Galatians 1:21–2:10 (read online ⧉)
The church often states that the message from God has never changed. That’s not entirely accurate. God’s amazing grace was before all and in all. God’s expression of grace was certainly in multiple forms from Adam to Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons. Through Moses, the message changed from a family group to a nation (we often miss this change). The nation and Law was not something we see as grace, yet it took a nation of slaves and transformed them into God’s chosen people. From there grace transformed them into a powerful nation. From there grace kept their identity as God’s people intact, even when they abandoned God, and ended up in other nations. The message always changed. The Truth did not.
We Christians look at Jesus and the Gospel as the message that never changed. It is possibly more accurate to say that through Jesus and the Gospel that the message was expressed to its fullest. Yes, that is a nuance. However, that nuance is not small in any way, shape, or form. If it was small, Paul wouldn’t have gone to Jerusalem.
Jesus’ first followers, and his core followers, were Jews. Everything was from a Jewish perspective. For them, therefore, this was a Jewish thing. It makes perfect sense that many would not be able to separate Jewish practices from their Messiah. Hence we ourselves need to be more grace-filled towards those we read about in the New Testament. Remember, they were learning just what all this meant. Paul was pretty sure what it all meant. He just had to convince others.
This is a long preface to a new and old truth. Mode and method do not equal message. Not too long ago, we had church splits over worship music. Mostly, that’s over, though some still complain about one sort of music or the other. There is the comparisons between contemporary format (which all Generations Sunday services have) and “traditional” liturgical services. It seems so obvious to many now that these are merely different ways to still share the Gospel and gather together. Now there are digital churches. Then there are microexpression churches. This form of church caters to a specific interest group or demographic. Is it bad? In many respects, yes, for it continues the “one hour on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week.” Granted, it is often no longer over race. It does reach people who would not otherwise be reached by “normal” church.
The church has long needed to reinvent itself, perhaps not so much to reach new people (though that really does help), but to reinvigorate itself. The church seems to have entered a period of stagnation. Either the stagnation needs to be flushed out, or the church can suffocate. It seems harsh, yet in many respects that is exactly what Paul had to deal with. The church that was forming had to reinvent itself. It had to separate itself from the ways that kept in mired in the past. Once it broke free, the freeing message of the Gospel got wings.
1) Why do people hold onto traditions? How do you know when a tradition is stagnate, and when it is life-giving?
2) What “how church is done” thing do you hold onto? Why? How does it give you life?
3) What is one “new” church thing that you enjoyed and/or found life-giving once you actually started doing it?
Action: Take your “church thing” and explain not only what it is, but also how it builds up the church and fellow Christians.