Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 7
Thesis: The nature, and objective, of Paul's efforts in respect to the Galatians consist of an intense fixation upon the exact methodology of justification so that Christ can be an Effective Resident within the bodies of those Galatians who believe.
Introduction: In our former studies we have carefully considered Paul's argument that his message of a "works free" salvation always produces an experience-based knowledge of "blessedness" in those who believe. As we come to the end of yet another segment of his argument, we find him declaring his ambivalence toward the answer to the question of whether, in fact, the Galatians are among those who "believe". On the one hand, he deliberately addresses them as "brethren" (4:12) and "My little children" (4:19) who have experienced the "blessedness" of faith in the Gospel. But, on the other hand, he just as deliberately drew the definitive line in the sand that marks the actual point of "justification by faith" and pressed the reality of faith's true fruit: an unambiguous, bottom-line, confidence in grace as the root of the actual "step" by which a person moves across that line.
This evening we are going to consider the meaning of Paul's declaration to the Galatians that he wishes he could be "lovingly and physically present" in their midst so that he could settle the tension that exists in his own heart and mind regarding the question of whether, or not, they have actually stepped over that line.
October 14, 2012
- I. The Tension.
- A. Arises out of the difficulty of human discernment of the existence of "faith" when it consists of a "mustard seed" character.
- 1. There is no problem with such discernment when sufficient time has gone by: mustard seeds produce rather large plants if given enough time.
- 2. The problem arises when a generally sufficient amount of time has gone by and there is no discernible "great tree" (Luke 13:19).
- B. Arises out of the difficulty of human discernment of the actual impact of "faith" in terms of God's response.
- 1. If the mustard seed faith is exercised early on after the pattern of Luke 17:6, there is no doubt in anyone's mind regarding the activity of God.
- 2. However, many, if not most, of the areas wherein "faith" produces a response by God are not according to the pattern of Luke 17:6.
- a. In our text, the question of whether God has "justified" someone is one of those areas in which human perception simply cannot exist: God's mind is simply not open to human sight.
- b. In our text, the "fruit" of faith, consisting of an evident selflessness (a willingness to pluck out one's eyes for the benefit of another), has its own ambiguities.
- 1) On the one hand, that willingness might actually be real.
- 2) But on the other hand, that willingness might be posturing.
- 3) And since the action is reduced to only lip-service by the impossibility of its actual implementation, there is no way for a human being to decide which is the reality.
- C. Arises out of the reality of an actual "line in the sand" that, of itself, is unambiguous, but is, when coupled to "mustard seed" faith, no longer unambiguous.
- 1. According to Paul's own statements in this letter, "brethren" may be "false" (2:4) and "little children" may not yet be born (there is no need for "travailing again" if the birth has occurred).
- 2. The actual line in the sand is "faith in grace" as the root of justification so that no one who argues against grace can possibly have stepped over the line (not even an angel from heaven will be exempt from the destruction of promotion of a false gospel).
- 3. But those whose steps have not moved beyond the "line" will have a lack of visible evidence of God's response to "faith".
- II. The Resolution.
- A. On the one hand, a definitive expression of confidence in the Gospel of Grace without confusion over the place "works" have in the reality is sufficient evidence of God's activity in the midst.
- B. On the other hand, Paul claims that if he could have a "loving, physical, presence" in their midst, he could decide for himself where they are in respect to the response of God.
- 1. The strong implication here is that visible sight, in conjunction with audible interaction, will reveal the truth.
- 2. The bottom line, however, is that all that means is that a "loving, physical, presence" will make discernment more readily possible.
- C. Therefore, the reality is: when push comes to shove, if "faith" exists, it will show up when the issues of the methodology of justification are made the focus of the debate.
- 1. If Christ has actually been "formed" within a person, He will make Himself known by the fruit of a clear commitment to grace as the methodology.
- a. The point here is that "professions of selflessness" that do not have to be actually demonstrated can easily be "love in word only".
- b. On the other hand, what a person says "doctrinally" is far more definitive -- though that, too, can be deceit (as all false teachers prove).
- 2. If Christ has not actually been "formed" within a person, those activities which otherwise might argue for His presence are simply false impressions.