Out of the Crowd

October 7, 2005

The opening chapters of Galatians have a lot to say about an interesting contrast that is often overlooked. Though not as divisive, perhaps, as the conflict between God’s grace and man’s responsibility, the community/individuality dichotomy is an issue which could possibly have unplumbed depths …

The first thing to notice is this: “sent not from men nor by man”. This highlights initially, not only Paul’s dependence on God for his message, but his independence from others. Again, in verse ten, he asks: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? … If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In a phrase perhaps parallel to 1 John’s “you have no need of a teacher,” he claims, “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it”; stating not only the independence of his calling but of his knowledge of God. Again, he says, “I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was”.

His independence is even more marked as he discusses the beginning of his ministry: “As for those who seemed to be important -— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance”. After this, his conflict with Peter is merely the working-out of an existing policy: his calling is not based in others, his teaching is not based in others, so certainly he’s not going to change it based on Peter’s actions, whether he holds the authority of men or not. Even further, he felt it was worth the division involved in publicly rebuking Peter, the leader of the church universal, to assert the truth of what he had from God.

Take this in light of the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus will leave the 99 unguarded for the sake of only one. What could this express, if not the value of the individual to God?

As in many cases, finding the road to “take hold of the one without letting go of the other” is a daunting task. The truth is, the wisdom of the wise, the structure of the church, the reasonings of man, don’t work. These truths are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14), by a divine and supernatural enlightenment. And yet … on the other side … 🙂

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