Monday 27 June 2016

Bible Book:

“Those who believe are the descendants of Abraham.” (v. 7)

Galatians 3:6-14 Monday 27 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm112


Pauls' letter to the Galatians waswritten in approximately AD57, though scholars are not agreed onits exact date. It was written to the people of Galatia, who livedsomewhere in modern day Turkey. They were descendants of the Celtswho had invaded Greece in around 279BC. The Celts were defeated byRome in 189BC.In 25BC Galatia became a Roman province.

The letter is addressed mainly toGentiles (non Jews). Its tone is often angry. The main themerunning through the letter is that Gentiles who had received thegospel message did not need to adopt Jewish practices. TheJudaisers were insisting that Gentiles be circumcised. It wascustomary to circumcise male children when they were eight daysold, though this sometimes happened in adolescence. The firstmention of circumcision in the Bible is in Genesis 17 when God madea covenant with Abraham. Thus circumcision was a sign that someonehad entered into a covenant with God. But Paul argued in thisletter that circumcision was not necessary, since this would meanthat the New Covenant would be meaningless.

Chapter 3 starts with Paul accusingthe Galatians of foolishness (Galatians 3:1-5). Even though they knew ofJesus' crucifixion, some were still insisting on strict observanceof the law. Verses 6-14 provide a practical explanation of whatPaul is hoping to put across to his readers.

Abraham lived long before the law. Itwas to Abraham that God promised a blessing on future generations(Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham did not know about thelaw; he was a man who believed and took God at God's word. It wasfor that reason that he was prepared to leave his home in Haran andjourney to a strange land (Genesis 12). And it was because of Abraham'sfaith that he was willing to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22). While it is true that Abraham wascircumcised, this was a mere sign. One could not use that as areason for insisting that Gentiles be circumcised. Abraham wasblessed not because he observed the law, but because he had faith: "The one who is righteous will live by faith" (v. 11, quotingHabakkuk 2:4). It was this verse which madeMartin Luther realise that the Church of his day had got it wrongby insisting on outward rituals. Paul also quotes the example ofAbraham in Romans 4 where he elaborates it in more detail.

Thus Abraham was a forerunner ofChrist, the one who sealed the new covenant. One could neverobserve the whole law. Belief in God does not depend on observingthe law, but on a personal relationship with God. This does notmean that people can do as they please, but rather that salvationdoes not depend on observing outward rituals. Insistence oncircumcision, was, in a sense, a step backwards, needing an outwardsign when the Holy Spirit had already been poured out God'speople.

To Ponder

  • To what extent does the Church still place too much emphasis onthe observance of outward rituals?
  • What does being a descendant of Abraham mean for you inpractice?
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