Thursday, 11 February 2016
And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians1:14
Paul continues here with his qualifications as a true “Jew” to be fawned over, if that was appropriate to occur. Again, the reason for this line of thought is to show those in Galatia that just because someone possessed all of the qualifications of a true “Jew,” it had no bearing on whether they were teaching the true gospel message or not. He will continue to show himself as the “standard” by which all other such Jews would be more than willing to gauge themselves if these were the things which mattered.
First he says, “And I advanced in Judaism.” This means the teachings of Judaism. It included more than the cultural aspects of that life, which any Jew would be aware of. Instead, it included the fullest knowledge of those things. Any Jew would know to observe the Passover, but Paul knew the reasons behind the observance in the most detailed manner. Any Jew would know to wear particular clothing, but Paul would understand “why” they did so. These, and countless other precepts, were the things he faithfully studied.
Going on, he said that such knowledge was “beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation.” He, along with many other students, was trained at the feet of Gamaliel, a great Jewish rabbi. And yet, he excelled beyond them. He had a greater knowledge, and a greater application of the knowledge, than many who were his contemporaries. This means those of his age and generation who set about to advance in Judaism.
In his advancement, he was “more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” The word for “zealous” is zélótés. This word gives the idea of boiling over with fervency. It comes from zéloó, which refers to the sound of boiling. Paul’s fervency for his life as a strict and adherent Jew was the epitome of such fervency, exceeding those around him as he strived to be the very best adherent possible. This included “the traditions of my fathers.”
These “traditions” are the things which Jesus rebuked the leaders of Israel for. They were those things which Jewish life and culture adhered to, but which were beyond that of Scripture. Whatever laws were set down by the religious elite, Paul was the first to agree to them and to strictly adhere to them. He wanted, in all ways, to be thought of as the cream of this legalistic society.
If those at Galatia wanted someone from Jewish circles to emulate, Paul would be the cat’s meow of the one to follow after. But Paul turned from all such things and pursued Christ and His gospel of grace. These notes of his past life are intended to get those in Galatia to see the futility of doing anything but that as well.
Life application: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
Heavenly Father, how easy it is to get star struck by a fancy preacher, an eloquent orator, or a noted figure within Christian circles. In doing so, we inevitably will take our eyes off of Jesus in our pursuit of this notable person. And how unwise that is! All are fallible; all are prone to fall; all are filled with a constant stream of error. Let us never take our eyes from the One who is infinitely glorious in order to set them on something which is anything but! Help us in this, O God. Amen.