Galatians Part 7
I have been back in Britain. And was back for the last blog. The culture in Morocco is so much closer to that in the UK. Being in North Africa andreading the Bible has given me insights that sitting in the UK with a Bible and a commentary.
So back to Paul, and the writing about contrasts is taking another twist: This time its personal.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain.
Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Galatians 4:8-18
Another chapter, another set of contrasts. First it was Law against … Then spirit against flesh.
Now it’s Freedom versus slavery.
Paul’s example here is himself. And unlike how many authors would commend themselves, Paul is the anti-hero. His argument is that when he first came to preach in Galatia, to these strange Celtic people who had settled in what is now modern Turkey, h was in a bit of a state. He does not say what was troubling him, whether it was physical due to having beaten up for preaching somewhere earlier, or something else. But we know that it would have been upsetting to some. Despite this there were some in Galatia who received Paul’s preaching. Paul is saying, “You received me and my preaching, but hey, I’m nothing special, just the opposite.”
It is so unlike the adverts in the comics of my youth. “You can have a body like mine,” said Charles Atlas, in the first stage of you not having a bank account like his. Paul is saying, “I get sand kicked in my face, but God can still work through me.” Physical appearance is not everything. Paul is commending this saying be like me.
“You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain.” is curious. Does this mean that we are getting it wrong with celebrating Easter Christmas and having Harvest festivals and Sunday worship? The context is important. Early Christians had already started meeting on the first day of the week, and celebrating the Passion of Christ and the Resurrection. This cannot be what Paul id getting at, can it?
Well, no. The answer is in the context. The context of the letter is whether Christians should use Jewish ritual. With no evidence that the subject of the letter has changed it is fair to assume that it is the same. Paul is upset that the Galatians Christians are observing Jewish religious rituals such as Passover and Atonement that look forward to the Messiah coming rather than back at what Christ has done. What Christ has done is worth celebrating.
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;[e] she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labour!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
Now you,[f] brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Galatians 4:24-31.
“To give the impression that the Holy Spirit cannot take place in those who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation.” – Pope Francis.
It is good to see that what Paul wrote to the Galatians is still been given prominence. When what used to divide us is resolved we find something else. That is human nature.
WE are free from the Law, which means to the Galatians that the Jews who became Christians were not a higher kind of Christian than those who did not share their heritage.
Today we have different things that divide; rich and poor, denominations, asylum seeker and host nation. All divide us, but we should not let them divide. All are one in Christ.