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…
As a new Christian, husband, and father in my mid-twenties, I was also a senior pastor. Our fledgling little church was meeting on Sunday nights until, without notice, we were evicted and homeless. With less than a week to find a place to meet, I frantically started meeting with churches in the area hoping to find at least a temporary home. After about an hour meeting with a female senior pastor of an established church in a mainline denomination, she said she would rent to me if I correctly answered one question. Unsure of what that one big make-or-break question might be, she asked, “Do you still believe in Paul?”. I asked, “the Paul who wrote roughly half of the books in the New Testament?” As she nodded her head I said, “yes, I still believe in Paul and preach through the books in the Bible he wrote.” She then said, “I cannot rent our building to anyone who still believes in or teaches what Paul wrote.” She then shook my hand and I left in utter disbelief.
Paul, and the books of the Bible that he wrote, admittedly contain some of the most debated issues – women in ministry, gender roles, homosexuality, predestination, speaking in tongues, etc. And, not everything Paul writes is easy to understand. Even Peter had trouble interpreting Paul at times even though he readily admits Paul’s letters are sacred “Scriptures”. In 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter says, “count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
As we study Paul’s letter to the Galatians, there will be thing that he says which, at first glance, you will disagree with. Other things that he says will be “hard to understand” altogether. But this is part of Paul’s genius. He is an instigator who forces us to think with and wrestle through difficult issues. In this way, Paul is for the soul a bit like a physical trainer is for the body – pushing us to get stronger and healthier by increasing the tension we are pushing against. And, for anyone who wants to change the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul is a problem. He is so forceful, clear, and courageous that anyone wanting to edit, alter, or modify it will find themselves with a foe they cannot defeat in a fight. For Paul, God wants messengers willing to correct those who want to be God’s editors.
Is there anything in the Bible, including the writings of Paul, that you think is wrong or wish was removed? Why?