Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4
Thesis: If there is a legitimate basis for "glorying" based upon "works" it absolutely does not allow that basis to be rooted in a comparison of "my" works to "your" works.
Introduction: Last week we looked into Paul's declaration that it is "insane" for a person to think he/she is "something" when he/she is "nothing" and noted that the statement has a specific "context" relating to the central issue of Galatians: can a person actually "do" something that warrants an identity as "something"? This is the same basic issue of the question, "can a person do something that can be used as a foundation for arguing that the person deserves heaven?" In other words, being "something" means being inherently capable of doing something that should lead to legitimate admiration and being "nothing" means being inherently incapable of that kind of effort.
Because this seems to be Paul's point -- that fallen creatures have an absolute inability to warrant legitimate admiration -- the immediately following statement raises some serious questions. This evening we are going to look into that following instruction to see what Paul meant when he wrote it.
September 15, 2013
- I. The Meaning of the Statement.
- A. The overall impact: stick to your own "works" in seeking to see yourself as "something".
- B. The particulars.
- 1. The goal Paul is addressing: "exulting".
- a. It is clear that the point of a person's examination of the quality of "works" is to get to "exulting".
- b. The question is why this objective is in view.
- c. An evaluation of the word group in the New Testament reveals that the essence of "exulting" is the "feeling" that one gets when, in spite of sometimes major opposition, one's goals are emphatically realized.
- d. When we stop to think a bit about this "feeling", we realize that it is, actually, the core issue of "Joy".
- e. What this boils down to, then, is this: the essence of "Life" is "Joy" and the essence of "Joy" is this "feeling" of exuberance.
- 2. The suggested means to this goal: doing some work, or works, that produces this exuberance.
- a. Paul says that the means to the end is "let each one put his/her own works up to the standard" to see if they meet the criteria.
- 1) The crucial issue here is one's own works as opposed to someone else's.
- 2) The critical action is the comparison of the works to the criteria.
- a) The fundamental criteria is the requirements that the glory of God bring to the table.
- b) A disallowed secondary criteria is the comparison of one's own attempts to meet the fundamental criteria to someone else's attempts (the criteria has not been met simply because someone else's efforts are less than what is required -- 2 Corinthians 10:12).
- b. If the criteria is met, one can be exuberant.
- II. The Question the Statement Raises.
- A. Is Paul serious?
- B. Is it ever possible for a person to legitimately evaluate his/her own works in light of the glory of God (1 Corinthians 4:4)?
- C. Why would Paul posit an impossibility to his readers?
- 1. His objective is to block the relationally destructive attitude of personal superiority.
- 2. His method has more than one part.
- a. On the one hand, he requires the action of "restoration" to be rooted in "spirituality" and extreme caution.
- b. Then he insists upon the attitude of genuine desire to be helpful.
- c. Then he plainly declares that "we are nothing" when it comes right down to any sense of an inherent ability to "do" up to a given standard.
- d. Then, finally, he insists that it be one's own "works" that are to be put up against the standard of the glory of God; not someone else's.
- 3. The final impact, then, of Paul's cautionary exhortation is the prevention of anyone thinking that it is their works that make them "able to exult".
- a. This is stated pointedly in 6:14.
- b. This pointed statement makes the exhortation of 6:4 an actual impossibility both in terms of what is to be done as well as obtaining the outcome by that means.
- c. It is a fundamental theological fact that one's value in the eyes of others (the actual root of the "feeling" of exultation) is never to be realized by what one does for them but, rather, by what they are willing to do for one (my value in the eyes of others is measured by what they are willing to do for me, not by what I am willing to do for them).