In His Letter to the Galatians (continued)
The Situation Among the Galatians (continued)
From the strong terms used in this letter we can gather how intense are the feelings of those concerned. Of course, these Judaizers are very, very strong. They have pursued Paul wherever he has gone. They have sought by every means, by personal attack and by argument and persuasion, to undo his work and to lead away his converts from him and bring them back to Moses. Paul is found here, as I have said, in a state of perfect vehemence. This Paul, so capable of forbearance and longsuffering and patience, as we saw in our last chapter in the case of the Corinthians, where every kind of provocation to anger was met by him - the wonderful, wonderful patience and forbearance of Paul with those people - yet here the man seems to have become stripped of all such forbearance: here he is literally hurling anathemas at these men. Twice over, with a double emphasis, he says, "Let him be anathema ... so say I now again, Let him be anathema" - accursed.
Now, when Paul gets like that, there must be something involved. For a man like Paul to be worked up in that way, you must conclude that there is something serious on hand. And indeed there is, and this very heat of the Apostle indicates how serious was the difference between these two positions.
The Answer to the Situation
Now, in the letter we may feel that there is much mysterious material. For instance, in drawing upon Old Testament types, Paul uses an allegory the incident of Hagar and Ishmael. We know the details; we are not going into that at all. There seems to be a lot of mysterious material that Paul is using for his argument. But when we have read it all through and considered it and felt the impact of it, what does it all amount to? When we have studied this and been impressed with its seriousness, what is it that we are left with? Is it just a conclusion about legalism - that the Law no longer holds us in bondage, and we are freed from it? Is it that a dispensation of liberty in that respect has been introduced, and that its principles are no longer binding upon us? Is that just the position? Is it that Christianity is something without obligations as to truth and as to practice? Is it that grace will override all our breaking of laws and violating of principles? - a false interpretation of grace indeed! - but is it that? What is it?
You see, it is possible to grasp very truly the value of a letter like this, but for it to remain, after all, just a theological matter, a mere matter of doctrine. Yes, the Letter to the Galatians teaches that we are no longer under the Law of Moses, and that we are free as children of God. Very nice, very beautiful! But where is that going to lead you? What does it amount to? All that is negative.
I wonder - and this is the whole point just now - I wonder how many of us are really living in the enjoyment of the secret and heart of the gospel, as it is presented in this letter. Paul is saying much here about the gospel or the good tidings. What really is the gospel, or the good tidings, as found here in this letter and in this particular connection? After all, it is not just that Christians want to be 'liberatised' - freed from all restraints, from all bondage and all obligations. This is not it at all. You and I want to know something more positive than that. We cannot be satisfied with mere negatives.
(continued with # 16 - (Christ Within)