Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It? : Friday, April 22, 2
April 22 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It? : Friday, April 22, 2005
Friday, April 22, 2005

Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It?

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Galatians 3:1-9,15-29

In Paul's travels to reach people for Christ and help them establish church groups, I am reminded of an entertainer who appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show who could keep 20 plates on 20 poles spinning at once.

In this letter, Paul was distressed because the plate he had set spinning among the Galatians appeared to be on the verge of toppling. He minced no words to persuade them to achieve the proper balance in their theological view of the law and grace.

He reminded them that the Jewish people had never achieved through law-keeping what the Galatians had known through faith.

I dare say that many people still do not fully comprehend the totally freeing nature of God's grace.

Paul's letter to the Galatians is relevant to us today because we, too, are influenced easily by popular beliefs that conflict with the pure gospel. We need to be freed from a doubtful salvation earned or supplemented by personal effort or merit.

By Grace, Through Faith

Galatians 3:1-9

Paul found it difficult to understand how they could have witnessed the work of the Spirit in powerful ways and then choose to revert to a legalistic religious culture. He began with the Spirit to remind the Galatians that their experiences through the Spirit were in response to their faith, not by legal observances or human effort of any kind.

In writing to the Ephesians later, Paul penned the glorious declaration: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV) Even faith itself cannot be claimed as a human achievement, for the ability to believe is a gift of God. He pointed the Galatians toward their most revered patriarch, Abraham, to pinpoint faith as the sole basis for God's promise.

Value of Law

Galatians 3:15-29

In Paul's view, the Galatians were attempting to add a codicil to a will that was already in place. God's will for salvation by grace, through faith alone was established long before the law was given through Moses; and it became fully operative through the death of Christ.

Paul realized that his argument would beg the question of the value of the law. Employing metaphor, Paul taught that the law was given to teach what a righteous God requires and to bring us to recognize our need for God's grace.

Through the example and witness of God's chosen nation, called to strict adherence to divine law, it was clear that obedience to the law or religious duty does not fulfill one's search to please God. We can only experience justification through the freeing grace of God, in response to active faith such as Abraham modeled.

Paul viewed the whole world as potential recipients of the faith-based promise to Abraham. He saw that Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, male and female, were all imprisoned by sin under God's divine law; but gloriously freed through Christ on the basis of faith alone.

Simple Summary

I came across this simple summary of what it means to live by faith. "When God made a promise, Abraham believed it. When God's will conflicted with Abraham's, he trusted. When God gave him an order, he obeyed it" (Andrew W. Blackwood, Jr., The Epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians, 1962).

God made us a promise of forgiveness and salvation through Christ Jesus. We believe it. God's will is that the sacrifice of Christ redeems us from sin and sets us free to live abundantly and eternally. We trust it. God bids us, through Christ, to love one another and fills us with the Spirit to achieve it. We obey it. That is the Christian gospel, the way of faith.

4/22/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments

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