Lent Prayer for Strength and Protection
Lord God, heavenly Father, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection, to support us in all danger, and carry us through all temptations; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Over the last five weeks we have studied Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, where he addresses the danger of failing to be set free by grace alone. In chapters one and two we saw how Paul declared, demonstrated, and defended the gospel’s doctrine of being set free purely through God alone. We cannot earn grace; it is a free gift from a loving God to us.
As a form of Lenten study I challenge you to set aside the time to study chapters three and four, where Paul offers six compelling, convincing arguments to prove that God saves sinners through faith in Christ and not by the works of the law.
The outline is as follows:
The personal argument – (3:1-5)
The scriptural argument – (3:6-14)
The logical argument – (3:15-29))
The historical argument – (4:1-11)
The sentimental argument – (4:12-18)
The allegorical argument – (:19-31).
In the personal argument Paul asks, ‘Have you experienced so many things in vain?’ It was obvious that these people had experienced something in their lives when Paul had first visited them; but the Judaizers had come along and convinced them that their experience was not complete. They needed something else, and that ‘something else’ was obedience to the law. Paul reminds them that they had truly experienced a meeting with God. They saw God the Son (3:1), they received God the Holy Spirit (3:2-3). They experienced miracles from God the Father (3:5)
Now Paul moves from the subjective experience to the objective evidence using the scriptural argument. Abraham was saved by faith (3:6-7). This salvation is for the Gentiles (3:8-9). This salvation is by faith, not law (3:10-12). This salvation comes through Christ (3:13-14). Paul recognises that there is a fascination to the law, but it is only bait that leads to a trap, he finds himself in bondage. Far better to take God at his word and rest on his grace. We are saved ‘by grace, through faith.’ This is the way to blessing. The other way is the way to bondage.
Paul then moves into the logical argument he makes four statements that help us understand the relationship between the promise and the law.
1) The law cannot change the promise (3:15-18). The word promise is used eight times in these verses, referring to God’s promise to Abraham. The law was not a requirement as part of the covenant agreement.
2) The law is not greater than the promise (3:19-20). The law was temporary and required a mediator. The covenant of promise was permanent, and no mediator was required.
3) The law is contrary to the promise (3:21-26). It‘s as if Paul can hear the Judaizers asking the questions ‘Is the law then against the promises of God, is God contradicting himself?’
Paul does not say the law contradicts the promise, but rather cooperates with the promise in fulfilling the purposes of God. While it seems that the law and grace are contrary to one another, they actually complement each other.
4) The law cannot do what the promise can do (327-29). The law could never justify the guilty sinner, it could not give a person a oneness with God (it separated man from God).
We now move on to the historical argument the Judaizers were suggesting that the law would make them better Christians. Paul takes two approaches in this section to convince the Galatians they did not need legalism in order to live the Christian life. They had all they needed in Jesus Christ.
He explained their adoption (4:1-7). He laments their regression (4:8-11). What really happened when the Galatians turned from grace to law by adopting the Old Testament system of religion with its special observances of ‘days, months, and years’, was not an improvement but actually a step backwards in their relationship with God. It was unnecessary and unhelpful.
Paul then turns to the sentimental argument seeing their affection (4:12-18). He reminds them of the love they had for each other and Paul asks the question ‘Where has it gone?’
Since the Judaizers appealed to the law, Paul accepts their challenge and uses the law to prove that Christians are not under the law. He takes the familiar story of Ishmael and Isaac, (Genesis 12 through to 21) The events described actually happened, but Paul uses them as an allegory, which is a narrative that has a deeper meaning behind it. In the allegorical argument He shares the historical facts about Abraham and his two wives (4:19-23). This leads on to the spiritual truths where Hagar and Sarah represent the following (4:24-29). Hagar is the Old Covenant representing the law, she is a slave, Ishmael was conceived after the flesh, earthly Jerusalem in bondage. Whereas Sarah represented the New Covenant, she was a free woman. Isaac was conceived miraculously, which is the image of Heavenly Jerusalem which is free. Paul finishes with an explanation of the practical blessings (4:30-31). The Christian is set free from the curse of the law and the control of the law. To attempt to embrace both Hagar and Sarah – the law and grace side by side is a recipe for disaster. To attempt to mix law and grace is to attempt the impossible. It makes for a frustrated, barren Christian life. But to live by grace through faith, gives one a free and fulfilling Christian life.
Well there we have a brief outline for a Lenten Bible study. The more time and commitment we spend, the more we will be encouraged and blessed.