Monday, August 1, 2011

Galatians 1:1-5

Welcome to the ­­­Elijah’s Bunker blog!  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will feature verse-by-verse Bible study, beginning with Galatians.  Saturday will be an opportunity to share prayer requests, and Sunday will be a hodge-podge of topical studies, Q and A, and discussion of Christian media.  You can find out more about the blog under the “About” tab.  Now, let’s dive right into the Scriptures!  Today’s passage is Galatians 1:1-5.

1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be the glory forevermore.  Amen.

Today’s passage is only the introduction to this letter and thus will not involve a very in-depth study, but there are still plenty of treasures to be gleaned from it.  Let’s look at a couple of preliminaries first.  The first thing to observe is who wrote this letter (Paul and some Christians with him  - verses 1-2), and to whom (the Christians in the region of Galatia - verse 2).  From Acts and Paul’s other epistles, we know that before coming to Christ, Paul was a Pharisee – a background which clearly made him very qualified to write Galatians, which largely deals with the subject of faith versus works.  (We will study Paul’s past in more depth on Wednesday.)  Galatia was a region between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, in modern-day Turkey.  Paul established churches there on his first missionary journey (see Acts 13 and 14 – many of the cities mentioned in those chapters were in Galatia), and this letter is thought to have been written fairly shortly thereafter.

Next, let’s examine a couple of statements that Paul made in his introduction.  Firstly, he was “an apostle.”  This is the Greek word apostolos, which means a delegate, messenger, ambassador, or commissioner.  As we see in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, apostleship is a spiritual gift (as opposed to discipleship, which we are all called to).  Specifically, Paul was enabled by God for the specific purpose of being a messenger of the Gospel and an ambassador of Christ.  He emphasizes this with the statement “not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” – in other words, Paul is establishing that his authority comes from God, which is necessary because he is going to harshly rebuke the Galatians in this letter. 

Another thing to note is Paul’s inclusion of the Gospel in his very introduction of himself. Notice that he both stated that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He rose from the dead.  According to Romans 10:9, that is the essence of the Gospel: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Returning to the Galatians text, we see that Paul considers the Gospel to be a crucial part of his identity (take a look at his introductions to other epistles, and you’ll see that he made a habit of it).  Christ was the foremost part of his person.  We further see this principle in Romans 13:14, which tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live be faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

Let’s also consider the phrase “Grace to you and peace.”  This exact phrase, or a very close version of it, appears in nineteen of the twenty-one epistles (the two exceptions are James and 1 John).  It may seem like a very simple greeting – and was apparently quite common – but it is also very beautiful.  Take a moment to ponder the implication of how marvelous it is to be living in a perpetual state of grace and peace through Jesus Christ.  Its repetition should make us pay attention, not gloss over it! :-)

Now, I’d like this blog to operate exactly like a small-group Bible study.  In other words, I want this to be a dialogue, not a monologue! :-)  So please, share your view of each day’s passage with us – any knowledge you have it, related Scriptures that you’d like to share, thoughts or interpretations, etc.  To get things rolling, I’ll try to post a couple of discussion starters each day (but feel free to ignore them and comment on something else in the passage).  Here are today’s:

1 – In his introduction, Paul portrays himself as a believer in Christ above all else.  How can we make “follower of Christ” our primary identity?  What can we do to ensure that everyone we interact with knows this about us?

2 – Notice Paul’s impromptu praise in verses four and five.  What applications for our own lives can we draw from this?

3 – What are your favorite verses dealing with grace and peace?  I’m partial to Isaiah 54:10 “‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you” and 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.  The Lord be with you all!”

Be sure to come back Wednesday for a study on verses 6-12, when we’ll actually get into the meat of this epistle and go a little more in-depth (or at least as we can go in a short blog post)! :-)


Anonymous said...

In response to question number 1 I would suggest that while it is impressive that a follower of Christ is how Paul described himself what speaks more of his faith is his lifestyle Eph 4:1. There are many people who walk around trying to convince me of their faith than merely living it, and in situations where we continually interact with someone our obedience to God is what (I think) will ensure they know and not just convince them. But in the case of passing by someone more emphasis is placed on what we say, not totally negating the fact that our actions should represent Christ as well. "People aren't confused by the Gospel. They're confused by us." -Casting Crowns

Sapphire said...

Excellent point, Anonymous! Thank you for your comment. :-) The line you shared from Casting Crowns reminds me of what Gandhi said when asked why he didn't embrace Christianity: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians." It seems the adage that "actions speak louder than words" is *sadly* very true.

Yahya Snow said...

Here is a post about Pam Geller. What do you think? Can you trust her?

Sapphire said...

Thank you for stopping by, Yahya. To answer your question, I have not followed the Norway situation very closely, so this is the first time I have heard any mention of Pam Geller; however, based solely on the information provided in your post, I would certainly NOT trust or support her in any way.

It is important to note that although the media is dubbing Breivik a "Christian fundamentalist" and his (and apparently Gellar's) views as "Christian extremist," this is not the remotely the case. Breivik plainly stated that in his manifesto that he is a "cultural Christian" only, and does not even necessarily believe in God, and certainly does not have a personal relationship with Him. Further, his and Geller's actions are better classified as "Extremist ANTI-Christian"...the Bible makes it clear that Jesus' followers are not to go around killing people in the name of religion (John 18:36) and that we are to treat everyone with love (Matthew 5:44) because God desires that no one die without coming to know Him (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, Breivik is definitely not a "religious" (believing) Christian (both by his own admission and by Biblical standards - see Romans 10:9); I do not know if Gellar has made this same denial of Christ, so I will not take it upon myself to say whether or not she is a believer, but I will say this - even if she claims to be a Christian, her hateful, anti-Biblcial actions reveal that she may be deceiving herself or others (Matthew 7:15-23).

I pray that no one is decieved into thinking that Breivik and Gellar represent what Jesus stands for - Christians are to love Muslims and members of all religions, not try to eradicate them. I hope this answers your question.

Red Ash said...

I totally agree with Gandhi. =P

Sapphire said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ashley! :-)