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Galatians

REDISCOVERING THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
GALATIANS

 

Paul's introduction (1:1-9)

Paul's defense of his apostolic ministry (1:10-2:21)

Paul's defense of his message (3:1-4:31)

Paul urges them to return to the original message (5:1-26)

Paul urges them to join him in a gentle and spiritual ministry (6:1-18)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of Galatians

1. The author:  Paul the Apostle introduces himself as the author in verse one:  "Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—" 

2. The recipients:  Paul gives the recipients in verse two: "To the churches in Galatia."  Galatia was a part of what is today's Turkey.  It was the region where Paul, Barnabas, and Mark started the first missionary journey.  The churches there were formed from Paul's first missionary converts and were the first churches started by Paul. See Acts 13-14

The early Christians there in Galatia were both Jews and Gentiles. "When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God." (Acts 13:43)  "At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed." (Acts 14:1)  These Jews and Gentiles had been persuaded by Paul and the others that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

These new Christians were immediately threatened by a group that is now called the Judaizers.   "Who was a Judaizer and why were they called by this?  The term is derived from a coined Latin word "IUDAIZO" meaning, 'to be or live like a Jew.'  It is a religious designation rather than a national description.  Bible students have called these opponents of the early Christian missionaries Judaizers because of their fundamental belief that Gentiles should live like Jews; that is, follow the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs and traditions when and after they became Christians." "Taken from Zondervan Pictoral Bible Encyclopedia.  Copyright 1975 by The Zondervan Corporation."

There has been some controversy over whether this letter was addressed to the northern Galatian region that was primarily Gauls or to the southern Galatian region that was part of the Roman province of Galatia.  The southern part of the province of Galatia is the area described in Acts 13-14 where the churches of Paul's first missionary journey began.  There are strong reasons that the letter was written to these churches in the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia:  1) There is no mention at all of Paul beginning churches in northern Galatia.  2) The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 that was convened to deal with the Judaizers' threat to the early church is in the middle of Paul's visits to the southern Galatian churches recorded in Acts 13-14 and 15:36-16:5.  3) If this letter was not sent to the churches Paul started in Acts 13-14, then there would be no letters sent to the churches there; whereas, there are letters to almost all of the other churches that Paul started (except Athens and Berea).  3) Paul mentions Barnabas in Galatians 2:9.  That implies that these churches knew him.  Yet, Barnabas only accompanied Paul on the first missionary journey recorded in Acts 13-14.  4) There was no representative from northern Galatia among those delivering the offering from the churches to Jerusalem, but there is a representative from Derbe in southern Galatia.  "Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do." (1 Corinthians 16:1)  "He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia." (Acts 20:4)  This is the group of representatives from the churches that made the offering to the church in Jerusalem.

3. The theme, occasion, and purpose:  Paul wrote this letter because the Judaizers were a direct threat to both his authority as an apostle and to the gospel message he was delivering. Notice that Paul mentions those who opposed him in 1:6-7, 2:4-5, 3:1, 5:7-12, and 6:12-13.  In Galatians, Paul defends his authority as an apostle, defends the gospel message against the legalism of the Judaizers, urges the Galatian Christians to return to a life based on grace and on God's Spirit, and encourages them to a gentle and grace-based ministry to others.

 

THE MESSAGE OF GALATIANS

"For the reformers of the Reformation era it was Galatians more than any other single book, which became the manifesto of freedom and revival of Biblical truth.  The epistle was a favorite of Luther.  In it he found its strength for his own faith and life and an arsenal of weapons for his reforming work.  He said of the letter: "The epistle of Galatians is my own little epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my Katie Von Bora (name of Luther's wife).  Luther lectured on Galatians extensively and his Commentary on Galatians, one of his early books of the Reformation, did much to expound the dominant theme of the reform movement, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, to the common people." "Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia.  Copyright 1975 by Zondervan Corporation."

You can usually recognize a new convert by their joy.  The Galatians that Paul was writing to in this letter were new converts from Paul's first journey.  But Satan had used the Judaizers to rob them of their joy.  The attacks on Paul's ministry and the gospel of grace had to be defended or the churches that Paul started in Galatia would have become enemies of Paul and his gospel.  The Judaizers charged that Paul had initiated the gospel message on his own.  I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up." (Galatians 1:11)  The Judaizers had changed Paul's message so that it would conform to their legalistic beliefs.

Are there attacks on the gospel message like this today?  Is Paul's authority and the authority of the other authors of the Bible being challenged in our day?  Is the gospel ever altered today?  In this book we will see how Paul dealt with each of these 2 attacks.  He defends his authority as an apostle in Chapters 1 and 2; he defends his message the gospel in chapters 3 and 4; he urges them to return to him and his message in chapter 5; and, finally, he gives them insights on how to minister to those who are enslaved by legalism in chapter 6.

PAUL'S INTRODUCTION (1:1-9) (In these verses, Paul gives the message of Galatians in miniature.  He defends his authority as a messenger from God and he defends God's message the gospel.)

1. The defense of the messenger (1:1-2)
"Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that Paul starts his letter out in this way?

 

 

Paul immediately establishes that he and his message came to them from God, for Paul was "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead."  The name "apostle" speaks of someone being a messenger from God.  Paul, here, summarizes what he will be defending in much more detail in the rest of the letter—that he was sent out to them by God.

The "churches in Galatia" were the churches that Paul started on his first missionary journey, the churches in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe that are described in Acts 13-14.

It appears from what Paul says in the first two chapters that the Judaizers were saying that Paul was not a true apostle like the twelve apostles who had been with Jesus.  But Paul does not back down, he says that he was also sent by Jesus Christ as the Twelve were.  The Twelve did not send him nor did any man; he received his authority straight from Jesus Christ.  These "churches in Galatia" did not need to wait and see what the twelve apostles had to say about the teachings of the Judaizers, Paul had the same authority as they did; he had authority from God to say whether or not the teachings of the Judaizers were or were not from God. See II Peter 3:16  Paul had started these "churches in Galatia" by God's authority and he had that authority to correct them whenever they veered away from God's truth.

"who raised him from the dead."  Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He is still the present Ruler of His church.  Paul's authority came from a living Lord; not from the Jesus who died, but from Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.  To challenge Paul's authority was to challenge this risen Lord.

"and all the brothers with me,"  We have no way of being certain who these "brothers" who were with Paul were, but we know for certain that Paul was not alone.  It also appears that these "brothers" who were with Paul agreed with what is written in this letter.  It was not Paul alone against the Judaizers, but Paul and true Christians against these false Christians.

2. The defense of the messenger's message in brief (1:3-9) (Paul defends the gospel)

a. The message in brief (1:3-5)
"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."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul starts his letter with these words?

 

 

Paul ends the book of Galatians with these words:  "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen." See also Philippians 4:23   Then, here in these verses is the same message.  The message is God's "grace."  The Judaizers were saying that the Gentile believers needed to be under the Jewish system of law.  Paul's message that they could get completely right with God through God's grace was, to them, a dangerous teaching that needed to be stomped out.  Nevertheless, Paul starts his letter to these Galatians with the message that we get right with God by "grace"—a free gift from God.

It was grace that came through the "Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins."  Warren Wiersbe observes that Jesus giving Himself on the cross is found throughout this letter: 2:19-21, 3:1,13, 5:4-5,11, 24 6:12-14.  It is because of what Jesus did on the cross that we have peace with God.  "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20)  "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. . . ." (Romans 4:25-5:2)

"to rescue us from the present evil age,"  The Judaizers wanted the Gentile Christians to be enslaved to what was really their man-developed system of law.  It was a system where men could achieve religious status through their pious efforts.  They thought that they had delivered themselves from "the present evil age."  But, throughout Paul's teachings he emphasizes that it is only God's grace that can deliver us from the evils of this "present evil age."  "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14) See 2:4, 4:3, 5:1

"according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."  Because the Judaizers believed they were delivering themselves from the Gentiles' evil way of life, their efforts had earned them glory before men.  Paul's message taught that God's plan, however, was that it was through the loving sacrifice of God's own Son that we are delivered.  And if He alone makes it possible for us to find freedom from enslavement to sin and guilt, then he alone deserves the glory.  We will give Him the "glory for ever and ever."  "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:11-13)

b. The reason that Paul needed to defend the gospel (1:6-7)
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by 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."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul starts out this letter so bluntly (without the gracious introduction that usually starts his letters)?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul was "astonished"?

 

 

(1) The Galatian Christians were falling away from the gospel. (1:6)
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel"

If you are used to Paul's graciousness at the beginning of his letters, you may be shocked at the abrupt and strong way he begins this letter.  His goal, though, is one of warning them of a very serious threat to their churches.  If they continue to allow themselves to be persuaded by these false teachers, it will all but be the end of the churches in Galatia.  The threat was very serious and real, for they were already succumbing to the false teaching.  As he says, it had already resulted in them "deserting the one who called [them] by the grace of Christ" and they were "turning to a different gospel."  He wants them to stop before they reach a hardened state.  In our country, many churches first began to drift from the gospel and after that did reach a hardened state.  The threat to these churches was very real. 

He is strongly warning them, for they are already moving in a very dangerous direction.  "The present tense indicates that when Paul wrote, the defection of the Galatians was yet only in progress.  Had he used the perfect tense, that would have indicated that the Galatians had actually and finally turned from grace and come to settled attitude in the matter." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

There are two Greek words that can be translated "different" or "other."  One is heteros, meaning another of a different kind and the other is allos which means another of the same kind.  Here, Paul uses heteros, meaning another of a different kind.  The gospel that they had begun to turn to was not the gospel at all.  They were choosing a gospel of works over a gospel of grace. See II Corinthians 11:4  Notice that he is not just blaming the false teachers, but he is "astonished" that they are choosing a false gospel over the true gospel.

"so quickly"  This indicates that this attack on the Galatian church took place shortly after the churches began in that region.  We will talk about when this letter was written in more detail when we get to chapter two.

"the one who called you"  This "called" speaks of God calling these Galatian Christians into a very special relationship with Him.  God had graciously made it possible for them through the death of His Son on the cross to be in a close and intimate relationship with Him.  These Galatians were beginning to reject all of that and were choosing to replace it with a system of works.  It is no wonder that Paul is "astonished."  Paul was "astonished" and amazed that these Galatian Christians would desert the gospel that had cost the Father and the Son so much.

(2) And were turning to a perverted gospel (1:7)
"which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ."

What Paul says here is that what the Judaizers were preaching was a totally different (heteros) gospel which is not another (allos) gospel of the same type as Paul preached.  It is "no gospel at all." 

"Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ."  "Throwing you into confusion" is a translation of a word used in Acts 17:8:  "When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil."  There, it is translated "thrown into turmoil."  A church can go for time in a peaceful state where everything seems clear.  Then, someone or a group of people can disrupt this peaceful state.  That is what had happened after Paul left the Galatian Christians.  When he left, the Christians there were clear about the gospel message.  Then, these false teachers had come and the waters had gotten so stirred up that it was no longer clear what was the true gospel and what was the false gospel. See Acts 15:24 

"trying to pervert the gospel of Christ."  "It is not merely to pervert (this would be diastrepho).  It is a complete reverse or change to the very opposite. (metatstrepho)." "From Galatians by John Lawrence"

"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."  They were changing it from a gospel of grace to a requirement of works; from a gift to something that had to be earned.  "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6)  Grace and works are complete opposites.  Either we are saved by grace or we are saved by works.  Paul and the Bible teach we are saved by grace.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The false teachers offered a message of salvation through works.  Paul's message was for the humble; the Judaizers' message was for the proud.  It was a complete change from what Paul had taught them.

c. Paul's brief but powerful response to those who were perverting the gospel: "be cursed." (1:8-9)
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"

Thought Question:  Why do you think Paul uses such strong language in these two verses?

 

 

To pervert the gospel is so despicable to God that someone who does it must be tossed out of His sight into the fires of damnation: because nothing in the universe is so important, cost God more, and is as central to His plans for mankind than the gospel, those who alter it and change it are the most deserving of God's judgment.

"But even if an angel from heaven."  Paul is using a very unlikely possibility to make his point of how serious it is when someone changes the gospel.  Even an angel from heaven dare not change the gospel.  If he did change the gospel, even he would be "eternally condemned."  The Greek word translated "eternally condemned" is anathema.  "It is a word in the LXX [the Greek translation of the Old Testament] of a person or thing set apart and devoted to destruction; because it is hateful to God." "Taken Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright  1973." See Romans 9:3; I Corinthians 16:22

The Galatian Christians, upon reading the words in verse 8, may have thought that Paul had reacted emotionally when he said, "let him be eternally condemned!"  That is very likely the reason that he restates the very same strong statement in verse 9: "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"  He may have made the same strong statement about the threat of a false gospel when he was with them, for he says, "As we have already said." He may be referring to something that he said to them while he was with them that was very similar to these strong words.

Are there times when we need to be as strong in our words as Paul was in these verses?  Or, in other words, are there times when people preach a different gospel today?  The answer is, "Yes!"  A characteristic of a cult is that they preach another gospel—a gospel of works.  The Roman Catholic Church preaches another gospel—which is also a gospel of works.  The gospel of the cults and the Roman Catholics lead people to eternal damnation rather than to eternal life.  We need to be just as strong today in denouncing false gospels as Paul was strong in denouncing the false gospel of the Judaizers.

PAUL'S DEFENSE OF HIS APOSTOLIC MINISTRY (1:10-2:21)

1. Paul's apostolic integrity (1:10)
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Thought Question:  What does this verse tell us about how not to be a men-pleaser?

 

 

One of the accusations against Paul was that he was giving people a message that they wanted to hear—the message that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised and that they could get right with God without having to do anything.  They were charging that Paul was giving both the Jew and the Gentile a free ride.  And behind it all was Paul's desire to be everybody's friend.  But Paul had just said that if anyone preaches another gospel, "let him be eternally condemned!"  So, in this verse Paul asks, "Does that sound like I am trying to be everybody's friend?"

Paul points out that he could not be a slave to what men wanted him to do and also at the same time be a servant of God.  As the gospel cost God greatly, so the gospel will be costly to those who serve God; for it means that we must seek to please God even if what we do is not pleasing to men.  "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished." (Galatians 5:11) See I Thessalonians 2:4; II Corinthians 5:9 

Today, we face subtle and what seems to be good reasons to alter the gospel.  They even come from within the evangelical church.  They argue that we need to alter our gospel message to make it more appealing to our post-Christian and post-modern world.  We need today to stand with the gospel and against those who use clever rhetoric to alter it.  We need to take this stand whether or not people stand with us or against us. See II Corinthians 2:14-17

2. His apostolic commissioning (1:11-24)
In these verses, Paul gives his testimony about how he was commissioned by God into His work.  His testimony follows a very typical pattern—before he was commissioned, how he was commissioned, and after he was commissioned.

a. Introduction: God and not men commissioned him to preach the gospel. (1:11-12)
"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  What can you learn from these verses about the type of charges that the Judaizers were making against Paul?

 

 

He addresses them as "brothers."  Even though they were allowing themselves to be influenced by false teachers, Paul has not disowned them.  They were still his Christian "brothers."

We get some insight into the accusations made against Paul by what he says here: "the gospel I preached is not something that man made up." He was being charged with having contrived the gospel message on his own—they were saying that it was not from God but from Paul.  The irony is that his message came from God, and the message of the Judaizers was what men made up.  The message they preached did not come from the heart of God, but from the pride-filled heart of men.

The gospel message was not something that Paul "made up," but he "received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."  "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures," (1 Corinthians 15:3) See also I Corinthians 11:23, 15:8  Paul goes on in the following verses to explain how this direct revelation from God dramatically changed the whole direction of his life.

It appears that the Judaizers were saying that because Paul had not received his message and teachings directly from Jesus Christ like the twelve apostles, that he was an inferior apostle with less authority than them.  Paul meets this charge when he says that he also received the gospel message directly from Jesus Christ.

b. Before his commissioning (11:13-14)
"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 Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers."

Thought Question #1:  What is there in Paul's background that qualified him to respond effectively to the Judaizers?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is there in your background that uniquely qualifies you for an area of ministry?

 

 

We can see here that Paul understood the zeal of the Judaizers, for he had been at least as zealous as they in defending the Jewish traditions and the Jewish religious system of works righteousness. He was not only a part of Judaism, he excelled in Judaism.  He was a leader in Judaism.  See Philippians 3:4-6  See Jesus' attitude toward these "traditions" in Matthew 15:1-8  Those in the church knew that at one time Paul had been just like the Judaizers.  In fact, he had been so opposed to the church at one time that he had been the church of Jesus Christ's worst enemy. See Acts 8:3, 9:1-2, 13-14, 22:4-5, 26:10-11,; I Corinthians 15:9; I Timothy 1:13

If Paul had been influenced in some way by Christians before he became a Christian and was somewhat favorable toward them, it would have been easy to understand how he came to believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  But Paul's history showed the very opposite—he was a hater of Christians.  Right up until the very day he became a believer in Christ, he saw Jesus not as the Messiah but as an imposter.  What changed him so radically?  Paul's answer: Jesus appeared and directly gave him the gospel message.  "Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”" (Acts 9:1-6)

Hendriksen brings up the fact that Paul had to have known much about Jesus Christ before he became a Christian.  He was there when Stephen preached to Israel's religious leaders about Christ. See Acts 7:1-8:1  He had persecuted the church, so he undoubtedly knew what they believed.  Yet, it was not until his eyes were opened that he saw and heard the gospel with an open heart.  Up until that time, Jesus was just an imposter Messiah to him.  But when the resurrected Jesus revealed Himself to Paul, He understood that the gospel message was God's message to mankind. See Luke 24:31-32

"No human persuasion could have changed him.  Only God could turn a persecutor of Christians into a Christian, a hater of Jesus into a lover of Jesus." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John Mac Arthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications." 

c. His commissioning (1:15-16a)
"But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,"

Thought Question:  Paul saw that God had a plan for his life; in what ways have you seen God's plan for your life?

 

 

Did Paul earn favor with God by his zeal?  No!  Paul's attempt to destroy God's church obviously did not win him favor with God.  But God had already chosen Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles before Paul was born.  There is no better example of God's grace than God's grace to Paul; for there was no one more wholehearted in his rejection of the gospel message than Paul who was intent on eradicating the world of all Christians and all Christian teaching.  Yet, God intervened miraculously in Paul's life and turned him in the complete opposite direction.  "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'" (Acts 26:15-18) See Jeremiah 1:4-10; Judges 16:17; Luke 1:15-17

"God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace"  God had a plan for Jeremiah.  "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'" (Jeremiah 1:4-5)  The deist view of God is that He is not actively involved in what is happening on this tiny speck in an infinite universe called earth.  These verses show that the very opposite is true.  God does have a plan.  Jeremiah and Paul were part of that plan; you and I are also part of that plan.

We can be certain that Paul's calling to ministry was completely by God's grace, for there can be no other explanation why a Christian-hating Pharisee would suffer and ultimately die to reach the Gentile world with the gospel message.  We need to realize, as well, that we also are Christians totally because of God's grace.  All that we did previously to becoming a Christian, like all that Paul did, earned us only God's judgment.  We also were called to be God's children by His "grace."  And we were also called into God's work. "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

"to reveal his Son in me"  "God revealed Christ to Paul, in Paul, and through Paul.  The Jews' religion (Gal. 1:14) had been an experience of outward religious practices; but faith in Christ brought about an inward experience of reality with the Lord.  "This 'inwardness' of Christ is a major truth with Paul (Gal. 2:20, 4:19)." "Taken from Be Free by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1975 by SP Publications Inc."  Paul was aware of Jesus before his conversion, but at his conversion the eyes of his heart were opened to see that Jesus was the true Son of God. See Ephesians 1:15-23; Colossians 1:27; II Corinthians 3:18

"The word apokalupto [reveal]refers to the disclosure of something by removal of that which hitherto concealed it, and refers especially to a subjective revelation to an individual." Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  God revealed His Son to Paul in this way.

"so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,"  "Then he [Ananias] said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.'" (Acts 22:14-15) See Acts 13:47-48, 18:6, 22:21; Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 3:8; I Timothy 2:7

d. After his commissioning (1:16-24)

(1) What Paul did not do. (1:16b-17a)
"I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was,"

Thought Question:  Why do you think Paul did not immediately go and seek guidance from the original apostles?

 

 

Why did Paul not go and immediately tell others about Jesus suddenly appearing to him on the road to Damascus?  If something spectacular happens to us, don't we immediately want to tell others about it?  But Paul chose not to tell anyone.  Also, when he learned that God had chosen him from birth to be one of Jesus' apostles, he did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him.  We can only speculate, but there are some reasonable possibilities why he did not go immediately to Jerusalem.  1) It was such a complete change of direction for him that he needed some time to let it sink in.  2) He had been spoken to by the resurrected Jesus Christ the Son of God.  He may have not wanted men's subjective opinions to affect his thinking about it.  3) He wanted to get his directions for the next steps in his life from God.  4) Jesus instructed him not to go to them and learn from them, but to learn only from Him.

Acts 9:19-22 seems to contradict what Paul says here:  "and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ."  Paul went to Damascus right after his conversion; and after the 3 days of blindness (see Acts 9:9), a man named Ananias was used by God to restore his sight.  Then, "Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus." (Acts 9:19)  This sounds like Paul did "consult" with these disciples in Damascus.  The reason Paul was accurate when he said he "did not consult any man" is that he immediately took a leadership role in Damascus.  "At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God."  Paul soon learned, though, that the Jews were not receiving him as a friend but as an enemy.  "After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall." (Acts 9:23-25)

(2) What he did instead of consulting with men (1:17b-21)
"but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter 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. Later I went to Syria and Cilicia."

Thought Question #1:  From this description of the early period of Paul's life just after his conversion, what do you think his first years as a Christian were like?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How was your early time as a Christian like Paul's experience and unlike Paul's experience?

 

 

We can piece together what happened after Paul's conversion by putting these verses together with Acts 9.  First of all, he spent a short time in Damascus (Acts 9:19-20); then, he went to Arabia (Galatians 1:17) (probably into the desert near Damascus); he went back to Damascus (Acts 9:23-25; II Corinthians 11:32-33); after 3 years he went to Jerusalem for 15 days (Galatians 1:18-19; Acts 9:26-30); and after this, Paul "went to Syria and Cilicia."

What is Paul's point?  He had no opportunity to be trained by the apostles.  First of all, he was only with Peter for 15 days and that was after he had spent nearly 3 years in Damascus and Arabia.

"but I went immediately into Arabia."  This is "not the Arabia that we know today but an area known then as Nabatean Arabia.  The vast area included Damascus.  So Paul may have stayed in the general vicinity of the city." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."  The "three years include also a second stay in Damascus on his return from Arabia.  They need not be strictly full years, since the first and third years may only have been parts of years.  We may conclude, however, that something over twelve months at any rate was spent in Arabia." "Epochs in the Life of Paul by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1976 by Baker Book House."

What happened while Paul was in Arabia?  Since the Bible does not answer the question for us, we can only speculate about that time of isolation in the desert in Arabia.  I would guess now that he had learned that Jesus was the promised Messiah, he poured over the Old Testament to discover in what ways they pointed to Jesus.  Certainly, he was also directed by God as he desired to learn how this New Covenant applied to him.  Furthermore, he certainly also learned how this new covenant was already there in the Old Testament through the imagery of the Tabernacle and Temple rituals.  He also needed time to separate his Pharisaic thinking from what is truly taught in the Old Testament.  It must have been similar to many new Christian's delight in the Bible once he or she believes it is a message to them from God.

We are not told if Jesus spoke directly to Paul during this time.  There is, though, evidence that Jesus spoke to him at other times than right at his conversion.  "I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)  "One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God." (Acts 18:9-11) See also Acts 21:17-21  According to II Corinthians 12:1 and 12:7, Paul had many of these revelations from the Lord.  It is likely that some of these visitations of Jesus occurred in the Arabian desert.

"and later returned to Damascus."  Acts 9:22 may describe what occurred after his time of growth in the desert when he returned to Damascus:  "Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ."  Ultimately, he stirred up dangerous opposition from the Jews and he needed to be "lowered in a basket through an opening in the wall" to escape them. (Acts 9:25)

"Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother."  The fact that he only saw Peter reemphasizes that Paul did not need the twelve apostles to confirm his apostleship or his message; for he did not meet with them, but he only met with Peter.  He did not go to Jerusalem to meet with all the apostles so that they would okay his ministry; he met with Peter, a fellow apostle.  We see Peter's attitude toward Paul in II Peter 3:15:  "Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him." (2 Peter 3:15)

"I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother."  "James," like Jesus, was a son of Mary; though unlike Jesus, he was a son of Joseph.  Jesus also had other brothers and sisters.  "Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do." (John 7:3)  "“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?" (Matthew 13:55-56) See also Mark 6:3  James was a leader in the early church. See Acts 12:17, 15:13-21, 21:17-18

Paul needed to cut his visit in Jerusalem with Peter and James short because the Jews in Jerusalem were seeking to kill him.  "When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.' 'Lord,' I replied, 'these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'  Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 22:17-21)

"I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie."  Paul felt the need to make an oath before God that he was telling the truth.  We have this same practice in our courts.  We swear before God that we are telling the truth. See other examples of Paul making an oath in Romans 1:8-8, 9:1-3; I Corinthians 4:4

"Later I went to Syria and Cilicia."  Paul left Jersalem due to the threat to his life and went to his home town, Tarsus in Cilicia. "Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 22:21)  "When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus." (Acts 9:30) See Acts 21:39, 22:2-3  He stayed there until Barnabas sent for him to come to Antioch of Syria.  "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (Acts 11:25-26)

It apparently was during this time that Paul was taken into heaven.  "I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell." (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)  The "fourteen years ago" is traced back by Bible scholars to his time in "Cilicia."  Surely this experience equipped Paul for the missionary ministry that was ahead of him, though, he was given a "thorn in the flesh" so that he would stay humble. See II Corinthians 12:7-10

Why does Paul mention Syria first if Paul went first to "Cilicia" and then returned to Antioch of "Syria"?  "From c. 25 BC Eastern Cilicia (including Tarsus) was united administratively with Syria to form one imperial province (Syria-Cilicia). . . . This lasted until AD 72." "Taken from F. F. Bruce.  Copyright 1983 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co." 

Paul preached the gospel and won converts during his time in Tarsus of "Cilicia," for at the Jerusalem council where the church dealt with the Judaizers, some of the issue was about the Cilician converts.  "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings." (Acts 15:22-23)

(3) His lack of contact with Jewish churches (1:22-24)
"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."

Thought Question:  Can you think of anyone in the church today who was as big a surprise when he or she became a Christian as Paul was then?

 

 

If Paul had been trained by the twelve apostles, he would have been subordinate to them and that would have been well-known in the churches in Judea.  Instead, these churches had only heard of him second-hand.  They were excited though that God had transformed Paul from the primary persecutor of the church to one of the apostles.  It led them to praise God for what He had done in Paul's life.  Paul's point is that he was "an independent missionary, and that he was not operating under the supervision of the Jerusalem church and the Twelve." Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

It is likely that the churches in Judea heard about Paul in the same way that we get this type of good news in the church today.  The word about a famous new convert is excitedly passed around the church today.  Sometimes it is a celebrity that has just made a decision for Christ.  Sometimes, even, it is someone who has gone from being an opponent to Christianity to becoming a believer.  It is not hard for us to imagine how excited the Judean Christians were when they heard about Paul's conversion and his effective ministry as he preached the very faith that he once tried to destroy.

We see here that Paul was not preaching a different gospel than Peter and the Twelve were preaching.  He was preaching the same gospel.  He just received this same gospel from Jesus Christ in a different way than they did.  The Judaizers, though they were claiming that Paul preached a different gospel than the Twelve preached, were the ones who were preaching a different gospel than both the Twelve and Paul preached.

The churches in Judea were glorifying God because of Paul and his message.  They were, then, not at odds with Paul and his ministry, but were in agreement with his ministry.  What a powerful defense for Paul.  The Christians in Judea were not against Paul, but they were against the Judaizers. See also Acts 15:1-35

3. Paul's apostolic commendation (2:1-10)

a. The apostles commended him on his past ministry. (2:1-5)
"Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run 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 brothers 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 remain with you."

Thought Question:  Why would Paul appear to disrespect the leaders at Jerusalem by saying "those who seemed to be leaders"?

 

 

There are 5 visits to Jerusalem by Paul recorded for us in the Bible: 1) the time he got acquainted with Peter, just before leaving for Tarsus (Galatians 1:18-20; Acts 9:26-30); 2) the time when Barnabas and Paul went to Jerusalem with an offering to help them in a time of famine (11:27-30); 3) the time of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1-29); 4) the time at the end of the second missionary journey (Acts 18:22—"went up" could refer to Jerusalem); and 5) the time that Paul was arrested and imprisoned (Acts 21:17, 27-36).  The question, then, is which of these visits is Paul referring to in these verses?  The two possibilities are the visit during the famine (Acts 11:27-30, 12:25) or the visit at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1-39).  Respected evangelical Bible scholars disagree as to which of the 2 Jerusalem visits is referred to in these verses.

The arguments for Acts 11:27-30, 12:25 are as follows:  1) Since Paul does not mention the decision made by the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 in Galatians 2, which would have been very pertinent to the issue of the Judaizers, it is unlikely that he is referring to that visit.  2) The next visit to Jerusalem after his time in "Syria and Cilicia" (1:21) was the visit described in 11:27-30.  3) It is difficult to believe that Peter would have been intimidated by the Judaizers if he had just finished going to the Jerusalem council where the issue of the Judaizers was decisively dealt with. See 2:11-21  4) The Acts 11:27-30, 12:25 visit was a result of a prophetic prediction by Agabas the prophet.  This corresponds to what Paul says in Galatians 2:2a:  "I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles."

The arguments for Acts 15:1-39 are as follows:   1) The issues in Galatians 2:1-10 sound similar to the issues debated in the Jerusalem council.  2) Herod's death occurred in AD 44 during Paul visit to Jerusalem. See Acts 19b-23  Subtracting the year of Herod's death in AD 44 by the 14 years Paul mentions here would put Paul's conversion at AD 30.  That means that Paul's conversion took place while Jesus was still alive.  3) Paul mentions Peter and James here in Galatians and they were also the key leaders at the Jerusalem council. See Acts 15:7-21  4) The Judaizers are mentioned in both Galatians 2 (see 2:4-5) and in Acts 15 (see 15:1-2,5).

The arguments for the visit described in Galatians 2 being the time of the Jerusalem council appear to me to be more compelling.  A possible reason that he does not mention the Jerusalem council in this letter is that the result of the Jerusalem council had already been shared with those he was writing to (see Acts 16:4) and the Judaizers had rejected it.  Also, the fact that Peter was intimidated could have been that he simply had a weak moment.  This could have occurred before or after the Jerusalem council.

"with Barnabas"  "Barnabas" was a key leader in the church at Jerusalem before Paul's conversion. See Acts 4:36-37  He reached out to Paul when others did not. See Acts 9:26-28  He was sent to the Gentile church at Antioch and later brought Paul there to help in the leadership. See Acts 11:19-26  He later was part of Paul's first missionary journey. See Acts 13:1-4

"I took Titus along also."  Titus was a significant Christian leader in the early church.  Paul gave him a number of difficult assignments.  He carried a strong letter of Paul's to the church of Corinth that was in danger of being led astray by false leaders. See II Corinthians 2:13, 7:6-7, 13-15, 12:16  He was left by Paul in Crete to deal with the stubborn Cretans. See Titus 1:5, 10-13

"I went in response to a revelation."  Although "Paul and Barnabas were appointed" to go to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem council (See Acts 15:2-3), Paul may have needed to know that it was God's will for him to go.  His ultimate reason for going could have been a "revelation" from God. See Acts 18:9-11

"and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain."  Although there is nothing in Acts 15 describing this private meeting of Paul with the leaders in Jerusalem that does not mean that it did not happen.  Often, when there are parallel accounts in the Bible, we learn that not everything is described in each account.  By getting more than one account, we learn more about what occurred.

Here, we learn that Paul met privately with the leaders at Jerusalem, which is something that would be a very natural thing for Paul to do.  He did this out of concern that he had been running the Christian "race in vain."  Was he concerned that he was preaching the wrong gospel?  Clearly, this was not his concern.  But he was concerned that the church and the church leaders in Jerusalem were accepting and encouraging his Gentile converts.  This would fit into the purpose of the Jerusalem council.  "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question." (Acts 15:1-2)

"Who seemed to be leaders."  Why would Paul appear to disrespect the leaders at Jerusalem by using these words? See also 2:6,9  Paul appears to be disdainfully quoting the words of his opponents the Judaizers with whom he was in bitter disagreement rather than disrespecting the leaders in Jeruasalem. See Acts 15:2  The Judaizers were elevating the apostles in Jerusalem over Paul and saying that what Paul had to say had no authority, but only what the leaders in Jerusalem said had authority.

"Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek." The Jewish leaders in the Jewish church in Jerusalem could not have shown in a better way that they were not going along with the Judaizers than by not requiring Titus to be circumcised.  Titus was an uncircumcised Greek, a Gentile, and a Christian.  He came into Jerusalem uncircumcised and he left uncircumcised; and yet he was fully accepted by the Jerusalem church as a full-fledged Christian needing nothing more than to have believed the gospel.

"It may by well to pause here and remind ourselves that the Judaizers were not teaching a salvation by works versus a salvation by grace.  This is not the issue.  The issue is who can be saved, not how.  The Judaizers held that salvation was of the Jew and that one had to be a Jew in order to be saved or be a Jewish proselyte by being circumcised, and then after being circumcised living according to the law of which circumcision was the initiation.  It is not that circumcision saved them, but it brought them to a place where they could be saved." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Lawrence makes a good point here, but it was still a salvation by works—the work of obeying the Jewish traditions in order to become a full-fledge Jew in order to be acceptable to God and to be saved.

It is possible that Paul took Titus along as a test case.  Would those in Jerusalem demand that he be circumcised?  They did not make this demand of him, and thus proclaimed to the Christian world of that time that a Gentile Christian did not need to become a Jew to be saved.

"This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves."  Do "false brothers" like the Judaizers still infiltrate "our ranks" today?  Judaizers were legalists.  Legalists, like the Judaizers, want to "make us" their "slaves."  They have a set of rules that you must obey to be acceptable to them.  They want their rules to become a requirement for being an acceptable member of your church.  What are some of the rules that they would like to be made a requirement in your church?  In short, you are required to be like them in every way—to dress like them, worship like them, have devotions like them, have a lifestyle like them, agree with all of their interpretations of Scripture, and the list goes on.  If you do not obey them, they will make sure that you suffer in some way.  How does this differ from what is taught in the New Testament?  The Bible starts with God's grace and urges us to live in such a way that we will show the world outside of the church the joy of living by God's love, purity, grace, and character.  We are to make a voluntary love response to God's love.  "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'" (John 14:23)  See Acts 15:10

"to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus"  "Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor." (Luke 20:20) See also Matthew 12:16 and Mark 3:2  It is the tactic of a legalist "to spy" on the church, to see if anyone is being disobedient to their rules.  It appears that what had occurred is that the Judaizers were not truly Christian brothers, but they masqueraded as Christians to infiltrate the church.  Through the years, many have done this effectively.  "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

"We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you."  When the legalists are watching, it is easy, for the sake of maintaining some peace, to play by their rules.  Paul could not do that, for if he did, the church would have lost its purpose for existing.  They would have lost the gospel!  It was not out of bullheadedness that he resisted; it was necessary that he resist for the survival of the church.

Many, through the years, have stood in the gap as the church and its message have been attacked from many different directions.  The attacks have come from liberalism and legalism; from cults on the outside of the church and from subtle error inside of the church.  As Paul resisted the teachings of the Judaizers in his day, so we must resist false teachers and false teaching as they invade the church.

b. The apostles gave him their support on his future ministry to the Gentiles. (2:6-10)
The Judaizers had apparently been belittling Paul's ministry and had been asking as to whether Paul had cleared his message with the original twelve apostles, the "pillars" of the church.  We see Paul's response to their criticism in these verses.

"As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be 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 Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

Thought Question:  Paul, again, appears to be disrespectful of the twelve apostles; why is what he says in these verses appropriate?

 

 

Again, Paul appears to be disrespectful of "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars"—those who were the leaders in the church at Jerusalem.  Paul, though, is not disrespecting these leaders, but he is disrespecting the Judaizers' comparison of him and the original apostles, concluding they are "pillars" and he is much less than they.  Paul is asserting here that they were not the final authority over whether or not his ministry was or was not acceptable.  They were not the head of Christ's church; Jesus is the Head.  Paul had received his authority for apostolic ministry from Jesus Christ, not from them.  He did not need to get approval from those the Judaizers considered the "pillars" of the church.  Jesus did not need to clear it with "James, Peter and John" before He could commission Paul to the apostolic ministry.  Jesus could and did commission Paul to that task without consulting His first group of apostles.

James, Peter, John, and Paul were chosen by God, not because of some superiority over other men.  Rather, God chose to be gracious to them.  Paul describes receiving his apostleship as "the grace given to me."  The basis for the ministry of the apostles in Jerusalem was also "the grace given to" them.  They all were men who had failed in many ways, yet God had graciously chosen them for important ministries in the spread of the gospel.

"God does not judge by external appearance"  In other words, God does not choose leaders like men choose leaders.  "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7)  Therefore, if this is true, Paul was not going to judge or be judged by human standards.

"those men added nothing to my message."  This shows the humility of the leaders at Jerusalem.  They did not straighten out the newcomer.  They had the spirit of John the Baptist who was willing that Jesus' ministry would increase and that his would decrease:  "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)  These leaders at Jerusalem were humbly appreciative of Paul and his ministry.

The leaders in Jerusalem did not add anything to Paul's ministry—such as adding the requirements of Judaism to what was required of the Gentile converts.  Obviously, this agreement with Paul by the leaders in Jerusalem was not what the Judaizers were hoping for.

Though Paul did not receive his commissioning from "James, Peter and John," they recognized and accepted that he had been commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles by Jesus Christ: "they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews." 

"For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews,* was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.*" *The Greek word for "Jews" is actually the word for "circumcised" and the Greek word "Gentiles" is actually the word for "uncircumcised." The church leaders saw God working in Jerusalem converting many Jews.  We read about some of God's work through Peter in the book of Acts:  "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call. With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." (Acts 2:38-41)  "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)  "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." (Acts 5:12-14)

These church leaders in Jerusalem learned that God was using Paul among the Gentiles with great power, just as God was using them with great power to reach the Jews.  They rejoiced over what God was doing among the Gentiles through Paul.  "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake." (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

As a result: "James, Peter and John . . . gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship."  Their "right hand of fellowship" besides being an expression of agreement and fellowship, also included an agreement:  "They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews."  "It was an acknowledgement of apostolic equality."  Paul was stating here that the apostles in Jerusalem saw him "as an apostle equal in rank to them." "Both quotes taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"

We see in these verses what sometimes is missing in our churches today.  The leaders in the church in Jerusalem were not competing with Paul, but were co-workers with him in the same ministry.  They are a good pattern for us to follow in our attitudes toward other churches today.  We are not competing with each other, but are co-workers with them in God's work. 

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."  Paul had already shown the church in Jerusalem his love for the poor.  "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:27-40) See also Acts 24:17; I Corinthians 15:25-28; 16:1-4  "The church in Jerusalem faced a very difficult situation.  There were tremendous numbers of poor people in the city, including many pilgrims who had scraped together everything they had to come to Jerusalem.  Some of these people had been saved while they were here and did not want to return home.  They wanted to stay with the Christian community, but they had no means of support in the city."  "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."

It needs to be added that Peter did not just preach to the Jews, for in Acts 10 we are told of Peter preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.  Also, Paul did not just preach to the Gentiles, for his pattern when he went to a new city was to first go to the Jewish synagogue where he sought to persuade his fellow Jews that Jesus was their promised Messiah. See Acts 13:14-41

4. Paul's apostolic confidence (2:11-21)
In these verses, we have another look at Peter's human side.  But this time, we see the human side of Peter after he was an apostle.

a. Peter's hypocrisy (2:11-13)
"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 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."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe it was appropriate and important for Paul to speak of Peter in this way?

 

 

We may be shocked that Paul speaks about Peter with such strong and critical words.  Why did Paul find it necessary to write these words?  The Judaizers were raising a critical issue in the early church.  Paul, here, shows that it had even been a dividing issue between the apostle Peter and himself.

Here is the issue: could Jewish Christians eat fellowship dinners with Gentiles—eating at the same table and eating the same food?  Remember, that was the issue with Daniel when he and other Jews were taken into exile to a foreign land.  "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (Daniel 1:8)  God had declared some foods "unclean"; whereas the Gentiles had no problem eating the "unclean" food.  Israel was to be a separated nation: "Secondly, there were the man-made restrictions and stipulations handed down from generation to generation . . . Some dealt with the purchase of meats from Gentile meat markets." "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."

Added to these matters, there were the feelings of prideful superiority that had developed among the Jewish people as they compared themselves to the Gentiles.  Listen to how Paul describes this attitude in Romans:  "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—" (Romans 2:17-20)

How, then, could Jewish Christians eat with these lowly and unclean Gentiles?  Paul saw at least 2 reasons why Jew and Gentile Christians were equal before God and with each other:  1) The law was given to humble us, both Jew and Gentile, and to show us that we are all lowly sinners.  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."
(Romans 3:19-20)  2) The cross of Christ made us, Jew and Gentile, clean before God. "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)

Peter knew that all of this was true and when he came to Antioch, he ate freely with the Gentile Christians.  But when a group of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem came, possibly to inspect this new Gentile church, he began to "separate himself from the Gentiles."  Why did he do it?  ". . . he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group."

Had not Peter received a vision from the Lord and learned "that" he "should not call any man impure or unclean"? (Acts 10:28) See also Act 10:1-11:18 and Matthew 15:1-20  Nevertheless, to avoid criticism from his fellow Jews, he took the safe and easy route and stopped eating with Gentile Christians.

Paul says that they "came from James."  They were not Judaizers, for "James" would not have a sent a group of these legalists.  They were probably Jewish Christians who were still diligently practicing their Jewish customs who probably had some ties with the Judaizers. See Acts 11:17-26 

What was Paul's response?  He hit the issue head-on: "I opposed him to his face."  What if he had done nothing?  Here was Peter, the head apostle in the church up until Paul's conversion, who was by his actions teaching that Gentile Christians were not equals with Jewish Christians.  They fell short because they were not born Jew and were not practicing what was required in the Jewish system.  The good news would have no longer been the good news; it would have become the bad news that Gentiles would always be second-class Christians and may not fully be Christians at all.

"The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray."  What strong words Paul uses here.  Could not Paul have toned this down a little?  He could not have, and exposed what a critical issue it was.  Many critical issues have developed in the church through the years.  For example, is every word in the Bible inspired or just some of the words?  This is one of the issues that has needed to be met head-on with no compromise, just as Paul met the issue described here head-on.  Paul boldly did exactly what he needed to do.  It appears that Peter responded well and humbly to Paul's confrontation, for there is no indication that the issue remain unresolved.  Peter humbly acknowledged that Paul was right.  What Paul perfectly demonstrates here is that the issue is not over whether or not Peter or Paul was the dominant leader of the church, but over whether or not one is acting in accordance to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ?

We also see in this verse that one's actions do not just affect us, but they affect others as well.  "The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy."  No man is an island; what we do wrong tends to draw others into doing wrong also.  Even the warm-hearted "Barnabas" was led astray by Peter's cowardly acquiescence to this Jewish delegation from Jerusalem.  Paul alone was left to not just correct Peter, but to correct many who were beginning to move in a legalistic direction.  We need to be very thankful that Paul took such a strong stand!

John MacArthur gives the following insights into the meaning of the word "hypocrisy":  "The Greek word literally says 'to answer from under' and was often used to refer to Greek actors, who wore masks as they presented plays.  The actors spoke from under the masks.  From this background comes the word 'hypocrite'—someone who masks his real ideas of feelings (i.e., a phony)."  "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."  Peter said that he believed that the Gentile Christians were full-fledged children of God, but his actions did not match his profession. See Matthew 23:13-15

We should, though, not be too critical of Peter.  Have we ever been intimidated and backed off what we believed because of the fear of people?  Have we been bold at one time and weak at another time?  I think we all love Peter because we see his human weaknesses—weaknesses that are like our weaknesses.  Since we also are very human, he gives us hope that God can love and use us just like he loved and used Peter.

b. Paul's bold rebuke (2:14-21)

(1) Paul expresses the hypocrisy in Peter's lifestyle. (2:14)
"When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter 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?"

Thought Question #1:  What does this tell us about when it is appropriate to confront someone publicly and when it is not appropriate?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How do you believe Peter responded to this confrontation?  Why?

 

 

Paul had a dilemma: Peter was being two-faced.  He was acting one way with the Gentiles and another way in the presence of these Jews from Jerusalem.  It was affecting other Jews and even Barnabas.  It was having the effect of dividing Christians into two groups—Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.  What should Paul do?  He took the only action that had any hope of reversing the effect of Peter's behavior and once more getting the church going in the direction taught by Jesus Christ to both Peter and to Paul.  He confronted Peter in public before the church. See I Timothy 5:20 

His words were strong and right to the point:  "“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?"  Peter was left with only two ways to respond: 1) He could have denied and defied Paul's accusation and sided from then on with the Jews.  That would have divided the church into Peter's Jewish Christians and Paul's Gentile Christians.  2) He could have admitted that he was wrong.  That is the choice that he made and, as a result, the church remained united and the Gentile Christians felt at one with the Jewish Christian brothers.  Thank God for Paul's boldness and Peter's humility.

Peter had been doing that which was socially expedient rather than doing that which was right.  He was acting like a Gentile by eating with them; and then when the Jews from Jerusalem came, he acted as if he could not eat with the Gentiles because they did not follow Jewish customs.  Until Paul confronted him and Peter acknowledged he was wrong, he was sending a confusing and mixed message to the Gentiles.

(2) Paul exposes the hypocrisy in Peter's thinking. (2:15-21)

(a) First, Paul shows how Peter was contradicting himself (2:15-16)
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing 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 observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.'"

Thought Question:  How can you use what is taught in these verses when you share the gospel with someone?

 

 

What does Paul mean by "Gentile sinners"?  They were given this title by Jews who felt that they were holy because they and not the Gentiles were God's holy people.  "There were to the Jews merely two classes of people: Jews and sinners." "From Galatians by John Lawrence"

Where does Paul shift from what he said to Peter in Antioch to what he is saying to these Galatian Christians?  Look at these verses and come to your own conclusion.  Some say that he made the shift at the beginning of verse 15.  He clearly makes the shift at 3:1: "You foolish Galatians!"  What is said in these verses surely would have been pertinent when Paul talked to Peter and before the Christians in Antioch.  I lean toward believing that he is still quoting what he said to Peter until the end of this chapter.  Wherever he makes the shift, his argument is still important to all Christians, though what he says here may not be exactly what he said to Peter but a summary of what he said.

Now, let us look at Paul's argument to Peter and to the Galatian Christians that is given in these verses.  A most significant point in Paul's dispute with Peter and his actions is that Peter was giving the impression that the Jews, because of their birth as Jews and their practice of the Jewish customs, were more right with God than the Gentile Christians.  Paul's emphatic point is that the Gentile Christians were just as right with God as the Jewish Christians.

Paul asks this question in these verses: had Peter got right with God "by observing the law"?  No, Peter knew very well that he had gotten right with God "by faith in Jesus Christ."  The Jewish Christians for cultural reasons could continue to observe some of the Jewish religious practices, but these practices did not save them.  The symbolisms in the Jewish practices point to what Jesus did to save them.  They pointed to His death for everyone on the cross.  Belief in Jesus Christ's death for us is what saved the Jewish Peter, and it is what also saved the non-Jewish Christians.  We are, of course, also saved in the same way.

"because by observing the law no one will be justified."  This was stated clearly at the Jerusalem council.  Listen to Peter's own words:  "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (Acts 15:10-11)  Paul said the same as what Peter says here in the book of Romans:  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)  Paul was concerned because Peter, by his action, was confusing how one is saved.  Here, Paul makes it very clear: a person can only be saved "by faith in Jesus Christ."

What does Paul mean by "justified""Justified" means that God declares someone legally right and without condemnation before Him.  The law does not provide any way for us unholy people to get legally right with a completely holy God.  Only Jesus' blood satisfied God's legal penalty for our sins.  Faith in what He did on the cross results in our being justified. See Romans 3:21-31, 5:1  Before the sinner trusts Christ, he stands GUILTY before God; but the moment he trusts Christ, he is declared NOT GUILTY and he can never be called GUILTY again.

(b) Second, Paul answers a charge made against him: your seeking to be justified in Christ has led you to sin by fellowshipping with sinful Gentiles. (2:17-18)
"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker."

Thought Question:  Sum up shortly what you believe Paul was saying here to Peter (I know that it is not easy to follow)?

 

 

Again, "sinners," here, refers to the Jewish definition of "sinners"—the Gentiles were "sinners" and the Jews were not "sinners."  These are difficult words to follow and understand.  Paul is reasoning from Peter's perspective.  "Peter, if you seek to be justified by Christ but you now find it has led to you being looked upon as a Gentile 'sinner' by the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, does that mean that Christ has led you to become a 'sinner' just like the Gentiles?  Does that mean that the result of believing in Jesus Christ has led you to be a 'sinner'?" 

"Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker."  If Peter first says and lives as though we are no longer under the Jewish system of law, thereby destroying it, and, then, goes back to the system of Jewish law by not eating with the Gentiles, he has declared by his actions that he was breaking the law when he was eating with the Gentiles.  In Romans 6:14, Paul clearly states that we are no longer under the law: ". . . you are not under law, but under grace."  Then, in Romans 7, Paul explains both why it true and why it needed to be true.  First, we died to the law with Christ. See Romans 7:1-6  The law did not enable us to stop sinning; it actually led us to sin more, not sin less. See Romans 7:7-25

Peter had also learned that lesson:  "Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10)  Yet Peter, by choosing not to eat with the Gentiles, was putting himself back under the law.  Paul argues that Peter needs to realize the implications of his choice.  Peter as he considers Paul's clear-minded reasoning should respond with Paul: "Abolutely not!  I do not want to go backwards to once again being a hopeless "law-breaker."  I want to go forward to, like the Gentiles, being saved by God's grace.

(c) Third, Paul continues by sharing his own testimony: Paul died to the law through Christ's death for him, so that Christ might live through him. (2:19-20)
"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 live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Thought Question:  What do you believe Paul means by "and I no longer live"?

 

 

"For through the law I died to the law"  Paul's personal experience began with "the law"; but it was not the law that gave him life.  Instead, it led him to death.  "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:9-13)

He learned through the law that the law does not bring life.  Then, he learned that by identification with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, he died to the law.  "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:4-6)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."  Through faith in Jesus' death for him, he started a totally new experience in life.  In the old life, he was under the law and required to obey its commands.  In this type of life he had been a complete failure.  In this type of life, we all have been complete failures.  If we think that we have not been failures, we are deceiving ourselves.  If living under the law was Paul's only choice as a way of life, it was hopeless for him.  But through Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, Paul and we have another alternative.  Paul chose the second alternative: to "be crucified with Christ."

"The verb 'crucified is in the perfect tense, which means a past completed action with present results."  "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications"  "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—" (Romans 6:6)

"Crucified" is a very strong word, for "crucified" was a horrible penalty for the worst of criminals.  "Crucified with Christ" means that we identify with Christ's crucifixion in our place for the horrible sinfulness that this terrible type of punishment was designed for.  But it also means that the full penalty for our sins has been paid for by this terminal and complete form of punishment.  So, "crucified with Christ" means that our old life of sin along with the horrible penalties that it earned are completely ended and we now have a completely new start!

"and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."  On the other side of Christ death was life—resurrection life!  On the other side of our death with Christ is also life—resurrection life!  It is not a life empowered by you or me; it is a life empowered by Christ living in me.  How do I live that life?  Paul gives the answer in the rest of the verses.

"The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Paul said: "I no longer live."  How can this be true?  The only life that is truly life is Jesus' life.  For life that comes from our body and soul is completely self-absorbed: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags . . ." (Isaiah 64:6)  So, if we want to live a life that is truly life, it must have its source in Jesus' life.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)  How do we experience this life?  By, like Paul, living in constant "faith in the Son of God" so that He will manifest His life through us.

The Christian life is the Christ-dependent life.  The life that Christ calls us to is a life we are incapable of living.  So, what is the solution for us?  The only way to find true life is to live our lives completely dependent on Him.

It is a life that you and I do live, but we only experience Christ's life as we choose to live in dependence on Him.  Because of our pride, this dependence on Christ does not come easily to us.  It is not easy for us to acknowledge our neediness.  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

"gave himself for me."  He "gave himself for" us, so we also are to give ourselves up for Him.  Jesus gave "himself up to shame, condemnation, scourging, the crown of thorns, mockery, crucifixion and abandonment by his Father, death, and burial." "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."  He did all that so that we might live for Him.  "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15)

(d) Paul concludes the following: "If we get right with God through the law, Christ died for nothing." (2:21)
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”"

Thought Question:  In what ways are Paul's words in this verse freeing to you?

 

 

This appears to be Paul's final argument to Peter.  "Peter, we must not "set aside the grace of God' and go back to living by the law, for we can never get right with God through the law.  If we could get right with God 'through the law, Christ died for nothing!'"  Peter was very familiar with Christ's death, for it had shattered his hope that Jesus was the Messiah—the "Christ."  "Christ" dying for "nothing!"  Certainly, Peter was stunned by these words of Paul.

How did Peter respond to Paul's rebuke?  Peter clearly chose to live by grace.  I and II Peter are books about God's grace.  "The word grace appears in every chapter of I Peter."  "Taken from Be Free by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1975 by SP Publications Inc."  And we see in II Peter 3:15-16 that Peter was, after this confrontation recorded in Galatians 2, supportive of Paul's ministry:  "Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."  The apostle Peter obviously responded in a very Christian way to the appropriate rebuke of the apostle Paul!

PAUL'S DEFENSE OF HIS MESSAGE (3:1-4:31)

1. The inadequacy of the law (3:1-24)

a. It is foolish to try to live by the law. (3:1-13)

(1) Their personal experience had taught them that it is foolish to live by the law. (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 observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe people allow themselves to be drawn into legalistic systems of religion?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think that it was appropriate for Paul to say: "You foolish Galatians!" and to ask: "Are you so foolish?"

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Are you in any way basing your relationship with God on how well you are performing?  If the answer is, "Yes,"how did it happen and how can you change it?

 

 

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?"  Years ago I read a book by Dave Hunt.  In it he described how people were deluded by communism.  Somehow, there are those who see it as a wonderful utopia, while life at that very time in communist Russia was very bleak for those who lived there.  When I saw the people in Russia, they reminded me of a caged leopard emptily and endlessly pacing back and forth in its cage.  How can anyone desire to be in a communist country?  Yet, as Hunt said, they are in a state of delusion.  In the same way, the Galatian Christians had become "bewitched" by these Judaizers.  They had seduced them back into a hopeless imprisonment to Judaist legalism. Paul asks in amazement: "How did you become so blind that you forgot your freedom in Christ?  How did you become so foolish to believe that what enslaved you before would not enslave you again?"

"Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified."  Paul's point here is that he had proclaimed that Christ's death on the cross paid the penalty for all of their sins and set them free from the curse of the law.  Why would they make His death for them null and void of any value to them by going back to the law?

"The word used for crucified in the Greek is a perfect passive participle.  This form expresses an historical fact with continuing results. . . . The crucifixion of Christ in a sense continues to go on. . . . The cross never leaves off.  It stands forever as living proof that we cannot redeem ourselves." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."

"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"

When we became Christians, the most noticeable experiential change in us was the new presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:16)  He, the Holy Spirit, radically changes us from empty vessels to vessels filled with God Himself.  "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) See also Romans 8:9  Paul asks: "What made it possible for you to become Spirit-indwelt persons?"  "Did He come inside you because of how well you obeyed the law or because you believed in the gospel message?"  The answer is obvious.

Next, he asks them: "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"  In Colossians 2:6, Paul says: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him," (Colossians 2:6)  Using "human effort" to attain God's holy goals is as futile as trying to earn our salvation.  Everything about the Christian life is attained by trusting in God's unlimited power and not by trusting in our very sin-polluted and limited resources. See Galatians 2:20  God's goal for them, that only God can bring about, is Christian maturity.  It is only God that can fulfill this purpose of His in our lives.  "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)  He does it all, and He in the end deserves all the glory.

Paul, now, has referred to the Galatians twice as being very "foolish."  Since the book of Galatians is divinely inspired and God's Spirit led Paul to write all that is contained in it, it then was appropriate for him to address them in this way.  But, Jesus had some strong words for those who call some a fool:  "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:22)  The word Jesus uses that is translated "fool" is moros.   It is like saying to someone: "You moron!"  The word for "foolish" that Paul uses here describes someone who has acted before thinking something through thoroughly.  They had not thought the Judaizers' views through thoroughly.  Here, Paul helps them to think through what the Judaizers are seeking to do to them: they are seeking to seduce them back into a legalistic system that can do nothing for them and can only enslave them.

We need to reflect and think through our basis for living the Christian life.  Are we in any way being deceived by the evil one so that we are also being drawn into the Galatian error of a works-based relationship with God rather than through a faith and grace-based relationship with God?  Is someone imposing on you their religion of works?  We can in no way earn anything from God by "human effort." The only way we can come to God and live before Him with a clean conscience is when we are fully depending upon His gracious provisions for us—the blood of His Son and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.  We are to live for Christ by faith out of gratitude for His grace toward us.  Do you ever feel like we need to earn God's favor or others' favor through our performance?  It has not worked before when we tried it, and it will never work.

"Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing?"  Paul appears to be astonished that they had been so gallant in standing up for the gospel of grace in spite of suffering, and now they are abandoning this very same gospel.

"Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." (2 Thessalonians 1:4)  "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated." (Hebrews 10:32-33)  It appears that suffering because of the gospel was a common experience at that time. See Acts 13:49-50, 14:2,5,19,22; II Timothy 3:10-11

There is a disagreement among Bible scholars over whether or not the Greek word that is translated "suffering" should be translated "suffering" or "experienced."  It can be translated both ways.  The context determines which way it is translated.  If it is translated "experienced," though, the experiences would include "suffering."

"if it really was for nothing?"  Paul softens his hard language and shows that he had not given up on them.  We see this same expression of hope in 5:10: "I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be."

"Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"  Here is one account of what took place when Paul and Barnabas were with these Galatian Christians:  "In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, 'Stand up on your feet!' At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have come down to us in human form!' Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them." (Acts 14:8-13) 

God supported and authenticated Paul's message with miracles.  It appears that miracles supported Paul's ministry and no miracles supported the Judiazers' efforts.  How did this happen?  Paul's message was God's message and the Judaizers' message was not God's message.

It may be that miracles that are not recorded in the book of Acts occurred after Paul and Barnabas left.  "Worked miracles" is in the present tense and implies that the miracles were presently taking place.

"Miracles among you" can also be translated "miracles in you."  These miracles then could refer to the "miracles" of life change through the Holy Spirit.

What made these miracles occur?  The clear answer is that they did not occur as a result of their obeying the Judaist law, but because of their faith.  God did not give them the Spirit and the miracles because He was impressed with their performance or because they had earned it, but the Spirit and the miracles were gifts from God received by faith.  

Paul's obvious conclusion in this section of verses is the following: your experience cries out to you that faith and not law-observance is the way you became believers, received the Holy Spirit, and experienced miracles.  Why should you forsake faith in God's grace for a works-based system?

(2) The Scriptures taught them that salvation comes by faith (3:6-13)

(a) Abraham was not saved by the law but by faith (3:6-9)
"Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The 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 have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

Thought Question #1:  In what ways were both Abraham and you saved in the same way?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does "it was credited to him as righteousness" mean to you?

 

 

"Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'"  The Judaizers saw themselves as followers of Moses and as adherents to the Mosaic law.  Paul takes his readers back to Abraham who lived before Moses and who was the recognized father of their nation.  How did Abraham get right with God?  He could not have gotten right with God through the Mosaic law, for in Abraham's time Moses and his law did not yet exist.  How did Abraham get right with God?  The answer is given in Genesis 15:6 which Paul quotes here:  "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)  The gospel that Paul preached led people to get right with God in the same way that Abraham got right with God—through believing in God. 

"credited"  In Romans 4:11, Paul states the same truth as here:  "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them." See also Romans 4:20-22  The Greek word ["credited"] means "to put into one's account." "Taken from Be Free by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1975 by SP Publications Inc."  When Abraham believed and when we believed, God's righteousness was put into our account.  That is the very best "good deal" ever offered to man!

"as righteousness" "Righeousness" is conforming to God's holy standards.  Because of our faith in what God did for us through Jesus' death on the cross, God declares that we now fully meet His standards for a right relationship with Him.

"Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham."  Even Gentiles who believe the gospel and get right with God through faith "are children of Abraham."  Because they have gotten right with God just as Abraham the father of Israel got right with God, they have followed the pattern of Israel's father and are his children.

Here, Paul is establishing that salvation in the Old Testament did not come by obeying the law.  In both the Old and New Testaments, salvation could never come by observing the law.  Why?  No one could obey it. See Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:19-20  Salvation is only possible through the blood of Christ in both the Old and New Testament.  "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:22-26)

This gift of salvation through Christ's blood is received by faith, just as Abraham was saved by faith.  Abraham believed that God would supernaturally provide him with a son.  From that miraculously born son in Abraham and Sarah's great age came the miraculously born Son who would die for Abraham's sins.  Abraham's faith for salvation ultimately is the same as our faith for salvation.  He believed in a Savior that was not yet born; we believe in a Savior who lived and died for us in the past.

"The 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.'"  In Genesis 12:3, God said to Abraham: "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  We now know that these words predicted that all of the world would be blessed through Jesus Christ, a distant child of Abraham.  Through faith in His blood, we are justified.  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 5:1)  Once again, "justified" means that God has declared us legally right with Him as a result of our receiving this gift of God by putting our faith in Jesus' death for us.

"So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."  The Judaizers were teaching that the Gentiles needed to become identified with God's people, the Jews, by circumcision and obedience to the law; Paul teaches here that the Gentiles became identified with Abraham by trusting in God, His words, and His plan of salvation.  Abraham did not know all that we know today about God's plan, but he was saved by trusting in what God revealed to him.  "All these people [Abraham included] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (Hebrews 11:13) See John 8:37-47; Romans 4:4-5

(b) Those who do not perfectly obey the law are cursed. (3:10-12)
"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.'"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is true of every single person who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does "The righteous will live by faith." mean to you?

 

 

"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'"  The verse Paul quotes is Deuteronomy 27:26.  Moses is directed by God as follows:  "When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin. And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali." (Deuteronomy 27:12-13)  The verse that Paul quotes is the verse that ends the list of curses.  God used this dramatic way of communicating to Israel that under the law they would be blessed if they obeyed God's law and cursed if they disobeyed God's law.  How did Israel do?  They were disobedient, and as a result they were under a curse.  Under the law, unless they did not obey every requirement of the law completely, they were under a curse.  God, though, in His graciousness provided Plan B.  Paul will present Plan B in verses 11 and 13.

"does not continue to do everything"  If we choose to live under the law, we will need to perfectly obey the law.  If we break even one part of the law, we will be under a curse.  "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)

"Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.'"  "The righteous will live by faith" is from Habakkuk 2:4.  Paul also quotes this verse in Romans 1:17.  Romans 1:17 was used by God to make the gospel message clear to Martin Luther, launching the Protestant Reformation. This verse is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38

Paul is asking the Galatian Christians to question: "Would you rather be under a curse or be righteous before God?  If you want to be righteous before God, it cannot come by the law for your Old Testament Scriptures teach that any disobedience to the law puts you under a curse.  But, your Old Testament Scriptures say that you can be righteous with God by faith.  In Habakkuk, the words that Paul quotes were God's words to Habakkuk in response to his question to Him about why He was going to judge Israel using the Babylonians when they were more evil than Israel.  God's answer:  "See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith—" (Habakkuk 2:4)  In Habakkuk's time, he needed to trust God.  Habakkuk was focused on these evil, "puffed up" Babylonians.  Instead, he needed to trust God, for "the righteous will live by his faith."  Ultimately, Habakkuk did trust God:  "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20)"I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. . . " (Habakkuk 3:16-19) See Isaiah 30:15-18

"'The Chaldeans [Babylonians], too, will be punished.  In fact all sinners will be punished . . . but the righteous will live by his faith.'  It is his duty and privilege to trust, and to do this even when he is not able to 'figure out' the justice of Jehovah's doing.  In this humble trust and quiet confidence he shall truly live."  "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."

"The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.'"  There are really two plans for getting right with God—Plan A and Plan B.  We choose either one or the other.  There is no in-between choice.  Plan A requires that we get right with God by perfectly obeying God's law.  No one can do this, and it always results in our being cursed.  Plan B is by faith.  Anyone can choose to trust in God's goodness and forgiveness as expressed through Jesus taking our sins on Himself on the cross.  Which is your choice: Plan A or Plan B?  If you choose Plan A and obedience to the law, you will need to live wholly by Plan A.  It is the Plan that can only result in you being cursed.

(c) Plan B – Jesus took our curse on Him. (3:13)
"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.”"

Thought Question:  According to this verse, what is God's Plan B?

 

 

"If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)  In the Old Testament, the most despicable criminals were to be punished by hanging their bodies on a tree so that all could see that they were cursed by God.

Jesus was hung on a tree—the cross. See Joshua 10:26; Acts 5:30, 10:39; I Peter 2:24  The Jews did not understand that it was not He that deserved to being hung on a tree, but it was they that deserved to be on that cross.  Jesus' death on the cross showed that they and all of us are under a curse.  For, He took our curse on Himself.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)  The Blessed One took the "curse" so we might be blessed!

"Redeemed us" speaks of setting a slave free through the payment of a ransom.  Jesus' death on the cross freed us from the law's just curse on us. See I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23, I Peter 1:18; Isaiah 53:6

b. God's blessing does not come through the law, but through God's promise to Abraham. (3:14-18)
"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. Brothers, 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. The 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 a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise."

Thought Question:  What does Paul say here about the covenant God made with Abraham that is helpful to you in understanding your relationship with God?

 

 

"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."  Because Jesus took our curse on Himself, we receive blessing from God rather than the curse we deserve.  Paul gives 2 ways that we are blessed.  First of all, we have received "the blessing given to Abraham."  That "blessing" was given in verse 11: we have been made right with God through faith.  Secondly, we have received the promised "Spirit."  The Holy Spirit was promised in the Old Testament: "‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." (Joel 2:28)  The Holy Spirit was promised by John the Baptist: "On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 1:4-5)  The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus Christ:  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

"Brothers, 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 Judaizers undoubtedly argued that the Mosaic law nullified and replaced what God said to Abraham.  Paul's argument in this verse is that even human covenants cannot be changed after they have been made in the proper way.  For example, if someone buys a house at a certain price with designated monthly payments, can the bank legally increase the price of the house and increase the monthly payments?  Even our human legal system would not allow this to happen.  Would God do what even our human courts will not allow?

God did "duly" establish His covenant with Abraham.  "He also said to him, 'I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.' But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?' So the Lord said to him, 'Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.' Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, 'Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.' When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.'" (Genesis 15:7-21)  God bound Himself very dramatically to His covenant with Abraham.  He will not alter or void His own covenant made in so certain a way.

"Duly established" translates a Greek verb that is in the perfect tense, indicating that it was ratified and continues in its ratified state.  God's covenant with Abraham "is still in force." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ."  Here, Paul says that "seed" is singular, yet in this same chapter he refers to "seed" as plural. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)  "Seed" can refer to persons and it can also refer to a single person.  "In Genesis 4:25 it refers to Seth, to him alone; in 21:13 to Ishmael; in I Sam. 1:11 to Samuel; In II Sam 7:12 to Solomon as a type of Christ; so also in II Chron. 7:11." "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."

The solution is that Paul is interpreting for us the meaning of "seed," which can be either singular or plural.  The promise to Abraham was always about one seed of Abraham that would bless the world.  In Genesis 3:15, God predicted this seed:  "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)  God predicted this seed to David: "When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." (2 Samuel 7:12-13) 

The religious leaders of Israel before Jesus' birth knew that this "seed" would be born in Bethlehem.  "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.' When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’'" (Matthew 2:1-6)  The religious leaders were quoting Micah 5:2.  Israel was expecting this Promised One; the Promised One was the "seed" of Abraham. See Hebrews 2:16-17

"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."  "Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years." (Exodus 12:40) See also Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 where time is rounded off to 400 years.  "The 430 of verse 17 have puzzled Bible students for many years.  From Abraham's call (Gen. 12) to Jacob's arrival in Egypt (Gen. 46) is 215 years. (This may be computed as follows: Abraham was 75 years old when God called him and 100 when Isaac was born, Gen. 12:4; 21:5.  This gives us 25 years.  Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Gen. 25:26; and Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt, Gen 47:9.  Thus, 25 + 60 + 130= 215 years.)  But Moses tells us that Israel sojourned in Egypt 430 years (Ex. 12:40); so the total number of years from Abraham's call to the giving of the law is 645 years, not 430.  Several solutions have been offered to this puzzle, but perhaps the most satisfying is this:  Paul is counting from the time Jacob went into Egypt, when God appeared to him and reaffirmed the covenant (Gen. 46:1-4) "Taken from Be Free by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1975 by SP Publications Inc."  I agree with Wiersbe, it was 430 years after the time when the covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Paul's point in this verse is that the law made "430 years" after the covenant with Abraham does not nullify the promise.  If a parent promises that he is going to give a child a bicycle and later tells him that the child will need to work to earn that which was previously promised as a gift, the child would feel that the parent was saying one thing and then saying something completely different later.  It is certainly not in God's character to make the promise of a gift and then require that it be earned.

For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise."  Paul strongly affirms that God made a promise to Abraham to bless him and to bless us through him.  A law that requires that something be earned and a promise that it will be given as a gift cannot both be true; it is either a gift or it must be earned.  Both cannot be true.  They are complete opposites.  You cannot go east and west at the same time.  If salvation must be earned, it is the bad news, for we cannot earn it.  If salvation is a gift received by faith, it is the good news.  Paul would not allow that Judaizers to turn the wonderful good news into the horrible bad news.  Thank God and thank Paul that the good news is still being preached in the majority of churches.

"The word gave is from charizomai.  This is a specialized word.  It denotes not merely a gift, but a gift given out of the spontaneous generosity of the giver's heart, with no strings attached to it.  The Greek word grace (charis) has the same root and the same meaning." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

c. Why did God give us this law if we are saved by grace through faith? (3:19-24)

(1) It was a temporary and mediated addition to God's promise (3:19-20)
"What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, why did God give the law to Israel after He had already made a covenant promise to Abraham?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul said: "A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one"? (How does it fit into his argument?)

 

 

If we are saved by faith, why did God give us the law?  What does Paul mean by "It was added because of transgressions"?  The purpose of the law was to reveal that we do transgress or break God's holy standards.  John MacArthur quotes the New English Bible at this point.  The law was given "'to make wrongdoing a legal offence.'  The law was given to show man that he was willfully in rebellion against the holiness of God." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications"  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

The law provokes our selfish nature, thereby bringing out in the open the sinfulness that was already in our heart:  "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death." (Romans 7:7-11) 

"A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one."  Though God chose to come down to our level and enter into a law agreement with man whereby man was blessed conditioned on whether or not he or she obeyed His law; the promise made to Abraham was simply what He alone chose to do.  "God acts alone and directly when He promises salvation to anyone who will receive it by the outstretched hand of faith.  There are no good works to be done by the sinner in order that he might merit that salvation.  Grace is unconditional.  There are no strings tied to it.  God is One, that is, He acts alone without a mediator in respect to the promise of grace." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

(2) It is the purpose of the law to lead us to faith in Christ Jesus.(3:21-24)
"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 the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 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."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, why can the gospel of grace and the law both be essential parts of God's plans for man?

 

 

"Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?"  As Wiersbe states, this question is one the Judaizers would have shouted to Paul!  Paul's answer: "Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law."  The law is not "opposed to the promises of God," instead, "the law" and "the promises" work together to lead us to getting right with God through Jesus Christ.

Paul declares throughout Galatians that "the law" and "the promises" serve two completely different functions.  "The law" shows how unrighteous we are before God.  Again, Paul makes it clear that no law will enable us to get right with God through our own efforts.  "The promises of God" provide the only way that we can get right with God.  "The law" can show us what God requires us to do, but because of our human inability to obey it, it only results in condemning us.  Then, God reveals to us that we can be forgiven and become right with God through a wonderful gift provided through Jesus' death on the cross.

"But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."  If the law has its intended effect on us, we will respond as Paul responded in Romans 7:24:  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"  The law is to have this effect on all of us.  What is the solution?  It is found in Romans 7:25:  "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." See Romans 7:7-25 for a description of the effect the law has on us. See also Galatians 2:16; Deuteronomy 27:26; Psalm 143:2

"Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed."  Paul continues the theme of us being "prisoners," but Paul now says that we were "held prisoners by the law." ("a prisoner of sin" in 3:22)  Sin imprisons us.  "Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)  But it is the law that points out to us continually that we are not measuring up to God's requirements and are also continually in a state of condemnation.  And so, apart from God's grace, the "law" imprisons us.

"Before this faith came," If there was not another way to get right with God, we would all be hopelessly condemned and imprisoned under law.  But when faith came, we learned that we could get out of prison.  Picture yourself in prison for life and then the guard comes to your cell and says: "You have just been pardoned."  That is what faith does for us.

"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."  In 3:24, "put in charge" in the NIV is translated "tutor" in the NASV and in the side note it is even more literally translated, "child-conductor."  It is the Greek word from which we get our English word "pedagogue."  It refers to the slaves of Paul's time whose responsibility it was to supervise children until they were able to take care of themselves.

"The pedagogue was a slave employed in the Greek and Roman family to which the boy was entrusted from about six years of age through his teens." "From Galatians by John Lawrence"  "He was not the schoolmaster.  He was usually an old and trusted slave. . . .He is in charge of the child's moral welfare and it was his duty to see that he acquired the qualities essential to true manhood.  He had one particular duty, every day he had to take the child to and from school.  He had nothing to do with the actual teaching of the child, but it was his duty to take him in safety to the school and deliver him to the teacher.  That—said Paul—was like the function of the law.  It was there to lead a man to Christ." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

The law acted like these "pedagogues" in our life until the gospel message of grace, forgiveness, and a God-empowered life came to us.  God's law is not in opposition to grace, but is meant to lead us to an awareness of our need for God's grace and to take care of us until we experience the new life in Christ that God provides for us.

God's ultimate goal is for us to receive new life through Jesus Christ.  But before this new life from God, the law was our baby-sitter.

2. The adequacy of God's grace (3:25-4:7)

a. The adequacy of God's grace to enable us to become full sons and heirs of God (3:25-29)

(1) We are no longer under the law's guardianship. (3:25)
"Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

An important goal in raising children is for them to develop inward control so that they will no longer need the outward control from the parents.  When faith comes to us, we no longer need the outward supervision of the law, but we now have the inward life of God that comes through faith in Christ.

The Judaizers undoubtedly were outraged by these words: "How dare you [Paul] say that Gentile and Jewish Christians are not under the law!"  Paul, though, was not saying that Christians were lawless, only that the ability to obey God's commandments now comes through Christ's life in us rather than by the outward demands and punishments of the law system.  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:9-12)

(2) But we are now full-fledged sons and heirs according to God's promise to Abraham's seed. (3:26-29)
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor 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."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell us about some of the issues in our society through the years over race, slavery, and gender?

 

 

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."  "In order to understand what Paul is referring to here we must realize the distinction between the word 'child' (teknon) which denotes a oneness of nature between the father and the offspring, and the word 'son' (uios) [pronounced huios] which emphasizes a child's position or standing with resulting privileges.  In our culture a child becomes legally mature at age 18 or 21.  This was not true in the Greek and Roman cultures.  Every child was born without any rights and privileges.  If he was to become an heir, he had to be legally adopted as a son and thus be placed in a position of heir or son.  This was called son-placing.  Only after the legal adoptions was a child a son.  Before that he was merely a child regardless of his age.  There was no age when this adoption could take place, but once it was performed, the child was then a son with full rights and privileges." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"  Paul expands on the meaning of "sons" in Galatians 4:1-7.

And, so, it is very significant when Paul says "you are all sons [huios]of God."  Once we put our "faith in Christ Jesus," we become full-fledged members of God's family with all the "rights and privileges" of that position.

"for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."  The baptism Paul speaks about here is not water baptism, but the spiritual baptism that water baptism symbolically points to.  Through work of the Holy Spirit, we are united with Christ. See I Corinthians 12:13 Here, Paul says that we have "clothed" ourselves "with Christ."  Through becoming new persons in Christ, we have become identified with Christ. See Romans 6:1-10  We have received "the full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:5) See also Galatians 4:7 and Romans 8:15-16  God now sees us as His full-fledged sons.

An illustration that may be helpful in understanding Paul's point here is what happened many years ago when I joined the U. S. Navy.  I took off my civilian clothes and put on a new identity.  I became a sailor.  Also, many years ago, I joined with Christ and went from being outside of Christ and became a son of God.  At that time, I "clothed" myself with Christ."  If you have put your faith in Christ, you also have "clothed yourself with Christ."

If you are a woman, you may be concerned about all of this talk about "sons" and nothing about "daughters."  Paul deals with that concern in verse 28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Barclay remarks that Pharisees would pray each morning, "I thank Thee, God, that I am a Jew, not a Gentile; a man, not a woman and a freeman, not a slave."  The Pharisees saw themselves as superior to Gentiles, women, and slaves.  But, as Paul states here, there are no inferiors and superiors in Christ's church: we are all equals.  Today, we have a group that call themselves "feminists."  That name divides men and women into 2 groups.  Christ unites men and women into one group—the church.  In Paul's time, the world was divided between Jew and Gentile, men and women, slave and free.  The church was a classless unity.  All are one in Christ.  "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11)  All have exactly the same relationship with God; we all come through Jesus Christ.

Under the Judaizers, the snobbish distinctions that existed between Jews and Gentiles, men and woman, and slave and free, would have remained.  The cross gives us no reason to boast or feel better than anyone.  " . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)  Paul, the former Pharisee, would not allow the self-righteous pattern of the Jewish religious system to have any part in the church.  Christ removed all classes in the church.  We are completely equals; we are all Christians.

What Paul teaches here does not mean, however, that women have the same leadership roles as men in the family and in the church.  Just as there are different roles between equals in the Trinity, so there are different roles between men and women. See Ephesians 5:22-24; Titus 3:6

"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."  The Judaizers believed that only the Jews are united to Abraham.  Obedience to the Mosaic law became a second requirement.  Paul said that the way to be united with Abraham was to have the same faith as he had.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, become the seed or the true descendents of Abraham.

This, however, does not mean that all God's promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church as the Amillennialists teach.  There are many promises to Israel that will be fulfilled to Israel as a nation. See Romans 11:11-32

b. How grace enables us to become full sons and heirs of God (4:1-7)

(1) Who we were before God's grace (4:1-3)
"What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world."

Thought Question:  Paul's point is that we need external laws and punishments until we become a Christian and God changes us on the inside: how has your attitude toward doing what is right changed since you became a Christian?

 

 

Once again, as was explained in the comments on 3:26, a child in Paul's time was no different than a slave until he was officially adopted by his father.  The father set the time at which the boy legally became a son with all the rights of a son.  "Under Roman law the year at which a boy grew up was not definitely fixed, but it was always between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.  At a sacred festival in the family called the Liberalia he took off the toga praetexta, which was a toga with a narrow purple band and put on the total virilis, which was a plain toga which adults wore.  He was then conducted by his friends and relations down to the forum and formerly introduced to public life.  It was essentially a religious ceremony.  And once again there was a quite definite day on which the lad attained manhood. . . . When a boy was an infant in the eyes of the law, he might be the owner of a vast property but he could take no legal decision; he was not in control of his life; everything was done and directed for him; and, therefore, for all practical purposes he had no more freedom than if he were a slave; but when he became a man he entered into his full inheritance." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Outside of Christ, there needs to be these types of regulations.  This, says Paul, is the "basic principles of the world" or the ABCs of the world.  We, and other countries as well, have speed limits.  If you drive faster than the speed limit and a law enforcement officer catches you, you will need to pay a fine or you in some way will be penalized.  If, however, we drove in a conscientious way from the heart, we would not need laws and penalties. 

God's law is similar to traffic rules and fines.  You are required to obey or you will be punished.  Children are controlled in this way; they are told what is expected of them and there are usually consequences if they do not follow their parents' or teachers' rules.  God started Israel out under this type of system.  The law was like elementary school for Israel and for those Gentiles who became followers of Judaism.  It served a good purpose like our traffic laws and our rules for children.

 (2) What God's grace did for us. (4:4-5)
"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe God sent Jesus into the world at the specific time that He sent Him?

 

 

Just as the Roman father chose the appropriate time for his child to become a full son, so God the Father chose the perfect time for men and women to become His full sons.  The Son was sent out by His Father at the perfect time.  The Bible does not explain why it was a perfect time, but we can now see some reasons why the world was ripe for the coming of Christ.  From a human perspective, we notice that the world of Jesus' time had one primary culture—Roman; the Western world was under one government—Roman; there was a world-wide peace under Roman rule; the Roman roads made traveling much easier; the Greek language was the language of the world—spread by the conquests of Alexander the Great; and there were Jewish synagogues spread all over the world of that time.  All of this made it possible for the gospel message to spread rapidly.

"God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,"  The Son fully became a man.  He was "born of a woman."  He started out His life exactly as we started our lives—in a mother's womb.  The only difference was that His Father was not Joseph, but God the Father.  He also began life under the requirements of the law that was given to Moses. 

"to redeem those under law,"  Here, in a few words, we have the reason that the Father sent the Son—to redeem us from the "law."  Once again, "redeem" speaks of someone paying a price to free another from being in a state of slavery.  All of the world was in slavery and the Jews, in particular, were slaves of the Old Testament law.  But, there is a sense in which we were all under the law for we all have fallen short of God's lawful requirements.  The Ten Commandments represents a law that applies to all of us.  Jesus came to rescue us from our hopeless slavery to the law's demands.

"that we might receive the full rights of sons."  Just as a child in Rome went from being like a slave to being a full son in the ceremony described above, so Jesus made it possible for us to go from slaves to the law to becoming full sons of God with all the rights and privileges of that position.

The Judaizers were very opposed to what Paul says here.  They did not want the Galatian Christians to have this full sonship without first fulfilling the requirements of the Judaic law.  As legalists do, they wanted to have control of these Galatian Christians so they could dictate to them what they could and could not do.  Paul, though, says here that these Galatian Christians, because of what Jesus had done for them, were full and free sons and were no longer slaves of the law and slaves of these Judaizers.

(3) Who we are now. (4:6-7)
"Because you are 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 a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."

Thought Question:  How does the way you talk to God as a Christian differ from the way you talked to God before you were a Christian?

 

 

Now that we are Christians, who are we?  We have not only become heirs of God's possessions, but we have become heirs of God's divine nature. See II Peter 1:3-4  For, God has given us "the Spirit of his Son."  How do we know this is true?  We know it is true because His Spirit enables us to call out to God as "Abba" or "Papa."  "Abba" was an Aramaic expression of a son's endearment to His Papa.  When we become Christians, God is no longer the One whom we feel is distant, impersonal, and unreal to us.  Through the Holy Spirit in us He becomes our close, warm, and very real Father. See Romans 8:15-17; Matthew 6:9-10

Our relationship with God is made real to us in two primary ways:  First of all there is the objective truth—Jesus died for us on a real cross at a historical place and at a specific time in history.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  But, secondly, His love is also made real to us through the subjective work of the Spirit in our hearts.  "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5) See also Romans 8:26

Notice that it is the Spirit who "calls out" within us.  "The word crying ["calls out"] is, in the Greek text, associated with the word Spirit, so that it is the Spirit who is doing the crying." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."  Notice that Paul, here in these verses, switches from speaking to them as a group to speaking to them individually: "Because you are sons," "you are no longer a slave," "since you are a son," "and "God has made you also an heir."  These words, of course, can be directed to each of us individually.  For "God has made you also an heir." 

When we are "an heir" to someone's fortune, usually it implies that we did not earn it.  We certainly did not earn our position as an "heir" of God.  We received this wonderful new status and position with God totally by grace!  "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:17)

3. Paul's personal appeal to them (4:8-20)
Up to this point, Paul has not urged them to do anything.  Why do you believe he has refrained so far from asking them to take any action?  Certainly, it is because they must first be convinced that what they do needs to be based on faith and not on the law.  Are we as careful about this in the church today?

a. Do not turn back to slavery. (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 principles? 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."

Thought Question:  What do you think are the "weak and miserable principles"?

 

 

"Formerly, when you did not know God,"  The Bible is clear that all men know about God (See Romans 1:18-20), but only those who have come to God through Jesus "know" God personally and intimately.

"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods."  In 4:3, Paul said "We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world."  Here, in 4:8-11, Paul reveals what was part of the slavery that they were under before they became Christians.  The Gentile Christians and possibly some of the Jews had been enslaved to some form of idolatry.  Paul describes what idolatry actually is in I Corinthians:  "Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons."  Idolaters ultimately were enslaved to demons. 

"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 principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?"  Satan does not care what type of slavery we are enslaved by, he just wants us to be in slavery.  The Galatian Christians had been enslaved to idolatry; they were beginning to enter into another form of slavery—Judaist legalism.

He calls this system of law "weak and miserable principles."  "Paul calls these 'rudiments' ["principles"] weak and beggarly ["miserable"] because they have no power to help man in any way.  Luther, commenting on this verse and applying the lesson to his own day, tells us that he had known monks who zealously labored to please God for salvation, but the more they labored the more impatient, miserable, uncertain and fearful they became.  And he adds, 'People who prefer the law to the gospel are like Aesop's dog who let go of the meat to snatch the shadow in the water. . .  The law is weak and poor, the sinner is weak and poor: two feeble beggars trying to help each other.  They cannot do it.  They only wear each other out.'" "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."  The "weak and miserable principles" are any plan that promises life, but is incapable of giving life.  There are many of these types of plans out there in our day.

"But now that you know God—or rather are known by God"  Here we have two sides of a relationship with God.  Have we come to "know God"?  Yes we have come to "know God," but it is only because He sought to know us.  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)  He knew us and loved us before we came to "know" Him. See Romans 8:28-20  He is the One who sought out the relationship and made it possible for us to "know" Him.

"You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!"  God instructed Israel in the system of law that He gave them, the requirement that they observe "special days and months and seasons and years."  Israel was punished 70 years in captivity for not observing 70 Sabbatical years: "He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah." (2 Chronicles 36:20-21) See Also Jeremiah 25:11; Daniel 9:1-2  They were to practice weekly Sabbaths, there were festivals at specific times of the year, specific months-the first and the seventh,  plus special years—Sabbatical years and the year of Jubilee.  But all of the special times symbolically pointed to Jesus Christ and what He would do to restore man's relationship with God.  When He came, the symbolic practices were completely replaced with what the symbols pointed to.  These Galatian Christians were returning to the symbolic practices and abandoning the reality of what Jesus had fully accomplished for them.  In fact, they were following the Judaizers' lead and were seeking to gain merit from observing these special times.

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were in danger of making the same mistake. See Hebrews 1:1-3, 2:1-4, 3:1-6, 6:1-3, 8:1-9:15, 10:1-18  Paul is clear in the book of Colossians that this system of special times is no longer a requirement for Christians:  "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2:13-17)

"I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you."  At this point Paul is not certain as to how these Galatian Christians are going to respond to his letter. See also 4:16,20, 3:4  He was not afraid for himself, but for them: "I fear for you."  In over 40 years of ministry, I have reached out to and ministered to many.  Some have persevered and grown; others have turned away.  This concern of Paul is very appropriate.

b. Turn back to the joyful fellowship that we once shared (4:12-20)

(1) Remember how you joyfully received me even though I was physically contemptible to you. (4:12-16)
"I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 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. What has happened to all your joy? 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?"

Thought Question #1:  Do you still have the same joy you once had as a new Christian? (How has it changed?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  If your answer was "No," is it because your Christian life has become works-based rather than based on God's grace?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

(a) He urges them to become like him as he once became like them. (4:12)
"I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you."

Paul shifts here from doctrinal teaching to a deeply heartfelt appeal to these Galatian Christians.  In I Corinthians 9, Paul describes how he reached out to people with the gospel message:  "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) 

Paul had become like a Gentile to reach the Gentiles with the gospel.  He had become like them, but, ironically, they were becoming like him before he was a Christian and were moving toward his pharisaic ways.  He pleads with them to be as he is as a Christian and not as he was as a Pharisee.  He urges them to leave Judaism as he had left it.

 "You have done me no wrong."  This part of verse 12 appears to be the introduction to the verses that follow.  Paul begins in the next verses to describe how they had received him when he first came to them.  At that time, they received him well and did him "no wrong."

Another possible interpretation of the words "you have done me no wrong" is that Paul was not personally harmed by what they had done in turning away from the gospel by allowing themselves to be allured into a system of Judaist law.  Paul did not take it personally, but he was only concerned for them.  Whatever the interpretation, Paul wanted them to know that this letter was not written in bitterness, but it was written out of a  genuine concern for them.

(b) They had received him before even though he was suffering from an illness that was socially repulsive to them. (4:13-16)
"As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 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. What has happened to all your joy? 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?"

"As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn."  What was this "illness"?  We can only guess, for Paul does not tell us here and Luke does not tell us what it was in the book of Acts.  Also, we are not told what the "thorn in the flesh" was.  "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." (2 Corinthians 12:7)  The "illness" could have been malaria.  It could have been eye trouble due to the stoning he received while in the region:  "Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe." (Acts 14:19-20) See also 6:11  But, because we are not told specifically what his "illness" was, we can only speculate about it.

"it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you."  Though the book of Acts speaks of Paul being forced to go from one city to another because persecution and even stoning required him to move on (see Acts 13:50, 14:5-6), there is no mention in the book of Acts of Paul going to their region because of an "illness."  Whatever the "illness" is that Paul is talking about here, we can be sure that the Galatian Christians welcomed him in spite of it.

"Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn."  I have always admired those who work in the emergency wards of hospitals and those who work in nursing homes.  They are those who deal with people who are often helpless and they need to perform tasks that are repulsive to most.  Paul's illness was a repulsive one, yet these Galatian Christians did not respond in repulsion to Paul, but instead they welcomed him.

"Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself."  In Acts 14:8-18, Luke describes a miraculous healing of a crippled man in Lystra performed by God through Paul.  The people of Lystra wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas as two gods.  Paul and Barnabas refused this worship, proclaiming that they were just men.  This may be what Paul is referring to here: "you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself." See also Acts 1:8

"What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."  They had been so receptive to Paul and were so compassionate toward him that they would have done anything to help, even tearing out their eyes to help him.  We may, here, have a clue to the nature of his "illness."  He may not have been completely healed when he was blinded by the glory of Christ on the road to Damascus. See Acts 9:1-19  Or, the stoning recorded in Acts 14:9-12 may have resulted in his face being badly wounded to the point of a loss of eyesight.  Another possibility is that he may have had a condition called ophthalmia which had repulsive symptoms and, according to Wuest, was prevalent in the region that Paul had traveled through to get to Galatia.

"What has happened to all your joy?"  Paul had been a great blessing to them; they, in turn, desired to bless him as he had blessed them.  What "happened to" their "joy" about him and the message he brought to them at the beginning?  The obvious answer is that the Judaizers had taken it away from them.  Paul desired that their joyful attitude toward him and his message would return to them. 

"Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"  Paul knows that he is strongly correcting them and that no one likes to be strongly corrected.  He wants them to know that he is not correcting them as their enemy, but as their friend.  He was "speaking the truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15)  Should they be receptive to the Judaizers who told them lies and wanted to enslave them or should they be receptive to Paul who told them the truth and wanted to free them?  "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (Proverbs 27:5-6)  "He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue." (Proverbs 28:23)

(2) Do not allow these people to convince you that I am your enemy (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 be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and 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, 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!"

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the difference between good zeal and bad zeal?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that Paul was wrong is saying that he was "perplexed" about them?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

These verses describe those today who come to our doors in pairs.  They also "are zealous to win" us "over, but for no good."  Their goal also is to "alienate" us from the church we now attend so that we will "be zealous for them."  In a similar way to a man courting someone else's wife, these Judaizers were zealously courting these Galatian Christians.

The Judaizers' goal was also to "alienate" these Galatian Christians from the benefits of the gospel, for then they would be dependent on the Judaizers to get right with God.  "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Galatians 5:4) 

"It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you."  As Paul says here, not all zeal is good zeal.  We see in the world of today that there are very zealous terrorists.  Their zeal is not good zeal.  Nor was the zeal of the Judaizers good zeal.

"and to be so always and not just when I am with you."  These words are a gentle rebuke to the Galatian Christians for believing and practicing Paul's teachings on God's grace while he was with them, but then allowing themselves to be influenced away from his teaching by these false teachers when he was away from them.  They had been zealous at one time in the right way; now, they were beginning to be zealous in the wrong direction.  "You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." (Galatians 4:10-11)

"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,"  Christian parents know the pain Paul was experiencing.  If their son or daughter has wandered from the truth after first believing, they once again must pray and seek to win their child back to the Lord.  In Acts 13 and 14 is a description of all Paul went through to win them to Christ.  Now, because they have allowed themselves to be seduced away from the gospel, he must win them over once again. See I Corinthians 4:15; I Thessalonians 2:7-12; Philemon 10

These verses show that these Galatians were beginning to wander from the truth; they were, nevertheless, born again Christians.  We need also to be concerned that baby Christians today can be won over by false teachers of all types. See II Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15; I John 2:18-26, 4:1-6

"how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"  Paul wished he could be with them.  He felt that if he was with them that his voice would have more impact on them than written words.  If he had been with them, though, and spoke these words rather than having written to them, we would not have this letter to the Galatians.

What is meant by "change my tone"?  It may mean that if he were with them, he would be better able to correct them gently than in a letter.

"because I am perplexed about you!"  Paul felt that if he were with them, he would be able to better tell by their response to him both how much they had been influenced by the Judaizers and how they were responding to his words.  As a result of his not being with them, he was "perplexed" in that he was not sure how best to persuade them to turn from this false message they were receiving.  "The words 'stand in doubt' ["perplexed"] are from aporeo.  The word finds its base in poros, a transit, a ford, a way, revenue, resource, and has the Greek letter alpha prefixed which negates the meaning of the word, and thus it comes to mean, 'to be without a way or path, not to know which way to turn, to be without resources, to be in straits, to be in perplexity. . .' He says in effect, 'I am puzzled how to deal with you, how to find an entrance into your hearts.'" "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

If Paul had been with them, he may have discovered that he did not need to be as strong with them as he has been in this letter.  In other words, it was difficult for Paul to be so sharp with them, but not being with them, he did not how else to handle the threat of the Judaizers.

4. Paul's biblical appeal to them that they would choose to live by grace
 and not by the lawAbraham's two sons teach us about law and grace
 (4:21-31)

a. Abraham's two sons—one by the flesh and one by promise (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 in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise."

Thought Question:  What do you believe that Abraham's two sons had to do with the Judaizers' threat to the early church?

 

 

The Judaizers took pride in being descendents of Abraham and in being followers of the Mosaic law.  Paul points out, though, that Abraham had two sons.  These two sons were born of different mothers who were quite different from each other.  One son, Ishmael, was born to Hagar who was a "slave woman" and the other son, Isaac, was born to Sarah who was a "free woman." 

"His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise."  The Judaizers and the Galatian Christians would understand that there was a complete difference between being a descendant of Abraham and from being a descendant of Ishmael.  The difference is that Isaac was the child through whom God's promise was fulfilled.  Isaac also was miraculously born to Sarah when she was way beyond child-bearing age.  Abraham was 100 years old. See Genesis 21:5  Sarah was 90 years old. See Genesis 17:17, 18:11  On the other hand, Ishmael was born to Abraham's slave Hagar because Abraham and Sarah got impatient with God and took matters into their own hands and came up with their own way for Abraham to have a son. See Genesis 16

Who would the Judaizers like to be, descendants of Ishmael or Isaac?  Their obvious choice is that they wanted to be descendants of Isaac.  Well, Isaac's birth came about as a supernatural fulfillment of God's promise and not as a result of the efforts of men. See Genesis 12:1-4, 21:1-7  The new births of the Gentile Christians also were supernatural births as a fulfillment of God's promise. See John 3:1-8; Titus 3:5

And so, Paul is contrasting the Judaizers who are seeking to be Abraham's descendants by their own efforts with those who are seeking to be Abraham's descendants by trusting in God's promise, thereby receiving a miraculous birth.  Who were the Judaizers like?  They are not like Isaac's descendants but like Ishmael's descendants; for they were seeking to be saved through their own efforts, just as Ishmael was born as a result of the misdirected plans of humans and not as a result of God's directions.

b. Two mothers – one a slave and one free (4:24-27)
"These things may be taken figuratively, for 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, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.'"

Thought Question:  Now, what do you believe Abraham's two sons had to do with the Judaizers' threat to the early church?

 

 

"These things may be taken figuratively,"  Years ago, I heard a Scottish pastor in Oakland, California, give a message on the parable of the Good Samaritan.  At first, I thought, "How did he get all of that from the parable?"  The reason that he got so much out of it is that he was very creative in his interpretation.  He used an allegorical method of interpretation.  This method can result in spiritual interpretations that go beyond the intended meaning of Scripture.  But, there are times when it is appropriate.  Paul says here that what happened in the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, and Ishmael could be taken figuratively.

He is not saying that the events were not actual historical events, but that there also is a figurative meaning that can be gained from the historical accounts of their lives.  Another way of putting this is that these historical events can be used as analogy or as an illustration to get a point across.

We use various figures of speech to explain something more colorfully.  In fact, "colorfully" is a figure of speech.  Another example is he had bulldog-type tenacity.  Paul uses the lives of Sarah and Hagar in this figurative way to help him to more effectively make his point that his teaching in this book is God's truth.

It is important to comment that there have been those in the past and in the present who look for hidden spiritual meanings in Scripture where they actually are not hidden spiritual meanings intended by God.  Sometimes, we are told in other passages of Scripture where there were spiritual meanings intended by God.  For example, Jesus said that He is the "true bread" of God and that the manna in the wilderness pointed to Him. See John 6:25-59

"for 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."  Hagar was a slave and she can be used to represent the bondage that the law produces in all those who choose to live by it.  The law (Hagar) was given at Mount Sinai. See Exodus 19:1-6, 20:1-7; Deuteronomy 5:1-22  Jerusalem in Paul's time was the central city where the law was to be obeyed.  The temple was there with all of the temple sacrifices; and the festivals were to be practiced there.  Those who were of the law of Mount Sinai practiced in the "city of Jerusalem" of that time.  They were in bondage like Hagar, for they were required to obey the law.  Since they were unable to obey the law fully, it put them in bondage.  The Pharisees and Scribes added to the law their own pages and pages of legalistic requirements.

"But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: 'Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.'"

"But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother."  We who are Christians have been born into a heavenly citizenship.  "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)  Now, we do not center our relationship with God around the old Jerusalem, but around the heavenly Jerusalem.  "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24) See also Hebrews 4:14-16, 6:19-20

"But the Jerusalem that is above is free,"  In contrast with our previous life enslaved to sin and the law, we are now "free."  How are we free?  We are free from condemnation.  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. . . " (Romans 8:1)  We are now freely able to obey God's law:  "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25)  "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6)

"For it is written: 'Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.'"  This verse is a quote from Isaiah 54:1.  It is the verse that immediately follows Isaiah 53—the prediction of the suffering Jesus Christ who died in our place.  Isaiah 54:1 predicts that Israel would not continue to be barren and without the child, but the child promised to them would be born—the anointed One who would be their Savior.  "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

The promise that Sarah would have a child was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac.  The barren woman gave birth to a child.  The ultimate fulfillment of the promise is that barren Israel gave birth to the promised Messiah Jesus Christ.  Through faith, we who have put our trust in him have become children of the free woman Sarah.  We are those who now center our relationship with God on the Jerusalem that is above.

c. You are of Sarah, the free woman and are the children of promise; so do not live as if you are of Hagar the slave woman and the children of the flesh. (4:28-31)
"Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the 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, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman."

Thought Question:  What do we learn from these verses about what will always occur between those who live by law and those who live under grace?

 

 

"The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, 'Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.' The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, 'Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.' Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba." (Genesis 21:8-14)  "Since Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac (cf. Gen.16:16 with 21:5), he must have been a lad of about seventeen at the time this incident occurred." "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."

It became clear to Sarah that Ishmael and his mother Hagar were going to create a problem for her son Isaac.  See Genesis 16:4-16, 17:18, 20  God, who promised an inheritance through Isaac, directed Abraham to remove Hagar from his home.  God promised, though, that He would take care of her and make her descendents into a nation. See God's protection of them in Genesis 21:15-21

Just as there was conflict between Hagar the slave woman and Sarah the free woman, so there will always be conflict between legalists who live under a system of law and those who live under grace.  The legalists resent that we do not submit to their system of regulations.  Christians, though, must cast legalism out of the church.  "Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman."  We, as Christians, are free from the law's enslavement and should live in this new freedom.  Law and grace cannot be mixed.  We are under the new system of grace through Jesus Christ.

PAUL URGES THEM TO RETURN TO THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE. (5:1-26) (To once again live by faith in God's grace and by depending on the Spirit) (5:1-26)
In chapter five we find Paul's instructions on how to live by faith in God's grace.

1. Do not return to the yoke of slavery. (5:1-4)
"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. 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 law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean by "you have fallen away from God's grace"? (Does he mean that they had lost their salvation?)

 

 

In the previous chapters, Paul gave explanations why the law can no longer be a part of Christianity.  In the next two chapters, Paul exhorts us to live by grace and not by law.

a. Do not return to the yoke of slavery. (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."

Years ago, I was an enlisted man in the U. S. Navy.  For 4 years I operated under the law of the Navy.  I was required, under the law of the Navy, to salute officers.  But in 1963, I completed my obligation with the Navy and I am no longer required to salute officers.  I am completely free from the law of the Navy.  Although the nations of Israel were for many years under the law of Moses, Jewish and Gentile believers are no longer under the Mosaic law. See Romans 7:1-4, 6:14  Just as I am completely removed from the law of the Navy, so we who are Christians are completely removed from the law of Moses.  The law of the Navy had a purpose for a period of time in my life; so also the law of Moses had a purpose for a time in God's plans. See Galatians 3:24-25

The law of Moses was not meant by God to lead to legalism.  It was meant to show us our desperate need for God's grace and to serve as a temporary external control on our sinfulness.  But, the Jews turned it into a way that human beings could earn acceptance with God though our own efforts by seeking to be righteous.  In God's eyes, they were complete failures; even though in their own eyes they had become more righteous than the lowly Gentiles. See Romans 2:17-20  The Judaizers were using the law in this way, and they were inviting the Christians at Galatia to become part of their system of self-righteousness.  The system of grace is the very opposite of this system.  In grace, we acknowledge our total inability to do anything of any value at all except in Christ's strength.  In grace, the motivation comes from God's love expressed at the cross and from confidence in the life of God within us.  Legalism, on the other hand, is pride-based and is totally self-reliant.  It can easily be seen that they are complete opposites.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."  Romans 7:1-8:4 describes in detail this freedom.  Paul found that when he tried to obey the law, he could not do what it said.  It actually resulted in him wanting to sin more.  Finally, he cried out: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  Then, he realized that Jesus Christ could set him free:  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)  "Christ set us free" from the "the law of sin and death." See also Romans 6:18

Freedom is often seen as freedom to do whatever we want to do; as the line in a once popular song goes: "It's my life and I do what I want."  But true freedom is desiring to become and becoming what God designed us to be and do.

"Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  The Galatian Gentile Christian had previously been enslaved to idolatry, should they now go from enslavement to idols to enslavement to Judaist legalism?  Jesus Christ died to set us free.  We need to "stand firm" in our freedom in Christ and not allow religious legalists to imprison us in their form of slavery.

The Africans that became slaves in our country were freed from their enslavement after the Civil War.  Sadly, many of them continued to feel like slaves after they were freed from slavery.  We have been freed; we should not allow ourselves to continue in slavery or return to slavery now that we have been freed. See Isaiah 61:1; Ephesians 6:10-11; Acts 15:10; Matthew 11:28-30; John 8:31-32, 36; II Corinthians 3:17

John Lawrence asks this question: "How is your service for the Lord?  Is it a drudgery, and has it been reduced to a duty that you feel must be performed?  Do you feel that you must just go through the actions, but your heart is not in it?  Beloved, if this is your state, something is drastically wrong, and nothing you are doing is pleasing to the Lord nor accepted by Him. . . . You have ceased to serve on a grace basis and have reduced service to a duty that must be performed for a tyrant." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"
b. For then Christ will be of no help to us (5:2)
"Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all."

Circumcision was sign given by God to Moses that the Israelites were God's nation.  It was a sign of God's covenant with Israel that we now call the Abrahamic covenant. See Genesis 17

"Christ will be of no value to you at all."  If we choose some form of self-effort to get right with God, it means that we are not trusting in Christ to be right with God.  The Jews had done that and saw Jesus as of "no value" to them "at all."  "But Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone.'" (Romans 9:31-32)  "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." (Romans 10:2-3) See also Romans 1:16

"Paul knew that it was contradictory to receive Christ thereby acknowledging you cannot save yourself, and then turn around and be circumcised, acknowledging that you can help save yourself.  You cannot mix the two.  The choice must be made between a religion of law and a religion of grace." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."  We are either saved by what Christ did for us or by what we do for God.  The Bible is clear; no one is saved by what they do for God. See Galatians 6:12

If we are traveling to another part of the country, we can choose to go by plane or by car.  If we choose to go by car, the plane is of no value to us at all.  This illustration is not a perfect one, though, for we can get to our destination by trusting in two different means.  The contrast between trusting in a plane to get us from the West Coast to Hawaii or trusting in our swimming to get us there is closer to what Paul is saying here.  Only one way of these two means can be trusted to get us there.  So, trusting in Christ is the only way that we can be saved.

c. If you choose circumcision, you will need to obey the whole law. (5:3)
"Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law."

They needed to obey the whole law—make all the sacrifices, practice all the Jewish ceremonies, and obey the many civil and religious directions given in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.  "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10)  There is a Plan A which requires one to fully obey every aspect of the Mosaic law.  If one disobeys any part of it, he becomes a law-breaker.  Plan B is the system of grace predicted in the sacrifices in the Mosaic law.  We are either under law or under grace.  As Christians, Paul says we are no longer under law but under grace.

d. Because no one can obey the whole law, those who seek to obey the law have separated themselves from Christ and have fallen from grace. (5:4)
"You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."

Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a life of depending on His grace—depending on His forgiveness because of what He did on the cross and depending on His life in us so that we are able to be obedient to Him.  When we start seeking to depend on our own ability to obey Him, we are no longer living in dependence on Him and have "alienated" ourselves from all that comes to us from His grace.  We have "fallen away from grace."  It does not mean that someone can lose their salvation, but it does mean that a Christian can cease to enjoy the benefits of his or her relationship with God that can only come to us through God's grace.

If we could do it ourselves, there would then have been no need for Jesus to die for us and there would be no need for God's Spirit to come to us and indwell us.  But we cannot do it ourselves and we are desperately in need of God's grace.  Now that we have God's grace, why should we ever reject that grace and go back to the futile hopelessness of relying on our own ability to please God?

In Romans 7:14-25, Paul describes a time when he fully sought to obey the law with his own best efforts, but he ends up each time not doing what he wants to do but what he hates to do.  If this describes Paul as a Christian, it also describes his experience of falling from a grace walk with Christ.  Throughout these verses, the word "I" and other versions of it stand out.  "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)  He is trying to obey the Lord in the strength of Paul.  He is rescued when he remembers that the Christian life is lived in dependence on God and His grace through Jesus Christ.  "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:25)  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)

2. But stand firm in your freedom in God's grace (5:5-6)
In these verses, Paul shows how God grace enables us to do what we are unable to do depending on our own resources.  Operating under the law results in futility and condemnation; God's grace, on the other hand, makes God's limitless resources through God's Spirit available to us so that God's purposes can be fulfilled through us.
"But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit 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."

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that give you hope?

 

 

a. Stand firm in your freedom in God's grace by faith. (5:5a) (our part)
"But by faith"

We receive God's grace by putting our total reliance on God for Him to provide what we need both to be right with Him and to be like Him in our lives.  Also, as we continue in this verse, we will see that we are to put our complete trust in God that He will fully complete the job in us that He has started until we are completely righteous.  ". . . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)  "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)

b. Stand firm in your freedom in God's grace through the enabling of God's Spirit. (God's part) (5:5b)
"we eagerly await through the Spirit"

God's Spirit in us gives us God's ability to ultimately become like Him in character.  We can have hope because the One who is in us is fully able to complete the job of transforming us into Christ's likeness.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," (Ephesians 3:20)

c. Stand firm in your freedom in God's grace in hope of future righteousness. (5:5c)
"the righteousness for which we hope."

Though we all fall short of God's glory in so many ways, God's Spirit in us is the reason that we can "hope."  He will both enable us now to overcome our sin; ultimately, He will fully deliver us from all sin when Christ returns.

d. Standing firm in your freedom in God's grace will result in love (5:6)
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

"Circumcision" had no power and no ability to provide anything internally in the lives of the Galatian Christians.  But their faith in God's grace provided them with God's Spirit, and God's Spirit enabled them to "love."  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love. . . ." (Galatians 5:22)  We can tell whether or not we are depending on our own abilities or in God; for when we are depending on God's Spirit, we will be enabled to "love."  "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1Timothy 1:5) See I Corinthians 13

3. Resist the intruders who are seeking to persuade you to turn away from the truth. (5:7-12)

a. They are like yeast and they have spread their lies throughout the church. (5:7-9)
"You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept 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.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that legalism spreads throughout the church like yeast spreading quickly throughout a batch of dough?

 

 

Paul uses the picture of someone running a race well and another runner cutting in front of him and purposely slowing him down.  The Galatian Christians had been doing very well in their young Christian lives.  They had been depending entirely on God's grace for living and growing in their Christian walk.  Then, someone "cut in on" them and "kept" them from continuing to progress as Christians. See I Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1

The "who" in "who cut in on you" is singular.  "Paul may be using the singular 'who' in a collective sense to refer to the group of Judaizers, or he may be using it with reference to a particular Judaizer, perhaps one Paul suspected of trouble (cf. 6:17)." "Galatians by Ernest Campbell.  Copyright 1981 by Canyonview Press."

Whether it is the whole group of Judaizers that Paul is referring to or one individual, Paul's picture of a runner who cuts someone off vividly describes what Paul wants to communicate to the Galatian Christians.  They had probably seen a foot race where someone had shown poor sportsmanship by purposely forcing a runner to slow down by cutting him off.  It also happens in bicycle racing and it happens in automobile racing.  It often results in the one who is cut off becoming very angry and upset after the race at the one who prevented him or her from fully running his or her best race.  Legalists have this effect on Christians.  They present what they say as a more biblical form of Christianity that really is not Christianity at all.  If we are persuaded by them, our walk with the Lord by depending on His grace gets derailed.  It is replaced with an arrogant form of Christianity where we begin to feel superior to other Christians who are not as spiritual as we are.  When this happens to us, someone has cut us off and we are no longer running the race that we can run only by depending on God's grace.

"That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you."  This is a powerful correction.  Paul states that this new direction that they have begun to move toward was not given to them by God.  God's Spirit does not direct us to become legalists.  So where, then, does this direction come from; which spirit directs us to get off track?  The Bible is clear; it is Satan's spirit and his demons that get us off track.  "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." (I Timothy 4:1)  We must always be careful that we are not allowing ourselves to be persuaded by another spirit rather than by God's Spirit.   "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him." (1 John 2:27) See I John 2:18-27

"A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough."  The Judaizers were familiar with the symbolism of "yeast."  During the Jewish feast of Unleavened Bread that took place in April, Jews were to remove all "leaven" or "yeast" from their homes.  The feast started with the Passover meal and was seven days long.  The removing of "yeast" from the home symbolized removing sins from their lives. 

"Yeast" put into bread quickly spreads throughout the bread.  So "yeast" spreading throughout bread symbolized sin and evil spreading rapidly throughout the world and throughout the church.  Jesus used "yeast" to describe the false teaching of the Pharisees rapidly spreading among the Jewish people. See Matthew 6:6-12  Paul used "yeast" to describe sin rapidly spreading throughout the church at Corinth.  See I Corinthians 5:1-8

Paul warns them that if they do not take action to stop the legalistic teaching of the Judaizers, their teaching will rapidly spread throughout their church and beyond.  Today, we might use the spread of cancer to get this point across.  The cancer of false teaching must be cut out before it spreads throughout the church.

b. But, Paul is confident in the Lord that they will resist these lies and respond to the truth. (5:10a)
"I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view."

 

 

Thought Question:  Try to think of a time when you warned someone about a false teaching and they listened to you and did not get involved in the false system.

 

 

We do not know how these Galatian Christians responded to the book of Galatians, but we do have here Paul's confidence that they would respond appropriately to the strong warnings found in this book and fully reject the legalistic Judaizers.  He is confident that, in the end, they would be able to discern that what Paul was teaching was coming from God's Spirit and what the Judaizers taught was coming from Satan.

c. And Paul is confident that the intruders will be penalized. (5:10b)
"The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be."

Thought Question:  Paul is confident that the false teachers will receive "the penalty"; when have you seen those teaching error receive a "penalty"?

 

 

There may have been one Judaizer who was the primary leader of this movement that Paul is referring to here.  Paul makes it clear that the consequences of seeking to lead God's church astray will be severe.  "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:6) See Galatians 1:7-8; II Timothy 3:8-10

d. Put Paul was not preaching, as the Judaizers were, that it was necessary to be circumcised: if he had been, he would not have been persecuted by the Judaizers and the cross would not have been offensive to them. (5:11)
"Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that explaining the gospel to people is offensive to some?

 

 

In Acts 16:1-3, we are given the following account of something that occurred during his time with the Galatian Christians.  "He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek."  Because Paul had Timothy circumcised, the Judaizers may have accused Paul of being inconsistent—he had Timothy circumcised and yet he was against "circumcision."  As I am writing these words our country nears the election that will take place in November of 2010.  The opponents are playing "gotcha" politics with each other.  Yesterday, I heard that one side had a tape of one of their opponents saying she believed in witchcraft.  This tape will undoubtedly be repeated over and over again before the election takes place.  Paul's Jewish opponents in Galatia appeared to have found in the "circumcision" of Timothy, evidence that Paul was contradicting himself.

What was Paul's response to this charge?  "If I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?"  Paul later ended up in jail because he did not require the Gentiles to be circumcised.  When Paul later arrived in Jerusalem, some praised God and others were angry that he did not require Gentiles to be circumcised.  "When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.'" (Acts 21:20-21)  Later, he was arrested and put in jail because he did not require Gentile believers to be circumcised and did not require them to submit to the Jewish religious system.  All he needed to do was to agree that he would teach that Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised and he would probably have not been arrested and jailed.  It was Jews from the areas outside of Jerusalem that were the most upset at him. See Acts 21:27-36  Yet, Paul did not back down.  He would not yield and require that circumcision be required of Gentiles.  He believed the truth that the cross was sufficient for our salvation; we do not need to be circumcised, become Jewish, and submit to the Jewish legalistic system to be saved.  Are we not grateful for Paul's courage at that time that made it possible for the gospel message to continue uncorrupted in the very earliest stages of the worldwide church? See I Corinthians 7:17-20

"In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished."  The "offense" (skandalon) of the cross can also be translated "stumbling block" "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block [skandalon] to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles," (1 Corinthians 1:23)  The Jews found the free gift of salvation through belief in the death of Christ for our sins a "stumbling stone." (skandalon) See Romans 9:30-10:4  Why was the gospel a skandalon to them? They believed that they were righteous because they were born Jews and lived according to the Jewish religious requirements and that the Gentiles who were outside of Judaism were not righteous.  They thought they were earning their salvation.  On the other hand, the gospel taught that we become righteous as a gift from God received by faith.  If Paul had yielded to the Jews and to what they demanded, the cross would no longer have been the way to salvation, but a works—righteousness would have been required.  "The cross" would have "been abolished."  Jesus' "death would have no more significance than the death of any other man." "Galatians by Ernest Campbell.  Copyright 1981 by Canyonview Press.  "for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”" (Galatians 2:21) 

e. If these intruders are so eager to earn their salvation by cutting their flesh, why don't they go all the way and castrate themselves? (as pagan priests did to earn favor with their gods) (5:12)
"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!"

Thought Question:  Paul is very strong and emotional here; why are his words acceptable and appropriate?

 

 

Paul uses similar strong language in Philippians 3:2:  "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh."  There were pagan priests in Paul's time who did seek to get right with their gods by subjecting themselves to castration.  Paul says that if these Judaizers believed that we get right with God by cutting away our flesh, why don't they choose to get even more right with God by undergoing castration?  He is making it very clear that this is not a correct direction to go in seeking to get right with God.

At this point, we might wonder why God did ordain the practice of circumcising male Jews.  It was not meant to be a way to get right with God, but a sign that one was a member of God's nation.  If individual Jews did not circumcise their heart by seeking him by faith, the outward sign meant nothing.  "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)  This was also taught in the Old Testament: "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." (Deuteronomy 30:6)

4. But do not consider your freedom as a license that allows you to sin.
 (5:13-15)
True freedom is not freedom to do anything we want to do, but it is the freedom to become the person that God created and designed us to be, and to do it from the heart.  Paul is concerned that they might think that because they are no longer under the external restraints of the law, they might believe that they are now free to sin.  "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1)  If we removed all traffic laws, policemen, and the consequences of disobeying these laws, what would happen on our roads?  Although the Christian is free from the outward law, he now has a new inward desire and power that will enable him to be obedient to God.
a. God did not call you to indulge your fleshly passion, but to serve one another (5:13-14)
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Thought Question:  What, do you believe, is true freedom?

 

 

Jerry Bridges in his book Transforming Grace gives an illustration of what it is like to live by grace.  He describes it as a driving on a road through a swamp where if you go too far to the right or to the left you leave the road and end up in the swamp.  The swamp on the right of the road of grace is legalism and the swamp on the left of the road of grace is license to sin.  Paul has been writing in most of his book so far about the dangers of legalism.  In these verses, he warns us about going to the opposite extreme into a license to sin.  Jude and Peter also warn about thinking that grace means a license to sin.  "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)  "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16) 

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature;"  Christian freedom is not a freedom to sin, but a freedom from sin's enslaving hold on us.  It is a freedom not to sin.  Later in this chapter, Paul describes "the acts of the sinful nature." (5:19) See Galatians 5:19-21  The Christian is to walk in the Spirit and not to not controlled by his flesh. See Galatians 5:22-23  We are no long under the law's control because we are now able to be controlled from within by the Holy Spirit.

"rather, serve one another in love."  When Jesus washed His disciples" feet, He pictured how the church is to treat each other.  We in the church are to "serve one another in love."  The goal of the world is to have others serve us, but Jesus says that we in the church are to "serve" each other.  "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Matthew 20:25-28)

Paul summarizes the road of grace in verse 14: "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  The first fruit of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22-23 is "love."  If we truly "love" someone we will automatically not do to them what the Ten Commandments prohibit.  We will honor out parents if we love them.  We will not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet when we are controlled by love for that particular person.  Also, our love for God will result in us not breaking the first four of the Ten Commandments.  The life controlled by God's grace will enable us to fulfill what God law requires; whereas, the law without the gracious enabling of the Holy Spirit will lead only to condemnation as we fail again and again to obey God's requirements.  If we live a life of love, there will not be a need for laws that say, for example, do not slander your fellow church member.  You do not slander those you genuinely care for.

"Love your neighbor as yourself." is actually in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18.  We are to "serve one another" by loving each other in the way we would like to be loved by others.  During the late 1960s, people went to a district in San Francisco called Haight-Ashbury.  They went there looking for love.  But if those who went there only went there looking to be loved and none of them went there to love, they would not find love there.  Here, Paul gives what we who are Christians are able to do: we are able through God's Spirit in us, to love others just as we love ourselves.  This is what God's grace should lead to—the type of empathetic love that loves others in the same way we already empathetically love ourselves.  "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)  "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

There is a popular Christian teaching that says that one of the commands in the "golden rule" is that we are commanded to love ourselves.  That is not what is taught here.  It is assumed that we already love ourselves; we are now to love others as we already love ourselves.  "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church . . . " (Ephesians 5:28-29)

b. On the other hand, when we choose to indulge our fleshly desires, we will devour one another. (5:15)
"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Christians can end up "biting and devouring each other"?

 

 

What is described here has been called "Christian cannibalism."  Christians who should be doing only that which builds up each other (see Ephesians 4:29), do that which destroys each other.  Legalism does result in "Christian cannibalism."  "This is what legalism does.  It breeds self-righteousness and a critical spirit.  It makes everybody wrong but you and me and oftentimes I wonder about you.  In a legalistic system sooner or later you will furnish the roast for the occasion [you will be the one that is devoured].  When that time comes if you happen to be a strong personality you will split the church.  Think it over!" "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"

License also results in "Christian cannibalism."  The opposite of love is selfishness—seeking only after what we want for ourselves.  Selfish expectations result in anger against all who do not meet our expectations. "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)  "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (James 4:1-3)  "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions." (Galatians 5:19-20)  We seek what we want for ourselves no matter who it hurts.  As a pack of coyotes will tear each other up over a piece of meat, so selfishness impassions us to devour one another.  This is not one of the "one anothers" that Christians are encouraged to practice.  It appears that Paul knew what was occurring between Christians in Galatia from somebody who had witnessed what was taking place there.  He had heard that there were Christians in Galatia who were "devouring each other" rather than building up each other.  Of course, this same type of unchristian behavior is still occurring in too many churches.  Paul will give the Christian response to this ugly behavior in Galatians 6:1-4.  We will see there that we are not to do that which will be destructive but that which will edify.

5. So, live the Spirit and not by the flesh. (5:16-18)
These verses give us clear directions on what we can do so that we will not be controlled by our fleshly desires.  "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."

Thought Question:  Make a list of what these verses teach us about how to live the Christian life?

 

 

a. Life in the Spirit will set us free from the control of the flesh. (5:16)
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh]." 

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5)  As Christians, we have two completely different sources of desires that can dominate and control our life—they lead us in two completely different directions.  We can be controlled by the desires that come from our flesh, or we can be controlled by the desires that come from God's Spirit which indwells us.  Paul states here that victory over our "sinful nature" does not come from the law but from reliance on God's Spirit.

Paul promises here that if we "live by the Spirit" we "will not" be controlled by the cravings of our flesh.  Paul will describe later some of the ugly directions these cravings of the flesh will take us.  Paul summed it up in Romans 7:24:  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"  The solution is living or walking by the Spirit.  "In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:4) 

"live by the Spirit"  Living or walking by "the Spirit" does not happen automatically.  We must continually choose against sin and choose to depend on the Spirit so that we can live a life empowered by God and filled with His type of life qualities.  Living "by the Spirit" requires a constant cooperation and relationship with God.  The tense here is present tense, so it is a command to continually "live by the Spirit."  If we choose to walk or "live by the Spirit," we will not be fleshly—we will not be controlled by the flesh.

"by the Spirit"  God's Spirit within each of us who are Christians makes available to us His desires and His power.  The Christian life is a God—dependent style of living.  It is a supernatural type of life.  We cannot live it, but He can.  We can no more live the Christian life than we can fly without an airplane.  Just as a powerful airplane enables us to fly, so the powerful Spirit of God enables us to live a truly Christian life.  Just as "be filled with the Spirit" in Ephesians 5:18 is a command, so we are commanded here "to live by the Spirit."  Living "by the Spirit" is not optional.  If we do not "live by the Spirit," we are disobeying God.

b. For you cannot live by both the flesh and the Spirit at the same time. (5:17-18)
"For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature [flesh]. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."

The desires of the flesh are selfish and the desires of the Spirit are motivated by love.  As Christians we have both the ability to be very selfish and to be very loving.  Just as we cannot go east and west at the same time, so we cannot live by the flesh and by the Spirit at the same time.  So at one point in time, we are either controlled by the flesh or by the Spirit.  Bill Bright used to ask his children: "Who is in you right now?"  We can also ask ourselves that question: "Who is in me right now?"  As Paul says in 5:19: "the acts of the sinful nature are obvious." See I Peter 2:11

"They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."  Our human pride leads to our thinking that we can choose to do whatever we want to do.  The truth is that we cannot in our own strength choose to be a good person.  As Christians, though, we can choose between whether we will be controlled by the flesh or by the Spirit.  Choosing to do whatever we want to do in our strength is not an option for us.  "Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16)  We can only choose between slavery to sin by allowing the desires of the flesh to control us, or we can choose to live by the Spirit.  There is not a third option—what we want to do.  "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:21-24)  Even if we desire to do what is right, we cannot do it unless we rely on the desire and the power that comes from God's Spirit to do it.

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."  As Christians, we are not to seek to obey God out of fear that we will be under a curse if we do not obey God.  Nor should we obey God under fear that some legalists will condemn us if we do not live up to their standards.  Rather, we are to obey God because we love God and His ways and are able through the power of His Spirit to be like Him.  When we "are led by the Spirit," we "are not under" the law system's condemnation and control.  "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)  "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)

What is the difference between living "by the Spirit" and being "led by the Spirit"?  Romans 8:12-14 contains both: "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if [we live] by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." (Romans 8:12-14)  Being "led by the Spirit" describes a life of living "by the Spirit."  It is a Spiritual life that leads to spiritual growth.  It, then, is the opposite of a life of fleshliness or of a life of trying without success to live under the law in one's own strength.  It, then, is the type of life that every Christian should aspire to.

c. The acts (deeds, works) of the flesh are obvious. (5:19-21)
"The acts of the sinful nature [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 5:19-21)

Thought Question:  How would you define what it means to be fleshly? (After you have come up with your answer, is it what I defined it as in the section below?)

 

 

"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious"—obviously repulsive!  Paul certainly gave the Galatian Christians this list so that they would be repulsed by the types of ugly actions that the flesh produces.

(1) The sexual perversions of the flesh (5:19)
"sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;"

So, Paul begins a list of the "obvious" and ugly products that come from following after the desires of the flesh.  The only way the flesh does not rule in our lives is if we choose to live in constant dependence on God's Spirit.  In fact, a definition of the flesh is that it is always the condition we are in when God's Spirit is not controlling us.  When we are not in the Spirit, we are in the flesh.  There is not a third option, just the two.

Paul says these "acts of the sinful nature are obvious."  They are "obvious" because we all recognize sinful behaviors that come from the flesh.  Sadly, they are becoming even more "obvious" in today's society.

In this verse, Paul lists some of the sexual perversions that come from the flesh.  The first is "sexual immorality." or pornei.  It is from this Greek word that we get our word "pornography."  Paul uses it to describe sexual relationships outside of marriage and to refer to other immoral sexual practices. See I Corinthians 5:1, 6:13,18, 7:2; II Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; and I Thessalonians 4:3

The second sexual type of perversion is "impurity" or akatharsia which describes moral impurity in general.  "It can be used of the pus of an unclean wound . . ." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Here it is used to describe sexual desires that are unclean in this way. See Romans 1:24, 6:19; I Thessalonians 4:7  The last sexual sin that Paul gives is "debauchery" or aselgeia.  It has been described as the "readiness for any pleasure." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:19)  "Sensuality" (not "sensitivity") in Ephesians 4:19 is aselgeia. See I Peter 4:3  It is shameless pursuit of wherever pleasure will take us.

(2) Occult wickedness (5:20a)
"idolatry and witchcraft"

Next on Paul's list of the sins of the flesh is "idolatry" or eidololatria which is the "worship of idols." "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."  It is the worship of the created rather than the worship of the Creator. See Romans 1:23  But behind the manmade idols were demons, so idolatry is actually the worship of demons.  "Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons." (1 Corinthians 10:19-20) See Revelation 9:20

The second occult wickedness is "witchcraft" or pharmakeia.  "This literally means the use of drugs. . . . it came to be very specially connected with the use of drugs for sorcery." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Years ago in the late 1960s, I talked to a young man from the drug culture at Big Sur on the coast of Central California.  He was involved in the drug culture and said he was troubled by a "dark spirit."  My perception was that he was clear-headed as I talked to him and that what he was concerned about was very real to him.  This is just one piece of evidence that mood-altering drugs and demonic activity are closely associated with each other.  More evidence can be found in the news on a regular basis as we learn of someone addicted to drugs who does something evil. See Revelation 9:21, 21:8, 22:15

(3) Social chaos (5:20b-21)
"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."

The first of the sins of the flesh that creates social chaos is "hatred" or echthrai.  It is "the opposite of love." "Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  This word was used to describe the "hostility" in Ephesians 2:14.  It describes an ongoing hostility to someone or to others.  The next on the list of social sins is "discord" or eris.  It speaks of unresolved divisions. See Romans 13:13  The next sin of the flesh that affects us socially is "jealousy" or zelos.  It is a lack of contentment with one's present state or status, a desire to have what others have.  It is ugly envy that leads to resentment toward others who have more than we have.  "Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail." (Acts 5:17-18) See Acts 13:45

"Fits of rage" or thumoi comes next on the list of social sins of the flesh.  It describes explosions of anger. See Acts 19:28; Ephesians 4:31.  "Selfish ambitions" or eritheiai follows on the list.  It is the person with the hidden agenda selfishly seeking after his goals with no regard for how it might hurt others.  "But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:8)  "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains." (Philippians 1:17)

Next on the list of the social sins of the flesh is "dissension" or dichostasia.  It is that which causes division between people.  "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them." (Romans 16:17)  The next word in Paul's list of social sins is "factious" or haireseis.  We get our word "heresies" from this Greek word.  "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves." (2 Peter 2:1)  It is the idea of choosing to make divisions based on different beliefs—sects, heresies, cults, etc.  Paul does say in I Corinthians 11:18-19 that these divisions may be necessary:  "In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval."  It is necessary that truth be divided from error.  It was necessary for the Galatian Christians to divide themselves from the Judaizers.  But, many of the divisions in the church and among Christians are caused by a prideful spirit rather than because we are humbly pursuing the truth. 

Next on Paul's list of social sins is "envy" or pthonio.  It "is a mean word.  Euripides called it 'the greatest of all diseases among men.'  The essence of it is that it does not describe the spirit which desires, nobly or ignobly, to have what someone else has; it describes the spirit which grudges the fact that the other has these things at all. . . . The Stoics called it as 'grief at someone else's good.' . . . It is the quality, not so much of the jealous, but rather of the embittered mind." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "It was envy that caused the murder of Abel, threw Joseph into a pit, caused Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to rebel against Moses and Aaron, made Saul pursue David, gave rise to the bitter words which 'the elder brother' (in the Parable of the Prodigal Son) addressed to his brother, and crucified Christ. 'Love never envies' (I Cor. 13:4)." "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."  "For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him." (Matthew 27:18)  "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." (1 Peter 2:1)

The next word on Paul's list is "drunkenness" or methai.  We are all too familiar with "drunkenness."  We live in a college town and a couple of years ago, we weekly heard the sounds of "drunkenness" coming to us from the apartments across the street from us.  Some families regularly experience "drunkenness" as a member of their family regularly drinks to a state of "drunkenness." See Proverbs 20;1, 23:29-35, 28:7; Ephesians 5:18  And the final word on Paul's list is "orgies" or komoi.  It refers to drinking parties.  In Paul's time they were often related to the wild parties associated with the worship of some god—such as the worship of the wine god Bacchus.

"and the like."  This tells us that Paul's list was not complete.  He could have given other words that described further ugly expressions of the flesh.

"I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."  When we become a Christian, we are not meant to receive God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life and then continue to live like we did before we became a Christian.  Paul describes the Christians in Thessalonica as follows:  "You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10)

Those who continually practice the fleshly acts that Paul has just described are unbelievers and not born again Christians.  This does not mean that Christians cannot be fleshly.  There would not be all of the exhortations for us not to be fleshly, if we could not be fleshly.  "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:17-19)  "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Romans 13:14) See I Corinthians 6:9-10; I Peter 4:1-6; Romans 1:18-32; II Timothy 3:1-4

d. The fruit of the Spirit breaks no law. (5:22-23)
"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."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul calls what comes from God's Spirit the "fruit" (singular) and not the "fruits" of the Spirit?  Notice it was the acts (plural) of the flesh.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Which "fruit of the Spirit" do you believe you have the greatest need for?

 

 

Notice that it is the "fruit" of the Spirit and not the "fruits" of the Spirit.  In other words, when we walk in the Spirit, we will exhibit all the "fruit" of the Spirit which will include everything that Paul lists here.  If we have "joy," we will also have "self-control."  Also, the "fruit" of the Spirit is different from the "acts" or works of the flesh.  "'Works' ["acts"] emphasize outward activity and effort.  Fruit speaks of the manifestation of an inward life.  A dead machine may work, but only a living organism can produce or reproduce itself in another living thing.  Fruit is a product of life.  The fruit of the Spirit is the product of the life of the Spirit." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"  "A machine in a factory works, and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"  The author of Hebrews describes the works of the flesh as "acts that lead to death." (Hebrews 9:14). See Colossians 1:10

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love" or agape.  "Love" (agape), as described in I Corinthians 13 the love chapter,is the genuine desire for the very best for others.  It is not just an action and not just an emotion, but it is both affection and action.  It is affectionately seeking the best for others no matter what the circumstances or cost.  It seeks the best for others when they excel more than we do—"love does not envy." (I Corinthians 13:4)  It seeks the best for others when we excel—"love . . . does not boast." (Corinthians 13:4)  It seeks the best for others no matter what the circumstances, as described in the definition of love given in I Corinthians 13:4-8a.  Barclay defines love as ". . . unconquerable benevolence.  It means that no matter what a man may do to us by way of insult or injury or humiliation we will never seek anything else but his highest good.  It is therefore a feeling of the mind as much as of the heart; it concerns the will as much as the emotions.  It describes the deliberate effort—which we can make only with the help of God—never to seek anything but the best even for those who seek the worst for us." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See John 13:34-35; Romans 12:9; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:14; I Timothy 1:5; I Peter 4:8;I John 4:8, 19

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy" or chara.  Barclay defined love as "unquenchable benevolence."  Joy is an unquenchable confidence in God and His goodness, even when the circumstances are not those that normally produce happiness.  This is a "fruit" of the Spirit.  We cannot produce this by keeping a stiff upper lip in the midst of trials.  Instead, we receive it by depending on God's Spirit, even in the midst of very painful trials.  Our mind may be confused, we may be saddened by our circumstances, and we may be troubled by the behavior of others, yet we can still rely on God's Spirit and enjoy our fellowship with Him.  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)   "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor . . ." (2 Corinthians 6:10a)  We must persevere in depending on God's Spirit to produce His joy in us! See John 15:11; Acts 16:22-25; Romans 14:17, 15:13; Philippians 1:26, 4:4; II Corinthians 7:4

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace" or eirene.  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)  "'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:33)  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)  Peace is that "tranquility which derives from the all-pervading consciousness that our times are in the hands of God." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  It is the ability to have serenity of heart that comes from God, based on the confidence that God's plan for our life will ultimately prevail, and based on the confidence that God's plan is also the very best plan for our life.  Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience" or makrothumia.  "It includes the idea of forbearance and patient endurance of forbearance and patient endurance of wrong under ill-treatment without anger or thought of revenge." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "Generally speaking the word is not used of patience in regard to things or events but in regard to people." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  God's patience or makrothumia is described in I Timothy 1:16:  "But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."  It is also to be a quality in Christians.  "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2) See also Colossians 1:11; II Timothy 3:10, 4:2; Hebrews 6:12; James 5:8, 10-11

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . kindness or chrestotes.  In Romans 2:4, Paul describes God as being both patient (makrothumia) and kind:  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?"  God's people are also to be kind:  "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12)  "Kindness" is the opposite of cold indifference to the needs and feelings of others.  It is being kind-hearted in seeking to do that which will be helpful to others.  It is a sensitivity to the needs of others and then doing that which will best meet that need.  It is not adding burdens to people but removing burdens from them.  "Kindness" "does not chaff." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

Jesus said that His yoke is "easy." (Matthew 11:30)  It is a form of the word translated "easy" in Matthew 11:30 that is translated as "kindness" as a "fruit of the Spirit" in these verses.  In other words, if we choose to follow Him, we will discover that He is not going to overburden us, but He will treat us with "kindness."  It is His type of "kindness" that is a "fruit" of the "Spirit" within us, and the way in which we are to treat each other.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . goodness" or agathosune"Goodness" . . . is Spirited-created moral and spiritual excellence of every description. "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."  "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:10)  The Greek work translated "good" in Galatians 6:10 is agathos.  Vine states that the noun agathosune "signifies the moral quality which is described by the adjective agathos." "Taken from Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1940 by Fleming H. Revel Company."

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . faithfulness" or pistis.  "The word (pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness.  It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." (1 Corinthians 4:2) See Psalm 15:4b; Matthew 5:33-39; James 5:12

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness" or prautes.  "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." (Galatians 6:1a)  A gentle spirit is the opposite of a harsh and judgmental spirit.  It is a gentle and humble spirit.  "“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”" (Matthew 11:28-30) "And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth," (2 Timothy 2:24-25) See Titus 3:2  "Gentleness" is the ability to respond to the imperfections in life and in others without lashing out in harshness, but responding in "gentleness."  It "is used of an animal that has been tamed and brought under control." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  It is a large horse gently carrying a small child safely on his back. See Matthew 5:5; I Corinthians 4:21; II Corinthians 10:1; Ephesians 4:2

"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control" or egkrateia.  "The person who is blessed with this quality possesses 'the power to keep himself in check.'" "Taken from New Testament Commentary Galatians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1968 by Baker Book House."  "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)  "It speaks of one who has power and mastery over his desires, particularly over his sensual appetites." "Galatians by Ernest Campbell.  Copyright 1981 by Canyonview Press." See I Corinthians 7:9

"Against such things there is no law."  It would be a very unjust society that arrested someone for being too gentle, patient, or joyful.  All of these qualities are not outside of God's laws but are lawful.  We can act in these ways all we want to and not be fearful that God is opposed to what we are doing.  If we are exhibiting these inward qualities of character, we do not need the external law to control us.  The Galatian Christians did not need the external law to control them now that they had the inward control of God's Spirit in them.

e. Since the Spirit lives in us, let us walk by the Spirit. (5:24-26)
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature 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."

Thought Question:  How would you explain to someone how we "keep in step with the Spirit"?

 

 

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature [flesh] with its passions and desires."  There is a sense in which we have already "crucified" the flesh and a sense in which we still need to crucify the flesh.  We "crucified" the flesh when we trusted in Christ for salvation and went from being under the law to being under grace.  We now crucify the flesh on a daily basis when we walk in the Spirit and do not allow the flesh to rule in our lives.  "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)  Because we are under grace, we need no longer live under the dominion of the flesh.  God's grace frees us from condemnation and God's Spirit enables us to be free from the control of the passions and desires of the flesh.

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus"  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15)  When we put our trust in "Christ Jesus," we went from "It's my life and I'll do what I want" to "It's Christ's life and I'll do what He wants me to do."  For, we now belong to Christ Jesus."

Why would we want to "belong to Christ Jesus"?  Apart from Him, we would be heading toward eternal judgment for the wickedness we have done.  Also, there are only two ways to live—the selfish way and Christ's way. 

Finally, because of God's wonderful love and grace toward us, the appropriate response is to give ourself to Him.  Also, when we give ourself to Him, we fulfill the highest purpose in the universe—we become both part of God's kingdom and we seek to bring others into it as well.  It does not mean we will lose our identity by following Christ; instead, it will result in us finding our true identity.  "Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) 

"with its passions and desires."  "The word affections ["passions"] is from pathema which means an impulse, a propensity, a passion."  The word lusts ["desires"] is from epithumos which means 'a desire, a craving, a longing.'  The former word is passive in its significance, speaking of innate forces resident in the evil nature. The latter word is active in its nature, speaking of those forces reaching out to find expression in the gratification of those desires." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  "Live" is in the present tense, which means that we are to continually "live by the Spirit."  "Keep in step with the Spirit" can also be translated "walk in the Spirit," but it's not the normal word for "walk."  "The normal word for 'walk' is peripateo. . . which is used, for instance in Galatians 5:16 and refers to walking about.  The word used here is stoicheo . . . and comes from a noun meaning  a 'row, a step.'  The verb was used of military marching in rank and file." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"  So, we are to walk in step with God's Spirit.

"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live," (Romans 8:13)  "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)  In each of these two verses from Paul's writings in other books and what Paul says in this verse in Galatians 5, we see that we are to actively involve ourselves in walking in this new life in the Spirit.  We are to choose minute by minute to crucify what has already been crucified.  We need to actively choose the Spirit life with all its fruit rather than the flesh with all of its ugly works.

"let us keep in step with the Spirit.  We are to live like the Spirit-indwelt person that we now are.  "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live," (Romans 8:12-13)  Like a soldier seeks to keep in step with the sergeant who calls out his marching cadence, so we are to "keep in step" with God's Spirit who is calling out his Spiritual cadence within us.  We do this by choosing moment by moment to be directed in our life by His pure desires within us.  Spiritual people indwelt by God's Spirit should live each day as Spiritual people.

"Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
"Let us not become conceited,"  Our knowledge that we are under grace and not under law can lead to our looking down with conceit on those who have not yet learned that we are under grace.  We can "become conceited" as we compare ourselves to those who do not understand the grace life, thinking that our knowledge of God's grace makes us superior to them.  Of course, we should realize that being under grace gives us no reason at all to feel superior to anyone.  We are in a state of undeserved favor with God.  Instead, it should humble us.  The legalist also, by the nature of a legalist, becomes conceited as he feels superior to those who do not perform as well or obey his legalistic rules as well as he does.  "The Greek word is a combination of the word for empty and the word for glory, meaning empty glory.  In this passage kenodoxian depicts the opposite of humility and lowly-minded; therefore self-conceit, a haughty attitude and esteeming oneself as better than others." "Galatians by Ernest Campbell.  Copyright 1981 by Canyonview Press."  

"provoking . . . one another." 
A. T. Robertson describes it as provoking others into "combat." "Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."  We can turn the church into a battlefield.

"and envying each other."  "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill." (Philippians 1:15)  This type of envy hates it when anyone else is succeeding or doing well in any way. (See my notes on Galatians 5:21)

The fruit of the Spirit will result in a humble and loving spirit that will promote unity.  It will not result in chaos and disorder.  "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:13-18)  When there is discord in the church, someone or more than one are not walking in the Spirit.

PAUL URGES THEM TO JOIN HIM IN A GENTLE AND SPIRITUAL MINISTRY. (rather than devouring each other) (6:1-18)
It is not helpful to be right in a contentious issue if we are unspiritual in the way that we go to battle for what is right.  There is a wrong way to correct those who are wrong.  The Judaizers were wrong, but the Galatian Christians could be wrong in their way of responding to the wrong of the Judaizers.  In this chapter, Paul describes the Spiritual way to carry on ministry.

1. Gently correct those who are caught sinning. (6:1-5)
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, 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 he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load."

Thought Question #1:  Think of someone in the church who has recently done something wrong or done something wrong to you; what do these verses teach you about the Spirit-led way to correct them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does Paul mean by someone who "thinks he is something when he is nothing"?

 

 

a. Watching that in the process that you do not sin also (6:1)
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin,"  The Judaizers' response to someone they caught in a sin was certainly not gentle.  Their attitude toward someone caught in a sin was like the Pharisees' attitude toward the woman caught in adultery in John chapter eight.  They were eager to stone her.  Jesus responds to them:  ". . . 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'" (John 8:7)

"caught in a sin,"  If someone always walks in step with the Spirit, he or she will never sin.  But, we know that this type of perfection is not true of anyone.  We all are "caught in a sin."  "The word in the papyri means 'a slip or a lapse rather than a 'willful sin.'" "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "The thought behind the word 'overtaken' ["caught"] is that the believer was running from sin, but the sin outran him and caused him to blunder or take a false step. . . Failure is in view; when one fails to take each step in accord with the Holy Spirit (5:25), it is a false or wrong step." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"  Legalism is quick to pounce on the false steps of others; grace is quick to restore.

"you who are spiritual"  In the context, the "spiritual" one is a person who characteristically lives by the Spirit and exhibits in his life "the fruit of the Spirit" and not the "acts of the flesh." (5:19-23)  There, for example, will not be "selfish ambition" (5:20), but there will be "patience, kindness, goodness" exhibited by his or her life. (5:22)  "It demands that those who deal with the problem do so 'led by the Spirit' and as the Spirit would deal with them in tenderness, love, compassion, etc.  If the flesh operates, there will be harshness, vindictiveness and so forth which are all manifestations of the flesh.  This would only make the matter worse." "Taken from Galatians by John Lawrence"

"you who are spiritual"  The "you" here is plural, so that Paul is not speaking to one individual, but he is speaking to all who "are spiritual" in the church.

Warren Wiersbe makes the following contrasts between how the legalist treats someone who sins and how the spiritual one treats that person.  "The legalist is not interested in bearing burdens.  Instead, he adds to the burdens of others (Acts 15:10). . . The legalist is always harder on other people than he is on himself, but the Spirit-led Christian demands more of himself than he does of others that he might be able to help others. . . nothing reveasl the wickedness of legalism better than how the legalists treat those who have sinned." "Taken from Be Free by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1975 by SP Publications Inc."

"should restore him"  In Matthew 4:21 the Greek word for "restore" that is used here is also used, referring to fishermen mending their nets—their seeking to restore their nets to usefulness.  It is the idea of helping the one who has sinned to be able to get back on his or her feet so that he or she will be restored to full usefulness as a Christian.  All correction should have this goal.  If it does not have this goal, it is vindictive rather than restorative.  The Greek word for "restore" is also used with reference to the resetting of broken bones so that they will be mended and become fully useful again. See John 21:15-19 where Jesus gently restores Peter after He denied Him.

"gently"  It is essentially the same word as the fruit of the Spirit—"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness."  "A 'gentle' spirit is the opposite of a harsh and judgmental spirit." (my notes on Galatians 5:23)  One with a "gentle" spirit is one who is very careful that nothing is said or done that tears down rather than builds up a brother or sister.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29) See II Timothy 2:24-26; Ephesians 4:1-3; Matthew 11:28-30  He or she is very careful that nothing is said or done that is unnecessarily hurtful to the one being corrected.

"But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."  This is a warning for the one doing the correcting.  The world loves to point out when a Christian who has been very strong in his words about sin and sinners has fallen into sin.  The saying "There but for the grace of God go I" applies here.  We need to remember that we also are very susceptible to fall into sin ourselves.  It is not easy to tell what type of temptation to sin that Paul is speaking about here.  It could be that our exposure to the other person's sin may tempt us to fall into the same sin.  It could be that in correcting someone we might be tempted to become harsh, judgmental, and impatient with the one who has sinned.  And that, of course, would be sin.  At any rate, when we are correcting someone, we need to realize that we are at that time more susceptible to sinning ourselves than under normal circumstances.  "The spiritual Christian can avoid a spirit of self-righteousness in dealing with those who stumble by remembering his or her own personal vulnerability to temptation." "From Dr. Constable's Bible Study notes on Galatians"  When we correct someone, we need to "watch" ourselves.  We need to be very careful that we also do not fall into sin, just as the person who is being corrected fell into sin, so that we will remain the "spiritual" one and not also end up being the fleshly one.

b. Carry the needs of others (6:2)
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

The way of the flesh is self-focused; the way of the Spirit is focused on others and their needs.  "The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)

Such "fruit of the Spirit," as patience and kindness is that way because it is what love does; when we love someone, we are patient and kind to them.  "The word bear ["carry"] is bastazo which means 'to bear what is burdensome.' . . . the assuming of those burdens in a willing, helpful, sympathetic way, despite the fact that the bearing of them may involve unpleasantness and heartache." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  The Greek word for "burdens" also means a heavy burden that is difficult to bear.  So, there is little question that we Christians are to live a life of carrying the concerns of others on our shoulders.

The verb for "carry" is a command and it is in the present tense, meaning that we must continually carry the burdens of others as a way of life.  Our regular prayer times tell us the degree to which we do that.

This is one of the "one anothers" in the Bible. See Hebrews 10:24-25; I Thessalonians 4:18; James 5:16; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 14:19.  The individuals in a church are connected together to the degree that we bear one another's burdens.  Without this being true, the church is just a group of people who meet in the same building.

"And in this way you fulfill the law of Christ."  What is the "law of Christ"?  The following verses answer that question: "'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)  "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)  We fulfill the "law of Christ" when we genuinely "carry each others burdens." See also Mark 12:30-31; Ephesians 5:1-2; I John 2:7-11, 3;16, 4:7-12

What does love look like?  It happens when we "carry each others burdens."  Jesus carried our burdens to the cross.  "Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle." (John 19:17-18)  We should respond to that great act of love by being willing to love others as He loved us; we are to bear each others' burdens as He bore our burdens.

c. Correct others in a spirit of humility. (6:3)
"If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

Thinking we are "something" is the spirit of the Judaizers, the Pharisee, and the legalist: they are those who believe that they are elevated above the rest of humanity.  "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”'" (Luke 18:9-12)  It is also the opposite of carrying the burdens of others: "They think it is beneath them.  They don't have time for that; they get caught in a trap of thinking themselves just a bit superior to people with problems." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications." 

We should never correct another person's faults if we think that we are superior to him or her.  "'Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all XXXthe time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)  Jesus was harshest with those who had an arrogant view of themselves than He was with any other group of people. See Matthew 23

How do we begin to think we are "something'?  Even though we can only be saved by the grace of God, we can after a while begin to think that we have become better than the lowly sinners who are not Christians.  Also, the most zealous Christians can begin to think that they have become superior to Christians who are not as zealous as they (and a few others) are.  We can become proud of our knowledge of the Bible.  " . . . Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1) 

It is a very human trait to think that we are somehow better than others.  The Jews thought this way.  "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—" (Romans 2:17-20)  We American have been called "ugly Americans" because we can feel that we are superior to people in other countries.  We believe that we are somehow superior to them because we are Americans.  I was confronted on having this attitude by some Japanese nationals while I was in Japan in the armed services.  They did not like my feelings of superiority to them at all.  I had not recognized it in myself until they very strongly pointed it out to me.  People in our country are not the only ones who can have this false feeling of superiority to people in another country.  It is undoubtedly characteristic of people in every country that they feel that they are superior to people in other countries. 

Feeling superior to other Christians is the most inappropriate attitude to have, for it is only by the grace of God that we are not heading toward hell, and only by the grace of God that we have risen at all above being totally selfish people.  Paul uses sarcasm to point out the self-righteousness that was present in the church at Corinth.  "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." (1 Corinthians 4:7-13)

Whenever we correct someone, we must be extremely careful that we have taken the "plank" out of our own eye before we take the "speck" out of that person's eye.  For in God's eyes, the arrogant corrector needs correcting much more than the one he is correcting.  "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:5)

d. Focus on how we are doing in God's eyes, not how well we are doing compared to others. (6:4-5)
"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load."

It is human for us to judge others and only carry our own burdens.  The truly Christian attitude is to do the very opposite of what we usually do: we are to judge ourselves and carry others' burdens.  If we do that we will not think that we are "something" when we are "nothing."

What will we discover if we look only at ourself and do not compare ourselves to others?  In the light, we will see our own faults more clearly.  "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12)  "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:8-10)  Paul, near the end of his life, had this to say about himself.  "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." (I Timothy 1:15-16)

When we stand before Jesus Christ, we will not be judged on how we compare to others, but we will be judged on how well we did compared to what we could have done.  Because that is how we will be judged, we need to be concerned about that now.  We should be busy focusing on whether or not Jesus is pleased with us, not on whether or not we are pleased with others.

"for each one should carry his own load."  This seems like a contradiction to what he said in 6:2:  "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."  In the context here in verse five, though, the "load" refers to our "load" of responsibilities.  We are not to be concerned with whether or not others are fulfilling their responsibilities.  This is what the legalist does; he or she is focused on whether others are good Christians.  "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)  We are, instead, to seek their best by loving them and carrying their "burdens."  Also, we are to focus on whether or not we ourselves are doing what pleases the Lord.

"Carry" in this verse is in the future tense, so it speaks of a time in the future when it will be determined whether or not we fulfilled our responsibilities as a Christian before Jesus when He judges us.  When we stand before Him, we will not be pointing our finger at others; we will be concerned about how well we did in His eyes.

2. Show your appreciation for those who instruct you by sharing good things
with them. (6:6)
"Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe is the "good things" that we are to share with those who instruct us?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe Paul shared these words at this time?

 

 

There is disagreement among Bible commentators on how to interpret this verse.  Some believe Paul is speaking of a church sharing financially with those who instruct them.  Others believe that Paul is talking about them coming into agreement with those teaching grace rather than coming into agreement with those teaching legalism.  The "good things," then, would be the teachings about God's grace that they would agree with and then they would share in the same views as their "instructor."  The Greek word translated "share" used here is koinoneito.  We have used a form of this word, koinonia, to refer to a time of fellowship; it refers to sharing with others who have a common faith.  But it is also possible that Paul was including financial support in his words, "share all good things."  Paul uses a form of the same Greek word which is also translated "share" in Philippians, where it does refer to sharing money.   "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;" (Philippians 4:15)

We Christians are to bear the burden of those who minister to us by rewarding their ministries with financial support.  "For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”" (1 Timothy 5:18)  "Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:7-14)

It is possible that one of the tactics of the Judaizers was to discourage the Galatian Christians from financially supporting the leaders that Paul had set up among them. See Acts 14:23  Paul exhorts them to encourage these teachers in their work by financially supporting them. The Greek words "instruction"and "instructor"are different forms of the Greek word from which we get our word "catechism."

3. For you also will reap what you sow. (6:7-10)
Just as we reap what we sow in the physical realm (if we plant corn, we will reap corn), so we will reap what we sow in the spiritual realm.  If we plant arrogance and harshness, we will reap more arrogance and harshness.  If we sow patience, we will reap patience.  If we sow discord, we will reap discord.  If we sow gentleness and humility, we will reap gentleness and humility.

a. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap destruction; if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. (6:7-8)
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Thought Question #1:  As you think of the type of harvest that you would like your life to produce, what are you now sowing that will produce that harvest?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  As you think of the type of harvest that you would like you life to produce, what can you sow in the future that will produce that harvest?

 

 

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked."  In our world, there are those who mock God on television, in our universities, in our work places, and throughout our society.  They have deceived themselves into thinking that they are getting by with it.  It is obvious, though, that it is an infinitely foolish and dangerous practice.  You cannot mock the Almighty Creator of all of us with no consequences.  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”" (Romans 2:4-6)

"A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."  Paul uses a very obvious principle that we all see in nature"—the type of seed that we put in the ground determines the type of plants that will spring forth from the ground.  Paul's illustration is pointing to the truth that we can choose to plant a life of following after the desires of the flesh or we can choose to plant a life of following after the desires of the Spirit; but what we choose will determine what we reap.  If we plant a life of fleshliness, it will reap a harvest of "destruction."  "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:9)  "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:16)   "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. . . . What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! . . . For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:19, 21, 23a) See Matthew 22:13

If we plant a life of following the desires of the Spirit, we will reap a harvest of "eternal life."  "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3)  "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)  "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)  "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Romans 6:22) " I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

The principle of sowing and reaping occurs even when we ask forgiveness after choosing to do what is sinful.  Though our sins are forgiven, the consequences of our sin remain.  Someone has said that you can pull a nail out of the wall, but the nail hole remains.  A crime that is committed may be forgiven by God, but the sentence still needs to be served.  There are scars from our sin that remain even though we are forgiven by God and forgiven by men.  The harsh words may be forgiven, but the effect on others is not completely eradicated.  What is Paul's message to us?  We should sow to "please the Spirit," so that we will have no regrets, for we will reap what we sow.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Thought Question:  Have you ever found this verse helpful to you? Please explain how.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How could this verse be helpful to you in the future (you may choose to memorize it)?

 

 

The Christian ministry requires that we persevere and "not give up."  "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1)  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)  "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." (2 Corinthians 4:1)  "And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right." (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

The problem is that we do not see the harvest that comes from our "doing good" immediately.  It is just like what occurs when we plant seed; we do not see the plants come up for some time.  But, the plant does come up "at the proper time."  So, the harvest from our good works also comes up "at the proper time."  "Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near." (James 5:7-8)

"The unbeliever feels, because God does not judge immediately, that God is not a God of justice.  The believer feels, because God does not reward immediately, that God is not a God of goodness.  Both are wrong because there is always a period from sowing to reaping whether it be to the flesh or to the Spirit.  We sow in one season and reap in another." "From Galatians by John Lawrence"

Paul encourages us, then, "not to become weary."  Paul, in II Corinthians 4 and 6, describes why it is so easy to become weary and give up hope:  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)  "Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

We particularly "lose heart" and "become weary" when our efforts in the ministry do not appear to be having any good results.  Some of the following could have been your experience in the past, your experience right now, or will become your experience in the future: strong opposition, a misunderstanding of your good intentions, someone you have been ministering to begins to make bad decisions, ugly church politics, harsh and insensitive words, little assistance in your work, a lack of appreciation of your labors, financial troubles, high and unfair expectations of you, and the list goes on.  Years ago, I saw a book by David Wilkerson in the book store of the Seminary that I attended.  Its title was Have You Ever Felt Like Giving Up Lately?  I cannot remember why I bought it, but I bought it.  I still have it.  That was 40 years ago.  Through the years, I have hung on to this verse in Galatians and I Corinthians 15:58 many times.

There is a benefit to us that the good that we do does not immediately result in a harvest that we can see; then, it would be hard for us to do it just because it is a good thing to do.  We would start doing it for the immediate good results it produced for us.  Instead, we are to continually do good and to trust in the Lord that in the end our good deeds will have good results in those we minister to.

Not too many years ago during a share time at our church, a middle-aged man who was visiting from another city shared about the impact a Sunday school teacher in our church had on him many years before.  He thought that she was no longer alive.  She was still alive and near 100 years old, but was not able to attend church that Sunday when the man shared his appreciation of her ministry to him.  Her good work had a good impact on this man many years before.  Sheplanted in one season and reaped a harvest years later.

"we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  "The condition of this reward is not growing weary . . . What causes this sad estate is losing heart.  Giving up mentally leads to growing faint spiritually." "From Dr. Constable's Bible Study notes on Galatians"  "It is easy for the servant of God to become discouraged; the opposition they meet is so constant and the good they are trying to do is so hard to accomplish." "Taken from Galations by Richard Longnecker.  Copyright 1990 by Word Books"  Nevertheless, if we do not grow "weary," "we will reap a harvest."  "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5-6)  As I was typing these words, the phone rang.  Someone that Shirley and I have loved over a number of years thanked us for sharing in his sorrow over the loss of a dog that he dearly loved.  I got tearful along with him as he talked to me.  I also realized that friendships like this one are part of the harvest that comes from seeking to do that which is good.

c. So, take every opportunity to do good, especially to those of our Christian family. (6:10)
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

Thought Question #1:  What are some opportunities you have used to do good to others?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some opportunities that are available to you right now to do good to others?

 

 

Because doing good will eventually reap a harvest, we are to make it our goal to do good, and to do good, and to do good.  Just as God continually does good to all of us, so we should do good to all also.  "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45)  To whom should we do good?  As Jesus taught, our neighbor to whom we are to do good is anyone that we come across who is in need. See Luke 10:25-37  There are many opportunities to do good.  It is our responsibility to do good when those opportunities occur.

"especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8)  It is our responsibility to take care of our family and even our extended family.  Also, it is our responsibility as Christians to help those in the church family by doing good for them.

"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)  Our purpose as Christians is to do good.  The opportunities to do good are always present.  Prayer is one of the good acts we can do.  "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (I Timothy 2:1-4)  We always have the opportunity to do good by praying for others.

The list of what is good for us to do is very long: visit older people, help out a neighbor, love our family church members, serve in various capacities at our local church, volunteer at a gospel mission or food bank, encourage a missionary, work in an outreach program, and many more.  If you do good in any way, it will eventually and certainly reap a wonderful harvest.

It is important, though, that we be discerning in our doing good.  "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.' We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right." (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13)  There are situations where there will be those who seek help from Christians rather than being responsible to take care of themselves.  So, we need to be careful to discern when our help will actually be good for them and when it will actually be harmful to them.

So, as we have the time and opportunity, "let us do good."  "Let us do" is in the present tense, which says that we are to continually do good.  Thus, we will be "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:16)

4. Paul's personal concern for them (6:11)
"See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!"

Thought Question:  Why do you think Paul wrote these words to them at this time?

 

 

These few words raise a number of questions.  The questions are as follows:  1) Did Paul write this whole letter in these large letters or just the last part of the letter?  2) Did Paul write in large letters because his eyesight was bad?  3) Why did he mention his large letters at this time in the letter?  I will seek to answer each of these three questions.

1) Did Paul write the whole letter in these large letters or just the last part of the letter?  It was Paul's pattern to dictate his letters to a scribe.  "I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord." (Romans 16:22)  But as a result of false letters being sent out, he began to close his letters in his own hand.  "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, NIV)  "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write." (2 Thessalonians 3:17) See also Colossians 4:18; I Corinthians 16:21  The argument that he wrote the whole letter of Galatians is that "I write to you" is in the aorist tense indicating that he is describing not what he is presently doing, but what he has done—a past action.  "The aorist tense in the indicative mode in Greek refers to a past action." "Taken from Word Studies in The New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1944 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Hendriksen, however, argues that Paul is following his normal pattern of closing the letter in his own hand.  We find ourselves in between two scholars who disagree on whether he wrote the letter or just wrote the closing words of the letter.  He may have written the whole letter because he wanted them to know his great personal concern for them, but we cannot be certain.  I lean toward believing that he closed the letter in his personal handwriting, just as he did in other letters.

2) Did Paul write in large letters because his eyesight was bad?  He may have never fully recovered from the blindness that occurred when he saw Jesus. See Acts 9:1-10  Also, he may have been partially blinded when he was stoned in the Galatian region. See Acts 14:19-20  Or, he may have had some type of eye disease.  We can only speculate based on this verse.  The Bible does not specifically tell us that his eyes were bad.

3) Why did he mention his large letters at this time?  This question is the most relevant to the content of this letter of these three questions.  Paul wanted to make his appeal to them as personal as possible.  He draws attention to these letters being written by his own hand to convey how deeply concerned he was for them.

The last words of this letter were certainly written by him and in these last words he sums up his appeal to them that he has made throughout the whole letter that they reject the Judaizers and their teachings.  He may have written the last words in large letters to put a greater emphasis on them, just as we put words in capitals, in bold, or in italics in an email message to emphasize certain words.  Then, Paul was saying: pay attention to my final words.  We also should pay attention to them.

5. A spiritual and gentle ministry is not a legalistic and proud ministry like the legalists were attempting to establish, but a humble ministry (6:12-16)

a. The motives of the proud legalists (6:12-13)
"Those who want to make a good impression outwardly 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 obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh."

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that are the opposite of the type of Christian you want to be?

 

 

Paul describes here the very opposite of what should motivate us as Christians.  We should not do good to make an outward impression on people.  "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:2-5)  But, the Judaizers wanted "to make a good impression outwardly."

Also, we are not to apply pressure to force Christians to do what we want them to do.  "And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

The shepherds of Jesus' time led the flock; they did not drive the flock.  "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:3-4)  "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:2-4) See also I Corinthians 2:1-5; II Corinthians 4:1-2

The Judaizers were compelling or forcing the Galatian Christians to be circumcised.  The same Greek word that is translated "compel" here is translated as "force" in Galatians 2:14.

We are not to make it a primary goal of ours to "avoid being persecuted."  We are to share the gospel message about people's need of a Savior who died on a cross for them, even if it is an offensive message to many.  "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)  "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished." (Galatians 5:11)

But, the Judaizers preached circumcision and the Jewish law, which sounded good to the Jews.  The Judaizers were seeking to compromise with the Jews and thereby avoid being persecuted.  We can make the same type of compromise with the world to avoid being persecuted.  For example, saying that God created us through evolution is a compromise that some Christians make to avoid being controversial.  Instead, we are to tell the truth even if the world hates it.

Paul, on the other hand, preached "the cross of Christ" which was a message that was hated by the Jews.  John MacArthur tells this story to illustrate the Jewish response to "the cross of Christ."  "During high holy days we used to let the Jewish congregation down the street from our church use our little chapel.  Everything went well, until we remodeled the chapel and installed a cross at the front.  Our Jewish neighbors came to prepare for their services and I'll never forget their terror when they saw the cross.  Before they could have services they draped sheets all over it to cover up what was an offense to their eyes." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."

We are to acknowledge our complete inability to keep God's law apart from God's grace.  "Know that a man is not justified by observing 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 observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)  "“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)  The Judaizers thought they could obey the law; or at least they pretended that they were able to obey the law.  Their first step in their supposed obedience of the law was for them to get circumcised.  Paul points out that they, like everyone else, failed to obey the law. See Romans 2:21-27

Paul exposes their true motives in seeking to get the Galatian Christians circumcised.  The Judaizers would see this as a personal conquest that they could "boast" about to their fellow Judaizers—they could "boast about the cutting of the Galatian Christians' "flesh."

What the Judaizers represent is the very opposite of true Christianity.  It is, as John MacArthur summarizes it, "the religion of human achievement." "Taken from Liberated for Life by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1976 by G/L Publications."  It is exactly the opposite of what we should aspire to.  We are to do good for the benefit of those we do good for, not to make us look good.  We are not to use pressure to get people to do what we want them to do, but we are to urge them to make decisions that are good for them to make.  We are to do what is in line with God's purposes, even if it leads to persecution.  We are to realize that we can do nothing of any value to God unless He enables us to do it.  And we are to boast only in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

b. Paul's humility (6:14-16)
"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 a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God."

Thought Question:  How does a true understanding of the cross eliminate boasting?

 

 

Paul shows here how different he is from the Judaizers.  They glory when they are successful in getting a Gentile Christian circumcised.  But their accomplishment has no impact on the type of person their converts become.  Paul glories in the "cross" which totally changed his life.  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

In Romans 6:1-14, Paul explains how baptism symbolizes our identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.  In our identification with His death on the cross, the penalty for our sins was paid for.  In our identification with His resurrection, we receive His resurrection life.  "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:11) 

Because Paul's life had been so radically changed forever because of the cross, Paul says: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."  "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)  If we understand our great sinfulness before holy God and how hopeless was our destiny apart from the cross, we also will realize that we can only "boast . . . in the cross." See Jeremiah 9:24-25; I Corinthians 1:31; II Corinthians 10:17

"through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  In Philippians 3:1-11, Paul explains that worldly gain had become like "rubbish" to him (Philippians 3:8)  He no longer lived to acquire worldly gain, but he lived to pursue true gain by seeking to know Christ better.  He now lived not to please men, but to please God. See Galatians 1:10

"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation."  As a young person, I attended a church that primarily taught morality.  The main message I remember is that we should not just try to be good on Sunday, but we should also try to be good during the rest of the week.  It was not until I was 27 years old that I came to understand that I must be born again. See John 3:1-8   My attendance at church and my trying to do good 7 days a week did not mean anything unless I was born again—a "new creation."  So, "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" did not mean "anything" to Paul.  Paul had once gloried in the fact "that he was circumcised on the eighth day" (Philippians 3:5)—that he was in full compliance with God's law about "circumcision."  Now, he realized that "circumcision" was a symbolism for the "circumcision" of the spirit that occurs when we become a "new creation."  "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God."  It is through the cross and the new creation that we discover "the rule," principle, or way that we experience God's "peace and mercy."  Paul sums up this "rule" in Romans 8.  There, he calls it "law of the Spirit of life":  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)

"follow this rule"  "follow" is the same Greek word translated "keep in step" in 5:25:  "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  Those who choose to walk in line with their new life, made possible by the "new creation," will experience God's "peace and mercy." See Ephesians 4:20-5:2 and Colossians 3:9-14

"even to the Israel of God."  One of the key issues that divides Christians in the area of prophecy is this short phrase.  The Amillenialist view is that the church has permanently replaced Israel and is now the "Israel of God."  So, in their view, the promises to Israel will not be fulfilled to them as a nation, but are now being fulfilled to the church during this church age.  Israel has been replaced by the church.  According to their view, there will be no millennial rule of Christ where Jesus rules the nations in Jerusalem.  Amillennial means no millennium.  Yet, God said these words to Israel:  "'Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.' This is what the Lord says: 'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,' declares the Lord. 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.'" (Jeremiah 31:36-40)  Paul also made it clear that the promises to Israel will be fulfilled.  "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.' As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable." (Romans 11:25-29)

The "Israel of God" appears to be referring to Jews who have been born again.  "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29)  But, even if it does refer to Jews and Gentiles who have been born again, it does not need to mean that the promises to the nation of Israel will not need to be fulfilled.  Paul could be and probably was using "Israel of God" symbolically in a similar way to saying that all believers are sons of Abraham.  "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all." (Romans 4:16)

6. But, in contrast to the Judaizers, Paul's gentle and spiritual ministry was a costly one. (6:17)
"Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."

Thought Question:  What do you believe are "the marks of Jesus" that Paul was talking about?

 

 

Those who put their trust in their religious accomplishments resent it when someone teaches that their religious efforts are valueless to God and are deserving only of death.  But, that is clearly what the Bible teaches.  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:7-9)

The religious Pharisees crucified Christ because he exposed and condemned their self-righteousness.  Paul was stoned during his early Galatian ministry because he continued in Christ's footsteps.  "Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe." (Acts 14:19-20)  He took the blows that were actually aimed at Christ. See Colossians 1:24  So, Paul bore on his "body the marks of Jesus."  At that time, slaves bore on their bodies the brands of their masters.  The scars from the beating and stonings that Paul endured because of his ministry were constant reminders of Paul's identification with Jesus. See II Corinthians 1:23-25; II Timothy 3:10-11  He asks the Galatian Christians not to add to the suffering that he bore because he preached the cross of Jesus Christ.

CLOSING WORDS (6:18)
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen." See Philemon 25; Philippians 4:23

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" sums up the message of Galatians.  It is "grace," as a result of Jesus' death for us, that is the basis for all Christians' relationship and walk with God.  Through the years, cults like the Judaizers seek to add some type of work to God's grace and thereby replace God's grace with some form of legalistic requirement that we must do to get right with God.  Certainly, no book in the Bible argues more thoroughly against legalism than the wonderfully liberating book of Galatians.  Hallelujah, it is by God's amazing grace alone that enables us to get right and stay right with God!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

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Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 1-7
Paul's Life And Ministry: Triumph Through Weakness II Corinthians 8-13
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