Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (1)

Will post pieces of  this essay up - thanks to references from Blackham, Glen & Dave Bish

for comments please:

            Galatians is… a theological refutation of a heresy that, if accepted, would have destroyed the whole church’[1]. If Cole’s claim is correct, then it is well worth understanding this ‘heresy’!


            The apostle Paul was writing a letter to the Galatian church[2] with very large letters, in his own personal handwriting.[3] He had a very serious issue to contend with – so much so that he would not hold back his curses[4] and even came close to insulting his own friends[5]. The issue was that the followers of Jesus were falling into some kind of slavery. They seemed to be ‘bewitched’[6] by certain religious teachers, into practicing a form of religion that was very different from the teachings of the heavenly appointed[7] apostle.

The Nature of Paul’s Opposition

            Who were these teachers? They could have been Jewish Christians from either Jerusalem, or elsewhere, perhaps with some gnostic views; Gentile Christians who wanted to get back to their Jewish roots, or simply a mixed group arguing how much they should submit to moral commandments in the Old Testament[8]. What we do know for sure is that they are accused of: preaching a distorted gospel[9]; bringing the current believers into slavery[10] through the re-introduction of certain Old Testament practices[11]; drawing the believers to become their own personal followers through praise[12]; and they ultimately wanted to avoid persecution[13],[14]. 

So what was happening was that “these new teachings were robbing the Galatians of their freedom and their confidence…. (and so) Paul was desperate to rescue the Galatians from this dreadful cult.”[15]He had purely and faithfully instructed them in the Gospel; but false apostles had entered, during his absence, and had corrupted the true seed by false and erroneous doctrines.”[16]

[1] R. A. Cole, The Letter of Paul to the Galatians, Leicester, 1989, p. 57
[2] For a discussion on whether the churches were in northern or southern Galatia as well as the dating of the letter – see Leon Morris, Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, IVP 1996, pg. 15-22
[3] Gal 6:11
[4] Gal 1:8-9
[5] Gal 3:1, cf. Gal 4:14
[6] Gal 3:1
[7] Gal 1:1
[8] C. B. Cousar, Galatians, Louisville, 1982, pg. 5
[9] Gal 1:6-7
[10] Gal 2:4
[11] Gal 4:10, 5:2-3
[12] Gal 4:17
[13] Gal 6:12
[14] Morris, pg. 23-24
[15] P. Blackham, BookbyBook:Galatians, Verite, 2011, pg. 14
[16] J. Calvin, Commentary on Galatians & Ephesians,          

1 comment:

dave bish said...

Looking forward to seeing the rest of this.