Monday 26 January 2015

Bible Book:

“You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life … I was violently persecuting the church of God” (v. 13)

Galatians 1:11-24 Monday 26 January 2015

Psalm: Psalm 139


Paul's dramatic conversion can be an uncomfortable read forthose for whom faith has been a continual, slow-burning journey. Itis possible to feel a little inadequate (or at least, a little lessinteresting) when we read that God revealed his message directly toPaul (then named Saul) on the road to Damascus (see Acts9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:12-23) and that Paul then immediatelyturned away from his earlier existence of "breathing threats andmurder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts9:1). However, Paul does not reject his status as a Jew or "thetraditions of [his] ancestors" (Galatians 1:14) - instead, he turns away fromseeking validation through obedience to the laws of Moses andthrough his own significant achievements (about which he does nothesitate to remind us) and places himself at God's disposal.

The balance that Paul strikes between his heritage and therevelation he received from God is vital to his letter to thechurch in Galatia (a region in modern Turkey). Under the newcovenant between God and his people that was forged by Jesus' deathand resurrection, "there is no longer Jew or Greek" (Galatians 3:28). This meant that Gentile(non-Jewish) believers were no longer required to become Jews, orto carry out the ceremonies and rituals set down in the laws ofMoses. However, in the short time since Paul had established thechurch in Galatia, it had been infiltrated by false teachers whohad convinced many that "unless you are circumcised according tothe custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts15:1). The Jerusalem Council in AD 48/49 would rule thatGentile converts should not be circumcised (see Acts15), but as Paul fails to mention this, it seems likely thathis letter to the Galatians was written before the decision wasmade. Paul's purpose in his introduction is to remind the churchthat he received God's message directly (and unmediated throughteachers with their own agenda) and that although he holds fast tothe traditions of his Jewish ancestors, he is justified by faithalone, and not by obedience to the law (Galatians 2:16).

To Ponder

  • If you have come to a Christian faith from another faithbackground, what traditionshave you found it helpful to retain andincorporate?
  • Are all testimonies (personal stories of faith), howeverdramatic, equally useful as tools for evangelism? Why?
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