Galatians 6:11-18

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

(Galatians 6:11-18 ESV)

It was custom for Paul to take the pen at the end and write the conclusion himself.  That is what all that large letters business is.  Isn’t it great that he gives them this concluding paragraph?  I think so.  He has come a long way since foaming mouth mad to this.

So what is this all about?

Well, for starters we can rest assured that he still doesn’t have anything good to say about legalist and legalism.  He points out their silliness one more time and calls them a name or two.  I would too.

The entire gist of this whole book is LOOK OUT FOR THESE GUYS.  So that is where we will end as well.  Be on the lookout for those who are propping themselves up on themselves.  They are bad news man.

Short today on purpose.  I want you to take the time now to look at your heart and determine if you are more like the one Paul is warning us about than you previously thought.

Are there areas of your life in which you are not standing on grace?

What do you do when you discover that you are bound by your own tradition or legalism?

Take this time to repent of your sins and obey the One who saved you.

It has been a pleasure writing these little devotions for you guys.

Blessings!

m

Galatians 6:1-10

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal. 6:1-5 ESV)

The guy who is into living a life that is run by the law and has no grace is certainly not interested in lightening your load.  In fact, they are probably more interested in giving you more burdens—in the name of the law that is.  I believe that is why Paul appropriately gives us the phrase Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  How can you tell if you are one that shares burdens or multiplies burdens?  Take a look at yourself.  Are you harder on others than you are on yourself?  Do you hold others to a standard that you yourself cannot and do not keep?  This might be a clue as to which one of these guys you are.

Paul gives you a scenario to think about at the top of this passage— Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Take a think on that for a second.  How would you handle a brother falling upon some transgression?  Would you restore him with gentleness?  Or would you seek to kick him while he is down.  One who is full of grace seeks to make restoration.

Legalists are prone to use others downfalls as a way to prop themselves up.  Paul tells us that if we do that—we are just kidding ourselves.

Galatians 5:26 is helpful here—Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.  We are not supposed to be competing to see who is the most graceful.  That won’t work.  We are also not suppose to be comparing ourselves to others and drawing our sins against theirs to see who is the biggest sinner.  Not gonna be good.  We are to be striving to be like Christ.  This should humble us a bit more than it probably does.

So how do you do it?  How do you see others falling into sin and not condemn them?  You walk in grace that is how.  I am so bad at this man.  I encourage each of you to really make this a part of your prayer life—to pray for strength in grace.

He goes on.

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

I think that some folks probably read a text like this and couple it with the piece prior to it and use it as a base for some sort of Christian Karma.  This is misguided thinking and not what this is about.  We are not so share our blessings with others so that we will get more blessings—that isn’t how it works.

The Text is about sharing blessing though.  In fact that should be a great aim of our life.  I do believe that the more you share the more you will be blessed—but that doesn’t mean that if you go to church every day, give regularly to the church, and go on a men’s retreat that you will have a nice shiny BMW waiting for you at the beginning of each month.  But, it does mean that you are blessed to be a blessing.

How are you doing with your blessings?  What are you doing with them?

Galatians 5:13-26

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

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

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.   (Galatians 5:13-26 ESV)

 

I think we spend a lot of time trying to change ourselves from the outside in.  I don’t think it is a sin to clean up your act—trust me—but I think that we are going about it wrong.  The Bible teaches that we can only be cleaned up from the inside out.  This makes sense if you think about it.  We can cover up whatever it is we are trying to cover up but the thing is still there, and it will find its way to the top eventually.  Paul is saying that we should take care of the thing we are trying to cover up and be done with it.  I like this.  It is hard, no doubt, but it works.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  (Gal. 5:13-15 ESV)

Think about what life would be like if we actually lived like this?  I tell you, the world could be pretty awesome if we did.  But, alas, we are more inclined to devour one another than we are to love one another.

When you live in the Spirit you are free of bondage.  You no longer have to walk in the law but you walk in grace.  This allows you to start loving others the way Christ loves them—in grace.  Don’t we all need to love others with a bit more grace that we are right now?  Guilty.

So what happens if we do away with all rules and regulations?  Chaos.  That is not what Paul is advocating at all.  He is telling us that if we live in the Spirit, walk in grace, then we will be able to better fulfill the law.  Crazy!  But yes that is what he is saying.  This whole time folks probably thought he was trying to do away with everything but in fact he was reminding them of a way they could actually pull it off.

I believe that when the Holy Spirit is living inside and you are, as a result, walking in the grace of God—you are given the ability to love as Christ loves.  In fact, I believe without these things happening there is just no way you can love some people (only slightly kidding there:).  Think about it.

What are some areas in your life in which you know that it is only through grace that you can do it?  You might want to answer—all areas—but be specific.

Here is the why.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal. 5: 16-26 ESV)

Your old self is always looking for things on the first list.  The flesh is constantly looking for ways to be satisfied.  We are in a constant battle with others and ourselves because of this.

We could spend some time going through that list of things and explaining them—but let’s not.  Let’s look at how we are to overcome them.

The key is not to pit your will against the flesh, but to surrender your will to Christ.

How can you give in to the will of Christ and overcome sin?

When we give over to the Spirit we not only gain the power to overcome sin but we also gain the power to do good works.  This is good news.

What good works have you been given the ability to do since yielding to the Spirit?

Do you have strongholds and areas in which you are not relenting?  Why?

Give in to God today; allow Him to work in your life.  What is standing in the way?


Galatians 5:2-12

[Looks like this Feb. study made it into March]

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

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!  (Galatians 5:1-12 ESV)

 

Oh boy.  Paul has some pretty memorable one-liners in this section.

It is clear that Paul believes that whomever it is that has been pulling the flock off target has a misunderstanding of how grace really works.  They thought that what he was teaching was dangerous because it replaced the law and this was going to cause the church to fall apart—Paul was teaching that if they stuck to their old ways the church will fall apart for sure.  You ever been there?  You are explaining something to someone that believes the exact opposite of what you are teaching?

Paul’s doctrine of Christian Liberty through grace is not the danger.  Legalism is the danger here and he is about to kick it up a peg in his explanation.

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

Paul uses three phrases to show you what will happen if you turn from grace and follow the law:

  1. Christ will be of no advantage to you.
  2. You are obligated to the whole law.
  3. You are severed from Christ.

This concludes that you have fallen from grace.  Following the law not only robs you of your liberty in Christ but it also robs you of any power or wealth that living through the Spirit brings.[1]

When you put your faith in Jesus, trust in Him, you become spiritually rich.  Those living a life of legalism are poor in the Spirit; they are slaves in bondage to a set of rules/laws and are living without grace.

To live by grace means that we depend on God for all our needs.  How are you putting this into practice in your life?  Are there areas where you live by grace and other areas where you live by you?

How would your life look different if you turned from legalism and began to live by grace alone?

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!  (Gal. 5:7-12 ESV)

 

Paul liked to use sports and food for illustrations—I knew there was a reason I liked his preaching.

Here is what he is saying here [mawhite translation, not inspired]: You were doing so well running along getting grace, what happened?  Who came over into your lane and got you off course?  He goes on to say that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  This is like saying one bad apple…you get it.

Why is legalism so dangerous?  I think one reason is that it has early success.  By that I mean this—it works for a little while. Kind of like a crash diet.  You start these things, you see some initial results, you keep going, then you hit the wall.  Legalism at first seems like a good idea.  I will stop doing certain things in order to gain closeness to Christ.  Well sure, that works for a bit but without the freedom of Christ to help you along the way you can’t make it very long.  You eventually will fall.  When legalists fall—sometimes they just keep falling.

It is important to inspect your life and determine where you are living as a legalist.  Ask God to forgive you for this.  Repent of it.  Give Him that sin.


[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, New Testament, vol. 1 of The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1992), 714.

Galatians 4:21-5:1

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.  (Gal. 4:21-23 ESV)

On the surface of this passage is seems like Paul is just referencing a story that all of them would have known.  This would be like me referencing the Kennedy family or the name Carnegie.  You might not know every detail but you know who these people are.  The Galatian folks would have known Abraham.  But beneath this reference is a story that carries tremendous spiritual power.  The relationships in that story represent some important lessons.

If you haven’t read it in a while, take the time now to read Genesis 12-21.  It is a great read and a great story.

Paul, after introducing the story, gets down to his point next.

Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

            “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;

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

            For the children of the desolate one will be more

            than those of the one who has a husband.”

            Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal. 4:24-29 ESV)

The use of the word allegorically can be a bit confusing.  Typically we use the word allegory to denote the presence of fiction or that there is a hidden meaning.  But the record of Abraham is not that at all.  It is both a historical account of real events and a story of deep meaning.

We could spend a lot of time looking at this story and explaining what everything is.  I think, however, for our time here I’m gonna skip all that and get right to the application.

So, here is Paul’s point.  All three of the characters in this story have a common element:  regenerating grace.  The key to that is that it is not due to human effort.  The entire story of Abraham is one that is based on a faith in God not a faith in man.

If someone were to summarize your life would it be a summary based upon Faith in God?  Or would it be a litany of things that you personally accomplished?

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  (Gal. 5:1 ESV)

I like to tack 5:1 onto this lesson because of the stand firm part.  This is so key in our life.  Many times we are going to be tempted to turn from the truth—stand firm.  Many times we are going to be tempted to do it our way—stand firm.  Many times we are going to be tempted to take credit for what God has done—stand firm.

Stand firm and don’t go back to being a slave.  Why would you want to do that?

Paul goes back and tells the story of someone we all know, Abraham.  He ends the story by reminding his readers to stand firm on the faith.  Abraham did that, Sarah did that, Hagar did that—you can do that too.

As you pray today for God to help you stand firm take a listen to this song.  It is really good and gets right to the heart of the Gospel.

Galatians 4:12-20

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 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. 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. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.  (Galatians 4:12-20 ESV)

If I were the one who received this letter I would be pretty happy when I got to this point.  I would read it and think, “I thought Paul was just being a jerk face, but it looks like he actually likes us.”

Up until this point Paul has approached them in the style of a debater.  He has called them names (this is the only way I know how to debate), he has laid out academic arguments, and he has stuck to strong doctrine speak—but here he is turning away from that and just telling them how he feels about them.  I hear a tone of exasperation.  I hear this tone many times in my own voice when I am debating something with my 3-year-old son.  I eventually get to a point where I just tell him to listen to me because I love him.  That is where Paul is with them.

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. (Gal. 4:12a)

This Paul saying, “Been there.”  He has been where they are.  He was saved out of a life of sinful legalism and knows first hand the devastation it brings.  He knows that they know that about him.

Sometimes when you are in great need the best thing that can happen to you is someone to come along and say, “Been there.”  There is much wisdom to be gained from other’s trials.

You did me no wrong. 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. 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. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Gal. 4:12b-16)

Again Paul is reminding them of how much they loved him.  We don’t know what kind of bodily ailment he had but we can surmise that it detained him there and he took that time to preach.  I like that.  He is traveling through, he gets the stomach flu, he decides to stick around a bit.  The Text ells us that the condition was a trial to them—so whatever it was it was gross.  But, they set the grossness aside and let him preach.

He then goes on to ask, What then has become of your blessedness?  In other words—you came and listen to the Gospel preached when I had a sickening gross disease and now you turn your back on the Gospel?  Why?  I thought we were pals?

At one time they were his friends and now he has been made their enemy.  This ever happen to you?  You ever invest your life into something and for some reason it just goes south?  Paul did all the time.  But he loves them for the sake of the Gospel.  A lot to be learned from that.

They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, (Gal. 4:17-18 ESV)

Paul is reminding his friends here about the real enemy—the Judaizers.  He does that several times in this letter.  As we are getting to know the Galatians I think we can begin to see why Paul repeats himself to them so much.

He is telling them to be careful of the friendship that the Judaizers are attempting to forge.  They cannot be trusted.  Why?  Because they preach a false Gospel.  I have found that many times when people are representing the Gospel in a false way they spend a good deal of time showing interest toward you.  We see that here too.

The Judaizers didn’t want a bunch of new friends—they only wanted to entrap these folks into legalism.

Even in Paul’s warning we see bits of love.  His opposition to the Judaizers was not because they caused him harm but because they were causing harm to the Galatian believers.

What is your take away on that?  What can you learn from that?

my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.  (Gal. 4:19-20 ESV)

Paul is really turning on the charm here by calling them children.  He isn’t calling them a bunch of babies (which he does in other letters) but he is using this as a term of deep affection.

He desperately wants to come and help them.  He wants to sit and talk it out with them.

Where in your life can you see this type of love?

Where could you present this kind of love?

Pray that God would reveal to you the enemies to the Gospel in your sphere of influence?

What will you do with those around you who oppose the Gospel?  How are you praying for them?

Galatians 4:1-11

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. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 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. 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? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.  (Galatians 4:1-11 ESV)

When you meet someone who lives their life through legalism it gives the perception that they are quite spiritually mature.  But, the opposite is actually true.  The Galatian Christians wanted to grow and mature as believers but somewhere along the line they had been duped into thinking that the way to mature was to follow a set of legalistic rules.  I think this because their old nature (pre-believer) was attracted to following the rules rather than following Jesus.  We do this too.  We come to a point of belief in Christ—we burn hot with the fire of a new-believer—then after a time our old nature begins to beg us to come back.

It is for this reason that in this section of the letter Paul outlines a few very important things for us to understand.

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. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 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. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (Gal. 4:1-7 ESV)

We see the word adoption up there and we might be tempted to contextualize this the way our culture sees adoption.  It only sort of fits that way.  We don’t enter God’s family the way a little boy or little girl is adopted into a family now.  We enter God’s family through regenerationJesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”(John 3:3 ESV) Look at the Greek on the word adoption for a second—υἱοθεσία,n  \{hwee-oth-es-ee’-ah} adoption, adoption as sons//that relationship which God was pleased to establish between  himself and the Israelites in preference to all other nations//the nature and condition of the true disciples in Christ,  who by receiving the Spirit of God into their souls become  sons of God//the blessed state looked for in the future life after the  visible return of Christ from heaven.

So in many ways we can look at this adoption not as a child entering a family but as an adult who is being brought into a family and has full privileges of sonship.  When you become a believer you are a babe in Christ, no doubt, but you have full standing with Christ.  That is not something you grow into—you have it from day one.  That is good.

Here is a little exercise for you to do today as you read this devotion.

  1. Using Gal. 4:1-3 identify what we were.
  2. Using Gal. 4:4-5 identify what God did.
  3. Using Gal. 4:6-7 identify what we are now.

Feel free to comment what you come up with.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 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? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. 

(Gal. 4:8-11 ESV) 

Just what did happen when these Galatian Christians turned from grace to Law?  They exchanged the liberty that comes from Christ and traded it for the bondage of man.  Does that sound like a good trade to you?  No.

I think Paul is cutting right to it here—why would you want to go back to the way you use to be?

As you pray about your walk with Christ and He begins to show you the sin in your life ask yourself that question as well:  why would I want to go back to the bondage?