Last week we talked about Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica. The folks up there were impatient for the second coming that Paul had promised them. And yet nothing had happened after a couple of years. They were beginning to think they had been sold a bill of goods. In Paul’s first letter up there he had to tell them to ‘buck up, it won’t be long now.’
Things in Galatia was different. In Galatia, Paul’s message about Jesus was being delivered out of the Jewish synagogue. And it was attracting a lot of local gentiles. You gotta think everyone knew that this was not going to end well.
- How was Paul’s message different? Paul had decided his traditional Jewish education was not working for him. His main message was that Christ alone was all you need for salvation. All those rituals required of strict Judaism? No need. Kosher diet? Superfluous. Circumcision? You gotta be kidding. This really pissed off the local Jewish leaders.
- So what do you do if you’ve got an individual causing rifts in your local congregation? You appeal to the big guns in Jerusalem — Peter and James (Jesus’ brother). According to Peter and James, contrary to what Paul said, believers in Jesus were expected to participate in all the traditional Jewish rituals. All of them. Paul fought back, attacking both Peter and James in his letters. And while he was at it, he berated the Galatians for abandoning his message about Jesus and retracting back into the traditional Judaism. Paul was not a patient man.
- How did it end? It’s hard to tell. It is not likely Paul and Peter ever shared a glass of wine together. But it is interesting that Acts (written 20 years later, after Peter was killed by Nero) says that Peter converted to Paul’s way of viewing things. Sure he did.