Monday, June 1, 2009

Galatians 4:21-31 (A Tale of Two Cities)

Here Paul furthers his Gospel vs. Religion argument making an appeal to an allegory from Scripture. (Allegory being OK when contained in the text itself.) People who trust in religion and legalism are the children of the slave woman, and are thus slaves themselves. The people who simply trust in the promise of God, however, are children of the promise and are heirs, family, and free citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Legalism or Religion is basically the same in all its various forms; from Buddhism to Islam, Catholicism to much of American Bible Bible-Belt Evangelicalism. It presents a set of rules and regulations that, if followed faithfully, will bring about holiness and acceptability before the powers that be. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Anyone who relies on legalism to “save” or “fulfill” them is a prisoner to the system. If they ever leave the safety of the legalistic “Ghetto,” they will be doomed to lose their “holy” status because they will fall victim to the culture around them. They never were truly holy; they just set up a system of living that avoided temptation and ungodliness.

Instead, Paul says the person who simply trusts on God’s grace for their worthiness is truly made a child of God, a new creature. Instead of following a law or a series of rules, they grow in their relationship with God, and as they become more like Him they learn to be satisfied in Him. They no longer feel the need to seek fulfillment in society or the culture around them. They learn to see the world the way God does. They see the emptiness of worldly thinking and see people in need of the same love that they have found.

This understanding is the answer that a lot of well-intentioned legalists out there are looking for. Instead of sending naïve high school graduates out to college to be devoured by the wolves of Western culture, they could send out wise Christians who could change the culture. Instead of seeking to make legalism appealing to a hedonistic culture, they could offer true answers to the questions people are asking.

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