The apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi who had extensive respect for and acquaintance with God’s law (Acts 22:3) had some very shocking thoughts about it once he came to faith in Christ. Although he heartily agreed that it was “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), and although he knew the beautiful nature of God’s law, he also knew that the law could never bring sinners to life because no one could obey it. He confessed that all his obedience (and it was extensive) had no more value than a pile of manure (Phil. 3:8). He wrote: “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.” (Rom. 3:20) What then? Are we Jews [who have the written law] any better off [than Gentiles who didn’t]?
While studying Galatians 1:11-24, I am struck once again with how utterly supreme God’s loving plans are for us in Christ. Paul, captured always by the vision of the original capturing vision of Jesus on the Damascus road, appeals again to the singular transforming power of the gospel by appealing to the way it powerfully transformed him. He was headed one direction, resting in his own sovereignty over his life. But the One who had set Paul apart before his life story even began called him in grace and was pleased to reveal the Son to him (Gal. 1:15-16). His life was never the same. Paul was writing his own life story, but Jesus stole his pen… He got hijacked by the gospel.
When’s the last time you crept out of your house to worship at the feet of a sculpture created in your own image? Never, right? While you probably haven’t done that, it’s likely that you’ve asserted your claim to the title of “Center of the Universe” in other, sometimes subtler, ways. Ever honk at another car while driving because you thought it was slowing you down? Ever neglect a household responsibility because you thought someone else ought to do it? Ever dwell on a compliment someone paid you? If we take an honest look at our lives, we’re likely to find evidence of pride under every rock and around every corner.
The words in chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah have affected me for years. In that Scripture, God tells us the Father sees our relationship with the poor (or lack of it) as something serious. It is impossible to serve God with all our hearts and at the same time miss out on God’s call to care for the needy. The Scriptures say the way we care for the poor is tantamount to the way we see God. The prophet makes it clear that we must have a relationship with the poor if we hope to please God with our lives. But in today’s church, most of us don’t know a single person who is needy. How can we obey God if we aren’t connecting with the poor on a regular basis? We can’t. Something needs to change. We need to hear the call of God to those in need.
How Important is the Bible?