Category Archives: REAP

Please stop burdening us with more rules and regulations!

Monday and Tuesday’s REAP passages were Galatians 5 and 6!  I thought that it would be helpful to reflect on those passages particularly as I want to address something I have seen around Christian circles and even my own SPCH.

Before we get there, let me briefly explain what’s going on in the letter. A controversy arose over the issue of circumcision:  Paul’s opponents were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised (6:12).  Although circumcision is itself a morally indifferent act (5:6; 6:15), it signifies the adoption of Jewish observances.  Galatians is the objection against those who compelled the Gentile Galatians to live like Jews (2:14; cf 2:3-4).  Can you begin to see what’s going on?  Paul’s fundamental concern is the preservation of the truth of the Gospel.  And we see it again in 2:15-16-> that the only way to justification is by faith in Christ.  The Galatian church has stuffed up the doctrine of faith.  Christ’s death would be emptied of its significance if justification were through the law (2:21).  So what’s Paul saying? Don’t adopt the way of life as described by the Old Testament law because justification is only by faith in Christ and not by living according to works of the law-this is at the heart of the gospel. 

My concern is that today, even though we are Christians living by the Gospel of grace, I always keep finding the well-meaning and godly Christians keep pushing us down paths of slavery to rules and regulations. WE Christians are saved by faith AND WE are to live by that same FAITH.  We’re saved by our 100% trust in God’s grace and we live by that same 100% trust in God’s grace.

And this principle: Saved and live by Grace is something which liberates our Christian life.  If every aspect of our life flows out of God’s gracious work on our behalf, then we’re freed and liberated from the tyranny of self-righteousness.

5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Now, often the desire to create rules for Christians to live by, arises out of a real desire to be “above reproach” and “not causing others to stumble”.  Moreover, I firmly believe they do not think it is based upon works righteousness.  However, to the un-discerning, the matter does become muddied and the end result is that Christans are unwittingly yoked again to slavery to rules, regulations and laws.

So, if Christ has set us free, what has he set us free to do?

We are set free to love.

Love is the great concept which binds together the whole Christian moral framework.  We don’t need rules and regulations to be complete because Christianity is PRIMARILY AND FUNDAMENTALLY about a faithful relationship with Jesus.  If we truly have faith in Christ and the trust the sufficiency of God’s grace, then the love we have for God can be real.  If the heart of the gospel were not justification by faith, then our love for God would be empty.  God’s grace means our only response can be of affection and love towards God.

I’ve got to say: the Christian life isn’t some mushy love-fest, but rather it is the genuine expression of faith and grateful love. Having a ministry shaped by God’s grace does not mean antinomianism or offering a license to sin. What does love look like?  If you understand God’s grace, you can’t be lead by your own desires, BECAUSE when we trust God His Spirit is what leads us and changes us and not the law.  What does faith expressing itself through love look like?  Look at 5:22-3 the fruit of the Spirit –

5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there’s no law.

It’s an obedience to God born out of faith and love towards him.

And this freedom to love God means we are free to act outwardly also.

5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

We already know that it is only God who graciously changes people, our response to Him is love.  This means that our outward response to others is to rely on God’s grace to change them which expresses itself in our free love towards them. 

5:14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Freedom to love?

My plea is not for more compendiums or rule books outlining acceptable Christian behaviour. What is needed is a proper understanding of the freedom of the Christian and delight in our freedom in love.  The love of God, expressed in God’s grace frees us both to truly love God and one another.

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.” Martin Luther

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That crazy Ezekiel!

We are currently reading through Ezekiel in REAP.  The Book of Ezekiel is long, politically convoluted and sometimes exegetically obtuse! It is written by what some commentators have described as an “oddball” prophet, Ezekiel.  However, Ezekiel is part of God’s word and for that, at the very least, Ezekiel’s voice demands to be heard today.

One of the things you will notice are some of the things God gets Ezekiel to do.  These are called sign-acts.  Sign-acts refer to the way the prophet embodies and dramatises a particular prophetic message.  Ezekiel has some of the best and bizarre sign-acts in all of the Bible. Here are a few (but not all) of them . . .

  • Lying on his side for a number of days, then switching to the other side, symbolising the years of exile for both Israel and Judah (4:4-8) – with 390 days on his left side!!!
  • Cooking food over human excrement (but later cow manure), symbolising the ‘unclean’ food they’ll eat whilst in exile (4:9-15)
  • Shaving, weighing, dividing, chasing around with a sword, and burning his own hair, symbolising the judgement coming against them (5:1-4)
  • Packing his luggage, saying bye and digging a hole in the wall to go into exile (12:1-7)
  • God takes Ezekiel’s wife and then God commands him not to mourn or weep over his wife’s death, symbolising that God will destroy the temple and also that God will not mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Temple (24:15-27).

My mind is often drawn to these kinds of interesting (and sometimes humorous) things.  However, in order to get the best understanding you can for the book, I recommend that you read it in big chunks (one sitting if that’s possible!). I want encourage you to read it patiently and carefully, being prepared to encounter an unfamiliar world. This is a daunting task but it will put you into a good position to know the flow and purpose of the book as well as how each passage will fit into the wider arc of the book and of the Bible.

Here is a list of books that could help you read Ezekiel better:

  1. Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 1-24 – NICOT
  2. Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48 – NICOT
  3. Ezekiel in Dumbrell’s, Faith of Israel
  4. Ezekiel in New Bible Dictionary
  5. Ezekiel in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology