Paul, The Galatians, and A Gospel Mess

Posted: October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

It is often the Corinthian church that gets the bad name when we talk about problem congregations. This isn’t surprising given the content of the two letters of Paul to Corinth that we have in our Bibles. They are a factional, sexually immoral, selfish bunch. Yet, before Paul launches into a treatment of their problems and questions in 1 Corinthians, he first thanks God for them (1 Cor 1:4). Even in his second letter to them we find an overall positive tone in the beginning (2 Cor 1:1-11).

Yet, when we read the short letter to the Galatian churches we find that it takes a mere six verses for Paul to begin rebuking his readers. As D.A. Carson and Doug Moo have noted, Paul begins “[w]ithout pausing for the customary thanksgiving…” (Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the  New Testament, 456). Paul does not pause but “expresses astonishment that the Galatians are deserting not only the gospel but God himself” (Carson and Moo, 456).

What is the reason for this quick move to rebuke towards the Galatians? Were not the Corinthians morally worse-off than the Galatian churches? Yet Paul begins by thanking God for them and with overall positive tones? Why would this be? Perhaps it has to do with the seriousness of the errors. In Corinth there was serious error, but I do not think (I could be wrong) that the Corinthians were rejecting the true gospel. It seems instead that they were simply struggling with how to live worthy of the gospel in their pagan context. In Galatia, however, it seems that the very gospel itself was at stake. Thus, the quickness of Paul’s rebuke.

All sin and error is serious. Yet, when the gospel is threatened as it was in the Galatian churches, then we must be quick to speak. If the gospel is lost, then hell is all we have. So yes, the Corinthians were a mess. Yet, the churches in Galatia received a quicker rebuke because they were about to make a mess of the gospel. And Paul would have none of that.

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