Sunday, April 05, 2009

Paul Novel: Galatians 5

Paul did not win the day at Antioch. The church at Antioch would struggle with a degree of "segregation" between Jewish and Gentile believer for the next thirty years, although many Gentiles did conform to the new expectations. It largely remained this way until the destruction of Jerusalem prompted some significant reassessment of the issue and the power shifted among believers in the city. Even then, some of the more conservative elements in the city continued separate until they finally disappeared into history without heir.

Barnabas tried to reconcile with Paul, but Paul saw Barnabas' submission to the thinking of Jerusalem as an obstacle to the gospel. The disagreement finally came to a head over John Mark. Both Paul and Barnabas agreed that they should return to the churches they had planted on their previous journey, starting with Cyprus and continuing into Pisidia and Lycaonia as before.

But Paul refused to take John Mark. It was enough that Barnabas disagreed with him on some major issues. But Paul considered Mark a backstabber who had helped catalyze the current crisis. No, it was no Mark or no way. When Barnabas would not concede, they agreed to divide up the area of their previous journey and go their separate ways.

Paul immediately knew who to take with him. Silas had been one of the few who had agreed with Paul over and against the decision of the Jerusalem church. He had already mentioned many times how much he wished he had been with Paul and Barnabas on the first mission. He was a leatherworker like Paul. Paul decided it was clearly God's will, and Silas agreed.

We have already mentioned much of what happened those next five years. They revisited Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, as well as Antioch in Pisidia. Timothy joined the mission in Lystra. Titus would have come with them too from the beginning, but he was not quite old enough yet. He would meet up them several years later when he was old enough.

Paul became sick and spent the better part of a year in northern Galatia, an unplanned year that nevertheless brought the gospel to the environs of Ancyra. Then they founded churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. Paul spent almost two years in Corinth.

Then he shipwrecked off the coast of Crete on his way to Jerusalem and ended up spending the better part of another year here and there--including Galatia again. Finally he settled down in Ephesus for a ministry of several years in that city. He was imprisoned for a short while during his first year, then visited a number of churches in the eastern part of Asia, places like Colossae and Laodicea. He also made an emergency trip to Corinth after he returned to Ephesus.

Despite all these challenges, nothing thus far had been as difficult as the news that he had just received from Galatia. He knew the culprit, a man named Phineas from Antioch. He was a Jewish teacher who not only had stood against Paul in the Antioch argument. He had spoken strongly against James for being too soft on the Gentiles. Unless they were willing to go all the way and get circumcised, they showed that Jesus wasn't really their Lord and master. Unless they were willing to give up everything, they didn't understand what it really meant to serve God as king!

1 comment:

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