The letter to the church at Galatia ends without all the pastoral, individual references with which other letters of Paul end. They do bring a reminder, however, of the character and life of Paul. This was a man with whom you got one hundred percent commitment! He wrote profound theological treaties with great authority as we have witnessed in studying this little letter, but he also was committed to travelling vast distances with all the threats of shipwreck, disease and riots and bore in his body the testimony to this. You can appreciate why the group of circumcisers would encourage the young non-Jewish Christian converts to be circumcised. It was very painful for an adult male to have this treatment, but it would have made life easier. Why? 1. The Jews were exempt from persecution by the Romans. The Jews generally did quite well from the occupation of this foreign superpower: the Jewish religion was officially recognised and Jews were allowed to practise it; sacrifices, feast days, attendance at the Temple and at local synagogues were all OK. If the early Christian believers had operated under the Jewish religion then they would almost certainly have been allowed to continue without persecution at least for some years. The point for Paul was that this marker which would give evidence that one was a practising Jew came with lots of other practices. If you do one thing, Paul argues, then you are committed to doing the lot and the saving work of Christ on the cross is nullified. This may be difficult for us to understand in the age when tolerance is king, but, as the German Church in the time of Nazism and Bonhoeffer discovered, too much compromise to keep the authorities happy can lead down dark paths. On to the letter of Ephesians tomorrow!
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