Keeping it simple in Galatians
I’ve got the privilege of preaching through the first part of Galatians right now. Last Sunday was 2.11-21. It’s glorious, but not straightforward: with vs.11-14 a decision is required on just what the men from James were saying and why, and there are quite a few knotty exegetical questions in vs.15-21 that need to be untangled. If I short-circuit those things, I’m likely to miss the cutting edge of this particular passage. I tried to do that work while also keeping things simple, but am not sure I succeeded.
So it’s a relief this morning to turn to preparing 3.1-6, which seems much easier. One simple point runs right through it: the way Christians should seek to go on securely in the Christian life is exactly the same way they started – by believing what they heard, with no falling back on ‘works of the law’.
There is, however, a however. Paul moves from Christ crucified in v.1 to God giving his Spirit and the Galatians receiving the Spirit in vs.2-5. I think my sermon will likely be too trite if I don’t work on the link between cross and Spirit that Paul makes here. He seems to think that if we’re misunderstanding how to stay secure in our on-going lives in the Spirit, then the root is that we’ve forgotten the effect of the cross. That’s probably why he began the letter in 1.4 by ascribing a strikingly wide effect to the cross (‘to rescue us from the present evil age’). I want my sermon to be as simple and direct as the passage is. But I don’t want a cheap simplicity that misses the crucial theological links that Paul draws.
To work, then.