Thursday, 17 March 2016
Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Galatians 3:4
There is no record in the book of Acts concerning the suffering that is mentioned here, but Paul’s words in this epistle form their own record and witness to it. He could not have written to the Galatians about their having suffered if they didn’t, in fact, suffer. And so it is obvious that some sort of ills had befallen them after their Christian conversion. The nature of this suffering can only be speculated upon, but several obvious possibilities are: 1) A loss of fellowship with family or friends; 2) A loss of employment; 3) Persecution by those who still held to whatever religion they had left behind; 4) Persecution from the Jews who detested the truth of the gospel found in Christ.
In these, or in any other ways, the Galatians had suffered directly from having received the gospel and then having turned away from their old ways of life. It should be noted that Paul ties his thought in with suffering and not in with their accomplishments. Their suffering was because of their faith in Christ, not because of their works. It is a connection to the constant theme of Paul in all of his writings; salvation by grace through faith. It is this by which they were granted the Spirit (as is noted in the previous two verses).
In a way of getting them to think this issue through, he asks them concerning this suffering, “Have you suffered so many things in vain?” He is asking them to think on the high cost they had already paid for calling on Christ. Was it simply a pointless moment in their existence? However, in hopes that they hadn’t completely turned away, he qualifies his thought with, “…if indeed it was in vain.” In other words, maybe their faith was still there but simply misdirected. The purpose of his letter is to determine the truth of the matter and then to redirect them if possible.
Life application: What have you given up for Christ? For some, the answer might be, “Not very much.” But for others, a great deal was given up in order to pursue this new life. By turning to the Law of Moses for a right standing with God, everything that was lost or which resulted in suffering for Christ was in vain. Does Christ’s cross have so little meaning to us that we would turn from it and to something that can never save?
There is never such a sweet moment as those which I spend close to You, O God. Many wonderful things come my way, but they are temporary and only satisfy me for a moment. But when I consider You, the excitement never ends, the anticipation of joy for all the ages to come, and the prospect of eternal life in Your presence is like a spring of cool water to my soul. I am so grateful to You for Christ in me, the hope of glory. Amen.