Have you ever read through a book of the Bible in order to get a better picture of what the author is trying to say? Typically we call that “Reading in context.” It really helps us understand a lot better the gist of the book. I recently did that with Galatians. After going through the book, there were so many things that stood out that I have to be sure to write them down so I won’t forget.
What I saw was different than what I’ve read before. Same content. Same author. Same book. But a whole new understanding. In light of recent events at other churches in our area, very relative to my current situation, and eye opening toward theirs.
Paul was writing about the credibility of the messenger. The gospel of Christ has no need of credibility. It came from God. Who could possibly be more credible? But what I was noticing was that God wants to develop our credibility as His messengers of His grace.
The Galatian church was going through some pretty interesting things. There had been people who came in and began changing the message of the grace of God to a message that led people to believe that grace was something to be earned. For example, now that you’ve been saved, you need to follow the law. Completely absurd because, if the law was necessary to save, grace wouldn’t be needed. And if grace is what’s necessary to be saved, then the law has been fulfilled and completed.
Paul used his testimony as his credibility. You can’t argue with the message of the gospel proclaimed through personal experience of God’s grace. Paul noted that even the motives of his message and their message would be enough to tell the difference between who was teaching the true gospel and a distorted one.
Paul even pointed out that there were different testimonies between the apostles. Paul received grace one way, and Peter another. However, once one receives God’s grace there is no comparison between testimonies as to one being better than the other. Sure, the Gentiles’ testimonies are gong to be amazing. They’ve been lost in sin for so long and shut out of the glory of Israel. Their stories of coming to Jesus would be interesting at the very least. But for some reason Peter struggled with the consistency of the testimony of grace between the Jews and the Gentiles. He viewed those who followed the law as being “better” than those who didn’t. Since when did grace favor one person’s good deeds against another? Paul rebuked even Peter. Not only that, with their topic being circumcision as a means to coming into grace, Paul’s refuting anger was so hot he wished that those who were leading others away from the grace of God would mutilate themselves! You can use your imagination as to what that means.
I think the church is dealing with total opposite issue. Now we get into the habit of saying that a testimony that is super bad is the best testimony there is. And that those who’ve grown up in the church in a faith believing home can’t possibly relate to others. Let’s ask the same question: Since when did grace ever favor those who’ve had it rough over those who haven’t? Isn’t it available to everyone regardless of their situation?
With all due respect (and that was pretty hard to say), how can those who say that the bigger sin story, the bigger grace story is better than what I’ve experienced? I grew up in a faith-based home with parents who took me to church every weekend and taught me in the Word. I didn’t hardly do anything wrong. And I’m not just saying that. We make jokes about getting into trouble when we’re together as a family. But there were a lot more kids who got into more trouble without knowing it, and now they face the hard consequences of things not taught them. In matter of speaking, I was saved from a lot more than them. I didn’t have to go through it. Please understand, I’m not boasting about my upbringing. I’m very thankful for parents who taught me in the Way. And if I were boasting about my upbringing as a form of doing good things on my own or by myself, I’d be no different than those who took pride in following the law as a means of salvation apart from grace.
Now, it may not seem like my testimony is anything special, but grace took its affect on me just as much as the one who experienced worse. Jesus died for me just as much as He died for them. My story is great! My story begins and will end with Jesus. All I want is more of Him. And those who’ve had a hard life are experiencing the grace of God in ways I won’t. But our stories are just as important as the next. There is no lesser story of grace from one person to the next. All are equally important and great.
I recently heard that a friend of mine was refused a position of service in the church because he wouldn’t be able to relate the those he’d be serving because his story of grace wasn’t big enough. He didn’t go through everything in order to relate to those who were or had. I’d like to ask, does that mean I have to go and fall into sin in order to experience those things so I can relate to them? Absolutely not! When did his story ever become something to be despised because he hasn’t done drugs, had an affair, or murdered anyone? His story is a message of the incomprehensible grace of God! His story is great!
The one who refused him should be ashamed. He’s disempowered the grace of God. He’s elevated himself above the message of grace my friend has to share. He’s quenched the power of the Holy Spirit, and is now hindering those who are trying to enter the Kingdom. He’s turned grace into the law. The law is that you have to have some great sin from which God has set you free. What he doesn’t realize is that the smallest sin shuts one out of the Kingdom just as much as the big ones do. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Jesus came and died for the whole world, even those the world might deem “good enough.”
If anything, those who’ve not experienced the ways of the world have an advantage in this life to not long for it as much as those who were once participants. I’ve had parents come up and tell me, “You mean I can train my kids in the way of The Lord? You mean they might live a righteous life? You mean it’s possible?” Yes, it is! Start them young and teach them so that when they’re old they won’t depart from it. Instill within them a heart for God, the heart that even you might long for. Train them to see and know the difference between the lie and the truth. Teach them to recognize the voice of The Lord. Having this hope gives hope to others that the life God desires is possible. (again, I’m not boasting, just overwhelmingly thankful)
What I’ve noticed in this whole thing is that God is developing our credibility. What grace has done in you and in me, when not left to rest, is develop a credibility in which none can deny the power of God! Grace isn’t a passive gift. It was priceless. It was costly. And it makes a difference in our lives when we understand that it costed God everything to give.
My response? I’m humbled. I’m in awe. All I want to do is to live for Him. I want to give Him everything. I want grace to have such a huge impact on my life that it’s undeniable power will overcome even the hardest heart and give hope to the hopeless.
The message of the grace of Christ is what gives us credibility. Those who proclaim anything outside of grace lose their credibility in the eyes of God. God wants to develop within us the credibility of the message of His grace of the gospel of Christ. Take courage and find strength in His grace being sufficient and powerful in your life!