Today’s passage: Galatians 3:15-29
The situation among the Christians in Galatia wasn’t good. They had put their trust in Jesus to save them. They’d heard the good news that God’s Kingdom was open and available to them through Jesus, who had dealt the death-blow to death and sin. They were a vibrant church, where there was plenty of evidence of God’s power in their midst. God’s Spirit was doing all sorts of miracles among them. God’s Spirit was living in and amongst them.
But then the new teachers had arrived in town, arguing that their relationship with God wasn’t all that it should be. These new teachers argued, no doubt, that the Galatians were being presumptuous to assume that they were right with God. How could that be the case, given the fact that they weren’t living the kind of life that God, they said, clearly expected them to live. Jesus was important… yes! But having dealt with your sins, you had to make sure that you ticked every other box required by God. Because you needed JesusPLUS
The situation among the Christians in Galatia wasn’t good. Had they misunderstood? Reading the Scriptures, wasn’t it true that God had chosen a people, and given them instructions about what sort of life He expected them to live? And if God had told them to live a certain way, wasn’t that proof that that was the kind of life that God wanted? Doesn’t it make sense to assume that if God demanded it, then if you don’t live that way, then you
can’t be right with God. That if you don’t live that way, God wouldn’t want to bless you, to give you life, to save you….
This has been the controversy that Paul has been answering in his letter to the Galatians. Without mincing any words, Paul calls out the JesusPLUS crew as talking nonsense. Already in Galatians 3, Paul has argued that the presence of the Spirit is proof that one is right with God.
In C. S. Lewis’ allegory of the gospel, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, the Creator Lion Aslan is slain by the white witch on a round table. And he dies. But He doesn’t stay dead. Aslan explains that the Witch’s knowledge of how the world worked was limited. Aslan says that, “though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she
would have read there a different incantation…”
In a sense, the same could be said of the JesusPLUS crew that Paul was arguing against. They based their requirements for being right with God on the laws of Moses. Many today base their requirements for being right with God on moral codes or socially constructed norms.
But Paul’s argument is that we need to go deeper. If we are to understand what is required to be right with God, we need to go further back into history – back to Abraham, the man to whom God made incredible promises. As Paul has argued in Galatians 3:6-14, Abraham was declared to be right with God simply because he trusted God when God made promises to him.
It’s as we look at Abraham that we see what God requires of a person for them to be made right with Him. What came later can’t change that – any more than you can choose to amend the last will and testament of your great aunt Patricia. But if all that God requires of us is trust, then why did God give the law through Moses? Doesn’t a list of legal requirements stand in stark contrast to the idea that our right standing before God depends on what God does? There was a point to the law, writes Paul. But it was never meant to be the final solution to what ails us. It was temporary – until the time when all of God’s promises would be answered with a resounding “Yes!” in Christ Jesus… (2 Cor 1:20)