TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 1:1-12
TO CHEW ON: "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:11,12.
Over the next several months we'll be reading all the way through Galatians. Today we'll start with a bit of background (information gleaned from the Introduction to Galatians in my New Spirit-Filled Life Bible authored by Jerry Horner).
Date written: A.D. 55-56.
Recipients: A group of churches in a region of Asia Minor (not just once city) called Galatia. It included towns of Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.
Occasion: After a meeting in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1). Scholars aren't sure which meeting Paul referred to—the one described in Acts 11:27-30 or the one in Acts 15.
Purpose: Paul wrote to contradict prominent people in the Galatian churches who insisted that Christians must continue to observe parts of the law (like circumcision) to be assured salvation.
To truly understand the scope of the change Paul will be talking about in this letter, let's put ourselves in the place of his readers. Their only Bible was the Old Testament. In it practices like circumcision were required. But new development were being debated and promoted by the apostles. They contradicted some of the key teachings of Judaism, like the need for circumcision, the old food prohibitions, and the need for animal sacrifices.
And so we come to the question Paul's readers would legitimately ask: "Who says this changes now?"
The Bible subtly answers that:
1. The risen Jesus conducted a sort of Kingdom of God Ministry school for the disciples. During the 40 days (between His resurrection and ascension) He spent time with them "… speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" - Acts 1:3; Luke 24:13-35, 44,45. So He may have planted the seeds of change during this teaching time.
2. Of course we read the experience of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10, which led to changes in enforcing Jewish food rules and the acceptance of Gentile believers.
3. Here Paul, who was not one of the original twelve apostles (and so didn't hear Jesus' teachings first hand) made a bold claim. His assertion was that the teaching he was about to give them came through the revelation from Jesus Himself (Galatians 1:11,12). He doesn't say how that revelation came—a vision, a dream, an audible voice. But his claim alerted his readers to the fact that what followed should be taken seriously.
What about us today? Does Jesus still give people in our time new revelations of the gospel?
Through the centuries Christians have worked through this, and determined, No. We believe that revelation is completely contained within our 66 Bible books.
One of the requirements necessary for a writing to be included in the Bible was that it be the writing of an apostle. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology chapter "The Canon of Scripture" says:
"It is primarily the apostles who are given the ability from the Holy Spirit to recall accurately the words and deeds of Jesus and to interpret them rightly for subsequent generations. … Furthermore, those who have the office of apostle in the early church are seen to claim an authority equal to that of the OT prophets" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 60.
And so we trust the early church councils—groups of believers who determined which writings should be included in the canon of the Bible and believe that the Bible's revelation to us is complete and reliable.
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for the Bible, our standard for Christian life and practice. Thank You for all those who have preserved it, copied it, and translated it Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.