Saturday, January 23, 2016

Seed Syntax

I warned you that we would get a little theology as we read Paul’s letters.  In chapter 3 we also get a little grammar and syntax.  That in itself might send a few people running.  Consider the nuances of our own language.

We drive on parkways and park on driveways.
If you transport something by car it is called a shipment but if you send it by ship it is called cargo.
Why does quicksand work slowly and why are boxing rings square?
Writers write but fingers don’t fing and hammers don’t ham. 
There is neither pine nor apple in pineapple.
If vegetarians eat only vegetables then what do humanitarians eat?

Language is fun stuff.  Isn’t it interesting that how much often hangs in the balance in understanding our own language in written form, not even trying to interpret tone and inflection and mood when the words are read aloud.

Now try to understand the idioms and rhythms and syntax of language used centuries and millennia ago.

Paul takes a unique stand on the promise given to Abraham.  He said that it was given to his “seed” and not his “seeds.”  The Hebrew word is lə·zar·‘ă·ḵā and by most definitions means seed and seeds or just offspring. 

Perhaps Paul had a little better understanding of this promise and the language of his day than we do today, though he was surely blinded to it while hunting down Christians in the name of doing God’s will.  Perhaps his mastery of the Semitic lexicons was such that he could make this distinction. 

The real question is, why would the Galatians even care?

They were called out of the Gentile world to life in Christ.  Being Abraham’s children was something that had not been important to them for all of their lives as it was in the Jewish culture.

They didn’t grow up singing, Father Abraham had many sons…

But they were part of the promise now.  It was a promise that was so important to the Hebrew People—to God’s Chosen People.  Now they were a part of it.

God had known and revealed to Abraham long ago that all of the people of the world would be blessed and saved through what God would do through him and his line.  Jesus Christ was always the way to right living with God.

Between Abraham and Jesus were periods of captivity.  First there was the physical captivity in Egypt.  Then came captivity to the law. 

The law as not bad; it just was not liberating.  But just as God used Moses to liberate the people from bondage in Egypt; he also used Jesus to liberate us from sin and death.

The law showed us the boundaries of sin and death.  The law defined the confines of our sinful existence.  Jesus came to liberate us—to set us free.

The Galatians had come to believe in Jesus.  It was not a logical process.  It was not a cultural process.  It was not a natural part of their Celtic history.  It was by faith that they had come to believe.

Now they were part of a wonderful promise given by God long ago to a very special man named Abraham; and some people who wanted their religion back came along and said that Abraham not Jesus was the real foundation of this new found way.

Back to the question, why would the Galatians even care about grammar and syntax and seed and seeds?  Maybe Paul was equipping the Galatians to contend with these know-it-all Jews that said they were following Jesus but really just wanted their religion back.

The real issue for these young believers revolved around a little self awareness.  Paul asked:  Did you receive the Spirit of God by following a checklist or complying with rules or was it by your belief in Jesus Christ?

He challenged them:  Does God do mighty acts among you because you got high marks on your Law of Moses test or because you believe the good news?

The Law was something that got people from Abraham to Jesus but it could never liberate them from sin and from death.    Even the right standing of Abraham with God came from his belief not from his resume or his track record.

The law was never given in conflict to the promise of God to Abraham and that ultimately comes to us.  The law showed us how much we needed to be reconciled to God but it could not get us there.  Only Christ could get us there by taking all of our inequity upon himself—cursed for us if you will—so that we might live in right standing with God.

But all of this wonderful, good as new relationship with God came through belief not compliance.

So Paul challenges these Galatian Christians:  Why would you even think about trying to live by a law that was designed to point you to the freedom you have already been given by faith?

That’s just backwards.  That’s upside down, inside out—that dog just don’t hunt.

You foolish Galatians!  Or does that translate into you foolish Americans?

How many of us came to Christ in high school?  We were getting our classes lined out for the next year.  I need algebra, chemistry, English, oh and let’s take salvation this year.  It would be good to checked that off early.

That’s not how it happens.  The Spirit moves in us and we respond with a profession of faith.  This isn’t mental or emotional.  It is a led by the Spirit beginning to a new life.

Sometimes we are so Spirit filled in the beginning that people get out of our way.  “Oh she’s got it bad.”

“Look out.  Here he comes.  He’s going to be praising God and talking Jesus.”

Some are more timid at first and gradually explore this Spirit of God that lives within us, but it was the Spirit that led us to this relationship.

But at some point, most believers hit a point in their lives where they want rules or regularity or predictability or routine.  We want our faith to be comfortable.  We like to know what is next.  Perhaps that explains much of the interest in end times events.

Perhaps comfort and complacency are the modern equivalent of the Galatians dealing with the Law of Moses.  We start out led by the Spirit but eventually we gravitate to something more predictable.

We like practical. We like predictable patterns.  We like known quantities.  Tangible things appeal to us.

Paul is admonishing the Galatians in the same way that John conveyed the words of Jesus to the church at Ephesus.

Repent and do the things that you did at first!
Remember the height from which you have fallen and repent.
Dance with the one who brung ya.  Okay, that’s a stretch, but not too much.

Our new found relationship with God began in the Spirit.  In some cases we have suffered through some trials because we have been faithful to following Jesus.  Led by the Spirit we have stayed the course of following Jesus.

Why now, would we want to trade all of that in for rules and regulations, statutes and signs in the flesh, for comfort and complacency?

Just when we finally start to live and live in the liberty of Christ Jesus, why would we want slavery?

In the 21st century it’s not because of people wanting us to follow the Law of Moses.  It is fear.  It is fear that God’s Spirit will urge us to do something that we have never done before.

Rules are easy.  If P, then Q.  A plus B = C.  Slope equals rise over run.

Rules are easy and we gravitate to them but they are not living.  They are existing with a master other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  They are too much like existing under the law.

Jesus came so we could live.  Paul makes his grammar and syntax case for one purpose—to show that everything has been leading us to Christ, including the law.

The law is not our master.  Christ alone is Lord and Master.

And in Christ we have freedom.  In Christ we are one.  We have freedom and unity in Christ.

Let’s not be foolish Galatians but wise Christians who value the liberty and honor the unity that we have in Christ Jesus.

We don’t contend with people trying to cram the Law of Moses in our lives.  We contend with our own nature that becomes a bit dogmatic and blinds us to the freedom that we should enjoy and employ in the name of Christ Jesus.

We are finally free to live as God wants us to live.  Let’s not retreat.  Let’s go forward in freedom and unity.


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