Monday, 26 September 2011
Galatians 1:10-24: A Real Page Turner
It’s tough to pick the right bedtime reading. If you try to read something heavy, you doze off too soon and end up rereading the same paragraph night after night. Not so fun. If you pick up something lighter, you may get swept up in the plot and become more awake instead of pleasantly drowsy.
Last night I picked the wrong book. (It was The Hunger Games Trilogy for those of you who won’t be able to read on until you know…) I told myself I would only read a chapter or two. Ha! At the end of each chapter my eyes would dart to the next page and catch just enough to keep me going. I finally made myself put it down when I got to the end of a whole section. And then I lay in bed, heart pounding from adrenaline, dying to know what happened next! Page turners. Authors do that on purpose.
Paul’s life. Paul has written a bit of a page turner himself. Or maybe a “verse turner.” He keeps us reading through this next section of Scripture by telling his story vividly, with violence, unexpected developments, mysterious disappearances, and visits to the big city. Even though it’s brief, he packs a lot in. And he definitely whets our appetite for more. What happened in Arabia? What did he and Peter talk about in Jerusalem? Why didn’t he stay longer? What brought him to Syria and Cilicia?
I’m sure it would be interesting to read a longer biography of Paul’s life, but he didn’t write one for us. That’s because he wasn’t just providing us with a good read. No, he had a specific reason for going into the details of his life. Despite all of the times the first person pronoun occurs in these verses, Paul wasn’t telling his story to promote himself. He was telling it to…wait, why don’t we study together and figure it out!
This week’s questions.
- Read through Galatians 1:10-24 looking for the little “connectors” Paul uses to keep us reading. Words like “for…and…but…now…then.” Write them down in the order they are used to get a feel for the flow of this section.
- Galatians 1:10-12 (notice we are repeating one verse from last week) form a sort of preface to Paul’s story. What contrasts does he set up in these verses? How do you see them fleshed out in the following narrative?
- Draw a timeline for Paul’s life from Galatians 1:13-24. Eliminate the descriptive words and just put down the facts.
- Why do you think Paul wrote his story at this point in Galatians? What is the overall effect of it?
- Even though the pronoun “I” predominates, this story is really about the intersection of two stories, Paul’s and Jesus’s. Add a vertical timeline to Paul’s horizontal one right at the point of conversion. What parts of the story belong on the vertical axis?
- How does verse 24 summarize the work of Christ — the gospel — in Paul’s life?
- Draw a timeline of your own testimony with a before and after Christ section. Write in people, conversations, incidents that the Lord used to call you by the grace of Christ to be his. Add the vertical axis and contemplate God’s eternal plan for you.
- Write out a brief testimony highlighting the biggest change you are aware of in your life’s trajectory. Did you go from seeking reputation like Paul to contentment with obscurity? Or is God glorifying himself in your life in a different way?
This last exercise has already brought me to tears of amazement as I pondered again the timeline of God’s love for me. I hope you, too, are stirred to joy and a hunger to tell others about how Christ has changed your very DNA.
Feel free to share your thoughts with us throughout this week.