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by Rhoderick D. Ice
INTRODUCTION TO THE LETTER TO THE
In John 5:39, Jesus told his Jewish listeners: “You study the Scriptures because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And they themselves speak about me!” The Scriptures in this case were the Old Testament Scriptures. One of the gifts from the Spirit (which every apostle had) was an inspired understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Greek Septuagint Translation of the Old Testament was widely read and studied, even by Gentiles. The writers of the New Testament draw most of their Old Testament quotations from this version. Because the Septuagint was so widely used, it was ready made to use in proving the fact that Jesus is the Son of God!!! Compare Paul’s use of it in Acts 17:1-4.
The circumcision party was a continual source of trouble in the early church! They taught that in addition to being united to Christ in baptism, no one could be a true Christian unless he had been circumcised and naturalized as a part of the Jewish Nation, and that he kept the Jewish dietary laws and customs. In the Roman Province of Galatia, some of the Gentile Christians began to doubt what they had been taught by Paul. Under constant pressure from the circumcision party, they accepted circumcision (after having already been baptized into Christ) and all the Jewish conditions of membership. Two major questions are raised by this circumcision party: Is Paul a true apostle??? Does Paul preach the true gospel??? Their answer to both was NO! There is also some reason to think that they preached a “crossless Christ” in opposition to Paul’s “Christ-on-the-cross.”
Paul, then, writes to expose the distortion these false teachers have done to the Good News, and to show that the works of The Law have nothing at all to do with being put right with God!!! Some have called this Letter: The Gospel according to Paul. But this misses the point!!! BOTH Paul and James preach the SAME GOSPEL!!! Paul stresses faith, and James stresses action, but both are saying in effect the same thing!!! What The Law cannot do, God did!!! He acted in Christ to set us free!!! Jesus is the only source of salvation!!!
No one can know for sure just when or where Paul wrote this Letter. Dates have been suggested from 49 A.D. to 63 A.D.
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18