Blooming Spiritually

READING GALATIANS
3:1-18

Paul urgently appealed to his Galatian church members to carefully think through his argument. His main point is that anyone’s relationship with God is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not by the keeping of any law or doing something–whether a ritual or keeping a certain day or religious event or calendar. “Wasn’t it by faith, not through being a slave to anything?” he asks. Knowing God, or being known by Him, is a matter of faith, not doing. It is being; relating.

He told them of his own experiences in chapter 2. Of how he, the formerly strict Pharisee, now focused on God instead of keeping rules and regulations. He had the Holy Spirit within him, and he lived “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Now he made the same appeal to their experience. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (3:2) He wanted them to examine their own spiritual experience in light of the false teaching contrasted with his experience. What about us? Have you ever thought through your own relationship with God? How did it begin? What has happened since? How is it now? It makes one stop and think….or should.

Paul never separated doctrine from experience nor encouraged experience without doctrine. The first leads to a dry, thirsty land; the second to a fast fading flower without roots or long life. I like to think of the balance of the two as being like an orchid. In the right light, the bloom lasts for days and days. Historic Christianity calls us to bloom spiritually. The Spirit gives us hope in spite of the sin principle’s pulling upon us. Paul appealed to that hope in chapter three. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:3). In other words, are you depending on doing “it right” or surrendering that one thing for your own righteousness rather than, like Abraham, believing God and trusting in his promises? (3:6).

Now he turned their thinking back to the Bible.(Putting your eyes on experiences won’t be very helpful without relating them to biblical principles.) These non-Jews read the Old Testament in Greek. They knew Abraham’s story. How he was called out from Babylon and told he would be blessed and be a blessing, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). How he had “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). How the promises were made to him and to his offspring (Genesis 12:7). “Think about it,” Paul said. “This all relates to you; it’s not just a history of the Jews. You are children of Abraham, Gentiles, yes, but people of faith. The promises are yours!! You will be blessed. You will be a blessing to others. When God sees your faith, He will count it as if you were perfect! And so you have an everlasting relationship with Him and have hope and strength from the Holy Spirit.” “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (3:7).

Paul reminded them that this all happened to Abraham hundreds of years before Moses was given the law. So these blessings do not come from keeping anything; they come from faith in the “offspring” of Abraham. That would be Jesus, the Promised One, the Savior, the Christ. Offspring; not offsprings. Children are heirs, not slaves or servants. They are free and rich. So why would a rich adult volunteerily become a slave? Why would anyone think a contract would be legal if a paragraph was added or something taken out? (Read Galatians 3:7-18). God’s promises to Abraham of righteousness, eternal life, blessings in this life were fulfilled in Christ Jesus. His promises through Moses did not cancel out or amend the Abrahamic Covenant.

Are we living by faith in Christ Jesus or are we slaves to something we have dreamed up? Do we just want to acknowledge our feelings, or are we willing to think about the Bible as well? Are you or/and your church or friends and family accepting ideas that are contrary to the scriptures? Are you an orchid or a hibicus? (For those of you not in the tropics, hibicus flowers last only one day.)

Doctrine: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).</blockquote

Experience: “‘Tis mercy all! Immense and free! for, O my God it found out me.
My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown thro’ Christ my own.”
(“How Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley).

About Carol Brandt

I earned a B.A. in History from Florida State University and M.Ed in.Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University. I taught high school social studies before "retiring" to full-time homemaking and raising two daughters. Now I love being a grandmother to four boys and a girl. I have also raised five collies. My husband, John, was an optometrist, who worked tirelessly for his profession through private practice and as a consultant, and served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois College of Optometry for twenty years. Ernest Reisinger was my chief mentor in this warm-hearted application of Calvinism. He gave me many books! The Founders Journal and Founders Conferences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon have been other sources of Reformed thinking as well as the other warm-hearted ones listed in my book, "Warm-hearted Calvinists."

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