Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting into Galatians - Paul is cross

Several years ago I was invited to go and lecture in Turkey. As part of the trip, between lectures I was taken on a tour of Cappadocia. It was a fascinating place. You can see from the picture these strange 'chimney-like' natural structures which are often hollow and on the inside were dwellings and churches. The churches often were adorned with Greek Orthodox icons, but others showed signs that icons had been removed by iconoclasts. In fact the underground dwellings far precede the Christian era and some say date from the Hittite days.

The second picture shows a map of the great underground city that I visited. It stretches more than 10 kilometers from side to side.

Before the expulsion of Christians from Turkey in the 1950s there was a large Christian population in Cappadocia, and it is probably to this population that Paul is writing to in the letter to the Galatians

Asia Minor was conquered by marauding bands of Celts and Gauls from Western Europe in 278 BC. It became the Roman province of Galatia in 25 BC

This was one of the first epistles written by the Apostle Paul, almost certainly less than 20 years after his Road to Damascus conversion. Paul wrote this letter as an angry man. You know that trick of putting an angry letter away in a desk drawer for 24 hours before you send it, while you cool off? Well, Paul was having none of that. Gone are the well-wishes from his fellow workers and the endearments to his recipients that characterize his other letters. He waltzes straight in.

“Paul, an Apostle – sent not from man nor by men, but by Jesus Christ.” He establishes his authority. His encounter with the risen Christ was such an awakening experience; the greatest event in his own life. Indeed who can claim a greater?

Paul is the greatest Gospel preacher and in his first sentence he declares the Gospel, the Good News, “by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.”

Some people believe the Gospel is “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” but that is your response to the Gospel; the Gospel nub is that God has raised Jesus from the dead.

The consequence of the Gospel is given in verses 3 and 4, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Please note that we are not just rescued form wrath to come but from this present evil age.

So why is Paul so cross? He tells us in verses 6 and 7. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

That false Gospel is a return to the Law and next time I will explain why it is so dangerous, not just for them, but for us also.


justme said...

The underground city and its history is fascinating. Thanks, I didn't know any of that. Or if I did at one point, I had forgotten. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series.

Anonymous said...

The chimney-like spires are know as 'hoodoos' and are common in desert-like environments. See: