Yesterday I posted a definition of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I got some comments and questions. Thank you! So today I am going to explain…
This definition of being a follower of Jesus is one that I am developing after months of studying Galatians, which I am getting ready to write about. Thank you so much for your comments, because they will help me. Please comment more or email me!
I have come to believe that Galatians has been mistranslated/interpreted to say that Paul was emphasizing that freedom from the Torah meant that we were now free to follow a set of Christian “rules.” But Paul doesn’t use the word Torah in Galatians, he uses “rules” or “laws.” He also doesn’t talk about Christian rules that Jesus made or even Jesus’ life example. He talks about Jesus’ faithfulness.
To summarize, Galatians is not about “the Torah” vs “Jesus’ way”. It is about “any human action” vs “Jesus’ faithfulness.” Meaning we are not followers of Jesus because of anything we do (keeping any set of rules, doing any number of good works, or figuring out a correct theology). We are followers of Jesus because Jesus’ faithfulness has allowed us to be united to the Holy Spirit which is the only way we can follow Jesus. Paul calls this “hearing faith.” Hearing is not something we have control over. The faithfulness of Jesus happened and the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to “hear it.”
It is the Holy Spirit who joins us to Christ – how we are crucified with Christ. And it is the Holy Spirit (not a set of rules, not performing good works, not knowing right theology) that allows us to do the work of God. I can follow every rule, do all kinds of good works, know perfect theology, and not be a follower of Jesus.
So the question becomes – how am I guided by the Spirit so that I might follow Jesus? Paul says we “sow” to the Spirit. Some might say this is the same as imitating Christ, but in imitating Christ, I don’t look at what he did and try to do the same (like turning over temple tables or loudly judging people like Jesus did to the Pharisees – that was Jesus’ job, not mine). When Paul talks about imitating Jesus, I sow to the Spirit – like Jesus did when he got away to pray. I nurture my relationship with the Spirit. Spiritual practices of prayer (I don’t like the word disciplines) are a way of listening to the Spirit. Studying scripture and other writings or being in fellowship with other followers of Jesus are ways of sowing to the Spirit. But they aren’t rules. Jesus didn’t give us a set of rules or a list of good works, or a theology – he gave us the Spirit to guide us.
Paul says that if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, then any set of religious rules are a waste of time. He also says that if we are guided by the Spirit, any desires of the flesh will be overcome.
For this reason, I think the number one priority of the church should be to teach congregants to sow to the Spirit for it is the only way to follow Jesus.
Because of the faithfulness of Jesus (to God and to us – in his life, on the cross, in the resurrection — and even now as he prays for us), we have been set free from our old selves and old ways of religion. We are a new creation – people of the Spirit – who can know God intimately. We have something far better than rules, works, and arguments over theology – all of which sum up religion.
Oh and by the way, Paul makes clear that the Spirit does not discriminate. It matters not if you are a Jew or a Gentile pagan, Christian or any religion, Slave or Free, Male or Female. Because of the faithfulness of Jesus, the Spirit has been sent to transform us all into a new creation. All we can do is say “Yes!”
So from what I have learned from Paul in Galatians came my statement of what a follower of Jesus is…
through the power of the Holy Spirit
has responded to the faithfulness of Jesus with faithfulness.
she does not perform another’s list of good deeds,
she does not stake her faith on knowing the right theology.
by the faithfulness of Jesus
to walk faithfully, boldly, intimately, and unafraid with God.
Check out April’s Books – great for group studies. She’d love for you to find the words “Follow” somewhere on this page (depending on your browser) and follow her blog too!