Thursday, April 3, 2014

Galatians 6:11-16 I’ll say it again. . .

Despite what my daughters might think about the aging of their mother, repeating oneself is NOT just a sign of senility! Repetition is a device used for emphasis and to indicate the importance of something. It is used throughout the Bible when a principle needs to be brought home. When Jesus said, “Verily, verily. . .” He was not just being redundant. He was indicating that what He was saying was of the utmost importance and the listeners had better pay attention.

Repetition is used in Isaiah 6, when the seraphim worship and declare who God is:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;

    the whole earth is full of his glory.” 
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)

This is the only trinitarian description of God. He is not called, “love, love, love” or “faithful, faithful, faithful.” While we cannot divide the nature of God into quantifiable separate qualities, I believe the seraphim's description is repeated because the LORD’s holiness trumps even the love. Regardless of what John Lennon wrote, love is NOT all we need in our God. God is not some hippie entity meditating on a hill saying, “Love ya, man!”

Isaiah wanted to impress upon us the absolute holiness of God which cannot be approached by sinful man. God’s love comes from a position of holiness. His mercy, grace, and justice flow from His holiness. Because He alone is holy, and we are not, He planned for our redemption from the beginning. So, to get our attention, the device of repetition expands our vision of God, and it caused Isaiah to see his own sinfulness and utter unworthiness.

So, what does that have to do with Galatians? Well, we are coming the end of this letter. And Paul is determined to tell the Galatians, and us, once more that it is all about grace:

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! 

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:11-16 NIV)

I have to give you Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of verses 12-15:

These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don’t keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible! (The Message)

Paul reminds his readers that the Judaizers do NOT care about the spiritual well-being of the Galatians. They are just trying to win converts to their side. They don’t even keep the laws they are trying to impose on the Galatians. They pick and choose the laws they want to obey. [Hmm... sounds like us! We’ll follow the tithing to the penny, but that one about no premarital sex, that “fornication” law? Surely that is archaic and doesn’t apply to me! That’s for teenagers!]

So, at the risk of repeating myself, Paul was all about grace! He wasn’t about to sit still and allow the Galatians to be sidetracked by legalism. I think this topic needs one more go around. More on grace next time! :)

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