Did Paul's Words to the Galatians Contradict His Actions?
One common interpretation of the book of Galatians is that Paul criticized the Galatians for keeping the biblical Sabbath and Holy Days. Many theologians believe these were the days to which Paul referred when he wrote: "How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years" (Galatians 4:9-10).
Is Paul criticizing observing the Sabbath and Holy Days here? The book of Acts provides important facts showing this clearly wasn't the case.
Paul visited several cities within the Roman province of Galatia (in what is today central Turkey) during his first journey around A.D. 46-48. He wrote his epistle to the Galatians at some point after that journey.
But notice what Luke records in Acts 13 concerning Paul's actions during his actual visit to Antioch in Pisidia, a region in the province of Galatia:
• Paul participates in Sabbath services at the local synagogue (verse 14).
• Paul, as a guest and scholar, teaches in the synagogue (verses 15-41).
• At the conclusion of the service, "the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath" (verse 42).
• When that next Sabbath arrived, "almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God" from Paul and Barnabas (verse 44).
If one assumes that Galatians 4:9-10 condemns Sabbath-keeping, an obvious question is, why would Paul teach gentiles and Jews on the Sabbath while visiting the Galatian churches and then, after departing, write a letter reprimanding them for observing the Sabbath day?
We should also ask, if Paul believed keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days was "bondage," why didn't he take the opportunity to tell these Sabbath-keeping Jews and gentiles this when he had such a perfect opportunity?
When they "begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath," why didn't Paul simply tell them he would teach them the very next day—Sunday—or any other day? Instead, "almost the whole city came together" a week later to hear Paul and Barnabas—on the Sabbath day!
If in Galatians 4:9-10 Paul was attempting to condemn Sabbath-keeping as bondage, his actions as recorded in the book of Acts show that he was either very confused or very hypocritical. On the other hand, if we really understand the true intent of Paul's words (see "Galatians 4:9-10: Are God's Laws Bondage?" beginning on page 72), both his actions and words are consistent and make perfect sense.
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