07 May The Gospel is Like Math and Never Changes
Galatians 1:1-2 – Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia…
In most any form of communication – from email to text and phone call – it’s most helpful to know who the person communicating to us is. As we study Galatians, it’s clear that the human author is Paul, as he states this plainly at the front of the letter.
Who is Paul? As we get to know Paul through the letter he wrote to the Galatians, it’s important to get some perspective on the magnitude of this man in human history. He wrote 13 or 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament (there is a debate about the unnamed author of Hebrews). Paul wrote more New Testament books than any other author, and Luke contributed the largest amount of content for the New Testament with his historical books of Luke and Acts. But Paul was Luke’s pastor and Luke was Paul’s doctor. They traveled and ministered together. Additionally, the history of Acts 13-28 focuses mainly on Paul which, combined with the books he wrote and influence he had on Luke, means that the majority of the entire New Testament is written by Paul, written about Paul, or written by someone working closely with Paul.
Paul’s incredible intelligence includes studying under the renowned rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and being fluent in the languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and possibly Latin. In his letters, Paul used more than one hundred Old Testament quotations in addition to innumerable echoes and summations of biblical themes and terms, perhaps all from memory (he was often traveling by foot, an average of 20 miles per day, and often in jail during his roughly decade of ministry). Bible scholar Paul Barnett calls Paul the “first theologian in the early church, and arguably the greatest in the history of Christianity.”1 Early church father John Chrysostom wrote of Paul, “Put the whole world on one side of the scale and you will see that the soul of Paul outweighs it.”2 The apostle Paul is a towering figure in world history. The Protestant Reformed Martin Luther called him “the wisest man after Christ.”
For Protestant Christians, Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians are perhaps the most significant source of theological clarity. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther was so fond of Galatians and taught it so passionately he said, “The Epistle to the Galatians is my Epistle; I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife.”3 Others have called it, “the battle-cry of the Reformation,” and “the Christian Declaration of Independence”.
The strength of Paul’s writing is that he presents the gospel of Jesus Christ like math – it is unchanging, fixed, and true whether we believe it or not. For most people, they want the message of Christianity to be more like cooking where teachers change the ingredients to suit the tastes of those who consume it.
1.Paul Barnett, Paul: Missionary of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 198.
2.Quoted in Barnett, Paul, 198.
3.Kenneth L. Boles, Galatians & Ephesians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993).