Welcome to the Foundations Daily Podcast. It’s Tuesday, and I hope your week has started well. Today our Bible passage is Galatians Chapter 3 v 10-14.
As we saw yesterday, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a written argument. It might help to think of Paul as a lawyer, presenting his evidence to the jury. Paul is astonished that those in Galatia have been so easily persuaded by the arguments of the opposition – that obeying Jewish laws and customs were an essential add-on to secure salvation. The case Paul is defending, therefore, is the true nature of the Gospel – that we are justified by faith in Christ alone.
Into this courtroom scene, Paul calls Abraham as his expert witness. The story of Abraham is going to be fundamentally important to Paul’s argument, as he takes the stand in Chapter 3 vs6, and remains in the witness box right up to Chapter 4 vs30.
Before we look at this however, I’d like to make my own courtroom confession……..I have a fascination with bees! In the final year of my History degree I studied a 17th century group of men, known as the Hartlib Circle. These men believed that the return of Christ to the earth was imminent, and that mankind could make this happen even sooner by restoring the earth to the way it was in the Garden of Eden. In a nutshell, this meant doing a lot of gardening and looking after bees……I have obviously simplified this greatly! Other than my interest in these men and their slightly crazy ideas about bees, I also really enjoyed my discussions with the course tutor. He is an expert in the Hartlib Circle, but he is not a Christian. He analyzed and unpacked the activities of these men in terms of their historical context. However, when I read about Samuel Hartlib and his friends, I was reading and interpreting this evidence as a Christian. I understood how their faith in Jesus made them want to change the world and do things differently. I was looking at old evidence with fresh eyes. The story was the same, but I examined it in a new way because of my faith.
And this is exactly what Paul is asking the Christians in Galatia to do. In Jewish culture, history and religion, the story of Abraham was so well known, told so often; that you could forgive the Galatians for thinking this is an old story, we’ve heard it all before, there’s no new evidence for us here. But Paul is keen for the Galatians to learn something new from Abraham; so over the next few days imagine you are a member of the jury, listening to the evidence. Let’s find out why this man and his story are still so important for us to know and to understand today.
Day 1 in court, and Paul reminds the people that Abraham is a man who had FAITH in the PROMISE.
When Abraham was 99 years old, God made him a bold and outlandish promise. Abraham would become a father! He, and his 90 year old wife, would have a baby! I’m going to read you this promise, as it’s written in The Jesus Storybook Bible:
“God told Abraham his Secret Rescue Plan. ‘Abraham, I will make your family very big’, God promised. ‘You will be my special family, my people, and through you everyone on earth will be blessed.’ It was an incredible promise – God was going to rescue the whole world through Abraham’s family! One of his great, great, great grandchildren would be the Child, the Promised One, the Rescuer. So Abraham trusted what God said more than what his eyes could see. And he believed.”
I love this simple retelling of Genesis 15 and 17. It makes it clear that the only thing that Abraham did was to believe God’s promise. He didn’t do anything else. He just had faith. The story of Abraham quite literally begins with faith. Before Genesis 17 he is known as Abram. Abraham’s new identity, new story, starts with him having faith in the promise.
It was the same for the Galatians, and it’s the same for us. Verse 11 of Chapter 3 reminds us that we don’t have a relationship with God because of what we do or how many laws we keep. It is because of our faith. Verse 14 is a reminder that God has also made a promise to us – that we will receive the Holy Spirit. And again, this promise is fulfilled not by us observing religious customs, but by our faith in the one who redeems us and rescues us – Jesus.
However, the problem Paul saw was that the people were not living as those who had seen the promise to Abraham fulfilled. Instead, they were a bit like my university tutor. Their life and religious activity was based upon the historical context of what it meant to be a ‘good Jew,’ and not their present reality of knowing Jesus. They didn’t have faith in the promise. So Paul calls them to re-examine the evidence; not as Jews by birth and race, but as Christians. He wants them to read the story again with fresh eyes – eyes that have seen Jesus; the Redeemer and Rescuer, the Promised One. Having faith in the promise changes everything. Faith in Jesus should make us live differently in the present, have a hope for the future, and not continually look back to the past.
Just as Abraham’s new life and identity began with faith, so does ours. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5 vs17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Day one in the courtroom draws to a close. What might the Apostle Paul say in his summing up? Don’t go back to the old story, rather live as men and women who have faith in the promise, and have met the Promised One. Don’t live in the past – you are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you keep all of your promises to us. Help us to live a life of faith. Help us to live differently in the present, have a hope for the future, and not continually look back to the past. Amen.
READING: Galatians 3:10-14
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.