Galatians: New Freedom, New Family

Those of you familiar with the teachings of Tim Keller will see realize that the title of this post is “stolen” from him, as is the basic point of the Epiphany teachings we are doing as we delve into Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Where we’ve been in Galatians so far:

1. We started out by looking at the so-called Parable of the Prodigal Son as a “lens” through which we view Galatians (thus “reading Scripture with Scripture”). This parable from Luke 15 is really about two sons, and not just the sinful, lost, younger son. As we have seen, the older brother is just as much in need of repentance as the younger brother who wasted his father’s inheritance in Las Vegas living it up, gambling, drinking, carousing, and (as the text says) sleeping with prostitutes. The elder brother is just as much as in need of repentance: just as much as the younger brother, he is using his father as a means to an end. Just as much as the younger brother, he is trying to control his father, the only difference being that the elder brother is trying to control the father through his obedience, through doing what’s right, through “the works of the law.”

2. Who is Jesus always getting upset with in the Gospel stories? Elder brother types: scribes, Pharisees, teachers of the law. The squeaky clean types, the cultural and religious conservatives, the ones who believe in absolute truth, the morally upstanding types, the ones who would be much happier living in red states.

3. What is Galatians about? It is a polemic levied against the “elder brother types,” but in this context they are not called “Pharisees;” they are called “the Circumcision.” Different characters from the Gospel stories, but the plot remains fundamentally the same.

4. Now, what’s crazy is that Paul himself is, by nature and by nurture, an “elder brother type.” As he states in Galatians 1, he had been a “Pharisee of Pharisees,” more zealous than his contemporaries for the purity of the law.

5. However Paul is a man who has been changed by grace! The risen Christ appeared to him (see the book of Acts), knocking him off his horse and onto his can. And after a season of meditation in the desert, trying to figure out what in the world had happened to him on that road to Damascus, trying to make sense of the Scriptures (for us, the “Old Testament”) in light of this shocking revelation of Christ, he begins to reach out in love to the very ones he had so murderously despised: the Gentiles! The Gentiles: the unclean ones, the sinners, the younger brother types.

6. This is the heart of Galatians: the life of Christ is not one of status quo religion, whereby we assume our own superiority over those who are different from us (this is the basic posture of the human heart, and the basic nature of so much of what passes for “religion”).

7. OK, then, what is the Christian life about? Two things (which we will consider together on Thursday nights for the next few weeks):

a. A New Law of Freedom (ch 5).

b. A New Community or Family (ch 6).

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