We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. [NRSV]
Paul is caught up in a battle of traditions, power, and authority.
Galatia was a region of what is now central Turkey; that was between Greece and Israel. It was divided into four tribal groups that were known for disagreements and a tendency to quarrel. They were known to be mercenaries and slave traders. A rough crowd.
In this context, there was a church of believers who was getting grief from Christian-Jews, who were saying that converts needed to adopt Jewish traditions and adherence to the Law of Moses and then the teachings of Jesus. Namely, they were causing a stir over circumcision. (I have always thought that was a great test of salesmanship)
Paul writes to clarify this and other misinformation concerning what it means to be Christian. It is at this intersection that this passage becomes helpful to us. Think of all the cultural differences across geography and history that separate us from Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus of the Gospels and Jesus of 2016.
What does it mean to be a Christian?
- For some, it means following a strict code of behaviors and affirmations
- For some, it means a Christlike way of thinking in and believing
- For some, it is actions of service and shared fellowship of relationships
- For Paul, he felt the need to clarify that FAITH was more necessary than the LAW. (TRUST over RULES)
What most clearly defines who you are and how you order your life?
There is one of my former church members who is an over-the-top Braves fan. He is known at the ballpark as ‘Chief.’ He wears a headdress of feathers, an Indian/Native American style shirt, and pants and usually marks his face with faceprint for the added touch of authenticity. What sets him further apart is that in the last fifteen years he has only missed ten home games. His level of devotion boards on the obsessive. Chief is all in.
There was a church member from my childhood who always wore red and black clothes. He drove a red and black conversion van. His home was decorated in red and black in every room. He owned a small airplane that was also. Yes, red and black. Every weekend in the fall he attended every home and away football game of his beloved Bulldogs without exception. He is no longer married to the same woman who was my history teacher, but he is still a bulldog fan. Mr. Red and Black is all in.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is arguably the fastest man in the world, beginning winning sprint races since the age of 15 to winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in record times. Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, making him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. His signature bolt pose inspired Cam Newton and fans to dab. Usain Bolt is all in.
Paul offers himself as the ultimate fan of Jesus, who came to know Jesus, not by his devotion to keeping the rules. In fact, his attempt to keep the laws was driving him further away from God. He went from super rule follower to super Trust-Jesus-in-all-things.
FAITH: is it a belief or behavior? (Have the idea or follow the rules) And, is it a good thing or a problem?
“ it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Living “All In.”
Some might say Paul’s down-playing of the LAW was a disregard for the Jewish Traditions and Scriptures. What he found through a life devoted to keeping all the rules was that it lead him to be an enemy of Jesus. It was not until he became temporary blind that he began to see God revealed through Jesus’s life and saving work.
All in is not dressing the part. It is not having the right things. It is not even devoting our selves to life practices to be the greatest.
- IT IS: Trusting Jesus’s Work
- Trusting Jesus’s Teachings and Examples
- Trusting Jesus to show up in our words, thoughts and service.
- Trusting Jesus to be our strength
- Trusting Jesus to guide our living.
- All in Jesus, not all in my keeping the rules or ideas
Our meaning, purpose, and success in life is not having the things and awards and prizes.. it is being connected to our Creator and one another.
Paul is saying. We can Trust God because God loves us.
Rules and customs can’t love us.
Trust the relationship God makes possible through Jesus Christ.
APPLICATION: What does it mean for you/me to be Christian?
Love God because God loves
vs. Earn God’s love because I proved my love.
Think of your relationship, family, and friends:
Would you rather
people did because you told/made them what to do, or
people did for you because they loved you.
Show love because you can love someone,
Rather than because you have to love someone.