Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
Thesis: God's "method of life" begins with being absolutely committed to justification by grace.
Introduction: We have looked in detail at the first two-thirds of Paul's letter to the Galatians. The major issues in those first two "thirds" are two: whether Paul's grasp of God's message is believable; and whether God accepts men into His Kingdom without their commitment to "be good". His answer was "yes" in both cases. However, it is impossible to read the whole of Galatians, especially the last two chapters, and not realize that the reason Paul wrote the letter is that the Galatians were moving in a direction that would seal them in wickedness. In other words, how the Galatians "behave" is front and center in Paul's interest and concern.
The problem this raises for most people is this: how can Paul expect people to behave themselves if he does not require that they behave themselves? And, bottom line, what good is a "requirement" that has no teeth? Most folks really believe that if you remove the Justice of God from the process, there are no "teeth" in that process and without "teeth" there will be only failure.
But, as in many cases, in this case "most folks" are simply wrong, and radically so because right behavior simply cannot be compelled by external pressures. This is so true that Paul felt compelled to begin chapter five with an "external pressure" to abandon "life by external pressures". This apparent conundrum is where we are going to focus our attention this evening.
January 27, 2013
- I. The "Command" to Jettison "Demand".
- A. There are two "imperatives" in Galatians 5:1.
- 1. The first is the "command" to "stand fast".
- 2. The second is the "command" to "be not ensnared again".
- a. The "again" in this case refers to the truth in 4:8-9 because it is there that Jewish "Law" and Gentile idolatry are made equivalents (the bottom line of all false theology is the belief that God/god must, and can, be leveraged into giving benefit).
- b. The issue of "bondage" always remains the same: external compulsion because of the absence of the internal compulsion of Love.
- B. On the face of it is this question: How does one consistently "demand" that a person "stand fast" in "freedom"?
- 1. If a person is "under demand", in what sense is he/she "free", and if a person is "free", to what point is any "demand"?
- 2. Is the real bottom line the claim that, when all is said and done, you really must behave?
- II. The Larger Realities.
- A. The letter to the Galatians was not written into a vacuous setting where what a person does is of no importance.
- 1. It is in this final section of Galatians that Paul warns that "if you sow it, you will reap it".
- 2. It is in this final section of Galatians that Paul points out the radical difference in the consequences of making choices and taking actions (the works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit).
- B. The letter to the Galatians was written because behavior is "value-belief-driven".
- 1. At stake is the quality of experience that a person is subjected to as a very real "pain/pleasure", "fear/peace", "humiliation/exaltation" experience (this is not ivory tower theory).
- 2. The fact is that this quality of experience is supremely about the perspective a person takes in the midst of it.
- 3. At the root of all perspective is the one that begins with a capital "T": the way one views God ("T"heology).
- a. The major question here is "how will God exercise His omnipotence in regard to the behavior of men?".
- b. Under that question is the more critical question: what is it that God values and what is it that is true so that His actions are always "value-truth" driven.
- 4. The major "T"heological issue is whether the God Who Is is "about" Justice (as a bottom line reality), or "about" Grace-driven Love.
- C. The redemption that is in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, is all about making sure the foundations of life are settled in stone.
- III. Paul's Context of "Freedom".
- A. It is not about unbridled freedom to do anything/everything that comes to mind.
- B. It is about freedom from the "teeth" of divine Justice.
- 1. Paul's demand that his readers stand fast in "freedom" is a demand that they settle the question for themselves as to whether God will exercise His Justice upon them, or not, and that they settle this question in a kind of "once-for-all" way so that the answer becomes a foundation stone for all that comes afterward.
- a. It is here that "demand" ceases to be "command" and becomes "insistent persuasion" that arises from "Love" and addresses the issues of the loves of the heart.
- b. Under grace, all insistence is Love-driven persuasion.
- 2. God is never going to apply Justice "twice".
- a. In His application of it to Jesus, He settled the issue in regard to all who are "in Christ".
- b. If a person is found to have never been placed into Christ, he/she will endure the most piercing application of final Justice forever.