Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Galatians 4:12-15

In Galatians 4:12-15 Paul talks to the Galatians about what they should do. Paul knew well that he wasn’t sinlessly perfect. He wasn’t standing before the Galatian Christians, saying, “Look at how perfect I am. Don’t worry about following Jesus, just follow me.” He simply wanted them to follow him as he followed Jesus. “Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.” Paul knew the Galatian Christians should imitate his consistency. They started out correctly understanding and following the Gospel, but didn’t stay on track. They were led astray.

Stott explains “All Christians should be able to say something like this, especially to unbelievers, namely that we are so satisfied with Jesus Christ, with His freedom, joy and salvation, that we want other people to become like us.” We’ve been called to be salt and light, and to point the way to God through Jesus Christ. Paul had been like the Galatian Christians – having lived most of his life trying to earn his way to God by following the law. But he knew he fell short and needed a Savior. That’s how Paul was like the Galatians. Paul is direct with the people here, not because he was hurt, but because he wants them to return to the Gospel and grace.

Paul was in the region of south Galatia when persecutors tried to execute him by stoning in the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). His attackers gave him up for dead, yet he miraculously survived. He had a physical infirmity of some sort. “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 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.” The Galatians received Paul and didn’t dwell on his physical challenge. We don’t know exactly what the problem was – some believe it was an eye problem.

Fung explains “As physical infirmity and illness were regarded by Jews and Gentiles alike as a symbol of divine displeasure or punishment, there would have been a natural temptation for the Galatians to despise Paul and reject his message.” “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.” The Galatians did not treat Paul with disdain. Even though Paul seemed weak and afflicted, they embraced him and responded to his message of grace and God’s love. While they didn’t hold his physical condition against him, they still lost their way around God’s love and grace.

Galatians 4:6-11

In Galatians 4:6-11 Paul continues his schooling on what it means to be a child of God. As children of God, we have both the right and ability to cry out to “Daddy” or God our Father just like Jesus did. We are joint heirs with Christ. Abba was the way a small child addressed their father in Paul’s day. We have that kind of relationship with God through our place as His children. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” We have access to the same intimacy with God the Father that God the Son, Jesus Christ had. And because we are children of God, we can also cry out to him.

Sons are never slaves and slaves are never sons in their father’s house. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.” Heirs inherit something and Paul made it clear just what we inherit: we inherit God Himself, which is the richest inheritance we could ever receive. It is not a small thing. We move from being a slave to sin to being a child of the King. We are freed from the slavery of sin which keeps us pushed down and guilty, to being set free through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul makes a key distinction here. It is really more important that God knows us (in the sense of an intimate, accepting relationship) than it is that we know God. How do we become known to God? Through a relationship with Jesus. We certainly don’t want to get to judgment day and hear God tell us the words “I never knew you”. “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?” The Galatians were struggling to stay focused on relationship and were falling back to the idea of works based on the law. That is not how we become known to God.

The false teachers among the Galatians demanded the observance of days and months and seasons and years and other such legalistic matters and acted as if this would lead them into a higher plane of spirituality. But what we do doesn’t make us a child of God. Only a faith relationship with the Savior can do that. “You observe days and months and seasons and years!” Paul’s fear was that this attraction to legalism would mean that his work among the Galatians amounted to nothing and would end up being in vain. “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” He has worked hard with the churches in Galatia, but if they don’t put aside the law and receive salvation through grace, they will fall short and miss the mark.

Galatians 4:1-5

In Galatians 4:1-5 Paul reminds us that we are free and now are God’s children. Paul refers to us as a child which has special meaning at the time of his writing. In both Jewish and Greek cultures, there were definite “coming of age” ceremonies where a boy stopped being a child and started being a man, with legal rights as an heir. “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, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.” As Christ Followers, we have to make the transition from being a child to becoming an heir.

Guzik explains “Think of a wealthy ancient household, with a young boy who is destined to inherit all that his father has. When the boy is just a child, he actually has less day-to-day freedom and authority than a high ranking slave in the household. Yet, he is destined to inherit everything and the slave isn’t.”  He continues “Now comes the comparison to our own spiritual condition. We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and we are heirs according to the promise. The law was our guardian, to watch over us when we were still “children.” “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.”

As Christ Followers we have to break free of the principle of earning our salvation and deserving it. We never can, but until we grasp onto the reality of grace, we remain enslaved to the thinking of the world that we will reap what we sow. In Christ, we die to the elementary principles (earning salvation) and must latch onto God’s principle of grace through faith. Until we do that, we live in bondage to a lie of the enemy. He wants to keep us from understanding and more importantly living life based on God’s grace – that He has adopted us as children into His eternal family through faith in Jesus Christ.

When the time was right in God’s plan for humanity, Jesus was born. It had been prophesied for centuries, but Jesus didn’t come until God determined it was the right time. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus came not only as God’s Son, but also as one born of a woman, born under law. Because Jesus is God, He has the power and the resources to redeem us. Because Jesus is man, He has the right and the ability to redeem us. He came to purchase us out of the slave market, from our bondage to sin, that we might be adopted as children of God!

Galatians 3:23-29

In Galatians 3:23-29 Paul continues his explanation of grace through faith as compared to the law. Before we were saved by faith; before we lived our lives by faith, we were held captive by the law. We were imprisoned by the law. Our sin does that to us. The law does play an important part in that it shows us God’s standard and makes known the need for a Savior. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” It acts as a guardian, pointing us to the need for grace. That’s what Jesus provided us through His death on the Cross. “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”

The whole purpose of the law is to bring us to Jesus. Therefore, if someone doesn’t present the Law in a manner that brings people to faith in Jesus, they aren’t presenting the Law properly. The way Jesus presented the Law was to show people that they could not fulfill it, and needed to look outside of their law-keeping. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through faith in Him. When we receive Him through faith, we become children of God – something we can never lose.

Paul illustrates what it means to have faith in Christ. We are to be baptized into Christ. Just as in water baptism a person is immersed in water, so when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, we are immersed in Jesus. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” We must understand that this is the baptism that really saves us: our immersion into Jesus. If a person isn’t baptized into Christ, he could be dunked a thousand times into water and it would make no eternal difference. Once we are baptized into Christ by receiving Him as our personal Savior, then we can follow through with water immersion to demonstrate our faith in Christ.

The whole problem among the Galatian Christians is that some wanted to still observe the dividing line between Jew and Greek. They wanted some division. “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.” But Paul makes it clear we are all the same in Jesus. There is no differentiation. Morris wrote “He is saying that when people are saved by Jesus Christ they are brought into a marvelous unity, a unity between the saved and the Saviour and a unity that binds together all the saved.” And that salvation through faith makes us an heir to the Kingdom as children of God. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Galatians 3:15-18

In Galatians 3:15-18 Paul continues explaining God’s plan for salvation. He establishes the principle that even with a covenant among men, the covenant stands firm once it is made – you don’t add to or subtract from it. The point is not what happens between men, but that if that’s how covenants work for humans, we can pretty much be sure it’s that much more certain in any covenant that God makes. “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.” And God has made a covenant with man that we can trust.

God promised Abraham back in Genesis 22 that his offspring would be blessed for all generations. It wasn’t a plural blessing – there was no ‘s’ on offspring – but it referred to Jesus Christ who was a specific offspring of Abraham and God’s way for blessing to be given to all. So even thousands of years ago, God had a plan for the world He created – and that plan was Jesus. That was His promise. “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.”

Guzik explains “If the inheritance offered to Abraham was on the basis of law, it might not be permanent – because it would depend, at least in part, on Abraham’s keeping of the law. But since the inheritance was offered on the basis of promise, God’s promise, it stands sure.” Salvation does not depend on what Abraham, or anyone other that Jesus Christ, has or will ever do. God’s promise to Abraham came before the law was even created, and His promise of salvation through faith to Abraham is still the promise we claim. “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.”

God gave Abraham a promise. The word gave here is the ancient Greek word kecharistai, which is based on the Greek word charis – grace. God’s giving to Abraham was the free giving of grace. The word is also in the perfect tense, showing that the gift is permanent. God made a once for all promise of grace to Abraham. It wasn’t something that depended on performance by anything other than the faith and belief to receive that gift. Jesus did all the work. All that mankind has to do is receive God’s gift of grace through Christ based on the promise God made to Abraham. Salvation is that simple. It’s God grace promised to Abraham centuries ago that applies to us today and forever. “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”

Galatians 3:11-14

In Galatians 3:11-14 Paul continues to focus on grace as God granted it through the death of Jesus on the Cross. He has already proven that no one can be justified by the law, not because of the law, but because no human is able to completely follow it. So faith is the only way to receive grace that will cover us from our sins. “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Paul quotes Habakkuk’s statement that the righteous shall live by faith – one of the most quoted statements from the Old Testament in the New Testament where it is quoted three different times.

The Old Testament tells us that approval by God through the law must be earned by actually living in obedience to the law, not just trying. Close enough doesn’t count, we have to live the law completely and perfectly if that is going to be our way to God. We can’t, and we won’t, so Jesus is the only way. “But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” You might think something like this: “Look, I’ll do the best I can under the law and let faith cover the rest. God will look at my performance, my effort, and my good intentions and credit to me as righteousness. The important thing is that I am really trying.”

Good intentions won’t cut it. Trying hard isn’t going to be enough. Doing your best and then letting grace cover the rest is not how it works. Paul is clear that salvation comes from one place and one place only – the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. That’s the only source of grace that will cover our sin. Without that, we’re doomed. We will be destined for eternity separated from God. It’s not a maybe proposition. We either deal with our sin through faith in Jesus Christ, or we face the consequences. And it is important to remember that eternity is a very long time to spend apart from the loving God who created us.

Paul makes it clear here-Jesus is the way we can remove the curse of sin from our life. “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”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Morris wrote “Redemption points to the payment of a price that sets sinners free.” We have to be redeemed to enter heaven. Jesus paid the price to rescue us. Jesus became cursed on our behalf; He stood in our place and took the curse we deserved. Jesus received this curse, which we deserved and He did not, so that we could receive the blessing of Abraham, which He deserved and we did not. That’s how much God loved us – enough to send His only Son to the Cross so we could spend eternity with Him if we only believe and receive His free gift of grace which is our salvation!

Galatians 3:4-7

In Galatians 3:4-7 Paul continues to press the Galatians about what they are believing. They have fallen for untruth much like other churches in that day. Apparently, the Galatians had suffered for their belief and faith probably at the hands of legalistic Christians. Paul wants to make sure that what they have endured was not in vain. “Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” Paul wondered if all the gifts of the Spirit they had received would amount to no lasting value because they tried to walk by law, not by faith. The fact they were waffling about their faith as the source of salvation was troubling.

So Paul challenges them to examine what and how the Spirit has been working. “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— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?” He reminds them first that God provides the Holy Spirit to us – it is not something we can go earn on our own. Paul asks if they believe they will earn and deserve your blessing from God, or will you believe and receive it? He speaks to those who see lack of blessing. Why? Not from a lack of devotion, not because they haven’t earned enough; but because they are not putting their faith, their joyful and confident expectation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

He pulls out Abraham as an example of one justified and walking by faith. Among the Galatian Christians, the push towards a works-based relationship with God came from certain other Christians who were born as Jews and who claimed Abraham as their spiritual ancestor. So Paul used Abraham as an example of being right before God by faith and not by faith plus works. Morris wrote “It mattered a great deal to the apostle that God saves people by grace, not on the grounds of their human achievement, and he found Abraham an excellent example of that truth.”

Paul quoted from Genesis 15:6. It simply shows that righteousness was accounted to Abraham because he believed God. It was not because he performed some work and certainly not because he was circumcised, because the covenant of circumcision had not yet been given. There are essentially two types of righteousness: righteousness we accomplish by our own efforts and righteousness accounted to us by the work of God when we believe. Since none of us can be good enough to accomplish perfect righteousness, we must have God’s righteousness accounted to us by doing just what Abram did: Abraham believed God. “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Abraham shows all of us the way to God is through faith!

2 Corinthians 13:5-8

In 2 Corinthians 13:5-8 Paul prepares the Corinthian church for his visit. Paul asks the Corinthian Christians to consider a sobering question: “Am I really a Christian?” “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” We should be concerned that every believer have the assurance of salvation, and know how to endure the attacks that come from Satan in this area.  At the same time, we also understand that there are some who assume or presume them are Christians when they are not. Paul issues a challenge to all all of us – do we pass the test of being a Christian?

Redpath writes “We are often very ready to examine and test others.  But first, and always first, we must examine and test ourselves. “That was the trouble at Corinth.  They criticized Paul and failed to examine themselves.” Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Redpath continues “To examine yourself, in fact, is to submit to the examination and scrutiny of Jesus Christ the Lord – and this never to fix attention on sin but on Christ – and to ask Him to reveal that in you which grieves His Spirit; to ask Him to give you grace that it might be put away and cleansed in His precious blood.”  Self examination “takes the chill away from your soul, it takes the hardness away from your heart, it takes the shadows away from your life, it sets the prisoner free.”

Spurgeon wrote “Now, ‘prove yourselves.’ Do not merely sit in your closet and look at yourselves alone, but go out into this busy world and see what kind of piety you have.  Remember, many a man’s religion will stand examination that will not stand proof.  We may sit at home and look at our religion, and say, ‘Well, I think this will do!'” “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” This is not about perfection, in ourselves or in others; but we should see real evidence of Jesus Christ in us. We need to have Christ alive in us. Spurgeon described it this way: “Now, what is it to have Jesus Christ in you?  Christ in the heart means Christ believed in, Christ beloved, Christ trusted, Christ espoused, Christ communed with, Christ as our daily food, and ourselves as the temple and palace wherein Jesus Christ daily walks.”

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong – not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.” Paul knew there were some among the Corinthian Christians who were disqualified for eternal life and salvation.  Their thinking was worldly because they were of the world, not of the Lord.  This is a hard truth to confront, but it is better to know now than when it is too late! “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” Paul refuses to sugar coat the reality in the church. He does what he has always done, speak the truth. Is Jesus alive in you? Or just someone you know about in your head but not in your heart?

2 Corinthians 11:28-33

In 2 Corinthians 11:28-33 Paul wraps up the long list of things he has endured in order to be a minister and servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The list is long and painful to read. But he ends it with maybe the thing that most bothers him of all he has and continues to endure – the pressure of shepherding a church. “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” We don’t have much understanding or appreciation for what pastors and teachers have to endure to serve in the ministry. As shepherds of God’s flock, they carry a lot of weight and responsibility and it never ends. While many of us are feeling fatigue during this pandemic being in front of a camera and feeling under a microscope constantly, that’s been the life of a pastor for centuries. Paul feels it.

But it’s not weakness. It is love and caring that creates the pressure. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” Paul’s deep concern was not for himself.  It was for others; for the weak and those made to fall.  Paul had many burdens, but few of them were for himself.  He, like Jesus, was truly an others-centered person. His concern was for those whom God had entrusted to his care. Hughes explained “This anxiety was based not only on disturbing reports which came to his ears, but on his knowledge of the savage subtlety of the enemy of souls who, he realized, would stop at nothing in his attempts to overthrow the work of the gospel.”

Paul goes on to make sure that he isn’t taking credit in any way, shape or form for living through the long list of things he has endured. “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” What Paul willing to boast about?  What are his credentials as God’s minister for the Gospel?  Only his scars and the things which show his weakness and absolute dependence on God. The weakness Paul refers to may be a specific illness or limitation; more likely, it is the life of hardship and stress he lived overall serving God. The false apostles in Corinth thought the things Paul endured made him look weak and unqualified to serve. Paul did not care if it looked foolish in the eyes of the world or those in the church who thought like the world.  Paul lived with an eternal perspective, not a worldly perspective. His focus was on serving God and Him alone.

Paul makes clear that he’s got his hand on the Bible in telling his story. It’s true and he’s not making things up. “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” Morgan wrote “God knoweth.  He knows what?  Knows all the suffering, knows all the trial, knows all the facts, which he has already referred to, that he is led everywhere in triumph all the way. ‘God knoweth.’  That is the secret of his deepest boasting.” And Paul ends this chapter recalling one of the first times God was there to guide him through a challenge beyond his own ability. “At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.” This is how Paul’s ministry began and he was fine with letting God continue to guide and protect him as he continued to serve as a servant of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:13-18

In 2 Corinthians 10:13-18 Paul teaches us that God assigns us to certain areas of influence and ministry. “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” Paul’s authority in the church was not unlimited. God had granted him a sphere of authority, and that sphere included the Corinthian Christians, especially since he had founded that church. But he wasn’t going to go outside the area he knew God had ordained as his responsibility. It is important for the person in authority to not exercise that authority outside the sphere, and it is important for the person under authority to recognize the sphere of authority they are under.

Paul is clear that what God originates, He will orchestrate. He doesn’t call the gifted, He gifts the called. Paul knows that he is doing ministry under the power and authority of God. “For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. We were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.” Paul and his team were there by God’s authority with the purpose of reaching the Corinthians. They brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the area and were the first to minister to them founding a church to make sure the ministry would continue. But Paul knows it was by God’s grace and power that they were successful.

Paul is pleased with the work that had been done in Corinth. But he’s looking beyond the success they had here. “We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.” As the Corinthian Christians grew in maturity and in outreach, their church would grow and plant many other churches. This would, by extension, enlarge Paul’s sphere of authority. Paul was looking to take the gospel further because of the Corinthian church.

Paul uses a quotation from Jeremiah 9:24 and rebukes the Corinthian Christians who found their glory either in Paul or by being against Paul. He sweeps all that away, showing we should not take glory in ourselves, in another, or against another – we should only glory in the Lord. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” It doesn’t matter how you testify about your own accomplishments. It is what God says about us that matters and will endure. We have to live for an audience of One. Nothing else matters. It is only what God has to say that will stand the test of eternity!

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