Do you know any tongue-twisters? How about “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”? Or maybe “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?” Can you say the difficult “She sells seashells by the seashore”?
Did you know the Bible has a tongue-twister? Here it is. Romans 7:15-20,
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Could you get through that without making a mistake? I wonder if the translators were smiling when the they translated that including so many instances of the word “do”? They had to know they were making a tongue-twister, don’t you think?
While Paul’s tongue-twister is funny, it expresses very well the struggle we have with temptation. It’s almost as if tongue-twisters are a metaphor for the struggle, because they are complex and confusion.
So what tempts you? Seriously think about what tempts you to do what you should not do. What tempts you? What do you battle with? We can often struggle with sin, giving in, committing sin, feeling guilt and shame, frustration, know the God has already forgiven us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, make up our mind that we have a fresh start and try again. Only to fall into temptation yet again. Over and over the cycle can go. Is there any hope? There is.
A month ago on the blog we studied Galatians chapter 1, verse 1, through Galatians chapter 5, verse 15. That week’s study was to help us understand why the Apostle Paul was writing a letter to the Christians in the region of Galatia. That, in turn, would get us ready to study the rest of Galatians chapter 5, which talks about the Fruit of the Spirit, because our next sermon blog series is on the Fruit of the Spirit. This week we’re talking about the rest of Galatians chapter 5 because that is where Paul teaches the Fruit of the Spirit.
Before we begin looking at Galatians 5:16-26, let’s review what we learned in Galatians chapter 1 through the middle of chapter 5. Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in the region of Galatian because people in the church were teaching that when Gentile (or Non-Jewish) people became Christians, they also needed to become Jews and follow the teaching of the Old Testament Law. Paul clearly says, “That’s not true.” That’s not the Gospel he taught. The Gospel Paul taught is that Jesus has set us free from the law. When the Jews heard what Paul was teaching that Christians are set free from the Law, they would immediately be shocked, thinking that Paul is saying, “Oh, so Christians are allowed to be lawbreakers?”
What those Jews were thinking is that Christians would start to live out of control lives, doing whatever they pleased. This was particularly galling to the Jewish mindset, because God created the Old Testament Law so that the people of Israel would be different from the nations around them, the Canaanites. God wanted the Jews to be different because the Canaanites were brutal. Here’s just a few examples. They drank blood. They practiced ritual prostitution in worship, and they even sacrificed children in worship. So it was right and good for God to call the people of Israel to a different kind of life. If the people could live according to the Law, they would be creating a new society, a new culture, based on God’s truth, goodness and beauty. It was a new culture in line with God’s heart. So from the Jewish mindset, following the law was the best way to live. It was God’s way to live. Why would anyone NOT want to follow that?
Additionally, the Jews also knew their nation’s history, and there were plenty of examples when their own ancestors did not follow the Law. We learned all about that when we studied Ezekiel. The people of Israel had become totally apostate, rebelling against God, and joining in with the perverse ways and religions of the surrounding nations. That rebellion is why God allowed them to be defeated and exiled in the time of Ezekiel. The Jews in Paul’s day knew all-too-well about their forefathers’ rebellion, and they could say, “Paul, if you tell these Christians that they are free from the law, they will be just like our ancestors who didn’t care to follow the law.”
What this means is that the Christian theology of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, which you and I and the entire Christian church has understood for centuries, was not only brand new when Paul wrote this, but it sounded wrong. It sounded like Paul was teaching something that was going to result in Christians living wild, wasteful, selfish lives, which was totally against God’s desire for human flourishing. And to those Jews’ very important concerns for the Christians’ behavior, Paul says, “I do not agree with you…and yet, I see your point.”
What? How could Paul both disagree and agree? Check back into the next post and we’ll take a look.