Sunday, October 18, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, Verse 6

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

“For in Christ Jesus” This verse is sort of a “proof text.” By that, I mean it’s a summary of the reality and truth of the Gospel message, and therefore of Paul’s entire argument/presentation here in the book of Galatians. Its like an “if-then” statement. Another way to translate this opening phrase is “If we are in Christ Jesus, then . . . “ The power; no-- the REALITY of Jesus in our lives proves itself by the fundamental transformation manifest in our lives. This, of course, is because of Jesus, and our living relationship with Him, and not our own efforts.

“neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value” This is the obvious conclusion of all of Paul’s arguments in the letter, and in other places in Paul’s writings. This is the practical reality of this spiritual truth. In Galatians 2:21, 5:2, 6:15, as well as over in I Corinthians 7:19, Paul expresses the very same concept. But in this context, this helps complete our “proof,” our “if-then” statement. If we are in Jesus, then – obedience to the law, or any set of rules, doesn’t count. By the same token, because obedience to the law for the Galatians meant adopting ethnically Jewish customs and discarding their own native culture – in other words, to become Jewish, rather than Greek – the if we are in Christ, then matters of race, ethnicity, culture, denomination, language, music style, etc. don’t count. Galatians 6:15 says the very same thing, but with the opposite emphasis – it is the “new creation” that counts!

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” James 2:18-19 states that “faith without works” is useless. Some have tried to use that passage to prove that in order to be right with God, there must be some sort of obedience to rules, some sort of “good deed” in order to please God, or in order to be saved. In other words, to rely on just “faith” is not enough. That is not what James means, and its not what Paul is saying here. In the context of this verse – again, as a “proof text,” – Paul is making a very important distinction. Faith is not simply an intellectual assent, or some sort of abstract theological principle. Faith serves as the foundation for our relationship with God, but it serves as the spark that ignites the fuse. REAL Faith is a living force in our lives. It activates and energizes (verbs implied here in the original Greek) our relationship with God. We aren’t doing anything in and of ourselves – no good deeds or outward obedience is involved – but it’s the relationship we now have with God through faith, its our transformed nature, the concept of being a “new creation” that begins a process, a change. Faith is more than agreeing with God – it’s a living, transformational trusting in the grace of God. This will express itself in acts of love. In I Thessalonians 1:3, Paul notes that the Thessalonian Christians have produced good things in their lives through faith – “good work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is not describing people being obedient so as to earn “brownie points” on the heavenly ledger. This is describing a change in nature; this is NEW CREATION!!!. What is being “expressed through love” here is not just an effort to be obedient, but a life so changed by Christ through the relationship made possible by God’s unconditional grace, that it now simply desires to do good in response to the unfathomable love of God! The word in this verse for “love” in the original Greek is “agape.” This is the highest, noblest word for love in the Greek language; it is unconditional, unlimited love, love with no boundaries – indeed, it is the love expressed in John 3:16, where it says, “For God so loved the world . . .”

In the context of our “proof text,” then, the proof is complete –

If we are in Christ, then

1. Obedience to the law doesn’t count;
2. Ethnicity and culture doesn’t count;
3. We ARE transformed, we are “new creations;” and
4. This transformation will be made manifest in us – other people will see that the grace of God, by faith, is the thing that has changed and transformed us.

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