Monday, April 5, 2010

God - He is the Subject!

Galatians 4:9 (ESV) — But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

So much can be said about this verse. Let's leave the theological implications alone for a moment and take a closer look at the construction of this clause. What strikes me as significant is Paul's flip flop in how he states what he is trying to say in this verse. It is almost as if Paul is having an "Ahh-haa" moment. This is what I see. First, Paul states in the first half of the clause that the Galatians have come to know God. The aorist active participle is an example of the Galatians knowing by experience. In this first half of the clause, Paul is saying that the people have found God. Specifically, they are the ones who did the searching; they are the ones that found; they are the active participants in the relationship and God is a passive participant. In a nutshell, the people are the subject and God is the object.

In the second half of this clause, Paul seems to take a step back from what he just wrote and after examining it changes everything. After putting a little thought into it, Paul says that the people are not the subject, but God is the subject. God is the active participant. The people are the recipients. The people are not the ones who have come to know God, but rather they have come to be known by God. This is a shift in subject and object.

The implications are simply that we should be sure to recognize that God is the subject of the activity. We don't come to know God. We don't do this or that for God. God, as the subject, actively works in our lives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grace and Works?

Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is a continuation of the treatise regarding law and grace. The imagery of verse 20 is somewhat bitter sweet. The finality of being crucified with Christ is contrasted with the new life that he lives with Christ. What great imagery! Life and death are contrasted in this verse. This brings to mind Jesus' words in John's gospel.

John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

According to Jesus, the one who hears his words and believes him who sent him has eternal life. The imagery here is similar to Paul's. This person passes from "death" to "life." The contrast between death and life and profound. John continues this theme in his epistle:

1 John 3:14 (ESV) — 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Here the passing from death to life is centered upon a knowledge of a work. The passing from one to the other is centered upon the loving of our brothers. In reality, the words of Jesus mentioned earlier could be also centered upon a work: the hearing and believing. These works are what I would consider to be responses to the initial or prevenient grace of God. Make no mistake, our sovereign God is the author and finisher of our salvation. But, it is apparent that scripture is peppered with commands and instances where people had to respond to such grace.

Let's make this quite clear. As mentioned in a previous clipping, our salvation or justification is not based upon works. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation or justification. All we can do is respond to it and accept it. It is not forced upon us nor are we cohersed into it (Rev 3.20). Once we are saved or justified, we respond once again to God's gift by loving our brother as mentioned in John's epistle.