Saturday, March 12, 2016

Finishing Well

Scripture: Deuteronomy 19-21, Galatians 3

"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" Galatians 3:2-3

One of Paul's favorite subjects was the relationship between Law and Faith. This was the Law that God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites as they left Egypt and were moving toward the Promised Land. The purpose of the Law was to curb and prevent God's people from evil. God promised blessings if the Israelites obeyed, and curses if they disobeyed the Law. The Law was good because it came from God, but the Israelites could not keep the Law. Time and time again, they disobeyed the Law and paid the consequences. This is what Paul calls the curse of the Law, in that as soon as you do not obey it you are at odds with God. We call this sin, which separates us from God.

But Paul is more interested in what the Galatians had received previously, which was grace. Grace was God's promise of forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the seed of Abraham, who was called the father of the faith. Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham, that the righteous shall live by faith. Abraham believed in God's promise by faith, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) By nature, faith is trusting in the One in whom you believe. Faith is relational, in this case a relationship between us and God. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness, and we receive these great gifts by faith.

This is why Paul is so disappointed with the Galatians. After starting their relationship with God by faith in Christ, they are reverting back to being justified by the Law. Meaning their relationship with God moved from trust in Him, to trust in their own works. By trusting in the Law for salvation, we are trusting in ourselves. By trusting in God's free gift of grace through Jesus, we are trusting in God and His promises.

We are not immune to the foolishness of the Galatians. It is so easy for us, having started with grace, to return to the Law. What does this looks like? It is a subtle movement from trusting in God, to trusting in ourselves. It is a subtle shift moving the emphasis from what God has done for us, to what we can do for God. As Paul says in 3:3, "Having started with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish with the flesh." In another verse Paul says metaphorically, "You were running the race beautifully. Who cut in on you and stopped you from obeying the truth?" Galatians 5:7

So while we start the race with Christ by faith and reliance on him, we can easily wind up running on self reliance. So it is no wonder why we are burned out and joyless. Having been set free from the Law, we can easily return to slavery. The Good News is it is by Christ we began our journey of faith, and it by Christ we will finish. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!" You are running a good race with Christ, don't let any one cut in!

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