Paul and Jesus?
We have looked at Paul's forthright teaching in Galatians and at the situation that gave rise to it. In doing so, we have touched on the history of the Galatian church and on Paul's foundational role (with Barnabas). But can we use the Galatian letter to work out further what happened when Paul founded that church, and in particular to deduce anything of what Paul originally taught the Galatians, when he and Barnabas brought the good news to them? Most or all of Paul's letters are pastoral letters to established Christian churches, and so they tell us little about Paul's evangelism. We could say that the letters are picking up the pieces afterwards, not laying the foundations! So what did Paul teach and preach when he arrived in a place like Pisidian Antioch? The purpose of this chapter is to see if we can throw light on that matter, and especially on the question as to what Paul taught people about Jesus. We saw at the beginning of the book that some scholars suggest that traditions of Jesus' ministry were not particularly important to Paul, and that he was not a very loyal follower of Jesus. Does the evidence from Acts and particularly from Galatians about Paul's early ministry support this view?
Acts gives us some brief descriptions of Paul's teaching in Galatia. In particular there is the account of his preaching in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, which we looked at in chapter 5. Paul traces the history of Israel through to King David, then identifies Jesus as David's son and Israel's promised saviour. He speaks of John the Baptist's announcement of Jesus and then of Jesus' death and resurrection, supporting his argument with Old Testament quotations. He closes his sermon with a challenge to his hearers to respond to the grace of God (Acts 13.16–43). Paul's emphasis when speaking to the idolatrous Gentiles in Lystra, who are trying to worship him and Barnabas, is understandably different: he speaks to them of the living God and of the need to turn from idols (Acts 14.14–17).