Quarantine and baby sitting
Galatians Part 4
Here on holiday in Morocco a frequent sound is that of the Islamic call to prayer. You can set your watch by it. In fact I have not brought my watch to the pool. The call means it is either 1:45 or 5 o’ clock, time to leave the pool. This brings a contrast to what I am reading from the Apostolic writing of Paul: Spiritual discipline is good (there are also calls to prayer here at dawn, dusk and late evening) but they can hide what is really going on. Here’s Galatians Chapter 3.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now a the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,”referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,”who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And a if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians chapter 3 ESV.
A whole chapter is what I am looking at here, but there is one bit I will gloss over. Paul introduces a new concept to the letter – Spirit – and a new concept, Spirit versus flesh, to run alongside the earlier faith versus law ideas. But Paul then leaves the idea if Spirit till later, and so will I.
Here in Morocco they are approaching one of the Muslim feasts. When ever you pass through a small town or village sheep and goats are available for sale, and are about to be sacrificed. This is to commemorate Ibrahim (Abraham to us) being given a sheep as a substitute so he would not have to sacrifice his son Isaac. The story runs very close to the Judeo/Christian version in Genesis. I can’t help but feel sorry for all those sheep. The Islamic religion seems to be a lot about observing laws, Whether it be the frequency of prayer times or the rituals that go with the feasts.
Reading through the letter to the Galatians so far you could be forgiven if you thought that Paul was against the Jewish law, but this could not be further from the truth. Paul thought that the Jewish Law was wonderful. To explain he goes back to Abraham again.
To recap, Abraham had faith before the covanant with God was made, and those who have faith in Jesus are children of Abraham in every way that matters. Paul says that the law is good in two ways:
1. As quarantine
2. As a baby sitter
He uses the words transgressions and guardian in the translation above, but the idea is the same.
The story of Abraham starts with a mention of his faith, and that through his offspring will bring the blessing of God to the world. The problem here is that the Jews were no better than the people around. They are also under a curse, the opposite of blessing. Which is where the Law comes in. In a hospital medical staff can become infected with the same disease as the patients – especially in a pandemic. The cure is quarantine. The Law is to quarantine the Jews, to keep them healthy until the cure comes.
Jesus is the cure.
A couple of blogs back I said that Jesus was the only individual in God. In the same way it works with the Jewish kingdom. Jesus represents the Jewish kingdom in this way. Jesus takes on and lifts the curse that prevents God’s kingdom getting through. In Jesus Christ all nations can be blessed without going through the rituals of the Law.
Meanwhile, here in Morocco there is a beautiful crescent moon. In a couple of days it will be the new moon, which will not be a good day to be a sheep.
In Morocco women have not traditionally worn full facial covering. I am told that it is not in the Q’ran but a few with more Arabian dress are beginning to appear. That is the way law works, towards more and more restrictive practice, under a legalistic religious regime this can occur even without the laws.
We want to protect women from men’s lustful glare. Better make sure the cleavage is covered. Men are still lustful? Better cover the arms and legs too. Will lustful? Cover the hair. Still lustful? Fully cover except for the eyes. What beautiful eyes you’ve got. Better cover up completely. Laws meant to protect women end up enslaving them. (My view is it is the men who are the problem.) If women had to wear Dalek costumes from Doctor Who the problem of men’s lust would not be answered. But I digress.
The Jew’s had the law to protect them. But a legal system designed to protect can become restrictive. Paul calls the Law a guardian.
Who needs a guardian? Those who are not mature, which is why I am calling it a baby sitter. We restrict our children’s freedom in order to protect them. A busy street is not a safe place for children to play.
Jesus represents maturity. We should no longer need a baby sitter when we are 23. Remember the earlier blog about there being only one individual in God, which is Jesus, and we are in Jesus.
The Jewish law is a very good thing, but Jesus has fulfilled the law.