"Glory in Galatians"
(Galatians 1:1,2) - Salvaging Whole Congregations
(Galatians 1:3-5) - The Authority Of Christ
(Galatians 1:6-7) - Deserting Christ
(Galatians 1:8-10) - Disturbing Elements
(Galatians 1:10) - Pleasers Of Men
(Galatians 1:11-14) - Paul's Gospel Credentials
(Galatians 1:15 - Called An Apostle
(Galatians 1:15) - Called An Apostle (Cont'd)
(Galatians 1:16-18) - And On To Jerusalem
(Galatians 2:2-4) - Circumcision And Law
(Galatians 2:4,5) - False Brethren Sneaking In
(Galatians 2:6-10) - To The Jew And The Gentile
(Galatians 2:11-14) - Paul Rebuking Peter
(Galatians 2:15,16) - Justification By Faith
(Galatians 2:16) - Faith: A Picture Of The Glorified Christ
(Galatians 2:16) - What Is Faith?
(Galatians 2:16) - God Is Able!
(Galatians 2:16) - Faith Holds On
(Galatians 2:16) - Justified By Faith
(Galatians 2:17,18) - The Son Who Loved Me
(Galatians 2:19-21) - Living By Faith
(Galatians 3:1-5) - Bewitched
(Galatians 3:6-9) - Faith Wins
(Galatians 3:9-13) - Under a Curse
(Galatians 3:13,14) - The Purpose Of God
(Galatians 3:13,14) - The Promise Of God
(Galatians 3:13,14) - The Sons of Abraham
(Galatians 3:15-17) - The Covenant With Abraham
(Galatians 3:18) - Based On Promise
(Galatians 3:19,20) - Why The Law?
(Galatians 3:21,22) - The Failure Of The Law
(Galatians 3:22,23) - The Purpose Of The Law
(Galatians 3:22,23) - Promise By Faith
(Galatians 3:23-27) - Sons Of God Through Faith
(Galatians 3:26,27) - Turning To The Lord In Immersion
(Galatians 3:26,27) - Clothed with Christ
(Galatians 3:26,27) - Clothed with Glory
(Galatians 3:28,29) - Abraham's True offspring
(Galatians 4:1-5) - Children Are Slaves
(Galatians 4:4-7) - God Has Sent Forth The Spirit
(Galatians 4:8-11) - I Fear For You
(Galatians 4:9) - Enslaved Again!
(Galatians 4:12-19) - Remember Who Loves You
(Galatians 4:19-26) - Missing The Allegory
(Galatians 4:27,28) - Break Forth And Shout!
(Galatians 4:28-31) - Cast Out The Bondwoman
(Galatians 5:1) - Losing The Legacy
(Galatians 5:1-4) - Descent With Modification
(Galatians 5:5-7) - Faith, Hope, and Love
(Galatians 5:5-10) - A Little Leaven
(Galatians 5:9-12) - Trouble For Troublemakers
(Galatians 5:13-16) - Freedom To Serve
(Galatians 5:16-18) - Walk By The Spirit
(Galatians 5:19-21) - Deeds Of The Flesh
(Galatians 5:19-21) - Not Inheriting The Kingdom
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Fruit Of The Spirit
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Love Is A Decision
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Joy From Reconciliation
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Peace Beyond Comprehension
(Galatians 5:22,23) - The Patience Of God
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Kindness And Goodness
(Galatians 5:22,23) - No Folly In Faithfulness
(Galatians 5:22,23) - Strength In Gentleness
(Galatians 5:22,23) - On The Right Track
(Galatians 5:23,24) - Getting The Picture
(Galatians 5:24-26) - Walking by the Spirit
(Galatians 6:1-4) - Restore or Ruin
(Galatians 6:5-7) - No Excuses
(Galatians 6:7-10) - Laws of the Harvest
(Galatians 6:9,10) - Doing Good
(Galatians 6:11-13) - Good Showing in the Flesh
(Galatians 6:13,14) - Scriptural Boasting
(Galatians 6:15) - The New Creation
(Galatians 6:15,16) - Walk By This Rule
(Galatians 6:16) - The Israel Of God
(Galatians 6:17) - Brand-marks of Jesus
(Galatians 6:17) - Brand-marks On Our Bodies
(Galatians 6:18) - The Grace Of Our Lord Be With Your Spirit
Salvaging Whole Congregations
By spiritual standards, the apostle Paul was a great, great man. I once heard a liberal, atheistic commentator say that western civilization was built on Moses, Jesus, and Paul. Considering that this commentator was in favor of overthrowing "the existing social order," his statement was certainly a backhanded compliment to the work and impact of the man originally known as Saul of Tarsus. Teaching and preaching in synagogue after synagogue, arguing with the skeptics in the streets, forcibly pressing the claims of Christ, even when on trial, and writing his explosive letters even from prison, this man - through the grace of Christ - turned the world upside down. Forced by the church at Corinth to re-establish his credentials as an apostle of Christ, he compared his work with the other apostles of the Lord: "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (I Corinthians 15:10). " more than all of them " What an awesome statement, especially when you consider what great men "them" referred to.
It was this same apostle who tramped into the Galatian region of what is now central Turkey, preaching the gospel of the glory of Christ, and with his traveling companions, establishing many congregations from about 45 AD onward. Thousands upon thousands eventually heard, and were "immersed into Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
But there arose a problem; a virus of false doctrine began infecting these congregations. This deadly virus - requiring that all Gentile Christians be circumcised and keep the Law - produced a spiritual epidemic as widespread as any small pox plague, and threatened the extinction of whole congregations in the Galatian region. "I am amazed," opened the apostle Paul, "that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6).
To check this plague, to salvage this whole series of congregations, and to set forth the blessings of the gospel as contrasted to the Law, the apostle - inspired by the very Spirit of God - sent forth this letter to the Galatians. Thus he begins: "Paul, an apostle (not sent from men, nor through an agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia " (Galatians 1:1,2).
This epistle to the first century brethren is both powerful and punchy. Warning that those who did not listen would be severed from Christ, the apostle really delineates between faith and law, and opens the door of freedom in Christ. Let us step through and learn.
The Authority Of Christ
In matters of religion, it is always a question of authority. And it is of paramount importance, because the eternal destiny of mens souls rides on the answer to the question. But there have always been those who have stepped up to Gods platform, and pretended to speak Gods truth. "I did not send these prophets," said the Lord through Jeremiah, "but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied" (Jeremiah 23:21). But it was not just a problem in Old Testament times. Referring back to the times in Israel when the pretenders spoke, the apostle Peter warns: "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies . . ." (II Peter 2:1).
So, who has the authority to speak? Who has the authority to deliver the message of sound doctrine? What is the source of this teaching? The problem in the churches of Galatia began when some Jewish "Christians" came down from Jerusalem, and started teaching that the Gentile Christians had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. Even though they stated this position strongly, was it correct? In a letter to Timothy, Paul writes, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions" (I Timothy 1:5-7).
The apostle Paul, therefore, has to speak strongly to the Galatian congregations which are in grave danger of falling from the faith of Christ. And he begins by establishing his authority as an apostle of Jesus, and Jesus authority to speak from beyond the grave. Of himself, he speaks of being sent out, not by men or any human agency, but by Jesus Christ, and from God, who raised Jesus from the dead. "Grace to you, and peace," he says, "from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forevermore. Amen" (Galatians 1:3-5).
Jesus has the authority to speak through the apostle Paul to the Galatians, and to us. Let us listen, heed, and obey, that we may live!
Some things amaze us. It is amazing to watch a small child grow up into an outstanding young man or a fine young lady. It is amazing to see flowers blooming in the spring, or the first robins braving the remnants of last winters snow. Just the other evening I was amazed to see a "moonbow" - a clear moon shining into a passing rainstorm and forming a rainbow from reflected moonlight. Amazing!
But not all amazement stems from those things which are pleasurable. Sometimes the destruction that takes place during an African countrys revolution amazes us. Sometimes the sudden suicide of a teenager close to you is amazing. The apostle Paul felt this type of amazement toward the congregations of Galatia: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another, only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6,7). This was spiritual suicide on a mass scale. Amazing!
The elements of the gospel run like a regular pattern of shining thread through the garment of the Galatian epistle. Christ "gave Himself for our sins," emphasizes the apostle. God the Father "raised Him from the dead." The purpose was to "deliver us from this present evil age." All this was "according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore" (Galatians 1:1-5).
Neither those elemental things of the world which bound the Gentiles, nor the law of Moses which bound the Jews offered relief for the sin-stricken individual. Those who labored in the law were, in the words of the apostle Peter, under "a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear" (Acts 15:10). So when Paul came preaching the good news of Christ, the grace of Christ was obviously distinct from the condemnation of the law.
The perversion of the gospel in the first century churches of Galatia was not that they left immersion into Christ out of the plan. The perversion was that they added circumcision and law-keeping to the gospel due to pressure from the Jews with whom they associated. And when they bent away from the words of God, they deserted Christ who called them by His awesome, fathomless grace, to preach a man-made presentation palatable to those with whom they associated.
Amazing! Spiritual suicide on a mass scale. Total abandonment of Christ for a distorted, perverted, twisted gospel.
But, of course, it could never happen now.
The discovery of the planet Pluto is hailed as one of the great scientific accomplishments of all time. Disturbances in the orbit of the eighth most distant planet in the solar system, Neptune, indicated that there was yet an unidentified ninth planet. Calculating from those disturbances, astronomers were able to confirm the existence and location of Pluto in 1930.
Disturbances were affecting the spiritual orbit of the churches in the Roman province of Galatia. The apostle Paul was able to calculate the impact of those disturbances, pin-point their source, and pronounce a judgment upon those who produced the perturbations. Speaking of those who were distorting the gospel by bending to Jewish pressure and requiring circumcision and law-keeping, Paul writes, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:8-10). Strong words from a strong apostle, backed by a strong God.
In these congregations, there were those who were distorting the gospel to accommodate pressure from the Jewish element, those who sought approval from men rather than from God. In the churches today there are many who are distorting the gospel to accommodate denominationalism; those among us who are in the process of going out from us, men and women who love the approval of men rather than God, and who are accursed. Here are some of the types of pressures that cause men today to pervert the gospel:
It is true that the Pope and Catholic priests, the Billy Grahams and Jerry Falwells preach a false or distorted gospel. But the thrust of the Holy Spirits statement here in Galatians 1:6-10 is that those among "us" - those who come and preach among "our" congregations this perverted gospel - are anathema! These modern antichrists are usually "big names," driven by who knows what human ambitions. As the apostle John says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out in order that it may be shown that they are not all of us" (I John 2:19).
Stay with the apostles doctrine and fellowship!
Pleasers Of Men
Sooner or later every person makes a choice. He is either willing to sacrifice everything this earth has to offer in order that he might attain to the resurrection of the righteous, or he is willing to sacrifice heaven for the sake of some sort of earthly gain. Either he is going to do what he does to please God, or he is going to seek his reward from men. "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). And the Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, works things after the counsel of His will so that we all at some point in our lives are in a position where we are forced to make the fatal choice, to choose death or life. This includes preachers.
There was a good-sized movement in the Galatian congregations to accommodate their Jewish associates. Many of the Christians were at first Jews, and undoubtedly many of them had close friends and relatives who never believed the gospel. These first century Jews persecuted Christians, putting them to death, unless the Christians would essentially repudiate the cross of Christ and become a sect of the Jews. Thus many who preached in Galatia accepted this compromise in order to grow bigger congregations and to escape the suffering. As Paul wrote farther along in this Galatian letter: "Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12).
The apostle Paul had made his stand. There would be no perversion of the gospel for him. "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
But these words should cause moderns to pause and reflect. While the Jews in our neighborhoods are not persecuting us in our time, there are great pressures to be pleasers of men rather than pleasers of God. The Father allows it to be this way. And the example of the Galatians before us is that not only preachers may bend the gospel to be accepted by those around them, but a whole congregation - indeed, whole groups of congregations - can be swept along into this compromise of the gospel. The following warnings must be heeded by all:
God will let you personally be tested. God will send deluding influences through your congregation, and the other congregations with which you associate. You had better make up your mind whether you are going to please men or God.
Paul's Gospel Credentials
Truth is opposed by Satan. And truth is opposed by those in Satans grip. When someone takes a stand for truth, you can be certain that at least one person from Satans crowd will work to discredit the one who stands for truth. Thus, everywhere the apostle Paul preached, there were those who attempted to discredit him personally, and discredit his message.
And so it was among the congregations in Galatia. Although it was the apostles preaching which caused - directly or indirectly - them to come into existence. Pauls name, and therefore his preaching, was being destroyed by enemies of the gospel who had a hidden personal agenda. The apostle found it necessary to bring his personal history before the Galatian Christians in order to establish his gospel credentials, and the truth of his gospel message.
The apostle Paul makes it quite clear that his gospel came by revelation from Christ personally, and he could not have received all that he knew from the other apostles. His credentials to preach the gospel came from Jesus Himself. All in his hearing, then, should listen!
Called An Apostle
One of the great, inspiring stories in the Bible is what God did with the apostle Paul. In his own words, he was "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor" (I Timothy 1:13). And yet, by the grace of God, this man became the most powerful promulgator of the gospel to ever follow in the footsteps of Christ.
None of our circumstances are, from Gods perspective, chance. It was not by chance that we were born in our respective countries, it was not by chance that we were born to our respective parents, nor was it by chance that we were born at this time in history. As David, the sweet psalmist of Israel sang, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book they were all written - the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them" (Psalm 139:16). As we live and move and have our being in the unseen God, as we make our choices by our own free will, He still accomplishes His will by His predetermined plan and foreknowledge. Thus Saul of Tarsus was set apart, even from his "mothers womb" (Galatians 1:15) to be an apostle of Christ. But he had some roads to take, and some choices to make before this apostleship transpired.
At this point in Sauls life he had not yet assumed his full authority and power as an apostle. The Lord was still arranging circumstances for this great lion of God to blossom forth.
Called An Apostle (Cont'd)
Saul of Tarsus was "set apart," even from his mothers womb, to be an apostle (Galatians 1:15). But many events transpired in the life of Saul before he assumed his full authority as an apostle of the Christ who met him on the road to Damascus. Born of Israelite parents in Tarsus of Cilicia, educated in Jerusalem, "a Pharisee of Pharisees," Saul began persecuting the church at his first contact with it. But Jesus turned him around at Damascus, and from that point Saul began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues. After spending time in Arabia, he came back to Damascus. From there he went down to Jerusalem, and shortly thereafter was shipped to his home town of Tarsus. Barnabas brought Saul from Tarsus to Antioch of Syria, where the two of them spent a year with the church and taught considerable numbers. As he later described these events to the Galatians: "Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only they kept hearing, He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy. And they were glorifying God because of me" (Galatians 1:21-24). And Sauls time as a teacher continued.
With the full authority as an apostle of Christ, able to perform all the signs of an apostle, Paul is now able to fully carry out the preaching of "our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher" (II Timothy 1:10,11).
And On To Jerusalem
"Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem," writes Paul to the churches of Galatia. Why so much emphasis on Jerusalem?
The Christian congregations in Galatia had been started by the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey with Barnabas. Many of their converts were Gentiles, and Paul never required them to be circumcised or to keep the law of Moses. But later men came into the Galatian region and began to teach that Christianity was really just a sect of the Jews, and that Christians were to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. Because Jerusalem was the center of Judaism, and therefore where there were tendencies for Christians from Jerusalem to lean toward Judaism, Paul - in order to establish the validity of his upcoming points - had to describe some of the events which occurred in that city.
After his immersion into Christ in Damascus, Paul writes, "I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me" (Galatians 1:16,17). After spending time in Arabia, and returning to Damascus, the apostle finally went to Jerusalem. "Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem" (Galatians 1:18). But in his writing he makes it clear that the information he received was not from mere flesh and blood, but from Lord Jesus Himself. After spending time in Tarsus and Antioch of Syria, Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit to carry the gospel into the Galatian region on Pauls first missionary journey. "Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. And it was because of a revelation that I went up" (Galatians 2:1,2).
The Lord wanted Paul to go up to Jerusalem to help solve the problem there as well as in Antioch; as he put it, "And it was because of a revelation that I went up." The result: "The apostles and elders came together to look into this matter" (Acts 15:6).
Circumcision And Law
There is always some fleshly reason for false doctrine. The apostle Paul warned Timothy, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from truth, and will turn aside to myths" (II Timothy 4:3,4). So when men came into Antioch or Syria, or the churches of Galatia, or remained in Jerusalem, and taught that Christians had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses - regardless of how complicated their arguments or how spiritual their pretensions - Paul makes it clear that their motive was to avoid persecution or censure from the Jewish community. He writes, "Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12).
Early in the history of the church there were many who maintained, even in the presence of the apostles, that disciples of Christ were to be bound under the law. As recorded in Acts 15, a conflict in Antioch over circumcision resulted in Paul and Barnabas being sent to Jerusalem to solve the problem. But there were those in Jerusalem of the party of the Pharisees (who had been immersed into Christ) who maintained, "It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentile Christians], and to direct them to observe the law of Moses" (Acts 15:5). As a result of all this controversy, the apostles and elders came together to look into the matter. As the apostle Paul somewhat disgustedly indicated, "But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ, in order to bring us into bondage" (Galatians 2:4).
As the inspired apostle in this epistle is preparing to cut the ground from underneath the Judaizers, he chronicles these steps:
God was working through Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, and through "those who were of reputation" (Peter, John, James, etc.) sent to the Jews, to solve problems both in Jerusalem and Antioch. The fact that these two separate entities preached the same gospel and did not require Titus to be circumcised should shut the mouths of those who would argue otherwise everywhere!
False Brethren Sneaking In
Unity of the Spirit does not require unity with false brethren. In fact, the teaching of the Holy Spirit in Galatians emphatically emphasizes that there cannot be unity with those who are under law rather than under grace.
It has been said that a Christian is a brother with anyone who has been immersed into Christ. This is unbiblical. The Judaizers of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Galatia were immersed into Christ, but the word of God calls them "false brethren" (Galatians 2:4). These were men who compromised the teachings of the New Testament so as to avoid persecution. These were men who looked at things from a fleshly perspective rather than being able to see with spiritual eyes, a spiritual perspective born from a view of the Christ in glory.
In this section of the Galatian epistle, Paul described the nature of events which resulted in a meeting of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. His point was that the same principles applied to the churches in Galatia:
Paul was a strong contender for the faith. There were those in the first century who did not appreciate his intensity, or his "great dissension and debate" with those who opposed what he knew to be the teaching of God. "But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you" (Galatians 2:5). Praise God that he did not yield!
To The Jew And The Gentile
God almost always uses at least two witnesses. "I am He who bears witness of Myself," said Jesus, "and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me" (John 8:18). By the cross-hairs of two witnesses, God can clearly target His message to the "foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25).
Thus, when the Almighty wanted to establish that Gentiles, as well as Jews, were justified by faith in a spiritual circumcision rather than that which is performed in flesh by human hands, He brought to bear the witness of apostles to the Jews as well as the witness of the apostle to the Gentiles. When Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren, he made it clear that he had no extensive contact with the other apostles, and that his information came directly from Jesus Christ Himself. So as he continued to establish his credentials to the churches in the Galatian region, he gives those two independent witnesses strong definition:
Having focused the message of the two witnesses of the message to the Gentiles, Paul was about ready to take aim on the Galatians. But before he could do that, he had one more graphic illustration concerning Peter and the Gentile Christians.
Paul Rebuking Peter
Sometimes in spreading the word of God, there are some tough situations to be dealt with. Picture Peter and Paul face to face, and not privately, but in the "presence of all", with Paul having to rebuke Peter. The room would have been charged with major electricity; it would have been one of the most difficult things that Paul ever did; and Peter would have had to take the rebuke and instruction with meekness, without anger, without attacking Paul, and without throwing some kind of a fit and leaving the church.
This incident showed how strong the pressure was upon Jewish Christians, how deeply ingrained the tradition of remaining aloof from the Gentiles was, and how powerfully this problem affected the first century church. But, let Paul explain:
This matter of the Jewish Christians holding themselves aloof from the Gentile Christians, and not eating with them, was an issue that was called by Paul "the truth of the gospel." By not eating with the brethren from among the Gentiles, those of Jewish background were requiring in a subtle way that the Gentiles be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. This was contrary to the base that God had laid in the days of Abraham before the foundation of the Israelite nation, and was a reversion to an attempt of justification by law.
We must pay close attention to the things to follow in the Galatian letter, for herein the apostle will lay out the difference between faith and law. This was the most difficult struggle in the first century church, and it is the most difficult struggle today!
Justification By Faith
Suppose that you were a Gentile Christian in Antioch in the first century. When you first were immersed and added to the church, the apostle Peter and Barnabas would occasionally sit with you. But, you notice, as soon as some brethren come down to Antioch from Jerusalem, Peter and Barnabas wont eat with you or even talk to you anymore. You wonder what the problem is, because you havent done anything wrong that you know about.
Then one evening, there is a meeting of the whole congregation. After the preliminaries are over, the apostle Paul says to Peter in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" Then you begin to realize the spiritual infection in the church, and you want to understand how the apostles will resolve it. You and the honest-hearted Galatians of a little later time will earnestly desire to understand the obviously grave and eternal issues here, and you will pay close attention to Pauls teaching.
Using himself and Peter as examples, Paul grabbed Peter by the bit and jerked his head around to where it faced toward the front again. And by using this true life illustration in this letter to the Galatians, he jerked their heads around also. Law is dead; justification is by faith in Christ.
Faith: A Picture Of The Glorified Christ
"Faith," writes the author of Hebrews, "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The great theme of the apostle Pauls letter to the Galatians is justification by faith in Christ versus the destructive effects of a failed law. The problem was that many in the Galatian congregations were attempting to require that Gentiles coming into Christ be circumcised and keep the law. But the Holy Spirit makes it clear: "We may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law, since by works of the Law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16). So, what is this faith in Christ? What is this that is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen?
A godly faith through the ages has always been a picture that began with information from God. Biblical faith has never been a "blind faith," a leap into the unknown. Faith began with revelation from God in the form of physical pictures that were not seen, and culminates with faith in Christ, a spiritual picture not seen with the physical eye. Note these examples of how God built faith in the minds of men, and an increasing faith for mankind as a whole.
By their faith Noah and Moses were justified. They endured, looking to their respective rewards, holding and holding and holding on to the picture which God had given each of them.
So, what is the picture for the Christian?
What Is Faith?
"A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 2:16). Anyone truly interested in going to heaven will perk up his ears at this inspired statement, and will begin to wonder what faith really is in contrast to works of the Law.
Faith is a picture given by divine inspiration. Noah was given a picture of the ark; by holding to that picture, he built the ark and delivered himself and his family. Moses was given a picture of being the deliverer of Israel from Egypt; by holding to that picture, he left Egypt and took the people to the edge of the promised land.
This is the ultimate picture! A little old ark is nothing compared to the image of Christ in glory! A little old deliverance of 2.5 million or so people is nothing compared to the image of Christ in glory! And even the great image of Abraham as a spiritual father of many nations is nothing compared to the image of Christ in glory!
The purpose of all the previous examples of faith is to prepare the child of God at the end of the ages for being able to accept that the greatest of all pictures is applied to him. Gone are physical boats; gone is the physical nation; in their place is a personal picture of the image of Christ to be desired and reached for by a truly spiritual man. This is justification by faith.
God Is Able!
In hope against hope Abraham believed. First, he was without an heir for many, many years. And when Isaac was finally born according to promise and grew to manhood, God required that Abraham offer Isaac by Abrahams own hand on Moriahs mount. In hope against hope Abraham believed that God through Isaac would make him a father of many nations, even if He had to raise Isaac from the dead. "With respect to the promise of God, [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:20-22). Thats the key: being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform!
So, what has God promised the Christian?
Consider first these steps in the life of Christ:
This image of the Christ in glory is also the image of the new creation in Christ. When a child of God beholds by faith the unseen Christ in glory as revealed in scripture, he is - by the power of God -transformed into the same image!
This is new covenant faith; to behold the image of the glorified Christ, and believe that what transformation God has promised to perform He is able to perform! Understand, believe, and hold on!
Faith Holds On
Faith is greatly different than law. Law is centered on performance; faith is centered on a picture. Law demands performance now, but never achieves that performance; the picture developed by faith produces real performance later, the time gap being covered by a little thing from God called grace! Because of the weakness of the flesh, the law could not produce the kind of people who could keep it, but those raised, justified, and transformed in faith by the Spirit of God fulfill the righteous requirement of the law (Romans 8:3,4).
But faith requires holding on to the God-given picture against all odds and against all obstacles. There is no way in which Noah would have been justified had he lost his picture and not built the ark. There is no way in which Moses would have been justified if he had lost his picture and not delivered Israel. There is no way in which Abraham would have been justified if he lost his picture and refused to offer Isaac on the mount. There is no way in which the Christian will be justified if he loses his picture of himself being transformed into the image of the glorified Christ. He must continue to believe against all odds and against all obstacles that God is able to perform what He has promised! This then is the justification by faith spoken of by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians.
Consider some of these scriptural comparisons of the weak law and the powerful picture of faith:
Those who were zealous for the Law were zealous without knowledge. They were trying to achieve that which could not be achieved in the way they were going about it. "By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." Our only way is to hold to the picture of our Christ who is no longer in the flesh, "that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 2:16).
Justified By Faith
Over the centuries, there have been few who would believe. Man has said, "I must see with my own eyes. I must hear with my own ears. I must touch with my own hands. Then I will believe." But this really is not true; those in general who did see, hear, and touch soon forgot, and went back to their old wicked ways. By Gods design, because of the nature of man, faith is something that must be pursued. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is generated by the word of God, as God parades His witnesses one by one before the eyes of the one who so deeply desires to understand that he will take the time to sit through their testimony.
God, then, is willing to justify those who desire to seek His face enough to find it in the image of the glorified Christ. As His servant Paul established for us: "For God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, is the One who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6). By having and holding this image of the invisible God, "we may be justified by faith in Christ" (Galatians 2:16).
As Paul nailed Peter to the wall in Antioch of Syria, he was reminding him and the church of that powerful principle. The tendency of man is to try to justify himself and his circle - his family or his acquaintances - by some external, man-made standard. Law-keeping is mans attempt to substitute for what God really desires.
All through the ages, those who were of the faith of Abraham sought the face - the glory - of God. "Then Moses said, I pray, show me Your glory! But He said, You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live " (Exodus 33:18,20). "For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face" (Psalm 11:7). "Father," said Jesus, "I desire that they also, who You have given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory " (John 17:24).
Those who are justified by faith are those upright ones who have turned to the Lord in repentance and immersion in the name of Jesus. Those who are justified by faith are those who have continued to seek His face at the table of the Lord, in the Holy of Holies through prayer, and in reading His word. We appeal to you: Seek the glory of God in the face of Christ, and be justified by faith on His terms.
The Son Who Loved Me
God is love. He loves us. And the heavenly Father wants to be loved. (Is there something wrong with this desire of His?) Therefore He set in motion the principle of justification by faith to produce the appreciation for what He has done, knowing that this will in turn lead to love for Him. "For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain " (Romans 4:16). Faith in God is therefore on an individual basis, producing love for God on an individual basis.
And, praise God! for His lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting, that He is willing to justify the individual on the basis of his faith. So the washed, the sanctified, the justified consist of all sorts of undesirable types - sinners from among all ranks of men. "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin?" (Galatians 2:17). The "law-keeper" would point with disdain at those justified in Christ, parade his "superior" character before them, and particularly in his own mind, then try to claim that - if "those other people" are justified, Christ is a minister of sin. Paul cries out, "May it never be!" Then he proceeds to methodically tear apart such a charge.
The Law is impersonal justice. The Law condemns. Christ is not a minister of sin - He delivers from the wrath of the Law those whose conduct in Christ would still be condemned by the Law.
But listen to the personal care exhibited for each believer in these words: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Do you appreciate this, and respond appropriately?
Living By Faith
The power of the cross is in the death of the Law. That is why the cross is the first point in the proclamation of the gospel. In using the Law "lawfully," a teacher of the word of God brings his hearers to a point of conviction by the Law wherein they recognize that they are sinners. When his hearers cry for release from their bondage to sin, then the cross looms overhead in its proper proportion. At that point in preaching, the apostle Paul did not want to resort to mere human philosophies as a band-aid to cure the violent hemorrhaging of sin: "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).
Because the power of the cross is the death of the Law, the cross is also the central feature in a scriptural discussion over the problems with "law-keepers" and Judaizers. The apostle Pauls instructions to the Colossians are powerful on this point: On the cross, Christ "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). Thus no one was to act as a Christians judge with regard to external practices of the Jewish Law - the food and drink regulations, new moon festivals, or Sabbaths. No one could require the Christian to observe them because they were "things which are a mere shadow of what is to come" (Colossians 2:17).
So, in his discussion of the Law with the Galatians, the preaching of the cross is the apostles first major thrust in calling them back to the ways of God.
When Paul saw that Peter was not straightforward about the power of the cross to justify the Gentile as well as Jew, then the apostle to the Gentiles leveled a broadside at Peter in the presence of all in Antioch clearly establishing that the Law was gone, and was not to be bound upon anyone.
Live by faith. Righteousness is not found in a vain attempt at law-keeping.
Get ready for some first century style preaching. Paul laid the foundation for his power delivery in recounting his own past history as a zealous Jew. After describing his own turning to Christ and receiving his gospel from Christ by revelation, he directed his attention to the Acts 15 discussion of the Law vs. faith in Jerusalem. Then he discussed his "nailing Peter to the wall" because Peter was carried away by the hypocrisy of certain Judaizers who came to Antioch and refused to eat with the Gentile Christians. The apostle closed his introduction by pointing out that the cross of Christ brought the grace of Christ to him, and that he would not nullify that grace by turning back to the Law.
"You foolish Galatians," cries the apostle, "who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?" (Galatians 3:1). Bewitched is a strong word, indicating strong delusion. Someone switched picturesJesus was originally clearly portrayed as crucified; then someone was able to brush that away, and replace it with a darkened circumcision. Whole congregations were in grave danger, and the apostle cared enough to use strong language, and ask some tough questions to get them back on the narrow way.
Honest answers to those questions would draw the Galatians back to faith, and cause their ears to hear the distant call of Paul.
In a contest between faith and law, faith wins. Because the Law tends to produce instant and more tangible results, men generally choose law over faith. The Galatian Christians, because of pressure from the Jews with whom they associated, drifted from faith back into law. This was a serious problem, because those who attempt to be justified by law are lost, and Pauls concern for them shows: "My children," he calls, "with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
The apostle, then, had a series of serious questions for these brethren in these several congregations. Did you receive the Spirit by Law, or by faith? Having begun by the Spirit (who comes through faith), are you being perfected by the flesh (a reversion to the Law and external things like circumcision)? Did you suffer for the faith in vain? Does He who provides the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, do it under faith or under Law? In each case, these rhetorical questions point to the great superiority of faith over law.
The apostle proceeds from those questions to discuss the faith of Abraham as a foreshadow of the Christians faith in God:
In a contest between faith and law, faith wins. Be certain that you understand the difference, and the underlying principles of each. Many in the first century church did not understand, and the error is oft repeated in the twentieth century.
Under a Curse
The Law is a curse. Strong words, if you think about it. Ground that is cursed produces no fruit. The ground was cursed because of Cain, and he spent the rest of his life as a vagabond because the ground would yield nothing to him; he was forced to beg from his relatives, who all remembered what he did to Abel. And the Law does not curse the ground; the Law puts people under a curse!
Faith produces a blessing, in great contrast to the Law. "So then," the apostle had written, "those who are of faith are blessed" (Galatians 3:9). On the hand of faith a blessing; on the hand of the Law, a curse. Which shall we choose?
Those who would attempt to be justified by law have no need of Christ. Those who would be justified by faith are clearly in need of the substitutionary death of Christ on their behalf, and are thus earnestly desiring to see the face of the One who redeemed them from the curse of the Law.
The Purpose Of God
When God tells you why He does something, you should listen up! For most of the operations of the Almighty, there is no explanation; He just acts. But once in awhile, He lets us in on a secret; once in awhile He lets us know His reason for working after the counsel of His own will. And when He lets us know, we should pay attention, very close attention.
In Galatians 3, through the inspired pen of the great apostle Paul, we are permitted to know why the Father has established His redemption of mankind. He has already hinted at Gods purpose when he opened this chapter with his questions: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Does He who provides you with the Spirit do it by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? But in verses 13 and 14 the Holy Spirit Himself brings out the divine purpose for redemption: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree - in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
The purpose of God is that we might be indwelled with the Spirit of God. Redemptions plan, grand though it is, is simply the means by which the body is cleansed of sin, that it might be a fit dwelling place for the Spirit of God. How great, then, and how important is this indwelling of the Holy Spirit!
The Promise Of God
God keeps His promises. "If we are faithless," wrote Paul to Timothy, "He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself" (II Timothy 2:13). And God has made promises. To Israel belonged "the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises" (Romans 9:4). One of those promises was that God was going raise Jesus from the dead and seat Him on the heavenly throne. "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers," spoke the apostle Paul to the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch, "that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, You are My Son; today I have begotten You " (Acts 13:32,33). Jesus indeed, having Himself received the promise of the Holy Spirit, was seated on the throne, fulfilling what was promised, "I will give You the holy and sure blessings of David" (Acts 13:34).
But for each one who would turn from his wicked ways, the Father in heaven has what He calls the promise. And this the promise is the indwelling Spirit of God. Note the emphasis really given at the first proclamation of the gospel on the day of Pentecost, 30 AD: "Repent," said Peter, "and let each of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:38,39). This emphasis on the promise of the Spirit is brought out by other scriptures:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Let us endeavor to understand and appreciate the great significance of this information from God.
The Sons of Abraham
The indwelling Spirit was promised through Abraham. Abraham, of course, welcomed the promise from afar, not quite understanding what had been promised. So the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham. "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). As He said in another place, "I will make you the father of a multitude of nations" (Genesis 17:5), and because Abraham believed God about this very promise, "it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Galatians 3:6). And the word of God, looking to the acceptance of the Gentiles by the faith, preached the gospel to Abraham, "All the nations shall be blessed in you" (Galatians 3:8). What a shot in the face these scriptures would be to those Galatian Christians who were compromising the faith which was to come to the Gentiles so that they could be accepted by Jews! Consider these points:
The Old Testament scriptures foretold the inauguration of a new and better way. The Old Testament scriptures foretold the coming of the Spirit of Christ. "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27). The Old Testament scriptures looked to the justification of the Gentiles by faith. The churches in Galatia were way off track in looking back into the physical rites of circumcision and participation in Old Testament sacrifices. "Therefore," Paul warned them, "be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7).
The Covenant With Abraham
Contracts are serious documents. And they are binding. Many an individual over the centuries has entered lightly into a contract, and found later in court just how binding and serious the contract was. Be sure to read the fine print!
God the Almighty, when He does business with man, also operates by contract. The technical name for the contract with God is covenant. In business it takes the nature of a contractual will, and it is also called a will or testament. Listen as the apostle Paul lays the groundwork for a sensible discussion with the Galatian Christian on the subject of contract:
God made a covenant by which He bound Himself in the days of Abraham. That covenant, with all the promises and obligations pertaining thereunto, was really with Abrahams seed, Christ!
The ground on which those who falsely gloried in the Law of Moses stood has fairly been cut out from underneath them. It is obvious that the covenant of Christ has much higher standing than the Law! And the contract with God is binding!
Based On Promise
You receive the good news. A rich relative you had forgotten about made his exit from earth, and in his will he left you $1,000,000! What was really interesting about this will is that if there had been no document, and the assets would have been distributed according to standard state law, you would not have inherited at all; your relationship to your relative was too distant. But because you were nice to this relative when you were a child, he promised to give you a piece of the inheritance; you forgot about it, but he didnt.
"For if inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted to Abraham by means of a promise" (Galatians 3:18). Twenty centuries before Christ, God made a promise to Abraham and Abrahams seed. "In your seed," the Almighty had said, on the mount called Moriah, "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). God made the promise to Abraham and to Abrahams seed (Christ) on the basis of His personal choice; the Law by contrast is impersonal. Those Jews who did not intend to be in favor with God of course wanted their eternity determined by the impersonal law; what they desired was the statement that "You are a Jew by physical birth; therefore you are Gods chosen." Such a blatant disregard for fellowship with God was never Gods intention.
In the wisdom of God, He has produced a system of faith, similar to the faith of Abraham, that the promise might be to a certain type of person. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the Law]; and his praise is not from men, but from God" (Romans 2:28,29). Be certain that you are of the right "circumcision," that you might receive the inheritance you were promised.
Why The Law?
There have always been those who falsely believe they are justified because of some law of physical requirement. Some modern renditions of this theme are, "I was born a Catholic; I was sprinkled a Catholic; I am going to heaven because that is the religion of my ancestors;" or "I was born a Baptist; I accepted Christ into my heart in the Baptist way; I am going to heaven because that is the religion of my ancestors." In the first century, the theme was, "I was born a Jew; I was circumcised as a Jew; I am going to heaven because that is the religion of my ancestors."
As the apostle Paul had attempted to make clear to the Romans (and presumably everywhere he taught and preached), "he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the Law]" (Romans 2:29). "Beware," he warned in another place, "of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:2,3). Those Jews who remained Jews, and who tried to require that Gentiles be circumcised and keep the Law were obviously under the strongest possible condemnation.
The pressures of the day were very strong upon the church of the Lord to compromise the gospel, and accept the teaching and practice of the Jews around them. Those pressures, in slightly different form, exist today, from the Catholics and Baptists, for example. But let us recognize the great value of that which is given through Christ, and be faithful to that promised to Him, even unto death on earth!
The Failure Of The Law
The whole system of Law is a massive failure. Those religions which intend to convert others to their belief system have to use law to produce a semblance of holiness, otherwise their attempts at proselytizing fail. But law never produces true holiness. Listen again to Paul: "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which all refer to matters destined to perish with the using) - in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Colossians 2:20-23).
The Law fails to produce the righteousness required to keep it. The Law fails to impart life. But the Law succeeds in bringing the sinner to his knees before an Almighty God, recognizing his need for, and crying out for, a Savior. "The Law is good, if one uses it lawfully" (I Timothy 1:8).
The Purpose Of The Law
Mankind in general consists of stinking rotten, spoiled, self-centered punks who are used to getting their own ways. These rebellious kids (of any age) are indeed a rebellious house, unknowingly trapped by the deceitfulness of sin, which has wrought its destructive effects in their lives, and the lives of those around them. Bold and unreasoning spiritual skeletons, they are ready to rattle their way into a hell-fired eternity.
God the Father, amazingly enough, loves each of His children. In accordance with the counsel of His will, He injects the thunderbolt of the gospel into the darkness of mens souls, confronting mankind with the striking horror of the effects of their own waywardness, jerking them to reality with vivid displays of the nakedness of their own sin. This, then, is the purpose and function of the law in the preaching of the gospel.
This is the message of the law - GUILTY! Delivered to the trembling soul in a stark black and white flash, the Law sets the stage for a proper appreciation for the grace of God, a message of mercy transmitted in the comforting pastel hues of Christs agony on a darkened cross. Christ, the Lamb of God, offered in the symbolism of Passover, is the ultimate peace offering. Through the shedding of His blood, the justly frightened and ashamed sinner may find grace and peace through his obedience to the gospel in repentance and immersion for the remission of his sins.
The Law brings man to consciousness of his sins. The Law brings an awareness of Gods justice, and convicts the sinner. The Law demonstrates that the sinner is tightly locked in a prison camp of death, and that the only way out is for Christ to rescue him. "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). The Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.
Promise By Faith
Man is of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. The weakness of the flesh is clearly established through the case of Adam, who as a perfect man in a perfect place, still committed sin. The Garden of Eden, in the plan of God, was not intended to be the permanent residence of man. Rather, it exposed in a graphic way the serious flaw in mans character, and set the stage for the progressive revelation of the plan of God to remedy the problem.
So man, being of flesh, and through flesh, sold into bondage to sin, has to be delivered of flesh. God has to provide a mechanism for deliverance from the flesh, and He has to provide a means of communicating that spiritual mechanism to men who first begin as men of flesh, but whose understanding can be spiritually upgraded.
Our man is no longer of flesh, no longer sold into bondage to sin. Filled with the Spirit of God, he has now completed the first stage of his journey in Gods purpose. "But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" (Galatians 3:22).
Sons Of God Through Faith
We must not forget that forgiveness of sins is not Gods ultimate purpose. Gods purpose of granting the Holy Spirit is stated by the apostle: "But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" (Galatians 3:22). The whole scheme of redemption was designed from the beginning to move man from fleshly to spiritual, so that man would be a fit dwelling for God in the Spirit. "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you" (I Corinthians 6:19). "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13,14).
"But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed" (Galatians 3:23). Abraham had a faith, but not the faith. Moses had a faith, but not the faith. The faith was only revealed in connection with Jesus Christ.
All these things were prophesied in the Law, so that in all respects "the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). "But now that faith has come," Paul writes concerning the Christ, "we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:25-27).
Turning To The Lord In Immersion
The purpose of the Law is to lead us to faith in Christ. Not a faith - the faith. "We were kept in custody under the Law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed" (Galatians 3:23). First century preaching and teaching revealed accurately all aspects of the Christ, including His death, His burial, His resurrection, His appearance, and His ascension to glory as intercessory priest of the order of Melchizedek. Gods goal in this is to produce what He calls the faith, and this has to do with seeing Jesus in glory with spiritual eyes - we are to fix our eyes on the Jesus who has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. This process, initiated by God through what is revealed through the Spirit in the written Book, is called turning to the Lord.
Just because a person is immersed for the forgiveness of sin does not mean he has turned to the Lord. God wants us to see the glory of God in the face of Christ as we turn to Him. Seeing the glorified Christ through the revelation of Scripture is the faith. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26,27).
Clothed with Christ
Many like to quote Galatians 3:26: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. But they don't like to quote Galatians 3:27.
They like Galatians 3:26 about "sons of God through faith" without bothering to give scriptural details as to how a person becomes a son of God through faith. Here is a typical "sinner's prayer" offered by modern religious wolves to unsuspecting and gullible sheep: "Dear God, I am convinced by your Word that I am a lost sinner. I believe that Jesus Christ died for sinners and shed His blood to put away my sins. I NOW receive Him as my personal Lord and Saviour and will by His help, confess Him before men." The idea here is that you are instantly "saved" by this inviting Jesus into your heart, and that "baptism is an outward symbol to be participated in later. They like to quote Galatians 3:26, but they don't like to quote Galatians 3:27 because Galatians 3:27 tells how someone becomes a son of God by faith.
What a blessed privilege it is to be able to be called sons of God by being immersed into Christ. How devilish, evil, rotten, and destructive it is for foul, stinking liars to indicate that anyone can be a son of God by faith without his immersion for remission of sins. Let us praise God for His great mercy by trusting what He says in His word, and by taking a strong stand for immersion into Christ
Clothed with Glory
When a lost and dying sinner, properly repentant, is immersed into Christ, he is clothed with Christ. But what is this garment which the "washee" has lately put on? What is this Christ who has descended in Spirit form to cover that which was once a separated being of flesh?
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26,27). May we remind the reader that Christ, in order to reveal the Father to us, went through several stages to communicate the truth of God to us:
When the individual is immersed into Christ, the Christ He is clothed with is the Christ in glory! This same brilliant radiance which shines in heaven, still veiled for those who are in flesh, now shines in the spiritually formed new creature in Christ. This new creature therefore is no longer of flesh, and not to be considered of flesh. "Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer" (II Corinthians 5:16). Having thus been clothed with the blazing light of Christ in glory, Christians are sons of light (Ephesians 5:8). Small wonder, then, that the whole creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God!" (Romans 8:19).
Abraham's True offspring
Sons of light and sons of glory! What an inheritance! Those of us who are immersed into Christ have been clothed with the Christ of glory, and are thereby sons of God by faith. What could a mere fleshly birth, no matter how noble born, be by comparison? What Jewish pedigree, regardless of how pure the blood line, even back to Abraham, could be regarded as of value when placed against being born of God?
Those false brethren - who had sneaked into the churches of Galatia, bringing with them the doctrine that unless one were circumcised and kept the customs of Moses, he would not be saved - those false brethren were throwing away the great spiritual inheritance because they could not see with their spiritual eyes. They were looking to be regarded as physical descendents of Abraham by virtue of an operation performed in the flesh by human hands, rather than being regarded as spiritual sons of Abraham by virtue of a powerful spiritual operation performed by the power of a glorified Christ.
Where do you stand?
Children Are Slaves
Children are slaves. This concept does not go over very well with American young people today, who have the impression that they are "young adults" from about the age of 10. So, children are to honor their father and mother, for this is right. They are to do their chores without complaining; they are to get their homework done on time; they are to show initiative and find ways to help. Children are children because they do not possess the experience and maturity necessary for the judgment required in adult responsibility.
The apostle Paul uses this basic and obvious characteristic of the human race to establish God's long-term plan with the gospel:
With the emphasis on the maturity involved here, it is clear that children cannot be old enough to be immersed into Christ. If the race of mankind was not yet prepared; if the example of "the date set by the father means anything; then only those who are old enough to live on their own, and assume total responsibility for their lives are old enough to be immersed into Christ.
God Has Sent Forth The Spirit
The message of the New Testament is the promise. The purpose of remission of sins is that we might receive the promise (Galatians 3:22), and this promise is the indwelling Spirit of God (Galatians 3:13,14).
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman Christian community establishes the significance of this point. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Romans 8:9). The point is clear, and powerful: if someone is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he does not belong to Christ; he is not a Christian! The apostle uses the same language in his letter to the Galatians: "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring (Galatians 3:29). This belonging to Christ is accomplished by the Spirit of Christ, and the redemption offered on the cross is so that the body might be a fit dwelling place for this Spirit.
The Law never promised the Spirit. The circumcision and the customs of the Law proffered by the Judaizers did not promise the Spirit. Only the faith derived from the glorified Christ promises the Spirit of glory. Individuals are sons of God by this faith, having been immersed into Christ, and they are the ones who have the Spirit of God's Son crying out in fellowship with God the Father! Only those indwelt by the Spirit are sons of God; only those indwelt by the Spirit of God are heirs through God.
I Fear For You
There is such a thing as ignorance. Those who are ignorant simply are not in possession of some of the facts, whether by intent or neglect. Thus Paul and Barnabas could say to the ignorant men of Lystra, "In the generations gone by He [God] permitted all the nations to go their own ways" (Acts 14:16). But the gospel was preached to disperse the clouds of ignorance. "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30,31).
This glorious gospel had come to the Galatian region. Men from the ranks of the Jews and the clutter of the Gentiles had obeyed the gospel, and upon their immersion into Christ, had the Spirit of Gods Son Himself sent into their hearts, crying out, "Abba! Father!" But before the preaching of the gospel, they had been in slavery to the Law of Moses or the Law of conscience. "However," writes the apostle, "at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain" (Galatians 4:8-11).
Pressure on the religious front is always strong. When one loses his focus on the picture of the glorified Christ, he is subject to the winds of doctrine which blow strongly over the surface of this hostile planet. The hurricane was blowing in the churches of Galatia, and many were suffering the loss of their eternal homes. "I fear for you," Paul wrote, "that perhaps I have labored over you in vain." May these words not be said of you, personally, today!
Slavery! What a terrible picture! Man reducing his fellow man - equally created in the image of a spiritual God - to a condition somewhat less than animal. Whether it be darkies drudging in the stuffy heat of the old Souths plantations, or whites cringing under the lashing whip of Roman servitude, slavery is a mocking affront to the equality of worth of each human life in the sight of the Creator.
Why does God allow it to exist on earth? He never specifically answers the question, but a general thrust of the word of God is that the physical realm has lessons to be learned which are then to be applied to the unseen spiritual realm. Physical death and its attendant suffering point the way to a horrible eternal, as yet unseen, second death and excruciating suffering in the lake of fire. In the same way the horrors of slavery in the physical realm direct the thinking mans attention to the significance of spiritual slavery. Against the backdrop of mans bondage to man, the words of Jesus starkly finger an even crueler master: "Truly, truly, I say to you," He intoned, "everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). And enslavement to sin is far worse than enslavement to man.
There are those who prefer the security of serfdom under the Law. They prefer the security of leeks and onions and garlics from the beneficent hand of Pharaoh, and the security of knowing that they will be working for their welfare in Egypts brickyards. They prefer to avoid the persecution and suffering which come with the freedom of the sons of God, accepting as dumb oxen the comfort for non-persecution and slavery under law. Their table indeed has become a snare to them, and they will bend their backs forever.
But the sons of God prefer spiritual freedom, even unto physical death. Come, brethren, to the spiritual frontier. Life is hard, and the challenges are great, but with the sword of the Spirit in one hand, and the plowshare of truth in the other, we can secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of spiritual liberty.
Remember Who Loves You
The Christians in the congregations of Galatia were abandoning their freedom in Christ. The false brethren who had sneaked in to spread discontent over the hardships on the spiritual frontier, coupled with persecution from their Jewish neighbors and relatives, produced a mass movement to become circumcised and to keep, in a nominal way, the external customs of the Law. The boats were being loaded for a return to slavery, and standing to stem the stampede was the lonely figure of the apostle Paul. Gesticulating to the crowd to stop, he exposed their enemies, illustrated their condition, and appealed to them on the basis of his love for them.
The names have changed, but the game remains the same. As Paul appealed to the churches in Galatia, remember who loves you, and seeks you commendably.
Until Christ Is Formed In You
You can have it, and you can lose it. It can burn brightly, and it can fade away. You can stand firm in it, or you can drift from it. What is it?
It is faith in the glorified Christ. It is the picture of the brilliant, blazing light of the exalted Son of God, seen only with the enlightened eyes of the heart. It is seeing Him, who is the radiance of the Fathers glory, the image of the invisible God.
When an individual is immersed into Christ, he is clothed with the current Christ. He is not clothed with a Christ who is still walking in the flesh; he is not clothed with a Christ who still hangs on a cross; he is not even clothed with a Christ like Mary Magdalene saw next to the empty tomb. None of these is the current Christ. The current Christ is radiant in risen splendor, exalted far above the heavens. "Even though we have known Christ in the flesh," wrote Paul to the Corinthian brethren, "yet now we know Him thus no longer" (II Corinthians 5:16). Thus, when a heart-stricken sinner obeys the gospel of the glory of Christ, he is wrapped in the shining spiritual mantle of this Christ in glory! This process, described in different scriptures in different words, is "forming Christ in you."
The gospel of the glory of Christ was preached among the Galatians. When they were immersed, they were indeed immersed into this Christ of glory, the radiant image of Jesus the Son of God was implanted in their minds, and they became sons of God by faith. But Judaizers came, preaching a different gospel. They bewitched the Galatian Christians, and focused their attention elsewhere - dragging their minds back into circumcision and the Law. The result: the image of Christ faded, and they lost their faith.
You can have it, and you can lose it. It can burn brightly, and it can fade away. You can stand firm in it, or you can drift from it. "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you " (Galatians 4:19).
Missing The Allegory
Perplexed! Puzzled! The apostle Paul could not believe that those whom he taught could be mislead so easily. To them the radiant, powerful, forgiving Christ has been publicly proclaimed in contrast to the dried up, rattling husk of the law, and yet the Galatians were choosing to return to the law in their attempt to be saved and avoid persecution. "My children," appealed the apostle, "with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you - but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you" (Galatians 4:19,20). Paul knows his tone is tough, but he is trying to salvage whole congregations which had been pulled into this orbit of false teaching.
"Tell me," he writes, "you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" (Galatians 4:21). The law here is going to include the book of Genesis.
"Tell me," said Paul, "you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" The law produced slaves. Only those born of the Spirit are free, and only those who continue to walk by the Spirit are free! Dont miss the allegory.
Break Forth And Shout!
The Jew, in spite of his braggadocio, was a slave. He was a political slave to the Romans, and he was a spiritual slave to sin. And the Christian who caved in to Jewish pressure was likewise a returnee to chains and bonds stealthily forged by the master of deceit, Satan himself. The apostle Paul, in trying to salvage his brethren in the Galatian congregations, attempted to prevent their mass abandonment from the foundational principles of Christianity because of their being persecuted by the Jews. To illustrate the folly of these spiritual lemmings rushing to destruction in the sea of law, the apostle used the law itself.
"Tell me," he said, "you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?" (Galatians 4:21). Abraham had two sons - Ishmael, born of Hagar, the slave girl, and Isaac, born of his beloved wife Sarah, the free woman, after years and years of barrenness. Ishmael, child of flesh, child of slavery, allegorically represented the physical Israel, in slavery under law. Isaac, child by miraculous action of the very Spirit of God, child of freedom, foreshadowed the church, who is the mother of all individual spiritual offspring. "But Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Galatians 4:26).
Break forth and shout, you captives released in the trumpet call of true jubilee. Break forth and shout, you slaves of sin, set free on the day of your salvation. Break forth and shout, you strangers and aliens, who are now brought near by the blood of Christ, offered for you at the acceptable time.
Cast Out The Bondwoman
What special plan does God have for the modern Jew? Is he one of Gods "chosen"? Aside from the fact that no modern Jew could establish his ancestry, does the Almighty have a special purpose for the present nation Israel? What does the Scripture say?
The scripture says that Abraham had two sons, one by his wife Sarah, and one by his wifes slave girl, Hagar. The scripture says that this whole set up between Ishmael, the son of the slave woman, and Isaac, the son of the free woman, was an allegory, foreshadowing the relationship between physical Israel, the first century Jews in the flesh, and spiritual Israel, the church. The physical came first, and then the spiritual. Thus Ishmael, the son by the flesh, was born first, and then Isaac, the son by the Spirit, was brought forth. And Isaac "grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore she said to Abraham, Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac." (Genesis 21:8-10).
Those of fleshly Israel were cast out. Twentieth century Jews are cast out. Anyone who is not truly born of the Spirit, and walking by the Spirit, is cast out! But those who are being led by the Spirit of God, as defined in the word of God, are Gods chosen ones. "So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of a free woman" (Galatians 4:31).
Losing The Legacy
Americans are squandering the legacy of freedom. That which was bought at the price of spilt blood by millions of Americans is being frittered away by a selfish, want-it-easy, immoral conglomeration of freaks, fags, and fops who have no conception of what political liberty is all about. Because their moral fiber has been rotted from within, they are handy pawns for the manipulations of sundry "one worlders" who use these pawns irresponsibilities and excesses as excuses for the next move against the pillars of liberty on the chess board of world politics. The techniques of "pressure from above" and "pressure from below" have long been perfected in persuading the people to vote away, step by step, their hard-won freedom. Failing to read or heed the admonitions of President Washington in his Farewell Address, the public herd has been deceived into trampling his warning guideposts, and is being rushed headlong to the cliffs of the destruction of American liberty.
The same thing was happening to the churches in Galatia in a spiritual sense. The spiritual freedom which was bought at the price of Jesus spilt blood was being tossed away by a selfish, want-it-easy, fleshly-minded conglomeration of compromisers, complainers, and comfort-seekers who had no conception of what spiritual liberty was all about. Because their spiritual fiber had been rotted from within, they were handy pawns for the manipulations of Judaizers who used these pawns desire to "go along to get along" as a stepping stone for their next move against those pillars of spiritual liberty who stood firm in that collection of congregations. The techniques of "pressure from above" coupled with "pressure from below" were used in persuading the Galatian Christians to move, step by step, away from their hard-won freedom in Christ. Failing to read or heed the admonitions from Jesus and His apostles, these congregations had been deceived into trampling the apostles warning guideposts, and were being rushed headlong to spiritual and eternal destruction.
Before this thundering herd stood the solitary figure of the apostle Paul, waving the blanket of scripture, attempting to bring the herd to a dead stop, then turning them to the way they should go. How successful he was, we do not know. But we have for enduring and eternal benefit his letter, calling them back to their legacy of freedom.
As sad and destructive as it is for a country like the United States to lose its legacy of freedom, that is not as sad or destructive as it is for an individual or a congregation to be deceived into losing its spiritual freedom. Understand the pressures from above and the pressures from below. Then stand firm!
Descent With Modification
When the bell of freedom sounded political jubilee in America in 1783, men throughout the world rejoiced. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, wrote to his American brethren from England in 1784: "By a very uncommon train of providences many of the provinces of North America are totally disjoined from their mother country, and erected into independent states As our American brethren are now totally disentangled from the state, and from the English hierarchy, we dare not entangle them again, either with one or the other. They are now at full liberty, simply to follow the scriptures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that liberty, wherewith God has so strangely made them free." This political liberty, which produced the freedom necessary for the development of the Restoration Movement, was hailed by men everywhere as an awesome powerful development of the Divine Providence of God, and worthy of preserving at great cost.
The spiritual freedom purchased by the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God is immeasurably more valuable than American political liberty, although the two are not totally disjointed. But as political hackers have been at work in destroying Americas political freedom by modifying the intent of our freedom documents, so also the spiritual hackers were at work in Galatia, modifying the intent of the spiritual covenant of Christ, and thus those who were once spiritually free were descending into the darkened stairway of spiritual slavery.
"Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved," were the words of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1). Of the Gentile brethren they said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and direct them to observe the law of Moses" (Acts 15:5). These words and these pressures caused the brethren to modify their beliefs, and descend once again into slavery. The message for us is clear today: let no one persuade us to modify the gospel of the glory of Christ, and thus cause us to descend with them into slavery through a modern twist on the old Judaizers system.
Faith, Hope, and Love
Severed! Divorced! Broken! Sad, sad, sad words of destruction and disaster. "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4). It is bad enough and sad enough for an individual to be separated from God in the first place through his own sin. And, praise to the Almighty who was willing to send His Son into the world to ransom all those trapped by Satan through the ignorance and foolishness of their own iniquities. But how much more sad and bad it is for someone to know the way of truth, and turn back from the holy commandment delivered to him. As Satan fell like lightning from heavens glories, so the one who turns from Christ in glory falls from grace.
The child of God is saved by grace through faith. When he loses his faith, he falls from grace. It is imperative for each individual to keep before him the Biblically revealed image of the glorified Christ. When he ceases to fix his eyes on the Christ upon the throne - the Author and Perfecter of faith - he ends up seeking to be justified by law, and falls from grace; he has lost his faith.
"You were running well," said Paul. "Who hindered you from obeying the truth?" (Galatians 5:7). Dont fall from grace. Dont be shaken from your faith by pressures from men. Continue to work and run well!
A Little Leaven
There were those in the churches of Galatia who were working assiduously to divide and destroy the efforts of the apostle Paul. Wanting to escape persecution from their Jewish relations and neighbors, they denied the power of the new creation in their lives, and went to work to destroy the reputation of the apostle and to draw away disciples caught in the middle. "They eagerly seek you," said Paul to those in that position, "not commendably" (Galatians 4:17). As the false teachers developed their false doctrines to justify their opposition to the apostle and his teaching, it pained Paul to see those whom he loved and for whom laid down his life fall away. "Where then," he asked, "is that sense of blessing you had?" (Galatians 4:15). "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16).
To satisfy the pressures of the day, the Judaizers developed the doctrine that Christians needed to be circumcised and keep the law. The transforming power of the image of the glorified Christ working through the Holy Spirit in the new creature was set aside by these Judaizers and replaced by something external which would satisfy men. "For we through the Spirit, by faith," explained the apostle to the Gentiles, in contrast to the earthly view of those whose minds were set on the flesh, "are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:5,6). But the warning shouts were there for anyone who was missing the picture.
Paul expressed confidence that the bulk of the brethren would right the ships of their various congregations, but warned of the consequences to come to the recalcitrant members who were causing the disturbances. "I have confidence in you in the Lord, that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is" (Galatians 5:10). Watch out for the leaven!
Trouble For Troublemakers
Those who advocate the law for the Christian are killers (and those who preach lawlessness are killers, too). While both law-pushers and promoters of lawlessness were active in the first century, the law-pushers were the problem in the Galatian congregations. These are known to us as Judaizers; they were men who buckled under the pressure from Jewish persecution, and accepted the concept that all Christians - those from Gentile background as well as Jewish -were to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. The problem was that when they buckled, they lost their salvation, falling from grace. Furthermore, all they persuaded to cave in with them were severed from Christ also. "This persuasion," noted the apostle Paul, "did not come from Him who calls you" (Galatians 5:8). And concerned about the perniciousness of this spiritual infection, he warned, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough" (Galatians 5:9).
Direct Judaism is not so much of a problem today. But there are many within the church, sadly enough, who still want to compromise with todays pressures from the world, who want to run and hide when the "scandal" of the cross is strongly preached, and who want to shut the mouths of those who would boldly speak of the glorified Lord. Unless these compromisers repent, they will face the same end as those who opposed Paul.
Freedom To Serve
The trumpet call of spiritual jubilee had sounded, and one by one the captives broke free. But the world forces of darkness were at work, and the chains of spiritual slavery were forged and in place for any who could be enticed back into the darkness. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free," wrote Paul. "Therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
How do the forces of darkness work? What talons do these powers possess which have the potential to snag the unwary child of God, and drag him into the roaring lions lair? The answer: the claws are powerless unless there is flesh to tear. "For you were called to freedom, brethren," exhorts the Spirit through Paul. "Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). Freedom and flesh - the two are contradictory.
The Spirit has spoken clearly through what is written in the Holy Script. The clutching claws on the lions paws have nothing to snag when, in freedom, the brother who walks by the Spirit glides by.
Walk By The Spirit
War! Vicious, bloody, destructive war! Pictures of shell-torn buildings, of blown-apart bodies, and starving, ragged children flood our minds. Yet these are but mild external evidences of the awesome conflagration which rages on the inside of all of the race of men, a race which has been victimized by Satan ever since the fall of Adam. On the inside of man the war is between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh is lazy, rebellious, malicious, and destructive; the flesh is easily manipulated by the prince of the power of the air. The spirit of man, on the other hand, is that which was made in the image of God, and desires to do right. The apostle Paul described the condition of every honest man, using himself as an example, speaking of his life before he was set free in his immersion at the hand of Ananias: "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:22,23).
But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Those of us who were prisoners of this war have been set free from the body of this death. In our repentance and immersion, when we turned to the image of the risen Lord, we through the Spirit of God now walk in freedom. But when an individual loses his focus on Christ in glory, he once again sets his mind on the things of the flesh, comes back under the condemnation of the law, and the deeds of the flesh are evident. Thats what happened in the churches of Galatia. And that is what can happen in the churches in the twentieth century.
When the flesh gets the opportunity, it turns "brethren" into vicious dogs, biting and devouring one another. And the result of the dog fight is a lot of dead dogs.
The child of God who walks by the Spirit beholds the image of the glorified Christ in the mirror of the completed word of God. This is the walk which is by faith, so that he can say with his Lord: "The Son can do nothing of Himself unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19).
Deeds Of The Flesh
All non-Christians are by definition men of flesh. By definition they are carnal rather than spiritual. The "best" Baptist, the "best" Methodist, and the "most holy" Catholic priest are fleshly, disobedient, and carnal. As the apostle Paul looks back on all Christians past lives, he reminds Titus: "For we were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3). The "best" Jew and the "best" Gentile both had their mouths shut before the glory of God. Indeed the holy writ makes it very clear what sin really is: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
But the true child of God has had the veil of his misunderstanding removed when he is a participant in the gospel of the glory of Christ. He, regardless of his background or past performance, experiences a new birth in the waters of immersion, and is now born of the Spirit, a child of promise. How sad it is for such a one to be deceived again, to become enslaved again to malice and envy, to lusts and pleasures. But thus it was in Galatia; when the brethren compromised the gospel of faith in the glorified Lord, and went back under law, then the deeds of the flesh took over.
The deeds of the flesh are evident. Pay attention to the evidence. And dont call someone "spiritual" whose deeds are so evidently fleshly.
Not Inheriting The Kingdom
"In the generations gone by," said Paul and Barnabas, on the first missionary journey, "He permitted the nations to go their own ways" (Acts 14:16). And when men were permitted to go their own ways, which direction did they go? "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21). Such is the nature of the flesh; it is rebellious, and at war with God.
The men and women in the churches of Galatia began to compromise the gospel. By compromising with the Judaizers, "simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12), it was evident that their minds were set on the flesh, and that they would throw away heaven to keep earth.
"The mind set on the flesh," warns Paul, "is hostile toward God" (Romans 8:7). The mind set of the flesh produces a life which practices the deeds of the flesh. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident," wrote the apostle, "which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Those who practice these deeds of the flesh are fleshly, and they are hostile to God; and they are hostile toward those who preach and teach accurately Gods word. That is why they were undermining Pauls teaching and Pauls reputation in Galatia, and were "eagerly seeking" others to join with them in their rebellion.
The apostle was fervent in his warning. Those who practiced the deeds of the flesh - the self-willed, the self-centered, selfish brethren - would not inherit the kingdom. His desire, of course, was that they turn, rather than burn.
Fruit Of The Spirit
Only the child of God is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The word of God is clear: the stricken sinner must repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, and he will then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He must be born again of water and Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. No one who has not thus been born of the Spirit can bear fruit of the Spirit.
There are some very nice people in the world. There have always been those who would be very helpful to their neighbors, while trying to convert them to worship at the temple of Jupiter. There have always been those who smiled winsomely, and invited their friends to the temple of Athena. There have always been fatherly priests and kindly gurus and good old boys who, in deceiving and being deceived, dragged their associates to temples of doom. "For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their deeds" (II Corinthians 11:14,15).
Fruit of the Spirit can only be produced by those who are led by the Spirit. In the contrast between flesh and Spirit, the apostle makes it plain that if we "walk by the Spirit," we "will not carry out the desire of the flesh." The flesh and the Spirit are in opposition to one another, and the key is to be "led by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:18). "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). So how does the Spirit lead?
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22,23). We shall see, Biblically speaking, how each of these is borne in the life of a true Christian.
Love Is A Decision
"We know love by this," wrote the aged apostle John, "that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16). Knowing what love is, is apparently not easy. Satan, disguising himself as an angel of light, and his ministers, also in disguise as ministers of righteousness, often masquerade in garments marked LOVE while spiritually murdering their victims. These knife-in-the-heart killers offer soft-sounding platitudes instead of timely and tough truths which set men free. It is not so easy to understand what love is, "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us."
The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22,23 is love. Love - Gods kind of love - is borne in our hearts when we walk the same spiritual roads our Lord walked, when we take up our crosses and carry them down His blood-stained trail, and when we lay down our lives for the brethren. Love is not just lecturing to an audience on the emotional part of the spiritual heart; love is extending oneself to be in peoples homes with words of encouragement and exhortation from Gods word. "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love" (II Peter 1:5-7). True love is the result of diligently adding personal qualities to the foundation of saving faith. "Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected" (I John 2:5).
The old commandment under the law was to love our neighbors as ourselves. But our Lord Jesus upgraded the concept with what He called a new commandment: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). We are not only to love others as ourselves; we are to love others as Jesus loves us. Jesus came into the world to save our souls; we are therefore to go into the world to save other peoples souls. "By this the love of God is manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:9,10).
The word of the Holy Spirit produces in us a deep hungering to see others saved. This love is long-suffering, patient when wronged, pointing hearts to the throbbing truth of the word of God. This fruit of the Spirit is a deep-down decision which says to another person, "I love your soul, and I want to see you saved, even if it costs me my life." "Little children," writes John, "let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth" (I John 3:18).
Joy From Reconciliation
Everybody wants it, but hardly anyone knows how to get it. "These things I have spoken to you," said our Lord Jesus, "that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (John 15:11). Joy, the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22,23, is something our Lord wanted to produce in us, and this joy is produced in conjunction with the words of the Lord Jesus.
Joy is generally connected with attitudes involved in reconciliation. The apostle Paul wrote: "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Philippians 2:1,2). Pauls initial joy was accomplished in the Philippian brethrens reconciliation to God; his joy would be made complete in their total reconciliation to each other. Consider these examples of joy from the parables of Jesus in Luke 15:
If you want joy, first be reconciled to God yourself. Secondly, be involved in the process of reconciling others to God. Scriptural joy is not from new houses or cars or toys; joy from Jesus is the result of saving others souls.
Peace Beyond Comprehension
"Peace I leave with you," said Jesus the Christ over all. "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27). The denizens of earths spiritual deserts are crying out for peace. Having no true peace within, many are destructive without. Rejecting the message of the peaceful Christ, others are backing into the arms of the false peace of Hinduism and New Age. Failing to recognize that lack of peacefulness is a spiritual problem, still others have turned to pills and physicians, or to philosophy and pop psychology rather than turning to the fountain of living waters. Jesus Himself said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). Either He lied, or He told the truth!
So peace is the third fruit of the Spirit. And peace can only be multiplied to one whose conscience is cleansed by and before the Almighty God.
When the Holy Spirit sends His greetings through His inspired word, His desire is for our peace. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father" (Colossians 1:2). He will grant that peace when we are justified by faith, and when we pray. Our action, His response.
The Patience Of God
The well-known, half-humorous prayer is addressed thusly: "Lord, grant me patience, and give it to me right now!" Patience is the ability to work with a sense of urgency, but to leave the results to God. The natural fleshly reaction is to want desired results at the time of the individuals choosing, without having necessarily worked with urgency, or a sense of God, or faith, or having worked at all.
When we are faithful to the Lord, we are thrown into situations which produce the fruit of patience. But not "right now!"
Kindness And Goodness
Kindness and goodness are two words whose meanings everyone is expected to know, but which are hard to define. To get a clearer focus of their substance, sometimes their opposites, rude, and evil, have to be brought into the picture.
God expects the Christian to be kind. Love is kind (I Corinthians 13:4). God is kind (Romans 2:4). Christians are to "be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).
Goodness is another fruit of the Spirit. Whereas kindness tends to be directed at a specific individual or individuals, goodness tends to be more general and directed at blocks of mankind or mankind as a whole. Goodness is dipped in the same paint as kindness, but spread with a broader brush.
There is no reason for the Christian to be rude, insensitive, selfish, and generally unkind. There is no reason for him to be bad, to engage in evil, destructive behavior. The sons of God are kind to each person; they are good; and they do good, expecting nothing in return.
No Folly In Faithfulness
Faithfulness is the seventh fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22,23. Faithfulness is so important that Solomon, for example, would have been better off had he asked the Almighty for the ability to be faithful rather than to be wise. While Solomon wisely ruled the kingdom, his foreign wives led him into unfaithfulness. He worshiped foreign gods, and ten of the twelve parts of the kingdom were stripped from his successor because Solomon was unfaithful.
Faithfulness has to do with being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there, doing what you are supposed to be doing, with a right attitude! If you are faithful, you can be counted upon; you are dependable. The undependable person is unfaithful.
"Moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy [faithful]" (I Corinthians 4:2). "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave ? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes" (Matthew 24:45,46). Being faithful means to be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there, doing what you are supposed to be doing, with the right attitude. "Be faithful until death," said our Lord Jesus, "and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). There is no folly in faithfulness!
Strength In Gentleness
Meet the Gentle Giant! He is one of a family of giants, all very strong, and he like his brothers and sisters wears the name "Child of God." You see, in order to be gentle, one must be very strong!
Gentleness is the eighth fruit of the Spirit, and it is very easily misunderstood. Gentleness, or meekness, somehow gets connected in mens minds with weakness; so there is a tendency among the hairy-chested he-men to try to prove their strength with roughness and gruffness. In a simple illustration, a child has a difficult time moving a chair from one room to another, because the child in comparison to an adult is weak. The child tends to be rough with the chair, because it is hard to handle, and ends up banging the chair on the doors and walls on the way by. An adult, in the same situation, can handle the chair gently, because the adult has much greater strength.
Of course, people are more important than chairs, and people need to be handled with gentleness, because they are generally fragile. So bring on the race of Gentle Giants, to help people.
Gentleness results from continually increasing spiritual strength in working with people, both the lost and the saved. "Brethren," the apostle Paul later writes in his Galatian epistle, "even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). Put yourself into the work, and the fruit of gentleness will be borne in your new exciting life!
On The Right Track
Among the most helpless of feelings is to be in an automobile which is out of control. When it swishes from one side of the highway to the other, reverses its direction on the interstate, heads for the ditch, and begins to roll over, you can wish all you want that it be under control; but that car is long gone, and someone is going to get seriously hurt unless the Lord intervenes.
A life that is out of control is similar. When you see someone who swishes from one side of the highway of life to the other, when you see them suddenly reverse direction in some sort of tail-spin, when you see someone heading for the ditch, you are looking at a person who has lost self control; and his life is long gone, and someone is going to get seriously hurt unless the Lord intervenes. Such is the condition, and such is the ruination of most of the human race. "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God " (II Timothy 3:1-4). The intervention of the Lord comes when an individual decides to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be a determined follower of the example of our Lord. Then the Holy Spirit works within to produce the ninth fruit of the Spirit, self-control.
But what is involved in producing self-control? How does the Almighty work in such matters, righting a life that is headed for the ditch? What is the individuals responsibility?
If you are really interested in controlling your attitude, your temper, your fleshly lusts, and all the other human failings, begin with a great attitude about the steps listed above. Failure to do so will result in ship-wreck of faith for you, and disaster to many around you whose lives are closely attached to your automobile of faith.
Getting The Picture
God has set forth in His word a scoreboard, so that we might know our personal progress, and that eventually our progress "may be evident to all" (I Timothy 4:15). First He lists the deeds of the flesh:
Immorality Enmities Factions Impurity Strife Envying Sensuality Outbursts of Anger Drunkenness Idolatry Disputes Carousing Sorcery Dissensions Things like these
And the Most High sets forth His warning in clear, unmistakeable trumpet sounds: "Of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God!" (Galatians 5:19-21).
By contrast, He then produces His list of fruit of the Spirit:
Love Patience Faithfulness Joy Kindness Gentleness Peace Goodness Self-control
The production of these in the life of each Christian is the loving Fathers earnest desire. God does not want His children trapped in a life of anger, clamor, hate, malice, and envy. This is the condition of the households of the sons of disobedience. When deeds of the flesh overpower the Christian, when he loses self-control in any of these areas, spiritual breakdown has happened, and the self justification inherent in the process makes him a defender of self rather than a defender of the faith; he engages in anger, clamor, hate, malicious gossiping, and envy as the best offense in his self defense.
Fruits of the Spirit are the result of faith, rather than a failed attempt at justification by law. As the apostle Paul described it, "against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:23). The deeds of the flesh are produced by the flesh, which the law was powerless to overcome. These are the things which "the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh" (Romans 8:3). Those under Christ rather than under law have a handle they can grasp to help them overcome the flesh with its passions and desires: "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24).
At the beginning level in the process of bearing fruit of the Spirit, God has a powerful dual picture He rams into the consciousness of each child of faith. In immersion (an actual physical representation of what is currently taking place, not a symbol for what has already taken place):
When these mental, faith-images are drummed into the consciousness of the believer in the risen Christ, it begins to change the way he behaves because it changes his picture of who he is. He no longer engages in the deeds of the flesh because the person who did those things is buried with Christ in immersion (Romans 6:4). He walks in newness of life because he has in fact been raised with Christ, and is now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
Get the picture?
Walking by the Spirit
Those things which are "of faith" are unseen. Those things which are "of Law" are seen. The natural tendency of the flesh, living in the realm of that which is seen, is to focus on, and emphasize, that which is "of law." So man-made religion, whether it be Islam, Roman Catholicism, or Presbyterianism, operates on some sort of law list in order to produce a semblance of holiness, so that each religion can continue to gain adherents, and divert people away from the truth of the God. The empty, vain philosophies of men produce decrees such as "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" (Colossians 2:21). In the inspired words of the apostle Paul, "These are matters which have, to he sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Colossians 2:23). Even the law of Moses, which was the only God-given law, could not produce the holiness and life necessary to fellowship with God; much less those designed and propagated by mere men!
The general theme of the letter to the Galatians is law vs. faith, with the corresponding lack of holiness from law as contrasted with the fruit of faith. Because law is weak through the flesh, those who attempt to live by law, by that which is seen, will continue to produce deeds of the flesh. By contrast, those of "the faith," born of the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, as seeing that which is unseen, can bear the fruit of the Spirit.
An individual can test himself. If he has been immersed, as a repentant individual, into Christ, to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the indwelling Spirit, he has been born of the Spirit. If he walks by the Spirit, seeing Him who is unseen, being an imitator of Christ, he will bear the fruit of the Spirit. If he turns back to law, he is condemned, he feels condemned, and he goes to work to tear down those who walk by faith. Test yourself. See if you are indeed "of faith."
Restore or Ruin
God does not want any to perish - to go to hell. The heavenly Father's earnest desire is that each man repent and live. "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declared the Almighty through Ezekiel, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23).
But law does not produce life; the apostle Paul clearly established that the law of Moses was a "ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones"(II Corinthians 3:7). If the law of God expressed through Moses cannot produce life, it is evident that no lesser, man-made law will result in life either. Life is only produced by the Spirit of life, given only when the repentant individual dies to sin in immersion, and is raised by the power of the Spirit of God to walk in newness of life. But, having a new beginning by the Spirit does not guarantee the perpetuation of this new life; the child of God must continue to walk by that same Spirit. "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). By contrast, those who were once new creatures in Christ often choose to repudiate their inheritance; and like their father Satan, not only do they plunge into darkness, but they also try to drag as many down with them as they can. Condemned by their own consciences, having suffered shipwreck of faith, they "become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another" (Galatians 5:26), as they try to substitute the braggadocio of their "law-keeping" for the faith.
The sons of God, however, try to build rather that burn, to salvage rather than spurn, to restore rather than ruin.
God does not want any to perish. Those who are spiritual - who walk by the Spirit - bear the burdens of their struggling brethren, attempting to restore their fellowship with God. The "law-keepers" destroy, while they continue to engage in their self deception.
Individual responsibility! That's what Christianity is all about. From the time Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, the human race has generally tried to duck the responsibility for its actions. The espousal of original sin, and the teaching that people commit crimes because of poor living conditions are equally false doctrines, perpetrated by false teachers who tickle itching ears. Telling the masses what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Both remove responsibility from the individual. Under original sin, the man says, "I sinned because I had no choice. I inherited it from Adam," rather than, I sinned because I deliberately chose to." Modern man listens to the professional excuse makers from the ranks of psychology and sociology, and says, "I sinned because I had no choice. Society treated me wrongly, and I had to strike back," rather than, "I sinned because I deliberately chose to." But the scripture puts the responsibility right where it belongs: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (James 1:14).
When someone becomes a Christian, he is making a conscious decision to stand for truth; and he is warned by God that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (II Timothy 3:12). Faced with pressure, persecution, or loss of comfort, however, men often compromise. Thus it was in the churches of Galatia. They backed away from the faith of the scripture to become, ostensibly, keepers of the law. But the real reason was "simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12). They were deliberately ducking their responsibility to God, and putting pressure on others to do likewise.
But the scripture is not set aside by excuses, and God knows the motives of men. "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Galatians 6:3). Each person is to examine his own work.
The one who is still fleshly minded avoids his spiritual responsibilities. If he does not grow past this mind-state, he will die. Carry your load. Share with those who teach the word. Sow to the Spirit. No excuses.
Laws of the Harvest
God ordained the physical realm to among other things teach us about the spiritual realm. If someone has just inherited a huge sum of money and a valuable estate, the physical nature of it helps us to identify with the expression "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." In the same way, God allows the physical harvest to go on year by year that we might learn some valuable spiritual lessons.
"Do not be deceived," says the word of God. "God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Galatians 6:7-10). The concept of sowing and reaping illustrates some important and powerful spiritual laws:
The words of Jesus sum it up: ''Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children of farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shalt receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29,30).
God expects his children to be like Him and be "do gooders." The exact words of our Lord Jesus are: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luke 6:35). Generally speaking, the human race consists of unkind, ungrateful, thoughtless, selfish people. Many are willing to stab you in the back, climb over your body, and stand on your fallen head to achieve their selfish desires. So what is the child of God to do with such a people? "Do good, expecting nothing in return."
How can Christians be expected to carry out this injunction? How can those who carry the Spirit's treasure in jars of clay, experiencing their own sufferings, trials, and struggles for survival have the motivation to do good to such a recalcitrant species?
God expects His children to be like Him, and to be "do-gooders." Do good to all men, especially brothers in the Lord. Expect nothing in return, and you will occasionally be pleasantly surprised, besides having your reward in heaven.
Good Showing in the Flesh
There seems to be a universal desire for acceptance among men. Whether it is due to a basic insecurity or a need to be loved, most of mankind will sacrifice truth for a real or imagined acceptance by some desired peer group. Many of the rulers, even, of the synagogues of Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of His teachings, and the signs and wonders He performed in order to establish His divinity. But the rulers themselves wanted to be accepted by the big-wigs who had come to positions of leadership among the Pharisees. So even though they believed in Jesus, "they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:42,43).
Thus it was in Jerusalem. Thus it was in Antioch. And thus it was among the churches of Galatia. The congregations of this Roman province were being carried into a pseudo-Judaism by leaders among them who desired the approval of their Jewish business cohorts and family members rather than the approval of God. Paul, loving truth because only the truth saves, and loving God who will not break scripture, wrote this letter personally rather than dictating it to a scribe. Possibly referring to his poor eyesight, he wrote, "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand" (Galatians 6:11).
There is nothing new under the sun. The efforts to scuttle the true message of the scripture continue, and will continue. In 1973, through a program called Key 73, the "evangelicals" with "Evangelism Explosion" and other "faith only" church growth techniques invaded the Christian churches with their hidden agenda, and paralyzed or drew off a sizable percentage of the movement. Men with hidden agendas try to stop the progress of the local congregations with "a good showing according to the flesh." Anathema to them!
There are those who think Christians cannot boast at all. Thus the glories of the Christ's accomplishments through us are kept under wraps, and the mouths of those which should be open are shut.
The apostle Paul was called upon on numerous occasions to recount his accomplishments. He was reluctant to do so, lest any should think he was exalting himself; but the doctrines of Christ which he proclaimed were under attack by false apostles, and it was necessary to list the fires which the Spirit of God had brought him through in order to expose the dross of the false teachers. Thus the true, tested apostle explained to the Corinthians, "I therefore am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong, I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody" (II Corinthians 12:10,11).
The Galatian Judaizers, in contrast, wanted to boast to the Jews and Judaizer leaders how they pressured Gentile Christians into being circumcised. "They desire to have you circumcised," stated the apostle, "that they may boast in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13). Paul, however, was content to focus on spiritual, internal things, the things which Christ has done for him and through him.
Boasting in the cross - The cross was doubly significant in reference to the boasting Judaizers. The Jews had no concept of a suffering Messiah, dying for their sins. They preferred a fleshly Christ of their own imagination, with earthly armies triumphant over the Romans and other enemies. "Christ crucified," to
the Jews, then, was "a stumbling block" (I Corinthians 1:23). Paul was willing to stick the cross in their face anyway. Secondly, the cross was the means by which the law - which to the Jews and Judaizers was outwardly precious - was set aside. The "Lord canceled out the certificate of debt which was against us and was hostile to us and He has taken it away, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). Paul was then willing to say, "But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).
Crucified to the world - The cross was not of Paul's doing. He therefore would boast of the work Christ did on the cross, and would thrust subtly at the Galatian Christians, who, by coming under the influence of the Judaizers, had gone back into the world. Through the cross, "the world was crucified to me, said the apostle, "and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).
An individual really has only two choices - he will boast in himself, boasting in the flesh in some form; or he will boast in Christ. "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."(I Corinthians 1:30,31).
The New Creation
Man is fleshly, and because he is fleshly, he often does not even see spiritual things. Speaking of his old life before immersion, Paul wrote, "I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin" (Romans 7:14). "But a natural man, he wrote in another place, "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised" (I Corinthians 2:14). The natural. or fleshly, man is not a very good spiritual appraiser; he does not know how to put the proper spiritual values on spiritual things.
The Galatian brethren who had fallen under the bewitching spell of Jewish pressure had turned fleshly. Losing their focus on the risen Christ, they had twisted aside to value rituals of the flesh, performed on the flesh by human hands. The apostle Paul had written this letter to try to salvage them from the grave error into which they had fallen. As he came to a close, he summarized his entire point with one of the great rules of the Bible, "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15).
These new creations constitute God's resurrected army, the band of overwhelming conquerors before whom no spiritual barrier - and therefore no material or political barrier can stand. This is why, in the Galatian churches, Satan attempted to pressure the brethren through persecution from the Jews - and but for Paul he would have succeeded! But, praise God! this army of brilliant new creatures still marches, with weapons not of flesh, "but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:4,5). March on, brothers, march on!
Walk By This Rule
The puffed-up Pharisee types wanted other people to walk by their rules. They of course covered their rules with the cloak of Moses, using language similar to those at Jerusalems council: "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:5). The apostle Paul, in this letter to the Galatian brethren, was emphatic that such "piety" was only a showing in the flesh, and that those who would try to press this performance on others did not "even keep the Law themselves" (Galatians 6:13). They did not walk by their own rules, but of course they wanted others to. "And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on mens shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger" (Matthew 23:4).
In contrast to all the malarky about circumcision and uncircumcision, the real issue was the new creation (Galatians 6:15). And the issue here was a critical one. God has so designed His word that it separates the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. The word of God tests the motives of men, and probes their hearts. And the motives of men then, as now, were exposed in this one issue, the new creation.
The natural tendency of man is to "sort of" forget God and attempt to bull his way into heaven. Whether he speaks the heavy diction of the bar room brawler, or in the elevated tones of robed and mitred "divines," his rebellion is raw and naked. Only those who are truly walking by the new creation rule are submissive to God, and granted his peace and mercy.
The Israel Of God
Who, really, is Israel? Some maintain Israel is the nation comprised of the present people who currently occupy Jerusalem, and their relatives wherever they live, in New York, Russia, or other socialist "republics." But what says the word of God about the subject of who are those who truly constitute His nation?
The apostle Paul laid the foundation for, and really answered the question in his letter to the Roman brethren. Who is a Jew? "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter " (Romans 2:28,29). The Israel of God is obviously the collection of such spiritually marked individuals, a nation being by definition the aggregate of its citizens. So it is written, then, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel" (Romans 9:6). God is trying to communicate that a fleshly birth is of no significance; the Israel of God consists of those born by the promised Holy Spirit: "That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" (Romans 9:8).
So what about those Galatian Christians who had been sucked in by Jewish pressure and propaganda glorifying the outward Jews? The apostle Paul is closing his letter to the congregations of Galatia with a withering hail of spiritual bullets, aimed and fired by the Spirit of God Himself.
The Galatian Christians had, in many cases, been sold a "bill of goods." Bewitched is the word the Holy Spirit used. The physical nation Israel, and its rites and sacrifices had come to be glorified, and the overweening success of the physical had shut off the glories of the spiritual. With a strong parting shot, and in keeping with the spiritual brotherhood strength and satire running throughout the New Testament writings, the apostle gives his greeting of peace to "the Israel of God." The other Israel, the physical one, being glorified by the Judaizers, quite clearly was not "of God."
The parallels today are manifold. Many fleshly programs arise to shut off the glories of the spiritual. But peace and mercy are only upon "the Israel of God."
Brand-marks of Jesus
There are talkers, and there are doers. There are those who crumple under pressure, and there are those who stand the test. And everyone will be tested. "Beloved," writes Peter, "do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing" (I Peter 4:12). Those who have never yet tasted the blood of battle cannot speak with the same authority of the grizzled survivor - especially in spiritual warfare. One of the great lines from the Old Testament is appropriate here: "Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off" (I Kings 20:11).
The grizzly of the grizzled veterans was the apostle Paul. Taking on the false apostles who were worming their way into Corinthians hearts, this great lion of God detailed some of his exploits in the cause of Christ - not for self-glorification, but so that the truth of his message and the purity of his doctrine might shine through. "Are they Hebrews?" he asked. "Are they Israelites?" The question of pedigree continues, "Are they descendants of Abraham?" (II Corinthians 11:22). Then he shifted his emphasis. "Are they servants of Christ?" After commenting that he has to be crazy to have allowed the discussion to sink this low, but unfortunately necessary, level, he then lists some of what he had gone through (II Corinthians 11:23-27):
When we recall that his second preserved exhortation to the Corinthian brethren was written well before his ministry in the flesh came to an end, we can only marvel at what could have been detailed as he was a preparing to be offered as a drink offering. He was indeed "such a person" (Philemon 9), Paul the aged, fitted to make his appeal in person or in prison, by letter or by messenger.
The false brethren in the Galatian churches troubled Paul. They attacked his teaching and sullied his reputation. They used every pressure technique in the book to twist sincere brethren away from the truth of the gospel, destroying and being destroyed by Satans wiles in the process. This Galatian letter is the apostles last yank on the harness of truth, his last jerk on the chain of reality. Those who would listen, and walk, by the rule of the new creation would live; those who would not listen would perish by the Law. His final appeal, sounded above the drum-roll of all the persecution and hardship he had endured for the gospel, stridently calls for their troublesome teaching and teachers to die down: "From now on let no one cause trouble for me; for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17). The grizzly of the grizzled can make such an appeal.
Brand-marks On Our Bodies
Comparatively speaking, Christians in America have not suffered much for the sake of their beliefs. These United States of America burst into nationhood on the basis of a reluctant revolution, brought about by increasingly tyrannical measures and conspiracy of the Crown. Many of the colonists had fled the Old World in order to pursue their religious convictions unfettered by layered bureaucracy and safe from the sword of the state. Hence the first citizens of the worlds foremost modern republic secured for themselves and their posterity - at the price of lives and fortunes, but with sacred honor generally intact - the blessings of liberty. And primary among these liberties - in what was always termed "a Christian nation," in the words of George Washington, in his farewell address, "With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles" - was the free exercise of religion, against the backdrop that no denominational church could be established as the national religion. Hence this freedom resulted in discussion and debate which allowed many buried but essential points of the Holy Writ to be brought to light, without fear of dungeon, gallows, or stake.
But modern softies have come "into" the church, and will compromise nearly any sacred sound doctrine for the sake of avoiding bad press, much less Biblical-type persecution. But an examination of scripture on the subject of suffering and persecution reveals it is the norm of the existence of the church, and each of us needs to steel his mind in preparation for what is soon to come.
The apostle Paul spoke with authority because, among other reasons, he bore on his body "the brand-marks of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17). Who is next? And when?
The Grace Of Our Lord Be With Your Spirit
There is no grace in law. The pronouncement of law is simple; if the party is guilty, then justice is executed. No clemency. Simple justice, executed swiftly and surely.
Those who live under law, as the Galatian brethren were being persuaded to do, have a pronounced sense of justice, particularly as it applies to the next guy. "He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother," wrote James, "speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it" (James 4:11). Those who do not understand what faith is, as defined by the Bible, are by necessity driven to law or into lawlessness. And the man who is driven to law is not a doer of the law, but sits as a judge.
Thus it was in the congregations in Galatia. Those who pushed the law of Moses did not even keep the law themselves. And with every man a self-appointed judge, no wonder they were biting and devouring one another, and on the edge of consuming one another.
But those who walk by faith, new creations by the Spirit, have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, and have "a different spirit about them." Among other qualities, they exhibit a spirit of grace.
The individual who walks under law becomes cantankerous and judgmental. The true son of God looks by faith into the face of the risen Christ, and is conscious of Gods grace toward him. The Galatian epistle begins: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6). The epistle ends in this appeal: "The grace of our Lord Jesus be with your spirit, brethren. Amen" (Galatians 6:18). And thats the spirit.