Chapter 9- The Ascent to Jerusalem
During Paul’s missionary travels, he wrote two important letters, one to his beloved people of Galatia and the other to the Romans, a people unfamiliar to him. In Galatia, the Judaizers were doubting the teachings of Christ. Major disputes were erupting regarding dietary laws and circumcision. The Galatians questioned the teaching of Paul as the true Gospel. Paul’s response was highly emotional, “For in Christ Jesus…faith working through love” ( Gal 5:6). Paul lists fifteen faults of the Galatians and insists on his own authority by divine revelation. Paul exhorts God’s people to “love their neighbor as themselves” and ends this letter, to the Galatians, with a blessing. The Letter to the Romans is Paul’s longest letter, as a sort of final will and testament. Two themes were relayed. The first addressed the stormy relationship between the Judaizing Christians and the Gentile Christians, and the second sought to obtain financial help for a missionary trip to Spain. Paul stressed the great importance of salvation for all through the “freedom of Christianity,” through Jesus Christ. “The gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Gal 1:16). In the second part of this letter, the moral piece, Paul focused on “a life based on love.” (pg. 137) With his words, Paul found a way to unite the disagreeing parties. All are one in the Body of Christ. Paul’s letters were building the universal beliefs of Christ’s Church, trusting that each church area would financially support other distant churches in Christ’s Name. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Romans 14:7). The inclusive nature of the church, as determined by Jesus, welcomed all of the faithful.
In both letters, Paul’s words were strong and persuasive. His intent could not be mistaken. When problems arose, Paul’s responses presented a clear direction for the people in Galatia and Rome. Although all discussion or dissension needed to be heard, Paul assured all of the faithful that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Paul’s words encouraged the faithful to “Bear one another’s burdens, so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). His words could not be mistaken as a gentle reprimand for poor choices or flagrant sin. There was no doubting the strength of Paul’s words. The fulfillment of the Old Testament came through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. People needed to hear and then choose to live as Christ instructed. These communications helped the faithful by illuminating their misperceptions and strengthening their faith. The Letters of Saint Paul gave clarity and purpose to the people.
Historically, the travels of Saint Paul are interesting. He journeyed by boat and on foot, avoiding places of danger and plots to have him assassinated. Paul hoped to arrive in Jerusalem by the Pentecost celebration. He travelled from Asia to Assos, the Isle Lesbos, Isle of Chios, Samos, Miletus, Island of Cos, Rhodes, Port of Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea Maritima, and then Jerusalem. Certainly, Saint Paul was a man with a mission. His zeal for spreading the Word of the Lord was enthusiastic and heartfelt. Paul’s words should be read by all. His later life portrayed his great love of Jesus. Nothing “else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Romans 8:39).