Last night I read the book of Galatians by the Apostle Paul. It’s 6 chapters long and took me about 15 minutes to read. It’s helpful and instructive to read the New Testament epistles all the way through, from one chapter to the next because the flow of thought and logic can be easily lost if too much time elapses between chapters. As I think back to last night’s reading, I remember several themes of Paul’s letter. I know this summary will be incomplete but it's a working summary none the less and it is with me.
WHAT I REMEMBER…
I remember that Paul introduced the letter with the conviction that he was called by God. He began to exhort the churches of Galatia not to abandon their faith in God and settle back into their former ways of living. For some, that was Judaism and for others it was the ignorance and idolatry of life without God. St. Paul writes about our freedom in Christ Jesus and confronted those who were living under the new covenant in his blood, while still compelling others to follow the rules of the law. In essence, Paul is writing about the Spirit of faith verses the letter of the law. We were called to freedom, and Christ set us free from the curse of the law to obey him from the heart according to the Spirit of God.
THE LAW OF THE HARVEST
In chapter six, Paul introduces the law of the harvest by explaining that God is not mocked. In other words, he can not be made a fool, deceived or manipulated by human actions. Whatever we sow, that will we also reap. If we sow to the flesh we will reap corruption, but if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. Galatians 6:7 ESV
MORE LESSONS AND GEMS
There are more lessons and gems hidden in plain sight in the epistle of Paul to the Galatians, but the last thing I remember was that Paul closed his letter with the conviction, among other things, that neither circumcision or uncircumcision counts for anything but a new creation is what matters. Circumcision is from the flesh but a new creation is from the Spirit. Paul was being made into a new creation, not by his circumcision or by works of the flesh, but by the Spirit of God that powerfully worked within him.
If we can read a portion of Scripture and remember some of the key lessons later, we are better able to take the teaching of God and apply it to our lives, beyond the initial reading experience. With time, the lessons we learn through Bible reading will begin to overlap in our lives and we’ll see patterns of doctrine and behavior come together. According to the will of God and by his power, we will become more like Christ, both in our behavior and in our understanding.
A NEW CREATION IS WHAT COUNTS!
We all have the physical capacity to understand and remember spiritual truth in a way that is transformative. The transformative power, however, is not in our flesh but through the Spirit of God. As the Apostle Paul said, circumcision (or the flesh) counts for nothing, but a new creation is what counts for everything!
And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:16 ESV
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 ESV