1 Kings 18:20-39
Peace be with you!
Have you ever watched a football coach of a losing team during a game? The coach is always exasperated with his players, frustrated that they are not doing anything he taught them during practice. The players are letting the opposing team break through their weaknesses.
Paul shared the good news with the Galatians, founded a church there, and had shared with them the freedom of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. He left the Galatians believing that Jesus welcomes them into a relationship with God the Father. The Galatians knew they could not earn their way into the Kingdom of God through their good works; they had to believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins and that faith was their ticket into the Kingdom of God – nothing more and nothing less.
Reports of the activities of the Galatians have been shared with Paul and what he hears does not make him very happy. So Paul writes the Galatians a little letter. Paul is frustrated with the Galatians, because they falling preytrap to Jewish Christians false teachers who have announced they need to be circumcised and do good works in order to earn their way into the Kingdom of God. Paul is jumping up and down saying, “NO! You cannot earn your way into the Kingdom of God on your own accord. Jesus Christ came into the world, walked with us, died on the cross, and ascended into heaven, so we may come into a relationship with God the Father and enter the Kingdom of God.” Over the next six weeks, we will see Paul direct the Galatians (and us) away from earthly solutions and point them and us towards God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.
Paul is not looking for a pat on the back or a “good job, bro.” Paul is not looking for approval from his call committee or synod to begin ministries in the world. Jesus Christ commissioned Paul through a vision on the road to Damascus (Galatians 1:12). If he wanted approval from his earthly counterparts, Paul would have stayed doing his job for the Roman Empire (Galatians 1:10). But that would have been the easy way out. Paul chose the path to salvation, the road less travelled.
Life would be easier if it came with a checklist. For the Galatians, the false teachers were giving them a checklist to complete in order to enter the Kingdom of God: circumcise all males, follow the Ten Commandments, and observe the Jewish festivals. However, Paul will argue this checklist only gains you earthly approval – not God’s approval. Maybe in Old Testament times this checklist was important, but Jesus Christ changed all of that. Both we and the Galatians are living in a new age where faith in Jesus Christ gives us passage into the Kingdom of God.
Remember taking algebra in high school and having the teacher make you do problems the long way before showing you the easy and shorter way? Why didn’t he just show you the shorter way to begin with?
Well, Paul has given the Galatians the easy way into the Kingdom of God: admit you are sinner who needs forgiveness and believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. But it seems too easy for the Galatians and for us. We want to earn our own way into heaven. Paul jumps up and down and says, “No, listen up people, you cannot earn your own way into heaven; you need Jesus Christ who came into the world, walked with us, died on the cross, and ascended into heaven to offer us God’s love, grace, and forgiveness, so we may come into a relationship with God the Father and enter the Kingdom of God.” Paul is begging the Galatians not to get wrapped in some unnecessary checklist to meet the requirements to enter heaven. All you need is faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving Paul the vision to spread the good news across the Roman Empire. Help us to resist the temptation to complete checklists to try to earn our way into heaven. Direct us instead to have faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Remind us that you sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins and to give us eternal life. Thank you for Paul’s commitment to the good news. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. What vision has Jesus given you?
2. How do you attempt earn approval from the world? From the Triune God?