Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Galatians and Righteousness (2) Antioch

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians by describing an event at Antioch where Peter was happy to eat food with Gentile Christians, but when James came to visit, Peter drew back and refused to eat with them (Gal 2:11-13). Paul challenged Peter in front of the church for not acting in accordance with the gospel and said he was forcing Gentile Christians to follow Jewish customs (Gal 2:14). The remainder of Galatians 2 is Paul’s recollection of his response to Peter.

Previously in his ministry, Paul had checked his understanding of the gospel with the so-called pillars of the church, Peter, James and John (Gal 2:1-9). They did not add anything to the gospel of Jesus that he was preaching. The circumcision group that pressured Peter when he came to Antioch was adding something to the gospel. They were saying that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and eat separately to be “right with God” (Gal 2:12).

Being justified before God was the concern of the Judaizers, not Paul’s. Paul was more concerned about being set apart and called by grace (Gal 1:15). He had no need to be justified before God. Paul’s other goal was freedom from the power of sin and the spiritual powers of evil (Gal 5:1). The circumcision group wanted to make a good impression outwardly (Gal 6:12). They want to boast about their noble birth (Gal 6:13). The only thing that Paul will boast about is the cross of Jesus, through which has been crucified to the world (Gal 6:14).

The other thing that Paul worried about was receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 3:2,14, he explains that the major benefit of the gospel is not being made righteous, but receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit. Being made righteous is of no value to us. Receiving the Holy Spirit can transform our lives, so this is the goal of Paul’s gospel.

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