Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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 the Sunday Message; Galatians 3:23-29; 3-November-2013

Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

You can read this Scripture here:  NIV

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The letter to Galatians was written approx. 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected). Today we will continue with 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 struggled with and issues that we face today.

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Most modern Christians struggle with the concept that people who lived in the Mediterranean basin were welcoming and accepting of religions other than their own. Most groups had their own religious pantheon and when they heard that there was a really powerful God who created Heaven and Earth they were eager to learn about that God. The Jews who wanted to reach out to their neighbors and tell them about that God were usually welcomed with the open arms. Gentiles had no difficulty believing and accepting the God of Israel. What the Gentiles had difficulty with was leaving their own pantheon of gods and following only one God – the God that Jewish missionaries taught them about.

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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 the 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. Paul shared with them his understanding of God’s Grace. Those who heard him included Jews as well as Gentiles who wanted to learn about God.

Paul’s understanding of God’s Covenant promises is simple and straightforward. Paul taught that understanding to his congregations. These promises are found in Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 30:22; and Leviticus 26:12

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Exodus 6:7 NIV2010

7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. …

Jeremiah 30:22 NIV2010

22 “‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.’”

Leviticus 26:12 NIV2010

12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

After Paul left to continue on his missionary journeys, the communities that he pastored had to figure out how to move forward. They had to figure out how their lives will reflect their relationship with Jesus.

When we don’t know how to proceed, we tend to fall back to what we know. Community leaders who knew how to run synagogues, came forward, and they had to decide who was on their membership rolls; who belonged and who did not, who was a member and who just attended service once in a while.

{Explanation/illustration: what was at stake – military service, exemption from certain taxes imposed by pagan temples etc}

The decision that they came up with was that in order to follow Jesus, one had to become an observant Jew and live according to Jewish customs and the 613 rules outlined in the Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Today we call these men and women Judaizers. What they taught was the opposite of what Paul taught; Paul taught the Gospel of Grace; Paul taught that in order to follow Jesus we don’t have to observe kosher laws, or submit to circumcision. Paul taught that in order to follow Jesus, all we need is faith in God’s love for us.

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Judaizers taught that in order to be a Christian, the Gentiles had to know and obey all the rules and customs of Judaism and that was enough. Paul, on the other hand, taught that following all the rules and customs was an impossible task (an understanding that he found during his conversion experience). Paul taught that knowing and attempting to follow the law would not hurt, but being a Christian was about recognizing God’s love and being a bearer of that love. Love is not possible without relationship; love is not possible without understanding; love is not possible without respect; love is not possible without relationship between Christians and their God.

The letter to Galatians is written to refute the teachings of the Judaizers and to explain all that.

Paul had a strong Scriptural backing for his understanding of Grace.

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Isaiah 1:11-14 NIV2010

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—

what are they to me?” says the Lord.

“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,

of rams and the fat of fattened animals;

I have no pleasure

in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

12 When you come to appear before me,

who has asked this of you,

this trampling of my courts?

13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!

Your incense is detestable to me.

New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—

I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.

14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals

I hate with all my being.

They have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

Hosea 6:6 NIV2010

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,

and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8 NIV2010

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

Jeremiah 4:22 NIV2010

22 “My people are fools;

they do not know me.

They are senseless children;

they have no understanding.

They are skilled in doing evil;

they know not how to do good.”

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Galatians is written with emotion and intensity (Cousar, 7). Paul was angry and frustrated with the Judaizers. Paul was angry and frustrated with his readers who proved to be easily swayed.

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Galatians 1:6 NIV 2010 No Other Gospel

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—

Galatians 3:1 NIV2010 Faith or Works of the Law

3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

Galatians 4:16 NIV2010

16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

Galatians 4:19-20 NIV2010

19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Galatians 5:7, 10-12 NIV 2010

7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

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The Scripture that we’ve heard today begins with Paul giving a concise description of his understanding how faith in Jesus Christ relates to living according to Jewish customs.

Galatians 3:23-24 NIV2010 Children of God

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

The Message translation of the Bible says it much more clearly:

Galatians 3:23-24 MSG

23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

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In Paul’s view, the Law and the customs were like training wheels until we found the faith. We have a great example of that in the life of John Wesley.

1737 was a difficult year for John Wesley. He was depressed over what he perceived to be his own lack of faith and the outcome of his work in the American colony of Georgia. He even wrote in his journal, “I who went to America to convert others was never myself converted to God”. Peter Böhler, who was a Moravian pastor, spent time with John Wesley and that tutelage about the nature of grace and “heart religion” was instrumental in John Wesley’s conversion experience and process.

During that time, on 4 March 1737 John Wesley penned in his journal: “Immediately it stuck into my mind, ‘Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?’ I asked [Peter] Boehler, whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered ‘By no means.’ I asked, ‘But what can I preach?’ He said, ‘Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.’”

John Wesley’s work and experiences prior to his heart being “strangely warmed” were like training wheels preparing him to recognize the real presence of God in his own life. Obeying the customs and the law was like training wheels preparing Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s congregations to recognize the Holy Spirit in their own lives. Just like that, when we observe our customs and rituals, they are like training wheels that help us stay in balance as we grow in our faith, on our journey to perfection. We rely on them until such times that we no longer need them to stay focused on God.

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Galatians 3:26-29 is a concise statement of Paul’s understanding of God’s Grace: an ongoing, relationship-building energy that connects God and ALL of God’s children/Creation.

Galatians 3:26-29 NIV2010 Children of God

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Listen to the Message translation of the same verses:

25-27 … By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult [mature] faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.

28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

{Transition into the Holy Communion}

clip_image026 {Open the Altar}

Works Cited

Cousar, C. B. (1982). Galatians, a Bible COmmentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

Gill, D. W. (2007). Galatia. In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 506-508). Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Soards, M. (2007). Letters to the Galatians. In New Interpreters Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, pp. 508 – 514). Nashville, TN: Abongdon Press.

Wikipedia, T. F. (2013, 10 04). Galatia. Retrieved 10 17, 2013, from Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galatia

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2 responses to “Approximate Notes for the Sunday Message; Galatians 3:23-29; 3-November-2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Galatians 5:16-26; 24-November-2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; Galatians 5:16-26; 24-November-2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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