Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials : Friday, April 8, 2005
April 8 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Galatians 1

What horrifies you? Is it terrorist bombings or tsunami devastation? What makes you really angry? Is it news of a child abduction that ends in a backyard grave a few steps from her own home? What troubles you deeply? Is it a father who may have been imprisoned wrongly for 13 years or a woman's earthly destiny caught in a triangle between family, government and medical science?

Paul was that distressed over people accepting a different gospel. Paul's letter to the Galatians raises some interesting questions. How deeply are we moved by people who forsake sound theology to accept a re-defined Christianity? Does it horrify us and grieve us enough to intervene?

An Apostle's Authority

Galatians 1:1-2

Paul established his basis for intervention on his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road when he saw the glory of the resurrected Christ in such dazzling splendor that it blinded him.

Apostles were understood to be persons sent and invested with authority to proclaim and uphold the standards of the one who commissioned them. On the Damascus Road, Paul had been given his marching orders from the Lord Jesus himself.

Another Gospel

Galatians 1:4-9

Paul was horrified, angry and deeply troubled, to say the least, because the Galatians had departed from the basic principles that he had preached. Paul was indignant that people he had instructed in the faith were being led in a different direction, choosing a "different gospel" than the one he proclaimed.

The Galatians were adjusting their vision toward a different view of Christ and a gospel of salvation dependent upon works.

When people all around us, within our churches and our own families, choose "another gospel" other than the one handed down by the Apostles, does it trouble us as it did Paul?

Paul used strong language to express the strength of his objection. It is abrasive, even jarring, to our consciences to read Paul saying that anyone should be accursed! It seems out of step with the gospel of grace and love in Christ. It calls us to look deeper and determine what Paul saw as anathema. Two questions emerge for us: (1) what should we be ready to defend passionately in our faith? and (2) what are our credentials for making the defense?

What is the hill of belief on which you would die? For Paul, it was the gospel of justification by grace, through faith in Christ, as opposed to a false gospel in which salvation was still tied to certain aspects of the Jewish law. The issue was freedom from religious legalism; but the central problem was an insufficient view of the efficacy of Christ's atonement.

Grace is hard to grasp. The tendency in human nature is to make our own way and pull our own weight. It is hard to understand that we can do absolutely nothing to earn our salvation and are instead completely dependent upon the love and grace of God at work in Christ Jesus on our behalf.

Building Credentials

Galatians 1:10-24

Are we ready to defend the gospel of grace? Jesus gave all believers for all time their credentials in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). I have often heard Christians lament, though, that they don't know enough to witness.

Paul would not allow past heritage, former pursuits or lack of knowledge encumber his witness in any way. He took the time necessary to pray, study, research, interview and understand the gospel.

We can build our credentials in the same way. The gospel of grace is worth the investment of time to grow in effective witness. When you know in your heart that Christ has, through no merit of your own, set you free from bondage to self, unrealistic expectations, guilt, fear, sin and judgment, you know enough to start!

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments

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