Friday, June 16, 2017

Blogging Bible Study: Galatians 3:1 - 14

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Nope, Paul does not beat around the bush at all. The first five verses of chapter three are plain exasperation, one rhetorical question after another:

Did you receive the the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?
After beginning in the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 

All which follows hard on the culmination of chapter two:  If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Any answer to Paul's questions HAD to recognize that it was through belief and the Spirit that God's work is done in them, not by following a ritual or code.

Paul emphasized that with the example of Abraham, quoting  Genesis:  He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)   Furthermore, Paul uses the Abrahamic covenant as evidence that people who were not Jews would come to faith in God, declaring that the Gospel was foretold in the promise to Abraham that "All nations will be blessed through you." It is faith, Paul says, that makes someone a child of Abraham and a partaker of the promise.

Then he moves his argument to the futility of following the law, because the law does not impute only identifies transgression.  In fact, it puts everyone who does NOT follow the law under a curse. But, Paul states, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by taking the curse upon himself at crucifixion, quoting Deut. 21:23. He is going to expound on these principles in more detail later, but  he basically sums up his argument in verse 14:

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

This was the teaching that got Paul into trouble over and over again with Jewish leaders... that God would include the Gentiles in the promise with the Jews.  But Paul's point is that the blessing comes by faith, not by actions and certainly not by bloodline.  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (v. 7)

He actually follows the logic Jesus laid down in an argument he had with Jewish leaders in John chapter 8.  'If you were Abraham's children,'  said Jesus, 'then you would do the things Abraham did.'
and, as Paul pointed out, Abraham believed God.

Our Christian culture doesn't necessarily adhere to Jewish laws, but we do have rituals and regulations.  Church attendance itself is frequently referred to as if it imparts righteousness.  While valuable for many reasons, merely attending church does not make us righteous.  What other rituals or religious actions does our culture want to substitute for actual faith in God?  Are there times when  the enemy uses a failure to observe some ritual to convince me I am unworthy of God's attention?  Where am I tempted to consider myself right with God just because I did something religious? 

Here's a discussion question...does the religious activity (ie, a daily quiet time) lose its actual value if we try to make that our mark of personal devotion, substituting the action for the actual belief that God will meet me and teach me as I study?  Or is there any benefit from doing something for the wrong motives?


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