Friday, September 23, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 12: Spirit


Galatians Words ~ Word 12: Spirit

We have seen so far in chapter 5 of Galatians that in Christ we are free from the bonds of the law and the guilt of sin through faith in Christ. Paul showed us that our faith is best expressed through loving service to others, and our love is motivated by the love of God who gave His Son for us and by the love of Christ who gave his life for us.

Paul says that the entire law is summed up in one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (5:14) The question then arises; how do we serve one another in love?  Paul’s answer to fulfilling the law and living out the gospel is:

Through the Spirit. Paul says we are to:

Walk by the Spirit” 5:16

Be led by the Spirit” 5:18

Live by character produced by the “fruit of the Spirit” 5:22-23

Live by the Spirit” 5:25

Keep in step with the Spirit” 5:25

Paul told us earlier that part of our redemption from the curse of the law and sin is the blessing of the promised Spirit.

“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.” Galatians 3:14

Just as the key to receiving the grace of God is through faith, so is the gift of the Spirit. We received the promised Spirit when we believed the good news we heard in the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. His Spirit now resides in everyone who has put their faith in Christ.

“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.” Galatians 4:4-6

Christ’s Spirit in us reminds us that we are a child of God. Like Jesus, we can call on God as our Father, our Abba.  G. Walter Hansen says, “We call God Abba through the Son and in the power of the Spirit”. The Spirit in us will always remind us of our identity as children of God who walk in the freedom of Christ. He is our teacher, our counselor, our guide, our mediator.

Paul reminds us that though we are free from slavery to the law and sin, there is still a power struggle that goes on within us.

“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.

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.Galatians 5:16-22

My former pastor, Doug Rumschlag, used to say that “the tension – the battle of the flesh and the Spirit within us – is proof of the Spirit within you. We struggle against pockets of resistance within us.” 

Our role in this spiritual battle is not to try harder to eliminate the acts of the flesh. Nor are we to try harder to love and serve others. Trying harder is simply reverting to using our own power. Our role is to grow in the Spirit. To quote pastor Doug again, “To be spirit-filled gives you the capacity to love”. Let me also add these words from John Piper:

“Love is the fruit(product) of the Holy Spirit. It is not the product of our hard work for God. It is the fruit.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

At times I have tried hard to love others well, especially those who rub me the wrong way. But, in my own strength it is impossible. But the more I connect with the Spirit and allow Him to enable me in growth towards Christlikeness, then amazingly I find that I am loving others without having realized that a change has taken place.

Our work is to “walk in the Spirit’. Life in the Spirit is both active and passive. We do the ‘walking’. That means we choose to take the time to grow in the knowledge of Christ, to turn to Him in prayer in all things, to depend on His Spirit as our guide and counselor through prayer and the Word, we surround ourselves with more mature Christ followers who will help us learn the ways of the Spirit.

But life in the Spirit is also passive. We are “led by the Spirt”. We surrender our will to the will of God. We pray for and submit to the desires that the Spirit produces in us rather than the desires of the flesh, by the power of the Spirit. We let the Spirit filter our thoughts and words and actions and behavior by God’s word and His ways.

John Stott said, “It is the Spirit who does the leading, but we who do the walking”. We must discern where the Spirit is leading and then follow. Over time walking in and being led by the Spirit results in evident fruit. Paul says that fruit is love. Faith produces love and love produces a multitude of virtues.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

Craig Keener says to keep in step with the Spirit is to “place our feet in the footsteps of the Spirit”. We walk where He guides us.

Over time when we walk with the Spirit and are led by Him, the Spirit’s desires will become stronger in us than the desires of the flesh, because the desires the Spirit produces in us align with the will of the Father.

In preparation for our final three words it would be good to read Galatians chapter 6. 

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.



Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 11: Love


Galatians Words ~ Word 11: Love

The book of Galatians does not have the highest usage of the word ‘love’ compared to other books in the New Testament. It is used only 5 times. But, in my opinion, it has some of the most significant verses about love and how it impacts and motivates our lives as Christ-followers.

Let’s walk through Paul’s use of this word in Galatians.

We first saw the word ‘love’ in Galatians 2:20.

“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.

Christ’s willing, selfless, sacrificial love demonstrated in giving his life in order to make us righteous children of God, is our motivation to live our lives for God. Godly living is our response to His grace and His love.

Throughout this book Paul has emphasized that it is by faith that God’s grace comes to us, by faith that we become God’s children, by faith that we are able to live holy, godly lives, by faith that we receive the promised Spirit, and now, in chapter 5, Paul tells us that our faith is evidenced to those around us by our expressions of love. Love is the evidence of our faith in Christ, because love is how we imitate Christ who modeled the Father’s love.

Love next appears in Galatians 5:5

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 

After much debate throughout the book about justification by grace versus by the law, Paul now goes to the bottom line. Whether one is circumcised or not (or you can replace it with any other demand of the law – observance of special days, what we eat or drink or don’t eat or drink, what rituals or traditions we do or do not adhere to), in the end Paul says these are of little significance when compared to faith. And faith expresses itself – reveals itself, shows itself to be genuine, manifests itself – in LOVE.

We see God the Father’s love expressed in his giving up his only Son for our sake. We see Christ’s love expressed in giving his life for our sake. And now, Paul tells us, others see our faith when it is expressed through love, through acts of service and love. We love others for His sake.

To add a little grammar, the word love is a verb here and it is present tense, which means that it is a call to continually, repeatedly, habitually express love. In other words, expressing our faith in love is to become our lifestyle.

We then see the word ‘love’ in verses 13 and 14 of chapter 5.

“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.’ “

As he did earlier in chapter 5, Paul reminds the Galatians, and us, that in Christ we are free. Free from the bondage of the law and free from the guilt of sin. But, he warns, our freedom is not a license to do anything we want or to act in any way we choose. Our freedom is not just freedom from, but also freedom to. In Christ we are free from sin and bondage, but, Paul says, our freedom frees us from bondage so that we are free to model Christ’s ways and serve others in love. We are made free to live for God and to love and serve others.

As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Do not make license of your liberty”. We are not called to misuse our freedom by selfishly pleasing ourselves, especially if it would be at the expense of others, but rather to selflessly serve in love. Why? Because, Paul says, when we love others, we fulfill the whole law. Our freedom in Christ does not include disregarding the law altogether, but rather we now keep the law out of gratitude and love for God.

How do we live this lifestyle of love? Paul says in Galatians 5:16 that we do when we “walk by the Spirit’. Christ’s Spirit in us produces the fruit that pleases God and enables us to live life His way.

“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.” Galatians 5:22-23

The word ‘fruit’ in this verse is singular, so I think it means that there is one fruit: love. And out of love flow joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So, basically there is one type of behavior in walking by the Spirit, loving behavior, and all else flows from it.

When we are secure in the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for us displayed in His grace to us through the sacrifice of His Son, then our only response can be to live for Him and express His love for us by service to others through acts of love.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.





Monday, September 19, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 10: Freedom


Galatians Words ~ Word 10: Freedom

This word is at the heart of the conflict between the Judaizers and Paul. The Gospel of Christ enables those who put their faith in Christ to live free from the burdens that the law placed on men. They are able to live as ‘free men’ because they are no longer enslaved by the law and are free from the guilt of sin.

In chapter 3 Paul used the example of Abraham and the promise of God as our example of becoming children of God through faith. In chapter 4 he now uses the examples of the two women who gave Abraham sons to illustrate two covenants, one represents slavery and the other freedom.

Hahar was a maidservant of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sarah grew impatient waiting for God to fulfill His promise that she would bear a son. So, Sarah convinces Abraham to have a child through Hagar.  Later, at a very old age, as God had promised, Sarah has a child, Isaac. Isaac is the promised child through which Abraham’s offspring and God’s promise would be fulfilled. You can read the story in Genesis 16.

Paul uses Hagar, the slave woman, to represent the old covenant made at Mt. Sinai with Moses and to represent the Jerusalem of his day, or the Jewish people, who try to gain their righteousness with God through works of the law. Paul says these people are in slavery. Earlier in the book Paul had warned the Galatians that the Judaizers came “to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4).

Sarah, the free woman, represents the new covenant – the Messianic covenant – in which God provides us the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He promised this new covenant in Ezekiel 36:27.

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Now through faith in Christ, we can be free from the requirements of the law, no longer slaves to it, and we can follow God’s ways through the guidance of His Spirit in us. And so, in the last verse of chapter 4, Paul reminds us that we, who put our faith in Christ, are children of the free woman. Our heritage of righteousness by faith comes to us through Abraham, his wife Sarah, and their son Isaac, and then, through the generations to Christ. You can read this genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. Christ is the source of our faith.

Now, in Chapter 5, Paul, referring to what he has shared about Hagar and Sarah, reminds the Galatians that 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.” (5:1)  The law leads to slavery, or bondage, and grace leads to freedom. This was the goal of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, freedom from bondage to the law and freedom from our guilt as a result of sin. For the Galatians to return to works of the law is to “fall away from grace” (5:4).

In the modern church we call this legalism, and while we no longer try to require circumcision as a means to salvation, legalism is still a very real threat to us today. Any time we try to turn faith into manmade religious laws and rules we are turning away from grace. This does not mean we don’t follow God’s ways, such as the 10 commandments and the ways we are called to live for Christ throughout the Bible. The difference here is that once we have put our faith in Christ, we live for Christ in a manner that reflects His ways because of our love for Him and our gratefulness for His grace. Living life by God's ways is not a means of earning our salvation, but a response to His love and grace. But when we try to clean people up – what they do or say or how they dress or act – in order to make them good enough to come to Christ, we create legalism. We become just like the Judaizers, trying to make people earn God’s favor.

When we, who have put our faith in Christ, begin to fall into thinking that we must do a morning quiet time, or practice this or that spiritual discipline, or be good enough, or pray enough, in order to be good enough to please God then we have shifted in our minds into legalism, and we turn away from grace. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying, these things are good things, good practices that help us draw near to God and to know him and His Word better. We speak and act and behave in God honoring ways as a response to grace, not to earn God’s grace.

When we have a conviction from God that something is right or wrong for us individually, and then we try to make it right or wrong for everyone else, we slip into legalism. Grace encourages us to commune with God, to hear from God, to repent if necessary, and then to turn or return to His ways. But grace does not make us the police of others behavior or beliefs. And different opinions should not make us view each other as unholy. Read Romans 14 for a fuller look at this.

Our response to the freedom we have as a result to God’s grace to us through Christ is to be extenders of grace. Paul sums it up with a reminder and a call.

“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.Galatians 5:13

We were called to be free - this is a gift of grace.  A gift we should celebrate, but be wary of misusing or taking advantage of. Our freedom in Christ both enables and calls us to serve others in love, which we will dig into in our next word.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Day 9: Promise


Galatians Words ~ Word 9: Promise

In many of the passages we looked at on Thursday as we studied what the purpose of the law was, the words blessing and promise continually popped up. So, today we will dive into these words, which Scripture often uses interchangeably, for the promises of God are His blessings for the people of God.

In chapters 3 and 4 Paul refers often to the promises made to Abraham. In Genesis 12:2-3 there are seven promises given to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation, (1)
    and I will bless you; (2)
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing. (4)
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse; (6)
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.” (7)

It is this last promise, to bless all the peoples, or nations, through Abraham, to which Paul refers. This promise is also referred to numerous times throughout the entire Bible. God reiterates this promise to Abraham when He says to him,

“He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.Genesis 15:5-6

God promised that Abraham’s offspring, or ‘seed’ as some translations put it, would be more numerous than the stars and Abraham believed God’s promise to him. God considered Abraham to be righteous – justified – because of his faith.  Justification by faith is one of the promises Paul refers to in Galatians. The other is the promise of the Holy Spirit, which will come up in today’s study, but we will look at the Spirit more in-depth in a later study.

The Judaizers were trying to get the Galatians to become circumcised so that, by Jewish tradition, they would then become sons of Abraham and could be included in the promises of God. For them, faith in Christ alone was not enough because these promises were for Abraham’s children by physical descent, meaning the Jewish people.  And circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham to bless all the people. So, in their thinking, to be a child of God one must add circumcision to faith in Christ, becoming a Jew to become a child of Abraham and of God.

But Paul makes it clear that the promise of blessing to all people comes through one seed or offspring.

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.Galatians 3:16

“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.Galatians 3:19

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Galatians 3:29

Christ is the Seed, the sole offspring and heir of the promise made to Abraham. To receive the promise, it is only necessary for one to be ‘in Christ’ by faith. This is how we belong to Christ. And Paul says, this is how we become children of Abraham and children of God.

“Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.Galatians 3:7

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Galatians 3:26

God’s promise to Abraham culminated in one person, Jesus Christ. And that promise extends to all – Jewish and Gentile.

"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." Galatians 3:14

“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.Galatians 4:4-7

Through faith in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin, but children of God. By virtue of God's promise we are now become His children and receive the gift of His Spirit.

In preparation for our next few words, read Galatians chapter 5. Try marking the words freedom, love, spirit, and crucified and see how significant these words become over the next week.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.



Thursday, September 15, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 8: Law


Galatians Words ~ Word 8: Law

In the last verse of Galatians chapter 2 Paul said,

“I do not set aside [or nullify] the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21

Leon Morris explains this verse:

“To nullify grace would be to put one’s trust, not in salvation as God’s free gift, but in one’s own efforts. To do this is to reject grace altogether, and relying on one’s puny effort means that one nullifies grace.”

As we saw in Tuesday’s post, keeping the law could not provide what Christ gave us. So, why did they have the law at all? Paul will explain in chapter 3 why the law was given and the purpose it served.

The Judaizers believed that by keeping the law God’s people would obtain the salvation of God. This was the message they were trying to push on the Galatians. As we begin chapter 3 Paul gets very personal with the Galatians and reminds them of the personal experience they had with Christ:

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?Galatians 3:3

Paul reminds them that the gospel that was preached to them portrayed Christ as crucified (3:1) – His life given for their salvation. He reminds them that it was not by works of the law that they received the Spirit but through the gospel message they heard and believed (3:2,5).

Paul will now turn to Scripture and the example of Abraham to show that righteousness with God is through faith and not the law. God considered Abraham a righteous man because he believed God (3:6) and God promised Abraham that all nations -including Gentile nations – would be blessed through him. So, we are considered righteous and blessed by God through faith alone (3:6-9).

On the other hand, when one insists that grace alone is not sufficient for righteousness then they are cursed, because is is impossible for one to perfectly keep every part of the law. The law cannot justify man. And so, Paul tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3:13-14

‘Tree’ is simply a term the Greeks used for a cross meant for crucifixion of criminals. Christ crucified on the cross removes the curse we are under when we try to become righteous by our own effort. The curse is removed, and we receive the blessing of righteousness with God through faith in Christ, “who loved us and gave himself for us” (2:20).

The promise made through Abraham holds true for all eternity. God is faithful in keeping his promises The law does not set aside the covenant, or promise, established by God (3:15-18). “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” (3:19). Paul goes on to explain in verses 19-25, that the law was added because of man’s transgressions. Man continually failed to be faithful to God, and so the law was added through Moses to help expose man to his sinfulness, but it was never intended to make men righteous. It was put in place until the Seed (Abraham’s promised offspring) had come. The Seed is Christ (3:16) and God’s promise to Abraham is given through faith in Christ “to those who believe” (3:22). Here is the bottom line:

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.Galatians 2:23-25

The law still serves us today. Not the 600+ laws of behavior that the Pharisees developed, but the law of God given to Moses in the 10 commandments. The law reveals our sin to us and reveals that we are all sinners. But simply obeying the law, as we have seen, does not serve to justify us and count us as righteous before God. The law prepares the way for the gospel. It makes us aware of our sin and shows us our need for a Savior. After we have put our faith in Christ, the law then helps us live out the grace of God as His faithful and holy people through the power of the Holy Spirit.

With today's word I now complete side one of my accordion journal.