Thursday 04 October 2012

Bible Book:

"The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?" (v. 2)

Galatians 3:1-14 Thursday 4 October 2012


Sometimes promises are so long in beingdelivered that you forget about them as well-meaning-but-emptywords (eg I'll come and visit you again soon; One day I will getthat garage tidied). Long ago, at the start of God's family offaith, God made a promise to Abraham. The promise was that throughAbraham's family all the nations (Gentiles) would be blessed (Genesis 12:3 - "in you all the families of theearth shall be blessed"). It seems that (in the thousands of yearsthat followed) this promise was forgotten by the people of Israel.It was for them as if God had replaced that promise with somethingmore important: giving them circumcision as a sign of theircovenant relationship (Genesis 17), and later revealing the whole law.But deep within Paul's faith was the memory of that promise, andthe faith that God always keeps his word.

The Galatians would have known little ofthe history of Israel, but Paul calls them "foolish" (v. 3) becausethey've known something even better than history: the Spirit movingamong them, right there and then! God's Holy Spirit (as often withnew converts to the faith) had been working wonders with the youngchurches of Galatia. The opponents to the gospel, however, may wellhave been claiming that unless they followed the whole Law theywere not truly children of Abraham. So in verse 5 Paul asks them aquestion: this Spirit - this life of God living in you - how didyou get it? By following traditions and doing certain religiousthings? Or by believing the good news of Christ? The Spirit is thetrue sign of a person's relationship with God, and their faith (thevery thing Abraham was famous for) is the mark that they are indeeda child of Abraham.

Paul goes on to show how, in theScriptures, "the works of the law" (v. 12) are described asdemanding, all-consuming, and not sufficient to create thatrelationship with God we call 'justification'. The law (on itsown), he suggests shockingly, can be summed up in one word: "curse"(v. 13). God promised a blessing for the world, and instead Israelwas labouring under the opposite. What was needed was someone whocould live up to the law - to take the curse and turn it inside-outand release the blessing that was promised all along - the blessingthat only comes through faith. On the cross, hanging on behalf ofus all, Jesus did just that. 

By faith we know you strong to save-
save us, O Saviour always near!
All that we hope, by faith we have,
future and past subsisting here.
(StF 457, Charles Wesley)

To Ponder

  • What other promises of God can you think of? Many people findthat remembering these promises and trusting in God's faithfulnesshelps them when life or faith is difficult. To what extent can yourelate to that?
  • Can you remember times when you have experienced God's Spirit?What happened? What 'other things' sometimes come in and get in theway?
  • How do you understand what Jesus did on the cross? How do youthink it releases God's blessing for us?

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