Paul bemoans what is happening in the Galatian church, writing: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who calls you by the grace of God and are turning to a different gospel –”
The “turning away from [Christ]” happens in error due to the influence of Judaizers who call for men in the church to be circumcised. (Who knows to what Law these Judaizers might subject women!) At any rate, Paul is bewildered and disturbed that the Galatians are falling prey to people who demand full obedience to the “old covenant.”
In Paul’s mind, there’s no doubt these men (and women) of Galatia are called “by the grace of God.” They’re now deceived. Paul is distressed that they’ve been deceived “so quickly.”
Paul defends the gospel. He calls the gospel what it is — “the good news about the Messiah.” (Galatians 1: 7) He curses anyone who “preaches to [us] a different gospel contrary to what [we] receive.” (Galatians 1: 9)
He tells us that he is “advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among [his] people.” (Galatians 1: 14) He understands more than anyone what it means to obey the “old covenant” in order to please God. He fully comprehends the futility of human effort. He asks the Galatians (and us), “You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ is vividly portrayed as crucified? I only what to learn this from you: Do you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (Galatians 3: 1-3)
Remember dot-to-dot puzzles? Remember tracing a line from one numbered dot to the next numbered dot in an effort to complete a picture, usually a picture of a puppy or a clown or an umbrella?
God is not a dot-to-dot puzzle who is revealed as you trace a line from one dot to the next. God is untraceable. “For who knows the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid?” (Romans 11: 34 – 35)
Job thinks he knows God, but he is surprised by God. He realizes that he does not know God, that what he believes about God is only a shadow, a rumor of the reality of God.
Today many people appear to know God, claiming they hear His voice, they know His thoughts, they state His truths. But, “how unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways” writes Paul — a man who encounters the Christ on the road to Damascus.
Remember, “God imprisons all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11: 32) Who fully comprehends this? Who is able to say they have have “the wisdom and the knowledge of God?” Who understands that God punishes all wickedness, yet forgives the wicked? Who understands that God does not abide sin, yet welcomes home the sinner? Who understands how it is that “mercy triumphs over judgment?” (James 2: 13) For God says, “For whoever keeps the entire law, but falls in one point, is ‘guilty of breaking it all’.” (James 2: 10)
God is not a dot-to-dot puzzle to be revealed by tracing over a predetermined yet unseen line. God is a great mystery. He is the good news. He is our savior, healer, sanctifier, and king. Let us rejoice in our salvation — let us be glad Jesus loves us.
Righteousness pursued “as if it is based on works” does not result in the attainment of that righteousness, says Paul.
A zeal for God is not enough. The cornerstone, who is Jesus Christ, makes those who seek God under their own power, stumble.
“For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they do not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10: 3 – 4)
We do not bring Jesus down nor do we rise up to Him; instead His “Word is near [us], in [our] mouths and in [our] hearts.” (Romans 10: 8)
Our righteousness is based on faith alone.
Love does not insist on its own way, but is kind and patient. Love has no envy, jealousy, arrogance. Love is never rude. Love is humble, giving, considerate.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5: 7) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5: 9)
James writes, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2: 8 – 10)
We are accountable for all of the law for we each fail at one point or another. God is merciful. He forgives us our trespasses as we forgive others.
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2: 12 – 13)
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13: 13)