Friday, July 21, 2017

Blogging Bible Study - week 8: Galatians 5:2 - 15

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
Paul has laid his arguments, given his illustrations, and now he hits the core of his concern.

Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all...[you are] obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.   -- 5: 2 - 4

I have heard that passage used to defend the concept that one can lose their salvation; but look at it closely.  It's not talking about someone who has fallen away from the faith, as in someone who returns to a sinful lifestyle.  On the contrary, this refers to folks who take it upon themselves to follow the dictates of religion... righteousness as a law... as a means of justification.  They haven't just fallen away from grace; they've abandoned it as insufficient.

He throws in the contrast of the expectation of faith...the righteousness  that comes through the Spirit by faith, expressed in love.  Circumcision, he says, doesn't really matter one way or another to those in Christ; it has nothing to do with salvation.

Then he expresses his disgust with those who have thrown them into such confusion:

You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?...The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be....As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!  -- 5:7 -12

Strong language, indeed, for a man of God. Ya think he's a little ticked off at those folks?

But look at what he says next...he exhorts the folks in Galatia to work together for their mutual benefit:

You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command:  'Love your neighbor as yourself'  --5:13-14.

See, he has just argued against the restrictions of the law, but he doesn't want them to think that now means anything goes.  The freedom from the law isn't freedom to indulge personal appetites or's for the purpose of focusing on others rather than ourselves.

I read the rather graphic final verse of today's passage and saw a different application to it...

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. -- 5:15

How, I wondered, were they biting and devouring each other?  Then it hit a religious organization, totally dependent upon works,  humans judge one another as being faithful or not based on what they're doing.  And, being dependent upon works, there is not much room for the Spirit to lead in any way at all. So personal agendas and ambitions are unchecked.  One advances oneself by stepping on another and pushing them down.

That doesn't only destroy individuals in many ways, it also ultimately destroys the community itself.   Paul is describing the collapse of a church.  Churches don't fold because they are being attacked...they fold because the people don't get along and serve shoulder to shoulder.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love... --5:6b

Is my Christian expression a following of rules to impress other folks and gain influence and affirmation?  Or is it a true service to others because of what Christ has done for me?

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