Paul’s Use of an Analogy: Galatians

 

Prism

The Apostle Paul is so angry that he refers to the people in the Church of Galatia as fools who are choosing to live under a curse. 

Rather than continuing under the Gospel of Grace  that Paul preached to them, he writes, they have been bewitched.  They have listened to those who claim that to be sons of Abraham those who follow Christ Jesus must also follow the laws given by Moses.  Consequently, the Galatians have decided to hold to the works of the Law rather than faith.

Paul then quotes from the Scriptures to show that the covenant God made with Abraham was not based on following laws, but instead on faith, believing in the promises of God.  In fact, he says, those who are under the law are cursed.  Jesus came, Paul relates, to redeem us from the curse of the Law by being cursed Himself (“Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree” v. 13) so that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the gentiles also (v. 14).

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.  The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.  So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3 NASB)

Clearly, the gentile believers in Galatia have foolishly fallen for a deception promulgated by those claiming that to follow Christ they must also follow all of the rules and regulations in the laws handed to the Israelites by Moses.  However, Paul relates in later chapters in his letter to the Galatians that following the Law is impossible.  In fact, the Law was given to show that there is none righteous, not one, and that we must depend on the unmerited favor of God to receive forgiveness and redemption.

Paul pauses briefly, however, to explain his meaning.  Since the Galatians have fallen into carnality (living and thinking according to the flesh) Paul uses an “analogy,” one of the logical tools  used by ancient philosophers and one we need to recognize in order to interpret all kinds of texts correctly.  Briefly, an analogy is a way of explaining ideas of things using comparisons.  Here is Paul’s comparison:  “I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it” (v. 15).

This verse may easily be overlooked  or skipped over because it appears to be only a transition between topics.  It is significant, however,  not only in this Galatian context,  but as we will see in other contexts, also. 

What is Paul Saying? 

I will try to paraphrase. I believe he is saying that to this point he has been giving the Galatian believers spiritual truths and mysteries (secrets that God wants to reveal to those able to receive them).  In his frustration, however, since the Galatians have chosen to follow an unspiritual path, attempting in their own flesh to follow spiritual laws, Paul finds it necessary to speak to them using the “terms of human relations.”

The New International Version of this text says, “Let me take an example from everyday life.”  

Paul’s analogy, therefore, is a comparison between two ideas or situations, in order to explain or clarify his meaning, but he feels he must do so using common language and ordinary situations.  He cannot expect  them to understand the secrets God desires to reveal to those on the way to salvation, those who are spiritual and who may be instructed “not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

 

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