by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 August 19, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(199)Thesis:Any fixation upon "obedience" as the means to one's own ends has the capacity to destroy the intended impact of "grace".
Introduction:Because we considered the reality of the impact of God's willingness to enter into a real interactive relationship with another in our last study, this evening we are going to look into how that interaction can be effectively annulled. What is it that effectively, and actually, blocks God's "knowledge" of another? Remember, the "knowledge" here is "relationally based" and is not "automatic" to God's omniscience. Relationally based knowledge requires actual relational interaction. Paul's "you have come to know God" means that if the relationship breaks down, it is not God's doing; but, on the other hand, "you have been known of God" does mean that if the relationship breaks down, it is man's doing.
That relationships can, and do, break down means that we need to understand the process as well as we can. In the final two verses of the paragraph before us, Paul lays out how men block God out.
I. In Reverse Order, What Was Paul's "Fear"?
A. The translators' ambiguity (AV -- I am afraid of you; NASB -- I fear for you) pushes us to seek a clarity of what Paul is actually expressing.
B. As with most biblical statements, there are layers involved.
1. Technically, Paul was not afraid in any sense that makes his experience the bottom line.
a. Since it was his claim, and his truth, that he was willing to be accursed for those he loved (Romans 9:3), it is pretty much impossible for us to think of his fear as a self-focused thing.
b. Though there is a difficulty here [How is it "love" if there is no "fear" involved?], the difficulty does not make Paul's experience the issue.
2. Also, technically, Paul was not afraid "of" the Galatians.
a. The issue of his fears is stated: what happens if his labors are rendered ineffective?
b. This issue of his fears is not what happens to him if his labors prove ineffective.
1) This is complicated by the fact that "fears" are always about the one who is afraid to some degree.
a) If Paul was actually willing to be accursed for his brethren's sake, he had to have a large investment in what those brethren were going to experience.
b) If his "large investment" meant the eternal sacrifice of his own well-being, what happens to him if that "large investment" is absolutely denied?
c) Clearly, there simply has to be something that can offset the impact of the denial of an extremely deeply held objective.
d) That "something" is identified by the Scriptures: the actual satisfaction of the soul that is met by the union between God and that soul.
e) There is this question: What would the actual experience be for someone whose experience of Hell was set in the context of the deepest satisfaction of the soul? If Paul could be accursed for his brethren, would his experience of that accursedness be "Hell"?
2) Without dispute, however, the issue of ineffective labors in regard to the Galatians is to some degree about what happens to those who make those labors vain.
a) This raises the issue of just exactly what it was that Paul's labors were supposed to accomplish.
b) This issue is settled by the context: Paul's labors were designed by him, if not also by God, to get the Galatians "justified" so that the potential for the Joy of Life was actually set in motion.
i. This does not mean that post-justification progress was not in view.
ii. It does mean that the lack of post-justification progress was not as fearful as the actual lack of justification and its consequences.
II. What, Then, Was the Problem?
A. The manifestation of the problem consisted of an obsessive commitment to observing religious practices that could not accomplish the "goal" set for that commitment.
B. This means that the problem itself had to have a final level of futility at its core.
C. This indicates that the problem's identity is this: the attempt to supplant God at the level of "setting objectives" by creating a "leveraged system" that puts God under the dominion of the one obsessively keeping the rules ... i.e., making the rule keeper the "god" who is able to compel the "God" to use His power to his ends.