Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Galatians 6:17-18

It’s settled. Jesus came and died. It was not pointless. It was the most intentional thing that ever happened. From eternity past, the inter-Trinitarian conspiracy was contrived that Jesus would come as a sacrifice for a not-yet-created mankind’s sin. Now, the sacrifice has been made; the wrath of God absorbed; and acceptance and forgiveness is offered to all those who come, neglecting their own works as a means to receive the grace of God and instead fall helpless and hopeful on the mercy of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no room for argument. Any contradiction voiced against the plan of God is a personal affront to the design and purpose of an all-wise God.
Paul spent the entire epistle to the Galatians making this point. His rebuttal against the Judaizers was never weak. In making claims that a man must work to earn the favor and acceptance of God, the Judaizers had effectively undermined the very nature of God’s grace in His eternally rooted redemption of mankind and replaced it with a self-constructed merit system. When they proposed that man had the ability of man to save himself, they had negated the death of Jesus on the cross. In purporting that they were good enough to be accepted by God, they had testified of their own certain condemnation as rejecters of the only thing able to save them - grace.
The Galatians had been nearly defrauded into abandoning the grace of God for a lesser gospel that was certainly not a good news message. Now, Paul was about to set down his quill, and as he finished his last sentences, the weight of theological exhaustion squeezes his soul to breathe a personal request. The matter of salvation by works versus salvation by grace alone through faith alone was settled. There would be no need for further revelation on the matter. With a groaning soul, Paul penned, “henceforth, let no man trouble me.” In effect Paul was saying, “It is settled. We are done. Judaizers, you are wrong. Believers, stand fast.”
As he closes this epistle, the Apostle Paul expresses one last desire he has for the believers in Galatia. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” The whole argument of the epistle had been over the nature of works and of true unmerited grace. Now, Paul says, “it is of grace, not of works. Be dominated by the reality of His grace to you.” With his parting word, Paul declared the conclusion of the matter. The Christian is only converted and transformed by the grace of our loving God through Jesus Christ.
We should never lose sight of the truth that God only extends his grace to those who come in faith alone, resting in the work that Jesus accomplished and nothing else. We are not accepted because of our last name, our church membership status, our kind spirit, or any other good works. No, we find peace with God and forgiveness only on account of God’s grace extended to us when we place our faith in the atoning work of Jesus.

Food For Thought: Explain in your own words what is meant by “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Monday, March 23, 2015

Galatians 6:16

Even though it is incredibly clear in scripture that no man can save himself, millions still imagine that perhaps they are the one exception. They imagine that at some level they will be seen as “good enough” or “not that bad,” and God will offer them His acceptance and forgiveness based upon their superb effort. But the debt that is owed is insurmountable. The wrath to be endured is eternal. There is nothing in us or of us that can withstand the judgment of God.
From birth, we are at best the enemies of God, and in life we accumulate the wrath of God against our constant sinning. Ultimately, we are faced with the grave reality that our continual rebellion will not simply be dismissed. At this point of self-realized guilt, our conviction is doubly ensured. He has declared us guilty, and we now know it to be true. Like a man fallen in a pit, the frantic response of most is to claw at the sides of the pit to try to climb out; but scratching on the sides of this pit only serves to collapse the dirt walls and further bury the trapped in despair. Clambering at the sides of the pit only serves to further indict those at enmity with God, demonstrating that they know of their desperate state and are now seeking their own solution.
“All have sinned” the Scripture tells us. And now, as enemies, by birthright and by action, we will receive the wages of our sin – eternal death. Our actions have brought us nothing but condemnation and guilt. To imagine that the same dirty hands that guaranteed our judgment will somehow bring us life and forgiveness is nonsensical. Our greatest attempts have always ended in failure, because even when we succeeded at good works, they were laced with our wrong motives of self-justification and self-glorification.
Our only hope as enemies and rebels is that God, of His own will and grace, would extend to us forgiveness and peace. These two ingredients are the recipe of our reconciliation. First, forgiveness, because we cannot be resolved until we have been forgiven; and then, peace, because we cannot have a relationship until all the tension of difference is resolved. In Galatians 6:16, Paul argues that these two things are found only in Christ.
“As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy.” The rule that he is speaking of is what he just spent the entire Epistle explaining. There is nothing that you can do to earn the forgiveness and favor of God. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus for you. All those that come trusting this truth find “peace on them and mercy.” Here mercy is the same idea as forgiveness. We are reconciled and forgiven by God. But that peace and forgiveness only comes if we are following after the way that God has prescribed for our forgiveness. Peace is only had on his terms. Forgiveness and mercy can only spring from His heart, and it only comes on those who have surrendered their efforts and flung themselves in faith on the mercy of a gracious God.

Food For Thought: What two things mentioned in verse 16 are necessary for us to be right with God?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Galatians 6:14-15

A while back, a guy I know had some serious health problems and when he went to the doctor, they told him that he needed to have open heart surgery. After a few weeks, the surgery was scheduled and he went in for the procedure. That afternoon, the doctors put him under anesthesia while they cracked open his rib cage and sliced and stitched their way through his chest. Eventually, he was sent to recovery where over the next several months, he regained a fairly normal lifestyle having been effectively healed by the skill of the surgeon.
Imagine with me that I had a conversation with my friend weeks before his surgery, and he was fully convinced that he could handle doing the surgery himself. With a bit of excitement but also with understandable trepidation, he explained to me that he had watched several hours of Youtube videos on heart surgery and even checked out a medical book from the library to ensure that he would be able to perform the surgery perfectly. I am certain that as a friend I would be obligated to talk him down from such a preposterous thing. No one can crack open their own chest, and perform open heart surgery on themselves. In attempting to save himself, he most certainly would have killed himself. It requires the skill, equipment and expertise of a trained professional to perform this life saving procedure.
When we come to Galatians, we find Paul arguing a similar point about a much more serious operation. Instead of open heart surgery, there is a work that is needing to take place in the sin-blackened soul of every human being. Sadly, there are those who imagine themselves equipped and skilled enough to perform the eternity shaping operation. Thinking themselves skilled enough, they seek to take their lives in their own hands and earn their way into right standing with God. Unfortunately, the ranks of those who seek to establish their own right standing with God far outnumber the ranks of those who have surrendered themselves to the only one skilled enough to perform this operation – Jesus.
In Christianity, a believer must get to the point where they admit that there is nothing that they can do to earn the favor of God and receive eternal life. Rather, they must rely on the work of Jesus as their only hope. In Ephesians, Paul explains that salvation and eternal life does not come through our own works, but through the grace of God found by faith in Christ. In Galatians 6:14-15, Paul explains that he doesn’t seek to gain glory for himself in his own accomplishments of self-saving, he has already demonstrated in the preceding 5 chapters how that saving himself is impossible anyway. Instead, he says that he will only glory in what Jesus did on the cross. The only one qualified to save anyone died on a cross to save all those who would come in faith to Him.
Paul knew that taking this kind of operation into his own hands would be eternally deadly. He would only trust in the One who could perform the operation flawlessly. As a friend, he was obligated to warn the Galatians of the dangers of trying to perform this operation by themselves. Similarly, we have an obligation to tell those around us that any attempt at self-operating will only end badly for them.

Food For Thought: Do you know anyone who is not currently trusting in Jesus as their only hope for salvation? Be a good friend and tell them that only Jesus is qualified to perform that operation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Galatians 6:10-13

Paul argued against the false doctrine and the false teaching of the Judaizers for the majority of the book of Galatians, but as we come to the end of the book, he changes gears to address their wicked motivations for imposing the strict structure of false religion on others. Diagnosing the root issues in the Judaizers, Paul came away with a three-fold prognosis.

1) Those who were overly zealous to enforce Judaism on the young Galatian believers were often only doing so to “make a fair shew in the flesh.” They wanted others around them to see how spiritual they were, and then either externally or even internally worship their “spirituality.” In their estimation, being seen as the most holy was of utmost importance, and if they could convince others around them of their assumed holiness, then they had accomplished their mission.
2) In the first century, being a Christian was a dangerous thing. If the Romans weren’t after you to kill you, then the Jews were out trying to annihilate you. Paul explained that a motivation for following the law of Moses so strictly was so that the persecution from the Jews would be lessened. In the minds of the Judaizers, being Christian would have less of an ostracizing effect if as Christians they still maintained a Jewish lifestyle. This self-serving, persecution-avoiding, gospel-diluting motivation was simply unacceptable.
3) Finally, Paul argued that “neither they themselves… keep the law.” Not only were they trying to put on a show, and not only were they trying to hide their Christianity behind a Judaistic lifestyle to avoid persecution, these false teachers were only doing so because they themselves were secretly breaking the law of God. In convincing everyone else of their obedience and faux-holiness, they were able to cover up the fact that they were truly despicable sinners.

These men who had come to peddle a “new gospel” did not have the authority or the character necessary to teach the believers at Galatia. Rather, they were imposters who sought to spoil the Galatians for their own benefit and praise. The believers had no business following such underhanded distorters of Christianity.
At times, we too can fall prey to the erroneous methods and motivations of the Judaizing false teachers. We can live in such a way that we want everyone to see how holy we are so that they will either externally and internally praise us for our holiness. At other times, we may join the Judaizers in our tempering our lifestyle to match those around us who are not believers with the hope that we will not be mocked or ridiculed for taking biblically divisive positions. The greatest danger for us however exists in the reality that when doing either of these deceptive things, we might all the while have unrepentant sin that we are harboring and secretly holding out of view of others, constantly promising to take care of at a later date, but almost certainly never truly getting resolved. May we see the example of these false teachers and be warned against it. May we instead be constantly humble, always separate, and desire true holiness within.

Food For Thought: What were the three things that the false teachers were doing in Galatians 6:11-13?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Galatians 6:6-9

There is a principle that is uniform far and wide. Whatever you sow, you will reap. If a farmer plants row upon row of corn kernels, he can expect to harvest corn at the end of the growing season. Similarly, throwing out grass seed in my yard leaves me with the full expectation that I will have grass filling in those bare spots left by winter. No farmer plants corn expecting apple trees to sprout up from the ground, just as I don’t expect my grass seed to miraculously transform into blueberry bushes. Whatever you sow, you will reap.
This same principle extends far beyond the realm of physical seed. It is ubiquitous to every area of life and existence. The one who puts in effort often sees reward for that effort. The one who sits idly by often experiences a season of want or lack. When we come through Galatians, Paul takes this principle and applies it to something of more lasting value – spiritual things.
Those who spend their lives “sowing” as it were sinful fleshly things find at the end of their sowing a harvest of nothing more than corruption. You cannot expect to live a life rife with anti-God, anti-nature choices and receive spiritual growth and spiritual life. Sowing sin, brings corruption. Paul conversely makes the point however, that those who sow “to the Spirit” will reap something for greater and everlasting. So how do we sow to the Spirit? What does that type of good life investment look like?
In verse 6, Paul explains that there are two types of Christians: those who teach the word and those who are taught the word. He is not saying that one is better than the other, simply that there are two roles in Christianity. One labors to study and proclaim, while the other should labor to listen and study. Both of these are “sowing” in their actions, and each will receive a benefit for the labor that they expend. After explaining that those who receive the word should do so with gratitude and respond in blessing to those who teach, Paul then makes his argument for sowing and reaping.
It seems clear from the text that Paul is trying to teach the believers in Galatia to spend themselves in the ministry of others. He is telling them that they should sow in love so that the harvest they will receive will be a lasting eternal one, not a temporal one. He continues on and says in verse 9, “and let us not be weary in well doing.” An eternal harvest is coming, and if we are faithful to sow right now, we will enjoy the fruits of our labor then.
For us, what does that mean? Starting in Galatians 6:1-2, Paul tells us that believers bear one another’s burdens and strive to reconcile those who are overtaken by sin. He tells us further that we should labor to either be teaching the Word or labor to learn from the Word. There is profit to be had, but it does not come without labor. Without sowing, the farmer never has a harvest. Without laboring, we will never reap an everlasting reward. Now, in the strength of the Lord, we should strive to sow, so that in due season, we may reap a great reward.
Food For Thought: Explain in your own words the phrase, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Galatians 5:26-6:5

In Paul’s explanation of the Spirit-led life, a key distinction of one who is walking in the Spirit is that they are seeking to destroy the desires and influence of sin in their lives. In a church, where there should be multitudes of people walking in the Spirit with one another, Paul further explains in Galatians 5:26 that there should be no desire to be seen as greater than one another. Paul’s point was that perhaps in the church there were those who are following the Spirit who were spiritually mature and strong in the faith. They are only strong because of the work of the Spirit in them, they have nothing that they should be bragging about or using to provoke other people with. Rather in humility, they should seek to serve those around them. And those who are weak should not exhaust themselves obsessing about the spiritual maturity of another believer, instead, they should seek to walk in the Spirit and kill the sin in their own life.
When everyone in the body is coexisting in a loving meekness, the tensions between brothers and sisters will melt away. Paul’s point here in this text is merely a continuation of the rest of Galatians. All along, there were those who claimed to be spiritually strong, and told the rest of the church that they had believed an inadequate gospel. They said that in their spiritual maturity, they knew they were supposed to add the Law of Moses to the work of Jesus so that God would offer them grace enough to be saved. Seeing the “super-spiritual” Judaizers, the Galatians began to desire to be spiritual like them, but only ended up confused. The spirituality that the Judaizers were teaching about was in addition to the gospel and the work of the Spirit, and made the Christian life so complicated that they were left frustrated.
The model purported by the Judaizers was not the model of a Spirit-led church. The Judaizers model had those who were super-spiritual lording over everyone else. A spiritual hierarchy was devised giving vain prestige to those who “got it” while everyone else groveled at their feet hoping to someday understand the truths that were perceived by the spiritually elite. Paul argued that the role of those who were spiritual was not the role of master and lord, rather, those who are spiritual are supposed to look out for and help and lift up those who are not. As a strong brother sees a weak brother who is struggling in sin, the strong brother intercedes and helps the weak brother out of sin.
The truly Spirit-led church cares for its own. It does not abuse and abandon in the times of need, it surrounds and equips and assists those who are falling and have fallen. In Paul’s estimation, this is the ministry of Christ Himself. He came and saw the weakened and helpless and then he humbly stooped himself to assist. He could have come as dominating commander of all, but instead he came as the servant of all. Every believer should seek to live this way. They should be constantly serving and constantly loving others. And this selfless service is not without reward. At the end of the day, those who have labored tirelessly in the Spirit, restoring others and bearing their burdens, they will find themselves enriched with true lasting joy.
As a final thought, restoration is the desired outcome in this scenario, but Matthew 18 makes it clear that if a brother is unrepentant of their sin, then restoration is impossible. Only when a person is following the Spirit and killing the sin in their life can they be restored to the fellowship of those who are walking in the Spirit. Repentance must predicate restoration.

Food for Thought: Read Matthew 18:15-19. In your own words describe the path to restoration according to Jesus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March Memory Verses

This text provides a look at the person and work of Jesus Christ and is a good text for memorization because it helps us know who Jesus is:

Colossians 1:15-20
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.