Galatians 1: 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being…21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. [NIV]
My first thought was the wisdom of Paul essentially tying his relationship to God way back to the womb, the safe place where growth first begins. We know a lot about Paul’s gift of evangelism. We know Paul by his fruit that expanded God’s church enough to include the likes of us. We also know Paul’s history of his dark in-between years and that’s what caught my attention. Paul’s story is really a story of God’s provision to redeem the flaws of “in-between” years.
The church is our second womb. It’s a God created place full of flawed people with their own in-between years. People that need a safe place to grow. I’ve begun to understand why God would choose to fill his house with those flawed people and still give them Spiritual gifts. We admire those gifts when we see them work. They’re not just gifts given because they build his church. They’re the same gifts God uses to rebuild the flawed people who find a home there.
There’s a blessing in knowing I’m a part of the place of rebuilding where what I lack is not the downfall of the church I love. God has made the church his provision for each of us where your Spiritual gift can become part of my growth as we learn how to expand his Kingdom together.
Paul writes of that marvelous work of God and his own in-between years that were designed to destroy. His words are reminders that God uses gifted, flawed people to reveal himself in each of us, in his church and the world. It wasn’t boasting that gave the Apostle Paul the courage to say “…they praised God because of me.” It was knowing God had taken the dark flaws of his in-between years and made them the reality of his redemption when “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [NIV]
I try to find ways to read Scripture to experience it’s meaning for my life. That one word “freedom” and the association Paul made to the fruit reminded me of a study method I’d learned from William Barclay’s commentary. Jewish Rabbis would study Scripture based on these four words that formed the consonants of PaRaDiSe:
1. Peshat – literal
2. Remaz – suggested
3. Derush – investigative
4. Sod – allegorical
That idea of reading Scripture as a connection to paradise seems helpful and right. Here are my cliff notes if you want to try this method of studying the Bible for yourself.
1. What is the simplest possible meaning?
2. Is there a sub-text meaning?
3. What can I learn from references, footnotes & commentaries
And finally the bottom line…
4. Can I see how to make these truths a part of my daily life?
1. Paul tells us our freedom was the whole point of what Christ did to free us from the “law.” We have within us a willful desire to identify freedom with being satisfied that what we are doing is right if we meet certain requirements. √
2. Relying on what we think God requires of us instead of Christ changing us is an invisible barrier that distracts us from the real freedom God means us to experience. √
3. New thoughts from Rev. Bruce Puckett at Duke University. “We are a society and a culture that loves (and I mean loves) to talk about freedom… we’ve looked for the wrong fruit within a community and called it freedom. We see…desire for more and more and more — and call it ambition and success. We see strife, dissensions, and factions…and call it our right to individual opinion, and options from which to choose.” √
And finally the bottom line…
4. Pay attention to the distractions of daily life. Don’t let them become an invisible barrier that settles for “fake” fruit. “Walk by the Spirit…” and choose a serving from the fruit of freedom: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It’s a daily thing.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I wrote the words below nearly 40 years ago. I had a deep emotional understanding that Galatians 2:20 had really happened in my life. Christ’s life in me was complete and my life in him was a promise. I could live with that! There’s a purpose along with the promise of that one verse – growth! Life happens and wounds happen but flesh is healed by “faith in the Son of God.”
We were saved by recognizing the beauty of the scars the Son of God bore in our name. Now we have the privilege of sharing this assurance of growth – the beauty of our own healed scars.
Reprise: To Life! https://readandponder.com/?s=To+Life%21
Posted on June 29, 2015 but written in the “olden days” of the 1980’s.
“Imagine the position of a body on a cross. Feel your feet pinned with your ankles together so that your legs are useless. Sense your arms pinned outstretched as far from your body as possible, unable to provide any defense or protection, leaving you completely at the mercy of your surroundings.
As I hung there, pinned not by nails but by my own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, excuses and tears dripped from my wounds, not blood. At last, when the pain was too great I could barely speak “Be with me, God, I’m so alone,” and it was finished.
There were friends, then, who cared for me in my brokenness who prayed and stayed with me until slowly the pulse of new life grew stronger and steadier and I was free of the shame of my scars – able to say, My wounds are healed, but the scars remain as a sign of the resurrecting love of God Amighty.” Shirle Bedient
Galatians 4:4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
I’m lucky enough to have had good experience with a father’s love. It’s not quite the straightforward story you’d imagine though.
An excerpt from my post on 2/3/16
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion.
I really can’t add the word “step-” to this father because he was as real a Dad as one’s heart could hope for. It was his role in my life that formed my image of how a father’s caring and love worked in daily life. In case that sounds too syrupy, he was not a perfect man, by any means, but he knew about being a gentle and caring Dad. The truth is I’ll have to wait for some eternal future date to discover whether there is reality to my hope about his status with God.
But I am absolutely sure of this: that caring, humanly imperfect man played a part in helping me understand that adoption was A Matter of Hearts; his, mine and ours. The heart of that adoption made room, much later, for a new reality that “God [could send] the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
From John Piper February 10, 2007
The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is located not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. And this act is not part of his ordinary providence in the world; it is at the heart of the gospel.
Abba, Father…Thanks for both of your hearts.
Galatians 4:1 & 2
1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.
The only connection I can see between Galatians and Advent is that it’s about an heir. That word certainly describes Jesus, God’s son, who’s lineage is well documented in the Bible. For that baby, that heir, God provided a trustee mother and a guardian father. They did their job well “until the time set by his father.” That all fits.
There’s more to the story though. Romans 8:17 tells us “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” This walk to the cradle has led me to consider God may have chosen us to be modern-day guardians and trustees of his legacy…As Well As Heirs.
• guard·i·an; a defender, protector, or keeper.
• trust·ee: an individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with a legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.
gene ther·a·py – noun – 1 the transplantation of normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders.
From Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“…The Pharisee is that extremely admirable man who subordinates his entire life to his knowledge of good and evil and is as severe a judge of himself as of his neighbour to the honour of God, whom he humbly thanks for this knowledge. For the Pharisee every moment of life becomes a situation of conflict in which he has to choose between good and evil…”
Bonhoeffer describes the personal life of a Pharisees pretty clearly in that first paragraph. That phrase “knowledge of good and evil” made me think of the Garden of Eden. There was only one tree Adam and Eve were NOT to eat from. It was the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We’ve all got a little a little bit of that same Pharisee DNA in us and that’s a tough sentence to live with.
But God has a plan to get us out of that genetic trap. It’s the very first, and most effective form of Gene Therapy to replace those defective cells. Some call it born again. I call it Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.