Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: Paul's concept of a "brother" includes those on the verge of apostasy.
Introduction: Over the years it has become fairly common practice for those who claim to be "believers" to make "judgment" statements regarding other people who profess to be "believers" but do terrible things. The typical statement is: a true believer would not do that.
This evening we are going to look into that issue because Paul opens this third paragraph of chapter three with the appelation, "brethren", as he addresses his readers. This is only the second time in this letter that he calls his readers "brethren". This is notable for these reasons: first, his only previous use of "brethren" to identify his readers is 1:11; and, second, he deliberately begins, in our text for the evening, to insist upon this identity for his readers (he uses the word six more times in Galatians in reference to them). That he begins to emphasize this identity is significant in the light of what he has already said of them and what he is going to say to them beyond our current text.
In passing, let me just say this about making "judgment" statements: the text "judge not lest ye be judged" is inappropriately applied the vast majority of the times it is found in the mouths of those who do not wish to allow others to make judgments about the condition of the souls of those whom they "judge". That injunction was given by Jesus in His "Sermon on the Mount" and has its own context. In that context, the issue is not whether you will make "judgments", but how you will make "judgments". The plain fact is, the people of God are regularly called upon to make certain "judgments" about others and Jesus' prohibition does not deny them their responsibilities. In fact, even Paul's description of his readers is a "judgment"; it just so happens to be "positive" so that we tend to "overlook" its nature as a judgment.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's theology of a "brother" so that we can have some guidelines on how we are to go about following his example.
February 26, 2012
- I. The Parameters Given by Paul.
- A. Paul's address of his audience as "brethren" was firmly rooted in his "judgments" regarding their initial response to the preaching of the Gospel (4:13-15).
- 1. If it is legitimate to make "judgments" about people when they do well, why is it not legitimate to make judgments when they do badly?
- 2. It was the behavior of the Galatians that caused his ambivalence in his confidence that his prior "judgment" was correct (4:20).
- B. No one is a "brother" who promotes a false gospel.
- 1. Paul's term for those people is "false brethren" (2:4).
- 2. Paul's declaration of the destiny of those people is "accursedness" (1:8-9).
- C. However, one may be extremely close to the edge of "promotion" and yet be a "brother".
- 1. Peter's behavior reveals this truth.
- 2. And Galatians 4:20 reveals how difficult it is to make legitimate decisions about others when the behavior is "on the edge".
- D. Paul's "brethren" terminology is an extension of acceptance in spite of their proximity to the line.
- 1. These "brethren" have turned away from the God of Grace (1:6).
- 2. These "brethren" are subject to the potent temptation of "acceptance" (2:12) in the face of the necessity of resistance even to "an angel from heaven" (1:8).
- 3. These "brethren" are seriously ignorant of truth and in serious danger.
- a. In 1 Corinthians 11:30 the nature of the "danger" is divine discipline even to death.
- b. In multiple other places in the New Testament, "believers" are exhorted to godliness because of the consequences in eternity for ungodliness (shame, loss, etc.).
- E. The bottom line, then, is this: faith in the faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ.
- 1. Men can, and do, "lie" about what they "believe", but neither we, nor they, can tell if it is really a "lie" when it comes to "faith in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ" because that "faith" has few easily discernible "fruits" by which to "know" them.
- a. The only indisputable "fruit" in this particular case is not, fundamentally, an action (though it invariably and rapidly turns into one); it is a "doctrinal position".
- b. But even "doctrinal positions" shift and morph in ways that make them hard to nail down as "actual" beliefs (a person can profess to "believe" something, but when pressed in terms of elements of that belief that they have not considered they will often vacillate).
- 2. Brethren are under constraint to press the "issue of faith" when it becomes necessary.
- a. False beliefs will, invariably, lead to false actions at some point.
- b. When that "point" arises, those around that "believer" have specific responsibilities toward them that Jesus laid out in Luke 17 and Matthew 18.
- 3. It is at the point of the outcome of the fulfillment of those responsibilities that individuals are actually commanded to make certain "judgments" about them and take certain actions toward them.