Category Archives: Galatians

Galatians 6

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 6 (ESV)

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 5

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 5 (ESV)

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

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 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. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 4

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 4 (ESV)

1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;

break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!

For the children of the desolate one will be more

than those of the one who has a husband.”

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 3

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 3 (ESV)

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 2

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 2 (ESV)

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 1

Greetings!  This is part of the read-the-New-Testament-in-a-year series running from June 2015 – May 2016.*  Please read and enjoy the word of God and feel free to leave comments and/or ask questions.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his truths to you.  Don’t just focus on what you don’t understand.  Think carefully about the things that are clear to you.

Galatians 1 (ESV)

1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

*If you missed anything you can always catch up later.  Just dive in!

We will go in order other than spreading the Gospels throughout the year.  We’ll start with Luke, then Acts, some of Paul’s letters, Matthew, more letters, Mark, more letters plus Revelation and then close with John.

Remember, this is the word of God.  The original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers wanted them to.  If you aren’t a believer, give it a try.  If you are a believer, you’ll want to be in the practice of hearing from God every day through his chosen primary means of communicating to us.

Galatians 6

Greetings!

Galatians 6 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It is so easy to compare ourselves with others.  This leads to the bad kind of pride, where we compare our strengths to the weaknesses of others, or the bad kind of humility, where we compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others. 

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

The next passage should be a warning to those who mock God and his Word.  Yes, forgiveness is possible (thank God!) but that doesn’t mean we won’t still have to live with the consequences of our sins. 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

It is tiring to do good, but Paul exhorts us to stay the course because we’ll be glad we did later.  We can trust that it will all be worthwhile. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul had some kind of problem with his eyes. 

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Make no mistake: Paul suffered greatly for the Gospel.  Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.  He was beaten, whipped, jailed and more many times. 

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Reflect on today’s readings and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians 5

Greetings! 

Galatians 5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Keep in mind that Paul isn’t just talking about circumcision.  The real issue is turning back to works-righteousness, whereby we think that by doing certain things (like circumcision, in the case of first century Jews) that we are able to reconcile ourselves to God and to please him. 

And by trying to justify yourself by obeying one law you have put yourself back under the whole law.  That is bad news. 

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! 

Paul is so frustrated with the circumcision group that he wishes they would go ahead and castrate themselves.  Ouch! 

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Once we have our freedom, what do we do with it?  Choosing to worry and sin is such a natural thing for us, but we now have the power to choose to serve others in love.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Note that some of those sins are very visible, but some are not quite as transparent.  People may not be able to see our selfish ambition, jealousy and envy, but they can still hurt us and others. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  

The fruit of the spirit can’t be obtained on our own.  We must have the Holy Spirit in us to have these traits of Christ.   

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians 4

Greetings! 

Galatians 4 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. 

There is a strong theme of adoption in the Bible.  Christians weren’t natural children of God but we were adopted into his family as sons and daughters.  John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  And we weren’t just adopted into any family, we were adopted into God’s family, and we have been given full rights. 

Note how it says above that the “When the time had fully come . . .”  God waited until there was a common language through most of the world (Greek), there was relative peace in the world, and accessibility via roads was at an all time high.  Then He brought his Son into the world. 

Abba is the Aramaic word used by children to address their fathers, so it is a term of familiarity and endearment such as “Daddy.”  That we can talk to God so intimately is one of the radical concepts of Christianity, as most religions view God as unapproachable or unknowable in this way. 

 

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Everyone is a slave to someone or something.  Ironically, becoming a child of God liberates you from slavery to Satan and the world.  Most people don’t realize they are slaves in that sense, but we all serve someone.  The Galatians were going back to religious rituals instead of embracing their freedom in Christ.

I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

In our politically correct culture, people often view the truth as offensive.  But if we really love people we’ll speak the truth to them with grace and humility. 

It is easy to let worldly things rob us of the joy that is our birthright in being Christians.  Today is a great day to recapture that joy!

Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Here’s a post about zeal.  Some people think it is bad to be zealous, but as Paul points out, it can be a good thing. 

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

In this section Paul takes the story of Abraham and Sarah (from Genesis chapters 12-25) and the birth of Abraham’s sons as an allegory for believers and non-believers.  Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, and God promised him a son.  Christians are children of the promise.  By God’s grace we are children of the free woman and heirs of God. 

These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: “Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

 

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians 3

Greetings! 

Paul isn’t bashful or vague.  Look how he starts off the first paragraph:

Galatians 3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

He gets right to the heart of the Gospel: We are saved by belief in Christ, but we can foolishly then try to earn what we have already been given.  It is as if we have been granted free access into Heaven, but we sneak out then try to work our way back in. 

We should look different and continually get “better” as God sanctifies us (purifies us).  But that can sometimes fool us into the false belief that we deserve salvation or can earn it ourselves. 

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

If we try to live by the law, we have to uphold every bit of it.  This is simply impossible.  If you look closely at the 10 Commandments it is hard to go 10 minutes without sinning. 

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

One of the big myths about Christianity is that we win God over and restore our relationship with him by doing good things.  But the opposite is true: We are hopeless on our own and it is only by his power that we are transformed and become righteous.  The law can condemn us, but it can’t save us. 

Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

This is hard for us to believe, but as Christians we are no longer under the curse of the law.  We were imprisoned by something we couldn’t conquer, but now we can live in freedom.  Sinning does not cost you your salvation once you have received it.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

The world wants to give more importance to certain backgrounds, skin colors, job holders, sexes, etc.  But the Bible teaches that each person has equal worth in God’s eyes. 

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians 2

Greetings! 

 Barnabus and Titus were close companions of Paul’s, and one of Paul’s letters to Titus is in the Bible.

Galatians 2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

  

As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Peter and Paul had a sharp disagreement here.  Note that they didn’t avoid the conflict.  Paul got an important issue out in the open.  Even though Peter was one of the original Apostles it didn’t mean he was right on every issue.  Paul rightly pointed out his hypocrisy. 

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Paul points out that trying to observe the law is hopeless.  We simply can’t justify ourselves before a holy and righteous God.

“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Verse 20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ . . .”  How does that work?  While we weren’t physically crucified with him, our sins did die with him.  Therefore, legally speaking, God views us as having our sins punished on the cross.  Therefore, we are free from the bondage and punishment of sin.  Also, as believers, Christ lives in us and gives us power over sin.  

We aren’t saved by our good works.  Whenever we add or take away from the Gospel we act is if Jesus’ death on the cross were not enough or wasn’t necessary to save us.  Those are both big mistakes.   

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians 1

Greetings! 

I tend to skim over the opening and closing passages too quickly, so I try to slow down and reflect on what is being said. 

Galatians 1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Note how Paul immediately establishes his credentials.  Apostles had to have met face-to-face with Jesus, and Paul did this.  His conversion story is recounted three times in the book of Acts (chapters 9, 22 and 26).  He also gives a brief version of the Gospel: “the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us.”

The next passage is very powerful and should strike fear into false teachers everywhere.  Adding to or subtracting from the real Gospel is a very bad idea. 

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

I use the previous verses when speaking to Mormons.  I start by asking if they think Galatians is authoritative as part of the Bible.  Then I ask if their “gospel” (the Book of Mormon) is the same as Paul’s or different.   If they say it is the same, then I point that the Book of Mormon is redundant and unnecessary.  If they say it is different, then I point them to Paul’s warning.

Verse 10 is a good memory verse, as we face the daily challenge of pleasing men or God:

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.

Paul had perhaps the most dramatic conversion experience ever.  He went from a full-time job of persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist for Christianity of all time.  His life has at least two great lessons for us:

1. If someone as awful as Paul can be redeemed, there is hope for us.  Jesus’ sacrifice covers all our sins if we will only repent and believe.

2. If an outstanding Jew like Paul still needed Jesus to be saved, then so does every other human on the planet.  Consider Philippians 3:4-6:

. . . If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” 

Paul had all that going for him but He still needed Christ.

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.

Galatians overview

Greetings!  I thought I’d refresh some posts from my Bible Study Blog as I go through the books again.  Today we start a study of Galatians.  It is a fairly short book (only 6 chapters).  I encourage you to read it through quickly or at least skim it, then go back through chapter by chapter in more depth.

Who wrote this and when was it written?  The Apostle Paul wrote this in roughly A.D. 49. 

Who was it written to?  The churches in southern Galatia (Paul started them on his first missionary journey) and to all Christians.

Why was it written?  To refute false teachers who claimed that you must follow Jewish customs to be saved, and to encourage people to live in faith and freedom in Christ.

I love Galatians.  It is such an important book, because false teachers permeate the church today.  Consider that the whole church was only 16 years old and the churches Paul was writing to were younger than that.  But false teachings had already crept in.

The specific issues we face today are different than what the Galatians experienced.  We don’t debate the necessity of circumcision, for example.  But many people want to take the Gospel and add their own rules to it or to take things away from it.  As Paul points out in the strongest possible language, we must present the true Gospel at all times:

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Many people falsely believe that being a Christian is about following rules to make God like us.  Galatians emphasizes the great freedom we have as believers in Christ.  He has already paid for our sins, so we can be free to live joyful, abundant lives.  We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus.  Adding or subtracting from that is a profoundly bad idea, yet that is what false teachers do.

Galatians has important and great news for us.  Read and enjoy! 

Reflect on what stood out to you in this reading and share your comments and questions if you like.