You Ran Well!

January 2, 2019

Galatians 5:7-15

Love Fulfills the Law

7 You ran well.

Paul describes good, Christian living as “running well”.  When things are going well for a Christian, it appears too slow, normal, uneventful.  The Galatians had received the Gospel from the Apostle Paul. They were running/living well.  False teachers convinced the Galatians that the Gospel was false teaching. There lives became exciting again.  But they were deceived.

Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

The Apostle Paul asked the same basic question in chapter 3: You foolish Galatians, who bewitched you?

8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.

The false teachers were persuasive.  The Galatians thought that such great teaching surely came from God.  The Apostle Paul gently yet bluntly says it is not of God, by which he means it is of the devil.  Paul sets many of the Galatians free from this persuasion. Paul gives them comfort with the Word of God.

Today, there are many Christians who are persuaded away from the Gospel, the whole Word of God, by many persuasive teachers.  Who might these be?

There are also those Christians who come up with wrong ideas of Christ simply due to their many trials and afflictions.  The devil is persuasive. In such a case, we should point out to those with troubled minds that Christ is not an accuser or taskmaster but rather “gentle and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).  Who might these be?

Holy Scripture presents Jesus Christ in two ways.

First, Jesus is a gift for us to receive.  (Faith) This is for when people are weak in faith and feel their sin.  See Colossians 2:3; 1 Corinthians 1:30

Second, Jesus is an example for us to imitate. (Love) But this is for people who are far from temptation but in a time of rejoicing.  Here Jesus is like a mirror. He shows me what is lacking in me. This mirror is a terror for Christians when sin is felt.  Jesus is the end of the law of God so that everyone who has faith may be justified (Romans 10:4).

To distinguish when to present Christ the gift and/or Christ the example is crucial to the care of souls.

To the despairing, present Christ the gift (Gospel).  

To the smug, present Christ the example (Law)

Luther: For the Anabaptists have nothing in their entire teaching more impressive than the way they emphasize the example of Christ and the bearing of the cross, especially because there are clear passages in which Christ urges His disciples to bear the cross. Therefore we must learn how to resist this Satan when he transforms himself into the appearance of an angel (2 Cor. 11:14), namely, by distinguishing when Christ is proclaimed as a gift and when as an example. Both forms of proclamation have their proper time; if this is not observed, the proclamation of salvation becomes a curse.  (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 27, 34–35)

9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Many of the Galatian Christians did not return to Paul.  Others admitted they may have deviated a bit. But most thought that Paul was too focused on minor issues that would destroy the harmony among the Christians.  To the hairsplitting accusers, Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” Justification by faith is important. Small errors grow into large errors.

Today, we have a number of such issues.  It is not circumcision or eating unclean foods.  What are some examples that Christians accuse us in the LCMS?   Love can sometimes be neglected without harm, but the Word and faith cannot.

10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.  

It is written in Psalm 118:8 that we are forbidden to have confidence in people rather than God.  So what is Paul doing? Christians are more likely to trust people than non-Christians. Faith has confidence in God therefore it cannot be deceived.  Love has confidence in people therefore it can be deceived.

How do we do this today?

Paul has confidence in men on the condition that they are hearing and trusting God through His Word.  Paul puts the best construction on the situation. However, at the same time, says that without the Galatians turning back to the Holy Scriptures, and specifically return to the Gospel and doctrine Paul taught, he has no confidence in them.

11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.  Paul is now arguing from personal example.  He has brought on himself the wrath of the Sanhedrin, etc., because he rejects that circumcision brings righteousness.  It is important to remember that the cross always follows the teaching of the Word. So if you want to keep the Word, learn how to not be offended or frightened when the stumbling block of the cross comes with a vengeance.  These are signs of joy. Even Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12).

12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! (Not only a reference to castration but also a prayer for the false teachers damnation).  Is this proper for an apostle? Is it ok for a Christian to call down curses upon another human being?

Luther: Yes, they are permitted to do so, but not always and not for just any reason. But when things come to the point where the Word is about to be cursed or its teaching—and, as a consequence, God Himself—blasphemed, then you must invert your sentence and say: “Blessed be the Word and God! And cursed be anything apart from the Word and from God, whether it be an apostle or an angel from heaven!”

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!