Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Galatians, Sermon 3

Note: This isn’t so much a critique of Pastor Hontz’s sermon as it is a commentary on the way Protestantism looks at the subject of the “Law” in general.

Sermon notes:

Galatians brings out the absolute authority of the one true Gospel. What Paul’s detractors were pushing is a Jesus plus culture religion, which in this case was the Law of Moses. Paul said: “I am an apostle commissioned by God. I am amazed that you have abandoned the Gospel; don’t you know that you are free from the Law! The Judaizers were saying that Paul did not represent the true Gospel.

Paul spent 14 years in “Arabia”; then he went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. He submitted himself to the “pillars” (authorities) in the Jerusalem fellowship. His message was very clear: Jesus is all you need. We don’t need anything else, including the Law of Moses.” Titus was not circumcised; though Timothy was. Why? Because Timothy was going to minister to the Jews, as a Jew, he needed to allay any concern the Jews had in order to win their acceptance. Hontz attended a Jewish event once where he had to where a Yamulke (skull cap). Was this a problem? No; it’s a cultural thing and we don’t want to let culture get in the way of sharing the Gospel. Culture is secondary; the primary thing is to talk about Jesus. Our churches have plenty of examples where we have elevated church culture to a place of contention and strife. Galatians 5:6 is a summary of the whole book.

Paul’s private consultation with the leadership is mentioned with the outcome being that Paul is given their full support. Was this the famed Jerusalem council of Acts15? Hontz thinks it is; Lancaster thinks it’s a separate meeting before that.

Comments from "Galatians" by Thomas Lancaster:

p. 52 “Paul’s approach made a radical departure from conventional proclamation of the good news. It was an unanticipated, new twist to the gospel. It came to Paul in a vision, but he found confirmation in the prophets. He found evidence that God intended salvation to be extended to all of humanity, not just to the tribes of Israel.”

p.55 “Spiritual authority grates against us, not because it is wrong, but because in this Western culture we resent authority. Protestants especially are trained and theologically inculcated with a distrust of spiritual authority, and that is why we tout the sola scriptura mantra. The sola scriptura Protestant says, “I can read the Torah myself and come to my own conclusions.”

“We need to consider our hearts. God’s spirit works through authority structures. He instituted the authority structures.”

p.57 “Paul was no John Wayne or hyper-Protestant. He was a brilliant, spiritually gifted protege, but he was also a man under authority. He turned to the authority, to the men of reputation regarded as the pillars of the assembly of Messiah.”

p.63 “I suggest that the so-called “false brothers” were actually believers sent from the Jerusalem community who had travelled to Antioch and become familiar with the situation there... Paul, Barnabas, and the other Antioch believers were unaware that the brothers from Jerusalem were there to investigate the Gentile phenomenon in Antioch - or as Paul put it, the “freedom that we have in the Messiah Yeshua.”

“What was this freedom of which Paul spoke? It starts with circumcision and the concept that Gentiles, like Titus, were free from the mitzvah of circumcision. They did not need to become proselytes.”

Galatians 2:10 has the admonition to remember the poor; which Paul gladly agrees to do. The Torah has a strong current in it to remember the poor; but is this reference more than that? Lancaster points to the fact that the “poor ones” is referring to the Jerusalem church which was having a tough time in the prolonged famine. Their communal economic setting placed them somewhat at risk. Perhaps the leadership was asking Paul not to forget them. It seems as though that might be the case because Paul would eventually take a collection throughout the sprawling Christian world and bring it to Jerusalem himself.

I just finished reading the convicting book: “Rich Christians in a Hungry World” by Ronald J. Sider. It is a far reaching book that hammers home the author’s passion that Christians have largely ignored the Biblical command to remember the poor. There isn’t time, or space right now, to do it justice; so I’ll only include a few quotes:

p. 44 “The explosive message of the prophets is that God destroyed Israel because of their mistreatment of the poor. Idolatry was an equally prominent reason, but too often we remember only Israel’s “spiritual” problem of idolatry and overlook the startling biblical teaching that economic exploitation also sent the chosen people into captivity.”

p. 65 “In evangelical circles today it is much easier to insist on an orthodox Christology than to insist that God has a special concern for the poor. We have allowed our theology to be shaped by the economic preferences of our materialistic contemporaries rather than by Scripture. And that is to fall into theological liberalism. We are not nearly as orthodox as we claim.”

p.69-70 “Leviticus 25 is one of the most radical texts in all of Scripture... Every fifty years, God said that the land was to return to the original owners! What is the theological basis for this startling command? Yahweh’s ownership of everything is the presupposition.”Leviticus 25:22

p. 72 “God’s law also provides for liberation of soil, slaves, and debtors every seven years. Again, the concern is justice for the poor and disadvantaged as well as the well-being of the land.” Deuteronomy 15:1-11

p.77 “In applying the Biblical teachings on the year of Jubilee, the sabbatical year, gleaning, and tithing, then, we must discover the underlying principles. Then we can search for contemporary strategies to give flesh to these basic principles.

“God wills justice, not mere charity. Therefore Christians should work to eliminate poverty among believers. At the same time, Christians informed by the Biblical understanding of economic justice will search for effective structures in the larger society that enable every family to have the basic capital b=needed to earn a living. There is an implication here that private property is so good that God wants everybody to have some!”

p. 233 “Today’s wealth is divided in a way that flatly contradicts the Bible. God wants every family to have the basic capital - land, money, knowledge - to earn their own way and be dignified, participating members of society. If we want to implement this biblical teaching on economic justice - and enable market economies to operate justly - we must fundamentally change the terrible injustice of allowing many of the world’s people to exist with little or no capital.”
-------- +++++ $$$$$ End of quotes from Rich Christians

Finally, I am amazed how easily Christians dismiss the “Law” without seeing that this contradicts dozens of scriptures and sets up a paradox of lawlessness. For instance, Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 7:17:

“But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God [is what matters].”

How do we go from: “you are free from the Law” to “but keeping the commandments of God [is what matters]” without suffering whiplash? There are subtle shifts in the book of Galatians that Lancaster carefully navigates around while the bulk of Christians barrel through without regard to the debris that gets shoved aside.

The rest of the chapter, including the important confrontation between Peter and Paul was not covered in the sermon; I’ll include an overview of it in my next post.

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