God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Scripture Galatians 1:11-24; First Sermon in the Series based on Galatians
19 October 2013Posted by on
Scripture Reading: Galatians 1:11-24
You can read these Scriptures here: NIV
UMH 650 (will use melody UMH710) – Give me the Faith Which Can Remove
UMH 98 – To God Be the Glory
The letter to Galatians was written approx. 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected). Today we will start a short series based on this letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians.
The Letter to the Galatians gives us a window into what life was like for the first Christians less than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection; what they were struggling with and what it meant to be followers of Jesus living in a world that had beliefs and convictions different from their own. It is my hope that we will be able to draw parallels between issues that the Early Christians were struggling with and the issues that we face today.
The Letter to Galatians is addressed to “the Churches of Galatia” (Gal 1:3). Galatians were largely the descendants of Celtic tribes that lived in the territories of today’s Western Europe (at that time known as Gaul), and who migrated to the northern territories of Asia Minor sometime in the first half of 3rd Century BCE – the officially accepted date is 278 BCE (“Galatia.” Wikipedia, 2013 and Gill, 506-507). The Greek word “Galatians” – “Galatai” is a variant of the Greek word “Keltoi” – “Celts” (Soards, 509). Today this region is part of the province of Anatolia in modern day Turkey.
(Explain what “pantheon” is)
The Celts that settled in this region in 3rd century BCE had their own traditions, mythology and understanding of what was right, true and beautiful. They came with their own pantheon of gods. During their journeys they were exposed to other tribes which in turn had their own pantheons. During the immigration, when a new god (small “g”) was discovered by a tribe, it was usually added to their pantheon.
People living in the Mediterranean basin in the first century were receptive to the message of a most powerful God, creator of Heavens and Earth. They wanted to learn about that God and they wanted to add that God to their pantheon. We see this in Acts 17:22-31 when Paul addresses the local population, teaching them about God that they referred to as “an unknown God” (Acts 17:22-31). What the gentile converts were not comfortable with, at least the first generation of converts, was giving up their pantheon of deities, giving up the traditions and beliefs that they were raised with. That is known as emotional and intellectual inertia; all of us struggle with accepting new and different ways or ideas no matter how convincing the reasons are to accept these ideas.
Who among us has not said, “I know I should exercise more but…” or “I know I should take better care of my body but…” or “I know I should go to church more often but…”
Paul visited the province of Galatia during one of his missionary journeys. When we say that Paul established the Galatian church, what we really mean is that he reached out to Jewish synagogues and taught them what he knew about Jesus, the Messiah that Jews had been waiting for. Paul shared what he had learned about Jesus from his conversion experience and from his interactions with the original apostles and followers of Jesus.
Galatians 1:11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Another thing that we are saying is that there were at least some men and women who were receptive to his message.
At that time Christianity was made up of groups of Jewish men and women who heard the story of Jesus, and who came to trust this story by faith. Some of those Christians were gentile converts to Judaism. In addition some of those Christians were gentile converts to Judaism that were holding onto the pantheon of deities that they were raised with. Some of these men and women who were raised as Jews wanted to hold on to their Jewish customs and traditions. These men and women did not think of themselves outside of Judaism because Judaism was the framework that united them and became a source of their identity.
Even Peter had difficulty giving up his Jewish roots and his adherence to the law (story from Acts 10 where Peter is instructed that there is no need to keep kosher laws any longer and Peter’s reluctance to accept that – emotional and intellectual inertia).
Paul had to write the letter to Galatians to address that human condition of emotional inertia. In Galatians 1:6-7, Paul wrote:
“6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ”
Paul was frustrated because several leaders of the newly established community of Jesus’ followers were reverting back to what they were comfortable with: obeying the laws where everything was outlined in black and white as opposed to learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and adjusting direction as necessary. What was most troubling to Paul, however, is that these leaders believed that in order to be a Christian, a gentile first had to become a Jew and accept the supremacy of the laws outlined in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. In part: they believed that in order to become a Christians, all male gentiles had to undergo circumcision. Today we call that second camp Judaizers.
I want to make it clear that both camps had good, well thought out reasons to believe what they believed. We have more in common with Judaizers that we think. Every time we say, “we have never done it that way,” or “I don’t want to even think about that…” we exhibit the emotional inertia of wanting to stay where we are.
In the next few weeks we will continue to look at the book of Galatians to see what we can glean from it and apply to our own lives. When I preached a sermon about Grace this summer (prevenient, justifying and sanctifying), someone asked me to expand on it. I will attempt to address this request in the context of this series.
Gill, D. W. (2007). Galatia. The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Volume 2). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Soards, M. (2007). Letters to the Galatians The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. 2). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Wikipedia, T. F. (2013, 10 04). Galatia. Retrieved 10 17, 2013, from Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galatia