right hand of fellowship.

So, rather than us losing confidence in Paul’s message because of what he writes in 2:1-10, I hope instead that it gives us great confidence in Paul’s message… that it has been untouched by the apostles and yet after about 14 years, his message (revealed from God) matches up with the apostles message… Paul’s message is confirmed as authentic, the real deal!

So the result of all this helps us understand the context into which Paul is writing… there’s false teaching abounding… the Galatians seem to be taken in by it… (and we see later in 2:11-14 that after Paul’s visit to Jerusalem, even those that are “pillars” have now been taken in by it)! But Paul’s about to head off to the Jerusalem Council to discuss exactly how the law now fits in now Jesus has come… and he doesn’t know what the outcome of this council will be (it’s not a simple debate, Acts 15:2, and even Peter has been taken in Gal 2:11-12).

So in 1:1 - 2:10, before the Galatians receive the currently unknown result of the Jerusalem Council and the false teachers are still in their area, Paul wants the Galatians to know:

  1. his gospel is the genuine article (revealed by God) and has remained untouched (matches up with the apostles message despite minimal contact between them over 14years)
  2. he’ll stand by it, against false brothers, opposition and those who seem to be “pillars”

Thursday, 26 February 2009

All things online...

Things have slowly been changing in my online "world". Firstly, I recently jumped across from IE to Firefox - my word why didn't I do that earlier. Then today I signed up on Twitter... not coz I'm sold on the idea but because I think it's better to give something a go before dissing it completely... we shall see... it may well help re-ignite something that's gone cold.... my blogging!

I haven't been posting much since changing job... and starting work for the church was the main reason why I started blogging in the first place... I'm not too sure why I haven't. Maybe because evening/weekend times I now try to keep much freer that previously - trying to draw some definite lines between "work" and "rest" and so I've switched off more so which perhaps has led to a lack of posting... that might be healthy thinking, or laziness... or some combination of the two - still trying to work out what a Mark 8:34 ministry looks like.

Anyhow... let's see how it goes!