by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1 November 28, 2010 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(044)Thesis:Paul's first line of "proof" of the legitimacy of his message is its impact upon his behavior.
Introduction:Last week we made the claim that Galatians 1:11-12 is Paul's "thesis statement" for the first two chapters of his letter. Because the whole of life is directly affected by the strength of one's confidence in its foundations, the fact that the message of the Gospel is ours by direct revelation from the One Whose death and resurrection makes the "Life" that arises from faith in the message work, is critical. Thus, in order to strengthen the Galatians' ability to trust him, Paul determined to "prove" that his message is directly from Jesus Christ. In our text for the evening, Paul's first line of "proof" is his claim that his message transformed his behavior.
I. Taking Paul's Argument in Order, the First Issue is that the Galatians Had "Heard" of His Former Behavior.
A. How they heard is not too difficult.
1. According to Acts 22 and 26, it was Paul's common approach to the presentation of the Gospel to tell his hearers about his "former life".
2. Because of the antagonism of Paul's adversaries, it is also highly likely that they attempted to demean Paul by telling about his "former life".
3. In any case, the Galatians had "heard".
B. What they heard is also not difficult because Paul proceeds to identify the particulars of his "former life".
1. First, what they heard concerned his "former behavior in Judaism".
a. This is important because "former behavior" that is no longer current behavior has roots in what a person "loves" and "believes" and deals with the question of why the former "loves" and "beliefs" no longer dominate the person.
b. This is important because the former behavior was in "Judaism", a "form of religion" that was and is extremely concerned with "behavior" and its impact upon others.
1) The "problem" with this extreme concern is its focus upon how others are going to react, not whether the behavior is actually legitimate.
2) The issue of Judaism is the issue of whether one can acquire the good will of another by being impressive-in-action.
2. Second, what they heard concerned a formidable level of commitment.
a. Once "zeal" goes "beyond the norm" (Paul's words are "according to the standard of excess"), everyone knows that the level of commitment is very great.
b. And Paul's "zeal" was critically focused upon the destruction of the Church of God, though he did not believe that at the time.
c. This meant that his readers were going to have to deal not only with the "whys" of his changed "loves" and "beliefs", but also the "why" of a totally different definition of the people of God.
C. Why they heard is at least a part of the crux of the issue.
1. The issue of a person's "behavior" involves "Life" at a profound level.
a. Our functional existence in a cause/effect universe automatically means that we are going to experience the repercussions of every action that we take (Note 6:7).
b. The issue of "Life" is the quality of our experience.
2. The issues of "behavior's impact upon experience" range in potency from the very slight to the hugely profound.
a. What we experience from eating a piece of our favorite dessert is significantly different in potency from what we experience from murdering someone.
b. The biblical principle of "return upon investment", as given in 2 Corinthians 9:6, means that one's "behavior" tells others where the focus of the investment lies (it's not hard to see what is important to people by simply watching where they invest).
3. Paul's argument is this: the Galatians need to understand that his message affected him, not at a superficial level, but at one of the most profound levels of motivation.
a. Any "religion" can introduce superficial changes in a person's behavior.
b. Any "religion" that alters that behavior at the profound levels needs to be considered on the basis of what those alterations are.
D. That they heard is not the most important issue.
1. Anyone can cause others to "hear" just about anything.
2. At the root, it is whether they believe what they have heard that makes all the difference (what Paul wishes to accomplish will collapse to the ground if his readers simply dismiss what they "heard").
E. The principle is a double-edged sword.
1. People intuitively understand that "behavior" is a critical issue and that "religion" is of no value when it does not have the power of "change".
2. Thus, the charge of "hypocrisy" and the claim to "truth" both surface regularly.
3. Both are valid and those who "believe" have the greater responsibility.