I wasn’t known personally by the Christian churches in Judea. They only heard a report about me: “The man who used to harass us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.” So they were glorifying God because of me. – Galatians 1:22-24
Okay, friends, confession time. I’m using this blog post to help myself prep for this evening’s Bible study with my small group.
It makes sense though, because not only is this interesting stuff, but the message from Galatians is stunningly relevant to the particular moment we find ourselves in, here in the summer of 2020.
In summary, Paul (the passionate and erudite Jewish scholar God personally recruited to articulate the groundwork of Christian theology), begins the book of Galatians by doing two specific things.
- First, he warns the Galatians that they have missed the essential point of Christianity and need to accept Christ’s gift of Grace.
- Then he shares some of his own origin story, reminding his audience that this understanding about Grace is not just a doctrine he was taught in Jerusalem but a transformational revelation from God.
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the gospel I preached isn’t human in origin. I didn’t receive it or learn it from a human. It came through a revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12
My point in posting about this is twofold:
- From the very beginning, faith in Jesus was in danger of being reduced to legalistic religious rule-following. This remains a problem today.
- Jesus has always been in the radical transformation business, and he is still capable of turning people around – no matter how lost they appear.
“At one time I was committed to the destruction of Christianity,” Paul told them; “now I preach Jesus and the power of Grace to set me free.”
Here’s my question. Do we believe that we have been set free? Or do we still suspect there are elements of the redemption equation that require correct religious practice in order to avoid condemnation?
Do we believe that this world will be saved from its current insanity by getting everyone to follow the same ideology, or to adopt our religious rules, or to get on the same page politically…? or do we believe we will make more progress by sharing the good news about God’s Grace, and introducing people to the Jesus who has set us free?
Interestingly, Paul may have been all about Grace and freedom from the law, but he also spent a lot of time and energy in his letters teaching those new Christians how they ought to behave!
The bottom line for Paul was “the Grace of the Lord Jesus”, and Paul knew that embracing the transformational love of Christ would lead to love, light, peace, mercy, encouragement, and more grace. Or, as my wife Rebekah puts it, “Living into that Grace we have experienced.”
I will let Paul put his stamp on this discussion: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3-4).
Amen, brother Paul – Derek