Friday, August 2, 2013

The Eager Wait: Running a Good Race

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5
What does Paul mean when he says that “we eagerly await"? Many have taken this to mean that they are to wait passively for the second coming or some sort of end times event like a rapture or rise of the Anti-Christ. This thinking has led to a theory that Christians are to have nothing to do with culture i.e. arts, politics or social work, but rather we are to await our “real” home, Heaven. Others have thought that waiting for the hope of righteousness is living the “best we can while we are here”. This usually entails a moral code of some sort, with great emphasis given to personal morality and righteousness. The problem with this approach has been discussed and explained by Pastor Heath as we have looked at Galatians on Sunday mornings and have discussed these sermons in our community groups.

So what does it mean when the text says that we eagerly wait? Most commentators I have looked at have explained it as a waiting that is active. In fact Paul seems to convey the same idea in the next verse, “For in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 5:6. Another version says it this way, “…but faith working through love.” (NASB). The eager wait of the believer is having our faith work through love. We are saved by grace and kept by grace, this means that we have nothing to do with our being called as God’s people. But there is work going on in this wait, God is at work. Our faith which is a gift from God is expressing itself through love. For Paul, waiting for the hope of righteousness is the action of faith working through love.

The thought continues, “You were running a good race, who cut in on you and hindered you from obeying the truth?”5:7.  This analogy illustrates what waiting really is here in Galatians 5. To eagerly wait is to run a good race.

Every race has a goal, a desired end, a finish line. The race mentioned here has a finish line as well and Paul is passionate in his coaching. He wants to see the Galatians run a good race and finish strong. The finish line, mentioned in verse 5, “the righteousness for which we hope” is the hope of the believer. What awaits the believer at the end of this life? What hope do we have when all seems hopeless and dark? Is death the final experience for us? Are we to suffer forever? Will this world remain evil and broken? Paul is adamant that Jesus was crucified and buried and then he was raised. This is the testimony that serves as the very foundation of the Church. Jesus is resurrected, he is the true Messiah, the King of the nations. He is the one who has made and is making all things new, all things right.

This rightness, or righteousness is the end result of the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit through his people. I believe the righteousness hoped for here is the resurrection of God’s people and the restoration of God’s creation. For what is true of Jesus is true for his people. We eagerly wait for our resurrection, the making right of all things. Our hope is that God will do what he has promised. This is the faith given to Abraham and all who believe. This is a cosmic hope, a cosmic righteousness. It is not about our individual morality or how “holy” we are as measured by a code of conduct. It is all about Jesus and what he has done: He has fulfilled the covenant given to Israel and humanity. He has succeeded where Israel failed. He has purchased a people by suffering and dying as their atonement. He has taken upon himself, in our place, the wrath of God demanded for breaking his Law. He is the means through which God has made the world right and is making the world right. This people he has purchased and redeemed has become the New and True Humanity, finding their identity in what God has done through Jesus and in his mission to restore the world (see Galatians 3:23-4:7).

So we run this race toward the finish line of the eradication of evil and injustice and the redemption of God’s humanity and world. We are eager in our waiting as faith works and expresses itself though our love and compassion for all of God’s image bearers. For we have a hope that is more real and tangible than even our own skin and circumstances. I pray we as a community continue to “eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” 

I look forward to these next talks on Galatians as we look at what it looks like to run a good race, to hope in the righteousness of God.

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