Redefinition and Justification – Overview of Galatians 2:15-21

Galatians 2:15-21

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, cause I’ve built my life around you. But time makes you bolder. Even children get older, and I’m getting older too.” –Fleetwood Mac

I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a loved one. I’m not sure what it is like for a couple to go through a divorce after being married for years. The loss of security that comes when one loses their job after being employed for decades brings no emotional response. But I am sure it is hard. For one to completely change what they once knew, who they once were, and what they used to do because of a cataclysmic event is something I can’t really relate to.

Sure I am a child of divorced parents. Yes, I went to college out of state. And I did move across country for a job opportunity. But I didn’t have a family I was bringing with me. I am relatively new to this thing called “life,” so all these changes didn’t affect me as they would someone who was more accustomed to a certain way of life. I couldn’t imagine how it would impact me having to move across the U.S. if I had a family I would have to take with me. I couldn’t imagine the fear that would come if I would lose my job having to provide for people I love.

This section is the main idea of the whole letter to the Galatians. If someone told me to explain this letter in a couple sentences, I would just point them to Galatians 2:15-21. Here Paul takes a look back at what he went through with calling Peter out on Peter’s hypocrisy. This is probably a summary of what Paul said to Peter, along with some personal testimony, theology (ideas about God), soteriology (understanding salvation), and ecclesiology (understanding what the church is).

Witherington states: “[This] argument is not basically about getting in [to heaven], nor even about how one stays in, but rather about how one goes on in Christ and with the aid of the Holy Spirit.” Here Paul develops his argument stating that to be in Christ does not mean that one follows the Law of Moses but instead the Law of Christ. Paul balances the works of the law with the faithful act of Christ’s crucifixion. This is why he says: “One is not justified by works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16b).

Paul is saying that God wants all people to forget who they once were and get a new identity in Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Paul is saying that he has to strip his identity as a Jew, and he now has to redefine who he is in Christ. He is encouraging the Galatians to also not become Jewish, get circumcised, and follow the works of the Law. Paul is encouraging them to find their identity instead in Christ.

This would be like someone getting divorced after many years. This would be like someone changing their career right before it was time for them to retire. To be a Christian one had to completely change how they once lived. For many, this would be no easy task. Many grew up being Jewish and following the Law, or they were Gentile and merely did as they pleased. To now go from doing those things to following the Law of Christ would be like completely redefining who they were.

Have you redefined yourself since becoming a Christian? Do you see yourself as your own, or do you see your life as being one in Christ? We need to be unified in Christ! We need to discover who we are as individuals and as a community through the understanding of who Jesus is as the Christ. The gospel is the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It is about how Christ has come to set a wicked world to rights. How has the gospel affected your life? Has Christ’s faithful act of dying on a cross transformed your life?

Take time to reflect on who you once were and who you are now that you are in Christ. Take time to remember what Christ has done for you through dying on the cross – the love, the sacrifice, and the implications of that event. Take a moment to remind yourself of your new identity in Christ.

Surrounded for Supremacy – Galatians 2:1-2

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” –Galatians 2:1-2

College was a time where I grew in every area of my life. I was learning every day. My job was teaching me to have a work ethic. Classes were keeping me punctual. Spiritually I was growing every day through chapel. Being in such a concentrated environment was nourishing for my growth as a budding adult.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from college was to be surrounded by people in every area of my life. I learned that to be an effective leader, I needed to mentor people, have peers, and be mentored as well. It was while I was at college that I really understood how important this was to my personal growth. My senior year, I would meet with certain professors once a week for mentorship, I would have friends I could confide in, and I was an example of leadership to those in the student body and my hall – I was Student Body VP and a Resident Assistant.

Though I don’t think this was Paul’s emphasis in Galatians 2, I think it should be noted that he has all types of people mentioned in the first few verses. He has the pillars in Jerusalem with whom he was checking his gospel. There was also God who gave him his gospel. There was Barnabas who was seen as an equal to Paul. And Paul mentions bringing Titus along. Paul mentored Titus, and Barnabas possibly mentored him as well. Not to mention that Paul’s whole mission is to share the gospel with the Gentiles. That is a lot of people whom Paul is influencing.

It might not be the foremost focus here, but Paul is trying to stress his independence while showing those who are in unity with him. There are those in places of authority who agree with Paul. There are also those who are willing to stand along side Paul and preach this gospel – even another noteworthy Jewish Christian, Barnabas. There are also those who are willing to follow Paul to learn from him.

Do you have people who surround you along your journey? It is easy to lose your direction in life if you don’t have focus. Having people in front of you that you can look up to reminds you that there are those who have succeeded. They give you credibility. Those who are with you help you and challenge you. Iron sharpens iron as you fail and succeed together. They truly know where you are, because they are there too. Having people with whom you can influence reminds you of your purpose. When you want to give up, they are a constantly telling you that what you are doing is worthy.

This is true for teachers, preachers, coaches, dentists, and doctors.

Make sure you are surrounded. Use those around you as a support system. Use them to learn. Use them to grow.

The First of Faith – Galatians 1:23

“They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’” –Galatians 1:23

Do you have a friend that is so seemingly stereotypical that you actually use his or her name as a replacement for the verb that describes them? I know people who have friends who always try to pull off the most over-the-top events, but they end up royally failing every time. Eventually, they just started using their name to describe when a great plan goes wrong. Like, “Man, you totally ‘Bobby’d’ that surprise party,” except with someone else’s name, because I am awesome. Or maybe you tell someone not to be such a “Bobby,” like this friend’s name automatically makes someone the stalest thing since unsliced bread. You know the term, “Debbie Downer” probably originated from a pessimistic, sorry soul named Deborah. It must suck to be Deborah.

It is strange here how Paul switches out the word “gospel” for the word “faith.” Not only so, but instead of just using a general term for faith here, he includes the definite article with it (“the”) as a means of making this a signpost of Christianity. Dunn states: “‘[Faith]’ had become so characteristic of the new movement to which [Paul] now belonged, that it could function as an identity marker, an identification which was sufficiently distinct to denote and define the movement itself—as equally the talk of ‘preaching Christ’.” The fact that “faith” and “Christ” or “gospel” is interchangeable here speaks magnitudes about the focus of Christianity and what made it different from Judaism.

Faith must have been the major difference between Christianity and Judaism. Before Christ, one had to be Jewish to be one of God’s people, and this came from birth. They had to be circumcised, and they had to then follow the Law of Moses. Now, to be part of the people of God, the Church, one now only has to believe in Christ. This must be what Paul was persecuting before he became a Christian. He was persecuting those who followed this “faith” in Christ. This is why after Paul was saved the Judeans proclaimed: “He who used to persecute us is now preaching THE FAITH he once tried to destroy.”

This is arguably Paul’s first time ever using the word, “faith.” The letter to the Galatians also has the most concentrated use of “faith” in any of Paul’s writings – being used 22 times in this six chapter epistle.

This idea of being saved by faith alone is what the Judaizers were teaching against. They were coming and telling the Galatians they had to be circumcised. They were telling them that accepting Jesus as King by faith wasn’t good enough. Paul is showing that he and the church in Judea stand together on preaching this gospel. This is also showing that at the earliest stages of Christianity, the focus has always been on faith, and not on anything else. Even while Paul was persecuting the church, he was doing so because of faith. Faith is at the heart of the gospel – not the act of circumcision or anything else these false teachers in Galatia were saying.

So how do you see the gospel? Do you see it as a bunch of rules you have to follow? Do you see it as going to church once a week? Or do you see it as following Christ through faith? Christianity is at the foremost about faith – faith in Christ. We don’t follow the Law, we follow the One who perfected it. We assemble as a body and fellowship around this faith. That’s why without faith in Christ, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

Don’t lose sight of the gospel of faith. Don’t get so caught up in doing the right things that you miss the heart of what it means to follow God. Faith is what it takes to follow. It is central so much to the gospel that the word itself is used in place of it. Remember it, preach it, teach it, and live it.

Preach The Faith.

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.

Science on the Scales, Part Two.

I was recently asked if I considered myself a skeptic…

I guess I do.

So, imagine me at a conference called, “Skepticon.” Hearing the name of this event, I was so excited to go! By the title, one would think that the conference was a place for people to come together and talk about different ideas and theologies rationally, and for them to decide on beliefs themselves based on all the facts considered. So, you can imagine how upset I was to find out that this was not a conference for skeptics. It was a conference for atheists to come and make mostly ad hominem attacks on theism and, more specifically, on God himself.

In my previous blog, I laid down an argument against Naturalism, stating that empirical science fails because it cannot prove itself. I also stated that these “sciences” have at their foundation an atheistic understanding, which most people use to disprove the existence of the supernatural a priori, and with it, God. But, with this philosophical framework crumbling at its foundation, there is lying amidst the rubble an idea that has been long forgotten – buried by time. And though some people in the Western world still believe in God, it is seen as folklore and fanciful, good for some but not to be pressed upon others.

There are people waiting to rebuild from the rubble.

At the crux of Christianity lies the doctrine of the resurrection. In 1Corinthians 15, Paul says that without the resurrection, Christianity would be worthless! Many have used the previous understanding of naturalism to disprove the resurrection, and in doing so, diminish Jesus and his message of a future hope for the world. But is the resurrection rational?

There are few that disagree with the historicity of the Bible – stating that Jesus was merely a myth. Most of them think that 1st century Christians (mainly Paul or Mark) saw prophesies of the past and formed them into this myth of “Jesus.” However, the gospels weren’t written as though they were myths – they were written as historical narratives. There were also no Jews that believed that their messiah would die and resurrect before Jesus came… and just because there is a correlation between these prophesies and what happened doesn’t mean that the material is therefore fabricated. Correlation does not mean causation.

Some people think that the life of Jesus was distorted, and that what we have now is an exaggeration of his life. They go from this hypothesis and try to decide which sections of Scripture Jesus “really did and said.” However, their argument is biased from the beginning, and therefore clouds their vision as they decide arbitrarily what they think is “historical.” There are also almost a countless number of manuscripts that attest to the Jesus of the Gospels. As far as manuscripts are concerned, there is more proof for the legitimacy of Christ than there is for the lives and writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer. There are far more documents about Jesus, written closer to the time he lived than there are for many figures in ancient history. But we don’t question these men’s existences.

But what about the Jesus of the Gospels, God incarnate, resurrected from the dead?

There are many things that make the resurrection the most plausible solution for one to consider. Of all the possibilities that are available, the empty tomb is the most likely option. Many Christian Apologists make this claim, and all of my “evidence” will be based from their arguments. I think if one leaves open the possibility for the miraculous, then Jesus makes a whole lot of sense with reference to the world in which we live.

Many people in the New Testament claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Aside from the 12 disciples and witnesses mentioned in the gospels, there are others, such as Paul and James, who have witnessed the resurrected Messiah. Paul is written in Acts as a persecutor of Christians until he experiences a vision from Christ. James is one of the brothers of Jesus, and previously didn’t believe his brother was the Messiah (Mark 3) until after Jesus’ resurrection where after James proclaimed him to be the risen Lord.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, Christ’s mother, were also the first to witness Jesus resurrected. Though this doesn’t seem important, women at the time were not seen as being “higher up” in society. Why would Mark say that women were the first to see Christ if he were fabricating the resurrection? Wouldn’t he want to put someone whose testimony would be more credible in his gospel if he were making it up? He could have put Peter, or any other disciple, or even a Jew high among society as the first witness of the empty tomb, but instead it was two women who first saw the risen Lord.

And let’s consider the changed lives of Jesus’ disciples. There are many people who are willing to die for what they think is true, but the disciples died for what they knew was either true or false. If the resurrection were fabricated, then roughly a dozen men died for something they KNEW was not true. I might die for something I think to be true, but I wouldn’t die for something I knew to be false!

Lastly, I think it is important to notice that there is continuity in Jesus’ character in the gospels. If you read the life of Jesus, a man performing miracles and teaching the way he did, and even claiming his own divinity, you shouldn’t be surprised to read that later he would be resurrected from the dead. Not to mention that Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection.

Maybe you thought that Jesus was a great teacher but never before considered him to be who he claimed to be – Lord. C.S. Lewis does a great job explaining that there are only three options of Christ’s character: that he was a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord. If you have never considered Jesus to be Lord, I ask that you look into it. Read the bible. Listen to some debates. Truly seek for what might be true, without having any presuppositions.

And if you are a Christian, remember to have some tact if you are telling someone about Jesus. We can win some arguments but lose the person in the process. We have at our hands the message of hope to the world! Let’s not have our pride or let condescending remarks get in the way. The world should know who we are by our love.

Be challenged – whether it is to know more or to love more. And maybe through that we can change the world.

Pointillism. Picture. Perseverance.

This weekend is going to be a rough one. With coffee as my ally, I will attempt to complete the feet of a lifetime! I have a 300 page book to read and take notes on, I have a study guide to complete and a test to take, I have 9 chapters to read on church history and a test to study for that I’ll be taking on Monday, and I should probably find time to sleep in the midst.

Sometimes life kind of… sucks. Events and circumstances come to a point where they all seem to eclipse, and here we are… stuck in the chaos.

It’s times like these where we learn we need to persevere.

I would pull up some text that has the word “perseverance” in it to help encourage you, but it is cheap. Most texts dealing with perseverance deal mostly with physical trials and tribulations. One deals with persevering to the goal heavenward – holiness. But I don’t want to cheapen what those texts have to say. I don’t want to weaken the text, especially in correlation with the little comfort it would bring those who need it.

The fun thing about worrying and being stressed is that nothing any one says will be consoling. If someone is stressed or is going through a rough time, reading this WILL NOT make them feel better. So… why am I writing this blog if it isn’t going to change people? – Because people need to choose for themselves not to worry or not to be stressed. People have to choose themselves to persevere.

You have to choose to persevere.

I think about my life as a Seurat painting. Seurat was an impressionist painter, most famously known for his pointillism. Pointillism is a type of painting where the artist uses dots to create works of art. Thousands of tiny dots, used across feet of canvas, come together to make a beautiful painting! Seurat is one of my favorite painters. I love to see how he uses all the different dots and brings them together for his unifying purpose.

I feel like these dots are like our trials. We see this single dot (or circumstance) that we are in, and we don’t seem to be sure what is going on. But later, looking back over the course of our lives, we see that God was using these trials to make a beautiful masterpiece (our character).

Maybe you need to step back away from your circumstance and see God might be using this time you’re in to help build up who you are. Maybe God will use this circumstance to help you minister to others who will be facing this trial in the future. Maybe God is trying to make you more mature. But take time and realize maybe your life isn’t so sucky after all. Just take a step back from your circumstance and see the big picture.