Paul continues to plead his case regarding circumcision. He asks his readers if everything that came before was in vain. “You started off so well. What happened to you?”
When Paul initially met the group he is writing to, he was personally ill. While he recuperated he shared the gospel with those around him. And those he shared with received it with joy. They also “bore fruit” of their love for God’s word by how they cared for Paul during his stay with them. They showed the love of Jesus.
It appears that, because of this new teaching about circumcision, the temperament of the group has changed towards Paul. The false teachers are enticing the believers to abandon Paul and dismiss his teachings. I wonder how they got so much sway over the people. These were not Jews who had grown up following the law. They were Gentiles who had, up until Paul came, worshiped other gods.
Maybe that is why they so easily fell prey to the false teaching. In serving other gods they had engaged in rituals and works to try and please their gods. We know that their gods were incapable of doing anything on their behalf but the mysticism and performances lent believability to their god’s pleasure with their acts when something positive did happen. They were used to “singing for their supper.”
Now they are presented with the One true God who did all the work for them. They don’t have to perform some special ritual or eat the right food. All they have to do is accept His free gift. They were MORE than overjoyed to take what He had to offer. But wait, there must be a catch. No one gives you something for nothing. No one pays your debts for you without expecting something in return.
That is where the diversion into works began. Yes, God does want something in return. He wants a relationship with you. But He doesn’t demand you create that relationship by making yourself ready first. He designs and refines that relationship with you AFTER you become His. And that relationship isn’t built on a platform of performance but one of love. BECAUSE I love Him I want to please Him with my life.
Paul begs his reader to remember the joy of their relationship, the misery of their service to other gods, and make an informed choice. “Which one do you really want? Slavery or freedom?”
Father God, thank You for showing me how this group was so easily swayed. I never thought of this struggle from their point of reference before. That was all that they had known. So it was easy to convince them to come back to the familiar. I struggle with new understanding too. It’s easy to fall back into the old patterns. Sometimes it’s hard to keep walking in what I have learned when so many others say it should be done another way.
Thank You for giving me a tenacious spirit where I can stand in the face of opposition. I have to remember also to temper that spirit with wisdom. Please help me know which obstacles are there for my protection and which are for my growth. And help me to maintain the growth You cultivate in me. I don’t want to go backwards in our walk together. Help me in the area of guilt. That is where I need to continue taking back ground.