Christmas is, or at least it should be, a season of joy. But what is the joy of Christmas? Joy is the natural human response to the good news of Jesus. This joy is the inheritance of every Christian.
Even someone as awesome as William Tyndale can make a mistake. And even as revered a translation as the King James Version can unthinkingly perpetuate it.
When we keep our eyes focused on the immediate, we lose the perspective of eternity. However, if we will lift our eyes to the transcendent Jesus, everything, including the immediate, comes into proper perspective.
To put one’s faith in Christ necessarily involves a total reorientation of one’s life towards God and righteousness and not simply an adding of Christ to one’s previous way of life. The Law, rather than being a means of obtaining righteousness, had the goal of leading us to the end of ourselves in our pursuit of righteousness and to our single-minded focus on God’s grace in Christ as the means of righteousness.
The lesson from Colossians chapter 1 for us today is this: that a church’s health is directly proportionate to the degree to which it is singularly obsessed with knowing God and pleasing him. Are we “full” of the comprehension of God’s will?
How do you make decisions when your alternatives all seem morally problematic? How do you choose between two options that are both bad but in different ways? Do you choose the lesser evil, or the greater good?
Paul’s gospel is not really one of justification, but of reconciliation. Humanity, because of its sin, exists in a state of rebellion and enmity with God. Despite our best efforts to improve ourselves we find we cannot. Because our problem is not just sinful behavior but really hatred and mistrust towards God, the solution for our problem is not just legal justification but reconciliation. God demonstrates his love for us despite our rebellion. We respond in loving faith and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love and trust God, to no longer want to rebel.
Paul’s augmented rebuke of Peter says: if you’re going to live by the law at all, you have to live by it in total. But to do so would be pointless, since even we Jews know that we are not justified before God by that law, but by faith, specifically the faith of Jesus. So there is no place, the implied argument goes, for tiers within Christ’s followers based on adherence to Jewish customs.
In Paul’s understanding of the gospel, compromise on circumcision would not simply have been about unity. Rather it would have undercut the integrity of the entire gospel and of Christ’s work on the cross.
Galatians 2:3-10 (3) But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised (4) because of false brothers smuggled in (who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us), (5) to whom we did not yield…