When you step out of the Pew, go to the library and stumble into the theology section, for the layman seeking to increase his knowledge a new word will arise to test his perseverance. I started this week to work with verses nine and ten but as I read and researched them, up came the old Wesleyan habit of being sure of the context leading to these two. I decided to include verses one through eight. For those of you keeping count we will now look at verses one through ten. At this point I introduce you to that new word.
1: of or relating to eschatology or an eschatology
2: of or relating to the end of the world or the events associated with it in eschatology
Now the theological side of the word.
1: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind
2: a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind specifically : any of various Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment
This very important part of Christian faith prompted Paul to share some very practical advice with the Galatian churches and in some ways that advice fits well into the narrative of the church today. From the very start of time it is obvious that God did not intend man to live a life of solitary. Paul believed that Christians should live as a community of faith. Paul viewed the church as an extended family, sharing the good times as well as the bad, feast and famine and to do good to everyone; specifically to those in the community of faith. There is a point here that many find uncomfortable. Living life in the Spirit is not meant to be a solitary endeavor, it is a life lived in a community of faith. Herein we find an interdependence that many are not comfortable with.The concept of an extended family and the responsibilities that it entails can be overwhelming. As a community of faith we are responsible for each others spiritual health, which may require concern as well as encouragement for other “family” members. We must learn to live together in a spirit filled and loving way, never forgetting that common bond that holds us together……we are members of the body of Christ and our welfare depends on our willingness to care and comfort each other as the spirit leads us. There were those in this time that favored the teachings that pointed to an elaborately detailed law of Moses as a guide to life, which was in direct contrast to a community guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s vision of living a holy life. Many Galatians desired a comprehensive manual of instruction so to speak. Paul gave them some simple thoughts as to how a spirit led community might look and the values that would be needed. Jesus led a life of self sacrifice always giving and never asking anything in return. Jesus presented a picture of loving service to the Father and putting others first. Paul urges the Galatians to bear each others burdens by conforming to the self-sacrificial pattern of Jesus’ life. The modern term might be to ask yourself “what would Jesus do?” Galatians 6:2 presents a quality of Christian behavior that is found in Christ’s service through which he brought the fulfillment of the law as intended. There are those that would use the law as a barrier against other people. There are those that use it to further their own standing in the community of faith. So one of the simple thoughts would be to emulate the life of Christ by being imitators of Christ and his love and service to others.
There is discord and rivalry within the community as suggested in parts of chapter five and in 6: 1-5 it is an issue Paul addresses here. Much like the churches of today this conflict produces situations that weaken the ministry of the Christian community and presents hard realities the church must face. One of the issues causing problems was the questions about circumcision. I will put my own twist on this and hope not to offend those of a different view. This issue attempts to decide who can and cannot belong to the church. Any time the church becomes involved with fleshly practices and uses those to set the exclusionary criterion for membership in the community, the will of the spirit is by-passed for things not of God’s will. Our rivalries and conflicts will never be settled until we accept the leadership of the Spirit and understand our common identity is centered on our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be willing to accept personal accountability and self examination. We must look within ourselves and our service to the faith and to Christ. We must not do things just too boast to ourselves later, or worry about how we appear to others. We must test our own works to see that it is pleasing to God and strengthens our Christian life as we strive to live our lives with God. It is in this way we will be able to eliminate the things that lead to corrupting our relationships with one another. Now I will use the word. The church has lost sight of the eschatological factor, God’s judgement. Our present state has become our evil age yet we hear little if any judgement preaching. Will we be judged solely on our own works? Some say that is what 6: 5 implies. Did we do all these Godly things on our own? Here is another point to add to Paul’s letter. Our works were not of independent achievement but rather the spirit working through us. We are the instruments of God and it is only our letting Christ work through us that we are able to accomplish his will. This next point is one I put great value in. Verse six seems to imply that Paul thought the Galatians had a need for proper teaching. With all that’s going on in this world the church sometimes finds itself short of those needed to instruct others in the word, or lacks the resources that make that teaching ministry possible. The church can and often does lose its sense of direction without a proper teaching ministry. I believe the word, the Bible, provides the best orientation for a path forward and is critical to the spiritual health of the faith community. Faithful study and instruction of the scriptures is necessary in a Godly faith community.
It seems there are always new issues that the church must confront and in Paul’s day this was also true. The church is new and many of its first members are Jews who have accepted Jesus Christ. Imagine, many of these people not only saw Jesus but many heard him speak in the synagog, so it is not surprising that this particular issue was causing some discord in the new church. Circumcision was a topic of great debate. Must you be a Jew first before you could be a Christian? Do we sow to the flesh or to the Spirit? We have reached the last point in Paul’s letter. The Parable of the Sower is a parable of Jesus found in the three Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. In the story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Paul presents the Galatians with a choice. Will you sow your trust to flesh or Spirit? This time it is Paul who uses the seeds to teach and instruct. These seeds will either fall to the flesh or the Spirit and where you commit your hope, energy and resources will determine the course of your life. Here we must understand the theological path of the word flesh. Reading it in that manner it is simply referring to any activity that seeks security in anything other than the promise of God. From a community of faith view it can be those activities that promote ethnic exclusivity, valuing material possessions or seeking to impose the will of the flesh with intimidation and false words. When we sow our seeds in the Spirit, trust in the Spirit’s leading we will discover a more excellent way.
Being of one mind in truth and spirit will allow us to live and accomplish those things we have been called to do. It is good to be back in the Pew. Have a blest day and may the week ahead bring us closer to God and may the Spirit fill our hearts to do good to all, whenever and wherever we can.
Life is Good