Dear Inspiration Seekers,
I am, once again, running behind my father’s Sunday School lessons by a couple of weeks. Other events have taken precedence for the last few weeks. I chose to address those timely issues, and to delay this series of inspirations on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I initially wondered what more I could write about the concept of grace and the law, as Paul covered these extensively in the letter to the Romans. If anything, Galatians is Romans abridged. But, I like a challenge. Check me, if I repeat myself. On the other hand, part of why we reiterate themes in books, commentaries, opinion pieces and blogs is that we often do not get the message the first, second, or third time. Otherwise, all sermons would be variations on past themes… Well, maybe that is the relevance to that process.
Paul dives right into Galatians asserting his authority for writing, preaching, and guiding the new churches: he was not sent from men nor by man. He is not representing some governing board, theological congress, or legal body. His authority come from Christ and God. His phrasing also brings up the image of his conversion, not by the witness of Christians by the revelation of Christ confronting him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). As men did not bring Paul (then Saul) to Christ, neither does Paul write to the Galatians by human authority, but by divine revelation. As discussed in Romans, God acts not by the law, but by grace.
Yet, Paul establishes his motivation for writing and dilemma that the Galatian church faces after the brief introduction. How quickly some of the leaders of the church have discarded the gospel of grace and reverted back to adherence to the law. I have reservations about both following people who claim authority by revelation or by established rules, without scrutiny of both.
In our not-so-distance history in the USA, various ministers and movements have claimed revelational authority. The 18th century Great Awakening and 19th century 2nd Great Awakening, Joseph Smith’s communications with the angle Moroni, Mary Baker Eddy’s attempts to make Christianity science, the Pentacostal churches, and various recent Evangelical leaders such as Jerry Farwell and Pat Buchanan all claim their direct connection to God. At the same time, many of these movements call upon the authority of some text, ancient or new, which they claim we must obey. These quickly add up to a law library of rules, proposed as the correct way to govern behavior.
Lost between sketchy claims of divine revelation and rigid rules is the gospel of grace to restore our relationship with the divine and with each other.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers
Love your insight and fluid thinking and ability to put it into print. I have a few excuses for not getting around to reading your ‘Thoughts on Romans”….like I went fly fishing….maybe I can keep up with Galatians and occasionally adding my thoughts. (P.S.: Is the AD at the end supposed to be there or is it having a “free ride”?)
I think that the advertisements are a WordPress “revelation” to readers… 🙂
When life has been lived in bondage, it is often difficult to appreciate and live in freedom. The Israelites often complained to Moses after they were led out of captivity that they would have been better off being slaves. We find it odd that a battered wife refuses to press charges and returns to a home filled with violence. Perhaps there is such a thing as “battered parishioner syndrome” in which we prefer the certainty of rules over the freedom of grace. Rather than living in freedom we establish rules to determine right and wrong versus living for good and rejecting evil.
For leaders wielding power, grace is difficult to manage, resulting in chaos within the congregation. So they default to rules with which they seek to keep others in their place. A greater emphasis is placed on doing the right thing, rather than being freed up by Jesus to be good.
The Pharisees questioned wether it was right to heal on the sabbath (the right thing). Jesus said anytime is the right time to do the good thing. Legalism lives by the law and places “right” above “good”. Grace lives in freedom and actively seeks what is good. Paul had lived under the law as a Pharisees so he was speaking out of his own personal experience, both in bondage to the law and freedom in Jesus. I imagine that this was why he was so passionate about the churches in Galatia not reverting back to what they understood through experience. When we divert from the gospel, our trajectory is off. This may be a small matter at first, but it can ultimately result in inquisitions and witch hunts in the name of “right” and at the expense of “good”.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship created new in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Could it be that we were created new in Christ to do good, not to be right?
Goodness-gracious, Right on, Brother 🙂