- Galatians 1-2
As one of my friends prepared to depart for Seminary another of my friends said to her, “Don’t let them take the cross away from you.” Those were words of wise counsel that pertain to Galatians 1 and 2.
It’s safe to say that the Galatians have found Paul’s buttons and after a word of succinct greeting he comes out swinging, gloves off. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one…” (Galatians 1:6-7)
Paul is rightly outraged – not that he needs my approval – because, in essence, there are false teachers who are trying to take the cross away from the Christians in Galatia. False teachers, to whom Paul often refers as Judaizers, are attempting to steal the freedom found in the cross of Jesus. They are trying to return them, or turn them, to the burdenous attempt to measure up to God through their performance and keeping of the law.
Jesus himself, speaking words of woe (loving warning), criticized the Scribes and Pharisees for similar behavior warning that “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4) Paul knew firsthand the burden of the law and the freedom made available in Jesus Christ.
Regularly and repeatedly, and again here in Galatians 1, Paul speaks of his former life, a life that tried to reach God through his performance. He speaks first hand to the relentlessness of that life and the vanity it entails. And, once again, Paul says that wonderful word, “but”…
In a moment, according to God’s gracious goodness and divine plan, God freed Paul through Jesus Christ. Jesus revealed himself to Paul, opening his eyes (through initially blinding them) to the love and grace of God, his unmerited mercy and kindness, freeing Paul and sending him forth proclaiming the grace of God that was given to the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul rightly goes after those who would steal the mercy and freedom made available to us through our faith in Jesus’ cross and resurrection. The enemy will try to steal this freedom from us, desiring us to be bound, not free, dead, not alive. However, to borrow a word from Paul, “but”…
But God frees us in the gift and work of his Son Jesus, not through our own works (Ephesians 2). Brothers and sisters, I remind you and invite you, along with me, to rejoice in the freedom we have in Jesus, who made himself sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Our freedom is found in what he has done and not in what we can do.
God is well aware of our sins and shortcomings and he not only invites us to come to him, he comes to us in Jesus his Son. Abandon your attempts to measure up – to reach God through legalistic performance and attempts at self-righteousness – and find the freedom Paul found and proclaims in Jesus.
Then we can joyfully join him in saying, through Jesus’ merits and not ours, “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, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Don’t let them take the cross away from you, which is to say, don’t let them take freedom away from you.!