The seven great words of Galatians (2)
Drew Craig, Belfast, N. Ireland
As we have seen, the seven great word themes of Paul’s letter to the Galatians open up the whole of this epistle to us. They are as follows:
Revelation: 1. 12, 16; 2. 2.
Liberation: 2. 4; 5. 1-13.
Justification: 2. 16.
Crucifixion: 2. 20; 5. 24; 6. 14
Unification: 3. 28.
Transformation: 4. 19.
Identification: 6. 17.
We now continue our studies with word number 5: unification.
‘Ye are all one (man) in Christ Jesus’, 3. 28. Jew, Gentile; bond, free; male and female are listed. This does not do away with nationality or gender. Rather, it puts all categories of believers on the same basis and on the same level; equally one in Christ. This is an indissoluble union; it can never be ruptured or annulled. The hymnwriter has caught the true meaning, ‘Once in Christ, in Christ for ever, thus the eternal covenant stands’.
In John chapter 10 verses 27-28, the Good Shepherd annunciates the terms for being one of His sheep, ‘I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one‘. The uniqueness of this unity He expresses and emphasizes further to His disciples, ‘If any man love me he will keep my word: and my Father will love him and we will come unto him and make our make our abode with him’, John 14. 23. The same apostle in the introduction to his first letter links this to the idea of fellowship, partnership or communion, ‘That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us; yea and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. In His intercessory prayer, we realize what the continuing unity of His own meant to Him. While they could never be separated as to their position in Him, there could be a disruption in fellowship and that could be only of benefit to ‘the evil one’ hence the prayer’s intensity, ‘Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are’, John 17. 11.
‘My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you’, 1 John 4. 19. This is the high water mark of Christian living. It is a blessed fact to be in Christ, but to have Christ formed in us is quite another matter. W. E. VINE in his Dictionary of New Testament Words explains, ‘This refers not to the external and transient, but to the inward and real . . . it expresses the necessity of a change in character and conduct to correspond with inward spiritual condition, so that there may be moral confonnity to Christ’. It is important to note the word ‘until’. The apostle does not say ‘might’. He is confident that this transformation can take place, but at the cost of his continued intervention and intercession in spiritual birth pains. It entails anxiety, labour and wrestling in prayer for them. This begs the question, ‘Who is doing this for us now?’ Many of us have had spiritual mentors, those who have watched for our souls, Heb. 13. 17. Perhaps this goes some way in finding an answer. But we know, too that ‘the Spirit himself maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God’, Rom. 6. 23-27.
‘I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus’, John 6. 17. It seems best to take this text literally and to see these as physical scars, the evidence of vicious thrashings at the hands of the enemies of his Lord. Acts chapter 16 verse 23 refers to ‘many stripes’; 2 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 5, ‘in stripes’; and in chapter 11 verse 25, ‘thrice was I beaten with rods’. As in this first century so the persecution of those who identify themselves as believers in the One true God and His Son Jesus Christ continues with unrelenting fury. This is an area of Christian profession with which we who live in freedom should feel very uncomfortable. 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 12 tells us plainly that ‘if we suffer (endure), we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us’. I often ask myself, ‘Is God partial?’ In other words, why have some places in our world, notably in what we call ‘the West’, been spared physical and psychological persecutions while for millions of other believers in many lands it has been and is still their common lot? If we consider carefully and prayerfully the present condition of our so called free world we can only conclude that there are dark clouds on the horizon. Restrictions on Christian teaching and testimony are now gaining a frightening momentum. The intensity of evil and sheer godlessness is bound soon to reap a harvest of judgement. A correct reference is often made to the imminent return of the Lord Jesus for His church; is it possible that before He gives the ‘shout’ we, too, here in free and favoured countries, may have to face an onslaught of suffering shame for His name? Something I think we should ponder! Running well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth’.
‘Must I be carried to the skies on
flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize
and sailed through stormy seas?’