Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
Thesis: The legitimacy of the Gospel is demonstrated by its ability to overcome the most basic of Sin's attractions.
Introduction: In our first study of Paul's "lines of proof" regarding the legitimacy of the Gospel, we saw that the Galatians were being compelled by Paul to consider how much his behavior had changed because of the content of that Gospel. This argument boils down to this claim: Truth is discernible by its impact upon those who believe it.
This argument needs clarity if we are to understand it. The claim is not that if there is no change the message is not true. Paul would argue that if there is no change the person who claims to believe does not. The distinction is here: actual moral change argues for the legitimacy of the thing believed, but the absence of change argues for the illegitimacy of the claim to faith. In other words, a changed life must have a legitimate foundation, but an unchanged one also needs an explanation. And, as is always the case, the caveat here is on the "faith" side of things. By way of an illustration, let us consider God's promise that if one "believes" with faith even as a grain of mustard seed, one will obtain the thing sought (Matthew 17:20). That is either true or it is not true. If it is true, but the mountain remains unmoved, the "problem" has to be the absence of "faith". If it is untrue, even "faith" will leave the mountain unmoved. Therefore, the unmoved mountain creates a conundrum for the onlookers: is the promise a lie, or is the profession of faith a lie? An unmoved mountain does not give an answer. Alternatively, however, a moved mountain validates both the promise and the profession. The wickedness of Paul's adversaries was originally his own wickedness, but the change in him proves the legitimacy of both his Gospel's objective elements (Christ's death for sin and resurrection) and its subjective element (faith).
This evening we are going to pursue Paul's argument that the change in him "proves" the legitimacy of his message by doing what he has done in the text: going deeper into the issue of the "change".
December 5, 2010
- I. The Basic Claim.
- A. Involves his potent aggression against God.
- 1. His words address his actions against the Church of God.
- 2. But his theology is that one cannot attack the people of God without attacking God Himself.
- a. For Paul, Christ is a Second Adam, Head over a new humanity, so that nothing can be done to Christ that does not affect that humanity and nothing can be done to that humanity that does not affect Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Matthew 25:40).
- b. Thus, though his words focus upon the Church of God as the immediate object of his aggression, his theology focuses upon God as the ultimate Object of his aggression.
- B. Involves his potent aggression against his contemporaries.
- 1. His words focus upon those of the same age within his generation.
- 2. But his theology lumps his contemporaries, the Church of God, and God Himself all together.
- C. Thus, the basic claim is that Paul's former behavior as Saul of Tarsus was that of a totally self-centered person at war with everyone.
- II. The Details Beneath the Claim.
- A. The first "detail" is the fact that beneath the whole superstructure is a profound foundation that involves some profound commitments that drove all of the various aspects of his war against everyone.
- 1. Paul claims that he "was advancing" in Judaism.
- a. Any "advance" automatically brings the issue of "objective(s)" to bear (toward what goal is one "advancing"?).
- b. Any "advance in Judaism" brings the issue of Judaism's objectives to bear (what goal(s) did Judaism establish?).
- 2. Paul claims that he was "more abundantly zealous" than his contemporaries.
- a. Any talk about "zeal" also automatically brings the issue of "objective(s)" to bear (zeal is impossible to discuss without identifying its direction).
- b. Any talk about "more abundant zeal than..." introduces the fact that Paul's "advance" included the foolish "comparing of ourselves with others" (2 Corinthians 10:12).
- c. This comparing of himself to his contemporaries signals an elemental aspect of his commitment: its willingness to exalt himself over all others.
- 3. Paul claims that his interest was in "the traditions of his fathers".
- a. This focus upon "traditions" reveals his effective standard for his "advance" and "comparison".
- b. By telling us of his "effective standard", Paul unveiled one of the elemental parts of his "faith": this is a revelation of method, not goal.
- 4. Paul's claims boil down to these questions: what were Paul's ultimate and intermediate goals; and how did he plan to accomplish them?
- B. The second detail is the fact that the Bible identifies the "profound commitments" in terms of the trichotomist nature of man.
- 1. John declares that there are only three "most basic" commitments in fallen man (1 John 2:16).
- 2. These three most basic commitments arise out of the fact that man is physical, soulish, and spiritual.
- C. The third detail is the fact that no man can effectively pursue more than one most basic commitment of faith.
- 1. In man's fallen state, all is "competition".
- 2. In man's "competition", he is both a competitor with all who are "without" and all which are "within".
- 3. Every person will make the "final" choice if he/she is pressed to the wall.
- III. The Impact of the Claim and Its Details.
- A. He says that it is because that this is the way he was that we may have confidence in the truth of his message.
- B. That he is no longer driven by his "final choice" means that his message has the ability to actually alter a person at the roots.