Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Personal Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)

Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Galatia in response to their being told by people whom we call Judaizers that to be saved they had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in addition to believing in Jesus Christ. So far in this series of articles on the letter I’ve considered Galatians 1:1-4:11. In it, except for a brief greeting (1:1-6), Paul has argued that both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law and that the Galatians’ listening to the Judaizers was actually a deserting of the gospel (and of Paul, who had presented it to them) rather than an assuring of it. He closed by lamenting, “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” (4:11, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).

This fear that he may have ministered in vain among the Galatians prompts Paul to reflect in a short passionate passage on his first experience with them and on the change that has taken place in their attitude toward him because of what the Judaizers have told them.

12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

In entreating the Galatians to “become as I am, for I also have become as you are,” Paul may be reminding them that when he was with them he had become like them by not following the law of Moses [compare 1 Corinthians 9:21] and asking them to become like him now by not following that law. On the other hand, he may just be asking them to, as F. F. Bruce puts it, “enjoy the same open feelings of friendship and confidence towards him as he cherishes for them” (Commentary on Galatians in The New International Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982, page 208; compare 2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

Paul goes on to remind the Galatians that when he was with them they had done him no wrong. He explains that although he’d had a bodily ailment which was a “trial” to them, they hadn’t looked down on him but had welcomed him as a messenger from God. “Because” indicates that the ailment had caused Paul either to go into Galatia or to stay there longer than he’d planned, leading to his preaching the gospel there. What the ailment was isn’t known, the commonest suggestions being malaria, epilepsy, and an eye problem. Most Bible scholars identify it with the “thorn…in the flesh” of 2 Corinthians 12:7 which Paul describes as “a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” Despite the repulsiveness of Paul’s appearance because of the ailment, the Galatians had been so blessed by him and his message that they would have done anything for him, even to gouging out their eyes and giving them to him if that would help him.

However it seems to Paul that, convinced by the Judaizers that he is proclaiming to them a defective gospel, the Galatians now view him as an “enemy.” But, he protests, what he is proclaiming to them is the same “truth” that he told them when he was first with them. What is that truth? Douglas J. Moo describes it thus: “The central component of this truth is not that the gospel has opened the way for Gentiles to be included (as important as that is), but that the gospel is offered freely by grace and is to be accepted and lived out by means of faith alone.” He continues, “Paul is fighting for that truth and is willing to jeopardize his close relationship with the Galatians for the sake of that truth–even if it means that he becomes their ‘enemy'” (Galatians in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Publishing Group, 2013, pages 286-87).

The “they” of verse 17 is the Judaizers. Paul claims that they are making much of the Galatians for a bad reason, to turn the Galatians away from Paul and his teaching and towards the Judaizers and their teaching. Further on in the letter (5:4) Paul says that the result of the Galatians’ accepting the teaching of the Judaizers and being circumcised would be their being severed from Christ himself (not just from Paul). Paul goes on in the next verse to express his appreciation to the Galatians for making much of him when he was with them and his wish that they’d do the same when he wasn’t with them. Together the verses convey two lessons for us: we should show zeal for only what is good, and we should be constant in showing our zeal. (I am indebted to Matthew Henry for the preceding application.)

Paul concludes his personal appeal to the Galatians by calling them his “little children” and expressing the wish that he could be with them and could speak to them with affection rather than with rebuke. His addressing them as his children leads him to describe his feelings for them when he first proclaimed the gospel to them as “anguish of childbirth” and to his confessing that he again feels the same pain and would continue to feel it until Christ was “formed” in them. Finally, just as he’d ended the previous paragraph in his letter with a lament (“I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain”), Paul closes this personal appeal by lamenting, “I am perplexed about you,” expressing the confusion that he felt over how ones who had seen signs and wonders and endured persecution from the Jews, as the Galatians had when he was with them, could turn aside to the false gospel presented by the Judaizers. I visualize this lament’s being accompanied by tears, demonstrating clearly that besides being a missionary and an apologist for the gospel Paul had the heart of a pastor.

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey – 3. Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians

In my last article in this series of articles on the life of Paul, I observed that “[s]ometime before making the decision [to revisit the churches in Macedonia and Greece and to go to Jerusalem] Paul had heard from the church in Corinth and written a letter to them. Now he sent that letter, 1 Corinthians, to them with Timothy and Erastus (1 Corinthians 16:10).” Later, while on his way to visit Corinth, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Moreover 1 Corinthians indicates that Paul wrote an even earlier letter than it to the church in Corinth, a letter of which no copy now exists. Moreover 2 Corinthians indicates that between writing 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians Paul wrote another letter to the church in Corinth of which no copy exists. Thus Paul wrote at least four letters to the church in Corinth, which I’ll call Corinthians A, Corinthians B (our 1 Corinthians), Corinthians C, and Corinthians D (our 2 Corinthians). In this article I’ll suggest why Paul wrote each of the four letters and indicate the actual or likely contents of each of them.

Corinthians A

Apparently Paul received reports of immorality, either actual or threatened, in the church at Corinth. He responded with a letter which hasn’t survived but is referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV). Following the reference Paul explains that he hadn’t meant people of the world because that would requiring going out of the world but rather had meant professed Christians who are immoral.

Corinthians B

Paul received news from three sources (the references are to 1 Corinthians):
– Chloe’s people (1:11), reporting that the church in Corinth was divided into factions–“What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ’ (1:12).
– an oral report (5:1) of sexual immorality among them.
– a letter (7:1) raising questions on marriage, divorce, and celibacy; attending pagan banquets and eating food which had been sacrificed to idols; Christian worship, including exercise of the spiritual gifts; the resurrection of the body; the collection for the church in Jerusalem; and Apollos’ visiting them. A leading commentary on 1 Corinthians argues that the letter “makes most sense when viewed … as a response … to [Corinthians A]” (Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987, page 7). However in my opinion Paul’s response to the questions has an instructive tone rather than the apologetic tone that it would likely have if he were defending views expressed in an earlier letter, and thus I think that the questions in the Corinthians’ letter were ones which had occurred to them since Paul’s ministry to them and which they wanted his guidance on.

Paul responded with our 1 Corinthians to deal with the divisions in the church (dealt with in 1:10-4:21) and sexual immorality (dealt with in 5:1-6:20) and to answer the questions asked by the Corinthians (answered in 7:1-16:12, with Paul’s answer to each question opening with “now concerning”).

Despite its being written to deal with particular events in a particular church at a particular time, 1 Corinthians is relevant to us today because it deals with issues of perennial concern to Christians everywhere, “such issues as the relationship between Christians and their surrounding pagan culture, divisions within the church, the ordering of church practices such as the Lord’s Supper, and the use of spiritual gifts [and] with matters of personal morality such as sex, marriage, celibacy, and the virtues (esp. love)” (Frank S. Thielman, “Introduction to 1 Corinthians” in ESV Study Bible, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008, page 2190).

Corinthians C

Apparently 1 Corinthians failed in its intention with the result that Paul made a visit to Corinth not recorded in Acts which he refers to in 2 Corinthians 2:1 as a “painful visit.” (Twice in 2 Corinthians, in 12:14 and 13:1, Paul speaks of his going to visit the Corinthians for “the third time,” indicating that before writing that letter he had made a visit to Corinth besides the one in which the church was founded.) Apparently the visit also failed, Paul’s being defied by his opponent and the church’s not defending him. He responded with another letter which hasn’t survived but is referred to in 2 Corinthians 7:8, “I made you grieve with my letter.” The context of that passage indicates that Titus delivered the letter to the church in Corinth, after sending it Paul regretted sending it, on his way from Ephesus to Corinth Paul met Titus in Macedonia, Titus told Paul that the Corinthians had repented and turned back to Paul, and Paul rejoiced.

Corinthians D

Paul immediately wrote another letter, our 2 Corinthians. In chapters 1-9 he expresses his thanksgiving that all has turned out well, but in chapters 10-13 he attacks “false apostles,” outsiders who were challenging Paul’s authority and beginning to lead the church astray. The contrast between the two parts of the letter is such that many Bible scholars consider them to be separate letters. Some suggest that the second part actually constitutes Corinthians C or part of it, but others think that it was sent a little after 2 Corinthians and thus constitutes Corinthians E. The fullest discussion that I have of possible solutions to the problem is Ralph P. Martin’s excursus on the history of the composition of 2 Corinthians in his Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Corinthians (Waco, Texas, Word, 1986, pages xl-lii). He concludes that chapters 10-13 constitute Corinthians E, but since there is no evidence for the chapters appearing separate from chapters 1-9 I favour the view that Paul received unsettling news from Corinth after writing but before sending chapters 1-9 and added chapters 10-13 to them instead of rewriting them.

Scott J. Hafemann summarizes Paul’s purposes in writing and the content of 2 Corinthians thus: “It is intended to accomplish three overlapping purposes: (1) to strengthen the faithful majority and the purity of the church (primarily chs. 1-7); (2) to complete the collection as the expression of their repentance (primarily chs. 8-9); and (3) to offer the rebellious minority one more chance to repent before Paul returns to judge those still rejecting him and his message (primarily chs. 10-13).” (“Introduction to 2 Corinthians” in ESV Study Bible, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008, page 2220)

For Further Reading

As far as I can remember, I first realized that Paul wrote more than two letters to the Corinthians when I read Philip Carrington’s fascinating and enlightening account of his correspondence with them in The Early Christian Church (Cambridge University Press, 1957; volume 1, pages 133-44). Another account which influenced me early was F. F. Bruce’s in his Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1977; pages 258-79).

In preparing this article I reread those accounts of Paul’s correspondence with Corinthians and read the introductions to my commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians and these articles:
– Hafemann, Scott J. “Corinthians, Letters to the.” In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, pages 165-79. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
– Lacey, D. R. de. “Corinthians, Epistles to the.” In New Bible Dictionary, third edition, pages 224-28. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996.
– Morris, Leon. “Corinthians, First Epistle to the” and “Corinthians, Second Epistle to the.” In The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, pages 774-82. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publihsing Company, 1979.

Of course I also reread 1 and 2 Corinthians themselves.

Introduction to Pentecostal Doctrine

Next month the church Life group which my wife and I attend will begin a study of Pentecostal doctrine. Currently we plan to alternate between studying Pentecostal doctrine and studying the book of Romans, meaning that we’ll study each every second week. I’ll be leading our study of Pentecostal doctrine, in which we’ll consider the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, and another member will lead our study of the book of Romans. I plan to share here from our Life group study of Pentecostal doctrine and to post articles on the life of Paul (or on his theology or writings) in the weeks between my posts on Pentecostal doctrine.

In our first meeting I’ll make a presentation on the foundation of Christian doctrine, the source of Christian doctrine, and the distinctive belief of Pentecostals and we’ll consider the introduction to the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths . Here I’ll summarize the presentation that I plan to make in the meeting and list some resources I plan to use in preparing presentations. The latter is intended to be referred to rather than to be read. However I would appreciate those who read it to suggest additions to it.

The Foundation of Christian Doctrine

According to the apostle Paul the foundation of Christian doctrine is the gospel (“Christ crucified,” 1 Corinthians 1:23). The best-known summary of the gospel found in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). It tells us:

  • The reason for the gospel is God’s love.
  • God’s love is so wide that it embraces “the world.” This would be surprising to the ruler of the Jews with whom Jesus was talking, Nicodemus, because the Old Testament emphasizes God’s love for the Jews. Similarly God loved us before we became part of His church and made it possible for us to become part of it rather than because we are part of it.
  • God’s love is so great that He “gave” his Son, Jesus Christ, whom God sent into the world to die on the cross for our sins.
  • All that we have to do to benefit from the gospel is to “believe in” or put our trust in Jesus.
  • One benefit of believing in Jesus is that we do not “perish” or suffer eternal punishment.
  • Another benefit of believing in Jesus is that we receive “eternal life,” a life of blessing in the presence of God and of freedom from the power of sin both now and forever, although we don’t experience it fully now.

The Source of Christian Doctrine

The introduction to the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths describes the Bible as our “all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.” A Bible passage which supports this claim is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV). Although “Scripture” here refers to the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15), 1 Timothy 5:18 refers to Luke 10:7 as Scripture and 2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul’s letters as Scripture. Thus we apply the passage to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It tells us:

  • All Scripture is “breathed out” by God and thus is infallible. The first truth in the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths affirms the infallibility of the Bible, and I’ll elaborate on what that involves when our Life group considers the first truth.
  • Scripture is useful in “teaching.” The King James Version’s translating didaskalian as “doctrine” (rather than as “teaching”) affirms the Bible as the source of Christian doctrine.
  • Scripture is useful in “reproof” or as evidence (the word translated “reproof” here is translated “evidence” in Hebrews 11:1) in exposing error.
  • Scripture is useful in “correction” or in reforming wrong behaviours.
  • Scripture is useful in “training in righteousness” or in nurturing us in holy living.
  • The aim of using Scripture in these activities is that we will be “competent, equipped for every good work.”

The Distinctive Belief of Pentecostals

Speaking in tongues was/is recognized as evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit by New Testament Christians (see Acts 2:1-4, 33; 10:44-48; 19:1-6) and by Pentecostals (see Truth 13 in the PAONL Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths). It first occurred in Acts 2:4, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (ESV). The passage in its context tells us:

  • “All” those gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost were filled with the Holy Spirit. They may have been just the eleven apostles (Acts 2:14, 37) but more likely included the whole group of about 120 believers who regularly met in the upper room (Acts 1:15).
  • They were “filled” with the Holy Spirit or, the event’s fulfilling Jesus’ promise to the apostles in Acts 1:5—”You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” baptized with the Holy Spirit.
  • They spoke in “other tongues” or other languages. Acts 2:6-11 brings out that these were known languages, but it’s unclear whether known languages were spoken on the other two occasions referred to above.
  • They spoke “as the Spirit gave them utterance,” indicating that they were under the control of the Holy Spirit and spoke words that He gave them.

Some Resources I Plan To Use in Preparing Presentations

  • Pentecostal statements of fundamental truths: [PAONL] “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” General Constitution and By-Laws, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, June 1998. [others] “Statement of Fundamental Truths,” The General Council of the Assemblies of God, and “Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths,” The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. The PAONL and PAOC statements were adapted from the Assemblies of God statement, the original of which appeared in 1916.
  • Expositions of the Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths: P. C. Nelson, Bible Doctrines, revised edition, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 2009 (originally published in book form in 1934), and William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton, Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1993.
  • Systematic theology textbooks: [Pentecostal] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Los Angeles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008 (originally published in 1983), and Stanley M. Horton (editor), Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1994. Duffield and Cleave were Foursquare Gospel, and Stanley Horton was Assemblies of God. [others] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994. I posted articles here based primarily on Grudem’s book from August 24, 2013, to February 14, 2015, in the category Systematic Theology.
  • Annotated Bibles: [Pentecostal] Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible by Finis Jennings Dake, Lawrenceville, Georgia: Dake Bible Sales, 1963, and The Full Life Study Bible, New International Version, edited by Donald C. Stamps and J. Wesley Adams, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992. [others] The ESV Study Bible, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008, and The NIV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011 (original edition, 1985).
  • The copies of Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible and of Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective which I plan to use belong to my wife and my son, respectively. Leonora and Robert, thanks.

Sons, Not Slaves (Galatians 3:26-4:11)

Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Galatia in response to their being told by people whom we call Judaizers that to be saved they had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in addition to believing in Jesus Christ. In my last article in this series of articles on Galatians I considered 3:15-25, in which Paul demonstrated the priority of God’s promise to Abraham, “[I]n you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3), over the law and considered why God gave the law if it were to have no effect on the promise. He concluded his consideration of why the law was given by comparing those under the law to children under a guardian, and now he goes on to argue that the Galatians are sons rather than children and thus are not under the guardianship of the law.

He begins by stating that all can be sons and heirs by faith (3:26-29). Then he gives an analogy and applies that analogy to the Galatians (4:1-7). He closes by expressing his concern for the Galatians (4:8-11).

Sons of God in Christ

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

How did the Galatians become sons of God? They became sons of God (1) through faith and (2) in Christ Jesus. Although in the Greek text both phrases follow “you are all sons of God,” the ESV moves “in Christ Jesus” to before “you are sons of God,” implying that “in Christ Jesus” modifies “you are sons of God” rather than modifying “faith.” Most commentaries which I consulted agree with the implication, Ernest De Witt Burton’s arguing, for example, “That [‘in Christ Jesus’] does not limit [‘faith’] is evident because Paul rarely employs [‘in’] after [‘faith’] (see, however, Col. 1:4, Eph. 1:15), and in this letter always uses the genitive (2:16, 20; 3:22), but especially because vv. 27, 28 take up and dwell upon the fact that the Galatians are in Christ Jesus” (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary of the Epistle to the Galatians, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1921, page 202). Note that Paul changes from “we” in verse 25 (“we are no longer under a guardian”) to “you” in verse 26 to apply the thought of verse 25 specifically to his Galatian readers, who are Gentile Christians.

As an outward sign to others of their having becoming sons of God by believing in Christ Jesus and being united with him by the Holy Spirit, the Galatians were baptized by immersion in water. “Baptism was not necessary for salvation, but faith without baptism was not faith for the early church. The Galatians knew this, and so Paul appealed to their experience” (Scot McKight, The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995, page 198). Apparently after being baptized they put on new clothes, symbolizing the change that had taken place in them which is described in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Here Paul describes it as “put[ting] on Christ.”

Because sons of God are equal in His sight, within His church “there is neither Jew nor Greek” and thus Gentile believers should not have to become Jews to be part of it. Clearly Paul made this assertion against the claim of the Judaizers that the Galatian believers had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in addition to believing in Jesus Christ to be saved. He adds, perhaps having in mind the prayer in which the male Jew thanks God that he was not made a Gentile, a slave, or a woman, that “there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” in the church. Obviously he didn’t mean that differences in nationality, social status, and sex ceased to exist when Jews/Gentiles, freemen/slaves, and men/women became Christians. Rather he meant that because of their being “all one in Christ Jesus” the distinctions should have no significance within the church. Nevertheless it portrays, as Ben Witherington III observes, “a vision of humankind and human unity that still challenges us today” (Grace in Galatia, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998, page 281).

In Galatians 3:8 Paul referred to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Subsequently God had applied His promises to Abraham to his offspring as well (12:7; 13:15-16; 17:7-8). Naturally the Jews claimed that they were the offspring to whom the promises applied. However in Galatians 3:16 Paul argued that since “offspring” is singular and not plural the promise was to be inherited by one person, Christ, rather than by many people, the Jews. Now he tells the Galatians, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Thus, in response to the Judaizers’ telling the Galatians that they could not share in the blessings promised to Abraham and his offspring without being circumcised (and following the law of Moses), Paul assures them that by being united with Christ Jesus through faith they became heirs of the promises without having to do anything more.

From Slaves to Sons of God

1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Paul now presents another analogy to show the change brought about in a person’s relationship with God brought about by his or her acceptance of the gospel, this time comparing the law’s role to that of those appointed to take care of a minor and his property. He opens it by observing that as long as an heir is too young to receive his inheritance, he is under guardians and managers and thus no better than a slave. Although commentators disagree on whether Paul was referring to Roman or Greek customs, most agree that “guardians” refers to ones responsible for looking after the child and “managers” to ones responsible for administering his property.

Commentators also disagree on who and what Paul was referring to by “we” and “elementary principles of the world” in verse 3. Some think that he was referring to Jewish Christians and the law, and others think that he was referring to all Christians and whatever elementary teachings they had been under. Here are parts of Richard N. Longenecker’s argument in favour of the former and Ronald Y. K. Fung’s argument in favour of the latter.

[Although] it may be that “we” is used here inclusively for both Jewish and Gentile believers … it is important to note … that in the three earlier passages where the first person plural occurs, it either (1) specifically refers to those who are Jewish (so 2:15-16 … and 3:23-25 …) or (2) can be read as a portion stemming from earlier Jewish Christianity, either in whole or in part (so 3:13-14). Likewise here, we believe, the first person plural of 4:3, as well as that of 4:5, ought to be understood as referring primarily to Jewish believers: in v 3 as Paul’s application of his illustration of the Jewish experience under the custodianship of the law and in vv 4-5 as Paul’s quotation of an earlier Jewish Christian confessional portion, with vv 6-7, then, applying the thrust of the confession cited in vv 4-5 to his Gentile converts’ situation and therefore reverting back to his usual second person plural “you.” (Longenecker, Galatians, Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1990, page 164)

To the legal minority of the heir, Paul likens the spiritual infancy of all people: the emphatic “we” here …, like the first person plural in 3:13f., probably embraces both Jews and Gentiles, since the transition from “we might attain the status of sons” (v. 5) to “because you are sons” (v. 6, RSV) suggests that the “we” of vv. 3-5 includes the “you,” the Galatian converts of Gentile origin. During this period they were enslaved under “the elemental spirits of the universe” [NEB]. This rendering takes the Greek phrase ta stoicheia tou kosmou in a cosmological sense; an alternative translation renders it as “the basic principles of the world” (NIV). (Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988, page 181)

Personally, I can’t decide between the two views, the switch from “we” in verses 3-5 to “you” in verses 6-7 suggesting to me that “we” refers to the Jews but the use of “the elementary principles of the world” instead of “the law” in verse 3 suggesting to me that that verse (and thus “we”) refers to all Christians. Whichever view one takes, the passage as a whole attributes Christians’ becoming sons of God to God’s sending his Son at the right time in human history to free them from slavery and make them sons and heirs.

Paul describes Christ as being “born of woman” and “born under the law.” “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). And, being born a Jew, he put himself under the regulations of the law, although he himself was sinless and not in need of a guardian or manager, so that he could set his people free from its supervision (3:23-25) and condemnation (3:13) and enable them to enter a new relationship with God through “adoption as sons.”

“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” seems to indicate that our becoming sons of God precedes God’s imparting the Holy Spirit to us. However Romans 8:14-17 seems to indicate that our receiving the Holy Spirit precedes our becoming sons of God. The apparent contradiction suggests that Paul viewed the two experiences as being so closely related that they can be spoken of as occurring in either order. Thus, as J. B. Lightfoot points out, “The presence of the Spirit is … a witness of their sonship” (The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957 reprint of 1865 publication, page 169).

“God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” seems to say that it is the Holy Spirit himself who cries out “Abba! Father!”. However Paul makes it clear in the passage in Romans referred to above that it is we who do so, his saying there, “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’,” and going on to explain, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15,16). “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “Father.” Jesus addressed God as “Abba” and in the Lord’s Prayer taught his disciples (and us) similarly to call God “Abba” and look to him as children look to their fathers to provide for them. As Paul observes here, it is the Holy Spirit within us which enables us view and approach God as our Father.

Thus, as F. F. Bruce observes:

Instead of being imprisoned under law (or enslaved by the [elementary principles] of the world), instead of being under the control of a slave-attendant or in care of guardians or stewards, believers are now now full-grown sons and daughters of God; they have been given their freedom and the power to use it responsibly. (Commentary on Galatians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982, page 200)

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

Paul reminds the Galatians that before entering into a relationship with God they had served “those that by nature are not gods.” It is unclear whether Paul means that the “gods” whom the Galatians had worshipped were unreal, as he implies in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 by describing them as “so-called gods,” or whether he means that they were demons, as he calls them in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21. Whichever he meant, clearly he viewed the Galatians as having been enslaved to those “gods” before their conversion.

Paul then questions how ones who have entered into a relationship with God in which they are “known by” and thus “know” Him could begin to observe aspects of the law (“days and months and seasons and years”). He himself continued to observe some of them, such as Pentecost (Acts 20:16), but he considered it an another matter for Gentile Christians to adopt them as matter of legal obligation, describing their doing so as a return to enslavement.

Although by “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” Paul may have just been expressing concern that his ministry over the Galatians was wasted, he may have meant more; namely, as Gordon D. Fee puts it, “that if they capitulate to circumcision he will indeed have ‘labored in vain’ among them — because they will have severed themselves from Christ (5:4)” (Galatians Pentecostal Commentary, Blandford Forum: Deo Publishing, 2007, page 161). Thus Douglas J. Moo concludes his explanation of the passage with:

Here Paul may intend to evoke particularly Gal. 3:4, “Have you experienced so much in vain [the same word used here]?” The various expressions of the Galatians’ commitment to Christ along with Paul’s ministry among them will prove “empty,” “without purpose,” if the Galatians should succumb to the message of the agitators by submitting to the law.” (Galatians, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013, page 279)

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey – 2. Riot in Ephesus

In my last article in this series of articles on the life of Paul I described his three years of ministry in Ephesus. I concluded, “As I look back over Luke’s account of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, the word ‘power’ comes to mind.” However, despite the success of his ministry in Ephesus, the time came when Paul decided that he should move on.

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. (Acts 19:21-22, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

The ESV capitalizes “Spirit” to express the view that the Holy Spirit was behind Paul’s decision to revisit the churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) and Greece (Corinth) and return to Jerusalem. Although Luke doesn’t refer to it, Paul’s main reason for wanting to visit Jerusalem was to give to the leaders of its church the collection which he had organized in the churches of Macedonia and Greece for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15; Romans 15:25-28).

Sometime before making the decision Paul had heard from the church in Corinth and written a letter to them. Now he sent that letter, 1 Corinthians, to them with Timothy and Erastus (1 Corinthians 16:10). Luke’s last previous reference to Timothy was during Paul’s second missionary journey when Silas and he rejoined Paul at Corinth after visiting Macedonia (Acts 18:5). Evidentally he rejoined Paul again sometime during his ministry in Ephesus. Later Paul himself would visit the churches in Macedonia and Greece (20:1-2) and from there he would go to Jerusalem (21:17) and eventually to Rome (28:14).

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:23-28)

Clearly the real problem of Demetrius was that people’s turning from idolatry to “the Way” (Christianity) was hurting his business of making miniature silver replicas of the temple of Artemis. Although in Greece Artemis was venerated as the goddess of hunting and protector of wild creatures, in Ephesus she had acquired the characteristics of the multi-breasted mother-goddess of Asia Minor. Her temple at Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and, according to tradition, contained an image of her that fell from heaven (probably a meteorite and referred to in Acts 19:35). The replicas of the temple made by Demetrius perhaps contained an image of Artemis and were used in worship of her or as offerings to her. In addressing other craftsmen, Demetrius added charges that aroused their civic and religious pride, provoking them to run into the street (according to the Western text) shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:29-34)

The theatre could hold almost 25,000 people and was the regular meeting place of the civic assembly. As the crowd rushed along the street to it, they grabbed two of Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, and dragged them into the theatre with them. (Apparently the two were later released as Aristarchus reappears later as Paul’s companion; see 20:4 and 27:2.) Paul wished to meet the crowd face to face, but his disciples held him back because his life would be in danger. Asiarchs protected and promoted worship of the emperor. Some of them being friends of Paul suggests that at that time the emperor was not hostile to Christianity. Probably Alexander wanted to explain to the crowd that the Jews had nothing to do with the present trouble and were as opposed to Paul as they were. However, recognizing that he was a Jew and knowing that Jews opposed any foreign gods, the crowd howled him down with their shouts of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:35-41)

The “town clerk” was the chief executive officer of the city’s civic assembly and the liason between the assembly and the Roman provincial administration. He assured the crowd that they didn’t need to be concerned for the honour of Artemis because everyone knew that her image had fallen from the sky to be guarded by the people of Ephesus. He suggested that if Demetrius and the craftsmen had a serious complaint they take it to the regular courts conducted by the Roman proconsul, the head of government in a Roman province, or to one of the regular meetings of the civic assembly. Then warning the crowd that their present gathering in the theatre had the appearance of an unlawful assembly and could cause their being called to account by Rome, he dismissed them.

The town clerk’s ruling may have provided a basis for Christians in other cities to defend their presentation of the Gospel as not being contrary to Roman rule of the law and not disruptive of public order. Thus Ajith Fernando comments, “Luke saw this event as another victory for the cause of the gospel. In his estimation, the existing legal system, if properly administered, could be replied upon to give the Christians a fair trial” (The NIV Application Commentary: Acts, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998, page 519). Shortly afterwards Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “[R]ulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:3-4).