Friday, November 16, 2012

Gospel Meditations from Galatians Pt. 4

...just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Galatians 3:6-9

Imagine you are a first century Christian.  You are living in uncertainty, worshipping a god who doesn't seem to hear or answer any of your prayers.  You tear your clothing, you beat on your chest, but nothing seems to work.  One day a man by the name of Paul tells you about a God who is real and even walked on the earth.  You had heard rumors of Him, but you didn't realize His significance.  Here was a God who came down to earth and died for you!  You receive the message with joy, gladly accepting and believing in Jesus.  You immediately become a part of the church in your city that has been established by Paul.  Paul stays in your town for a while and continues to add more believers to the church.  Your zeal for Christ also compels you to want to reach others for Christ as well.  You talk to your neighbors and everyone you know.

Eventually Paul leaves to establish churches in other towns in your region.  You miss Paul, but you greatly enjoy the teachings of the leaders in your church.  After a few months, a group of Jewish people, claiming to be believers in Jesus come into your church.  The leaders of your church gladly allow them to begin teaching.  When they begin teaching, they read from Genesis 17:9-14, and Exodus 4:20-26.  They begin compelling you and the rest of the church to be circumcised.  Immediately alarm bells begin going off in your head.  If this were so important, how come Paul had not told you about it? One of the leaders of your church stands up and asks the very question that is on your mind.  These Jewish "Christians" respond by saying questioning Paul's authority to share the gospel with them.  "He isn't even one of the 12 disciples of Christ!" Paul was the one who lead you to the Saving One...how could he have left out this truth?  These men, however, seem to have authority.  You are confused, and beginning to question everything you have been taught...

A few weeks later you're in church, and one of the leaders of your church stands up and begins to read a letter.  It's a letter from Paul...as he begins to read the letter, you learn very quickly that Paul is very upset...he says things like "You foolish Galatians!"  He rebukes your church in many ways, but he also gives words of comfort and peace...you are thankful to hear that the gospel you first heard was true and right.

This is the setting that the letter of Galatians was written in. These people who had come to the churches were compromising the gospel by saying that there were works associated with the gospel, namely circumcision. When Paul hears about this, he's furious! We see in the book of Acts though, that Timothy is circumcised so as not to offend the Jews (Acts 13:3). Why then is Paul upset about this? What's the difference? The difference is that this is the gospel that is in question! This is everything that the true Christian faith was and is based on! He could never compromise this! He had to nip this in the bud, so he reacts by sending the churches of Galatia the letter that is known as the “Epistle to the Galatians.”

As many of you know, I’ve been doing posts on this epistle all semester, as we at Northland have been working our way through it. The passage that is quoted at the top of this post was the passage that we were in this week.

I remember I have a friend who’s a new Christian back home, and he asked me once. He said, “How come Jacob did so many bad things, and yet the Bible says he was blessed?” I remember giving him the right answer that can be found in this passage, but I did not realize that I could take him to this passage to show him why it said he was blessed.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah…David…Joseph were blessed because from their seed would come Jesus, the savior of the world, the one who would reconcile God to man. He would pay the price for our sin, and tear down the wall of separation created by our sin, bringing those who believe in Him back into the fellowship that He intended from the beginning for us to have with Him.

One great part of this passage as well, is the beginning…”Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” I remember that growing up in church, I always had the idea that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament operated very differently. The God of the old testament was a God who showed no grace, and that there was no righteousness imputed by faith in the Old Testament. This passage shows us that the God of the Old and New Testament are the same God. It was always His intention to count our faith as righteousness. They were justified by faith in the Old Testament just as those in the New Testament and today are justified by faith. The means by which this reconciliation happens is different today though. The Old Testament believers had faith in God, and the fact that one day He would send the savior. The looked forward to it, but they never saw it. They believed in what was to come, but we believe in Him who has come, Jesus Christ.

So awesome to see the progression in the Bible…from the beginning, as early as Genesis 3, there’s the prediction of the coming savior. The whole Old Testament is like one building story…the tension builds throughout the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it reaches it’s climax at the coming of Christ. Then the resolution is the salvation He provided through His death and resurrection.

Abraham was a pagan who believed in a coming Messiah, we are pagans who trust in a Messiah who has come and is coming again.

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