Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
October 30, 2011
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
1901 ASV Translation:
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?
4 Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain.
5 He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
- I. The Six Questions.
- A. Who bewitched you? [See Notes for Oct. 16, 2011<125>]
- B. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [See Notes for Oct. 23, 2011<127>]
- C. Are ye so foolish? (A repeat of the first part of 3:1 upon which we will not expand because the Notes for Oct. 16, 2011<125> seem to us to be sufficient coverage).
- D. Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (A repeat of 3:2 upon which we will expand because of its introduction of a critical and fundamental principle).
- 1. It is clear that Paul expects his readers to make a critical linkage between "received ye...?" and "having begun...?".
- 2. It is also clear that Paul, himself, believed, most fundamentally, that the initial principle(s) of relational methodology between God and man does/do not change. Whatever gets the relationship established also keeps it going.
- 3. Given these clear realities, what we find is this: God's relational methodology is set in this context as an either/or issue. Either the relational methodology is most fundamentally a matter of human determination to render obedience to "just" demands for the purpose of enjoying the "just" recompense of that obedience, or the relational methodology is most fundamentally a matter of human yielding to the obvious because the Truth is True.
- a. From Paul's perspective, any human determination to "do" because it "is right" arises out of what he calls "flesh" and any human determination to "yield" because something is so obviously "true" arises out of what he calls "Spirit".
- 1) This perspective sits astride a most critical reality: "doing" in order to gain is evil (Luke 14:13-14), and "yielding" because something is irrefutably true is good. What most people do not understand is that relationships in God's relational universe are destroyed as soon as "you owe me" comes into the picture. As soon as a "loving" act (I did this for the sake of the beloved) turns into a "leveraged" act (now that I have done this, you owe me), love has been corrupted and the relationship is doomed. The "look at all I have done for you" argument that constantly arises in conflicts is clearly a statement: "You owe me".
- a) This raises questions from many directions because the "gain" motive is in place in a host of settings.
- b) The answer to the majority of these questions rests in the recognition of the boundaries of Jesus' "relational" principles. He was not opposed to "business" where a person does things under the rule of law to obtain monetary gain, nor was He dealing with casual interactions that do not have a "relational" objective in view. He was dealing primarily with the issues of relationship wherein a "relationship" is actually involved. Selling someone a car is not a "relationship" issue; it is simply a "commercial" issue that operates under the rule of law.
- c) At the heart of the issue of "relational" boundaries is one most fundamental issue: is the action/motive involved designed to move a person into the "relational realm"? The complication is the question of whether "law" has anything to do with what is contemplated as an action.
- d) In our text/context, the issue is not "commerce"; it is the question of how one gets to be a member of the "family" of God.
- e) A sub-thesis within the issue is the question of what the function of law is supposed to be in the "relational" and "non-relational" universes.
- 2) At the heart of this reality is the issue of "motive". Clearly, the "justice" approach to life is deeply wedded to "gain" as a base motive, and, just as clearly, the "truth" approach is deeply wedded to the simple acceptance of reality without any questions of "gain" or "loss" -- reality is what it is. Those who yield to it do so because it is, not because they can manipulate it to their advantage.
- b. "Beginning" is the point of the initiation of a relationship with the God of Grace by His extension of that Grace in the form of "calling" (1:6). Paul's view of man is that he is deliberately evasive of any contact with the God of Truth (Romans 3:11 compounded by Romans 1:21 and 25) so that any resolution of the "distance" of alienation will have to begin with God and His initiatory activities. The identifiable initiatory activities include the overt, historical activities of reconciliation involved in the death of the Substitute and, then, the extension of a "summons" that comes in the form of irrefutable Truth so that "yielding to the obvious" is the only legitimate response that the evasive, non-seeker, can give. Thus, "having begun" is encapsulated in Paul's phrase "by the hearing of faith" in 3:2. "Receiving the Spirit by the hearing of faith" means, therefore, "having begun by the Spirit".
- 1) The "hearing of faith" is the key methodological principle. We must understand it. At its very core is this: "hearing" involves "believing". It is, as Hebrews 4:2 says, the "mixing" of the thing preached with the response of yielded acceptance.
- 2) In Paul's equivalent phrases, "works of law" are "works that arise out of a commitment to a legal framework for interaction, and "hearing of faith" is a hearing that has its root in a commitment to a "promise" framework for interaction.
- c. "Being made 'perfect' " is what obviously follows "beginning". The "beginning" was for a purpose and making progress to that end is what "being made perfect" is all about.
- 1) Making progress in the accomplishment of the intention of the relationship is the goal of the reconciliation that began the relationship.
- 2) Making progress can be accomplished by only one methodological principle: believing what is heard. If that is turned into "obeying what is required", we are immediately "in the flesh" for one simple reason: love does not "require"; at most it "requests" (but, with love, even "requests" are not for the sake of the one making them).
- E. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?
- F. He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (A repeat of 3:2)