Wednesday 8 October 2014

"... ONLY FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE" Bible Reading Thoughts for Oct. 4th


            The word “faith” is special to the New Testament.  Where it occurs in the Old Testament, it is most often about breaches of trust. The contrast between the Old and the New, is the need, under the Mosaic Law to observe the rules of the Law in the right spirit, and this they largely failed to do except when they had a righteous king, especially under David and Solomon.
            In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees had turned the precepts of the Law into rituals to be observed.  When Paul, after his conversion went out preaching he started his message in the local synagogue when there was one  which there usually was. Most of the converted Jews, although accepting Christ as the Messiah  were putting a lot of emphasis on still keeping the Law and observing circumcision.  In counteracting this, as we read today in Galatians Paul challenges them, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.   For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness" [5 v.4,5].   
            The Law keepers, and they included the observance of circumcision, knew nothing about “grace” – they ‘earned’ salvation through their observances.  The next verse (6] is, in a sense, Paul’s ‘punch line.’  - “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”   This reminds us of the words in Isaiah, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'" [Isa 7 v.9]  That is, about anything in life, you will be driven here and there by the winds of opinion, which is what is happening in our world today – and there is a kind of parallel in a lot of Christianity.
            Christ’s followers are ‘free’ from the need to observe the ritual of the Law.  Paul tells them, “for you were called to freedom brothers” and then makes a vital point, “do not use that freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” [v.13] Let us all do that today. Our Lord set the example in doing that, may our lives constantly demonstrate our “faith working through love.”

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