The Liberty of Sons (continued)
A Legal System Works Against the Faith
When you come to the letter to the Galatians alone - and I am led there very definitely at this time - you know Paul has hardly got through his introductory word before he says, "I marvel that you are so soon brought to a standstill, that your going on has so quickly been arrested." The whole letter is on that matter, namely, their arrest, and Paul's urge that they should throw off the thing which has come upon them to arrest them, and go on.
And what is it that has come in to arrest? Well, it is the same thing you find in so many other directions in the Church of the New Testament times. It is those Judaizers from Jerusalem who were following Paul wherever he went, coming after him and in among the fruits of his ministry, his converts, and saying, "Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved," bringing in the old traditional system of religion, a fixed thing, in all its legality, and seeking to impose it upon them. And the tragedy, the shame, the grief of it is this, that it is so infectious that even a Peter can become contaminated; even a Peter, a pillar in the Church, a foremost apostle, a good and godly man, devoted to and serving the Lord. Here in this letter to the Galatians, Paul says, "Certain came down from James, and Peter was infected, and he compromised, and I withstood him to the face." That is a terrible passage, a terrible situation. But do you see what it implies? There are few people so good, so high up spiritually, so distinguished for their service to the Lord, and their relationship with the Lord, so few who cannot be infected with this something which works so insidiously against the faith in its essence: good men, godly men, devout men, Peters, men of the first three, touched by this thing that is at work. What is it? A legal system set and fixed, be it Jewish or Christian, which straddles the path of going right on with the Lord to His full thought, which just comes right in the way of all that sonship means.
For you see how the Apostle leads right off on his matter of sonship in the letter to the Galatians. He is dealing with this spiritual, heavenly seed. His introduction is all concerning that. "Paul, an apostle, not of men but of God, Who raised Jesus from the dead ... to deliver us from this present evil world." How significant is every word. There is something here that is not of this earth, not from down here at all, something not of men - "I received it not of man, I was not taught it of man." There is something here that is from heaven. This thing from heaven was on the basis of resurrection; and that is of God, and God only, something above all that is here. We are delivered from this present evil world or age, and Paul in his mind was not only thinking of the vast, sinful world of paganism and heathenism; he was thinking also of the religious world. "It pleased God to reveal his Son in me." We mark, then, all the spiritual elements about his very introductory words.
Where the Fight of Faith Arises
And then, when he has struck tremendous blows at this system of things, this religious system, and has challenged Peter over it, in respect of his dissimulation, he goes on about this heavenly and spiritual seed. "We are sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 3:26). Then he moves to Ishmael and Isaac, the seed after the flesh and the seed after the Spirit, and brings in this whole matter of what sonship really is, as being something after the Spirit. What he is saying in this whole letter is just this in a word: Sonship, with all that God means by sonship, is what is in view, and over against it there is this breaking in continually of things religious, subtle, beautiful, with all the argument that God is in them; but, nevertheless, breaking in with one object, all hidden from sight, namely, to cut right across the path of the believer in his going right on to God's fullest thought in sonship; and it sets up a warfare.
Let us be perfectly frank and plain. Beloved, it is true that there are many good people, many leading evangelical people, many Peters if you like, touching whose devotion to the Lord we can have no question: their zeal, their consecration, is not open to discussion; and yet they are so tied by a fixed system that they become points of conflict where the matter of going right on with the Lord is concerned. They oppose, they make the difficulty and the trouble: and it is not themselves personally but the thing which binds them. Its principle it is this Judaism cropping up again, a fixed system which has held for generations and centuries, a tradition which is established, and anything that seems to require a superseding of that tradition - I choose the word carefully - at once provokes antagonism and conflict. Is it not strange? Why do I use the word supersede? Because of what Paul says here. He says there are those who have come in with another Gospel, which is not another. He means this, that all that came in with Israel was intended to lead right on to Christ, but not it is being used to hold back from Christ. The effect of it is to obstruct the way of realizing the end for which it exists. It is not really two things that are here. Christ is the complement and the fulfillment of all that came in through Moses, and if only you understand and interpret Moses right, you will go right on with Christ. But now this thing is brought in as though it were another thing. Really, in essence the two things are one, intended to be one, in the thought of God, bit it is being made two things now. But the intention of God is that there should be this glorious issue - Christ in fullness: so that, what can lead to Christ is to be superseded by Christ. You are not going to say that Judaism is all wrong, you are not going to say, all the Old Testament is wrong, is false, you are not going to say that what came in through Moss is all error. Not at all! But you are going to say that it was intended to come to a place where all that to which it was pointing would supersede it.
Oh, the conflict is there, and the fight of the faith comes right in among Paul and Peter in principle. That is a terrible thing. The fight of the faith! Oh, you would never find Paul and Peter fighting one another over any of these fundamentals of Christianity; the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Person of the Lord Jesus, the coming again. Oh no! You would find them absolutely one on all those matters, however many they were. But here, strangely, we find Peter and Paul in conflict, one having to withstand the other to the face, and it is the faith which is involved.
What the Faith Is
What is the faith? The faith is this, that Jesus is the Son of God. But that is something more than a personal, objective relationship. That is a spiritual reality which has to come into expression through Him in the Church, in His members as representing the heavenly seed, coming to the fullness of Christ; which being accomplished, is to supplant and oust all this other seed which satan has introduced into God's universe. That is the faith. The faith comes down to this, namely, what we are spiritually in God's universe. That is the faith.
What are we intended to be? We are intended to be in our experience, in our spiritual life, in our presence here, a living proof that Jesus is the Son of God; not just to declare this as a tenet of our faith and creed, but to be here as children of God growing up into sonship, by which sonship His sonship is put into expression. Do you follow what I mean?
Oh, it is over this that there is all the conflict, and I say again, the conflict gets right in inside, among godly people, godly men and women, devout men and women. Why? Because some are so held by their traditions, by their fixed system, by the thing established here in Christianity. Somehow or other that very thing gets in the way of what Paul calls here in the Galatian letter "the liberty of sons."
continued with # 12 - "The Liberty of Sons")