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Posts Tagged ‘justification’


Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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Romans 5:1-2: Throw Open the Doors

Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018

On this Second Sunday of Easter, we rejoice in God’s goodness as we throw open the doors of our hearts to Christ.

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (MSG)

God always works through inversion, turning our thinking on its head in order to show us what we already know, to give us what we already have . . . the gift of eternal life.

He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!  (GNT)

God always works through fidelity, abiding with each of us as we work in the kingdom, giving us what we already have . . . the gift of steadfastness.

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. (NRSV)

God always works through invitation, calling each of us to live in the Spirit, to give us what we already have . . . the gift of God’s grace.

So, since we have come to be considered righteous by God because of our trust, let us continue to have shalom with God through our Lord, Yeshua the Messiah. Also through him and on the ground of our trust, we have gained access to this grace in which we stand; so let us boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory. (CJB)

God always works through determination, persisting with each of, giving us what we already have . . . the gift of God’s love.

On this Second Sunday of Easter, we throw open the doors of our hearts to God’s goodness, fidelity, and love, reveling in God’s justification.


When we compare differing translations of Paul’s advice to the Romans, we find ourselves eager to praise God as we throw open the doors of our hearts to God’s goodness.

Images from: http://tracyhurst.com/throw-open-the-doors/  and https://lauramadrigano.com/a-heart-wide-open/

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Monday, February 24, 2014

imagesCAVPF65IRomans 2:12-16

Our Interior Law – Part I

Knowing the Law and living the Law are not equal.  Can a man or a woman be a preacher of the Good News and still sin greatly?  Yes.  Can one who does not even know about the Law live a life according to that Law?  Yes.  The privilege of having been schooled in the Law does not bring with it an automatic membership into an exclusive club.  One must demonstrate by outward actions that this knowledge has transformed one’s life; and this knowledge is available to all of us, even if we have not received it as a birthright.

Possessing the Law.  Acting the Law.  Being justified in and by the Law.  Paul writes of justification often and when does he means to remind us that is our measure of holiness.  We become justified – or redeemed and transformed – when we act in and through and for God.

Paul is writing about integrity here.  He asks us to take a look to ourselves to see if what we say matches what we do.  Beyond this simple statement is the further thinking that it is not enough to carry out in our action what we say we believe, we must also be sincere in these outward signs of our inward selves; because it is the interior that has worth as opposed to the exterior.  It is the interior as portrayed by the exterior that speaks to the world who we are and who we believe God to be.  Body and soul ought not operate in two different worlds; for when they do our transformation and justification are impossible.

Paul calls out his fellow Jews for their hypocrisy in not recognizing the Word in the person of the Risen Christ; but he also calls out all people of all times and places to engage with the Risen Christ ourselves rather than rely on the words of an exterior, written Law that keep us safe but that do not redeem or transform us.   Paul encourages each of us to see the separation between saying and doing as our measure of self that matters most for it mirrors our separation from Christ who is our vital guide and support.  And it is this separation from Christ that makes our own transformation and redemption so difficult to realize.

So how do we avoid this splitting of self and this separation from Christ?  We examine both our words and actions to see that they align and that they are sincere; and we assure that the interior law we carry in our hearts . . . can be plainly seen by ourselves and others in all that we think . . . in all that we say . . . and in all that we do.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 26, 2009.

To learn more about what The Law means in a scriptural context, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/l/law.htm

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We close this week in which we have given thanks for so many gifts and so much abundance, and we consider the story of Abraham that has come to us through the millennia.  Abraham and Sarah journeyed – in faith – with God.  Let us consider our own journey, and the importance we place on faith.

Sunday, November 25, 2012 – Romans 4 – Faith

Yesterday we reflected on Nicanor, a man who trusted in himself above all else; today we reflect on Abraham, a man who trusted in God above all else.  St. Paul tells us that Abraham is justified – saved – by this great faith he holds in God the Father.

Notes will tell us that this chapter is an expansion of a themes Paul also hit when writing to the Galatians in Chapter 3 of that letter: O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?  Did you experience so many things in vain? – if indeed it was in vain. 

Paul continues in his iteration of how Abraham came to believe, and how Abraham held to his belief that God is present, compassionate and supreme.  Today in Romans, he speaks again of how the Law of Moses is empty without faith in Christ.  The Law – even if followed to the letter – cannot bring us the deep, comforting and always-present knowledge that we are the well-loved children of God.  The Law – even with all its intricacies – has nothing to offer us except when seen as fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus is our brother; he is God who walks among us still.  Given the testimony of so many witnesses at the time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and given our own testimony of miracles worked in us today – how can we fail to believe that the Spirit continues to comfort, the Son continues to save, and that the Father continues to love us?  Using the example of Abraham, this is the question Paul put before the Galatians two thousand years ago; it is the question he puts before us today.   Are we so stupid that we do not believe the evidence we have even in our own lives that Jesus lives, the Spirit abides, and God protects and calls?  Abraham acted on his deep, abiding faith, and so may we.

Let us pray . . .

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body already dead . . . and neither must we weaken.

He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief . . . and neither must we doubt.

He was fully convinced that what God had promised to do he would do . . . and so must we be convinced. 

He was empowered by faith and gave glory to God . . . and so must we.  Even when we go through dry times, even when we go through pain, even when we have become exhausted from the race . . . we must abide in faith . . . for there is no other salvation or justification. 

In this week when we have celebrated Thanksgiving  – whether we are alone, whether we gather we loved ones or strangers – let us acknowledge that we have been redeemed, and let us lay our weariness and woes at the feet of the only one who can bring us the serenity and joy we seek.  Let us give all back to God in the belief that we are loved, that we are treasured, and that we have been saved in order to live in and with God.   We ask this in faith, Amen. 

Written on November 25, 2010, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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