Monday, February 11, 2019

Instruction of St. John Chrysostom: Why St. Paul wrote to the Galatians

Paul, an Apostle not holding his commission from men, not appointed by man's means, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead.This prelude, and not this alone, but the whole Epistle, so to speak, is full of indignation and loftiness. We must explain why St. Paul was indignant with his disciples. The reason could not have been light or frivolous, for otherwise he would not have addressed such reproaches to them. To be annoyed at every turn, indicates a man who is weak, morose and bitter; just as to remain indifferent in serious circumstances, is a mark of an apathetic and indolent mind. Truly, we cannot say that of St. Paul. What, then, was the fault which roused him to this pitch?

It was a very grievous sin, which separated all the Galatians from the family of Christ, as we see from the following passage: The word of Paul is your warrant for this; if you are for being circumcised, Christ is of no value to you at all. . . You who look to the law for your justification have cancelled your bond with Christ, you have forfeited grace. But without beating about the bush, what was the nature of this sin? Some Jews had embraced the faith, but remained filled with the spirit of Judaism, intoxicated by pride and desiring for themselves the glory of teaching others, and had come to the Galatians and taught them that the observance of circumcision, sabbath and new moons was necessary, and that Paul must not be allowed to abolish these observances. "Peter, James and John, they said, who had been the chief of the Apostles and companions of Christ, did not forbid them."

It is true that they had not forbidden these observances, but, if they acted thus, it was not for reasons of doctrine, but of condescension to the weakness of Jewish converts. But Paul, preaching to the pagans, had no need for such condescension; moreover, he himself also resorted to it when he was in Judea. But these deceivers, taking care not to give the reasons which obliged Paul and the other Apostles to condescend to the Jews, misled the simple, saying to them: "Do not let yourselves be imposed upon by Paul, he was born yesterday, Peter and his followers are the leaders of the Christians; he is a disciple of the Apostles, they were disciples of Christ; he is alone, the others are a group, the pillars of the Church." They even went so far as to accuse him of deceit, adding: "We know that there are places where this same Paul, who seeks to abolish circumcision, practices it; to you, he preaches one thing, to others another. "

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