Friday 25 January 2019

Bible Book:

For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin. (v. 11)

Galatians 1:11-24 Friday 25 January 2019

Psalm: Psalm 67


Our reading today takes a break from 2 Samuel to commemorate the conversion of Paul. Paul is fighting to maintain his influence among the churches of Galatia. Having founded the churches himself, other people have arrived amongst them urging that the men should be circumcised in line with the Law of Moses. At the heart of this letter is a fundamental struggle about the identity of the early Church and what it means to be a Christian. Paul’s gospel of salvation by grace for both Jews and Gentiles is at odds with some people in the Church who want to hold onto adherence to the Law of Moses and insist that Gentile men should be circumcised.

Before Paul makes his argument he needs first to establish his authority and the authority of his message. The main thrust of his argument is that his message does not come from human beings but directly from God and was given to him by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. He also gives us some of his own biography, which is very pertinent to his argument. Namely that, as a young Jewish man, he was more zealous than anyone else for upholding the Law of Moses. He is making the point that if anyone would have been more inclined to argue for the Law of Moses it would have been him.

Paul tells us about his time in Arabia, suggesting a time of retreat and withdrawal rather like Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. He then goes on to tell us about his time spent with Peter and James the brother of Jesus. The argument for his authority is being made by combining this sense of divine revelation with the acknowledgement and backing of these two pillars of the early Church.

But at the heart of this biography is a wonderful story of grace and transformation that offers the most powerful part of his argument – namely the transformation of a violent individual who, out of religious zeal for the law, was persecuting the church. The story highlights both the dangers of legal adherence alongside the radical transformation of grace in his own life. It is a powerful testimony that Paul uses to make his case.


To Ponder:

  • Paul tells a wonderful story of God’s grace in his life. What story would you tell?
  • What, if any, are the dangers of legalism in the Church today?
  • Paul describes himself as a violent, religious zealot. What does this story teach us about religious violence today?
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