Faithlife Sermons

Wednesday Bible Study on Living by Faith

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Welcome back to Holy Cross’ bible study series. This week we’re looking at the reading for Sunday May 9, 2021. It is Galatians 1:13-17; Galatians 2:11-21.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the passage yet, please pause this video, and give it a read in your favourite bible, or use the link below in the details section.
If you don’t have time to read the passage, here’s a short summary of the first part Galatians 1:13-17. It is part of a section in Galatians that has been titled “Paul’s Vindication of His Apostleship” by the translators of the NRSV.

Galatians 1:13-17

Paul reminds the readers that he once tried to destroy the church, and he did so because he believed he was being faithful to God’s will. Then God revealed Jesus to Paul, and he immediately went to work trying to teach others about Jesus.
Galatians 1:14 NRSV
I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
When I first read this passage, the word “zealous” stood out for me. We know what religious zealots look like, and many of us wouldn’t want to look like them. Many people who are characterized as being “zealous” have taken things to an extreme that we don’t want to god near.
But at its core, being zealous simply means to be stirred by or for something. It can be in a friendly way, even if today’s usage has become more in a hostile or antagonistic way.
This leads us to our first question for today:
Are we zealous for the traditions of our ancestors and for our God?
If we step back and remove the negative connotations from our current use of “zealous”, we might rephrase the question as “Are we stirred up by the traditions of our ancestors? Are we stirred up by our God?”
I encourage you to take a moment, pause the video, and answer the question.
Are we zealous for the traditions of our ancestors and for our God?
Now that you’ve had a chance to think about how you might be stirred up by the traditions of our ancestors or by God, we look a little bit more at the story.
Paul indicates that at some point he had a revelation that what he was doing was not what God wanted him to do. (We need to be careful to not approach this text with an anti-Semitic view. We are talking about one character in this story — Paul — we are not talking about all Jews. God spoke to Paul, and our focus will remain on him.)
Galatians 1:13 NRSV
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.
Once God revealed God’s self to Paul, he saw how hostile he had been towards people who were simply trying to figure out how to be faithful to God.
I think that people really aren’t all that different, and if Paul’s view was changed by God, then we would do well to consider if God wants us to change our view today.
This leads to our second set of questions:
Who is the church hostile towards today? Who sees the church as hostile towards them?
These two question take some time to unpack. On the surface I’d probably claim that the church isn’t hostile towards anyone — at least I’d hope we would. However we know that within ourselves we’re uncomfortable at times with certain conversations, certain topics, and by extension the people involved in those conversations and topics. We also know that there are people who see the church as hostile towards them, even if we don’t think they see the church clearly.
I encourage you to take a moment, pause the video, and answer these questions.

Now that you’ve taken some time to answer all those questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I believe that the church has something to offer the world — in our traditions, and in what we know about God. We can only build up the church if we see things with new eyes as Paul did, and work to end the hostility that often comes with faith.
I hope you’ll join me again on Friday as we look at Galatians 2:11-21. Until then, peace, blessings, and I hope you and your loved ones are all well.
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