Paul writes to his friends in Galatia and in verses 1-10 offers a substantial opening to the letter.
1-5 Paul, the Galatians and his gospel
First century letters begin with the sender, then introduce the audience.
Paul is an apostle - sent by God to people with the gospel.
The gospel concerns
- Jesus who gave himself for our sins
- Jesus whose death was to deliver us from the present evil age (whatever that might be)
- Jesus who was raised by his Father
- That this was the Father's will.
- That this is for the Father's glory
- That this is grace. Gift.
Paul observes that his friends have turned from the Father who called them in Christ. They have deserted God. A desertion, forsaking, betrayal, a relational abandonment. The evangelical who looks picky about doctrine might be that, but really their goal is to ensure that we are true to God the Father of Jesus. We can be lacking in some knowledge and still be knowing the same person, poorly. But there comes a point when our knowledge cannot truly be said to be of the same person at all. In Galatia the knowledge of God is being lost... all too easily for me.
This serves to
- Distort the gospel - smashing its face almost beyond recognition (the mechanics of which become clearer later in the letter - a dramatic fall from grace into exclusive practices.)
- Disturb the church - who were otherwise at peace in Christ.
- Damn the preacher - for the crime and for believing their own false message.
- Delight the world - who dislike the gospel but love the ego massage of alternatives.
Paul's letter is a call for repentance. They've turned their faces from God and he wants them to come back.
And I need that too. But for the call of the Father in the gospel I won't
- Believe Jesus' death was for my sins, nor needed to be. And I'll want it to be something more sanitised.
- Believe that my old life was evil, nor that I needed to be delivered from it. Indeed I'll take offense at the notion than evil is anything other than something out there.
- Believe that Jesus was raised, nor needed to be. What first century naivity, surely?
- That the Father's will matters, not least ahead of my own. Don't I know best?
- That the Father's glory matters, not least ahead of my own. Don't I matter most?
- That the Father is good and gracious.
The gospel of Jesus is good news, the very last thing I expect to hear from anyone, not least from God. But nonetheless in Christ all my expectations are confounded and confronted and arms held wide open to me.