The apostle Paul was a great letter writer. He supplied fourteen of the letters found in the Christian Greek Scriptures of the Holy Bible. Paul especially encouraged the circulation of his letters, he writing to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and Hebrews generally.
In his letter to the Christians at Colossae, he said in his conclusion, “When this letter has been read among you, arrange that it also be read in the congregation of the Laodiceans and that you also read the one from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16) Even the apostle Peter, when he was writing from Babylon in Mesopotamia, spoke of his familiarity with the letters of Paul. All the evidence is that those first-century Christians were sharing the “word of life” with others in this dying world.
Paul, above all else, had a keen appreciation of the honor bestowed upon him to be the apostle to the nations: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who delegated power to me, because he considered me trustworthy by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor.” Moreover, far from being proud because of his office, he humbly asked his brothers to pray for him that he might have the needed freeness of speech to give a good witness.
However, once a ruthless persecutor of Christians, now he was as gentle with those whom he taught as a nursing mother with her own children, exhorting was and consoling them as a father does his children. Nevertheless, he could also express righteous indignation, as when he rebuked Peter for his vacillation and those of his fellow citizens who opposed the truth.
Though well educated, Paul did not call attention to himself nor did he need to resort to written letters of recommendations. Those to whom he brought the truth were living letters that could be read by all men. Within chapters six and seven, the book of Reverend Frank Matera entitled New Testament Theology addresses the different issues pointed out by Paul in his letters to the Galatians, the Romans, The Philippians, the Colossians and the Ephesians.
CHAPTER 6: A THEOLOGY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: Galatians and Romans
The letter to the Galatians showed how much passion Paul particularly have with regards the righteousness of the gospel and how much he detests those who intensely goes against the principles and rules set straight by the gospel.
Paul’s exclamation, “O senseless Galatians,” is no evidence that he had in mind only a certain ethnic people who sprang exclusively from Gallic stock in the northern part of Galatia. Rather, Paul was rebuking certain ones in the congregations there for allowing themselves to be influenced by an element of Judaizers among them, Jews who were attempting to establish their own righteousness through the Mosaic arrangement in place of the ‘righteousness due to faith’ provided by the new covenant.
Racially, “the congregations of Galatia” to whom Paul wrote were a mixture of Jews and non-Jews, the latter being both circumcised proselytes and non-circumcised Gentiles, and no doubt some were of Celtic descent.
All together, they were addressed as Galatian Christians because the area in which they lived was called Galatia. The whole tenor of the letter is that Paul was writing to those with whom he was well acquainted in the southern part of this Roman province, not to total strangers in the northern sector, which he apparently never visited. The letter reflects many traits of the people of Galatia in Paul’s time. Gallic Celts from the N had overrun the region in the third century B.C.E., and therefore Celtic influence was strong in the land.
The Celts, or Gauls, were considered a fierce, barbarous people, it having been said that they offered their prisoners of war as human sacrifices. They have also been described in Roman literature as a very emotional, superstitious people, given to much ritual, and this religious trait would likely influence them away from a form of worship so lacking in ritual as Christianity.
Even so, the congregations in Galatia may have included many who formerly had been like this as pagans, as well as many converts from Judaism who had not entirely rid themselves of scrupulously keeping the ceremonies and other obligations of the Mosaic Law. The fickle, inconstant nature attributed to the Galatians of Celtic descent could explain how at one time some in the Galatian congregations were zealous for God’s truth. Later, they became an easy prey for opponents of the truth who were sticklers for observance of the Law and who insisted that circumcision and other requirements of the Law were necessary for salvation.
The Judaizers, as such enemies of the truth might be called, apparently kept the circumcision issue alive even after the apostles and other elders in Jerusalem had dealt with the matter. Perhaps, too, some of the Galatian Christians were succumbing to the low moral standards of the populace, as may be inferred from the message of the letter from chapter 5, verse 13, to the end.
At any rate, when word of their deflection reached the apostle, he was moved to write this letter of straightforward counsel and strong encouragement. It is evident that his immediate purpose in writing was to confirm his apostleship, counteract the false teachings of the Judaizers, and strengthen the brothers in the Galatian congregations.
It is through this letter that Paul has awaken the people with regards the truth that fraud of beliefs has made their hearts and conscience harden from the possibility of being able to please the one true God whom they prefer to worship. Consequently, their choice of going against the supposed true and righteous path has led them to becoming detestable to the eyes of God, thus it is required that they immediately change their views about the said matter.
By the time he wrote Romans, Paul had already completed two long preaching tours and was well along on the third. He had written five other inspired letters: First and Second Thessalonians, Galatians, and First and Second Corinthians.
Yet it seems appropriate that in our modern Bibles, Romans precedes the others, since it discusses at length the new equality between Jews and non-Jews, the two classes to whom Paul preached. It explains a turning point in God’s dealings with his people and shows that the inspired Hebrew Scriptures had long foretold that the good news would be proclaimed also to the non-Jews.
Paul, using Tertius as secretary, laces rapid argument and an astounding number of Hebrew Scripture quotations into one of the most forceful books of the Christian Greek Scriptures. With remarkable beauty of language, he discusses the problems that arose when first-century Christian congregations were composed of both Jews and Greeks. Did Jews have priority because of being Abraham’s descendants?
Did mature Christians, exercising their liberty from the Mosaic Law, have the right to stumble weaker Jewish brothers who still held to ancient customs? In this letter Paul firmly established that Jews and non-Jews are equal before God and that men are declared righteous, not through the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ and by God’s undeserved kindness. At the same time, God requires Christians to show proper subjection to the various authorities under which they find themselves.
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