by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 4 November 6, 2011 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(131)Thesis:The purpose of the "suffering" of a believer is to deepen his/her reliance upon grace.
Introduction:We have been considering the six questions that Paul asked the Galatians in Galatians 3:1-5. In our studies we have seen that it is "foolish" for believers to replace their faith in the Grace of God with a commitment to the Justice of God. We have seen that the cardinal Truth which is to dominate the thinking of every believer is "Jesus Christ, crucified", and the cardinal Belief which is to dominate that thinking is that our lives are both dominated by the Spirit of Jesus and enhanced by that domination when we rest in the Grace that produced "Jesus Christ, crucified".
This evening we are going to look into the fifth of Paul's six questions: Did you suffer so many things in vain?
This question may appear to come winging in from left field (i.e., have little to nothing to do with Paul's thinking), but that appearance is more of a commentary on our lack of understanding than it is of Paul's "tight logic" in his refusal to allow the Galatians to continue in their foolishness.
So, what did he mean and how should we understand his words?
I. "Meaning" in Context.
A. The context is not "unclear".
1. The argument throughout the entire flow of Paul's words is this: one has the best possible life when one is fixated upon that characteristic of God that produced "Jesus Christ, crucified".
a. In Paul's words, the best possible life is that life that flows into, and out of, his body when he is "alive to God" (2:19) because that life is actually produced by Christ's Spirit dwelling in that body and sponsoring its actions (2:20).
b. The logic is not "hard".
1) God is "the living God".
2) Living as the outcome of the living God dwelling within cannot possibly be deficient in any way.
c. The foundation is rooted in the crucifixion by which Christ eliminated every barrier to the Life by dying to the Law and its attendant connections to the Justice of God and by which Paul was freed from Sin.
d. The driving characteristic is clearly identified: "the grace of God" (2:21).
2. This argument directly confronts the reality that "Life" is not deficient even though it accepts some pretty severe issues of "suffering".
B. The presence of "suffering" is not merely "accepted"; it is the root out of which "Life" flows (Note Philippians 3:10).
II. "Meaning" in a Larger Context.
A. In the larger picture of the New Testament there is a very particular presentation of "suffering".
1. When unbelievers are involved, "suffering" is viewed as a means to redemption (this is why Revelation 9:20-21 carries a kind of "shock" connotation).
2. But when believers are involved, "suffering" is viewed as evidence of redemption (Note both 2 Thessalonians 1:5 and Acts 5:41) and a spur to progress in that redemption (Hebrews 5:8 says that even the sinless Son "learned" by means of suffering).
B. Paul's concept of "suffering" in our text is in view of whether "progress" can be made "by Law" (No) or must be made by "the Spirit" (Yes) so that we conclude that the suffering to which Paul is pointing is post-redemption.
1. Post-redemption suffering is to be embraced as Paul did in Philippians 3:10.
2. The Galatians had, apparently, bought into that notion while he was with them, and were making progress.
3. But, a turn by them to "Law" would nullify that progress and make their "suffering" vain.