If you are contradicted by an opponent and led in to an argument, you must do four things: (i) defend your claim with a positive argument (reasons for believing you), (ii) refute the claim of the opponent using a negative argument, (iii) respond to the objections of the opponent, and (iv) show the preferred implications of adopting one’s view and the cost of rejecting it.
This is roughly what Paul does in his letter to the Galatians.
Paul’s opponents are Judaizers, those who proclaim a false gospel that demands that believers in the Messiah must obey the Mosaic Law in order to find favor with God. Paul thinks that doing so is a great threat to all the church—Jewish and Gentile alike–and severe disobedience to God.
Paul writes to demonstrate the trustworthiness of his own gospel and the falsity of his opponent’s gospel. He defends his gospel by defending his apostleship and refutes his opponent by showing that obedience to the Law of Moses cannot provide favor before God. Paul also responds to the criticism that by abandoning the Law of Moses, one abandons a commitment to obeying any law. We are no longer under the Law of Moses, but we are under the Law of Christ. Finally, Paul contends that there are numerous privileges that God has given us in Paul’s gospel but that to abandon Paul’s gospel is a road to ruin.
First, Paul tells them on whose authority he is writing:
1:1 Paul, an apostle
not sent from men
nor through [the agency] of man, but through [the agency] Jesus [the] Christ
and God the Father,
who raised Him from the dead,
2and all the brethren who are with (on my side) me,
Paul is defending his position in order to defend his message.
Second, Paul tells them his motive for writing.
To the churches of Galatia:
3Grace to you and peace
from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4who gave Himself for our sins
so that He might rescue us from this present evil age (or system)
according to the will of our God and Father,
5to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Paul is motivated by the desire for the Galatians
- to receive grace (undeserved favor) and peace (the absence of enmity with God and his people) from God (the source of the blessing)
- through the work of the Messiah (the only means by which one obtains such a blessing):
- substituted himself for sin
- rescuing us from this present evil age,
- all according to the will of God (Paul is motivated not by his merely human desire but by God’s will)
- and for his glory (Paul is motivated not by his own glory but by the glory of God. Paul seeks to glorify God through his letter).
Point: Paul is not motivated by personal gain! He wants blessing for the Galatians.
APP: The preaching of the gospel is for your blessing. It is not given for your harm or to show that you are right or to gain the preacher a new gold watch. Gospel preaching—and ministry in general—is not for the benefit of the minister (yet it brings great joys). It is for the benefit of the people of God and the glory of God. When you are benefitted with the preaching of the gospel, God is glorified.
First, Paul describes the problem: the Galatians are departing from the gospel and being led to false beliefs by some ‘churches’
6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting (a military term warranting the death penalty) Him(God) who called (or chosen) you by the grace of Christ,
for a different gospel;
7which is really not another; (it is really not a gospel at all)
only there are some who are disturbing (shaking you up) you and want to distort (pervert and thereby destroy) the gospel of Christ.
DISUCSS: How do you distort the gospel? A: by messages. Words are not meaningless; they are fundamental to the gospel.
8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you,
he is to be accursed!
9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received,
he is to be accursed!
10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
DISCUSS: When was Paul trying to please men? A: As a persecutor. Persecutors of Christians are people-pleasers or ‘virtue signalers.’ Paul is going to say: I am no longer a virtue signaler. I don’t care how many likes I get. I am not here for your approval. I am here for the gospel and the glory of God.
DISCUSS: What is the connection between the truth of the gospel of Paul and the status of Paul as either God-pleaser/Messianic bond-servant or people-pleaser?
A: If Paul is a God-pleaser/Messianic bond-servant, then the gospel he preaches is the true gospel. If Paul is a people-pleaser, then he adapts the gospel to an audience in order to win their favor.
DISCUSS: What will Paul have to do. In the letter in order to dissuade his reader of the view that Paul’s gospel is false?
A: (i) prove that he is not a people-pleaser but a bond-servant (ii) prove that the gospel he preaches is God’s gospel and not a human message.
A: The gospel of Paul is not merely defended on the grounds that it is true, but on the grounds that God sent Paul to preach that gospel. It rests on apostolic authority.
Outline of argument
First, Paul must demonstrate his apostolic authority.
If Paul is a people-pleaser, then he is not a bond-servant. OR: If P is a bond-servant, then he is not a people-pleaser. OR: No people-pleasers are bond-servants.
- Either people-pleaser or God-pleaser
- If people-pleaser, then not bond-servant
- Not people-pleaser (MT 2, 3 and DN 3)
- Therefore, God-pleaser (DS 1, 4)
DISCUSS: Whom might Paul be seeking to please? A: the gentiles in Galatia. If so, then perhaps the idea is that Paul is being accused of adapting the gospel to his audience (removing circumcision requirement in order to sell the gospel to gentiles.)
What should he argue? A: He should demonstrate that he is not a people pleaser and that he is a bond-servant of Christ.
What would this argument demonstrate? A: It would demonstrate that the gospel is not a human gospel but a divine gospel, the gospel.
To do so, he should show that (i) his gospel has pleased no one and cost him greatly. If he was a people-pleaser, he would have a people-pleasing gospel. He does not have a people-pleasing gospel. Thus, he is not a people-pleaser. (ii) He must also show that the gospel he received came from Christ and not from human beings.
Thus, Paul contends for the following Thesis:
The thesis is that (i) the gospel is given to him by Christ directly (ii) it is not given to him by human beings and not approved by human beings.
Next week, we will look at Paul’s argument. He argues in the form of his personal story.
His main point will be: I am not like the Judaizers – I don’t seek the pleasure of men, I got my gospel not from human tradition but revelation, I suffer for the gospel while they get all they want.
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