Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed toRead More…
hat’s more, Paul goes on to say, in the freedom that Christ’s death and resurrection had brought to them, upholding the rules and regulations really meant nothing. In Christ, the only thing that mattered was “faith working through love.” Paul then goes on in the next several verses to explain that the only real thing that matters is fulfilling the law by Loving your neighbor as yourself.
Tell me, you who desire to be subject to the law, will you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman andRead More…
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known byRead More…
It seems to me that we often forget that we are joint heirs of Christ, and therefore have access to the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. Too often, belief in Christ is equated with eternal life, as if that is the only inheritance that we receive.
After having read Paul’s arguments for the law, I started singing the lyrics to the old Temptations song, “War.” Only I modified the lyrics, “Law! What is it good for, absolutely nothing!” Of course, that just means that I was following along with Paul’s train of thought, and going right where he wanted his readers/listeners to go. After all of this arguments, we are left wondering exactly the same question that Paul starts this passage with: “Why then the law?” If the promise God made to Abraham supersedes the law, then why was there ever a compendium of rules and regulations? Why were they necessary, if the way to God could be found through faith alone?
I think most of us, when first reading this passage, can be excused for cocking our heads to the side and wondering out loud, “Could you be any more esoteric, Paul?” What exactly is he driving at with this comment about someone’s last will and testament? People change their wills all the time, don’t they? At least before they die, so why bring this up here? It seems, that Paul wants to again make the point that God had made a promise to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. And so, this discussion about a will is really about the ultimate provider of salvation – the law, or faith.
What’s interesting here, is the word that Paul uses here to describe the Gentiles is ethnos (pl. ethne), meaning “a race, a nation” and implying any nation other than Israel. It is also the word from which we get the English word Ethnic. Generally, this word, in current usage, tends not to refer to other nations. Instead, it takes on the meaning more closely related to it’s original implied meaning of “anything other than Israel,” with the new implication being that anyone who is ethnic is not like us. It is usually uttered by those who are trying to make the distinction between themselves and others, often with the intention of separating themselves from those others; in short, it often has racist overtones, even among those who would call themselves believers. It would be more akin to Peter’s attempt to remove himself from the gentiles in Galatians 2:11-24, and less like Paul’s reminder that all are welcome in the family of God, if only they believe.
We cannot overlook that Peter, and even Barnabas joined into this division within a church of fellow believers. They heard what the people from James had said, and then turned around and refused to eat with the gentiles. Peter had understood God’s decision to include gentiles in the story of salvation. And Peter had already had a meeting with Paul, James, and John about not needing to make gentiles follow the rules and regulations of their Jewish heritage. So this decision by Peter and Barnabas to fall into a pattern of excluding people is, as Paul says, based entirely in fear. Fear that he might be ridiculed, have his authority challenged, or have his leadership threatened.
As more proof, Paul lets us know that these people “added nothing to me.” Or, stated differently, they found no fault with his Gospel, and therefore did not need to correct him. Moreover, they saw, they recognized, that Paul had “been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised.” And so they all agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles, and Peter and the others would work on sharing the Gospel with the Jews.