July 5th | Text: Galatians 5:1-6, 13-14
The Christians at Jerusalem had been practicing Jews, the decends of the 12 tribes of Israel, who accepted that Jesus was the Messiah the Hebrew scriptures had prophesied would come. They were well versed in the Law given to Moses, the history of Israel and the prophetic writings. After hearing the Gospel preached, they put their faith in Jesus not as having done away with the Law but the one who fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets. The church at Galatia was made up of Gentile believers that had received the Gospel but had known little or nothing of God’s Law previously. As Paul spread the Gospel and planted churches across the Greek and Roman world, some concerned Jewish-Christians sometimes came behind him and appealed to the new converts to learn and accept the Law. Known as Judaizers they undermined the power of the cross and authority of Christ. Much of Paul’s letter to the Galatians was an appeal not to turn back to former or lesser things but to hold fast to the Gospel of Christ.
We must be careful what we bring with us to the table. If you come to the Bible looking for the God of Peace, you will find him there. But if you come to the Bible believing you will find the God of War, or the God of love, or God of Wrath toward sin you will find all of those in there as well. If you grew up in a democratic republic with an economy based on capitalism you may read the scriptures and decide that is the system ordained by God and best for all people everywhere. Conversely if you grew up in a nation with a strong central government with a strong army and strict laws that regulate daily life, you might well read the scriptures, find that form of rule in its pages and feel that your nation made the right choice. Whether we are of it or not we bring our own preconceived notions, ides, traditions and values with us as we approach the study of scripture and those things filter what we get from the text. If you believe man is inherently sinful with a heart continually set on evil, and the God’s wrath toward sin burns hot, you will share that version of God with others. There are plenty of scriptures to support that version of God just as there are verses and passages used by those who preach peace, love and long-suffering. So how do we resolve versions of God and contradictory scriptures?
Jesus is how we understand God. God doesn’t have multiple personality disorder. There is only one God manifest in three persons. According to Colossians 1 all the fulness of God dwelt in Jesus. Hebrews 1 describes him as the exact imprint of his nature. Jesus is God: God is Jesus. There may be apparent contradictions in the pages of scripture but we are reconciled to God by the cross of Christ. Just like our heat and AC units we much change our filter. Everything we perceive about the God of the Bible must be interpreted through the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus. He is the correct interpretation of God. He spent a good deal of time attempting to correct the false teaching of the chief priests of his day. Consider how many times he says “You have heard it said” during the sermon on the mount then by contrast explains what should be done instead. The Pharisees kept the letter of the Law but missed the spirit of the Law. Jesus not only preached sermons and taught lessons, he perfectly demonstrated how to live as an example for us to follow.
Gospel superior to the Law. In Galatians 4, Paul describes the Law as a tutor or schoolmaster. It is necessary to be instructed at an elementary level even before we fully understand why we must receive instructions. Grace is greater than the Law but Paul never suggests there is a fault or flaw with the Law. Keeping (or attempting to keep) the Law does not bring righteousness. At best the law may restrain evil to an extent. Even if you honor your parents, do not tells lies and manage not to kill anybody we are by nature sinful. There is none righteous, no not one. If we handed someone a list of the 10 Commandments and monitored them 24/7 we may succeed in enforcing the rules. But if that person is lost (unsaved, unregenerate) he or she will still die and go to hell. Now consider our own laws, even in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. If two men or two women were forbidden by the law to marry, but still lived together in a homosexual relationship, they have kept the law but are still condemned before God. Neither the laws of our land nor those in the book of Exodus can make a person righteous. It is the heart of each individual that stands in need of change, not the laws on the books or the judge on the bench.
In the United States of America we are all free to pursue happiness, and pretty much do as we please unless it infringes on the rights of others. Our representative democracy represents the will of the people and it just so happens that 60% of Americans believe in “marriage equality.” The system has not failed. And I will remind Christians everywhere once again that we are in this world but not of this world. Consider if you will: Abortion has been legal my entire lifetime. I’m sure the Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade rocked the evangelical Christian community back in the day but it did not lead to the collapse of society or civilization as we know it. Crisis pregnancy centers and Christian counseling have done more to curb abortion numbers than lobbying Congress to pass new legislation. As cultural norms change our calling to be the salt of the earth and light of the world does not. We are free in Christ. We are called to Galatians 5:13 freedom, not to do as we please but in love to serve one another.
Peace and God bless.