Saturday, October 17, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, Verse 5

Galatians 5:5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

“But by faith” Obviously, this phrase is the essence of Paul’s arguments through out this book/letter. The original language implies that the opposite sentiment is present as well – the New International Version uses the world “but” to reflect this – What this should or could say is “Not relying on the law,not relying on what WE do -- but by faith.”

“we eagerly await through the Spirit” This is the HOLY Spirit, of course. While Paul has not made the Holy Spirit his focal point for much of Galatians (he did use the presence of the Spirit and the Galatians’ operating in the gifts of the Spirit as the indicia of receiving Christ by faith rather than through obedience to the Law back in 3:2-5), but he is about to start doing so in 5:10, discussing life lived in the Holy Spirit, and freedom from the law AND from sin.

“the righteousness for which we hope.” There is very little eschatology in the book of Galatians. But here, this verse discussed how Paul and the Galatians, at that time, were “eagerly await[ing]” this “righteousness,” and that they waited in “hope.” Most of the arguments in Galatians have dealt with the here and now – how faith in Jesus, rather than obedience to the law, makes us acceptable to God now, as we are. I suppose there is always an implied concept of heaven and eternal life, but here it’s no longer implied. This verse’s “hope” apparently looks forward to the hope we all have for eternal life – our heavenly reward. It also implies the hope for the return of Christ, the end of the age, where all things will be made complete, and we all will be one with the Lord. Indeed, the implication for completeness is clear. There is a duality that Paul has only hinted at in the rest of the letter, a duality he will now begin to emphasize as Chapter 5 progresses. There are two realities at work here. The first has been emphasized by Paul’s arguments since Chapter 3 – there is a blessing and good that comes immediately through faith in Christ – by faith, we are in right standing with God in the here and now. We are instantaneously free. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet faith in Christ is not just an end, but a beginning – the start of a process. There is the beginning of a change in our lives, as we conform to God’s will and in our purpose, in our thoughts, in our actions. This is what we “hope” for, anticipate, and wait for. After a lifetime with Christ (which can be short or long, from cradle to grave, or a confession moments before death – only God determines), we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where he will pronounce a final “not guilty.” The dichotomy, the duality, is this “not guilty” is assured in the here and now through “the promise” Paul has emphasized throughout Galatians, while the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit works in us to defeat our sin nature. This same reality and dichotomy is present in the world at large – Christ has redeemed us, and offers His redemption to all, but there is also a spiritual war going on that will culminate in Christ’s return. We all “eagerly await” and “hope” for all of this. The promise redeems us now, and will continue to “work out our salvation” (see Philippians 2:12) until the end of our lives OR until the Lord returns.

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