Archive for the ‘Galatians’ Category

Ephesians 1:1-3

In Ephesians 1:1-2a Paul begins his letter to the church at Ephesus in normal style. He makes clear that he is an apostle of Jesus and doing God’s will as a Christ Follower. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is different compared to many of the other New Testament letters he wrote. Like Romans, Ephesians was not written so much to address problems in a particular church; more so, it was written to explain some of the great themes and doctrines of Christianity. It is one of the favorite books in the New Testament.

Bruce explains “Ephesians has been called “the Queen of the Epistles,” “the quintessence of Paulinism,” “the divinest composition of man” and even “the Waterloo of commentators.” Some say that Ephesians reads “like a commentary on the Pauline letters” and probably it has been best termed “the crown of Paulinism. It sums up in large measure the leading themes of the Pauline writings… But it does more than that; it carries the thought of the earlier letters forward to a new stage.” Spurgeon wrote “The Epistle to the Ephesians is a complete Body of Divinity. In the first chapter you have the doctrines of the gospel; in the next, you have the experience of the Christians; and before the Epistle is finished, you have the precepts of the Christian faith. Whosoever would see Christianity in one treatise, let him ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the Epistle to the Ephesians.”

Paul’s intro to the church at Ephesus is brief and to the point. But it is written to the believers there who live there, a special place where Paul spent three years doing the work of missionary and pastor and teacher. The letter was likely intended to be passed along to other Christ Followers as it explained God’s eternal plan and how that works itself out through the church and our individual lives. Paul’s greeting is typical for him – focused on grace and peace which is the outcome of God’s work of grace in our life. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul calls for a blessing upon the Father (in the sense of recognizing His glory and honor and goodness), because the Father has already blessed the believer with every spiritual blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places….”This blessing is ours. God’s resources are there for us always. Paul is referring to an attitude of certainty and assurance. Paul describes both the kind of blessings and the location of those blessings. These are spiritual blessings, which are far better than material blessings. These blessings are ours in the heavenly places in Christ, they are higher, better, and more secure than earthly blessings. What a Savior!

Galatians 6:14-18

In Galatians 6:14-18 Paul wraps up his letter to the church in Galatia. He makes it clear that he is not interested in any personal fame or glory. He only wants to focus on Jesus, not himself. “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.” Spurgeon explained “What did he mean by the cross? Of course he cared nothing for the particular piece of wood to which those blessed hands and feet were nailed, for that was mere materialism, and has perished out of mind. He means the glorious doctrine of justification-free justification-through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

Without doubt, Paul knew Christians had a moral standard to live by. And he focuses on the issue the church was plagued by – circumcision. “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” What really mattered was not what we do in keeping the law, especially in its ceremonies, but what God has done in us. Paul wants to drive home the point yet again that salvation is not something we earn, but that God gives us freely through grace. Christianity is something God does in us, not something we do for God. This can simply define the difference between the systems of grace and law.

Paul reminds the church that there is a rule for the Christian life, revealed by God’s Word. We just don’t make it up as we go along. We are to measure ourselves according to this rule. “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” He was willing to give a blessing to those who walk by the rule as Christ Followers. Following the rule doesn’t save us from our sin, only the shed blood of Christ can do that. But obedience to the rule, walking with Jesus in the ways of the Word, brings us peace and mercy and helps us receive the blessing related to obedience.

Paul ends by writing as someone who had suffered for Jesus, and who bore those marks on his body. “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul refers to marks that identify – or even “brand” – Paul as a follower of Jesus. In the ancient world, slaves were branded with the name of their master. Barclay wrote “Often a master branded his slaves with a mark that showed them to be his. Most likely what Paul means is that the scars of the things he had suffered for Christ are the brands which show him to be Christ’s slave.” Paul belonged to Jesus! And with that closing word, he signs off. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

Galatians 6:11-13

In Galatians 6:11-13 Paul begins to wrap up his letter to the believers in Galatia. Paul’s normal style of writing was to dictate his letters to someone to write it down for him. But he would often personally write a short portion at the end, both to authenticate the letter and to add a personal touch. “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” Paul calls attention to the fact he wrote the ending to this letter with large letters. There is speculation that Paul may have been experiencing diminishing eyesight, but others believe he wrote the letters large to emphasize how important his teaching had been.

Lightfoot said “At this point the Apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand… He writes it too in large bold characters, that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul.” And Stott gives this understanding: “Most commentators consider that he used large letters deliberately, either because he was treating his readers like children (rebuking their spiritual immaturity by using baby writing) or simply for emphasis… much as we would use capital letters or underline words today.” Whatever the exact reason, Paul puts emphasis on the importance of his teaching.

The bottom line is that those who were caught up in legalism were disrupting the Galatian church. These false teachers were working to bring Galatian Christians under the law and specifically circumcision because it would put a good light on them as influential teachers. “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.” They tried to act like it was a motivation for the good of the Galatians, but that we deception and Paul calls them out on it. The issue truly was not circumcision, but the fact these false teachers were trying to force it upon them with no biblical basis.

There were political motivations for what the false teachers were trying to teach. Circumcision aligned this new Christianity more with Judaisim which would help them escape Roman persecution. “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.” Morris wrote “To advocate circumcision was to align the new movement with Judaism, a religion that had official Roman sanction, and therefore one that avoided persecution. The preachers Paul was opposing may have included the cross in their proclamation, but by adding the necessity of circumcision they avoided persecution.”

Galatians 6:8-10

In Galatians 6:8-10 Paul continues to teach on the importance of sowing the right things. If we want to reap to the Spirit, we should not hesitate to sow to the Spirit with whatever resources God has given us. “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.” A farmer reaps the same as he has sown. If he plants wheat, wheat comes up. In the same way, if we sow to the flesh, the flesh will increase in size and strength. When we sow to the Spirit – even with material things – what we reap is not necessarily material things, but something better: of the Spirit we reap eternal life.

Guzik writes “This principle has application beyond giving and supporting teachers and ministers. It has a general application in life; what we get out of life is often what we put in. Yet, Paul is not promoting some law of spiritual karma that ensures we will get good when we do good, or always get bad when we do bad. If there were such an absolute spiritual law, it would surely damn us all. Instead, Paul simply relates the principle of sowing and reaping to the way we manage our resources before the Lord.” We may fool ourselves by expecting much when we sow little, but we cannot fool God and the results of our poor sowing will be evident.

As we wisely manage our resources before God under the principle of sowing and reaping, we need patience. This is because the harvest does not come immediately after the seeds are sown. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” It is easy but dangerous to get weary and give up. The phrase translated here was the kind of growing weary like a woman experiences during labor before delivery. It describes a time when the work is hard and painful, but also unfinished and unrewarded. We have to gang in there and keep doing good. We can’t give up.

Paul encourages us to do good to all, but most importantly to those who are in the Body. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Paul spoke to himself here as much as to the Galatians. Because of the danger brought in by the legalists, Paul’s work among them had not yet really been rewarded, so he needed to remember not to lose heart himself. It’s easy to get frustrated and impatient when we don’t see the progress expected or the outcome we desire. But God calls us to do good and leave the results to Him. We’re not in control of that!

Galatians 6:4-7

In Galatians 6:4-7 Paul challenges the Galatian believers to test their work. Instead of deceiving ourselves, we must take a careful and a sober examination of our works before God. If we don’t, and if we carry on under our self-deception, then we may think our works are approved before God, when really they aren’t. “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” When our works are approved before God, we can rejoice in our walk with Jesus. It won’t be dependent on what others think about us or what we do, our joy will come from the Lord!

The Bible speaks of a day when our works will be examined before the Lord. This is the judgment seat of Christ. We are all going to stand before Him and give account. The first question will be ‘what did you do with Jesus’ which will determine whether or not we are allowed entry into heaven. But the second is what Paul is referring to here which is ‘what did you do with all that I entrusted to you’. “For each will have to bear his own load.” How we live determines the answer to that second question which will define what our time in heaven will be like – the rewards we will receive and the place we will have. We each alone will stand before God and give account.

Paul goes on to remind the church that they need to support those who teach them. This refers to more than just financial support, although that is definitely part of it. “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” Stott explains “The right relationship between teacher and taught, or minister and congregation, is one of koinonia, ‘fellowship’ or ‘partnership’. So Paul writes: ‘Let him who is taught the word share (koinoneito) all good things with him who teaches.’ ” We are to provide for the needs of those who teach us – it isn’t payment but rather sharing of what God had blessed us with.

Paul reminds them of the principle of sowing and reaping. Their giving isn’t throwing money away but rather it is like planting seeds which determines what the harvest will be. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Luther warned “Be careful, you scoffers. God may postpone His punishment for a time, but He will find you out in time, and punish you for despising His servants. You cannot laugh at God.” Paul’s point is that they should share because it is good for the one who is taught and shares, and the principle of reaping and sowing demonstrates this. It is important that we sow if we want to reap!

Galatians 6:1b-3

In Galatians 6:1b-3 Paul continues instructing the church on how to help each other deal with sin. He just told the Galatians that they need to gently help people be restored when they fall into sin. But he also warns those who are doing the restoration to watch out. “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Satan is a tricky adversary. When helping others, we must take care that we don’t fall into sin. That’ll never happen to me is the wrong attitude, because the enemy has only three goals for you – to kill, steal or destroy – and temptation seldom smacks us in the face but quietly gets to us and causes us to fall.

Sin is a heavy load. Life can be a heavy load. And Paul encourages the church to help one another with that load. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The focus isn’t on “expect others to bear your burdens.” That is self-focused, and always leads to pride, frustration, discouragement, and depression. Instead, God always directs us to be others-focused. We need to think about how we can help others bear their burdens. This is a simple command to obey. Look for a brother or a sister with a burden, and help them with it. It isn’t complicated, and it doesn’t take a huge program or infrastructure to do it. Just look for a burden to bear and bear it.

Stott reminds us “Notice the assumption which lies behind this command, namely that we all have burdens and that God does not mean us to carry them alone.” As we bear one another’s burdens, we are fulfilling the simple law of Christ. We’ve been given the command to love one another, and definitely one way we do that is by bearing each other’s burdens. Paul sticks it to the legalists here. If they want to fulfill the law – they have to love others by bearing their burdens. Stott wrote “So Paul may be saying to them, in effect, that instead of imposing the law as a burden upon others, they should rather lift their burdens and so fulfill Christ’s law.”

Paul then moves on to whack the church around pride. “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Pride prevents us from bearing one another’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ. It is often pride that keeps us from ministering to one another as we should. Pride is self-focus. Pride doesn’t necessarily say, “I’m better than you are.” Pride simply says, “I’m more important than you are, so I deserve more of my own attention and love than you do.” Instead, Biblical humility tells us, “I am no more important than you are. Let me care about your burdens and needs.” Guzik wrote “To be proud is to be blind – blind to the freely given favor and gifts of God, blind to our sin and our own depravity, blind to the good in others, and blind to the foolishness of self-centeredness.”

Galatians 6:1a

In Galatians 6:1a Paul begins to wrap up his letter to the church at Galatia. He starts with a bang tackling sin head on. There were likely people who were stuck in sin, feeling trapped and unsure how they would get out. “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.” Ravi Zaccharias said ‘Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay’. It’s a somewhat rhetorical statement – if anyone – because scriptures clear it will be everyone.

Part of the focus is on being caught, and many sins we commit may not be caught by anyone other than ourselves and God. To be clear – God catches all sin – which is ultimately our eternal problem because that alone prevents us entry into heaven without some restoration which is why Jesus went to the Cross. But Paul is clear that sin has to be addressed. Note he is talking to brothers, or presumably those in the body of Christ. Becoming a Christ Follower won’t insulate us from sin and sinful behavior. And Paul’s clear we can’t just ignore it or stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist.

So what’s the solution? It isn’t to print it in the bulletin or share it on the prayer chain. It isn’t rumors and public humiliation. The answer is restoration. They are not to be ignored. They are not to be excused. They are not to be destroyed. The goal is always restoration. Stott explains “The verb is instructive. Kataritzo means to ‘put in order’ and so to ‘restore to its former condition’… It was used in secular Greek as a medical term for setting a fractured or dislocated bone. It is applied in Mark 1:19 to the apostles who were ‘mending’ their nets.” Unfortunately churches fall short of restoration in far too many cases. They are one of the few organizations that too often ‘kill their sick’ rather than restoring them and bringing them back to health.

Paul goes on to remind us that restoration is not done by public humiliation or beating, but with gentleness. It has to be done with full understanding of our own weakness and corruption. Those doing the restoring must guard against the temptation of pride, as well as the same temptation the overtaken one struggled with. Luther explains “Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those who have sinned. ‘Brethren,’ he says, ‘if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith.” God is a God of grace, and that grace needs to be extended to those who wrestle with sin (which is all of us) just as God through Christ Jesus extended it to us.

Galatians 5:23-26

In Galatians 5:23-26 Paul has just finished giving us the list of the fruit of the Spirit and the nine characteristics that describe that fruit in a believer. It is all based on the foundation of the first one – Love – but he makes it clear that there certainly is no law against any of these nine traits. He probably wrote it somewhat tongue in cheek, but the truth is that the meaning of his words….“……against such things there is no law.”….likely has a very powerful meaning. If a person has this fruit of the Spirit, he doesn’t need the Law. He already fulfills it. It is the stamp that says the person is a Christ Follower as having the Spirit within, which happens when we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, is the only way we’ll have the fruit of the Spirit. That’s how it happens.

Paul makes that clear with this statement. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” God has a place for our flesh, with all its passions and desires. He wants us to nail it to His cross, so that it may be under control and under the sentence of death. Paul intentionally uses the word ‘crucified’ because it reminds us of many things:

  • It reminds us of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
  • It reminds us that we are called to take up our cross and follow Him.
  • It reminds us that the death of the flesh is often painful.
  • It reminds us that our flesh must be dealt with decisively.

Luther explained “The problem of our flesh will not be finally dealt with until we are resurrected. Until then, we are to constantly “nail it to the cross,” so that it hangs there, alive yet powerless over us. To resist the flesh… is to nail it to the Cross. Although the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act upon its desires because it is bound and nailed to the Cross. But it’s more than a one time event. Paul tells us we need to live by the Spirit by staying in step with, or walking with the Spirit. The Greek word ‘stoicheo’ means “to walk in line with” or “to be in line with.” Paul here is saying, “Keep in step with the Spirit.” “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” We are to build a spiritual discipline and habit of walking with the Spirit.

Paul ends this chapter with a warning because as humans, we can take this very powerful gift within us and become conceited in our walk with the Spirit. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” This can be an amazing trick of Satan. We might be actively walking in the Spirit and then Satan tempts us to be conceited about it. Soon, we’re is sure that we are almost always right and everyone else is wrong. It is an ongoing temptation to believers… It is easy to assume that because we are Christ’s we will always say and do the right thing. That conceit will cause us to provoke others and cause us to fall to envy when we find someone who is ‘more right’ or ‘more successful’ than we are – we resent it and envy them. Those are not qualities of the fruit of the Spirit which we must guard against.

Galatians 5:22-23 (Post 4)

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists the nine characteristics of a Christ Follower who is living in the Spirit. They are called fruit, and every believer should demonstrate each one in their life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…..” Today we’ll look at the final three characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. The seventh fruit is faithfulness which means loyalty to God and to His teachings, which should shape how we think and act. Faithfulness is translated from the Greek word ‘pistis’ which has the meaning of “trustworthiness or reliability”.

Barclay wrote “The idea is that the Spirit of God works faithfulness in us, both to God and to people. It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable.” faithfulness includes being full of belief and confidence in God and all that God promises. The foundation of faithfulness is obviously an unwavering faith in God and His Word. Morris explained it this way: “The ability to serve God faithfully through the years and through the temptations of life is not something we achieve by heroic virtue. It comes from the Spirit.” It requires we have a foundation of faith upon which the Spirit can build in us, but the Spirit helps us live that way.

The eighth fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. The word has the idea of being teachable, not having a superior attitude, not demanding one’s rights. It isn’t timidity or passiveness.  Barclay wrote “It is the quality of the man who is always angry at the right time and never at the wrong time.” Gentleness, also translated “meekness,” does not mean weakness. Rather, it involves humility and thankfulness toward God, and polite, restrained behavior toward others. Morris explained it this way: “It is important for the Christian to see that the self-assertiveness that is so much part of the twentieth-century life should not be valued highly. It is much better that each of us curtails the desire to be pre-eminent and exercises a proper meekness (or gentleness).”

The ninth and final fruit of the spirit is self-control. It is the ability to control oneself. It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our baser desires and fleshly lusts. We often thing of self control as the self-disciple and denial someone will go through for themselves, but the self-control of the Spirit will also work on behalf of others. It’s not a self focused thing alone but like all of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, it has impact and implication upon the Body of Christ as well as the individual. One of the proofs of God’s working in our lives is the ability to control our own thoughts, words, and actions. Our fallen nature is under the influence of sin. Without the Spirit helping us live by self-control, we’ll fall to sin.

Galatians 5:22-23 (Post 3)

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists the nine characteristics of a Christ Follower who is living in the Spirit. They are called fruit, and every believer should demonstrate each one in their life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Today we’ll look first at the third fruit of the Spirit – peace. This peace is peace with God, peace with people, and it is a positive peace, filled with blessing and goodness – not simply the absence of fighting. It is a higher peace which surpasses all understanding.

Barclay explains “The ancient Greek word used here for peace is eirene, and it means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good. Here it means that tranquility of heart which derives from the all-pervading consciousness that our times are in the hands of God.” The early Christians really knew and loved the joy and the peace of the Spirit. Two very common Christian names in the early church were Chara (Cara) and Eirene (Irene). Peace is an attribute that many struggle to find today, and we won’t find it looking in ourselves or anyone else beside God.

The fourth fruit of the Spirit is patience or longsuffering. It means that one can have love, joy, and peace even over a period of time when people and events annoy them. God is not quickly irritated with us so we should not be quickly irritated with others. Luther explained “Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long run… To withstand his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil to get tired of his game.”

And then comes the fifth and sixth fruit of the Spirit – kindness and goodness. These two are closely connected. Kindness is selfless, compassionate and full of mercy. It is shown greatest when we practice loving our enemies. Closely related is goodness. In the Greek, the word goodness, “agathosune,” means “an uprightness of heart and life”. The key difference between kindness and goodness is that kindness mainly involves being generous and considerate, and helping others whereas goodness involves righteousness in action or doing what is right. These are two virtues that the Spirit should demonstrate in our life as we touch people in our patch.

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