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The Third Act

As one studies the Apostle Paul’s life and work as demonstrated in the New Testament, it seems evident that he understands history as whole composed of four acts. Act one is the period between Creation and Moses, featuring the Patriarchs. Act two is the period between Moses and Jesus, as Israel lived under the Torah (instruction or law). Then comes the third act in which we find ourselves, the Period of Christ and the Church. Finally, history will culminate in act four as Jesus returns in triumph.

Paul’s writings clearly illustrate his understanding that there is a coherent, consistent theme and movement through these four acts.

The church in Galatia has been wracked by division. Paul planted a church of which both Jews and Gentiles are a part. Circumcision has become a non-issue as Paul explains that physical circumcision is of no value. Rather, the spiritual circumcision of the heart is all that matters. Into this congregation comes the Judaizers, those who hold that one must be Jewish before one can be Christian. As this row intensifies, fellowship has been broken and Paul is simply apoplectic over it.

In the text we will study Sunday, Paul pulls together the second and third act to explain how there is continuity in God’s plan between Torah and Christ. The Torah (law) given to Moses was a guardian until the fullness of time (Kairos) when Christ has been revealed. Paul refers to the “pedagogue” that was employed in Roman homes. The term has come to refer to teacher, but in Roman culture it was a guardian who assured the child didn’t get lost, was well behaved, was supervised and guarded. As the child grew, the need for a pedagogue diminished until no longer needed. Such is the case in God’s grand plan.

Paul understands that God has been quite consistent with Torah as “pedagogue” until Christ came and faith has been revealed. It is the revelation of faith that brings us to God through Christ, rendering the Torah, and I don’t want to oversimplify, but perhaps moot. More than that, however, Act two moving into Act three has not created division, but has created one people who belong to Christ. From this comes Paul’s declaration of unity in Galatians 3.28, which is my guiding principle for our being an Open and Affirming Congregation.

Want to know more? Our text for Sunday is Galatians 3.23-29. I look forward to exploring it with you and inviting each of us to experience the Revelation of God in Christ as our faith deepens.

See you Sunday,


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