My church is halfway through the sermon series in the book of Galatians and the speakers have been illuminating God’s truth in a way that I’ve never thought of. The truth preached were not new to me, yet the way that they were strung up to present a coherent narrative of the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant fulfilled in Jesus Christ has been most enriching. I especially enjoyed the sermon by Kenneth Wong today. He’s truly a gifted Bible teacher, able to expound and communicate deep Biblical truth in simple yet comprehensible way.
God gave Abraham a promise of prosperity and possession, as recorded in the book of Genesis, and He established this unconditional covenant, calling for Abraham to trust and believe in His word. When the law was given through Moses the mediator 430 years later, it delineates right and wrong according to the word of God.
19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator… 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:19, 23-25
The law is preparatory to the coming of Christ. Through the law, we are conscious of sin, but it does not and cannot supply the power to overcome sin. Only in Christ has the requirements of the law been met.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
I came to know God in the late 1990s. It’s a long story, although I usually tell the abridged version, but it took me a good three years to proclaim my faith in Christ. I said ‘yes’ to Jesus because I was and still am convinced that I am dead in my sin and unable to save myself, not through good works, morality, philosophy or otherwise. I believe that I am able to come to God only through Jesus, no one and nothing else. But I admit that after I had joined the church, I had added some things to Christianity, apart from faith. Maybe it’s because of my personality. My Myer-Briggs test indicates that I’m an ISTJ – I’m what you would call a ‘law by law’ person. Rules and structures matter to me, and somewhere along the way, structures outweighed their actual importance in my Christian journey. At the end of a camp (which we called Christocentric camp), for example, I noted down a list of at least 10 health measures that I told myself that I should keep to so that I will grow in my relationship with God. My overzealousness at that point in time prevented me from seeing that this confidence in the doing eclipsed my faith in God. I was a Pharisee, trusting that keeping the law is the duty of a pious Christian. I had sincerely believed that keeping to the laws would make me a better Christian and more acceptable to God.
Somewhere along the journey, the sense that the law can’t make me a better Christian became more acute. I tried dutifully and diligently (remember, I’m an ISTJ), but I couldn’t satisfy my expectations of a good Christian. It was tiring, and I wonder now if some of my peers left the church or the faith did so because they were too tired as well. Yet, the gospel of Jesus Christ became more wondrous and dearer, because I’m loved and accepted simply by grace through faith in Christ. Faith is such an abstract thing, too metaphysical for my understanding, but it became the only way I knew to come to God. Prayer was especially difficult, since it hinged so much on faith, yet God had to show me how much things were out of my control and beyond my doing that I simply had to pray. This new covenant that we have with God can only be realised and experienced through faith. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of this faith (Hebrews 12:2). This faith is never my doing or my merit, but simply a gift that God bestows.
Looking back, I see that it’s simply a growth journey that God has ordained for me, which really parallels the development of a child, to grow from immaturity to maturity (still growing though). At first my personality seemed to be a hindrance to faith, yet I see that ‘all things work together for the good of those who loved Him’ (Rom 8:28). I could study the word of God diligently because God gave me an appetite for facts and knowledge, and the word of God built the foundation for my faith. Where I had lacked in faith, I had to be tested, taught and stretched to grow. It’s so good to know this God, who I know loves me.