We finished our discussion of Galatians today. Paul started off by addressing his Brothers, but in newer versions, it suggests Brothers and Sisters. Women were significant in the Bible, but were often nameless. There is a conflict between verse 2 to help others, and in verse 5 to be responsible for yourself. Chuck says the word that comes to us is humility. Humility is acknowledging our role in life whereas self degradation sometimes is just done to gain attention. We discussed this quite about. We need to be honest about our role in life and our purpose in life. That led us to the question of what it means to be spiritual. It was suggested that being spiritual mean being faithful to your beliefs in Christ. Going to the Abbey helps Tom and Mark recharge their spiritual batteries. Is Paul saying that we should think about what you are doing in your life and faith? Verse 2 refers to the law of Christ, does this negate the role of the spirit? The law of Christ is to love your neighbor. If we define love as knowing how to treat people and not trying to slot them into categories or stereotypes. To return to the admonition in verse 2, how do we help the people who are in need through no fault of their own. Do we abandon our help to those in need because there are some misuses of what is provided to them? How can we follow the law of Christ. I was reminded of the Buddhist Ten Commandments that were very interesting. I saw them on our recent trip to Viet Nam in a Buddhist temple. The commandments below came from http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com/2010/10/buddhisms-ten-commandments.html. Buddhists really don’t have commandments, but these are precepts that people are encouraged to follow in their lives.
Thou art well advised not to take the lives of living beings.
Thou art well advised not to take what is not given.
Thou art well advised not to commit perjury (speak falsely when questioned as a witness).
Thou art well advised not to speak divisively (separating those who are united).
Thou art well advised not to speak harshly (offensively).
Thou art well advised not to speak frivolously.**
Thou art well advised not to covet
Thou art well advised not to harbor ill-will.
Thou art well advised not to hold wrong-views.***
We discussed this chapter while I was away.
We read and discussed this chapter while I was away.
V 11 is Luther’s justification by faith. Also in Romans and Habakkuk 2:4.bill says this salvation allows us to obey the law. Bonhoeffer talks about cheap grace and it presumably is the disconnect some people feel and don’t think the law needs to be obeyed. CS Lewis say pretend to be something and it becomes reality. Does one wait for faith? Do you have faith because you act in the life that Christ intended for Christians. So faith is like basketball you want to become unconsciously competent. It is easy to obey a few rules but to have faith is scary. We struggle with knowing we are saved and are secure in that and therefore living by the law and in that law. You have confidence in the saving grace of Jesus. Why don’t we go crazy because we are saved and evangelize all over the place. What makes Lutherans so afraid to speak out about their faith like the evangelicals do. Mark says it is because of pride, we are afraid that someone will think less of us because we are Bible thumpers if we tell others of our faith! Frank says our cup runs over and we have the freedom to shout it out. Pride prevents us from becoming demonstrative. Bill says that this view that Paul preaches about the law has to do with picky Jewish law. So circumcision became the representative for all picky Jewish law. Acts 10:34 s an instance of this conundrum. God can save people not in your church. The Judaizers are the false prophets of that day and were saying people had to become Jewish before becoming Christians. Paul and James have completely different views and speak to different audiences. In creation god gave us everything but we didn’t follow thru so he repeatedly tried various ploys to get us back culminating in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. We have the promise of heaven but now how do we live out our lives under that promise. That is the question.
Mark read the whole book of Galatians from the Jefferson Bible and it was condensed into 2 pages. It seemed to skip all of the even numbered chapters. We were reminded that Galatians was Luther’s favorite book as it was the basis of his teachings that being saved is a free gift of God through grace and is not earned due to our works or following the law. Peter visited the Galatians in Antioch and was having fellowship with them until the Jewish Christians came and then switched over to them and the principle aspect of this difference is the rule of law as exemplified by the practice of circumcision. Paul preached that a person is saved by faith in Christ and his death on the cross, not by their adherence to the law. Is Paul being hypercritical about his rants against Peter and concerns about what Christ did for us. I think not, I think this is the basis of the gospel and represents the new way under Christ that doesn’t depend on the law. The law is followed as an outgrowth of our faith in Christ, not the other way. Al noted the duality of things in this text, Peter and Paul, the law and the gospel, etc. It represents a style of presentation that helps clarifies things. The Message interpretation of the Bible is particularly apt here. The author, Peterson says in verses 15-16, “We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over ‘non-Jewish sinners.’ We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know that? We tried it — and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.” I think Paul was trying to identify the false prophets of that time and their teachings so that people would know the falseness of their teachings. He didn’t want to see a hierarchy in which Jewish Christians were better that Gentile Christians. He thought they should all be Christians. One aspect of the writing that was noticed was the alternative uses of Peter and Cephus and Mark noted that it was that way in the Greek version as well as current versions. Peter is the Greek word, while Cephus is the Aramaic version of Peter’s name. In the way it was used, I think that Paul was saying Cephus to emphasize that Peter was backsliding into a ministry just to the Jews but that Paul wanted the message of Christ to be universal to all whether they were Jews or Gentiles. There would be no distinctions.
We started to read Galatians again. We read it in June of 2013 with Pastor John Meyer. It will be interesting to read it again now as we go through Lent this year. It is a book that gives us the freedom in Christ to live.
Mark said as we began our discussion that the ancients have stolen our best ideas. Galatians is the monograph of new congregations. Luther thought it was the handbook for new churches. After Paul had established the church in Galatia, he left and some Jewish people came in and said you had to be Jewish to be Christians. Now Paul was writing to straighten them out. Tom asked if the evil age continuing to this day v4. He is talking about false prophets and what they were preaching is not the gospel at all. The Message interpretations has a very powerful version of verses 6-9 which concludes with the phrase “If anyone regardless of reputation or credentials preaches something other than what you received originally , let him be cursed. Is this just Paul’s arrogance, I think not. Paul is saying that Jesus gave us the freedom to life and we don’t need to let the rules of a church stand in our way. In those days, it was things like the circumcision required to be a Jew or the dietary rules required of Jews. Might it be the rules we have for maintaining membership in our church that sound like club rules. Have communion at least once in 2 years and make a gift of record to Zion.
Tom asked, “Why evangelize, if God is all powerful why does he need us to spread the word?” The gospel makes us free. We lean on something so that it becomes a habit and becomes a part of us. Disagreement about Jewish traditions necessary for Christians.
What did Peter teach Paul in his 15 day short course with him. Peter lived in Jerusalem and most of the people in the church there would have been Jews, so he faced a different environment than Paul did in Galatia. Did Peter agree with Paul about what the club rules would be for people who were not originally Jewish.
Luther said Galatians was his gospel. If grace is Gods wishes for us to be free then saying no to that undermines the gospel of Jesus. Don’t let the rules deter us from accepting Christ’s gospel and the freedom it gives us. Why come to church? The community helps us remember the gospel and understand its message. Should we change the constitution to say if you are a member take advantage to help understand. Bill asks what do I have to believe, how do I have to act, how do I have to think. How can I screw up my salvation. Jesus came to save us and we are free to accept it. Tom asked, “Is baptism necessary to come to Christ.” Why do we need some human institution to realize the promise that Jesus made to us with his death and resurrection? V 5.1 is the meat of the issue. Christ sets us free to be His faithful servants.
Here is a link to the differences between the teachings of Peter and Paul: http://graceambassadors.com/midacts/list-petervspaul One that I think highlights their differences is Peter’s view that “Salvation and the law; justification by faith in Jesus as the Messiah accompanied by necessary works.” Whereas Paul said, “Salvation apart from the law; justification by faith alone in the cross work of Jesus Christ.” Also their view of the church. Peter thought “Separation between the Jew and Gentile; Israel is God’s chosen people. Gentiles blessed through Israel.” while Paul’s view was “No longer Jew nor Gentile but all are part of a new creature in Christ called his Body.” Another view on this is given by Pastor Mike Schroeder of the Amazing Grace Bible Study Community gives his interpretation of the differences between Peter and Paul that was quite interesting at the following link: http://www.agbsf.com/The-Ministries-of-Peter-and-Paul/
Today we finished Galatians. Next time we decided we will start Jeremiah. Some discussion transpired about some other books, such as Job, which we decided we should hold until Bob returned. A suggestion was made to look at C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, but we decided that this should be a Bible study, not a book study. Paul was addressing specific problems with the congregation in Galatia. Some people had come after Paul had started this church and said to the people, that the only way they could have salvation was to be circumcised and this could also save them from persecution. This also leads them to want to do faith kinds of tasks just to be sure they are being saved. Paul said no, all you need is faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also said that you need to stand up for your faith and if that means persecution, so be it. He is, I think, also saying that you have to take risks in the faith. Trust in Jesus not all these man made kind of ideas. You have to go out on the limb with Jesus.
It is interesting to read the sins of the flesh and there is quite a list, but then to add to that list as Jason suggested in his sermon on Sunday as well in our session this morning. It is easy to add to the list and it makes you think about what Paul was saying to the Galatians and what he would say to us today. Bill raised an interesting question about who wouldn’t be welcome to Zion as a member. We are not very selective in lots of ways. It is difficult to screen people when Jesus through Paul makes such an open ended offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. And then the gifts of the spirit are difficult not to accept. They are love, joy, peace, etc.
We started with a discussion of Galatians 3:26-29. Here Paul suggested a new order that didn’t distinguish between Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free as a basis for having faith in Jesus Christ. This was a revolutionary concept. Al suggested that we recognize differences but they shouldn’t make a difference in their faith. Tom talked about phenotype associated with genotype which some think as something before genotype. This may be some reference to God existing and providing the basis for the genotype. How do we see the Bible in our culture? Paul says there is man or women in the faith which shocked the people at that time.
An allegory is a way of interpreting scripture. In this case it was the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah and gives new meaning to the Galatians and their faith. How important were women in the church in Paul’s time. How much did the dark and middle ages shape the churches concept of women. What were people looking forward to? Life after death? Heaven? Paul is asking, are you going to be a slave to the law or will you live in the promise Jesus brings? Jesus rebelled in the face of the law. What is the new law.
Pastor John distributed some notes on Galatians 3 to us at the beginning of our session this morning. I have included a link to these notes at the bottom of the page. Click on it to open it up and read it. There is also a link to an editorial in the Iowa City Press Citizen that talks about proof texting. I think it is very confusing, but it points out the problems in proof texting.
Think about Paul and how he says I do what I don’t want to do. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Various people think that this was not a real physical disease or ailment, but rather it was something God sent to Paul to keep him humble. Paul says it is from Satan.
Paul is lifting up stories of God’s love. Do we need to tell personal stories of God’s love. Does everyone have a conversion story? Bill asked if everyone is spiritual? Bible camps provide a spiritual experience for many. God opened up to gentiles by giving the promise to Abraham. It is interesting that Islam which draws its beginnings from Abraham teaches that there are two types of people those who are Muslims and who are saved and those who are infidels. The Christian church believes that salvation is available to all, but not everyone accepts it through Christ.
Paul is strong in the law but says we must be saved by faith. Tom said Christ did works to save us. Jesus is the scapegoat for all of us. Jason says this is a relationship kind of discussion. It is about who Jesus was and what he did. Jason says Jesus doesn’t say this is your last or only chance.
We made a huge leap from Exodus to Galatians today. We have made a radical move from the recitation of laws in Exodus to the epistle that has been called the Charter of Christian Liberty.
Pastor John compared Greek style of thought in the New Testament and Hebrew style of thought in terms of their method of communications. The Greek style values reasoned discourse while the Hebrew style is based more on story telling. In the NT we have reasoned discourse like God is love whereas in the Old Testament, you read a story about Creation and how God loved Adam and Eve, or the stories about God’s interaction with Abraham and how he promised him to have unlimited descendants as a measure of his love. Here you see that the authors get their point across by story telling. This is Paul’s declaration of justification by faith. When it was written is more of a problem. And who it was written to. If it was written to the ethnic people of the kingdom of Galatia, that would be the northern part of the area, whereas it could also be the more expansive area that the Romans designated as Galatia. Then it might be addressed to the southern part of Galatia. Those who think of the northern Galatia area date the book about the time of Paul’s Ephesian ministry, or about 56 A.D. On the other hand, those who believe it is addressed to the southern Galatia people date it just before or after the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 and the date here would be 48-49 A.D.
Galatia is in present day western Turkey. If written to southern part in the 40’s,but if to northern parts, 53-54. First letter of Paul.
Augustine says love God and do what you want. But if we love God we will do what he wants. Paul introduces himself and makes the point that his teaching comes from Jesus not from any human source. This is what Jesus would say. Peter was the defacto leader at that time in the early church. Paul had been very Hebrew but speaks about the new way of Christ. Shocking. When did the word pope come into use? Who were people teach the false faith? Paul talked to Peter and James but insisted his words came from Jesus. Some people see Islam as a Christian sect. Was Jesus a good Jew? Verse 2:14 Paul calls out Peter and says he lives as a gentile but requires others to have the trappings of Jews. Compare Christianity and Islam as sects coming out of Abraham while Christianity comes out of Judaism.