Showing posts with label #Apostles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Apostles. Show all posts

Reminding Titus to not be “wild at heart.”

by K.W. Leslie, 10 August 2023

Titus 3.1-7.

Back in the 1990s there were two popular fads among American men. There was Promise Keepers, an organization started by football coach Bill McCartney as a way to encourage Christian men to be faithful husbands, good fathers, and to fight racism. And there was the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement, founded by poet Robert Bly to help men “restore” what they felt were their “deep masculine” traits and urges—abandoned by our egalitarian society, rejected as toxic masculinity. (And to be fair, a lot of the things men call our “masculine urges” are really works of the flesh, repackaged to be socially acceptable, but the only people that fools are fleshly men.)

Bly’s movement is pagan; his proof texts come from Greek and Norse mythology, and European folk tales, which he claims are ancient descriptions of how men really are. But author John Eldredge wrote a bestselling book, Wild at Heart, which repackaged the principles of Bly’s movement with Christian labels, and borrowed out-of-context scriptures as its proof texts. Thus Eldredge encourages Christian men to be wild, virile pagans—but, y’know, not capital-P pagan; just virile warriors who are tough guys like we see in Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. Be fighters; God made us fighters. Forget all this “turn the other cheek” crap; what soft, domesticated she-male taught us that?

I’m still a big fan of Promise Keepers. Not at all the Wild at Heart bushwa, which is total depravity disguised as Christianity. The reason it resonates with so many Christian men is ’cause it encourages us to be boldly, unrepentantly, fleshly. To defy Jesus’s teachings to be kind and patient and love one another; instead fight everything we don’t like, ’cause God meant us to be wild donkeys, in hostility with all our brothers. Ge 16.12 That God’s happy with this.

It’s a devilish spin on the scriptures, and the very same behavior Paul warns Titus against in today’s passage.

Titus 3.1-3 KWL
1 Remind the people about rulers, about powers—
to be submissive, to listen to authorities,
to be ready for every good work.
2 To never slander. To not be “tough guys.” Appropriate.
Showing every humility to every person.
3 For at one point we were just as stupid—
unyielding, wayward, slaving for desires and various pleasures,
spending our lives in evil and envy,
hated and hating each other.

Y’notice it’s not just the people of Crete, whom Titus is ministering to, whom Paul is writing about. In 3.3, Paul points out both he and Titus used to be that way.

Because these traits aren’t “deep masculine” characteristics we need to rediscover and revive. They’re basic human depravity. Before we followed Christ, they were our fleshly human nature. We’re supposed to reject them in favor of the new, godly human nature the Holy Spirit is trying to develop us; in other words his good fruit. But if we won’t resist the temptation to indulge in our “lost wildness” and savagery again… well, we’ve made ourselves unfit to live in God’s kingdom.

Good luck telling the “wild at heart” bullies any such thing.

Grace and salvation in the present age.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 June 2023

Titus 2.11-15.

In Titus, Paul presents the Cretan apostle with instructions about how to choose Christian elders in the island’s churches—the mature folks who are gonna assume leadership roles, and guide the next generation to follow Jesus. It’s mainly about what sort of character these people are to have. They’re meant to be fruitful people—not necessarily talented people, educated people, or attractive people. Plenty of pagans put such people in leadership, and look where it gets ’em.

For that matter, plenty of Christians do it too, and this is why whenever pagans think of Christian bishops and pastors, they regularly think of cultish autocrats who charm their way into getting followers and money, but lack any good character. They think of nationalists, white supremacists, sexists who preach toxic masculinity instead of love, homophobes who preach persecution instead of love. They don’t think of people who follow Jesus, and love everyone like Jesus does; they think of hypocrites. And y’know, if we put people into Christian leadership despite anything Paul taught Timothy and Titus, these pagans aren’t wrong. Pagans may not know Jesus, but they like him—so they should like his followers when we’re trying to be like Jesus.

And when we have leaders who are serious about being like Jesus, and we have people who are serious about being like Jesus, we get a healthy church kinda like Paul described in today’s passage.

Titus 2.11-15 KWL
11 For God’s grace is now obvious:
Salvation to all people!
12 Educating us into renouncing impiety and worldly desires;
we should live soberly, fairly, and godly in the present age,
13 patiently awaiting “the blessed hope,”
the appearance of the glory
of our great God and savior, Christ Jesus.
14 He gives himself for us
so he might redeem us from all lawlessness,
and might purify his own unique people,
who are eager for good works.
15 Speak these things.
Encourage and rebuke, with all authority.
No one is allowed to dismiss you.

We get people who preach that God wants to save everybody. Everybody. EVERYBODY. He’s not only interested in the elect; he’s not only trying to save Jews and—whoops!—gentiles somehow got included. He intentionally wants everybody. He created everybody; he wants everybody.

And he wants everybody as-is. “Cleaning up” first implies it’s “cleaning up” which saved us; it’s not. In whatever state you’re in, repent and come to Jesus. Just bear in mind once you come to Jesus, he’s not gonna leave us as-is. The Holy Spirit’s gonna try to grow fruit in us. We’re expected to change for the better. But that comes later. In the meanwhile: As you are. As-is.

And the Spirit will educate us into being like Jesus. Tt 2.12 Ditching impiety, our natural tendency to not give a rip about what God thinks, but only what we think; we gotta live a new lifestyle which submits to God’s opinion about everything. Ditching worldly desires, our natural tendency to get comfortable, please our taste buds, get stoned, entertain ourselves, feel self-righteous, and do all of it at the expense of other people—while, paradoxically, seeking their approval. Nope; the Spirit encourages us to be sober, fair, and godly. We’re meant to become good people—not just by self-righteous Christian standards, but by everyone’s standards. Woe to you when only Christians think you’re a good guy, but everybody else thinks you’re a dick… ’cause yeah, you’re a dick.

How elders must encourage fellow Christians to behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 June 2023

Titus 2.1-10.

Throughout ancient literature, sages would put together a list of rules for how every person’s meant to fulfill their role in a family. Husbands act like this, wives act like that. Sons do this, daughters do that. Male slaves do this, female slaves do that. Scholars call them household codes. We find a few of them in the bible too. Like today’s passage.

The list in Titus likewise includes slaves, because slavery was legal in the Roman Empire. But God forbade people from treating slaves like animals instead of people, and Greco-Romans generally shared that attitude about their slaves: They’d become slaves because they lost a war, or were dirt poor and sold themselves (or were sold by family members) into it, or they were criminals and slavery was the punishment. American slavery was entirely different, regularly ignored scripture (as Americans do, ’cause we love to imagine we’re exceptions to the rules), and was rightly abolished. But if we were to port these household codes into the present day, the instructions to slaves would sorta apply to household employees—housekeepers, groundskeepers, nannies, maids, butlers, contractors. With the obvious caveat that employees can quit or be fired. Slaves didn’t have those freedoms.

Popular American culture has their own household codes. Most of ’em have to do with authoritarian men trying to establish their own little despotic patriarchies—they want their wives and children to submit to them, instead of mutually loving one another as is taught in the scriptures. A lot of toxic masculinity is mixed into today’s household codes, as men try to insist “only real men” behave certain ways. (And men who reject these ideas somehow aren’t real men. Yet this doesn’t mean they get to identify as women!) There’s a lot of sexism, vulgarity, and inconsistency in the way they teach it. It’s all very fleshly and graceless. Denounce it wherever you see it, and stick with the bible.

Titus 2.1-10 KWL
1 Speak out, Titus, about whatever comes up,
with healthy teaching.
2 Elders ought to be in their right minds.
Well respected. Self-controlled.
They should have healthy faith,
healthy love, healthy consistency.
3 Women elders likewise with devout behavior.
Not backstabbing.
Not enslaved to heavy drinking.
Teachers of good things,
4 so they might train the new Christians
to love their men, to love their children.
5 Self-disciplined. Clean.
Good at running a household.
Submitting to their own men,
so God’s word won’t be slandered.
6 Teenagers likewise:
Help them in self-discipline.
7 In everything present yourself,
as an example of good works.
In teaching, integrity and honesty,
8 a healthy, irrefutable word,
so those from the opposition might respect it,
having nothing evil to say about us.
9 Slaves are to obey their own wardens
in every acceptable way.
Not to argue.
10 Not to embezzle.
Instead demonstrate all good faith
so God our Savior’s teaching will decorate everything.

Now y’notice Paul’s list began with instructions to Titus about the sort of traits we oughta see in as church elders. The men are to behave thisaway; the women are to behave thataway. But then, in 2.4, as Paul’s explaining what the women elders oughta be teaching the newbies… it mutates into a household code. Verse 5 arguably applies to either the elders or the newbies; I would say both. Verses 6-8 are obviously about Christian teenagers; verses 9-10 are obviously about Christian slaves.

So yeah, this passage didn’t begin as a household code. But it became one. Because every Christian oughta become an elder. All of us should aspire to Christian maturity. Therefore every man and woman should become an elder in our churches, and contribute to its leadership and upkeep.

How the “elders” of Crete 𝘥𝘪𝘥 behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June 2023

Titus 1.10-16.

Epimenides of Cnossos was a shepherd, living on Crete. He claimed one day he took a nap in a cave that’d been dedicated to Zeus, and woke up 57 years later with the gift of prophecy. Meh; I figure he was just an old guy who decided to finally publish his youthful poetry. Next to none of it has survived to our present day, but in Paul and Titus’s time it was still pretty famous. Paul even quotes a line from his ode to Zeus, called the Cretica:

…having built you [Zeus] a tomb, holy one, great one.
Cretans always lie, the evil beasts. Lazy stomachs.
But you aren’t dead! For you live, and live forever!
For in you we live, move, and have our being.

Yep, Paul also quoted it in Acts 17.28. Epimenides meant Zeus, but Paul repurposed it to mean the LORD. It more accurately describes the LORD anyway.

I don’t know whether the Cretica prejudiced Paul against the people of Crete when he finally met them in person. Acts doesn’t tell of him spending a lot of time there; at most a week, ’cause his ship was anchored there due to foul weather. Ac 27.7-13 Likely he visited again at another time. In any case he encountered many people among the Christians who were just awful, and the very last thing he wanted Titus to do was put such people in positions of authority. It’d ruin the church.

Titus 1.10-16 KWL
10 For many people do refuse to submit to others.
They’re all talk, and misleading.
Particularly those of the circumcision faction.
11 It’s necessary to muzzle them—
whatever teachings knock down whole houses,
which they ought not teach,
but do to gain an immoral advantage.
12 A certain one of their own—a prophet!—says,
“Cretans always lie, the evil beasts. Lazy stomachs.”
13 This witness is true.
For this reason rebuke them quickly,
so they might have a healthy faith,
14 paying no attention to Jewish myths,
and human commands which turn away from truth.
15 Everything is ritually clean to clean people.
To contaminated people, and unbelievers,
nothing is clean—
instead it contaminated them, the mind, and the conscience.
16 They claim they know God,
and their works deny it—
being disgusting and disobedient,
and worthless in every good work.

Don’t mince words Paul; how d’you really feel about Cretans?

How the elders of Crete oughta behave.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 June 2023

Titus 1.5-9.

Paul left Titus in Crete because its churches had a leadership vacuum. I mean, there might’ve been people the Christians imagined were leaders, but Paul considered them inadequate, as we can tell from what he had to write to Titus. They lacked spiritual maturity. Titus didn’t.

Here, Paul reminds Titus that maturity—good fruit and good character—correctly defines a person who’s considered an elder of the church. You’re not an elder without it, and ought not be a leader without it.

Titus 1.5-9 KWL
5 This is why I have you remain in Crete:
So you might organize the things we leave there.
So you might designate elders for each city,
as I commanded you.
6 If a certain person has no controversy about them,
a one-woman man,
has believing children,
has never been accused of excessive living
nor of being unsubmissive
7 —for a supervisor has to be uncontroversial,
being like God’s butler.
Not arrogant.
Not quick-tempered.
Not drunk.
Not picking fights.
Not greedy for “prosperity.”
8 Instead, loves strangers.
Loves goodness.
9 Holds tight to what’s consistent
with the message of faith as taught,
so he might be able to help in the sound teaching,
and in rebuking those who contradict it.

A number of Christians claim Paul’s only describing pastors, ’cause Paul mentioned “a supervisor” in verse 7. (Greek ἐπίσκοπον/epískopon, KJV “bishop,” NIV “overseer.”) This is a word the New Testament tends to use to describe bishops and head pastors; it’s not just any church leader. Thing is, the elders of a church do supervise all sorts of things in a church, whether they have the title “pastor” or not. And really everyone in church leadership should be qualified to step up when the pastor or bishop isn’t available; everybody should meet these ground-floor qualifications, no matter what title they have. Got it?

The apostle’s job.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 June 2023

Titus 1.1-4.

Okay, tackling Titus this week. Paul wrote this letter to Titus during his last missionary journey of 63–66. That journey isn’t told of in Acts, but it took place after Paul stood trial before Nero Caesar in 62 and was acquitted; and took place before Paul was arrested again, stood trial before Nero again, and that time was beheaded in the year 67. Nicopolis, Epirus, Greece was one of the cities on Paul’s itinerary, and where Paul expected to see Titus again. Tt 3.12

Titus was a member of Paul’s apostolic team, a Greek Ga 2.3 originally from Crete (Greek Κρήτη/Kríti), the largest of the Greek islands, about 160km off the coast of the Greek mainland, and 100km southwest of Türkiye. There were Cretans at the first Pentecost, Ac 2.11 and for all we know Titus was among them.

But since Paul calls Titus his son in this letter, Tt 1.4 Christians figure Paul likely introduced him to Christ Jesus. Though elsewhere in the scriptures Paul calls him a brother 2Co 2.13 and partner; 2Co 8.23 so if Paul had led Titus to Jesus, these descriptions indicate Titus had quickly matured to a point where Paul considered him an equal in Christ. Paul occasionally sent Titus to help out churches and deliver his letters. Corinth, fr’instance. 2Co 2.13

In this letter, Paul states he’d sent Titus back to Crete to organize Jesus’s church there. Tt 1.5 From what little we know, that’s where Titus served till he died, either in the 90s or early 00s. The Church of St. Titus in Heraklion, Crete, still has his skull.

Titus, along with 1–2 Timothy, are called the “pastoral epistles” because, duh, they were written to pastors. Naturally they contain a lot of advice from Paul to these two pastors about how to best do their jobs, and it’s served as useful advice for every other Christian about how to be in leadership. That’s why we study it.

As usual, Paul’s introductions were done Roman-style, so you could unroll the scroll a little bit, quickly read the author and the recipient, and roll it back up. Paul’s introduction in this letter is a little wordier than usual, ’cause he’s trying to slip some theology in there.

Because certain scholars try to make a name for themselves by challenging everything, some of ’em have tried to argue Paul didn’t really write this letter, and Titus wasn’t really the recipient. Few take these scholars seriously. I don’t.

Titus 1.1-4 KWL
1 Pávlos, God’s slave
and Christ Jesus’s apostle,
consistent with the faith of God’s selected ones,
and consistent with the recognition of the truth—
consistent with piety—
2 in the hope of life in the age to come,
which the never-lying God promised
before the time of this age.
3 He made his message of this eternal life known
through preaching in our own time,
which was entrusted to me
according to the command of our savior God.
4 To Titus, my genuine child
according to our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father,
and Christ Jesus our savior.

Notice it took four verses to get to the typical Christian greeting of “Grace and peace from God and Christ.” Let’s unpack that, shall we?

Still not ready for solid food.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 March 2023

1 Corinthians 3.1-4.

The apostle Apollos was a first-century Egyptian Jew who was eloquent and knew the scriptures, who’d become Christian and showed up in Ephesus to proclaim Jesus in their synagogues. Since he was only familiar with John’s baptism, the apostles Priscilla and Aquila had to correct him a little. But that done, Apollos proved extremely valuable to the ancient Christians. He knew how to show the Jews from their own bible how Jesus is their Messiah. Ac 18.24-28 Paul definitely considered him a brother Christian. 1Co 16.12

Apollos comes up in Paul and Sosthenes’ first letter to the Corinthians. In that letter they bring up how the Christians of Corinth had obviously divided themselves into factions which followed one apostle or another. 1Co 1.10-13 These apostles weren’t in competition with one another, and didn’t imagine anything of the kind; yet now they had followers who did imagine themselves in competition. The Corinthians were all supposed to belong to God, not these apostles; they were all supposed to recognize Jesus as Lord, and therefore be one people. But that’s not how they behaved.

Same as Christians nowadays. We still divide ourselves into factions and fight one another. The Baptists fight the Catholics. The Arminians fight the Calvinists. The complementarians fight the egalitarians. The cessationists fight the continuationists. The Christian Right fights the Christian Right. (What, you thought I was gonna say they fight the Christian Left? Oh, they don’t even believe in the Christian Left; they think those guys aren’t Christian. They fight ’em… but far more often they fight each other. Over who’s more Right.)

All this fighting means, as the apostles make it clear in the letter, those who are fighting are not mature Christians. The Corinthians should be ready to receive deeper instructions about God’s kingdom and God’s ways. But they haven’t even traveled past the first mile marker on God’s road. They’re too busy brawling on the onramp.

1 Corinthians 3.1-4 KWL
1 Fellow Christians, I also can’t speak to you like spiritual people,
but like fleshly people, like infants in Christ.
2 I give you milk to drink, not solid food:
You weren’t yet capable.
But neither are you capable now:
3 You’re still fleshly!
For why is there overzealousness and fighting among you?—
Aren’t you fleshly, and walk like fleshly people?
4 Whenever one of you might say, “I’m of Paul,”
and another “I’m of Apollos,”
aren’t you fleshly people?

Historians figure Paul first visited Corinth in the 50s, and cowrote 1 Corinthians in the 60s. Figure a five-year separation at the least, a 15-year separation at the most. But either way, Paul expected to see growth in the Corinthians… but here they were, still acting like spiritual children. Not even children; νηπίοις/nipíhis, “infants.” Babies. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t raise their heads, couldn’t control their bowels. Paul felt he should realistically expect better of them, and they weren’t remotely mature. They were fleshly Christians.

And when you look at all the problems Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians, you’ll easily recognize we Christians in the present day suffer all the very same problems in our churches. We still have partisanship. Still have people who can’t keep it in their pants. Still have Christians who trip one another up over our “freedoms in Christ,” or demand special ranks and privileges because we’re gifted in different ways, or exercise our gifts without love, or emphasize showy gifts over those which minister to more people. Still describe the End as weird cosmic revenge fantasies rather than Jesus defeating death once and for all.

We got a lot of work to do! But it starts by following Jesus, not following our stupid manmade sects and parties. By doing as the Spirit directs, not doing as our zeal dictates. By growing good spiritual fruit, instead of imagining that bible trivia and good theology are what really turn us into mature Christians. The devil knows bible better than you do, for all the good that’s done it—but it doesn’t follow Jesus. So we gotta follow Jesus.

Goodness never justified anyone. Faith does that.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 August 2022
Galatians 3.7-9 KWL
7 So know this: Those who act out of faith?
These people are Abraham’s “children.”
8 The scripture foresees how God deems righteous
the gentile peoples who act out of faith:
He pre-evangelized Abraham, saying,
“All the peoples will be blessed through you.” Ge 12.3, 18.18, 22.18
9 So those who act out of faith
are blessed alongside Abraham’s faith.
  • “By Law we’re good as dead—so live for Jesus!” Ga 2.17-21
  • “How’d you get from grace to legalism?” Ga 3.1-4
  • Abraham’s faith. Ga 3.5-6
  • Too many Christians believe in some form of dispensationalism—where God has multiple systems for how to be saved. I’ve lost count of how many times people have told me, “God saves us by his grace now, but in Old Testament times, you had to obey the Law.”

    No you didn’t. Because that’s not why the LORD saved the Hebrews from Egypt. It’s not why God appeared to Moses—years before he ever gave Moses the Law to follow; years before Moses even knew there was a Law. It’s not why he gave dreams to Joseph, why he gave visions to Jacob, why he straight-up appeared to Abraham and had lunch with him. Nor even why he rescued Noah and (probably) raptured Enoch.

    It was always grace. It was always God’s attitude towards the people with whom he had loving interactive relationships. It was the whole reason Paul and other apostles kept quoting the Genesis passage where the LORD justified Abraham by his faith—he wasn’t justified by being a Law-abiding Jew, because there was no Law yet. Nor Jews.

    Yet thanks to dispensationalists, I still hear people insisting grace is a New Testament thing, not an Old Testament thing. Every so often I’ll talk about where we see grace in the Old Testament, and somebody pipes up, “But grace came through Jesus Christ.” Jn 1.17 They don’t mean (as John did in that reference) Jesus makes grace possible throughout human history, including Old Testament times; they mean there was no such thing as grace before Jesus came around. That the people of the OT never experienced grace. Obviously they missed the entire point of the Exodus.

    Nor have they read and understood Paul. He never taught dispensationalism. Doesn’t matter how many proof texts dispys will use from Paul’s letters to back their ideas: They’re not using a single one in context. Paul taught salvation came by grace. Always had. Always will. Came by grace to Abraham; came by grace to the Hebrews; came by grace to the Jews; comes by grace to the gentiles.

    And to prove his case to the Pharisees in Galatia who claimed the new gentile Christians had to first follow the Law before they could be saved, Paul didn’t even have to quote Jesus; he quoted the very same Law which dispensationalists claim is about justification by works. The Old Testament scriptures “testify of me,” Jesus said, Jn 5.39 KJV so why shouldn’t we quote ’em for evidence? As Paul did repeatedly.

    If dispensationalists are right, and the Law had ever been a legitimate means to salvation, Paul would’ve gone an entirely different tack. He’d have used the very same line dispys try to use on me: “That’s old covenant. We live under the new covenant.” (Oh, and don’t forget the condescending tone.)

    But you’ve been reading my Galatians posts, right? (Hope so.) So you know Paul used no such argument; not even close. It’s “How’d you switch gospels?” Ga 1.6-7 It’s that if anyone teaches salvation comes any other way than God’s grace, ban them. Ga 1.8-9 Quit letting ’em teach!

    Abraham’s faith.

    by K.W. Leslie, 04 August 2022
    Galatians 3.5-6 KWL
    5 The one who provides the Spirit to all of you,
    who works acts of power among you—
    does he do this out of you working the Law,
    or out of hearing and trusting?
    6 Likewise Abraham “trusted God,
    and God credited him with righteousness.” Ge 15.6
  • “By Law we’re good as dead—so live for Jesus!” Ga 2.17-21
  • “How’d you get from grace to legalism?” Ga 3.1-4
  • Figured I should also throw in the relevant passage Paul quoted. It’s specifically about the LORD promising Avram ben Terah a land and descendants. Thing is, Avram was more than 75 years old, his wife was only a year younger than he, and though he was quite wealthy by ancient standards, he had no biological nor adoptive children. His patriarchy would have to pass down to one of his slaves.

    Genesis 15.1-8 KWL
    1 After these words,
    the LORD’s Word was given to Avram in a vision,
    to say, “No fear, Avram. I’m your shield.
    Your compensation will be great.”
    2 Avram said, “Master LORD, what did you give me?
    I’ve gone childless.
    The ‘son’ who will someday possess my house
    is this Damascene, Eliezer.”
    3 Avram said, “Look at me!
    You don’t give seed, and look:
    The ‘son’ of my house is my heir.”
    4 Look, the LORD’s Word to Abram said,
    “This is not your heir.
    For one who comes out of your own guts—
    he is your heir.”
    5 The LORD brought Abram outside,
    and said, “Now look at the skies.
    Tally the stars—if you are able to tally them.
    The LORD told him, “Your seed is like this.”
    6 Avram trusted in the LORD,
    and the LORD credited him with righteousness.

    The apostles point to this proof text more than once. Because they knew—because everybody in ancient Israel knew—it’s foundational to the LORD’s covenantal relationship with Avram. As you likely know, this man was later renamed Abraham, and is the ancestor of pretty much the entire middle east. And of course the Abrahamic religions of Hebraism/Pharisaism/Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    How’d you get from grace to legalism?

    by K.W. Leslie, 03 August 2022
    Galatians 3.1-4 KWL
    1 Oh you unthinking Galatians.
    Who mixed up your heads [to not believe truth]?
    It was written Christ Jesus had been crucified.
    Didn’t you read this with your own eyes?
    2 I want to learn only this from you:
    Do you receive the Spirit by working the Law,
    or by hearing and trusting?
    3 So you’re not thinking:
    Beginning with the Spirit,
    do you now perfect yourselves by the flesh?
    4 Have you suffered so much for nothing?
    —if it really is nothing.
  • “By Law we’re good as dead—so live for Jesus!” Ga 2.17-21
  • This passage is notorious for beginning, “O foolish Galatians,” Ga 3.1 KJV as if Paul has had it with them; these stupid whites are totally botching the gospel! But let’s not project our own impatient attitudes upon Paul. The word Paul used is ἀνόητοι/anóhiti, “not [using one’s] mind” or “not thinking.” Yeah, it regularly gets translated as “foolish” or “stupid,” since those things are obvious opposites of wisdom. But Paul didn’t use the usual words for stupidity because he’s emphasizing how they’ve not thought things through. There’s a step missing in their thought process, and it’s the usual step missing in all legalistic thinking.

    When the LORD first made contact with Abraham or saved the Hebrews from Egypt, or when Jesus first chose students by the Galilee or stopped Paul enroute to Damascus, did he do any of these things because these were such good people? Had they achieved a certain level of righteousness through carefully observing the Law?—one which our Lord was obligated to respond to, because they had so many heavenly Brownie points? Is good karma how God determines worthiness?

    Nope; the entry point into God’s kingdom begins by God doing something incredibly gracious, and us seeing or hearing the good news of it, and trusting him to save us the rest of the way. Salvation comes by God, not our own righteousness. And this righteousness comes by faith, not works—it’s only faith.

    So how on earth could such people become Christian by grace through faith… and then backslide into the pagan belief we retain our standing with God through good works?

    Same way everybody else backslides into legalism: Karma-based thinking is everywhere. Simply everywhere. Humanity’s collectively got it into our heads that we’re saved by doing more good deeds than bad, and made this a central teaching of just about all our religions and philosophies. It’s a belief we’re very comfortable with—and regularly judge other people by. And even though Christianity teaches otherwise, it’s so easy to fall back on that core belief: I’m a good person because I do good deeds, and good people go to heaven.

    And we insert that idea right back into the gospel. Where it absolutely doesn’t belong.

    By Law we’re good as dead—so live for Jesus!

    by K.W. Leslie, 11 May 2022
    Galatians 2.17-21 KWL
    17 “While looking to be justified by Christ,
    if we’re found to be sinners ourselves,
    then isn’t Christ a servant of sin?”
    This ought not be said!
    18 For if I rebuild the things I destroy,
    I stand up for my own transgressive behavior.
    19 For I, through the Law,
    die to the Law so I can live for God.
    I was crucified with Christ.
    20 I no longer live. Christ lives—
    in me. He now lives in flesh.
    I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me
    and hands himself over for me.
    21 I don’t reject God’s grace,
    for if rightness comes by Law,
    then Christ died for nothing.
  • “Paul and the apostles of note.” Ga 2.6-10
  • “Paul challenges Simon Peter.” Ga 2.11-14
  • “Being good justifies nobody. Nobody.” Ga 2.15-16
  • Paul’s academy trained him in Greco-Roman rhetoric, the art of speech and debate. Most of us don’t know how the Romans practiced rhetoric, so sometimes we struggle to follow Paul’s arguments, and come to some very different conclusions than he was trying to make. This is nothing new; few things are. Peter rebuked ancient Christians for doing the very same thing. 2Pe 3.14-15

    Anyway it’s why I translated verse 14 with quotes. Paul’s doing a rhetoric thing: He’s quoting what other Christians have said, and responding μὴ γένοιτο/mi ghénito, “This ought not [be said]!” Most bibles translate it some variant of the KJV’s “By no means”—this is an idea we oughta strongly oppose. It’s heresy.

    So apparently this is what certain early Christians were teaching, particularly the legalists in Antioch. “You claim you’re following Jesus. But you sin. Everybody sins. You shouldn’t, but you do. So are you saying Jesus is okay with your sins? It’s fine with him if you sin? He even endorses your sinful lifestyle? (Because certainly we would never say this.) You need to stop; Jesus can’t save a willful sinner.”

    To some degree we still hear this from today’s legalists. Yes, of course we’re to resist temptation and quit sinning—but they turn it into something we have to do lest we lose salvation. Lest we undo everything Jesus did for us. Lest Jesus himself reject us, because sin offends him so much, and he simply can’t work with people like us. It’s a mindset which entirely goes against Jesus’s stated practices in the scriptures, and of course grace. But that’s kinda to be expected of legalists.

    So Paul preemptively deals with this one: No it’s not okay to sin. Jesus doesn’t say that; Paul didn’t write that. Sin is still evil and wrong. But the fact Jesus works with and through sinful humans, does not mean he endorses sin, nor overlooks sin, nor did some behind-the-scenes jiggery-pokery which nullifies the Law and means nothing’s a sin anymore.

    What he did do, is kill our sin. Killed it on the cross with himself. Killed us on the cross with himself. Our penalties are paid for. Our debts are paid. Now follow Jesus.

    Being good justifies nobody. Nobody.

    by K.W. Leslie, 31 March 2022
    Galatians 2.15-16 KWL
    15 We’re biological Jews, not sinners from the gentiles.
    16 We’ve known people aren’t justified by working the Law
    —unless we work it because of faith in Christ Jesus;
    we trust in Christ Jesus.
    Thus we can be justified by faith in Christ,
    and not by working the Law,
    since working the Law won’t justify any flesh.
  • “How Paul remembered the Council of Jerusalem.” Ga 2.1-5
  • “Paul and the apostles of note.” Ga 2.6-10
  • “Paul challenges Simon Peter.” Ga 2.11-14
  • This passage is part of a bigger paragraph and context, but I still wanna zoom in on just this.

    The bigger context, just so you know: Simon Peter was treating gentile Christians as second-class Christians, so Paul had to stand up to him. Peter totally knew better, ’cause he did after all defend gentile Christians at the Council of Jerusalem. But certain visiting legalists got him to backslide on that issue, and Paul challenged him: “If you, a Jew, act like a gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the gentiles to be like Jews?” Ga 2.14 KWL

    Some translations take these verses and make ’em part of what Paul told Peter. I don’t know that Paul presented this entire argument, in this way, in these words, to Peter at that time. Pretty sure he didn’t. But he did remind Peter of what Christ Jesus teaches the both of them, and us: We’re not saved by being Jews, nor becoming Jews. We’re saved by following Jesus. The gentile Christians did not need to first become Jews so they could be saved; and treating them like they did is heresy. It’s not just a minor error; it’s a whole other false gospel.

    Thing is, legalistic Christians still teach this heresy. As do dispensationalists, some of whom teach that Jews can be saved simply by being Jews. (I mean, it’d be nice if they became Christian, but these dispensationalists claim they don’t actually need to. Considering Peter and the apostles went to so much trouble to preach the gospel to their fellow Jews, this idea isn’t biblical in the slightest. Sounds more like a trick of the devil to keep Jews from hearing the gospel.)

    Paul challenges Simon Peter.

    by K.W. Leslie, 30 March 2022
    Galatians 2.11-14 KWL
    11 When Peter came to Antioch, I personally stood against him,
    because he was being in the wrong.
    12 For before the coming of certain people from James,
    Peter was eating with gentiles.
    When they came, Peter was withdrawing,
    and separating himself—afraid of the circumcised.
    13 The other Jews acted like hypocrites along with Peter,
    so even Barnabas himself was led astray by their hypocrisy.
    14 But when I saw they aren’t consistent with the gospel’s truth,
    I told Peter in front of everyone,
    “If you, a Jew, act like a gentile and not like a Jew,
    how can you force the gentiles to be like Jews?”
  • “How Paul remembered the Council of Jerusalem.” Ga 2.1-5
  • “Paul and the apostles of note.” Ga 2.6-10
  • Simon Peter is an apostle of note. He’s the first in every list of the Twelve because he’s Jesus’s best student—the first to declare Jesus as Messiah, the only one who tried walking on water, the first to realize there’s no one else worth following, the one who renounced him yet came back to him. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter’s also the guy who spoke at the first Christian Pentecost and led thousands to Jesus; he cured the sick, raised the dead, and brought the gospel to gentiles. Two of Peter’s letters are in our bible, and the gospel of Mark is likely based on his personal recollections. Not for nothing do Roman Catholics consider him the head apostle, and are eager to claim their pope now sits in Peter’s seat. (Pope Francis would more humbly claim he certainly tries to.)

    But if you’ve read the gospels, you know Peter wasn’t infallible. None of us are.

    Paul wasn’t either, and would be the first to say so. 1Co 15.9, Ep 3.8 But here Paul tells of the time he had to stand up to Peter… because Peter was getting mixed up with the hypocrite faction in his church.

    In this passage Paul refers to Peter as Κηφᾶς/Kifás, a Greek form of the Aramaic nickname Jesus gave to Simon bar John: כיפא/kifá, “stone” or “rock.” Jn 1.42 The KJV renders Kifás as “Cephas,” and some Christians have either got the idea Cephas is some other apostle, or try to read something into Paul’s switch from Πέτρος/Pétros, “Peter,” in Galatians 2.7-8, to Kifás in verse 9 and afterwards. Why the switch? Some speculate Peter somehow fell from grace. But that’s rubbish: Pétros is Greek for “stone,” same as kifá is Aramaic for “stone.” It’s just Simon’s nickname in different translations, and Paul’s audience knew both translations. They’re interchangeable names. That’s why I translate ’em both as Peter.

    Peter didn’t fall from grace, because God doesn’t work like that. Peter only stumbled. He behaved one way when he first came to Antioch, Syria; then as soon as certain legalists showed up, Peter behaved another way. Paul correctly identifies this as hypocrisy. And it can happen to anyone. Sometimes because we have no backbone, and bend with every passing fart. Sometimes because we never learned how to resist peer pressure, or can’t withstand how much of it we’ve encountered. Sometimes because we heard some really clever, but really deceptive, arguments. My guess is it’s this last one—but regardless of the reason, Peter fell into hypocrisy. And Paul had to tell him so.

    Paul and the apostles of note.

    by K.W. Leslie, 29 March 2022
    Galatians 2.6-10 KWL
    6 As for the apostles of note:
    Being “someone,” whatever one might be, doesn’t matter to me.
    God doesn’t regard a person’s appearance.
    The apostles of note contribute nothing to me—
    7 on the contrary.
    They were merely observing I had been entrusted
    with the gospel to “foreskins,”
    just as Simon Peter to the circumcised.
    7 For the power granted to Peter
    as apostle to the circumcised
    empowers me as well towards the gentiles.
    8 Recognizing the grace given to me,
    James, Peter, and John, the “pillars” of note,
    placed their hands on me and Barnabas in fellowship,
    so we would go to the gentiles,
    and they to the circumcised.
    9 They only asked that we remember the poor,
    which I myself also do my best to do.
  • “The Council of Jerusalem.” Ac 15.1-12
  • “The former persecutor turned evangelist.” Ga 1.13-24
  • “How Paul remembered the Council of Jerusalem.” Ga 2.1-5
  • At the time of the Council of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem church was no longer being run by the Twelve. (Nor, as Roman Catholics like to imagine, Simon Peter.) It was run by Jesus’s brother James, and apparently the apostles Peter and John were still there; Peter hadn’t yet gone to Rome, and John hadn’t yet gone to Ephesus. John’s brother James had died, and the other nine guys in the Twelve had moved on to other parts of the world—to start churches and spread the gospel.

    These were “the apostles of note” Paul referred to in Galatians 2.2. Different translations render the phrase different ways: “Them which were of reputation” in the KJV, “those esteemed as leaders” in the NIV, “the acknowledged leaders” in the NRSV, “those who seemed influential” in the ESV, “the influential people” in the NET. All of these are ways of translating τοῖς δοκοῦσιν/tis dokúsin, “to the thought-of.” In other words, if someone said “the apostles,” these would be the apostles you first thought of. The top apostles. The guys who personally knew Jesus best: His brother, his cousin, and his best student.

    And Paul shrugged at them: “Being ‘someone,’ whatever one might be, doesn’t matter to me. God doesn’t regard a person’s appearance.”

    Which is entirely true. It’s exactly what the LORD told Samuel when the prophet was picking kings.

    1 Samuel 16.7 KJV
    But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

    Not that the LORD rejected his apostles! Too many Christians, projecting their own anti-authoritarian attitudes, interpret Paul’s statement as if he’s trying to slap down the other apostles, or knock ’em down a few notches. He’s not. He is trying to knock down the unhealthy attitude, all too common among Christians, of turning our leaders into idols, and treating them as if they’re infallible holy beings. To be fair, all these guys did write infallible books of the New Testament. But apart from that, these were just men. Human beings, same as us—who had the privilege of knowing Jesus in the flesh, but otherwise same as us.

    This, Paul recognized. They were apostles… but he and Barnabas were also apostles, personally selected by the Holy Spirit for a mission to preach the gospel. Ac 13.2 They weren’t made apostles by the other apostles; they were made apostles by God Himself. The notable apostles only recognized their appointment by God. When they laid hands on them, it wasn’t to pass along God’s commission, nor empower them themselves; that’s not what laying hands is about, even though plenty of Christians certainly treat it that way. Laying hands is only to acknowledge something God has already done, and show our support of it.

    So yeah, if you’re reading any level of sarcasm into Paul’s description of these notable apostles (“whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me,” as one might read the KJV) you’re doing it wrong. Hero-worship among Christians is wholly inappropriate. We have one hero, Christ. Everybody else is just trying to follow him… and sometimes makes mistakes. Peter’s gonna make a doozy later in this very chapter.

    How Paul remembered the Council of Jerusalem.

    by K.W. Leslie, 28 March 2022
    Galatians 2.1-5 KWL
    1 Afterwards, after 14 years,
    I went to Jerusalem again with Joseph Barnabas,
    taking along Titus as well.
    2 I went, according to a revelation.
    I presented to them the gospel which I preach to the gentiles
    —in private, and to those apostles of note—
    lest somehow I might run, or was running, in vain.
    3 But neither Titus, nor the Greeks with me,
    were forced to be circumcised
    4 because of the infiltrating fake “fellow Christians
    who snuck in amongst us to spy on our freedom we have in Christ Jesus,
    so they would enslave us.
    5 We don’t yield to their position for even an hour,
    so that the gospel’s truth might continue among you all.
  • “The Council of Jerusalem.” Ac 15.1-12
  • “The former persecutor turned evangelist.” Ga 1.13-24
  • I gave kind of a timeline of Paul’s life in my first article on Galatians. After Jesus appeared to him round the year 35, he visited the apostles three years later (38CE), and soon after they sent him home to Cilicia. Ac 9.30 But a few years later Barnabas, the man who’d first brought him to the apostles, Ac 9.27 came to get him.

    Barnabas had been sent by the apostles to check out a church in Antioch, Syria, where Syrian Greeks—who were gentiles, i.e. non-Israelis—had been led to Jesus. Enthused, Barnabas went to Tarsus and got Paul to join him. Antioch became where Jesus’s followers were first called Χριστιανούς/Hristianús, Christians. Ac 11.19-25

    I figure the year Paul moved to Antioch was anywhere between 38 and 41. See, at some point while they ministered in Antioch, the prophet Agabus said there’d be a famine, Ac 11.28 and Barnabas and Paul were sent to Jerusalem with money. The famine didn’t take place till Claudius became emperor in 41CE, so naturally these events had to happen before 41. As for Barnabas and Paul’s missionary trip, Luke referred to the death of Agrippa Herod 1 in 44CE before he got to their trip… so there, loosely, is when these events took place.

    Okay. So after their missionary trip, Luke told of the events which triggered the Council of Jerusalem:

    Acts 15.1-2 KJV
    1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

    The apostles did try to sort it out themselves, but the visitors from Judea weren’t at all willing to accept Barnabas and Paul’s view, nor authority. So the church leadership decided they’d better hear it from the Jerusalem church. We Christians recognize this as the first of the ancient church councils, where major theological issues were hashed out between all the leading Christians in the world… and of course after the Orthodox and Roman Catholics split, we can’t do these councils anymore. (Not that Catholics don’t claim their councils still count for all Christendom—but nope; they’re only internal church councils now.)

    In today’s passage, Paul only loosely refers to this. This text mainly refers to four things:

    1. He, Barnabas, Titus, and some other “Greeks” (really Greek-speaking Syrians) went to Jerusalem.
    2. He went “according to a revelation,” meaning the Holy Spirit told him to go. (He probably didn’t wanna!)
    3. He privately confirmed the gospel he was preaching with the top apostles, lest he was getting it wrong. (And he’s not. Ga 1.8)
    4. Those apostles never required Titus and the Greeks to be circumcised.

    So basically Paul’s in the right. He made sure of it.

    James’s ruling at the Council of Jerusalem.

    by K.W. Leslie, 22 March 2022
    Acts 15.12-21 KWL
    12 All the crowd was silent.
    They’d heard Barnabas and Paul explain all the miracles God did,
    and wonders among the gentiles because of them.
    13 After their silence James answered, saying,
    “Men, fellow Christians, hear me.
    14 Simon Peter explained just how God first chose
    to take a people for his name out of the gentiles.
    15 The prophets’ words harmonize with this,
    just as it’s written:
    16 ‘After this, I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
    I will rebuild its ruins. I will lift it up.
    17 Thus whenever the remnant of the Lord’s people might earnestly search,
    and all the gentiles who had been called by my name…
    says the Lord who does these things,’ Am 9.11-12
    18 well-known in that age.
    19 So I judge to not further trouble
    those of the gentiles who repent to God.
    20 Instead we’re to write them about abstaining
    from the contamination of idolatry—
    porn, strangled idolatrous sacrifices, and blood.
    21 From the earliest generations, the Law of Moses
    has been read in synagogue every Sabbath
    in the cities which proclaim him.”
  • “The Council of Jerusalem.” Ac 15.1-12
  • To recap: Certain Christians from Jerusalem had gone to Syria, to Barnabas and Paul’s church in Antioch, and were teaching gentile Christians they needed to first become Jews before they could be saved. This was after all what Jews believed and taught: Messiah is king of Israel, king of the Jews—not the world. So if any non-Jews wanna be included in his kingdom, they needed Jewish citizenship. They had to become Jews. Starting with ritual circumcision. Whip it out; we’re gonna cut you!

    Barnabas and Paul objected: Messiah is king of Israel and king of the world. Becoming Jews isn’t necessary. And in fact, requiring it has the side effect of telling people our works save us; not God’s grace. We’re not saved by jumping through hoops. We’re saved only by turning to Jesus.

    Simon Peter pointed out God himself confirmed this by granting the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and the first gentiles he ever preached the gospel to. If God didn’t require ritual circumcision before gentiles could become Christian, why should Christians? What business do we have in adding any prerequisites to salvation?

    As I said before, Roman Catholics like to imagine Peter led the church back then, as its first pope; later as the first bishop of Rome (notwithstanding the leaders of any other churches in the city of Rome before Peter eventually moved there). But by this point he had stepped back from leading the Jerusalem church, to concentrate on other ministry. So Jesus’s brother James had stepped up, and in his capacity as the Jerusalem church’s supervisor (Greek ἐπίσκοπος/epískopos, “bishop”) presided over this council. As president, same as the president of a synagogue, his job was to moderate: Recognize the speakers, stop discussion when it turned into bickering, and make the final ruling. It’s exactly like being a judge.

    The Council of Jerusalem.

    by K.W. Leslie, 21 March 2022
    Acts 15.1-12 KWL
    1 Certain people, coming down from Judea to Antioch,
    were teaching the fellow Christians this:
    “Unless you’ve been circumcised in the manner of Moses,
    you are not able to be saved.”
    2 It became no small standing controversy and debate
    between Paul and Barnabas and them.
    Paul and Barnabas arranged to go up to Judea
    with some others of them,
    to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem,
    to talk about their debate.
    3 (By the way, while being sent off by the church,
    they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria,
    telling the Christians there about converting gentiles in detail,
    causing great joy among all their fellow Christians.)
    4 Appearing in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were received
    by the churches, the apostles, and the elders.
    5 They brought up certain things
    about the heresy the Pharisee believers were speaking of—
    that “It is necessary to circumcise yourselves
    to keep the command of the Mosaic law.”
    6 The apostles and elders gathered together to look at this word.
    7 Many debates were coming out of it.
    Rising up, Simon Peter told them, “Men, fellow Christians,
    you know that in the olden days,
    God chose from among you, through my mouth,
    for gentiles to hear the word of the good news, and believe.
    8 God, the heart-knower, witnessed to them,
    giving the Holy Spirit just as he did to us as well.
    9 The Spirit never discriminated between us and them,
    cleansing their hearts by faith.
    10 So why do you now challenge God
    to put a yoke on the students’ necks
    which neither our parents nor we have to carry?
    11 Instead, because of our Master Jesus’s grace,
    we trust him to save them in the same way as us.”
    12 All the crowd was silent.
    They’d heard Barnabas and Paul explain all the miracles God did,
    and wonders among the gentiles because of them.
  • “James’s ruling at the Council of Jerusalem.” Ac 15.12-21
  • Whenever I talk about Christian orthodoxy, and whether a Christian doctrine is debatable or not, I define the debatable ones by the ancient Christian councils. If the ancient Christians hashed this out during the first 700 years of Christianity—back before the one church split into the separate Orthodox and Catholic camps—then it’s decided. That’s the orthodox position.

    No we don’t get to second-guess the ancient councils and decide they were wrong. We recognize they were still listening to the Holy Spirit at that time, and he led ’em to their theological conclusions. The only reason—the only reason—today’s Christians argue the ancients were wrong (or push the popular conspiracy theory that Emperor Constantine, or “the popes”—which didn’t even exist yet!—hijacked ancient Christianity and turned it heretic), is because those naysaying Christians wanna claim they get to decide these things, and they’re right. And they don’t, and they’re not. (Their bad attitudes and bad fruit kinda give ’em away, too.)

    The precedent for these ancient councils is found in the bible, in the very first church council, which we call the Council of Jerusalem. It was presided by Jesus’s brother James, who was the head apostle in Jerusalem at the time. (Roman Catholics like to claim Simon Peter was still in charge, ’cause he’s their favorite. But Peter had stepped down some years before, during one of the persecutions—although you notice in today’s passage he was definitely active among them.) As president, James got the last word, in which he expressed the consensus of the apostles—which appears to be their unanimous conclusion. Later councils also tried for a unanimous conclusion—after all, if they’re all listening to the same Holy Spirit, shouldn’t the conclusion be unanimous?

    Because today’s Christians are fragmented into denominations, and some of our denominations refuse to talk to one another, much less come to agreements with one another, we can’t do church councils anymore. We can do denominational councils, and do: Certain church networks can get together and hash out all the divisive debates within their churches. And while they might claim they speak for all Christians everywhere (like the Roman Catholics try to do), they really only speak for themselves. Their regular inability to see outside their own boxes, makes it kinda impossible for the Holy Spirit to speak to every Christian. Hence he frequently doesn’t even try; he just speaks to that denomination. But every so often these denominational councils come up with declarations which every Christian oughta listen to—because they are actually heeding the Spirit. So it’s not a bad idea for the rest of us to pay some attention to what the Spirit’s doing among our fellow Christians. It might profit us.

    Anyway, back to this council.

    The former persecutor turned evangelist.

    by K.W. Leslie, 24 February 2022
    Galatians 1.13-24 KWL
    13 For you heard the story of my behavior
    when I was in Judaism—
    that, in my extremism, I persecuted God’s church
    and was laying waste to it.
    14 In Judaism, I was advancing
    beyond many of the peers in my class,
    being extremely zealous
    in my spiritual fathers’ “traditional” interpretations.
    15 When God thought it best,
    he separated me from the time I was in my mother’s womb,
    and called me by his grace,
    16 to reveal his Son to me
    so I might evangelize of him to the gentiles,
    I didn’t immediately confer with flesh and blood,
    17 nor did I go to Jerusalem
    to those who became apostles before me.
    I went to Arabia instead.
    Then I returned to Damascus again.
    18 After three years, then I went up to Jerusalem
    to interview Simon Peter.
    I stayed with him 15 days.
    19 I saw none of the other apostles except James, our Lord’s brother.
    20 I write you all about this:
    Look, I swear before God I’m not lying.
    21 Then I went to the region of Syria and Cilicia,
    22 and my face was unknown to the Jewish Christian churches.
    23 They had only heard,
    “Our former persecutor now evangelizes
    the faith he was previously destroying,”
    24 and they were glorifying God over me.
  • “Christ Jesus’s apostle to this present age.” Ga 1.1-5
  • “The ‘gospel of grace’… with a little karma in it.” Ga 1.6-9)
  • “The gospel doesn’t come from anyone but Christ Jesus.” Ga 1.10-12)
  • Paul gives some of his testimony here. As you know (or oughta know) a conversion story is a testimony, but it’s hardly one’s only testimony. One’s testimony is a story of anything God has done through us, and since God had done a lot through Paul, he had a lot to testify. He’d seen some stuff.

    Various people, much as they have with Historical Jesus, have invented a Historical Paul—the guy they blame for anything in Christianity they don’t like. To them, Historical Paul was an ancient Pharisee rabbi who ditched Pharisaism, opportunistically adopted the teachings of the recently-dead Jesus the Nazarene, and shaped it into a new religion about grace instead of righteously obeying the Law (which they claim Jesus was really all about; not God’s kingdom). Historical Paul invented Christianity, they claim; not Jesus.

    Their rewrite of history disregards Paul’s own writings. Every reference to Paul’s conversion points out no evangelist won him over, no logical explanation got him to change his mind. Paul was absolutely convinced Christianity was heresy. Not just that, Christians like Stephen needed to be dead—lest they outrage God and trigger the cycle of history again. This time it wouldn’t be the Babylonians flattening Jerusalem; it’d be the Romans. (As, it turns out, the Romans did—less than 20 years after Paul wrote Galatians.)

    Paul was absolutely certain he was doing right by God to purge the world of Jesus’s followers, and nobody but nobody could tell him different; he had all the blind zeal of a religious extremist. It is decidedly not the behavior of someone who wanted to adopt, nor create, another religion. This is what a περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς/perissotéros zilotís, “superabundant zealot,” does. It’s typical cage-stage behavior. But, y'know, more murdery. There are a lot of overzealous “defenders of faith” who would totally murder everyone they considered heretic, and the only thing mitigating them is the government. Sometimes Jesus—but many of them ignore Jesus, figuring the destruction of “heretics” far outweighs everything Jesus teaches about loving one’s enemies. It’s why they wanna grab the reins of government so badly: This way, nothing can stop them from purging “sinners” and stopping the cycle.

    The gospel doesn’t come from anyone but Christ Jesus.

    by K.W. Leslie, 23 February 2022
    Galatians 1.10-12 KWL
    10 For do I now put confidence in people, or God?
    Or do I seek to please people?
    If I was still trying to please people,
    I wouldn’t be a slave to Christ.
    11 For I want you all to understand, fellow Christians,
    the gospel I’m evangelizing to you:
    It isn’t according to people.
    12 For neither do I receive it from some person,
    nor am I taught it.
    Instead it’s through Christ Jesus’s revelation.
  • “Christ Jesus’s apostle to this present age.” Ga 1.1-5
  • “The ‘gospel of grace’… with a little karma in it.” Ga 1.6-9)
  • When Paul critiqued the Galatians for adopting an alternative “gospel,” which isn’t really a gospel, he wanted to make clear he’s not talking about his gospel. Even though he regularly refers to it in his letters as “my gospel” or “our gospel,” it’s not really his; it didn’t come from him. It came from Christ Jesus.

    We still have various contrarian scholars in Christendom who try to claim Paul’s gospel (i.e. the gospel, as Paul presents it) is not the same gospel as Jesus presents. Nor is it the same gospel as Peter, nor John, nor James, nor Luke. It’s “the Pauline gospel,” and they try to dig up proof texts to show exactly why it’s different than the “other gospels” in the New Testament. Fr’instance Jesus spent a lot of time talking about our good works, but Paul pointed out we’re not saved by good works… but James pointed out faith without works is dead. These scholars are trying to take all the subtle differences between the messages of our Lord and his apostles, blow ’em out of proportion, and claim they’re entirely different, and even opposed to one another. It gains ’em a little notoriety… and gives people all the ammunition they need when they don’t care to follow Jesus and his apostles at all. “Oh, Jesus and Paul preached two different gospels. So which one do you mean?” Meanwhile they recognize neither.

    But there is no alternative gospel; there’s just the one.

    Mark 1.14-15 KJV
    14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

    God’s kingdom has come near. So repent and believe!

    That’s the gospel. Any “Jesus gospel” which isn’t that gospel, isn’t the gospel, or didn’t come from Jesus. Any “Paul gospel” which isn’t that gospel, isn’t the gospel, and is just a twisted mishmash of Paul quotes which misses the whole point. Any “James gospel” or “John gospel” or “writer-of-Hebrews gospel” or “Old Testament gospel” which isn’t about God’s kingdom coming near, isn’t the gospel. These controversy-stirring scholars are simply cherry-picking verses so they can claim these writers had a different gospel, but they’re really just trying to sell books and get invited to talk shows. Stop taking them and their fans seriously.

    Paul didn’t have any “Paul gospel,” and he says as much in 1 Corinthians about his fellow evangelists Apollos and Cephas. (“Cephas” is a bad translation of Κηφᾶ/Kifá, the Aramaic nickname of Simon bar Yoannis Jn 1.42 which usually gets translated Πέτρος/Pétros, “Peter.”)

    1 Corinthians 1.12-13 KJV
    12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

    There’s one gospel, and one savior, and it’s not Paul’s gospel nor Paul’s salvation. Paul calls it “my gospel” only because Christ Jesus entrusted it to him. And if I ever refer to it as “my gospel” (I usually don’t; I tend to say it’s the gospel) it’d only be because I’m trying to distinguish what I say, as opposed to what someone else says—but both of us should defer to what Jesus says it is, ’cause really it’s his gospel.

    But unlike Paul, I don’t claim I got it directly from Jesus. I didn’t. I got it out of the bible. I got pointed to the bible by other Christians, who likewise got pointed to the bible by fellow Christians… and so on back to the original apostles. Although since Jesus still appears to people, it’s likely many of those forebears did hear the gospel directly from Jesus, same as Paul. Same Jesus; same gospel.

    And in this passage, we’re reminded we have to keep returning to what Jesus’s gospel is. ’Cause goodness knows there are myriads of alternate gospels. Or emphases on certain parts of the gospel (fr’instance all those evangelists who love to quote John 3.16) which tend to confuse people into thinking that favorite emphasis, and nothing else, is the gospel. Those are the gospels of other people, and Paul isn’t preaching those. Just what he got from Jesus himself.

    The “gospel of grace”… with a little karma in it.

    by K.W. Leslie, 22 February 2022
    Galatians 1.6-9 KWL
    6 I wonder how you all switched so quickly
    from Christ’s gracious call to you,
    to “another gospel”
    7 —which isn’t another gospel
    unless it’s because someone is troubling you all,
    and wants to corrupt Christ’s gospel.
    8 But even if we,
    or an angel from heaven, might evangelize you
    away from what we evangelized you,
    consider them cursed.
    9 As we had foretold, and tell you again:
    If any one of you evangelizes
    away from what you received,
    consider them cursed.
  • “Christ Jesus’s apostle to this present age.” Ga 1.1-5
  • Which alternative “gospel” were Galatian Christians dabbling in? Well we sorta deduced it by the rest of Galatians: Certain people were trying to give them the idea they’re saved through works righteousness. Basically if you’re good people, and obey God’s Law, you’ll rack up so much good karma, God has to let you into his kingdom, ’cause you deserve it. Good people go to heaven. Bad people go to hell.

    People presume works-righteousness is a Pharisee idea. It’s actually not. It’s a pagan idea. Pharisees actually believed (as did all the Jewish denominations of the day) in corporate election. It’s the totally biblical idea (held by us Christians too) that God chose and already saved Israel.

    From Egypt, remember? He adopted them as his children, and made a kingdom of them. Exactly like God chose and already saved humanity, through Christ. Same as Israel, God’s already cleared the path to a relationship with him, if we want it. There's nothing we need do more than repent and follow him.

    Pharisees figured Jews like them—and Paul, Barnabas, Simon Peter, James, and all the earliest apostles—had birthright citizenship in God’s kingdom. Even if you weren’t Pharisee: Sadducees could be saved too. True, Jews should do good works; everyone should. But Pharisees recognized they weren’t saved by good works; they were saved because they were Jewish.

    Yeah, I know: Christians regularly claim Jews believed in works righteousness. (And still do!) But that’s not consistent with the scriptures. You might recall John the baptist critiqued them for presuming they were saved just by being Jewish—and for taking it for granted, and therefore not doing good works.

    Luke 3.7-9 KJV
    7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    But. In every religion we’re gonna find a faction who can’t wrap their heads around grace, and keep insisting upon karma. Because karma is fair and grace is not. Karma means we either merit saving, or work our way into deserving it. Grace means we don’t deserve jack squat, but God saves us anyway, ’cause love.

    And karma had wormed its way into Pharisee teaching. Including the way Pharisee Christians were teaching the gospel. It turned the gospel into a false gospel, a heretic gospel, a damned gospel. That’s in part what Galatians is all about: The gospel of grace… but with just a little bit of works righteousness at its core.