March 31 - Galatians 6:11-18

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31 - Galatians 6:11-18

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

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh 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 keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the 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 the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

From now on, 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 and sisters. Amen.

In Paul’s day, many letter writers used an ‘amanuensis,’ a secretary, to write their letters for them.  The secretary’s handwriting was careful so that it would be easily read by anyone who was exposed to the letter.  Paul wanted the Galatians to know that since he was writing this with his own hand, the words he wrote and the feelings that he had were important.  He couldn’t trust this to anyone else.  What great passion he had for this church.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand all that Paul wants us to do.  We don’t worry so much about circumcision, nor do we actually worry about the Law. Those things were settled centuries ago.

However, if you spend a little time, you come to know that this does make sense in our world.

How many of us worry about what others will think of us if we skip a few Sundays at church.  We’re pretty sure that there will be gossip couched in terms of worry and concern. Many times we make decisions about our faith based on our need to impress our peers.  This can apply whether we go to church or not.  If we attend worship regularly, we aren’t likely to let our friends there know that we have deep questions regarding whether God is real or not and any number of other things that seem to be assumed by our Christian friends.  If we don’t attend worship anywhere and surround ourselves with like-minded friends, it isn’t likely that we will stand out and say that we have a strong faith in God.

Paul’s admonition to us as he closes the letter to the Galatians is that we should listen to our heart as it reaches out to God.  We aren’t called to be Christ-followers so that we can fit in with the Christian crowd.  We are called to Christ because in Him we can be made new.  Christ’s death and resurrection offered to the entire world an opportunity for re-birth, re-creation, renewal of life.

March 30 - Galatians 6:6-10

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 - Galatians 6:6-10

Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 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.

Do you ever feel as if those people who should care about you the most don’t seem to have your back?  Sometimes it is just the reality of life.  It was what was happening in Paul’s churches and it happens still today.  We’re all more concerned with ourselves than with our community.  We want things to work out the best for us.

But, Paul says that we should do good – to everyone and to never give up.  He also emphasizes that we are to do good especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

That’s just so hard!

When I was in business, I discovered that Christians were the most difficult people to work with.  It shocked and wounded me to see these people proclaim that they were Christians and treat their business partners as poorly as they did. It was shameful and I knew that if they were doing it to me – another Christian, they were poor representatives to the rest of the business world as well.

It isn’t easy to promote the good of others above ourselves.  It goes against everything that we are taught to do.  It challenges us beyond ourselves.

But when it happens, when we allow the Spirit to move through us and reach beyond our self-centered behavior, we discover incomparable love, incomprehensible joy and blessings beyond measure.

March 29 - Galatians 6:1-5

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29 - Galatians 6:1-5

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

It is so easy to see the sliver in anothers eye and yet ignore the log in our own eye – right? 

Paul’s idea of community was that restoration should occur gently.  I can’t tell you the number of churches I have been in where the gossip and backbiting was so blatant and painful that it’s hard to believe God was able to move at all within that community.  It’s easy to get caught up in that and very easy to forget what our response is supposed to be.  We get all worked up in righteous anger and judgment, that we forget how we are called to respond.

In the centuries following Jesus’ death, early Christians were subject to all sorts of persecution – no matter where they lived.  It was expected that they suffer under that persecution and not fall away.  When they were required to carry a certificate stating that they had bowed to the Emperor’s statue, they suffered death rather than submit.

However, there were those who either ran away or just gave in – maybe because of their families, maybe just because of fear.

Incredibly enough – when the persecution ended, those that had been weak were no longer allowed in the church.  They were shut out – excommunicated.  If a priest or bishop gave in, it was even worse.  This caused quite a schism between various factions within the church.  Some believed they should be brought back into the fold gently – others believed not at all.

It got so bad that there was a group called the Donatists who believed that any person who took communion or was baptized by those who had been brought back into the fold was not really a Christian – that the sacrament was based on the righteousness and purity of the priest or bishop – not on the righteousness of Christ.  A very bright man named Augustine of Hippo took care of that and we now believe that the sacraments are made holy by the work of Christ – not the work of man.

So how do you look at someone you believe has sinned or maybe continues to sin.  How much judgment do you place on them and how much do you talk about their lives in a public or private forum?

Paul says we are to carry each other’s burdens – not make things harder for that person.  He also says that we should test our own actions. 

Mom always told me that I was responsible for my own actions and if I paid more attention to those than I did to those around me, I’d be in pretty good shape.  I fail miserably, but if I listen o both Paul and my mother – I’ll probably be a lot happier and a lot more loving.

March 28 - Galatians 5:19-26

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 - Galatians 5:19-26

The acts of the flesh 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.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh 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.

I love Paul.  “The acts of the flesh are obvious…”  They are!  And though we know them when we see them in others, sometimes we miss them in ourselves.  The biggies are patently obvious, but sometimes the little ones like jealousy, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, discord, hatred … those are the ones that we try to ignore and hope that no one will notice.

Do you see, though, that Paul doesn’t even mention murder and theft?  There is no mention of rape or kidnapping, bombings, child molestation, either.  Those things that we believe are certain assurances of hell aren’t on this list – though they are more obvious than Paul’s list!

Paul wants us to understand that those things we do on a daily basis without thought will separate us from God’s kingdom.  As Christians we can no longer look at the murderers and rapists of the world and believe that we are better than them.  We can no longer go to bed at night and believe that we’ve got ‘goodness’ in the bag for the day.  He wants us to see that we are in desperate need of a Savior … because without Him, we aren’t going to make it any further on the path to eternity.

The fruit of the Spirit.  Notice that these aren’t individual fruits.  Fruit is that which is produced and which brings good to the world around us.  No … the Spirit produces fruit in our lives and it looks like this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

This is what the world needs to see.  When the world hands you stress and frustration, hatred and anger, jealousy and discord … responding with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is transformational!

Walking in the Spirit shows the world that Jesus cares and at the same time, that we care as well.  Walking in our own selfish lives shows the world nothing but what it expects to see. 

Transform the world with the fruit of the Spirit.

March 27 - Galatians 5:16-18

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27 - Galatians 5:16-18

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

It is impossible for us to blend our two natures – the spirit and the flesh.  So, Paul tells us that when we walk in the Spirit … in the will of God, we will set aside the desires of the flesh.

What does this mean and how does it relate to the Law?

Before Jesus came, the only way that the Jews knew how to live within God’s will was according to the Law.  Every single moment of their lives was defined by that Law.  From the things they ate to the buying and selling of land … everything was handled by God’s Law. 

Just as we do with the Law today, they found loopholes and pushed the boundaries of that law so that the scribes were constantly re-interpreting it for application.  As long as they could justify their actions by the Law, they were free to do whatever it was that they wanted to do.

All of this was governed by humanity.  When God first gave them the Law – He allowed for its interpretation – first by Moses and then by the priests. 

Then, Jesus came.  He began re-interpreting the Law so that a man’s spirit could help him (or her) make a decision regarding what was right and wrong.  There is no loophole in love.  When Jesus calls us to love God with everything we have – that skips right over the laws regarding taking His name in vain, worshipping on the Sabbath, having other gods take precedence.  When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves – that leaps across the boundaries of what is murder and theft, desire their things and honoring our loved ones.  There are no loopholes.  There is only love.

We talk about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law.  When Jesus went away into heaven after the resurrection, He told us that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide us.  That Spirit within us is what moves us to live according to the spirit of the Law.  We are no longer bound by the minutiae of the rules set forth to keep us in line with God’s desires for our lives.  We are no longer bound by a life that tries to find the loophole and push the boundaries of how much we can do before we’re no longer called a Christian.

We are to love … there are no loopholes in love.

March 26 - Galatians 5:13-15

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26 - Galatians 5:13-15

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

I would like for these three verses to be the watchword for my life.  I am called to be free, not to indulge myself, but to serve others in love.  If I attempt to hurt others with words or deeds, it will only bring destruction.

It isn’t that I actually fulfill the words of these verses, but there is nothing more than I could desire for my life than to live as God calls me … in love.

As soon as I hope for the truth of this to be real in my life, I am slammed with the realities of the world around me and see just how difficult it is for these words to permeate the soul of my being.  At every turn I am faced with a challenge and I will admit that I generally fail.

When I am attacked, I retaliate.  When I find a way to serve myself before others, I end up doing so. When I need to love and serve, I avoid the situation.

It is too easy to live as the world thinks I should live.  It is not so easy to live as God calls me to live.  Every single day I encounter situations that require me to make choices about my actions and reactions.  When I fail, I fail miserably (and sometimes publicly!) … when I act according to God’s will, it is generally quiet and easily forgotten. 

But God’s grace offers me hope to try again and again.  He doesn’t give up on my.  He doesn’t condemn me for my failures and He does encourage me in my successes, no matter how small.  He calls me to love.  He calls me to freedom.

Each of us are called to respond in love.  This is true freedom.

March 25 - Galatians 5:7-12

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 - Galatians 5:7-12

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep 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, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, 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!

Who (or what) gets in your way when you are moving toward the truth? Is it yourself or your circumstances? Are there outside influences that put walls up? Is it the life you’ve chosen or even one that has been placed on you?  Is it your family or your friends?  Is it your job or the lack of one? Is it what you do with your free time?

What stops you from being completely free and expressing love to the world?

Paul tells us that it doesn’t really take much.  A little yeast works through the whole dough.  It doesn’t take much yeast to cause bread to rise … it doesn’t take much corruption to stop us from living as free people.  Maybe it’s one word or a sentence that hardens our hearts toward someone else.  Or maybe it’s a memory that we have of a similar situation. 

Whatever happens does not happen because God allows it.  God doesn’t want us to be bound up in sin and live a miserable life.  He wants us to know freedom, to express love, to have faith.  He wants us to find freedom in His will.

When there is confusion, it doesn’t come from the still, small voice that Elijah heard on the mountain.  It comes from the outside and stops us from living our lives as God wants them to be lived.

It will never be easy – setting aside those things that we have lived with for a lifetime.  We may not even know how much that negativity impacts our relationship with God.  We are so used to making snarky comments, or hearing filthy gossip, encouraging others to believe the worst about others because it suits our purposes, never standing up for the truth because it is easier to keep quiet, allowing mistrust and ugliness to continue because we don’t care. 

Faith expresses itself in love, even when it is difficult or awkward, selfless or dangerous. 

Who is it that gets in your way? 

March 24 - Galatians 5:2-6

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 - Galatians 5:2-6

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 the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith 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.

Now, I’m pretty sure that Paul is not speaking out against circumcision in and of itself.  However, he is talking about allowing ourselves to be taken in by those who would have us give up our freedom so that we can fit in with their idea of how we should walk with God.

It’s easy to think about all of the cults and strange religious groups that ask you to give up your freedom in order to join their group and be ruled by their religious leader.  We think that is horrendous and feel terrible pity for those who subject themselves to that type of life. 

We can not allow ourselves to get caught up in things that stop us from expressing love, whether it is church politics or doctrinal issues, political and religious issues.  All of these things are in place to harden our hearts towards others. 

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 

March 23 - Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23 - Galatians 5:1

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.

Throughout the centuries theologians have tried to understand this freedom.  Avoiding freedom that leads to anarchy was of great concern.  They were afraid that, left to their own devices, people would choose to do anything and everything in the name of freedom, assuming Christ would bail them out in the end.  After all, that’s why He died for us, right?  To set us free.

We still don’t understand freedom in Christ.  I don’t believe we fully understand true freedom at all.  Philosophers and sociologists, great thinkers and politicians, theologians and great statesmen have tried to explain and understand freedom.  The only man that ever got it right was Jesus Christ. 

Humanity needs boundaries.  We need rules.  If we don’t have them, we create them.  If we can’t create them, we go looking for them.  Jesus gave us two laws to abide by and if we can find ourselves content within those boundaries, we can find freedom in Him.

Love the Lord your God with all your heard, mind, soul and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.

In great love is freedom.  Within the will of God, freedom is discovered.  Not in the rules of mankind, though we’re called to live within the society.  But, that isn’t what defines our true freedom. 

Love does that.  When we love … radically love, we bring freedom to ourselves and those around us. 

Anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, lies, gossip, discord, hatred, selfish ambition, (we’re going to look at these later in Galatians).  All of these things bind us.  We find ourselves slaves to the world and to sin when we allow them to trump love.

We must learn to love with no boundaries, love with no exception, love with no expectation.  We must love God with all that we have and express that same love to everyone around us.  We will find our freedom there.

March 22 - Galatians 4:28-31

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22 - Galatians 4:28-31

Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does 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 and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

We are children of promise. 

We are children of promise.

We were born into freedom.

We recognize these words as truth, but rarely live them out in our lives.  The Galatians found themselves falling into bondage with regards to Jewish laws and customs.  It was easier for them to handle.  They couldn’t manage freedom.  Having someone set rules and regulations into place for them ensured that they knew when and if they made a mistake.  But, living in freedom meant that they had to take responsibility for themselves without relying on outside authority.

This morning I read Saint Benedict’s Rule.  Fifteen hundred years ago he wrote this little booklet so that monks would know what was expected of them and how to live within the community.  While much of it makes sense to us: living within God’s will, regular prayer, honoring and respecting each other; other parts of it seem ludicrous.  He set down rules for how much they could own (nothing – and could only have one change of clothing – which was only a robe and a cowl, plus a pair of shoes and a pair of sandals).  He had rules for what they could eat and how to interact with guests.  There were rules regarding the ranking of monks depending on how long they had been there, how great their devotion was, etc.  There were rules regarding excommunication and even rules that handled mistakes made while reciting scripture.  There were rules about who should work in which area and even rules regarding how much more to offer the sick and elderly.

The monks that enter (ed) these monasteries were comfortable with these rules.  They no longer had to make decisions regarding their every day lives.  While they would argue that they learn to rely fully on God, I would argue the point.  They have enslaved themselves to a system that handles everything for them.  This allows them to spend more time with God, but doesn’t actually allow them to live in the freedom we are promised.

With that freedom comes responsibility.  We have to make decisions about how to live our lives and God asks that we choose to make decisions that brings us into His will.  Too many of us choose to exercise that freedom by being bound again to sin and becoming slaves to things that will destroy us.

We are given freedom.  That freedom was bought with a great price.

March 21 - Galatians 4:24-27

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 - Galatians 4:24-27

These things are being taken figuratively: 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, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.”

Can you imagine the shock that those Jews who were trying to get the Galatians to re-align their way of thinking would have at Paul’s words?  Their history came down from Abraham and Sarah through Isaac.  To associate Hagar and Ishmael with Jerusalem was far from anything they could imagine.

Paul didn’t want the Galatians to consider themselves Jews first and then Christians.  These were Gentiles who had never been circumcised, never offered sacrifices at the temple and had never known the restrictions of the law.  The Judaizers in their community wanted to bring them into some sort of structure so that they had more control over these new converts to the faith.  This doesn’t mean that the Judaizers weren’t believers in Christ, it simply means that they wanted everyone to follow the Jewish faith first. 

Paul and Peter had both dealt with that issue already with God and Paul didn’t want these people to go backwards in their faith.  He wanted them to look forward … to look forward to the heavenly idea of Jerusalem … the new Jerusalem. 

March 20 - Galatians 4:21-23

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 20 - Galatians 4:21-23

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 according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

Paul’s insight into the overall story of redemption is glorious, isn’t it?  We have the benefit of his insights as well as many others so it may seem to us that this is overly simplistic, but how many of you would look back to the beginning of the relationship God had with the Israelites and make the comparison between slavery with the things of the flesh and freedom and a divine promise?

We come to a relationship with God by way of a divine promise.  In Jeremiah 31:31 we read, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”  God was preparing His people for a new covenant – a divine promise - which would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus affirms that covenant in Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Under the old covenant … the Law was supreme.  Every day it was a process to remain holy.  The people were constantly aware of their inability to overcome sin.  They were bound up as slaves, unable to have any freedom in their relationship to God.  Corruption was too great.

Under the new covenant … freedom in Christ is supreme.  He died so that we could be holy.  We spend our days living within God’s grace.  The payment has been made.  We are able to overcome and have victory over sin because of that grace offered to us through Christ’s sacrifice.

Live as if you know that.  Live in freedom – no longer bound by sin, but freedom that comes from knowing Christ paid the price and offers us grace.  Live according to the divine promise.

March 19 - Galatians 4:17-20

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19 - Galatians 4:17-20

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 have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, 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!

Proverbs 19:2 says, “Zeal without knowledge is not good; a person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way.”

It is said that there is nothing worse than a student in the middle of an education.  They think they know everything there is to know.  While this is probably true about nearly every program, it is especially true of those who are in seminary.  The problem is a little bit of knowledge, a whole lot of passion and very little life experience and wisdom.

Now, at the same time those attributes are exciting because young people tend to move forward without a lot of fear.  Great things can happen when that all comes together in the right way.  It’s exciting for me to watch young minds explore theology in my classes.  They are just opening up to the challenges of how to verbalize their faith and seminary is giving them tools with which to do that.  At the same time, there are a few that should have their mouths sewn shut until they finish their education.  It’s painful to watch.

When Paul’s teachings came into the lives of the Galatians, they jumped up and grabbed hold of his new teaching.  But, they hadn’t grounded themselves in the knowledge that went with that faith and before long, were being corrupted by everything else that surrounded them.

Billy Graham’s ministry learned that lesson in the 70s.  He was leading huge numbers of people to Christ in vast stadiums and since there was no follow up or training to help these people develop as Christians, there was no depth to their faith and soon they were back as they had been before … nothing had changed.  They now partner with churches throughout the region to provide opportunities for growth and continued transformation.

Paul knows that he is going to have to start over with the Galatians.  The best part of the story is that God always offers multitudes of chances for His people to come into relationship with Him.  No matter how perplexed it made Paul, God made sure Paul was able to minister to the Galatians and draw them back.

March 18 - Galatians 4:12-16

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 - Galatians 4:12-16

I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and 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. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? 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?

This little bit of information gives us a lot of clarification of the depth of Paul’s feelings for the Galatians. The poor guy was SICK when he was with them. It upped his vulnerability and forced him to rely on them to nurse him back to health. These kind of stressful situations always create a connection between people that would not necessarily happen if he were there simply to preach and teach.

Paul’s time spent with the Galatians was difficult for him at the time. He was forced to set aside everything of himself and rely on others to take care of him. They did so with grace and love.

The intimacy of relationships that grew as people cared for him and supplied his needs would have been incredible. They truly exercised hospitality with Paul.

Now, however, when it is time for him to call them to task … they don’t want to hear from him. How painful that must have been for him. Those that he trusted when he was at his lowest want nothing to do with the teaching and admonition that he has for them.

March 17 - Galatians 4:8-11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 - Galatians 4:8-11

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 forces? 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.

There was nothing more difficult for me to hear than the words, “I’m disappointed in you” come out of my parent’s mouths.  Mom didn’t ground me, she didn’t send me to my room (except when we were children and she desperately needed to separate the noise), she and Dad simply expressed their disappointment and it was so profound that I did everything possible to avoid doing that to them.

I can not imagine what must have happened for the Galatians to receive this type of reprimand from Paul.  But it seems as if these people had turned back from worshiping God to the worship of either pagan gods that were all around them or were being influenced by the local Jewish groups to turn away from Jesus and move into bondage to the Law.

The special days and months, seasons and years echo many of the Jewish and pagan festivals.  Everything from New Moon festivals to Rosh Hashanah and the year of Jubilee.

Paul is speaking to us as well.  We find it just as easy to get caught up in the world around us as did the Galatians and set aside our relationship with God.  Oh, it’s always there in the back of our minds, but we don’t let it bother us when we’re busy with other things.

Paul wants it to bother us.  He wants to remind us that God notices when we’re too busy with the multitude of things going on around us.  He cared for the Galatians enough to give them the “I’m disappointed in you” talk and if he were here today, he would care enough for each of us to do the same.

March 16 - Galatians 4:1-7

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16 - Galatians 4:1-7

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his 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 God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

In Paul’s time, the difference between a minor child and a slave was not terribly great.  You have to first of all understand that for the most part, slaves were treated quite well – they were part of a family (for the most part).  An under-aged child was not entitled to any of the financial benefits that would come to an heir until he was of age.

Gentiles and anyone outside the nation of Jews had no belief that they could be part of the family of God … unless they became Jewish.  Within the kingdom of God … there was no expectation that they were worth any more than a slave … they certainly weren’t considered heirs of the kingdom.

Look back at the previous verses. Paul clearly says that there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female in the kingdom of God.  All are considered equal in God’s eyes. 

Then Paul expresses quite clearly how this works.  Jesus came as a Jew.  He was born and lived under the Law.  He came to redeem those under the Law.  But … He was also born of a woman.  This was a huge issue in patriarchal Judaism.  God didn’t just show up on earth riding a white horse – He blessed women by allowing the Logos … Jesus Christ … the Word of God, to be born from her.  Then, when Christ died and the curtain in the Temple was ripped open, He exposed the heart of God to the entire world … Jews and Gentiles alike.

We can be adopted legally into God’s kingdom which allows us to have full rights of inheritance.  He sees us as His children.  We are no longer on the outside as minor children with no rights, but upon accepting Christ Jesus as our Savior, we receive the full inheritance of God’s kingdom.

March 15 - Galatians 3:26-29

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 - Galatians 3:26-29

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and 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.

Am I a better Christian than you? Am I more deserving of Christ’s love and inheritance?

We are so competitive in our culture today.  When I was growing up, I remember my mother always comparing herself to others … ‘am I thinner or heavier than that person’? And then as parents, mine would make sure to compare us favorably to those we were around, whether it was scholastically or musically.  While this did a lot to build our self-confidence, it began a lifetime of comparison. 

My father had a couple of prejudices that drove me crazy.  He based a lot of his ideas on people about their education.  Now, a Bachelor’s Degree would suffice, but more than that was even better.  (It does not escape me that I waited until after he died to go after my Master’s Degree … no, I’m not rebellious at all … even at my age!)  Fortunately for all of us, he married a woman who was absolutely brilliant, but didn’t finish her college education.  She kept him humble and honest.

We live in a culture that is filled with comparisons.  We compare ourselves to those who we believe are better and find ourselves lacking while at the same time, we turn around and compare ourselves to others who might not have our talents and capabilities and find that we are comfortable in a position above them.

There is one place, though, that we come to and find ourselves on equal footing, no matter what we think.

Jesus Christ came to teach us about love … for everyone.  Not for the pretty or the perfect or the talented or the wealthy.  In fact, he came and walked among those that had less … the broken, the weary, the lost, the hurting.  He approached the worst of them all in the leper and the tax-collector and showed love.  In a strong Jewish society, He reached out to the Gentiles.

Living within His love means that we are safe from those comparisons.  He doesn’t care who we are and He doesn’t care what we’ve done.  All He wants is the relationship that will offer us true equality … true love.

March 14 - Galatians 3:23-24

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14 - Galatians 3:23-24

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.

An initial reading of this implies imprisonment under the Law, but another application of the thought might be a custodial relationship – such as a guardian or foster parent.

Since we live by faith and not by the Law today, we don’t understand the incredible difference that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought to us.  We take what we have for granted.  Even the transition from not knowing Christ to knowing Christ is not as profound as the transformation from living under the Law to living by faith according to Jesus’ words.

If we look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we glimpse a hint of the ways that Jesus was changing people’s attitudes and application of the law.  The commands are the same, but there is such a difference in how He binds people to those commands.

In those days every bit of the letter of the law was spelled out and just as we see happen today, as soon as they spelled out the law, someone went looking for a loophole.  Jesus wanted people’s actions to be a reflection of their heart, not a reaction to a law.

For instance, in Matthew 5:33, Jesus says, “You have heard it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’” 

Well, as you read through the rest of that passage, you find that people were making oaths on the earth or on the basis of themselves. 

None of that will work … and obviously the law forced people to find their way around it so that they could continue in their humanity.

By the time Jesus got to the end of His teaching on that issue, He made it quite clear that it wasn’t about the Law at all, it was about the intent of the person and so He said, “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no!’

That’s all there is to it.  If you have to make an oath on an external foundation, you have lost the power of the truth of your word.  If your yes is yes and your no is no and people trust you to be honest and that your word is good … that is much more important.

The Law held people to a semblance of the righteousness that God desired for His people, but they worked hard to find their way around it.  For the time that the Law held power over God’s people, it was important that it be there.  But, it was just acting as a guardian or a foster parent and as soon as that period of necessity was ended … when Jesus arrived … the Law became subordinate to faith in Jesus Christ.

March 13 - Galatians 3:19-22

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13 - Galatians 3:19-22

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

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 Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

One of Athanasius’ points in explaining humanity’s need for a divine Savior was that even though the Law and the prophets had been put in place to bring God and man back into right relationship, it was never going to happen. 

Humanity’s basic nature was corruptible and even though (up until the point of Christ), the Law and the prophets might have brought men to a point of repenting for a specific, those things could not bring full repentance that transformed a person (or an entire nation) from death to life.  The Law could not bring re-creation, re-birth or new life.

God offered humanity creation to prove that He was among them every day.  He still asks us to recognize that creation is a symbol of His presence in the world.  When humanity continued to move away from Him, He gave them the Law.  Within the Law was found the planbook for living a righteous life – a life that would keep God at the forefront of the people’s minds.  When humanity disobeyed the Law, God brought forth the prophets, who used words that He gave them directly to remind people of their sin and plead with them to return to righteousness.

Those things were put into place until the time came that was right for the Word of God … Jesus Christ to come to earth and live among humanity and then die the worst death possible at the time, return to life so that He could bring us, through His sacrifice out of the chains of death … abolishing the fear of death … into new life.

Now repentance is based on His sacrifice and has a chance to work in our lives.  It isn’t based on our own righteousness, but on His.  We are free from ourselves and all the corruption that we are.  We don’t need to rely on the Law or the prophets … only Jesus Christ for our lives.

March 12 - Galatians 3:15-18

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12 - Galatians 3:15-18

Brothers and sisters, 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. 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 the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

Paul goes out on a limb a little bit here in discussing the covenant God made with Abraham.  The standard interpretation of Abraham’s ‘seed’ had never before been quite as focused as he interprets it regarding Jesus Christ, but it made sense to him and thinking a little bit more about it – it makes sense to all of us.  Abraham probably didn’t see it that way.  The covenant was between God and all that would follow in Abraham’s line.  That was pretty much the basis for the tribes of Israel.  Abraham to Isaac to Jacob … Israel.

The noun ‘seed’ can be used either as a singular noun meaning a single seed, or it can be used as a plural noun … as it is used in Mark 4:4, “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed some fell along the path …”

But, Paul was making a point in connecting Jesus Christ to Abraham.  The covenant that God made with Abraham was fulfilled in Christ Jesus.  As we’ll see, the Israelites messed up the covenant and their inheritance was called into question because of their disobedience.

When Christ came, He renewed that inheritance and then, in turn, transferred it to all who would follow Him.

The covenant established between God and Abraham could not be set aside.  As long as one person fulfills a covenant, it remains in existence.  It is nothing like a contract between two parties that can be considered null and void when one breaks the contract.  A covenant with an eternal God is forever – until it is fulfilled.  Paul tells us that Jesus Christ fulfills the covenant.

March 11 - Galatians 3:10-14

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11 - Galatians 3:10-14

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person 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 pole.”  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.

Paul just says it … if you want to rely on the law. Fine.  But, don’t forget.  You have to do EVERYTHING written in the Book of the Law.  Otherwise, you will be cursed and you will not see eternity with God.

The better way is to live by faith in Jesus Christ.  He redeemed us from that curse.  That great blessing of the covenant promised to Abraham now comes through Jesus Christ to us.

The Law was put into place to offer the people of Israel – Abraham’s direct descendants – a way to redeem themselves with God.  When that didn’t work, God sent prophets.  All of these things did not stop the Israelites from moving further and further away from God.  And certainly nothing convinced them that they were to be a light to the nations so that the entire world would know God.

The only way that God could bring the relationship back was to come Himself.  So, Jesus was born.  He lived.  He was crucified as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind and He rose  to conquer and abolish death.

We are not bound by the law.  We are not bound by legalism or any of the other hangups we may have with modern Christianity.  We are simply to have faith in Jesus Christ and trust that He will lead us to the Father.  We have that promise.  We can live within that promise.


March 10 - Galatians 3:6-9

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10 - Galatians 3:6-9

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 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 rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Were it not for Paul’s constant reminders, we would easily forget that Abraham didn’t have the Law to tell him how to have faith in God.  That didn’t happen until Moses got there – many hundred years later.

But, Abraham had a close relationship with God.  When God said, “Go,” Abraham went.  Now, Abraham disobeyed God regularly and saw the effects of that disobedience, but because the relationship between the two was so strong, he figured it out, repented and moved forward.

The glory of God’s covenant with Abraham was not just about the promise to make him into a great nation, but also that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him.

The Lord had said Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
(Genesis 12:1-3)

We are part of that blessing.  The entirety of earth is part of that blessing.

God is so good to us … He desired that we be part of His kingdom from the beginning of His covenant with Abraham.  That, too, is grace.

March 9 - Galatians 3:1-5

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 9 - Galatians 3:1-5

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 the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Exasperation.  That’s a tone of voice I heard a lot from my parents and one that I’ve managed to pick up and understand quite well.

Paul isn’t necessarily angry – he’s frustrated.  All of the teaching he offered to the Galatians has been set aside by them as they are caught up in some other contemporary, probably more exciting and more palatable teaching.

We’re as guilty of this as the Galatians were.  Every time a new teacher comes around, or a new worship leader shows up, or a new author hits the shelves … we are entranced with what they are saying and believe that this answers everything!  We’re so gullible.

It’s pretty easy for us to look at the televangelists in the 70s, 80s and 90s and act surprised at the number of people that were taken in by their teaching, and we can giggle at the crazy antics of people as they are hoodwinked by supposed Spirit-filled powers, but we are just as susceptible and we have to be just as careful and watchful.

We rely too much on others to transmit information to us regarding God’s Word.  We rely on our pastors to be dynamic speakers and great leaders, we rely on trusted authors and teachers to take us into scripture and explain what it means, we count on everyone else to do our Christianity for us.  Where does that leave us?  Exactly in the same place that we find the Galatians … ready to accept the newest, most exciting thing that comes along.

I was a bit convicted yesterday as I read C.S. Lewis’ introduction to Athanasius.  He finds that most people are willing to read ‘about’ old books (Plato, Church Fathers, Shakespeare, etc.) but not so quickly willing to read the old books themselves and in so doing, the full understanding is missed – one person’s interpretation is the only thing being presented.

I’m quite guilty of this.  I find myself struggling with ancient phraseology and terminology.  But, as I read through Athansius’ little book “On the Incarnation,” it was incredible to be reading the development of much theology and doctrine that we take for granted.  This is the good stuff!

Paul’s concern for the Galatians as they found themselves caught up in something that he didn’t approve of is expressed in his exasperation.  Would he be concerned for you as well today?

March 8 - Galatians 2:15-21

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8 - Galatians 2:15-21

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be 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 now 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!”

I just finished reading a little treatise, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” by Athanasius, a 4th century Church father.  He was writing against some heresies that denied the divinity and/or humanity of Jesus Christ. 

But, as he introduced the subject, he began by teaching about the loss of the relationship between man and God, which led to the need for Jesus to come to earth in human form.  God had provided creation to teach humanity about Himself, and when they ignored that and continued to corrupt themselves, He gave them the Law and when that wasn’t enough, He sent prophets.  But, no amount of repentance under the Law or in any other form was complete enough because humanity always returned to corruption. 

Only when God came to earth Himself in the form of Jesus Christ was He able to offer re-creation, re-birth … a new life.  He lived on earth, then died to conquer the hold that death has on us.  By abolishing the power of death, He allowed humanity to find its way back to God permanently.  His sacrifice, His power over death, stopped the all-encompassing flood of corruption that had begun when Adam and Eve broke God’s very first commandment and introduced sin and separation into the world.

The Law was not enough to restore the relationship, it took the sacrifice of the Word of God … Jesus Christ to bring us back into a right relationship with God so that we can now live for Him.

That’s grace.

March 7 - Galatians 2:11-14

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7 - Galatians 2:11-14

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For 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 Cephas 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?

When I was a freshman in high school, our choir went to state contest.  We did poorly and our score reflected that.  However, as students will do, once we got on the bus, everyone complained about how the judges had it in for our community and that it wasn’t fair, on and on and on.

Stupid little freshman girl got herself in a MESS o’ trouble.  It was the seniors that were making all the noise and the last thing they wanted to hear from a wet behind the ears freshman was the truth regarding their performance.  We had not done a good job, we had really screwed up several things and for heaven’s sake, why would out of state judges even KNOW about our community, much less have it in for us.  Oh yes, I said all of those things.  Some of those girls have never forgiven me.  Fortunately, we only had a month or so left before summer and by the next fall, I was a sophomore, the worst of the mean girls were gone and there was a new crop of freshman to hate.

I walked into that argument with truth on my side against people who didn’t want to hear it.  Paul did the same thing … but, he went up against leaders who had proven themselves … not as mean and petty girls, but as men who had been through the worst of it all and remained as followers of Jesus.  He was willing to take them on and make them see the truth, no matter how difficult it might make the relationship. 

March 6 - Galatians 2:6-10

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 6 - Galatians 2:6-10

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,  just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas  and John, those esteemed as 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 circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

I can’t imagine the difficulty Paul faced in the early years of his ministry as he dealt with his own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to the twelve disciples who had known Jesus for the years they traveled together. 

While he had complete confidence in the knowledge that Jesus had come to him on the road to Damascus and was fully aware that his ministry to the Gentiles was from God; at the same time he seemed to need assurances that they supported him.  If they hadn’t, he would have moved forward, but it would have upset him as well as others in the early church.

Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry about it.  By the time he got to the pillars of the church – James, Cephas and John, they were ready to support him and acknowledge that God had done a great work in his life and through him in the lives of many others.  While he wanted his readers to know that he didn’t place a lot of importance on this, it obviously relieved him.

The only thing they asked was that he continue to remember the poor – he tells us that was already part of his plan.

Of all the things that they were concerned about – remembering the poor was what they mentioned to him. There had been debates regarding circumcision that raised the roof in Jerusalem, with both Paul and Peter coming down on different sides for awhile … but, caring for the poor was of great import then – and it is now.

Think about how that might impact us today.  The one thing the three leaders of the Jerusalem church want us to know.  James (the brother of Jesus), John and Peter.  Three great men that we rely on to tell us the truth of Jesus’ message.  Remember the poor.  It seems to me we shouldn’t take that lightly!

March 5 - Galatians 2:1-5

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 5 - Galatians 2:1-5

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running 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 believers 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 be preserved for you.

In Acts 9:27, Barnabas is the one who vouched for Paul to the disciples after his conversion.  Again, he goes with Paul before the church in Jerusalem as Paul tells them of his ministry to the Gentiles.

Obviously Paul didn’t think it was going to be easy. In fact, this man who seems so confident in his faith was worried that maybe he’d gone off track and was preaching something so far outside the orthodox beliefs that those in Jerusalem, the founders of the church, the disciples who had walked with Jesus for several years; would have a problem with him.

He didn’t really think so … even Titus wasn’t all that interested in being circumcised.  But, there had been noise coming out of Jerusalem that tried to change his teaching on freedom in Christ Jesus.  They were once again teaching that all should be circumcised – should hold on to the rules of Judaism – if they really wanted to be part of the faith movement.

It wasn’t the original twelve disciples … Paul says that false brothers had gotten in and started making trouble.  He wasn’t going to have anything to do with it. 

The truth of the gospel … freedom in Christ Jesus … is what Paul wants the Galatians to know.  It’s what we all need to know – every day.  There is freedom found in Jesus Christ.

March 4 - Galatians 1:18-24

Friday, March 4, 2011

March 4 - Galatians 1:18-24

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas 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.

Then 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 spent three years in Arabia and only fifteen days with Cephas (Peter).  It could possibly be that with this statement, Paul is ensuring that no one thinks he is subordinate to or a disciple of Peter.  He was simply there to get to know the man a little bit and to test the waters.  Would Peter trust him after knowing him as a persecutor?  Would Paul even be safe in Jerusalem since he failed to complete his mission as that same persecutor?  It was wise of him to wait three years before returning.

Those fifteen days were probably spent discussing the Lord.  Can you imagine the stories that the two of them shared?  He also met with James, the brother of Jesus, who was in charge of the church in Jerusalem.

Paul finishes this thought by stating that he was not lying.  Why? He needed to assure his readers that he had received his message from Christ and ordination from God and also that he was not dependent on the Jerusalem disciples for his ministry.

From Jerusalem, Paul began his ministry in the region of Judea.  His former job now comes into play as those who knew of him as a persecutor of the Christians recognize the power of the faith that he is preaching.  God is praised for his transformation.

Paul needs to let the Galatians know who he is and why he is qualified to bring the word of God to them.

March 3 - Galatians 1:11-12

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3 – Galatians 1:11-12

Paul Called by God
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 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 of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

This passage fascinates me … and it’s only in the last couple of sentences.  You see, in the book of Acts, we read about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, his time that was spent there with some disciples and then there is the story about how he had to live Damascus by being lowered via basket through an opening in the city wall. (Acts 9:20-25)

The very next paragraph in Acts tells of his arrival in Jerusalem, trying to join the disciples who were afraid of him and refused to believe that he had become a disciple of Christ and then of Barnabas who finally dealt with the situation.

Not a single word of Paul heading into Arabia. 

It wasn’t until I read an aside in one of my Church History textbooks that I dug into the scriptures to discover this little tidbit of information.  I was quietly reading along one evening and came upon this news and recognized immediately that I was unfamiliar with this trip of Paul’s.  I went first to the chapter in Acts (Acts 9) and couldn’t find it anywhere.  A little bit of digging and research and voila, there it was in his letter to the Galatians.

Paul’s intention is to remind the Galatians that he didn’t spend time learning about Jesus Christ from others … he got it directly from Jesus and he was set apart by God.  His ministry is not something that was anointed by a human being, he was called by God’s grace to preach among the Gentiles.

Do you know that you have been called by God?  We all have.  It may be that you are called to be a beacon of light in your workplace, maybe you are called to travel to China or even to San Diego to share the Gospel of Christ.  But, as a child of God, you are to be salt and light in the world.  He has set you apart.

March 2 - Galatians 1:6-10

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 2 – Galatians 1:6-10

No Other Gospel
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in 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 them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!  Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Those poor Galatians … it obviously hadn’t taken them long to move away from God.  He was the one who had called them to live in the grace of Christ, but they were quickly and easily distracted by false teachers and a false gospel. 

They were easily confused by all of the new information coming at them and just allowed these false teachers to enamor them with their stories.

I think about the old-time snake oil salesmen.  We laugh at the naiveté of people who believed in their tales of wondrous healings and life-changing ointments, but we still run into those things today.  We want life to be easy and have quick responses to our needs.  We buy diet pills and rub oil on balding scalps while hoping and praying for an easy fix.

We want the same thing to happen in our lives.  I heard an advertisement on the radio today for hypnosis that would stop someone’s addiction to cigarettes in just one session. 

Christians are just as susceptible. When my father left a church, we kept hearing from people that the new pastor wasn’t ‘feeding’ them … they just weren’t being ‘fed’ by his messages.  Dad was so distraught.  He finally told them that they dishonored his ministry there – he had hoped that they learned to feed themselves.  It wasn’t about that – it was about the easy Sunday morning fixes that they wanted.  They wanted him to spoon-feed the gospel to them week after week rather than live their lives throughout the week according to the Gospel that they knew and the same Gospel that they could read and share.

We have been given the Gospel of Jesus Christ … God calls us to live in His grace.  Do it!

March 1 - Galatians 1:1-5

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 – Galatians 1:1-5

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers and sisters 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.

Paul, is a Greek word that means ‘little.’  He was from the tribe of Benjamin, who was the youngest and smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel.  He would have been proud of his name – Saul.  The first king of Israel was also a Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. 

Paul was his Greek name and would have been accepted by both Greeks and Romans throughout the region.  His identification at the beginning of this letter is that of an apostle.  He was sent out by God. 

An apostle is a messenger.  Look at that word again.  Sometimes we ignore the parts of these words that relate to our own time.  Do you see the word ‘post’ in there?  Yes, Gus Vardalos from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” would agree with me.  Words all lead back to Greek.  (well, most of the good ones, anyway.)  Our ‘post’al service is a messenger service.  Like the apostles … they deliver messages and news. 

However, Paul declares that his authority comes from Jesus Christ and God the father.  No man has given him authority … God gave it to him.

The church in Galatia may not have known all of the people that were working with Paul, but they knew and loved those that Paul knew and loved.  The greetings come from Paul and from those who work with him and believe in the things that he is about to write.

Before he begins dealing with these churches in Galatia, he reminds them that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who has done the work to save them from sins.  This sacrifice is great and not to be taken lightly.  As we move through this letter, Paul has some harsh things to say, but he begins with the Lord’s peace. 

So we will as well.  Grace and peace to you all from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.