Great time in the Word this morning. I read Acts, yeah all of it. Then Galatians. Then James 1-3.
Spent a significant time with the Lord trying to work out the "faith v works" stuff that's been going on in my head lately. I've been having a few discussions with Hop (our neighbor and fellow staff member) about NT Wright and the "New perspective on Paul" and I've just been trying to get a grip on the entire debate/discussion really. I'm not going to jump in because frankly I just still don't know much about it.
Here's what I've been gathering this morning (and part of yesterday's study as well). I think Paul wrote Galatians around 49 AD, which is significant because it was before the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. It's significant because Paul seems to be on the defense of his apostleship/gospel validity a great deal in Galatians. Also, a commentator I was reading from yesterday even made a hint that seemed to say that he believed probably even James wasn't sure what to think of Paul or this perceived new gospel that he seemed to preach. Perhaps the "judaizers" and "men from James" were the same people? Perhaps they just went a little further than James gave them instructions to do?
I think the heresy Paul is addressing to the Galatians is not so much "Do good works to make yourself right with God" as it is "Do good works to remain right with God." These Judaizers or "men from James" seemed to think that once you were redeemed by grace for free, to remain "in Christ" means to live lives in accordance with the law. Make sense? Paul's answer is, no! You're made right gracefully by placing your faith in Christ. You remain right by gracefully placing your faith in Christ which works itself out in acts of love. It is in Christ alone that we are redeemed, so add nothing.
Then looking at James it seems he is in agreement. He essentially says, "Want to know if the faith you profess is genuine? Look at the works." James doesn't adhere to a "faith by works" system, but one that starts and ends with faith as the thing that makes us right. He is simply clarifying what that faith is, namely, that it's not just profession.
So what pierced my heart is the goodness of God this morning in giving himself to be the redeemer of a lost people. Having redeemed us, he then gives us the privilege of being His witnesses. I get to live out that goodness in being a loving witness, both to those inside my circles (family, friends) and those way outside.
I hope my writing is adequate enough to convey theological truth with any hint of clarity whatsoever, but fear that it is not. Oh well.