Archive for September 24th, 2013

Galatians 1 & 2

Paul opens his letter to the Galatians by telling them a little bit about the beginning of his ministry and relationships with some of the other apostles, using the stories to make a couple of points about the growing religion. I would like to share a few of those here.

First, Paul tries to make it clear that there is only one true gospel: the one brought about by Christ’s life and death here on Earth. Any other gospels, or “shootoffs” of the Christian faith that do not come directly from God as the true one did, are false, and should not be followed, no matter their origin. He even says that, should he or an angel from heaven begin teaching a different gospel, they should not be believed or followed, describing those that do such things as accursed. (Galations 1: 8-9) I thought this was interesting because it explicitly says that we should only follow the gospel we know, regardless of whether any new one comes along. However seemingly promising or good such paths may seem, Paul promises that they can only be bad.

Some interesting dynamics about the early church are revealed in the second chapter. Apparently there was a good bit of dispute over whether former Jews and gentiles should be treated any differently. Paul writes that, although he felt called to evangelize to the gentiles and others (Peter) were similarly called to bring the good news to the Jewish, this was simply a division of labor, and there should be no fundamental difference in how gentiles and Jews worshipped, acted, etc. It telling the Galations about this, Paul hoped that they, being gentiles, would not feel inferior or not as authentic as other churches because of their past. (Galations 2: 7-8) This is important to remember today. No matter what denomination we are, what our personal spiritual history is like, race, or any other factor that defines us here on this Earth, it does not matter in the eyes of God. We are one people united in Him, and should treat other Christians (and ourselves) as such.

Stemming off of this, there were also questions about whether the old Jewish law was still valid, to which Paul definitively said “no.” In verse 16, he says that “a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified.” This is a fundamental shift in Jewish ideology. Instead of needing to prove oneself to God by following his rules (which the notes accurately state is an impossible task), we only need to believe in Jesus and that he has taken on our sin, saving us. Paul says that he has “died to the law” which probably means that he no longer worries himself with trying to justify himself, to live in God. (Galatians 2: 19) And like the verse in Colossians about being hidden in Christ, Paul writes that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Galatians 2: 20) I don’t know about you, but I’m very thankful that we don’t need to justify ourselves through following rules. Having that pressure would be like the pressure to get good grades from my parents (which, for the record, I also am glad I don’t feel like I need to deal with), but so much worse. So I’m not sure what all I can do to thank God, except for simply saying “thank you.” So, thank you God for saving me.


Chi Alpha Reflections: Finding Jonathans

Tonight’s Chi Alpha message is kind of hard to explain because it was meant to be taken and thought about personally, as something we could do in our own lives rather than something we could share. The speaker talked about David and Jonathan’s friendship, especially for the five or so chapters that Saul is set on killing David. (1 Samuel 18 through 23, and a of couple incidents later on) The speaker explained a little more of the historical significance of some of Jonathan’s actions, as well as the fact the Jonathan recognized that David would take his inheritance, yet remained a great friend.

Finally, he told us that we should find one or two friends that can be “Jonathans” for us. Rather than just being “fun” people, they should be the type of friend that shares our faith, strengthening and supporting one another no matter the circumstance and not expecting anything in return. This reminded me a lot of a verse from Proverbs: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27: 17) If we have good friend that we agree with on terms of faith, our friendship will automatically be that much deeper, and as a result our faith can become stronger as well. The speaker also quoted Eugene Peterson in saying that “Friendship [with friends like Jonathan] is as important as prayer or fasting.” That’s pretty important.

It also made me think a little bit. I don’t feel like I have a Jonathan yet. I have really good friends from high school, and am developing what I hope will be good relationships here at college, but faith is not something that many of those friends and I share. I am sure that, in time, I will find some good friends of faith, but thinking about it makes me excited (and a little bit nervous) about who those people will be. I want to know who they are now, because really deep friendships with shared faith (with people who are my age) are something I have not had for some time, maybe ever, and I feel like that’s something I’m missing out on. So until I know who my Jonathan(s) is/are, I keep telling myself to have patience and keep my eyes open. I’m also telling myself I should go to bed, because it is two hours after I wanted to be in bed originally, so I’ll do that too.

Chris Tomlin – Lay Me Down (with Matt Redman; from Passion 2012)