Sunday 12 June 2016

The Epistle readings this month are from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians.

Following the death of Jesus, the Church began to teach that people did not have to become Jews to be Christians or follow the Mosaic Law. The gospel taught was that we are justified by faith alone, not obedience to a set of rules.

The Church at Galatia was founded by Paul’s proclamation of that gospel but within a short space of time once Paul had left, the Church was infected by false teachers who taught a more acceptable message for many people, in which they were given freedom to act as they wished. This pleased, as it does now, when people who should be teaching others how to live according to Scripture are encouraging them to go their own way, and doing so themselves.

These false teachers were also insisting that it was necessary for men to be circumcised according to Jewish custom and to fully obey Jewish Law. Some Galatians were accepting such teaching, but Paul felt he had to act before the situation became hopeless. He wrote this Letter to rebuke such behaviour and encourage the people back to the authentic gospel message.

The Letter conveys the doctrine of justification by faith through grace, and in Chapter 6 will contain Paul’s emphasis of the work of Jesus on the Cross. Paul stated those well known words, ‘but far from me to boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’

So many people believe that by performing good deeds heaven is assured for them and the Church has allowed such thinking to go largely unchallenged, preferring to do so rather than preach the truth. Christ died for us sinners on the Cross and so conveys unpalatable truths, such as we are all sinners who have offended God and we by ourselves cannot put that right. People become highly offended by being told they are sinners, who they see as immoral, or untrustworthy, or anti-social.

Christ bore our sin because that is the only way of being accepted by God. (No one comes to the Father except by me, said Jesus)
Peter stated, ‘salvation is found under no other name under heaven by which men may be saved’. So next time you see the Cross, remember Jesus gave His life there that you may be saved through His sacrifice, and be accepted by God.

Paul's great passion was to make people Christians. We all need to pray that all Church Ministers of every kind of Office from Archbishop's down to the lowly pastor may have such passion as Paul. Especially Bishops who write letters about climate change and foodbanks may turn to writing letters deploring the lack of Christian commitment generally, and as far as Britain and America are concerned, for their leaders to stop promoting anti Christian legislation.

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