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Trust in God's Grace

Today we stay with Paul’s words about the church but we have moved to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. One of the challenges with Paul’s letters is that we are only hearing one side of the conversation. We can guess at the reason behind the letters being sent through the subject matter and what Paul says, but we’re never quite sure what has caused Paul to write what he does. This letter to the Galatians seems as though it continues in theme from where we left off last week with the Council of Jerusalem and questions arounds rules. We can assume that the Galatians were generally not Jewish in background but that there was a group of believers who were Jewish, and the important role of Jewish rules were coming up again. The other thing we can discern is that the Galatians were busy seeking justification and therefore salvation through the law rather than through the grace of Christ. Paul wants to argue that if we have our focus on Jesus right and we follow that way, then we do not need to think about the law or spend time on the outward showings of keeping the law (circumcision and so on). In other words, trust in God’s grace on this rather than our own particular good deeds or how we respond to the law. How we build relationships with each other and the grace and love we show in doing that counts for more. If how you live is not founded on the offer of grace regardless of how many laws you keep and pieces of doctrine you agree with then it does not count as faith. I think the challenges the Galatians had, and we have them too, is that we want to be faithful and sometimes it is so much easier to follow some path or set of rules in order to be faithful. For those with a background in the Jewish faith, and maybe even those who looked on from the side-lines, the precision of actions found in Judaism reflect a deep faith. Having rules can offer security, especially for newcomers to the faith. Jay Robinson In a move that would get him in trouble with any modern Committee on Ministry, Paul swoops back into this place he left, and corrects their practice with this furious letter. He didn’t come to teach about rules, he says, he came to impart a lesson about the fullness of God’s grace through Jesus. He offers his own transformation from enthusiastic persecutor to passionate defender as an example of how far God’s reach extends, and then reminds them that rules can never save them. Only grace can. Do we need a reminder of that as well? Are the rules getting in the way of us seeing and rejoicing in the grace of God? I think these are some great questions to reflect on. Jay Robinson

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