3 January 2017

Galatians 4:4-7

“And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 67


The Church in Galatia struggled with several conflicts and who was 'right' is not always quite as simple as Paul sometimes implies. There were Jewish Christians, ('foundation members', you might say, of the Christian Community) who were trying to keep to the faith with which they had grown up in the light of the new faith they had found in Jesus. They wouldn't have recognised some of the harsh words that the Gospel writers had for their beliefs. They recognised Jesus as the Christ, a Jewish idea and a Jewish person! They were, however, under pressure from their brothers and sisters who didn't believe Jesus was the long-promised Saviour.Were they being real Jews?They were also under pressure from completely new believers who acknowledged that a Jew had come for the whole of humanity, and that meant them even though they were not Jews! They didn't have any desire to learn the ways of a religion that they believed Jesus had come to reform. Why learn 'bad old ways' when you have the new right there?Were these Jewish Christian real Christians?

It is a complicated story, and Paul's understanding of what Peter was about, and Peter's view of Paul are tangled. Paul's great strength in all this though is his capacity to raise the eyes of those who argue to a transcendent truth that would unite both Jew and Gentile. For Jesus had taught his disciples the 'Abba' prayer (The Lord's Prayer) and this was not only an intellectual insight about the nature of God, but a new way of experiencing God. The God that the Jews knew through Scripture, through creation, law, prophets and experience could also, and best of all, be known as "Abba" ("Abba" is a Hebrew word meaning Father, or more commonly Daddy). Here was unity of experience and belief that immediately made the disagreeing community 'family'. Jew and Gentile were sisters and brothers for they had a shared experience of the divine being in the new relationship Jesus had given them.

To Ponder

  • How do you experience and know God? And has it changed over the years? If so, how?
  • What disagreements are there in the Church that trouble you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.