Entrusted Not Entitled – Galatians 2:7-9

“On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” –Galatians 2:7-9

I love coffee, and I like plaid, and I love to play acoustic guitar. I think that makes me a hipster. Or at least that is what people say. At first I would respond back the same way most hipsters respond: “I’m not a hipster.” Then when I realized that is what hipsters did, I just accepted the title. Now I think it is funny. And though now the fad is fading away, I’ll just about fitting this stereotype as long as I can.

It is strange to me that Paul would go from talking about a unified gospel to talking about a split gospel. Paul’s whole focus is to show that there is one gospel and no others. So now why is he saying there is a gospel to the circumcised and one to the uncircumcised? Why does it seem like he is contradicting himself?

Paul might be in a 50’s style gang fight – a greaser fight. Maybe what Paul is saying is that since the men who came to Galatia came from Jerusalem, they don’t have a right to preach the gospel to the uncircumcised. The Jewish disciples from Jerusalem would only have a right to preach the gospel to the circumcised. Paul might accusing these men are on his turf. Paul might be saying only he has the authority to preach to the Gentiles in Galatia.

Also, this is one of the only times Paul refers to Cephas as “Peter.” Everywhere else in Paul’s letters he refers to the head apostle as “Cephas.” This is telling for Paul. Maybe these aren’t necessarily his words. This could be what the pillars said; this could be what others in Jerusalem said. The change of name could hint to that. This would make sense if Paul used sarcasm or the words of others to drive his point.

Regardless, Paul is showing that his calling from God holds the same authority as does Peter’s. This would make Paul’s gospel message the true gospel. His authority isn’t below Peter. His authority is equal to Peter. They both have a calling and a purpose. And no one should question Paul’s authority – not the Galatians or the false teachers in Galatia trying to sway them.

Paul was pulling a hipster moment. He knew there wasn’t more than one gospel, but he used what people were saying to drive his point. His authority is on par with that of the apostle Peter, and that the church in Jerusalem gave him their right hand of fellowship. They saw Paul as a friend and a companion. They saw him as someone capable of sharing the gospel.

Another astonishing point is to note that the apostles physically saw that Paul was entrusted with the gospel (v 7). They didn’t hear that Paul was entrusted. They didn’t get insight. They saw that Paul was given authority from God.

I wonder what exactly they saw.

What do people see in you? Do they see the love and power of God? Do they see the gospel message? People might see me as the coffee drinking, earth tone wearing, crazy person, but I hope they also see a reflection of Christ.

Live in such a way that people see God in you.

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The Who and Those Who Seemed – Galatians 2:6

“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” –Galatians 2:6

The Super Bowl is a weird national event. Millions of people watching this game, the commercials, and the halftime show. It must be hard for whoever puts the event together to find a way to satisfy all the people watching. Basically every American demographic watches the Super Bowl. I started noticing how the Super Bowl tries to promote to various age groups in their halftime show. There always seems to be a weird collage of contemporary and classic music artists. It is a rather awkward appearance, and as a result, no demographic seems to ever be pleased.

Sometimes watching the halftime is a sad sight. I know you are probably thinking of the “wardrobe malfunction” of Janet Jackson in 2004. I am thinking of a more recent show of The Who from 2010. You would think that a band with a track list like The Who would be able to pull off a great show. I mean… they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for every rock n’ roll fan and every one watching the Super Bowl, The Who aren’t who they once were. They got old. They might have been great at one time back in the day, but who they once were meant nothing to those watching the 2010 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Paul is trying to make himself seem independent of the pillars in Jerusalem while still being respectful towards them. Some may say he executed this perfectly, while others may disagree. But he does make sure the audience knows what he is doing. He does this pretty well in Galatians 2:6. In this verse, Paul starts a sentence, interrupts himself with two other completely separate ideas, then he finishes his thought. He kind of finishes his thought. Verses 6-10 of chapter 2 are all one big sentence in the Greek.

Paul’s interruption has the idea that the apostles were once important, but who they once were now makes no difference to Paul. He is playing with the idea of the past and present. He is trying to say that just because these disciples once walked with Jesus doesn’t mean that they now hold some status over Paul. He just recognizes that others hold the pillars in esteem. He wants to show he preaches the same message as them while keeping his distance. Paul knows God called him, and God shows no partiality.

Paul is trying to point out to the Galatians that God doesn’t recognize human status like many on earth do. Who someone is, how much money they make, or how much influence they have doesn’t matter to God. Paul is saying that if God doesn’t pay attention to human status, then neither should the Galatians. They shouldn’t listen to these false teachers that have come and claimed authority from those in Jerusalem. Paul is claiming his authority from God.

Do you show favoritism? When I moved from a relatively low income area, to a relatively high income area, I realized that I showed favoritism to those who were of a less fortunate economic upbringing. This might be backwards from many in America, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the wealthy. I had to learn how to get over that.

Do you treat pastors different than prostitutes? Do you open the door for some and not for others? Do you flirt with waitresses and get angry with immigrants?

God views all people equally.

How do you view people?

Free For All – Galatians 2:4-5

“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” –Galatians 2:4-5

I had the opportunity to visit The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH a couple years back while on an outreach. I’m not a huge fan of history museums, but I enjoyed learning about the Underground Railroad and the abolition of slavery in America. I learned a lot about slavery in the past, and there was even an area that talked about slavery happening in the world today.

During the years where America was dividing, there were men who were sent out to find and catch escaping slaves. Slave masters hired them out, or sometimes they just went out on their own hoping to make a buck or two. The problem with these bounty hunters, besides the fact that they were catching slaves, was that they would sometimes take men and women who were legally free. They would kidnap anyone who they knew they could make a buck on whether they were a runaway slave or a free man.

There were men who had come to Paul while he was in Jerusalem trying to get Titus to get circumcised. They were trying to enslave the Gentile Christians again through the Law of Moses. Paul makes sure to emphasize that the truth of the gospel is freedom in Christ Jesus. Giving in to these “false brothers” wouldn’t have just hindered freedom for Paul, but it would have hindered the freedom of all who have heard the gospel. This is why Paul says, “our freedom” and not “my freedom.”

Anyone who is in Christ has freedom in him. Longenecker describes this freedom as being both instrumentally through Christ, and locationally in Christ. The freedom that comes in and through Christ is central to the gospel Paul has been preaching. For Paul, if one wasn’t in Christ, they were not free. Freedom is only found in Christ.

What is this freedom? The freedom that comes through Christ is freedom from the Law of Moses. Since the Judaizers are in Galatia trying to get the Christian men circumcised, Paul is using a situation he was in as a parallel tale. These Judaizers may or may not be the same “false brothers” Paul is referring to here, but regardless, Paul is trying to make them seem one and the same as the Judaizers… at least in philosophy. Just as these false brothers tried to take the freedom of Christ from Paul, Barnabas, and Titus, the Judaizers in Galatia are trying to take the freedom the Galatians have from the Law.

What does it mean to be free from the Law? When Christ came, he fulfilled the Law. Since the “Old Covenant” has been fulfilled, we now follow the “New Covenant” which is a covenant in Christ. So as Christians we don’t follow the rules of the Law per say, but we follow the man that perfected the Law in his life, death, and resurrection. We have freedom because all the cultural barriers that existed in the Law have been abolished, such as Circumcision, and Food Laws. Also, the ceremonial law established in the Old Testament – animal sacrifices and Temple feasts, etc. – don’t matter either. Christ has fulfilled that Law with all its rules and regulations.

Imagine now that you are a former slave in the early 1800’s. You’ve earned your freedom. Your “master” wrote for you to be a free man, as one of the stipulations of his will. So you go up north and start to look for work. You end up working for an abolition publication in Ohio. You have your freedom. You have a decent living. You work for yourself now, not for someone else.

Would you want to go back into slavery? Would you want to be considered not your own, but a property of somebody else?

Live your life not as someone who is shackled by rules and regulations. Live your life as someone who is set free. We have freedom through Christ. Live like it. We don’t have to answer to sin’s nagging again. We can overcome it through Christ. We aren’t slaves to the Law or to sin any longer. We have freedom through Christ.

Are you free?

Independence and Immunity – Overview of Galatians 2:1-14

Galatians 2:1-14

My family loves the show Survivor. Though it has been a couple years since I’ve watched the “reality show” that was the catalyst for them all, I still love the show. The strategy and deception that goes on in the tribes is suspenseful. To win, one needs to be good enough to win competitions and nice enough to have friends, but they can’t be too good or too nice, because then people will vote them out because this “nice guy” is a threat.

Every season, Survivor is in a different location. There are usually entirely new people every season (except for a couple fan favorite seasons). CBS has done a pretty good job balancing out having a general theme, but changing the show enough to where people stay interested. There is one challenge that the show seems to have every year. It is one where the contestants balance on a pole in the water. This is usually one of the last “immunity” challenges the contestants have. They have to stand on a wooden pole in the water, and whoever can stay up the longest makes it to the next round. While the show may change throughout the seasons, most serious watchers know to look for this competition at some point every year.

Though my whole family doesn’t have a big party celebrating the finale anymore, I’m sure the show still holds a special place in all my family’s hearts as it does mine.

In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul starts a balancing act of his own. Paul’s main aim in this section is to show his independence. He is trying to show that his gospel came directly from the Lord and hasn’t been changed by anyone. He is trying to show that his gospel is the same as the church in Jerusalem while stressing it is his own gospel, and not theirs that he is preaching.

It’s a tough situation for Paul to balance. If he seems too independent, the false teachers in Galatia will call Paul a rogue and dismiss him. However, if Paul seems too dependent, the false teachers will call Paul a liar and say that their message is really in line with those in Jerusalem. It is almost a catch-22 for Paul. He needs to show the Galatians that his gospel is his own, while also showing that it is the same gospel the pillars in Jerusalem preach. These pillars are Peter, James, and John.

If Paul seems too independent of Peter, James, and John he might not get their approval. It isn’t that Paul needs their approval to be validated theologically. Paul knows the authority of his gospel. It came from God. Paul knows these men are seen as “pillars” of the Christian faith just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the pillars of Israel. To lose their approval would be detrimental to his mission not his message. Not to mention it would cause disunity, one of the biggest issues Paul addresses in his writing.

We need to make sure we have the same thing in our life. We need to have a faith and a relationship with God that is our own, but we need to surround ourselves with people to make sure we don’t start thinking Christianity is something it isn’t. In verses 11-14, Paul talks about how even Peter stood condemned for excluding the Gentiles by eating with a group called “The Circumcision.” We must balance how we handle ourselves in situations, we need to balance our message of hope, and we need to help others to stay balanced as well. We are in this to win immunity – eternal life in Christ. Will you keep balance?

Sons of Serendipity – Galatians 1:15-16a

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” –Galatians 1:15-16a

A father and son were driving down the road after a fishing trip. During their trip, they were in a car accident. Both the father and son were rushed to the hospital, but the father passed away in the ambulance. When the boy reached the operating room, the doctor walked out of the room. “I can’t operate on him,” the doctor said. “He is my son.” How can this be?!

Paul refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” 15 times in his letters. Every time Jesus is mentioned as the Son, it is in his pastoral epistles. There is no mention of Christ as the “Son of God” in either the prison epistles or the pastoral epistles. Because of this Longenecker asserts that, “… “Son of God” as a Christological title was derived by Paul from his Jewish Christian heritage.” The idea of Christ being God’s son is probably an idea drawn out from Paul’s old life of Judaism. This is important because the men in Galatia who were spreading around false teaching were also Jewish, so they might’ve been using the same words to describe Jesus.

Referring Christ as the Son was also a relational term for Paul. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “‘Son’ describes the bond of love between God and Jesus and hence the greatness of the sacrifice. The title relates, not so much to preexistence, but to the wonder of the saving act. It is grounded in Christ’s passion rather than his exaltation and kingship.” There were other words like “Lord” or “Christ” that could be used to talk about Christ’s kingship. This is specifically talking about Christ’s relationship to God as his Son, sent to save the world. Jesus came as God’s Son in that he was the full representation of God. He was a reflection of God much like many children are walking reflections of their parents.

This is Paul’s logic: If Christ is God’s Son, and Christ is in Paul, then Paul is God’s son. This is why Paul has the privilege to call God, “Abba” or Father (Galatians 4:6). Not only so, but Paul will be saying the same thing about the Galatians later in the letter. To be in Christ not only meant that one was in God’s family, but even more so, that they are viewed as God’s children – his sons and daughters.

The love and sacrifice that God took as a Father to send his Son, and the love and sacrifice that Christ made to offer his life, should remind us just how much God has done to allow us to be part of His family. We are children of God if we follow Christ by faith. Do you see yourself as one of His children? Do you know he loves you? Do you know you are an heir to His promises?

Live today as one of God’s children. Walk as though you are a representative of Him. Just as children are a reflection of their parents, your life is reflective of how you respect your heavenly Father. Represent Him well.

And to answer the riddle, the doctor in the operating room was the boy’s mother.

Flare Jeans and Jeremiah – Galatians 1:15-17

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” –Galatians 1:15-17

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” –Jeremiah 1:5

Have you ever noticed how fashion seems to be cyclical? One fashion that was popular in the past will become stale, but within a couple decades it becomes retro again. Almost everything except the fanny-pack has managed to somehow make a turnaround over the years. Fedoras, flare jeans, Birkenstocks, and Converse shoes have all made their way around the hipster circle of life. Even togas have made a popular fashion surge thanks to the popular 70’s movie, Animal House!

Paul was pretty retro as well. I’m not necessarily talking about his fashion sense, though I’m sure if he were alive today he would totally wear designer jeans with a hip and over-the-top button down shirt! I’m pretty sure that is the uniform for a church planter in America today. Paul was retro in how he was called by God.

Paul uses “Septuigantalism” when talking about his calling from God. This is borrowing wording from the Old Testament to describe current situations in the New Testament. So Paul is talking about not only how his authority is from God, but also how God revealed himself to Paul like He used to reveal himself to the Old Testament prophets. The wording in this passage is similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s calling (Jer 1:5), and also with the proclamation of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 49 (verses 1-6).

The main thrust of Paul’s argument is that he did not immediately consult with anyone (verse 17). His call and the gospel he preached was his own that he received from God. He, like the prophets of the Old Testament, has a calling specifically from God! He has a mission much like the prophets to proclaim the message of God – the Good News, which is the Gospel. Notice how Paul’s calling is seen as a past event, but his mission is seen as present. “To preach [Jesus] among the Gentiles” is Paul’s past, current, and future mission from God. He might have a calling resembling those of the past, but he has a message that is completely new – a message that Christ has come and has saved the world!

Sometimes we get so caught up on looking for the new coolest thing that we forget what we already have. Coming from a Pentecostal background, I have experienced people who seek the newest revelation, experience, or prophecy from God, but they disregard what God has done in the past. The Bible is our measuring stick. If we don’t see it as the authority with which to filter our experiences through, then we might fall into error. We can have a new experience on old principles! We must make sure our experiences and expectations fall within the framework of God’s Word. Progress is not just movement. It is movement in the right direction.

Remember your calling. Even though you were saved in the past, God is calling on you to act in the present. Bring back the calling that you received in the past to the present. Dust it off like an old pair of flare jeans and wear your purpose with pride.

Brevity of Before – Galatians 1:13-14

“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” –Galatians 1:13-14

Every action movie has an, “I didn’t think it mattered,” moment. The main characters are in a bind. They are being chased by the “bad guys,” and all seems to look hopeless. The star male and female turn to one another, and then the female kicks a bad guy in the face! Before the male even has time to be surprised by this, the woman takes the assailant’s weapon, does a forward summersault, and shoots the rest of the men chasing her and her soon-to-be romantic interest. The man looks shocked as the woman still has a look of focus not seen yet in the film. He turns to her and asks where she learned to shoot like that. She responds, “I was in the military for some time and served overseas before becoming a [job that has nothing to do with the military]. I didn’t think it mattered.”

Obviously it did.

Paul spends the next chapter of Galatians talking about his life up until the time he met the Galatians. This is a pretty lengthy section, talking about Paul’s former life of Judaism, his call from God, his travels around the Roman world, and more. Though this section is pretty lengthy, Paul only focuses on his life prior to Christ for two verses. Luke spends more time in Acts talking about Paul’s life of Judaism than Paul does here! There must be some reason why Paul doesn’t think it mattered.

Paul might think this doesn’t matter, because the Galatians already know his testimony. This would make sense since Paul was a growing figure among the church. Paul also was the one to originally tell the Galatians the gospel, and with the story of Jesus, he probably shared some of his own story as well. To stop the redundancy, Paul probably abbreviated his former life to focus more on his ministry since becoming a Christian. The Galatians only knew Paul’s life before he knew Christ, but they are oblivious about everything that happened since he became a Christian. This is why Paul spends so many verses on his early ministry and very little on his life of Judaism.

Paul is also showing that his focus isn’t on his former life. His focus is on the gospel and how it affected his life. If he spent time on his life of Judaism it might cause the Galatians to think that there was something glamorous about it. It might give them an excuse to follow Judaism. Paul is trying to disassociate himself from the political side of his ethnicity. So though he is ethnically Jewish, he no longer practices Judaism. He is now a follower of Christ.

So, in a sense, his life before his encounter with Christ doesn’t matter. If Paul were to focus on that, it would take the focus off of Christ. He wants to make sure the Gentiles know that Christ is the one whom surrounds their faith. He is the one that changed Paul’s life, and Paul wants him to be at the center. Paul says enough to let the readers know he was a serious and a devout Jew. Nothing else mattered.

Too often I hear Christians give their testimonies, and they spend almost all of their time talking about life before Christ. It is almost like they are trying to relive their old life. Amidst the story, they forget to share the purpose of the story in the first place – Christ. A testimony that doesn’t talk about the transformation that occurred when they met Jesus isn’t a testimony at all. It is just a story.

What is your testimony? How has God changed your life for the better? What doesn’t matter anymore? Share your testimony. Remember who you used to be, but focus on who you are now. Focus on what God has done and is doing in your life today.