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Galatians 5:1-15

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.


Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.


You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still peach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!


For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (ESV)

No Doctrinal Oopsy

Cyril and Methodius, Missionaries to the Slavs 

11 May 2015

Over the years, a number of my church members have undergone intricate surgeries for life-threatening diseases. Families are always relieved when the surgeon emerges from the surgical suite to say something like, "The surgery went well. Your loved one should experience a full recovery." When present for those conferences, I have yet to hear a surgeon say, "The surgery went fine, but I made one small mistake in the procedure. It wasn't a big mistake, so it doesn't matter much. I decided not to go back and fix it. But don't worry about it." No good physician would ever dare to make a speech like that. Families would never accept it as a good surgical procedure plus one "oopsy." You don't get a pass on life-and-death procedures. There are no mulligans in surgery.


Likewise, there are no mulligans in the truth of the Christian religion. If Scripture reveals the divine truth, then we may not omit any part of it. We don't have the right to sort through what we like, keeping some teachings and ignoring others. The Christian teaching is a unified whole. It is not a smorgasbord of choices for the religious consumer to pick at and sample at will. Christianity isn't about our choice. It is about God's choice to save sinners in Jesus Christ, which He has conveyed to us on the lips and through the ink stained fingers of the prophets and the apostles.  The Christian truth is likewise about life and death. False doctrine misleads into unbelief, sin, and other great shame and vice. One misstep in teaching can negate the truth, damage it, or kill the whole body.


Ask anyone who bakes bread, or makes wine. If either the baker or the vintner forget to pitch the yeast in their product, they will have neither bread nor wine. They will end up with something inedible and undrinkable. As a percentage of their labor, or the volume of their product, the yeast is insignificant. But it is not for that reason unimportant. Indeed, it is essential to a successful baking or winemaking project. Paul takes this fact and applies it especially to the article of justification and faith in the Christian religion. He says, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). This is especially true in the article of justification and faith, because it suffuses the whole corpus of the Christian doctrine. Paul considers justification to have a critical and norming function over against the law and its practices. He considers circumcision to be out of bounds, because it is an attempt to be right with God on the basis of human works, rather than on the basis of Christ, who justifies the sinner. Everything we teach, then, is related to the doctrine of justification. It isn't just a part of Christianity, but is everywhere in it, like yeast in bread. Our insistence on this, like Paul, does not mean that we are stubborn or intractable. It means we believe that God knows what He's doing when He gives us the gift of justification for Christ's sake.


Martin Luther


"The whole letter [to the Galatians] testifies well enough how much Paul suffered over the fall of the Galatians and of how often he pounded at them-now with reproof, now with begging-about the very great and inestimable evils that would follow their fall unless they reconsidered. This fatherly, apostolic care and admonition had no effect at all on some of them; for very many of them no longer acknowledged Paul as their teacher, but far and away preferred the false apostles, from whom they dreamed that they had imbibed the true doctrine instead of from Paul.


"Finally the false apostles undoubtedly slandered Paul among the Galatians. They said, 'Paul was a stubborn and contentious man, who was disturbing the harmony among the churches on account of some trifle, for no other reason than because he alone wanted to appear wise and to be honored.' With this false accusation they made Paul detestable in the eyes of many. Others, who had not yet completely defected from Paul's teaching, imagined that it was not dangerous to disagree a little with him on the doctrine of justification and faith. Therefore, when they heard Paul placing such great emphasis on what seemed to them a matter of such minor importance, they were amazed and thought: 'Granted that we have diverged some from Paul's teaching and that there is some fault on our side, still it is a minor matter. Therefore he should wink at it or at least not go on so vehemently about it. Otherwise, he could disturb the harmony among the churches with this unimportant issue."


"Paul answers them with this beautiful proverbial statement: "A little yeast leavens the whole lump" (Gal 5:9). This is a caution which Paul emphasizes. We, too, should emphasize it in our day. For the sectarians who deny the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper accuse us today of being contentious, harsh, and uncooperative, because, as they say, we shatter love and harmony among the churches on account of the single doctrine of the Sacrament. They say that we should not make so much of this little article of the faith, which is not a certain thing anyway and was not specified in sufficient detail by the apostles, that solely on its account we [Lutherans] refuse to pay attention to the sum total of Christian doctrine and to general harmony among all the churches. This is especially so because they think the same thing we do on other articles of Christian doctrine. With this very plausible argument they not only heap invective upon us among their own followers; but they even subvert many good men, who suppose that we disagree with them because of sheer stubbornness or some other personal feeling. But these are plots of the devil, by which he is trying to overthrow not only this article of the faith but the whole Christian doctrine."
Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9

Almighty God, merciful Father, keep and preserve the Church, its pastors and teachers, true to Your Word. Cause Your work to grow and flourish. Guard and protect all Christians against the danger of sinful ambitions, the love of dissension, and the spirit of indifference in doctrine and practice. Preserve us from all heresy and false belief. Give us faithful pastors and teachers of Your Word. Gather the elect from every nation into Your holy body, the Church, and bring them at last into Your Church triumphant; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


For the families of those who grieve the loss of loved ones, that they would mourn as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come


For Pastor J. Bart Day, who has begun his new labor as the Director of National Mission for the LCMS, that he would be strengthened and upheld in his work


For school teachers as they begin to wind down their school year, that they might touch the lives of the children whom they serve

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057