Well, this is the final episode in our study of Galatians. We’ll be looking at chapter six where Paul wraps up his discussion of the law and our life of faith in Christ. Throughout this letter, Paul has made it powerfully clear that there is no other gospel than the one that preaches the grace of God alone, made possible through faith alone in Christ alone. And there is no other way for men to be made right by God than through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He not only saves us, He sanctifies us. And He makes it possible for us to live according to a new law: The law of Christ. Loving as He loved. Sacrificing for others as He did for us. Extending grace just as we have received it from God the Father. We are now free. Free to live and love as Christ did.
In the second half of Galatians chapter five, verses 16-26, Paul is going to explain that we not only have the freedom to love, but the power to do so. It comes from the Spirit of God. But it requires a determination to live under the Spirit’s control, choosing to be led by Him and not by our old sin nature. It’s a choice we have to make each and every day. And when we choose to let the Holy Spirit have control of our lives, He produces His fruit through us. And that fruit is irreproducible any other way. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we can produce a lot of things with our life, but if we do it in the flesh, the byproduct of our efforts will look dramatically different. Like everything else in our lives as believers, fruitfulness is not based on our own efforts, but on our complete reliance upon God. The life of faith is a life lived according to God’s power, not ours.
As we move into chapter five of Galatians, the first 15 verses will introduce us to the concept of our freedom in Christ and what that should mean when it comes to our relationships with those around us. Paul will tell us that we are “free to love”, which is also the title of this episode. We enjoy freedom from the law. We are no longer required to try and keep the law in order to earn a right standing with God. We are free from the rites, rituals and religious rule-keeping that marked the law. But our freedom has a purpose. It is to have an ulterior motive. Rather than having to obsess about our own spiritual standing before God, we are free to love and serve those around us. Rather than focusing on law-keeping, we can concentrate all our attention on love-giving. Our salvation has been secured. So, we can spend all our time putting the needs of others first.
Today’s episode is called “Two Covenants,” and is based on Galatians chapter 4, verses 21-31. Paul is going to contrast the old and the new covenants, using two Old Testament characters: Hagar and Sarah, to illustrate their differences. This unique comparison, will provide us with a better understanding of how the original covenant was based on the Law, but the new covenant, which replaced it, is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross. But Hagar and Sarah, two women who both bore sons to the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, represent two dramatically different attempts to see God’s promise fulfilled. One was based on human effort and reasoning, while the other relied on the word of God. He would do what He promised in His time and according to His will. No help needed. No other options accepted.
Today’s episode is called “Re-enslaved” and is based on Galatians chapter 4, verses 1-20. Here Paul will confront the Galatian believers about their inexplicable desire to return to their old status as slaves, when they had been set free by Jesus Christ. For Paul freedom was a major benefit of having placed his faith in Christ. He was freed from the law. He was free from the demands of having to try to keep the law in order to be made right with God. In fact, he told the believers in Rome, “But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). And Paul wants to know why the Galatians would willingly choose a life of slavery over freedom in Christ.
I have titled today’s episode simply “Faith.” It’s based on verses 23-29 of Galatians chapter 3 and where Paul continues his discussion of faith versus works. But Paul is going to attempt to clear up what has become a somewhat confusing point regarding faith. Is faith just another form of works? In other words, is our salvation dependent upon our faith? Can we have too little faith? Is faith something we have to manufacture or muster up in order to be saved? All of these questions will be answered by what Paul has to say in these verses. And the bottom line will be that faith does not come from us, but from God. In fact, faith is a gift given to us from God in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. Faith isn’t something we manufacture. It’s someone we receive.
In today’s episode, called the Promise and the Law, Paul will continue his juxtaposition of the obedience to the law and salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. In verses 15-22 of Galatians chapter 3, Paul will go out of his way to explain the purpose behind God’s giving of the law and how it relates to our faith in Jesus Christ. For generations, the Jews had understood the law of Moses to be the means by which they gained approval by God. Obedience brought blessing. Disobedience brought God’s curses. But they had failed to recognize that what God really wanted was a relationship with men. It was their sin that made that difficult. And no amount of law-keeping and rule-following seemed to help, because they always failed. But God’s solution for their problem came in the form of a promise: His own Son.
Today, in chapter 3 of Galatians, we’ll be covering verses 1-14. In these verses, Paul is going to dig deeper into the contrast between faith and works. He is going to hammer home his strong, unwavering assertion that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, with nothing else whatsoever required. In fact, even after salvation, works do not suddenly become the barometer by which God measures our degree of faith. His love for us doesn’t waver based on the quality or quantity of our works. According to Paul, the righteous are not only saved by faith, they are to live by faith, trusting that God’s love for them has only one condition: Their ongoing faith and dependence upon the death of Christ and His righteousness.
Today, we will be in the second half of Galatians 2, looking at verses 11-21. In these verses we are going to see Paul take on his fellow apostle, Peter, and give him a spiritual broadside regarding his treatment of the Gentile believers in Galatia. The problem Paul had was that Peter’s actions had given credence to the false teaching of the Judaizers. His reluctance to eat with uncircumcised Gentiles was sending not only a bad message, but a wrong one. And Paul would have nothing to do with it. He could care less that Peter was one of the original disciples and a member of Jesus’ inner circle. What he had done was wrong and had contradicted the message of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone that Paul had so faithfully preached.
This episode, based on Galatians 2, verses 1-10, in entitled, Preserving the Truth, and deals with Paul’s determination to protect and preserve the integrity of the Gospel message at all costs. Watering it down was not to be tolerated. Any attempt to add to it was not to be accepted. For Paul, the good news of Jesus Christ was not just one more way for men to be made right with God, it was the ONLY way. The truth regarding man’s sin and God solution for it are to be found only in Christ. Any other offer of salvation is false. Any other means of achieving a right standing with God is a lie. Jesus is not one of many options. He is the way, the truth and the life. And nobody comes to the Father except through Him.
In today’s episode, we will be in Galatians 1, verses 11-24. I’ve titled this episode, Chosen By God, because Paul is going to go out of his way to defend not only his apostleship, but his message of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone. One of the things he was facing was the growing threat of false gospel messages confusing the believers in Galatia and leaving them wondering about the reality of their faith. Paul had a vested interest in the people who made up the churches in Galatia and was not going to stand by and watch them led astray by those who were preaching another gospel. God had chosen him to take the message of Good News to the Gentiles and he was not about to allow anyone or anything stand in his way.
In this episode, we will be in Galatians 1, verses 1-10. From the very outset, Paul is going to jump right into the topic of the gospel. He is going to express his shock at the news that the Galatians believers have been deserting the gospel for a different one. And he makes it quite clear that this “other” gospel is really no gospel at all. Because there is only one. Paul is not going to pull any punches. He isn’t going to negotiate, cooperate or tolerate anyone who preaches a gospel other than grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. He’s even willing to call down a curse on anyone, man or angel, who teaches a false gospel. For Paul, there was no such thing as pseudo good news.
This is episode one hundred and fifteen and with it, we are starting a new series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It’s called No Other Gospel and for the next 12 episodes, we will be digging into this theologically rich and highly practical piece of correspondence from the apostle to the Gentiles.
Like any letter, this one had to eventually come to a close. Paul had to wrap up what he was saying and draw his thoughts to a single conclusion. And for Paul, that was a warning against divisions and obstacles. His greatest fear was the influence that false teachers might have on the believers in Rome, especially during the time it took him to get there. He knew from experience that there would be those who attempted to sway the church away from the truth with offers of a variant form of the gospel. They would use smooth-sounding words and be motivated by purely selfish reasons. And Paul pulls no punches, calling these individuals evil and describing them as tools of Satan. They were to be considered dangerous and deadly, wicked men who preyed on the naïve and the immature. Their words were to be rejected and their fellowship denied. For the sake of the well-being of the church and the further spread of the gospel.
Unity and diversity. These are two of the characteristics that mark the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And Paul is going to stress both qualities as he wraps up his letter to the Romans. In a world where social standing and ethnic elitism ran rampant, the church provided a refreshing glimpse into the way God intended His people to live. As Paul clearly stated in his letter to the Galatians: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This does not mean we lose our ethnicity or gender, give up our social standing or cease to be who we are. It simply indicates that our diversity takes a back seat to our unity in Christ. We all share one thing in common: Our faith in Christ and union with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.
Paul was a non-stop whirlwind of activity when it came to the gospel. He rarely took a break from his missionary travels and, even when he stopped in any city or town for very long, he was busy spreading the good news about Jesus Christ to anybody and everybody who would listen. Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, slave, free, male, female. Paul was an equal-opportunity evangelist. There was no one too lost, too sinful, too uneducated or too far gone that didn’t hear the message of salvation and feel the compassion of Paul. But Paul required support, especially the prayers of the saints. He knew his time was limited and the opposition to what he was doing was great. So he begged his readers to pray for him. He was doing spiritual work and it required spiritual backing. Paul most likely knew the words of James well: The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Sometimes it can feel as if living the Christian life is impossible. The standards feel too lofty, the expectations, too great. Many of us feel pressure to meet the expectations of those around us – well-meaning fellow believers, who give us a list of rules to keep or criteria to meet. We feel the need to compare, using everything from the length of our quiet times and the number of verses we have memorized, to the depth of our Bible knowledge and the regularity of our church attendance. But Paul would have us understand that our faith is not to be measured by our accomplishments as much as by our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is He who produces righteousness within us. It is He who gives us the capacity to live holy lives. Our growth in Christ-likeness is not to be accomplished in our own strength, any more than our salvation was accomplished by our own merit. We have what it takes to live holy lives, and He’s called the Holy Spirit.
Most of us as Americans don’t like the idea of committees. We are inherently individualists who have each inherited a built-in independent streak. Few of us like to be told what to do and would prefer to do things our way, on our own timeline and all by ourselves. We are a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of people. So, when we read the letters of Paul, we tend to read them with a what’s-in-it-for-me kind of attitude. We see all those personal pronouns in his letters and assume he is talking to us – as individuals. But as we look at chapter 15 of Romans, we are going to see that Paul put a high priority on the body of Christ. The whole metaphor of the body, of which Paul was quite fond, conjures up images of codependency and mutual cooperation. The body is a single unit in which all the parts work together for the common good. The same thing is true of the body of Christ. We are not in this alone.
Disunity and dissension are dangerous things when it comes to the local body of Christ. And they can show up as a result of some of the silliest and pettiest of issues. In chapter 14 of Romans. Paul will address a seemingly ridiculous situation regarding food that was threatening the unity of that local fellowship. When all was said and done, the problem had little to do with food and a lot to do with rights, pride, and a sense of superiority infecting the body of Christ in Rome. That’s why Paul chose to deal with it so strongly. He knew the danger of disunity and the need for a spirit of humility and selflessness within the local body. None of us is greater than anyone else. Our rights do not take precedence over the spiritual well-being of another. We are to put the needs of others ahead of our own. We are to build up, not tear down. We are to be encouragers, not stumbling blocks. All for the good of the body and the glory of God.
Opinions. Everybody has them. And most of us like to share them. But at times, we turn our opinions into what amount to be unwritten laws or codes of conduct, all based on little more than our own understanding of how things should be. We often assume that our opinions carry the weight of Scripture, but based on little evidence. And then we feel obligated to force our point of views on all those around us, policing their actions and judging their failure to live up to our standards. But Paul would have us stop judging one another. He is not saying that we should lack conviction or the courage to speak out against sin. As he tells us in verse 1 of Romans chapter 14, we are “not to quarrel over opinions.” We are not to force our personal views on one another. We are not to divide the body of Christ over petty, personal opinions that inflate our egos and feed our pride.
We all know what the Bible has to say about love. But knowing what it says and actually doing it are two completely different matters. Loving others is difficult. Loving our enemies is impossible. Yet God clearly commands us to do both. As Paul continues to address the believer’s relationship with the world and all those who live in it, he takes us to all-too-familiar topic of love. In the second half of chapter 13, he will encourage us to live distinctively different lives by loving in a distinctively different manner. We are to love as Christ loved. We are to love others because we have been loved by God. And this kind of love is not optional. In fact, Paul will tell us that the kind of love to which we have been called fulfills all the requirements of the law. Loving is the consummate expression of our obedience to all of God’s commands. Our love is to be visible, tangible, practical and ultimately, sacrificial.
It was Francis Schaefer who wrote the book entitled, How Should We Then Live? It was a call to believers to live distinctively different lives in the midst of the morally declining culture of the 20th Century. Paul issues a similar call to the believers living in Rome, the decadent and oppressive government that overshadowed all of life. And his words carry powerful weight for us today as we struggle to live out our faith in an ever-increasingly hostile atmosphere marked by secularism and moral relativism. Paul’s words will sound just as shocking today as they did the day he wrote them. We will instinctively resist his counsel just as his original audience did. We’ll want to insist that he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know how bad things have gotten. But Paul is speaking for God. And God has placed us on this earth as agents of change and ministers of reconciliation.
As Christians, we can sometimes feel that we are surrounded by evil. The world in which we live can be a harsh place at times, and it appears that our faith in Christ is resulting in our ever-increasing polarization from the rest of the humanity. And yet, Paul is calling us to live out our faith in such a way that the truth of the gospel stands in stark contrast to the wickedness that surrounds us. When hated, we are to love. When cursed, we are to bless. We are called to live in harmony and humility – with all men. And rather than responding in kind to the evil we may face in this life, we are to reflect the grace, mercy and love of Christ and rely upon our hope in the promises of God. It won’t be easy, but it will get the attention of the world. We are called to live radically different lives, and the more we become like Christ, the more we will stand in stark contrast to the world and as living evidence of the power of God.
What difference should the gospel make in our lives? In what ways should the good news regarding Jesus Christ transform the way we live? In chapter 12, Paul will begin putting shoe leather to the doctrinal insights he has provided. He will now attempt to make the theological, practical, showing us how new life in Christ should show up in everyday life in real, tangible ways. But for Paul, it all starts with sacrifice. It begins with a dying to self in order that we might live for Christ. It starts with a realization that we are not our own, and that we belong to God. As His children, we have been called to live distinctively different lives, set apart from the world around us, and empowered by the Holy Spirit within us. Our salvation is to result in our sanctification, our ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ. But it requires a daily surrender to God’s will instead of our own.
For Paul, God was both unfathomable and amazingly approachable. He was majestic, holy, and worthy of honor, praise and glory. Yet, He could be incredibly loving, gracious, kind and understanding. Paul never minimized the greatness of God, but He took great comfort in the fact that it was God’s unchanging nature as a holy and righteous God that made Him consistently reliable, even when His ways were not fully understandable. There was much about God’s relationship with Israel that Paul didn’t understand. While he could not explain the ways of God, he didn’t believe that gave him the right to question the integrity of God. He was fully confident that God knew what He was doing and that His plans for Israel would be completely and faithfully fulfilled. God was and is reliable. His word stands. His will is always accomplished.