Galatians: Fare Thee Well

This past weekend we completed our series Modern Pagans: A Study in Galatians. After five months and numerous teachings, conversations and discussions we made it through what is, I believe, a very important book for Wheatland.

In our last night I did a quick summary of our study by highlighting one passage per chapter. I include these verses, with very brief summaries, to keep our minds focused on the main points of the Apostle Paul’s message.

Galatians 1:8
The Gospel is really important to Paul. So much so, that Paul consigns himself, and anyone else, to Hell if they corrupt the simple message of the story of Jesus, crucified and risen, the Lord of Creation.

Galatians 2:20
While this passage deserves an entire sermon I need to make three quick points about it. 1) Life in Christ is a cruciform, cross shaped, life. Self-denial, sacrifice and the imitation of Christ are central for the Christian person. 2) Christ in us, the mysterious yet wonderful reality, is a normal experience for the Christian. Cultivating this awareness is of utmost importance. 3) Our lives in the “flesh”, our human experiences, are not only endured by really lived through faith in Christ.

Galatians 3:28
Equality is good. Christians should promote it. The tearing down of barriers between different people groups is good. Christians should participate in it. Oneness is the work of God. Christians should live into this deeply important truth.

Galatians 4:19
Are you tired of this verse yet? I hope this oft repeated verse will become a central part of Wheatland’s vocabulary. “Until Christ is formed in you…” suggests that the process of discipleship, sanctification, spiritual formation all point toward our continued conversion.

Galatians 5:6
“–the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Following in the steps of Jesus, Paul makes the point that the law really is summed up in acts of love for God and toward our neighbor. If this was good enough for the Galatians it is good enough for us.

Galatians 6:14
Standing at the center of our faith, at the center of our lives is the cross. A cruciform life comes when we encounter the Gospel of Jesus.

Yes, I didn’t mention Abraham, the fruit of the Spirit, and many other important things we covered. But how much can you do in such a short span of time? This has been a fun series to teach and I have grown a lot in this process. Thanks for your contributions to our the talks and sermons.


A New Law…

What a great way to sum up the message of Galatians. Thanks JD for helping with this song this past weekend. 

don’’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for
don’’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

don’’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

from Derek Webb’s, Mockingbird, 2005

Sermon Leftovers

I cannot remember the last time I taught or preached and didn’t have some things left in my outline. This should come as no surprise known as I am for my abnormally long prefaces. We did hit the main thrust of Paul’s argument against the misuse of the Law and how its misuse destroyed the lives of the Galatian people. We also discovered how Paul “really felt” about those who were leading them astray. (Gal 5:7-12)

Let me share something from our discussion in Galatians 5 this weekend that I did not get around to.

A question was posed to me not long ago by a student. If the Galatians were not under the Law then how did they know right from wrong? How could they differentiate between sin and right behavior?

In the text Paul gives two answers that are intricately related. Paul begins by saying, “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” The first exhortation, for these young Christians, was to live according to the direction of God’s Spirit and they would not live in sin any longer. Secondly, Paul reminds the Galatians, or perhaps outlines for them for the first time, what exactly these sinful acts are. (Gal 5:19-21) For people with little or no contact with the Old Testament law this list of sinful behaviors is quite descriptive and useful. (It is useful even for those who are familiar with the OT law!) While Paul makes it clear to the Galatians that the ceremonial aspects of the Law do not apply to Gentile believers he, albeit very briefly, summarizes much of the moral law in his letter.

Paul then comes full circle. After using two negative approaches to make his point he ends with a positive one. He stated what living in the Spirit is not, what kind of behaviors one is to avoid and then describes, in beautiful prose, what life in the Spirit is. He describes the fruit of God’s Spirit that is borne out in the lives of God’s people through submission to and cooperation with the Holy Spirit. He reminds his Galatian children that “those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”. (Gal 5:24)

Finally, a life of holiness is punctuated with the simple phrase, “keep in step with the Spirit”. Leaving us with the image, once again, that life lived with Christ is a journey. On this journey, our ability to know right from wrong comes from Word and Spirit, Spirit and Word lived out in the community of the faithful.


“Practicing the Kingdom”

Last Saturday night we had a great discussion on Galatians 3:26-29. We talked briefly about the idea of us becoming sons (and daughters) of God and the idea of “putting on Christ” and the interesting way that the Apostle Paul writes about Christians being both “in” Christ and Christ being “in” Christians. (Gal 4:19) This is suggestive of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.

We also spent significant time looking at the Gal 3:28 and the removal of the great divisions which existed between the three different groups highlighted. It is worth noting that these three groups – Jews/Gentiles, slaves/free, and male/female – were representations of the greatest social divisions which existed in that day and age.

We also took time to examine how Gal 3:28 is an image, or preview, of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is at hand, to use Jesus’ words, and it is still to come. The removal of divisions between these three very divided social groups is a picture of God’s Kingdom where everyone is not merely equal, but one. Yet again, another reflection of God’s nature.

If Gal 3:28 is a preview of the Kingdom what are some things that we can do to “practice the Kingdom”? What can we do to make these things come to pass in our families, church, and other relationships.

1 More Time…March 24

This past Saturday we read from Galatians 2 with a special emphasis on 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Who do you think is being crucified? Is it just Paul the Apostle the writer of Galatians? Is it Paul and all Jews who have started following Jesus? Is it the modern reader? What do you think?

Also, we introduced the idea of purchasing shoes to take to Haiti. We have three opportunities for you to bring a pair of new, inexpensive tennis shoes for kids age 4-15. Any size is welcome. We will start stuffing shoes in a dufflebag this weekend.


1 More Time…Mar 10

Saturday night we returned to our discussion/exploration of the book of Galatians through our series, Through Pagan Eyes. This week we looked at the conflict which erupted between Paul and Peter over Peter’s mistreatment of Gentile Christians. (see Gal 2:11-14)  Paul, in typical fashion, was deeply and visibly disturbed by what Peter was doing and felt that he violated an essential aspect of the Gospel, the unity and oneness, of all Christians through the Messiah.

For the Apostle Paul, any active prejudice toward another body of believers is an affront to the Gospel. Reconciliation, so important in some other parts of Paul’s writing, is seen by him to be crucial to the Gospel. From this angle we see that Paul’s confrontation was for the benefit of both Peter and all those who would have witnessed this confrontation.

In God’s new economy reconciliation, restoration and oneness are key. How do 21st Century Christians, like ourselves, diminish the Gospel through not valuing reconciliation or hiding prejudice in our hearts?

This season of Lent, a season of repentance directed toward restoration, is a perfect time to experience reconciliation in a relationship with which you are struggling.