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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Have We Misunderstood the Gospel?

Galatians 5:16, 17 has spiritual nuclear energy within it. It says that if we have made the choice to walk with the Holy Spirit and let Him hold us by the hand (isn't that what baptism is?), He strives night and day 24/7 against our fallen, sinful "flesh," our sinful nature. Yes--personally, individually. The result? The text says we "cannot do the things that [we] would."
There are two ways we can read that: (1) We cannot do the good things the Holy Spirit prompts us to do. If the mighty power of the Holy Spirit is striving against our "flesh" and we still can't do the good things we'd like to do, that looks like the worst bad news we could imagine. That would mean that sin is stronger than God. In other words, He has lost the great controversy--in principle. That's an Old Covenant way to read Galatians 5:16, 17, popular but questionable.
(2) The other possibility is: if we choose to let the Holy Spirit hold us by the hand we cannot do the evil things that "the flesh" would prompt us to do. Paul goes on to detail "the works of the flesh" that the Holy Spirit saves us from doing: "adultery, idolatry, hatred, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, envy," to name a few (vss. 19-21). A good list of things to be delivered from! But too often we seem to get entangled in them. Why? Have we misunderstood the gospel?
Then the apostle details some of the good things that the Holy Spirit prompts us (and enables us) to do if we "walk" with Him: "Love [agape], joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness," etc. (vss. 22-24). That's the best good news we could imagine; it's New Covenant news.
The traditional way to understand Paul is that we can't do the good things we'd like to do, so Jesus just has to "cover" for our continued sinning, which is nice of Him to do but leaves Him ashamed before the universe for the failure of His gospel to save from sin. In Romans1:16 Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes."
--Robert J. Wieland

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