I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Galatians 3:2-3 (NIV).
Paul rephrases his gut check for his friends in Galatia. Were they so foolish to think that things begun by God would be made perfect by men? If their faith originated in the Holy Spirit, why would they think mankind could add anything to it?
When I lived in southeast Oklahoma, the barber my dad and I went to belonged to the town’s “3rd Baptist Church.” There were all kinds of denominations in this town, and there were all kinds of other Baptist churches. And, yes, there actually were both 1st and 2nd Baptist Churches of McAlester. After Dad asked how there came to be so many numbered Baptists, the barber replied that there had been a disagreement way back when about holy communion, specifically about when Jesus was and wasn’t a part of the sacraments. Rather than finding common ground, groups simply split off.
What good did that do? Sure, it meant that there became more avenues to spread the Word, and that’s always a good thing. But did these divisions cause more harm than good? Were they more saved? Back in middle school, the concept of being ‘saved’ was big in that town. If you weren’t ‘saved’ or ‘born again,’ your brand of Christianity somehow didn’t measure up. I remember feeling left out, as if we Presbyterians somehow missed the salvation boat because we didn’t do revival meetings, and we didn’t make a production number out of church services, and we didn’t do all those things that the members of other churches seemed to be doing. In truth, we seemed sort of boring.
But at least we didn’t split into 2nd and 3rd Presbyterian Churches of McAlester. Looking back, it seems sort of ridiculous. But I wasn’t part of the way those churches split. It must have seemed important enough to their members that they went to the lengths they did. I wonder if they ever considered what Paul said to the Galatians here. Were they glorifying Jesus by these divisions, or were they just being so foolish? Did they do this for Jesus or themselves, and who was driving it? Forty years on, are we any different?
If Jesus sends His Spirit to touch us and inspire us into believing, who are we to add to that on a first, second, or third level of anything?
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 12:10, Galatians 3:4
Lord, bless and keep those who are rendered by divisions. Heal the breaches, and help all of us to better cling to what You want us to do instead of what we want to do.
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