Read it Again and Think
“Dave, you’re just going to have to read it again and think about it. You’re not going to get a lot of this stuff the first time. You have to read it, read it, and then let your mind digest it, and then you’ll suddenly get that ‘Aha’ moment that means that you now understand.” This was my senior Chemistry advisor. I was a lowly freshman, struggling to understand the basics in General Chemistry, a class designed to weed out those who weren’t going to make it in the field. My advisor was telling me the truth.
In today’s Twitter culture where we think that everything can be put down in a simple sentence that is instantly understood, we’re going to have to face the fact that God hasn’t chosen to communicate with us like that in his word. Even the Apostle Peter recognized that the Apostle Paul wrote some things that were tough to understand (2 Peter 3:16). And as we move into the body of Paul’s argument against those who were destroying the Gospel, we’re going to have to take it slow, think about it, and let the Holy Spirit help us to track and understand Paul’s points. So, hang in there as we pick up Paul’s argument.
Paul has been reporting on Peter’s terrible lapse of judgment in Antioch when he suddenly withdrew from eating with Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ. He caved in to the peer pressure of some Jewish believers from Jerusalem who insisted that he was wrong to abandon the Jewish law that labeled uncircumcised Gentiles as unclean sinners. Peter’s example was so strong that the Jewish believers in Antioch joined him in shunning the Gentile believers and Jesus’ family in Antioch was fractured. Worse, Peter was saying by his actions that Gentile believers were still dirty “sinners” (Gal. 215) and this led to the conclusion that their faith in Christ meant nothing. This was a lie, and Paul points out the hypocrisy of Peter’s actions.
“Now if, while we seek to be justified in intimacy with Messiah Jesus, we ourselves are found to be ‘sinners’ then doesn’t this mean that the Messiah Jesus is the servant of sin? This conclusion is absurd. So, I say ‘Absolutely not!’ to the idea that after someone has put their faith in Jesus they are still sinners and must obey the law to overcome their sin. For if I rebuild again these things (the law and all the rules of Judaism that separated Jews and Gentiles) that were torn down, then I, too, must accept that I’m still a transgressor. But the truth is that by the law I died. I died so that I might live for God.” Galatians 17-19
Having trouble tracking Paul’s argument? Like I said, you’re going to have to read Galatians again, think about it, and let the Holy Spirit help you understand. Here are some points that will help:
LORD, use Paul’s stress that none of us can become justified before God by our own efforts at moral obedience or religious observances. Move us to revel in the new life we received by faith that unites us with Jesus’ divine life and in this gift that enable us to live not for ourselves, but for God.
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