Galatians Part 3
A shorter blog this time.
I am writing this blog from the side of a swimming pool in Agadir, Morocco. I am clearly not a Moroccan, just a British tourist. Even if I moved here, ate like the locals, learnt the language and accent of the locals, dressed like a local and changed my name I would not be Moroccan. If I became naturalised Moroccan there would be no way that I could look North African. I would look like a Northern European with a better sun tan.
In the book of Galatians, Paul talks about the identity of Christians:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:15-21.
I have heard it said that the Church is made up of individuals. While there is a lot of truth in that, Paul is taking a different tack here. There are not many individuals in God’s Church, just one. That one individual is Jesus Christ.
I could say that I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour somewhere between March and May 1974. But the event that made me a Christian did not occur in Newcastle 41 years ago, but outside Jerusalem 2,000 years or so ago. I am in Christ then what is true of Christ is true of me. This is what Paul is talking about when he says, “in Christ.” (He would go into more detail about this in the letter to the Romans.)
Christ has been crucified, therefore I have been crucified. Christ has been raised from the dead, therefore I have been raised. Not an easy concept for western minds, but the way Moroccans identify with their king is something well above the identification of the British with their Queen, even taking into account the length of her reign.
Our identification in God’s eyes is not because of what we were. Our identification is in Christ. There are no differences between people who are Christians, all are in Christ.
We are a new community. The defining badge of that community is not circumcision, but faith. Paul sees going back to a definition of the community by Jewish law as being turning away from faith.