Thursday, January 17, 2008

Galatians 2

Supporting a team in League Two is a relentless parade of glamour. We're currently in a quartet of games that include Mansfield, Rochdale, Rotheram and Dagenham & Redbridge. Often i joke that if we played any teams anyone had actually heard of then i wouldn't be able to take it, the glory would be too much for me to bare.

Which is interesting, because there is a glory that's too much to bare, a glory that will either change you or kill you. It's the unsheltered glory of God in the face of Christ. And we behold it mainly in this world in the Word. It's the Word that changes people, it's the Word where we see displayed the glory of God shining from the face of Jesus Christ. It's studying the Bible with people that's changed my heart and my life in the last few years. Which is why i love the chance of doing it with others, and why, on days like today for example, i don't mind having my whole day taken over by one chapter of the Bible.

A new thought

Context is, of course, key everywhere in the Bible, so that needs exploring before much of Galatians two will make sense. Paul wants to refute the allegations from his Jewish opponents that he is merely a puppet of the original Apostles in Jerusalem, that he is just their agent sent to quell the heresy in Galatia. Thats why Paul is so keen to make a big deal of his conversion experience in chapter one, the reason why he went to Jerusalem and his opinion of Peter, James and John in chapter two. As i read this this morning i was wondering what relevance Paul's action and attitude had for me today in 2008. I can see why his argument in the first ten verses would have been very important to the Galatians and his enemies, but how were they providing me with life and righteousness training now?

Well, isn't it good news for us today that Paul's conversion came from seeing the risen Christ and not from man? Not that this makes his conversion any superior to any one elses, but it shows that he did not get his Gospel from any man. He was not a follower of Peter, James and John. So much so in fact that he actually went to check up on them. This filled my heart with happiness as i saw again that the Gospel i believe and struggle to proclaim comes not from man anywhere along the line, but from Christ, and Christ from God.

In praise of paraphrase

I then set aside the afternoon to working on verses 17-19. What a great struggle to be involved in! I think in the end i got to the place where i agreed with Gresham Machen's interpretation that dividing the three verses into their four component parts and then linking part 1 to part three and part two to part four is the way to understand what Paul meant. So, Jews have abandoned the law, making them sinners in the eyes of Jews? So is Christ a servent of sin? Well, if Paul and Peter build up what they had torn down they admit that what they tore down was good. That is if they go back to the law having gone away from it, they admit that the law was good, and make Jesus a servent of sin, since He led them away from the law. But...'certainly not!' (v17b) through the law Paul died to the law, so that he might live to God. The law was never going to save anyone, Paul died to it by faith, so that he might live to God. So Jews deserting the law by no means makes Christ a servant of sin unless they return to the law, which is what makes Peter's lunc arrangements in verses 11-13 so serious. Now that took me some hours to get to. Nick, who i was reading with this afternoon uses the NLT, and he read verses 17-18 like this:
But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!
Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.

Which of course isn't what the Bible says so much as what it means, but after an afternoon of work, i found it tremendously helpful to hear...

A good day!

1 comment:

thebluefish said...

Praise God for Kenny's fave doctrine, the clarity of scripture.