ACTS 2.0: If you were reading along through the book of Acts, you'll likely remember all of the tension present between the early Jewish Christians and the new Gentile (non Jewish) converts. Prior to Jesus, the Jews took pride in the fact that they were God's chosen people, set apart from the rest of the world. Much of their Jewish identity came from their religious rituals, ceremonial washings, and dietary restrictions which were instructed by God through Moses.
But we've also now read the book of Hebrews, which indicates that most of those Mosaic laws and customs were just a shadow and a blurry picture pointing to the coming Messiah. Now that Christ has completed the ultimate sacrifice of atonement with His own perfect blood, there's no more need for the shadows and pictures of the Mosaic law.
But put yourself in the sandals of one of these early Jewish Christians. All of the sudden you're surrounded by lots of different people who are now also claiming to be God's children, but who are not adopting any of the ritualistic identity markers that you've associated with Godly people for as long as you can remember. That's a pretty tough pill to swallow. For better or worse, the Jews attempted to get their new Gentile brethren to look like what the Jews thought a good, Godly person ought to look like: one who keeps all the laws of Moses, but who also trusts in Christ. The problem is that the more a person strives to keep those old laws, the less he will trust in Christ.
This is exactly what was going on in the churches of Galatia. The Jews there were slowly dragging the church back into law keeping as a necessary component of their salvation, which in fact was dragging the entire church back into a slavery to sin (v16).
PAUL'S MESSAGE CAN BE BOILED DOWN TO TWO WORDS: YOU ARE IN CHRIST: This is the first epistle (letter) of Paul we are reading through, but already his primary message on which all of his epistles are based comes through: becoming a Christian changes your identity at the deepest levels. V19-20 summarizes this key concept of what being 'in Christ' means:
YOU WERE: Trying (and failing) to get through life your own way (either by scrupulous law keeping like the Jews or flailing about in empty ways of life like the Gentiles) BUT GOD SAVED YOU: Jesus 'loved you and gave Himself for you' SO YOU DIED IN CHRIST: You 'died to the law' (whatever ways you had been trying to earn God's favor) You 'have been crucified with Christ' (you died to the old sinful lifestyle) AND NOW YOU LIVE IN CHRIST: You 'live for God' through 'faith in the Son of God.' so It 'you no longer live, rather Christ lives in you.'
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God was at work in the early apostles and who is at work in you (v8).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you may no longer live to yourself, but that Christ will live in you (v20).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Check out the first course in the Worthington CRC Lifelong Learning program:
The videos are only 5 minutes long and include interactive discussion questions.