Have you ever thought about which book in the Bible is the most passionate and intense? Which inspired book runs the gamut of emotion more than any other, from compassion to anger, confrontation to complicity, flesh to Spirit, blessing to cursing, badgering to begging?
There are a number of books that are passionate, and several that are intense, but Galatians outdoes them all. Paul fills his letter with words evoking forceful emotion: accursed, cut off, bewitched, foolish, condemned, hypocrisy, shut up, weak, worthless, perplexed, slavery, severed, mutilation, devour, vain, consumed, and corruption, just to name a few.
At one point, Paul recounts, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (2:11). Knowing what you know of Peter, and the fiery indignation of Paul, how intense do you suppose the toe-to-toe, beard-to-beard confrontation between the Rock and the Crusader was?
And over what issue? The attempt to mix legalism and flesh with grace and the Spirit and call it Christian living.
The crux of the issue is this: Mixing legalism with grace nullifies the work of God accomplished in Jesus Christ at the cross (Gal. 2:21). This is why Paul is so intense. This is what fueled his confrontation with Peter.
In Paul’s mind—and in the Word of God—it is intolerable to mix legalism with grace, thinking that coexistence is acceptable.
It is hardly debatable that we need Christ to redeem and save us. As royal ambassadors representing our Father, the devil can’t do anything to alter the fact that our passports have been issued by the Kingdom of God.
However. The devil figures he can do something about the way we navigate life.
If we buy his temptation to rely upon the flesh, at the expense of the Spirit, and determine to circumnavigate grace via legalistic standards, in effect we declare Christ’s daily work through us as needless and irrelevant. This is what Paul—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—is jumping-up-and-down passionate about in Galatians.
As with any point our Father makes in His Word, the wise and logical question is: What is this saying to me?
The Bible is much more than rows of black print on white paper, wrapped up in a nice cover. Among other things, the Bible is the Word of God. It is a record of God’s intervention in history and His plan of redemption, justification, and sanctification. It is a compilation of testimonies from chosen authors writing under His inspiration to recount His work, words, and will. The Bible is real people writing the words of the Living God to us. It inspires our courage and rouses our determination to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the message placed within its pages by our Father.
The passion of Paul’s letter persists: mixing law and grace, flesh and spirit, is intolerable. Life in the Spirit, versus walking in the power of the flesh, is an either/or proposition, not a both/and.
Intensity boils from the script, and the question remains: What will I do with what this letter in Scripture is saying to me?
As you ponder what to do with this hot letter...this cocktail recipe...
...here are some thoughts to consider: Walking after the flesh is not an alternative approach or simply a bad idea. It is a temptation from the enemy of God designed to discount the work of Christ at the cross. Clinging to anything that falls short of the grace of God—which is legalism—is a blatant attempt by the enemy to nullify the work of God in Christ.
By choosing to walk after the flesh, or implement legalistic thought and practice, we collaborate with the enemy against the most profound, significant act of Divine power, love, and courage ever initiated: grace, as realized in Jesus Christ.
Choosing the flesh is more than a bad plan. It is hypocrisy and an outright denial of your spiritual heritage.
How happy would you be if your spouse declared, “Sweetheart, since we have been married, I have been 99% faithful to you?”
99% faithful means your spouse has been 100% unfaithful! Just as faithfulness in marriage is all or nothing, so our loyalty to grace is absolute.
Any mixture of grace and legalism is un-grace. Any mix of flesh and Spirit is adultery against our redemption vows. Any proposed cocktail that purports to successfully blend grace and anything is unacceptable, unworkable, untenable, and there is no alternative but to refuse.
You either enjoy grace straight, i.e. undiluted, or not at all.
What is at stake here—at stake with how we approach life?
The work of Christ at the cross to initiate grace is what is at stake. God’s gift and reputation are on the line. Your faithfulness is at stake.
But the most important question remains unanswered: What is this saying to you and what will you do with it? Cocktail or with nothing else mixed in?