Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I have a confession to make – I have a little bit of an aversion to the apostle Paul.

Mainly because of his tone.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

- Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)

Is he serious? I don’t think he’s exactly joking

While his argument later in this letter is sound, I think it might have been a bit wasted. Who would want to listen to him after an opening like that? I accept that some Doctor Who fans don't much like me for similar reasons, but that just proves my point! :)

His next verse sheds some light on his reasoning.

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

- Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Perhaps there is a respectful balance to be struck.

However if anyone was still reading, his next line will have shot his credibility for life.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 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 (NIV)

And there it is. After having a go at his audience, Paul claims he’s right and they’re wrong because he’s been visited by God and told so. That’s a stigma he will never escape for the rest of his life. After posting that line, nearly everyone who heard about it – both Christian and non-Christian - would surely pigeon-hole him as either a liar, or mad. No wonder this letter survived – the person who received it probably bulk-copied it onto other scrolls and sniggeringly forwarded them onto all their friends via Messenger.

I’m not rubbishing Paul – far from it. I believe his visitation from God actually happened, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in to him that few others will, especially not most Christians who will have already decided what they want to believe about God. What would you think, if someone told you they’d been personally visited by Jesus Christ and told that you were wrong?

Neither am I saying that he shouldn’t have preached these things – of course he should. Differences in theology are a great opportunity for both parties to honestly seek truth. But I think he might have benefitted from more tact.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

- Galatians 3:1-3 (NIV)

There’s a very powerful message in there, one which I fundamentally agree with to the point of it underpinning my entire life, but it seems to be wrapped up in so much abrasion.

I’d like to call the following excerpt reverse psychology, but it comes across to me as facetiousness.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

- Galatians 5:2-3 (NIV)

I guessed that this was one of Paul’s early letters. The sudden life-change from persecuting the church to trying to help it must have been hard. Approaching his new peaceful career with all those destructive skills from his old one must have been a really tough learning curve.

Then I re-read it and discovered he was 17 years into his ministry.

I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.

- Galatians 4:12 (NIV)

What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

- Galatians 4:15-20 (NIV)

In the last chapter, he settles down a bit.

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

- Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

- Galatians 6:15 (NIV)

I sure agree with his message, but in the NIV translation at least, this letter seems to portray a man who might not be as open to listening as he appears to expect his reader to be.


0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **