Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Galatians 1:3-5 What’s the big deal?

One of the challenges of teaching writing to fifth graders is to train them how to write a cohesive paragraph that has a thesis statement which tells immediately what the main idea of the paragraph will be. Conversely, in their reading they are being taught to find that main idea and the supporting details in passages we read. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, his thesis is clear from the outset: we are saved by grace. Paul was writing to redirect the Galatians back to the original gospel message of salvation by grace. So, even from the initial greetings in this letter, we can sense Paul’s passion for the simplicity, yet magnificence of God’s grace.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)

Paul regularly included the phrase “Grace and peace” in his greetings. Without grace, there is no peace. Unless we understand the magnitude of the unmerited favor God has given us, we will never know true peace. Grace has often been described as getting what we don’t deserve, while mercy is NOT getting what we DO deserve. Truly there is nothing in us that deserves what Christ did for us!

Notice that grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. These are GIFTS! In fact, Paul remind us that Jesus gave himself for our sins. God is doing the giving here. He is not receiving our good works to guarantee peace and grace, but rather giving Himself to secure our salvation and peace with God. There is no amount of good works I could do to earn my salvation. 

Think of a balance scale with the weight of your sin on one side, pinning that scale to the floor with its mass. Now imagine trying to even budge that scale at all with your puny works added to the other! Impossible! They wouldn’t even have the weight of the period at the end of this sentence. The only thing that cancelled out that load of sin was Christ’s death. It astounds me that He was willing to leave His glory in heaven to come down here and live fully as a man in a world that rejected and despised Him, so that I could be forgiven!

I know that it won’t be until I see Him face to face that I will be able to grasp the magnitude of His grace and forgiveness! But it so humbles me and frees me. I remember that when I first committed my life to Christ, I was overwhelmed by a sense of that weight being lifted - while, just minutes before that I did not even acknowledge that I was carrying the weight of my guilt, because I had so denied it. There is no way prior to my conversion that I would have considered myself anything but a “good person.” Sure, I made “mistakes,” but sin? What an outdated, hellfire-and-brimstone concept! So, when that weight was actually lifted as I received His grace into my life, I felt like I could soar, because that burden was GONE!

But, grace isn’t just something which saves us from Hell and guarantees our entry into Heaven. It’s not just about the hereafter. No, Jesus died to also deliver us from this present evil age. His death on the cross made possible our walking in victory even now. We have ALREADY passed from death to life. He has given us everything we need to be transformed in THIS life. He’s given us, through the work of the Holy Spirit living within us, the power to walk in His righteousness rather than be held back by our past. We have the power to love and forgive those who have hurt us. We can experience freedom from bondage to alcohol, drugs, sex, the need for the praise of others or whatever holds us captive. We can actually live as He sees us! Oh, yes. To Him be the glory forever and ever !!!!!

So, when you have experienced grace of such indescribable worth, you get why Paul made such a big deal about the doctrine of grace, and you will see why he was so passionate in his defense of it. He had delivered this gospel to the Galatians, he had nurtured their beginning in Christ. So when he saw them slipping back into bondage, he was compelled to admonish them. And that’s what this letter is all about!

Can’t wait to go on!

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