Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pentecost Lectionary Readings: Get Ready to Hop and Skip Through Galatians Part 1

Springtime is a time when Sunday worship service attendance typically starts its decline into the summer doldrums as children and parents go off for summer vacations and other excuses for skipping church.

Speaking of skipping, the absentees will miss (unless they visit this out of the way blog) the readings from Galatians that hop and skip through Paul's letter each Sunday from May 29 through July 3. It may be difficult for even the weekly church goer to get the gist of Galatians over that period of time, especially since most preachers will probably avoid any discussion of the Epistle during their sermons. For the next several Sundays I shall try to fill in the gaps by offering up the missing verses as they come along and adding commentary from a few old-timers so that casual Sunday goers can get a taste of what they are missing from this important letter.  

This week we get to hear Galatians 1:1-12. First Paul's qualifications,
"Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the members of God’s family who are with me,"
Next, a concise theological statement can be found in Paul's prayer to the churches,
"To the churches of Galatia:
 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Then a strong admonition,
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!" 
 Followed by a little explanation for why he has to stick to an unpopular (to the Galatians) gospel message,
 "Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
And saving his strongest defense for last,
 "For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

Matthew Henry (d. 1714) in his Commentary writes,

The churches in Galatia were formed partly of converted Jews, and partly of Gentile converts, as was generally the case. St. Paul asserts his apostolic character and the doctrines he taught, that he might confirm the Galatian churches in the faith of Christ, especially with respect to the important point of justification by faith alone. Thus the subject is mainly the same as that which is discussed in the epistle to the Romans, that is, justification by faith alone. In this epistle, however, attention is particularly directed to the point, that men are justified by faith without the works of the law of Moses. Of the importance of the doctrines prominently set forth in this epistle, Luther thus speaks: "We have to fear as the greatest and nearest danger, lest Satan take from us this doctrine of faith, and bring into the church again the doctrine of works and of men's traditions. Wherefore it is very necessary that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise, both of reading and hearing. If this doctrine be lost, then is also the doctrine of truth, life and salvation, lost and gone."
Smith's Bible Dictionary describes Galatia as,
(land of the Galli, Gauls). The Roman province of Galatia may be roughly described as the central region of the peninsula of Asia Minor, bounded on the north by Bithynia and Paphlagonia; on the east by Pontus; on the south by Cappadocia and Lycaonia; on the west by Phrygia. --Encyc. Brit. It derived its name from the Gallic or Celtic tribes who, about 280 B.C., made an irruption into Macedonia and Thrace. It finally became a Roman province. The Galatia of the New Testament has really the "Gaul" of the East. The people have always been described as "susceptible of quick impressions and sudden changes, with a fickleness equal to their courage and enthusiasm, and a constant liability to that disunion which is the fruit of excessive vanity. --The Galatian churches were founded by Paul at his first visit, when he was detained among, them by sickness, (Galatians 4:13) during his second missionary journey, about A.D 51. He visited them again on his third missionary tour.
The "fickleness" of the Galatians is not that much different from the behavior of today's churches. We see in our Episcopal church how easily people can be taken in by false teaching and how the admonitions of traditionalists fall on deaf ears.

It will take the perseverance of Paul to turn things around in today's churches. 


  1. Wait Pewster! Didn't the ABC say it was now the "gospel of human flourishing"?

    1. In a contest between Paul and Justin Welby, I would take Paul any day.