Acts 1 - 7
- IV to conclusion 8-12
||Acts of the Apostles Second Period (13-15)second mission||Acts
Second Period Second JourneyThessalonians
of the Apostles Third Period Corinthians
|CHRONOLOGY OF THE ACTS||
comes from revelation
recognized by the Apostles
Peter at Antioch
you have put on Christ
are no longer
a slave, but a son
could wish to be
present with you
of the Letter
From St Paul's Letter to the GalatiansGalatia properly so-called was the district inhabited by the Galatians, who were a group of Gauls who in the fourth century B.C. invaded Asia Minor and settled at Ancyra (today Ankara) and in the surrounding mountains. But Galatia was also the name of the Roman province which included the regions further south called Pisidia and Lycaonia where St Paul had founded churches during the first missionary journey (see Nos. 38, 39 and 40). Probably we are here concerned not with those churches but with the Galatians properly so-called.
St Paul had stayed among them because of an illness during the second journey; they were a simple and extremely friendly race who received the Gospel gladly.
St Paul must soon have left them, but he saw them again when he revisited them during the third journey (see No. 61). Some time afterwards these Galatians were however visited by some Jewish-Christians of the kind who taught ‘Unless you are circumcized according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’. This question had already been decided but the Galatians knew nothing of it and believed the new preachers, or at least were much perturbed by this doctrine, which was new to them.
St Paul heard of these matters during his three months’ stay at Corinth towards the end of the third journey (see No. 65). He wrote this Letter in a vigorous and emotional style.
The almost exclusive subject of the Letter is justification by means of faith in Christ without recourse to the practices of the Mosaic Law. In certain ways it is the preface to the basic subject of the letter to the Romans which he was to write a little later. This was in the winter of the year
Letter to the Galatians85 Introduction
1 Paul, an apostle-not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead 2 and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father; 5 to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
10 Am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
A shepherd camp near Kayseri, the ancient Caesarea in Cappadocia. On the vast plateau, scorched by the sun, the inhabitants today are still shepherds and get their living from the pastures. St Paul referred to these pastoral scenes in his speech to the elders of Miletus (Acts 20, 28-29; see No. 68)
Letter to the Galatians86 St Paul's Gospel comes from revelation
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from man, or was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; 14 and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; 23 they only heard it said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24 And they glorified God because of me.
The first part of the Letter to the Galatians is autobiographical: the Apostle tells of the first events after his conversion to show the authenticity of his apostolic mission and the genuineness of 'his Gospel' that is, of his way of interpreting the call of pagans to faith in Christ without submitting to circumcision and the Jewish law. It was a direct revelation received at the very beginning of his conversion. The others could add nothing to it. For the facts to which he refers see Nos. 24 25 and 26. Cephas, or better Kephas (a rock), is the Aramaic name of Peter: this 'visit' shows his pre-eminent position in the Church.
Letter to the GalatiansJames, called 'the Lord's brother' was Jesus' cousin; his mother, called 'Mary of James' was among the devout women who were present at the crucifixion of Jesus: that this was probably the apostle James, called the Less, follows from this passage where he is mentioned with Peter and, a little earlier, with Peter and John.
87 Paul's Gospel is recognized by the Apostles
1 Then after fourteen years I went up-again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel, which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised though he was a Greek. 4 But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage-5 to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me; 7 but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), 9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; 10 only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.
St Paul puts on record the fact that on the occasion of the Council of Jerusalem (see No. 42) the responsible leaders of the Church found themselves in agreement with Paul's teaching, and with his program of evangelizing the pagans.
Iconium, today Konya.
This city of Asia Minor was a scene of Paul's missionary activity. Today the only memory of his stay that remains is this Catholic Church dedicated in honour of the Apostle.
Letter to the GalatiansCertainly, there were some 'false brethren', that is obstinate Judaizers who, knowing of the pagan origin of Paul's disciple, Titus, insisted that he should be circumcised. But Paul did not yield and the Apostles took his side. In this text there is reference again to the collection for the poor in Jerusalem (see No. 81), which demonstrates the bonds of charity between the two communities, converted pagan and Jewish-Christian, in spite of their difference of origin and customs.
88 The meeting with Peter at Antioch
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" 15 We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
Letter to the Galatians17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again those things that I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.
In this passage the 'pagans' are Christians converted from paganism while the 'Jews' are Christians of Jewish origin. In the community at Jerusalem over which the apostle James (the 'Lord's brother') resided the Jewish-Christians followed the practices laid down by the Law of Moses, specialty with regard to clean and unclean foods and the obligation to avoid contact with the pagans.
By contrast, even the Jewish-Christians at Antioch associated with other Christians of pagan origin, disregarding as unnecessary and worthless the Jewish rules about ‘clean' and 'unclean'.
Even the Apostle Peter (Cephas), when he came to Antioch, immediately adapted himself to this custom all the more readily since to him individually, in the vision at Joppa (see Nos. 29 and 31) it had been revealed that these legal distinctions between clean and unclean, circumcised and uncircumcised should no longer persist between Christians. Yet when certain Judeo-Christians arrived from Jerusalem, whom Peter knew well for their Fanatical attachment to Jewish customs, he no longer went to table with Christians who had come from paganism, so as not to irritate their susceptibility. Other Jewish-Christians at Antioch, and even Barnabas, followed his example.
The matter in itself was merely disciplinary and contained no statement of principle. But, in addition to resulting in a lack of brotherly love (Christians divided into two groups which did not eat together), this way of behaving could be interpreted as the acknowledgement of a difference between circumcised and uncircumcised on the doctrinal plane, as though the former were more perfect or more in order than the latter.
Ancyra, today Ankara.
This city, now the capital of Turkey, was an important commercial centre and, in the time of Augustus, became the chief town of the Roman province of Galatia.
Paul, who had immediately seen the danger of such consequences,
withstood Peter in the face of all, in public debate, and complained
both of his practical behavior and of the claims of the Judaizers,
about which Peter had no need to be convinced. Peter humbly
acknowledged his fault.
Paul repeated his arguments in very precise form to the Galatians. They can be summarized thus:
1) Pagans and Jews are equally sinners and need to be saved, to be 'justified', that is to become righteous.
2) The Old Testament Law could not bring this salvation.
3) Therefore pagans and Jews equally described as sinners, without any other remedy, and salvation in faith in Jesus Christ (see No. 95).
4) By belonging to Jesus Christ, pagans and Jews become new beings, purified and inwardly transformed. It would be nonsense for the Jews to go back to look for something positive in the old Law, still more nonsensical to try to force converted pagans to keep that Law which had been unable to save the Jews.
To this basic reasoning St Paul added two arguments 'ex absurdo' i.e. based on the absurdity of the conclusions which would be drawn:
a) if we were mistaken in abandoning the Law to seek salvation in Christ, then Christ would be the cause ('agent') of our sin.
b) If there had been a Law truly capable of giving justification, then it would have been unnecessary for Christ to come and die on the Cross for our sins. . In the second part of the Letter, doctrinal in character, these arguments are repeated and developed, so as to persuade the Galatians to give up the errors of the Judaizers.
89 Baptized In Christ, you have put on Christ
Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
The Law that is the collection of the enactments of the Old Testament, had not become worthless, but it had a preparatory character; its external and coercive rules were a sort of prison, which prevented God's people from escaping, mingling with the pagans and so losing their ability to receive the Messiah. St Paul compares the Law to a 'custodian', that is to that servant who had the task of leading the pupils to the master and looking after them until his arrival.
But once the Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come, there is no further need for a custodian that is for the Law. Nor can its function of imprisoning, i.e. segregating God's people, continue. In fact baptism radically transforms the pagans as it does the Jews into children of God, spiritually united to Christ. So the descendants of Abraham, the father of the multitudinous people of God, are not the Jews only, but all those who belong to the perfect 'seed of Abraham', Jesus.
90 You are no longer a slave, but a son
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
An argument parallel to the receding one. The 'elemental spirits of the universe' are the external and coercive rules of Jewish and pagan institutions.
They corresponded to the period of minority of the future sons of God. But the coming of Christ inaugurated the period of maturity and so of freedom. The Incarnation is portrayed as the beginning of redemption; the Son of God became son of a woman so that we might become sons of God: he became subject to the Law of Moses to free us from the slavery of the Law. It is his sharing in our poverty that makes us capable of sharing in his wealth. The Holy Spirit who dwells in the baptized obliges them to address the Father as 'Abba', either inwardly or using the gift of tongues (see No. 78, and in Palestinian language this was the familiar name for 'father' (see No. 98).
91 'I could wish to be present with you'
12 Brethren, I beseech you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong; 13 you know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first; 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What has become of the satisfaction you felt? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 For a good purpose it is always good to be made much of, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! 20 I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
A moving memory of the generous welcome the Galatians had given Paul. The mutual attachment of the faithful and their pastor is a good thing but only if it is born of a right intention. Such was their attachment to Paul but this is not the case of these new teachers. 'Become as I am...' St Paul had renounced the advantages that he might have been given among his fellow citizens if he had remained attached to the Mosaic Law and the traditions of the fathers (see No. 73).
92 True liberty in charity
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.
The third part of the Letter is freedom to which St Paul often a series of moral precepts. license to do what one likes, but an aptitude for doing good by the power of the Holy Spirit. With this freedom is contrasted a two-fold slavery, the slavery of sin by which he who is under the power of sin can never succeed in freeing himself, and the slavery of the Law, which threatens external punishment and shows the evil to be avoided, but does not give one the spiritual power to conquer the evil (see No. 97).
'Flesh and Spirit', not only in this context but generally in St Paul's language, are not the body and the soul; they are respectively the human mentality ('flesh') and the supernatural mentality ('spirit'), the instinct of faith coming from grace and from the presence of the Holy Spirit. 'Flesh' is not therefore merely sin which expresses itself in the body, impurity, drunkenness, etc. but also and even more, pride, selfishness and malice, as we see in his list of 'works of the flesh' contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit'.P. 243
|93 Conclusion of the Letter
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
St Paul adds with his own hand the final greeting, with some vigorous and impassioned assertions that summarize the basic teaching of the Letter. The 'marks of Jesus' to which the Apostle refers are the scars of scourging and the signs of sufferings borne for the Gospel: as the brand impressed by red-hot iron stamps the slave as belonging to his master, so these 'marks' prove that Paul belonged to Christ, and authenticate all his apostolic work.