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The Grace Project

Grace Works: Agape Paradigm

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 Some have suggested that Grace is a licence to sin or a call to laziness, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The only "Works" that are acceptable God are those that He has prepared and arise out of rest. It for that reason that we suggest that "Grace Works"

Whenever one attempts to define Christian conduct, one must begin with freedom as the immutable premise. To paraphrase Gene Edwards if we should begin anywhere else, such as when we start with guidelines, codes, rules or laws, we begin in bondage.

In arriving at this point in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, Paul's freedom hortation has comprised of a compelling combination of autobiographical, allegorical, historical and theological argument designed to repudiate the repugnant theology of the Agitators who had insidiously inserted themselves in Galatia. These pervasive intruders had evidently enjoyed a measure of success [1:6] and had managed to persuade members of the fledgling community that they must receive the sign of "God's covenant in the flesh" [3:3; 5:12; 6:12; Gen. 17:13].

Natural man prefers law to freedom. Yet, law is the antithesis of the freedom which we have been saved for and called to [5:1; 5:13]. Having been liberated from the law, those who subsequently choose to accept circumcision must realize that rather than progressing towards perfection [3:3], they have repatriated themselves back to slavery [4:9], bound "to keep the whole law" [5:3], "under a curse" [3:10], "severed from Christ" and "fallen from grace" [5:4]. T hose who wish to be under the law [4:21] make themselves "outlaws". At both an individual and corporate level, the ramifications are seismic because the imposition of Torah, not its removal, results in non-love and ultimately, "mutual destruction" . Paul redirects the Galatians to the realm of the Spirit.

The bewitchment at Galatia reverberates with an echo of Eden. The underlying perennial reprobate insinuation is unmistakable - There is something that you can do to make yourself more like (or more liked by) God [Gen. 3:5]. Even the impugning of Paul's motive followed a similar logic - The circumcised Paul is denying the Galatian converts circumcision because he knows that should they receive it, they would be like him. The proposition is perverse in that the Agitators were pretending they want to secure the Galatians' freedom; nothing could be further from the truth [6:12,13]. Having "heard evidence" from Hagar and Sarah [4:21-31] in the preceding chapter, Paul proceeds to Galatians 5:13-6:10 which now serves as his closing argument, by disabusing the Galatians of the Law's ability to vindicate. The Law is not part of the defence; a u contraire , the Law is the star witness for the prosecution - "There is one who accuses you - Moses - on whom you have set your hope" [Jn. 5:45].

Paul's hope was that his converts would resist the Agitators' overtures and "go the whole way and emancipate themselves" [5:12]. "For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" [6:15]. In summary, Paul says and now concludes by proving that it is not Law but Grace that works.

Unless otherwise stated, all quotations from the Bible in this Research Paper in the form of [c:vvv] are from the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians.

CK Barrett, Freedom and Obligation - A Study in the Epistle to the Galatians (London: SPCK, 1985), p. 74.
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