Full Text for Galatians- Volume 33 - Why does Paul at this point in his letter rehearse with the Galatians the occasion for his coming to them when he first preached the Gospel to them? (Video)

No. 33 >> I would like to follow up on Joshua's question. Why does Paul at this point in his letter rehearse with the Galatians the occasion for his coming to them when he first preached the Gospel to them? And why does he become distressed a third time? >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: I think it's been all of our experience at some point in our life, and maybe more often than not, that in order to really kind of make a point to someone, we have to reach back into our own personal lives. And show them that we understand because we have experienced something that can relate to them. And we can relate to them in that experience. I think Paul recognized that at this point, especially after the sublime theology that he has kind of unveiled here, and after then his kind of moment of describing his pastoral distress for them, that he wants to connect to them again. He wants to go back to that moment when they first met. Now, we don't know the historical circumstances here. And we aren't sure of exactly what Paul may be referring to. And it's somewhat problematic to try to take a guess here. But I think we can, if we look back into the Book of Acts, if you go back to Chapter 14 of the Book of Acts, it says that Paul was stoned in Lystra. And let me just read you that. Because I think it's helpful to see that this might have been the occasion for Paul's coming to the Galatians. It says: But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium -- I'm on Chapter 14 of Acts Verse 19. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and having persuaded the crowds they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him he rose up and entered the city and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. But when they had preached the Gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and to Antioch strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God. Now, as I said, we can't be sure that this is in fact the occasion for what Paul is talking about here in Chapter 4 of Galatians for his coming to Galatians. But it certainly could be. And Paul says something here in Verse 12 to introduce his personal recollection, which is a request to them. And this is a common type of request in the ancient world in which he is appealing to them to imitate him. But in many ways for him to imitate them, as well. Now, listen to what he says, this is Verse 12: He says: Brothers, I beg you, become as I am just as I am as you are. You did me no wrong. Now, listen to that again: Become as I am. That's really how the Greek starts. Because I have become as you, brethren. I am begging you. Now, this is mutual imitation. And I think Paul speaks not only of the Galatians and himself in the same context. But that they are to actually exchange places. Now, what does that mean? Well, I think here you have the Jew-Gentile thing. And that they are one in Christ. And because they are one in Christ, they are in interchangeable ways. A Gentile becomes like Paul, a Jew. Paul, a Jew, becomes like a Gentile in Christ. And he's begging them to consider that. To consider how important that is. Don't become a Jew. Don't leave the fact that you are Christian now, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek. But become as I am. I am all things to all people. Just as I became like you. I became one with you. A Jew becoming one with Gentiles in Christ. And then this extraordinary thing he says: You did me no wrong. I mean, why does Paul say that? Why does Paul say that the Galatians did him no wrong? Now, clearly, with these opponents there is animosity towards Paul. That Paul is concerned about the fact that he is no longer in the situation that he was before when he was with them. That there is this animosity between them. And this is when he launches into this personal recollection. And here it's really quite extraordinary. He says: You know that -- and here he's appealing now to the time when he came to them. He says: You know that on account of weakness of the flesh. Now, this is obviously a sickness or what I think is this beating in Lystra. On account of the weakness of the flesh I first preached the Good News, the Gospel, to you. That was the occasion. That his weakness in the flesh became the occasion for the Gospel. And then he goes onto say -- and this is an extraordinary statement in Verse 14: And through my trial, my temptation, my trial, in my flesh, you did not despise me and literally you did not spit me out. I love that word in the Greek. It's ***ec patu. The word itself is pttt (phonetic). You did not spit me out. But you received me. You welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself. Now, here is the deal, this is what I think is going on: Paul is left alongside of the road, beaten to a pulp. To the point of death as it says. Now, I don't know if you've ever seen anybody beaten. I have. When I was a high school kid, I went to school outside of Boston. We used to go into the trail way station there. And one day a whole bunch of us prep school kids were on our way back to school. And there was a man who was totally beaten on the side of the bus station. I mean, bleeding, eyes bulging, pathetic mess. And he smelled. And it wasn't just because he was kind of a street person. The sickness of his beating had an aura to it. I think that's what's meant by Paul saying: I could have spit you out. Paul smelled. You know how you get sulfur in your nose and all of a sudden you just want to spit it out. You know, terrible. I'll never forget when my dog got hit by a skunk in the face and you had to put vinegar and tomato juice in its mouth and the dog was spitting it out because it smelled bad and it tasted bad and it was horrible. And that's Paul was. Paul was a pathetic horrible figure. Weakness of flesh. In shame. And great suffering and sickness. And yet these Galatians, they welcomed him. They received him as a messenger of God. They did thought despise him in his weakness. They weren't tempted to cast him out and say: What a pathetic human being. You know, in that culture, a person who was in that condition, they must have said something was wrong with him. A spirit has gotten him. A demon has gotten him. But no. They accepted him as Christ Jesus himself. You know why? Because Christ's sufferings were seen in Paul's sufferings. When they saw Paul in his state of humiliation and shame and suffering, they saw Christ. And Paul's very body preached the Gospel to them. In weakness. Not in strength. But in weakness they saw the Gospel. And in fact, Paul goes on to say in Verse 15 -- and again, this just continues to show the ***pathos of this. What then has become of the blessing you felt by me? And he says: I testify to you, I bear witness to you, I make myself a martyr for you literally. If you were able to, you would have plucked out your eyes and you would have given them to me. Now, here is where we think this weakness of the flesh was that he was beaten. And you remember I said he had bulging eyes. His eyes were all puffed over. You know how your eyes get when you're beaten? They were puffed over. They were oozing and swollen and ugly. And they would have taken out their eyes. That's how much they loved Paul. And given them to him if they could. Now, this shows you the love between the Galatians and Paul. And how in weakness Paul preaches the Good News. In weakness they see Jesus. In weakness and suffering they understand the Gospel. Now, these are mercenaries. These are soldiers. They are used to seeing people beaten up. People who are probably even worse off than Paul. So I mean, in some ways it wouldn't have been a great shock to them. But they also would have seen that as a sign of weakness and would have rejected it. But instead, they embraced Paul. Now, this is -- this is a moment in which Paul now is letting his hair down with them. He's looking them in the face and saying: Don't you remember me? Don't you remember the occasion I came here? Don't you remember how you treated me? And you didn't have to. But you did. Because you saw in me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You saw in my very body, in my sufferings, in my sickness, in my brokenness, the fact that Jesus became broken for us on the cross. This is perhaps one of the ways in which Paul publicly proclaimed Christ crucified. This is a great moment in this book. And I think you're going to see at the end of the book when Paul shows them the marks of Jesus in his body, that he's appealing here to this moment. Remember, also, when he said: Even if an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what was preached to you, let him be accursed. Now he says: You receive me as an angel of God, a messenger of God. Why? Because I was pompous, a great rhetorician, because I was handsome. Because I came to you with great eloquence. No. You received me an angel of God because you saw in my weakness the Gospel of a crucified man, who is also the Son of God. Now, this recollection leads into his distress over the future. And here again you can see how deeply distressed he is. In Verse 16 he says to them: So now have I become your enemy? You hate me. Do you now hate me essentially. Because I have told you the truth. I've told you the truth of the Gospel by speaking this truth to you. And then Verse 17 which is kind of a difficult verse to understand. But I think it's really -- if you think about it, it's not that hard. He says -- and let me get a translation here. Because the Greek is really difficult to translate. They make much of you. That is the opponents of Paul. But for no good purpose. They want to shut you out that you may make much of them. Now, let me translate it literally so you can see why it's difficult. They are seeking you -- this is the Galatian opponents. But they are not doing it well. They are not doing it for the right reasons. But they wish to exclude you, to shut you out, so that you might seek them. Now, Paul goes onto say in Verse 18: It is good to be sought by someone always in a good way, for the right reasons. Not only, you know, when I am with you he says. So it's not that it's bad to seek somebody. But it's when the motives, the ulterior motives are such that they are actually trying to in a sense seduce them into something that they really shouldn't be in. Now, here is what I think is happening: These opponents are coming to these new Christians in Galatia. And remember what we said, they are saying: Paul preached to you the Gospel but he didn't tell you the whole truth. He didn't tell you that you have to be circumcised. You have to keep the law. Now, they are saying to them: If you don't keep the law, then we're going to keep you from coming to the Lord's Supper. We're going to excommunicate you. We're not going to let you participate in this Christian community. And we're going to pursue you so that you might come to understand how important it is to believe that the law is a means of salvation. And then to do it by submitting to circumcision. But if you don't, we're going to exclude you. Because this is a very special club. And only those who are willing to submit themselves to this very bloody act of circumcision are welcome. Now, you know how it is when somebody makes something exclusive. People want in. And that's what they are doing here. They want those Galatians to come to them and beg them to let them enter into this kind of covenant, so to speak. This new relationship with God. By means of not only the Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ. But also the works of the law. And Paul would say: Hey, I was seeking you. I came to Galatians and preached the Gospel to you because I wanted you to be part of the kingdom of heaven. But I'm not doing it in a way that is providing with you a false Gospel. And that's what these men are doing. So Paul is really trying to speak as clearly as he can here to the situation that is facing these Galatians. And at the end Paul speaks to them in as tender of words as you're going to hear him speak. He says to them: My children, my little children. These are tender words. My little children, for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. Remember that birth imagery? Have I labored over you in vain? Here he uses it again. I am in birth pains until Christ is formed in you. And there he means not in you personally but in your congregations. So that Christ is preached as the crucified and risen one. And that alone is the Gospel that's preached. And then Paul says something where you can see as a pastor he knows his presence is important. He says: I wish to be with you now. He wants to be present with them. And change my tone. And that's a very important thing. Because he could see the tone of his letters, there's a harshness there. There's a distress. They can hear it in his letters. But he wants to be able to communicate with them personally. He wishes he were there present with them. And he says: For I am perplexed about you. Literally I am at my wit's end over you. Now, this is a wish that can't be fulfilled. He can't be there. He can only be there through this letter. The opponents are there. And you know what presence is. Presence is everything. You know, when you're present there, then it's harder for people to reject you. And Paul can't be. Only through his ***shalia, the messenger, and the catechists who he left behind. But here his longing to be their pastor again. To reach out to them. This is what he desires. Now, I think you can see in this section Paul has let down his hair. He has shown his real pastoral heart to them. Reaching out to them. Relating that very personal incident in which he came to them. And in the process, he preaches what we would call in the Lutheran Church the most sublime theology of the cross. That in weakness, in suffering, God comes to us.