Galatians 1:1, 11, 12, 15, 16, 23
In this time together so far, the Lord directed our attention to that little clause - "the faith." The passages basic to our meditation have been those in the two Letters of Paul to Timothy, first his exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith, and then his own statement as to himself at the end - "I have ought the good fight, I have kept the faith," and it is into something of the meaning and significance of that phrase, "the faith," that we are being led to inquire at this time.
Here it is again in Galatians 1:23 - "He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc." What was it that Saul of Tarsus sought to destroy, of which he set himself to make havoc? Well, he was a Jew, and of the Jewish party in Jerusalem, who summed up their charge and accusation against the Lord Jesus in those words - "He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). As we said before, it was not just the coming in of a new and rival religion, but something very much deeper than that, and all that is contained in that designation "the Son of God" (Jesus, the Son of God) is what is meant by "the faith." In a word, it is sonship, and all that sonship means as something that is out from God, and which has come into this world, and which being here, is altogether other than that which is already here: different in nature and different in position, and therefore different in destiny; something in this universe which is unique - sonship.
All the forces of hell, and of this world which lieth in the wicked one, are set against that sonship; in Christ primarily, preeminently, and then in those who are begotten of God, sons of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. It is that spiritual reality, that spiritual thing, namely, sonship which is the object and occasion of all hostility that makes it necessary for believers to fight. The contention is not for a creed, not for a system of truth, not for fundamentalism, but for a spiritual position and a spiritual nature, and for all that sonship means from God's standpoint; and for all that sonship means from satan's standpoint. As we said before, wherever we come on this matter of "the faith", we find ourselves at once in very close proximity to the element of conflict. Wherever it is mentioned, nearby there is warfare.
May I just repeat one word said in our previous meditation when we were thinking about our Lord's words recorded by Luke - "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). The question does not relate to what is called in general "the Christian faith." There will be plenty of the Christian faith on the earth. The Lord Jesus would have been a bad prophet, and have had very little foresight, had His question meant that in the day of His appearing there would be very little Christianity on the earth, in that general sense. No, His question went much deeper than that, and it is a very real question, if we recognize that sonship is something which has to be brought to fullness in believers, something which relates to Christ coming to fullness in His own and of His members coming into His fullness, unto that ultimate manifestation of the sons in full growth. If that is the meaning of sonship, then indeed there is room for the question - "Shall He find the faith on this earth?"
That could be put in other words. Shall He find on the earth a people who are really going right on in sonship to the fullness of Christ? And I do not think there is any doubt about the answer. He will certainly find a great many Christians who are not going right on, who have stopped short. It will not be so easy to find these who will go right on.
My trouble this morning is lack of time, and I really do not know where to begin and what to say, because the whole New Testament gathers around this very thing.
The New Testament as a whole - of course, I am referring to the Epistles - the New Testament as a whole just comes right down on this question of who is going on, or who is going to come under this terrible arresting effort of the enemy, in the matter of spiritual growth.
A Legal System Works Against the Faith
When you come to the Letter to the Galatians alone - and I am led there very definitely at this time - you know Paul has hardly got through his introductory word before he says, " I marvel that you are so soon brought to a standstill, that your going on has so quickly been arrested." The whole letter is on that matter, namely, their stopping, and Paul's urge that they should throw off the thing which has come upon them to stop them, and go on.
(continued with # 2)