Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Gospel of Galatians

The Gospel of Galatians

“...those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (NRSV)

Our Sunday morning Bible class is working through Paul’s letters chronologically, in the order presented by N.T.Wright in his biography of Paul, which has Galatians, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians as the first three. While I don’t generally pull verses out of context just to make a point, I have done so here to focus on ‘the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Here’s why. 
Many Christians today seem to think divine inspiration means Paul’s letters-and Paul’s theology behind them-came as a fully formed package. In other words, when Paul refers to the Gospel he could just as easily be referring to Romans or Ephesians or Colossians, which hadn’t been written yet, as to Galatians. This is simply not the case. Not only did Paul’s theology develop over time but his early letters mainly addressed specific problems in specific churches. In other words, Paul was writing instruction and advice more than theological dissertation. 
Back to the the ‘Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Since this (2 Thessalonians ) is Paul’s third letter, written to only the second church, I thought I would go back to the beginning-Galatians-to see what Paul’s version of the Gospel is, at this point. Here is what I found. Before you begin, take some time to define the Gospel as you understand it, for comparison. 

Paul’s Gospel has delivered us from the present evil age (1:4). Paul only has one Gospel (1:8,9). It was given to Paul by revelation from Christ (so it is not Paul’s at all, but Christ’s-1:11-12). It is Christ in individual believers (1:16; 2:20). We have freedom in Christ (1:16; 5:1). The Gospel declares us to have been restored to right relationship-that is, who we were created by God to be-by faith. We are restored for good works, not by good works (2:15,16). 
The Gospel involves receiving the Spirit of God (3:2,5, 14), and suffering (3:4). It makes us children of Abraham and blessed with him (3:15; 4:5), is the promise given to those who believe (3:22) and makes us children of God (3:26; 4:5-7) as well as children of the promise (4:28). The Gospel is summarized by ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (5:14).
The Gospel enables us to live by and keep in step with the Spirit (5:15, 25) and defines what that means, or looks like (5:22-23). Finally, those who believe the Gospel belong to Christ (5:22a), have crucified the flesh (5:22b) and have become a new creation. A fairly short list, packed with implications for who we are and how we live our day to day lives. 
So, how did your Gospel compare to the Galatians Gospel? If you missed a few points, don’t feel bad. I missed a few too. If you got them all, don’t celebrate yet-this is only Pau’s first letter. He is just getting started.