I think most of us, when first reading this passage, can be excused for cocking our heads to the side and wondering out loud, “Could you be any more esoteric, Paul?” What exactly is he driving at with this comment about someone’s last will and testament? People change their wills all the time, don’t they? At least before they die, so why bring this up here? It seems, that Paul wants to again make the point that God had made a promise to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. And so, this discussion about a will is really about the ultimate provider of salvation – the law, or faith.
What’s interesting here, is the word that Paul uses here to describe the Gentiles is ethnos (pl. ethne), meaning “a race, a nation” and implying any nation other than Israel. It is also the word from which we get the English word Ethnic. Generally, this word, in current usage, tends not to refer to other nations. Instead, it takes on the meaning more closely related to it’s original implied meaning of “anything other than Israel,” with the new implication being that anyone who is ethnic is not like us. It is usually uttered by those who are trying to make the distinction between themselves and others, often with the intention of separating themselves from those others; in short, it often has racist overtones, even among those who would call themselves believers. It would be more akin to Peter’s attempt to remove himself from the gentiles in Galatians 2:11-24, and less like Paul’s reminder that all are welcome in the family of God, if only they believe.
We cannot overlook that Peter, and even Barnabas joined into this division within a church of fellow believers. They heard what the people from James had said, and then turned around and refused to eat with the gentiles. Peter had understood God’s decision to include gentiles in the story of salvation. And Peter had already had a meeting with Paul, James, and John about not needing to make gentiles follow the rules and regulations of their Jewish heritage. So this decision by Peter and Barnabas to fall into a pattern of excluding people is, as Paul says, based entirely in fear. Fear that he might be ridiculed, have his authority challenged, or have his leadership threatened.
As more proof, Paul lets us know that these people “added nothing to me.” Or, stated differently, they found no fault with his Gospel, and therefore did not need to correct him. Moreover, they saw, they recognized, that Paul had “been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised.” And so they all agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles, and Peter and the others would work on sharing the Gospel with the Jews.
Galatians 1:11-24 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a humanRead More…
Some politicians have called entire segments of the media “Fake News” simply because they don’t want people to hear the truth; most politicians know that the quickest way to discredit a message is to discredit the messenger. Most criminal defense attorneys know the same thing, and actively try to persuade the people of the jury that the witness on the stand cannot be trusted; often it is just because the witness has an undesirable event in their past. It’s an incredibly effective strategy; most people would clearly not want to be treated or judged in this way, but they are quick to judge another person as untrustworthy simply because that person has been found wanting. This is, effectively, what Paul had to deal with.
I’ve seen books that hype the new way to experience the divine, new methods for seeking God, new ways to enter into that state of bliss that helps us to commune with God.
And these books always seem to sell well. They sell well, because the old, tried and true methods for finding God have been tried, and found not to be true.
This question by these money changers and livestock peddlers is essentially the same as those who complain about Cancel Culture. Rather than take the public outrage as a correction, and a chance to learn, they push back, attempting to prove their innocence. It’s not my fault; I did nothing wrong; why would someone do this to me; don’t they recognize that they are infringing on my right to live and make money?; I’m the victim here.
Many of us, in the days following the riot and attack on the capitol building on January 6th of this year, have come to wonder how people who claim to know Jesus could have ended up storming the capitol with the intent of causing harm to those within its walls. Causing harm, when the Jesus they claim to follow expresses the mandate to “love your neighbor,” and “pray for your enemies.” Nowhere does Christ seem to indicate that violently beating your enemies with a flagpole is the way of love, nor even something he wants his followers to do.
What motivates us to enter into these self-congratulatory states of inflated valuations of our own self-worth? We may indeed be better than some – by our own standards – but by our own standards we are also worse than others (Matt 7:1-2). Yet we still try and congratulate ourselves on our own righteousness, when standing before the God who reconciled us to Himself, no less.