|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 1
Meditation Title: Glory to God
Gal 1:1-5 Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-- and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Each one of the epistles in the New Testament was written for a specific and different reason. They didn't just happen. Each writer addressed a specific situation. Here the apostle Paul addresses the churches in Galatia where, it had come to his attention, certain Jews were trying to anchor the growing Christian faith back in Judaism, to try to ensure that the Jewish practices were maintained. Thus they were annulling the wonderful work of Jesus – that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ (plus nothing!) and we are sanctified not by doing works of the Law but by faith-led obedience. It was this letter the stirred Martin Luther into action that brought about the Reformation: “a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:16)
Thus Galatians challenges us over our freedom – or lack of it! I have previously written a series of daily studies in Galatians so why now write ‘meditations' covering the same book? The answer is twofold. First, those studies by their very nature were limited by space and were intended as just introductions to the book. Second, in meditations we have the opportunity to explore more widely the content and personalize it and make it more devotional, more applicable to our personal lives, if you like.
For instance, this letter or book (call it what you will) from the apostle Paul starts with a subtle reminder that he is what he is by the calling of God. He is an apostle because Jesus has so called him. He was not one of the original twelve, but has received a specific and separate calling to be what he is. This, he feels, is necessary to say, because he needs to establish his authority for speaking as he is going to speak, because what he will say will run contrary to the beliefs of many of his readers, and they may well try to deny his authority to speak. This is Paul, but what about us? Do we realise that we, if we are born again Christians (see Jn 3:3, 1:12,13), also have a calling from God to be what He has designed us to be in His kingdom (see Eph 1:4-14)?
Paul comes to the Galatian churches (at least through his letter) desiring grace and peace for them, as he did for all those he wrote to. Grace was essentially the resource or blessing of God to enable us to live as His children. Peace is what flows when we are living like that. Even though Paul is about to chide these churches, it is still, nevertheless, his desire that these believers be blessed. Even though we may disagree with others, can we make sure we still desire their best? There is often a tendency in Christian circles for argumentative debate that actually seeks to demean the opponent. It should not be. We should always we seeking to lift up our opponents into a place of blessing in Christ. If we cannot have that attitude, we should remain silent. God wants His ambassadors to be reconcilers.
Having got those preliminary introductions out the way, Paul immediately starts referring to his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – the Lord Jesus Christ who comes to rescue us . More than that, Jesus has come to rescue us from the present evil age , from being part of a godless and unrighteous world. He doesn't take us out of it literally, but he does spiritually so that we are new creations living in the old world. This is the will of our God and Father . What has happened, and is happening to us, is all because it is part of God's plan, the plan of the One who comes to us to bring us salvation through His Son, so that we can call Him Father. He comes to bring us into relationship with Himself.
The ultimate purpose of this, implies Paul, is to glorify God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism of 1674 starts out, “What is the chief end of man?” and gives the answer, “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” Do you see the two elements: glory and relationship. To glorify God simply means to honour Him with the honour that is due to Him, to declare Him as He is, to exalt Him in our own eyes so that we see Him and proclaim Him as He is. Everything we do as Christians is to that end. How important it is, therefore, that we read, study and understand His word so that we represent Him as accurately as we can, as we seek to glorify Him by the way we live and the way we proclaim His name. It was because the Galatian Christians were being led astray and because they were now misrepresenting God, that Paul writes this letter. We will see as we read on, that they had an ‘add-on Christianity'. It was no longer a faith that simply relied on justification by faith in the finished work of Christ, but that PLUS things needing to be done.
I once had two members of a modern well-known cult appear at my door. The younger one gave an excellent testimony of salvation which I applauded and agreed with entirely. It was an excellent testimony of salvation through faith in Christ. I told them that my own testimony was almost identical and then, knowing their goals, said, “If you are still here in ten minutes time, you will prove that that testimony is not adequate for you and you don't really mean it” Ten minutes later they were will there, telling me how I needed to believe in their book to be saved. I reminded them of my opening comments – and did it again a further ten minutes later. The young man at least has a perfect testimony of salvation, but for their order, that wasn't enough. There was an ‘add-on', something more that was necessary to ensure my complete salvation. That, as we'll see, is what Paul objected to! This is a book that has strong implications!