Summary: Part of a sermon series on Galatians
When I wash my son’s hair I tell him to put his head back and he won’t get shampoo in his eyes. His natural reaction of course is to put his head forward and rub his eyes every time the water starts to flow and as a result he panics, opens his eyes and soap gets in and the screaming starts. This illustrates the difference between trusting and trying.
Paul has been highlighting his disagreements with those who say you need to keep the law of God (the tryers) and himself and others who say that Jesus is enough (the trusters). Martin Luther, the guy who started the Reformation in the 16th Century put it like this. “Law says “Do this”. The Gospel says “Christ has done it all””. It’s the difference between trusting and trying.
The Galatians have been hoodwinked by false teaching which is leading them to live their lives in bondage again having gained their freedom. He describes them as foolish. If you discover the best way to achieve something and then you choose another way, it’s foolish. It’s a bit like having been given a grappling hook to get over the prison fence when you have just discovered you are going to be freed next week. It would be madness to use your own effort to scale the wall when you can rely on the person in charge to free you. You just wouldn’t do it. But that’s what these people are doing. They learned to trust in Jesus and now they are going back to relying on their own efforts.
So what does Paul do? He appeals to 3 things:
• Their own experience (v 2-5)
• Scripture (v 6-9)
• And the destination of trusting versus trying (v 10-14)
Their Own Experience (v 2-5)
Paul asks them a key question to which he knows the answer because he was there when it happened. Did they keep the Law of God and receive the Holy Spirit as a reward or did they believe and receive the Holy Spirit? Every single Galatian Christian knows they received the Holy Spirit when they were born again. Not because of their own efforts but because of what Jesus did. This is their experience. This is your experience.
You see if you are relying on your own effort to better yourself you can never tell when you might achieve it. Is it when you give up swearing? Is it when you become less angry or violent? Or is it when you stop lusting after the latest bit of porn which is doing the rounds on the spur? You can never quite tell when you have done enough so you live in fear of never being good enough. Paul tells them not to be stupid and go back to that way of measuring their worth. Don’t live by trying. If you want to be fully human don’t do it.
Why do I say fully human? Many of us are pleased to reach physical maturity. Some even go to the gym to enhance this. Fine. Many of us are happy to reach a maturity of knowledge or intelligence. Some even spend all their lives learning and trying to grow in this way and that is fine. There is nothing wrong with physical maturity or having a mature intelligence or knowledge of things. As stewards of what God has given us it’s honouring to him if nothing else to reach our potential in both areas. But you aren’t just a body and you aren’t just a mind. You are spiritual beings too. If you want to be fully human – to experience the full life Jesus promised – you need to look after all three. Aim for spiritual maturity. However, spiritual maturity only comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Holy Spirit makes you like Jesus. Fully human! The complete man. A man who lives and walks by faith in God not his own physical efforts.
So for Paul, neglecting faith and resorting to your own efforts to live your life is like becoming a toddler again with muscles. This too has been the experience of those who have abandoned living by trusting for living by trying.
Paul then puts the question another way – again he knows the answer. Has God performed miracles through them by their own efforts or by their faith in God? The Holy Spirit living in us through faith gives us the power to perform miracles. Those miracles range from a radically changed life to healing, to being able to love your enemy to being generous when you were as tight as Victor Meldrew before. Often it’s the miracle of being able to keep going in circumstances like this.
So what’s our problem? Many of us think just having faith is too easy. That we get nothing for nothing. So we become insecure and think we have to please God. But when we come to him and trust he could not be more pleased with us. We are put right with God through faith.