Thursday, March 6, 2014

Galatians 5:7-12 Running the race unhindered

You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?  It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.  This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!  I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. 

Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended.  I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves. (Galatians 5:7-12 NLT)

Paul loved using the analogy of the Christian life being a race. He strove to run it well to the end in order to win the prize. He’s upset that the Galatians have been hindered in their race by those who wanted them to return to Jewish traditions. Apparently some were saying that Paul agreed with the need to circumcise, but he makes a flat out denial here. I find it rather funny that Paul wishes that the Judaizers, who wish to perform surgery on the Galatians, would instead just cut off their own parts! Don’t you love Paul?

This reminds me of the kind of criticism and division Paul found in the Corinthian church where they were divided over who was the best preacher of the gospel:

Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!  I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,  for now no one can say they were baptized in my name.  (Oh yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but I don’t remember baptizing anyone else.)  For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. ( 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 NLT)

Even baptism is separated from the gospel here. Paul clearly states he wasn’t sent to baptize. And he can only list a few names of those he did baptize. Does this mean that we shouldn’t be baptized? No. Baptism is an act of obedience to the model Jesus provided. It is a public declaration of our faith in Christ. It is a symbolic expression of the fact that we have died to self and have been raised in Christ. But does it save us? If it did wouldn’t Paul have proclaimed it in his preaching? He’s saying the power of his gospel was in the death of Christ on the cross - what Jesus did - not in the keeping of rituals. 

Now is this an issue that Christians should split over? No. Yet it has caused huge divisions in the Body of Christ. Our unity comes with our connection to our Savior and His finished work on the cross. It’s what He prayed for in His final hour (John 17). Jesus, who He is and what He has done, is the foundation of our faith, regardless of our denominational practices. But it’s this kind of arguing over rituals and religious traditions that we keep that is the essence of the Judaizer. We have been called to freedom, not to bondage.

So, then how do we live out this faith in a way that honors God and impacts the world around us for Christ? That will be the final focus of Paul’s letter. I can’t wait to get into the next passages! Join me!

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