Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thoughts on Galatians 3

In Galatians 3 we get into the heart of Paul’s argument and his passion.  It is quite a dilemma why so often in the history of the Christian church people who convert totally by faith and grace begin to be convinced that they must add on things.  I have lived long enough to be exposed to all kinds of these things that will supposedly make one closer to God, more spiritual, “special.” 

Dietary laws.  I’d be the first to say we should reframe our eating habits, but let’s not fool ourselves that it has anything to do with the gospel. 

Living like the Old Testament in some practice or another.

Using a particular  time management product or any other kind of product.

Listening to a particular Bible teacher.  Last night I dreamed of seeing the former pastor at our church.  I wanted to thank him for his ministry and his faithfulness to the Word.  He was not as flashy as some; but he was faithful and expository and had a dear servant’s heart.  I have written elsewhere about Christian gurus.

Clothing.  Again, I’d be the first to say people should rethink how they dress, especially in church.  Girls simply show too much leg and too much chest nowadays.  It may or may not be a spiritual matter.  I cringe when I see someone in flipflops in church.  But why?  It’s no different than my sandals.  My inherent legalism jumps up and wants to judge.

Voting for a particular candidate.  Again, this gets personal, and I could “preach” here, but voting for a republican or democrat doesn’t make one closer or farther from God or any more or less Holy Spirit-led, which, by the way, is the core of Paul’s argument here.  I do think there is a matter or prudence and wisdom here, though.  See below.

I could go on.  We do not judge another man’s servant.  There is a place for a Spirit-led person to confront another person in love about certain matters, but that’s not judging.

In Galatians 3:3, Paul writes:  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”  In verse 2 he writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the words of the law?”  In verse 4:  “Have you suffered so much in vain?”  These are pointed questions.  They point to a matter or change, something I am reading a lot about in my research.  Why do people change?  Paul reminds them of what they already have invested—which thought is one reason why people don’t change even when they should.  But he also reminds them of the illogic of trying to do anything spiritual in the flesh or by man-made practices.  “Receiving the Spirit” is to Paul synonymous with conversion, beginning the Christian walk (I won’t use “getting saved” or “asking Jesus into your heart” because I don’t like that clichés many don’t understand.)  And “receiving the Spirit” is core to Paul’s teaching.  Verse 5:  “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” 

This faith is misunderstood, of course.  It is a tossing of oneself upon the mercies of God, in my thinking.  It is repentance because one accepts that one’s own way is devoid of righteousness and meaning and only God’s way is right.  It is not just agreeing with some church practices.  An exposition of Abraham’s faith (which is the model, in a sense), shows a person who 1.  Rejected idols and culture of his family, a very, very difficult (nonexistent) thing to do in ancient middle Eastern culture  2.  Traveled something like 900 miles to a new home.   3.  Waited a long time for a legitimate heir (when he could have had scores of children with concubines and just ignored God about that) even though he did fall off the wagon.  Abraham was the model not because he was perfect, and this is key.  And most of all, he believed that the Messiah would come through him and that he would have numberless descendants. 

Notice that Joseph, who is often called Mr. Perfect (I agree with Beth Moore—he was a bit of a brat, especially when young) is not used as an example of anything in the New Testament.  It is Abraham, who lies, gets weak, lets his wife boss him around, doesn’t stand up to Lot, who is the model of faith.  I am glad of that. 

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Attention, Ego, Spirituality, and Drugs

This title may seem really odd coming from me, but this article has some interesting things to say.