Formations lesson for May 8: Living Out What We Say We Believe : Friday, April 22, 2005
April 22 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for May 8: Living Out What We Say We Believe : Friday, April 22, 2005
Friday, April 22, 2005

Formations lesson for May 8: Living Out What We Say We Believe

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Galatians 2

I had an interesting phone call recently, from a 47-year old man who was seeking answers to a variety of troubling questions. Raised in both Methodist and Baptist churches, he never settled down into any one church. Along the way, he learned to argue the gospel rather than experience it.

It made me sad to realize how far off center believers can get even when they have had a church background. But, it is not a new problem. In the early days of the church, there were times when very sincere believers would find themselves on opposite sides of situations.

The Dilemma

Galatians 2:11-14

In the latter part of Galatians 2, we find that even the apostle Peter and others veered off center and exhibited hypocritical, alienating behavior. Due to social fear in the face of strong religious opinions held by significant believers, Peter and others acted differently when some leaders were present. How distressing it must have been for Paul to find that even his trusted and respected friend Barnabas swayed from the right position.

What a dilemma! Whom would you have supported?

James, the brother of Jesus, was holding rigidly to the Old Testament law of circumcision for Gentile converts, while a former Jewish persecutor of Christians was insisting that Gentile believers should not be required to submit to Jewish laws. It would have been hard to oppose James, the brother of Jesus. I imagine everyone assumed the brother of Jesus would surely know the right answers!

Back to Basics

Galatians 2:15-21

However, it would have been equally hard to ignore the powerful persuasion of Paul who contended that the gospel set everyone free for salvation by grace, rather than by the futile attempt to earn God's approval through religious laws. He called them back to the basics that Jesus had taught them. Jesus had confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the prevailing religious culture of His day. He sought to move them past rigid adherence to the letter of the law to discover the freeing intent of the Spirit of God.

Paul kept the main thing the main thing in the face of all controversies. He sought to help Jerusalem leaders recognize that his inclusion of Gentiles was based on the same gospel they preached, founded in the grace of God who gave His Son for our redemption.

Paul proclaimed with certainty that the gospel is all about grace - we are justified by faith alone, with nothing added.

We can be grateful for Paul's clear-headed understanding of the gospel. Through his writings, we are assured that faith in Christ is sufficient ground for justification and forgiveness. But, we are also challenged to make sure that our faith in Christ informs our behavior. Paul believed that the love of Christ should constrain us to keep the right focus no matter who may lose theirs.

Live it Out

So, how do we appropriate the gospel in our choices and life actions? Living out what we believe can be confusing, lonely and a scary experience. We, like Peter, can lose sight of the meaning of the gospel when faced with competing ideas held by respected persons.

But, when we give in to social pressures, we never discover the joy of sustained commitment to Christ. When we do remain firm on the right issues, we find fear replaced with peace, hypocrisy replaced with love and confusion replaced with truth. Paul's advice to us would be to take the gospel to its farthest extent by expressing the complete inclusive love of God in daily choices.

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

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