Monday, February 8, 2010

Galatians Journal: Chapter 6, verse 18 (closing out the Book of Galatians, and my Journal!)

Galatians 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

The last verse of the entire book/letter. We could pass over this quickly if we’re not careful – it just seems like a typical “doxology” style closing. Not bereft of meaning, but ostensibly not a lot of practical application. But if we dismissed this so easily, we’d be wrong – we'd miss Paul’s final sentence summary/emphasis on the major themes of the book.

Paul uses this type of blessing to sum up and close many of his letters (see Romans 16:20, Philippians 4:23, 2 Timothy 4:22, Philemon 1:25). But in the context of Galatians, this simple blessing serves to help sum up the entire message.

If we pick this simple sentence apart, there are 4 sections and concepts to emphasize. “Grace;” “Lord Jesus Christ;” “your spirit;” and “brothers.”

“Grace” The foundational concept for the book of Galatians. It is not what we do, or what we try to make ourselves into that brings us favor with God – it is the promise, it is God’s merit-less favor, His merciful kindness that unites us with Him, and nothing more.

“Lord Jesus Christ” It is Christ’s merciful kindness, His sacrifice that opens the gateway to our relationship with God. It is His Grace, and his Grace alone. Plus, he is “Lord.” He is the King of Creation, and the Universe. Each of us is part of his divine plan and purpose, and he lives us enough to have died for us.

“with your Spirit” The word here for Spirit is the same word used to describe the Holy Spirit – the third person of the trinity. This word can be used to describe the Spirit’s personality or character (as in “Holy” Spirit) or to emphasize His work and power (i.e. the “Spirit of Truth”), but the emphasis here shows that “Spirit” is not some depersonalized force – this is a Person, with a real and distinct identity, the co-equal of God the Father and God the Son. But because of the transformation of our lives in Christ – the “new creation” – He is now “our Spirit.” Paul has emphasized throughout the letter (Galatians 3:2-5; 5:16-26) that once we’ve been baptized in the Spirit, and filled by the Spirit, we “walk” with him in a supernaturally transformed life. Fulfilling the law was impossible (see Galatians 3:10-12), but now that Jesus has paid the price for the curse and the Spirit has filled and empowered us, we can walk in the fullness of the kingdom and please God. (see Galatians 5:16-18, 22-24).

“brothers” And here is the second major emphasis in the book of Galatians. The word for “brothers” here is a very powerful Greek term. “Adelphos,” a term we Americans recognize today from the name of the city of Philadelphia, the city of “brotherly love.” The ancient Greeks used this term to describe a sibling relationship, or in more general terms, to describe people of the same race or nationality. It might also be used to describe any fellow human being in the sense of a common bond of humanity (i.e. “the brotherhood of man”), it implies an extremely strong bond of affection. Paul, a Jew by birth (and an aristocratic one at that) was closely identifying himself with the ethnically Greek Galatians as if they were part of his family. Paul’s use of this term, I believe, is meant to show that ethnicity has no place in the Kingdom of God as far as acceptability to God or each other is concerned. The great heresy of the Galatian churches was as much ethnic prejudice as it was theological – the two concepts are inextricably wed to each other. The great sin of the American churches no different – we separate by ethnicity and culture as well. Many of us American Christians have correct theology to start – we believe in the promise, believe in salvation by grace, and recognize that obeying a set of rules will not make us right with God. But then we use a standard of cultural conformity to reject whole classes of other Christians, calling it “theology” when its really all about race, ethnic culture, or denominationalism. 1 John 2:9 say “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.” Many of Christians here in America today have a correct view of theology, but walk in that same darkness. I pray for a gift of repentance for myself and my brethren, that we may turn from our arrogance and pride in our ethnicity and traditions and embrace the truth. We need to grasp the essence of Paul’s message in Galatians if we are to be effective witnesses of the Gospel in the world today.

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