Wednesday, August 10, 2022
I don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like the world is really divided right now. More divided than we’ve been in a long time. Liberal vs. Conservative. The liberals call the conservatives Fascists or Nazis, the conservatives call the liberals Communists. We are divided between theists and anti-theists, or some would divide us as racist or anti-racist. Still, others would divide us as binary or non-binary, pro-live or pro-choice. Living in perpetual states of division is stressful, painful, and exhausting. In the words of Rodney King during the L.A. racial riots of the early 1990’s “Can we…can we all get along?”
That’s kind of what Paul was saying to the Galatian Christians. There was division going on in their Church. Paul taught them that we are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God who died for our sins and whom God raised from the dead. This salvation is open to everyone who believes, young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile (non-Jew). As Paul was traveling on his mission to other places in Asia and Europe to share the message of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with as many as he could, he received reports that people had come into the Churches in Galatia insisting that Gentile believers must begin practicing Jewish law in order to be saved.
Paul was pretty angry with the Christians there who were being led astray by the teaching of these “Judaizers” (people who insisted that Gentile Christians must practice Jewish Law in order to be saved). Paul calls them fools and victims of witchcraft for allowing themselves to be taught something so clearly contrary to the gospel that he preached to them previously.
Paul goes back and shows from the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) that even back in the time of Abraham God made his plan very clear. God always planned to bring salvation not only to the Jews who were descendants of Abraham but also to Gentiles who were not biological descendants of Abraham. Paul shows that God called Abraham long before the Ten Commandments and Ceremonial Laws were given to the Jewish people. As Jews, they were always recipients of God’s grace. The Law was never a precondition to them being chosen as God’s covenant people. Paul wants it to be clearly understood that for the Gentiles they are brought into God’s chosen family not on the basis of observing Jewish ceremonial law or even moral law, but on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.
In Christ, old barriers and divisions come falling down. We all become a part of the one family of God through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter our nationality, our age, our sex, our citizenship status or our righteousness according to the law. What matters is that we come to Jesus Christ and have been clothed in Jesus Christ.
Later in Galatians Paul will talk about what it means to crucify the flesh and to live according to the spirit and produce virtuous actions by the spirit, but the fruit is a result of salvation, not the precondition to being saved.
The only true way to end division in the world is by becoming one with Jesus Christ through faith.
Questions for Discussion:
1. What are the kinds of things that divide Christians and Churches today? What action will you take to help remove divisions where you worship and serve?
2. Why is it important to understand virtue as a result of salvation rather than as a precondition to salvation?