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Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Holds You Back? Paidagogos?


Galatians 3:15-29

I find myself getting into a routine. I read my Bible. I pray. I am kind and do good things for people. I go to church. All this I do because I am a forgiven child of God, a Christian. What can be wrong with that? As I was doing these things this week, God sent one person and then another to wake me up. I had read the Bible and was studying this week’s passages for the Bible study. One person asked me, “Do you pray?” Of course, I pray. I thought my prayers were more breath prayers; I pray throughout the day as things arise. Then today, a young woman taught about prayer again and it reminded me what God taught me a year ago. I wrote an article about it called “Prayer is…becoming.” What I have come to realize is that I forgot about the main purpose of prayer – to get each of us into a deeper relationship with God so that His thoughts and ways become our ways. This made the passage He had me study more poignant and I think it will be particularly poignant for many Christians.
A Greek word that comes up in this week’s passage is paidagogos. A paidagogos was a servant or slave whose job for their Greek master was to ensure the son of the master studied and that the teacher hired by the master actually taught. The paidagogos was accountable to the master regarding the son and teacher. There are only three places in the Bible where this Greek term is used, 1 Corinthians 4:15 and Galatians 3:24 & 25. I thought this was such an interesting term. I wondered why I had never noticed it before. Why would Paul use such a term when writing a letter and what does it have to do with us today? These were my questions as I began to dig deeper and it is through this digging that God brought to light a few things about myself.
The epistle of Galatians is a letter written to the churches in Galatia. Galatia is an area that encompasses churches Paul established on his first and second missionary journeys. There are two theories as to the date of its writing. The South Galatian thought follows that Paul wrote to the Galatian churches he established on his first missionary journey. These would be in the towns and cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe in Galatia of Asia Minor. The theologians who follow this thought think the letter was written in Syrian Antioch or Corinth around 51 or 53 AD. Most theologians follow this line of line of thinking. The North Galatian theory holds that the letter was to the churches in Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium of northern Galatia. If this is the case, the theologians think the Paul wrote the letter between 53 and 57 AD in Ephesus or Macedonia. There are educated reasonings as to why each group of theologians holds to their thoughts, which are not important for this study. What is important is who the Galatians are and why Paul wrote to them? The Galatians were the descendants of the Galli-Graeci people. They were the people taken over by the Galls a few hundred years prior to Paul’s travels there. Caesar noted in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, 4, 5 that the Gallic people were “fickle in their resolves and fond of change.” Another historian described the Gallic people as frank, impetuous, extremely changeable, fond of show, perpetually quarrelling, and vain.
This gives us a good idea to whom Paul was writing, but we must ask what the occasion was for his writing. In the book of Galatians, if you will read it, Paul spoke strongly with the people of Galatia. Galatians is dissimilar from Philippians in its wording and emotion, for example. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul combatted the false teaching, which tried to convince the Galatian Christians that they must do more to be Christians. Paul, in 1:6-7 spoke about the Galatians following a different gospel and confused by other teachings. By the time Paul wrote chapter 3, He appeared incensed. He said, “You foolish1 Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” Paul dove straight to the point. “Did you receive the Spirit through the Law or through believing what you heard?” Paul asked. Paul addressed their new belief that they must work for God’s acceptance, to be called Christians. False teachers went through their region of Asia Minor and told them they must do more to be Christians. Is this not the same legalism the Pharisees taught to the children of Israel? It is and it is the same legalism that kept most of the Pharisees from believing Jesus is the Messiah. In verse 5 Paul continued, “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” These people of Gallo-Graeci were being just as they were seen by others, fickle, impetuous, and extremely changeable. The false teachers led them easily to believe in a legalistic Christianity. Paul told them all Gentiles who believe by faith are descendants of Abraham whose faith God counted as righteousness (Galatians 3:6, Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, 22). The Law, which came after Abraham, does not justify people (vs. 11). The law is not based on faith. Jesus Christ came to redeem humankind from the curse of sin the Law made humans realize they have. Paul said, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (vs.14). The Law leads us closer to God, but it cannot save us from our sin. It makes us see our sinfulness. The Law cannot make us righteous or just. It reveals our sinfulness and our inability to be sufficiently good enough to get to heaven.
Paul made a very important point here. The Law teaches us about God and reveals our sinfulness to us. The Law cannot save us from our sin. The Law, in its teachings, curses us. We can no longer say we are pure from sin. This teaching by false teachers is why Paul wrote to the Galatians. Paul, the student and teacher of Jewish Law, told them the Law was written 430 years after Abraham received the promise from God for his descendants, of being the children of God (vs. 17; see also Genesis 17). The promise made to Abraham was not based on any law God required of him. When a person believes by faith the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he or she becomes a child of God through the promise God gave Abraham. We do not have to keep rules or laws to be right with God. These cannot make us right with God, but serves to show us our sinfulness. Our inheritance to be children of God through the line of Abraham’s seed comes through God’s promise to Abraham, not through the Law. “Do not consider that the Law is opposed to God; it is not,” said Paul (vs.21). If the Law could have brought life, then righteousness would have come by the Law. The Law cannot bring righteousness, only the recognition of sinfulness. God had a plan from the beginning of creation to bring us humans back to our place with Him. God gave the Law was to us to make us aware of Him and teach us about our sinfulness and need of Him. The prophets foretold of the plan God had. His plan has always been to redeem us from the curse sin places on us, the curse of death. God’s plan is not to make us see our futility and leave us, but to provide the cleansing each of us needs from our sins so we are made righteous through Jesus’ death and can be in God’s presence. God loved us from the creation of the world and made this plan. God gave the Law to lead us to recognize Him and our sinfulness. In the fullness of God’s timing, He had  a plan to redeem us through the death of His only Son. Not only that, since Jesus beat death and returned to life, beating death and proving His deity, we know we believers in Him will also beat death and live with Him for eternity. To get back to the point of Paul’s writing, the Scriptures (the Old Testament Law and Prophets) locked everyone in sin, “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (vs. 22).
Paul compared the Law to belief in Jesus Christ in verses 24 and 25. He said, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” This is where paidagogos enters. The Law was our tutor to lead us to Christ. Remember, the paidagogos was a hired servant or slave who ensured the master’s son did his schoolwork and the teacher actually taught. The Law is like the paidagogos in that it leads us to God, but it cannot make us righteous and clean from our sin. A servant took a master’s son to his lessons, but he was not able to make him learn. The master’s task was to make a child learn or a teacher teach. The Law cannot clean us of our sins, but it can lead us to the Master who can. Paul said to the Galatians, why do you lean toward legalism, which cannot save you, when you have received faith in Jesus Christ, which has cleaned you from all your sin and has given you a new life through the Holy Spirit. A person can have many tutors, paidagogos (the Laws), but they will never give righteousness. Paul expressed this in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” Previously, they were only taught by teachers and led by servants, but now they are children of God, their heavenly Father, and led by their earthly father, Paul. Previously the Law led them to recognize their sinfulness and inability to be righteous. Now God shows them His love and gives them righteousness. Once servants led them, since then Paul led them to their Father. Paul reiterated for them in verse 26, “Now you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” As sons and daughters of God, you are no longer to be considered Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. We believers are all one in Christ Jesus. There is no earthly distinguishing of persons and no need for laws mandating roles for each other. Since we are in Jesus Christ, we are Abraham’s descendants and heirs of the promise of God to him.
The point Paul made and which we must consider for ourselves today is that we are not under a code of laws or legalism. We are free from legalism because Jesus fulfilled all the Law and the prophecies. The Galatians, fickle and extremely changeable though they were, were not much different from each of us today. Many people believe they must keep to a code and follow rules to be acceptable to God and go to heaven. Those of us who are Christians also find ourselves falling into this trap at times as well. We know what a Christian should be like and what they should do and we tick those tasks off our list each day as we do them. Pray, tick. Read the Bible, tick. Help someone, tick. We easily are caught in this trap of legalism. We have lost something and that something is freshness with God. Our doing of tasks is not what saves or saved (current Christians) us. There is nothing we can do to convince God to save us. We are sinful. God saves us because of His love and mercy for us. He seeks to do what is best for us and the ultimate thing we need is eternal life with Him, which only comes through the salvation Jesus’ death gives. We cannot do anything to earn salvation and forgiveness. God saves us because He wants a restored relationship with each of us. The same is true if we are already Christians. We cannot do anything for God to make ourselves more acceptable to Him. He has done it all. What He wants with us is a relationship, the thing for which He saved us when we believed in Christ Jesus. He does not want us to tick off a list of “must do’s” each day. He wants a relationship with us each day. That prayer we each do, He wants to commune with us so that we know His heart, love Him more, and desire to do His will. That Bible study we do, He wants us to know who He is and see how He has acted in history so that we can share His love and salvation to others and so we can radically rely upon Him when trying times come. (The Bible is used by the Holy Spirit to encourage us and teach us each day.) Those good tasks we do, He wants us to do them because He has prompted us and put His love within us to show and share with other humans so they will be helped and so they will know of His love for them, too. What we do each day for God - pray, read our Bibles, do good works - are not a to-do list we must clear. These things we do because we are in a deep communing with God each day. We do them because we love Him and His other created beings, other people.
The questions comes back to this: Are you allowing the Law and legalism to drive you each day and realizing nothing is enough to redeem you and save you? Are you willing to allow God to show you His plan of salvation, the one that will save you? If you are a Christian, have you been caught up in the to-do list for Christians  so that you have lost sight of God? Will you realize that God is waiting for you to return to a close commune with Him? Tonight, a second person brought my attention to my prayer life. I pray. I breathe prayers for many people each day. God made me realize I had lost touch with Him and commune with Him. Join with me and return to communing with God, the Creator of the universe and the Savior of each of us from our sins. He calls to each of us, but we each must choose to respond to Him.