Thursday, March 1, 2012


The excellent verses found in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are a bit of a blur for me. It's like a slurry of goodness, but I can never get my hands on the passage that I want, when I want it. So for a few weeks, I'm going to try and quickly get a handle on the overall message of each book and then summarize them into my own words, hopefully concreting some of the main points and the locations of them in my mind.

And if I'm going through this effort, I might as well share it!

These are just my summaries. I find that rewording something is helpful while studying. So this is a book report, of sorts, on Paul's letter to the Galatians.


Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia is a beautiful picture of the Gospel. It begins with the true story of our hero, Jesus, who dramatically swooped down into the evil mire, and at the cost of His own life, rescued us, bringing us into the Kingdom of the King. (1:4). This was all in God’s plan, of course, who deserves all the glory for – well – forever!

The church in Galatia had deserted the gospel of grace for a system of laws and legalities that they believed would bring them closer to God’s Kingdom. What is the Gospel of Grace? It has been explained as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is available at salvation, but it also enables and empowers us to do the will of God on a daily basis.

So the Galatians were doing these things to win the approval of men, but Paul says that we are servants of Christ – He rescued us because He loves us so much! Who else’s approval do we need to seek? Only that of the Hero who saved us. In His great love, God chose us. He called us for His purpose, even from our mother’s womb, so that we may live for Him, and not others.

The church was struggling with questions around circumcision, what foods to eat, who to associate with – old laws that were ingrained in their minds and culture. But Paul reminds them that the Gospel is not based on our works – what we can and can’t do – but on the cross alone.  If our righteousness came from works, then why did Christ die? It is based on His perfect life and death and resurrection alone. That’s the Gospel of Grace.

Now, as believers in Him, when we choose to follow Him, we symbolically crucify the strongholds of sin and are not to rebuild them again.

Paul then explains how the law worked both before and after Christ. It is a tool that shows us our sins and need of a Savior. He uses the example of Abraham, who believed by faith in the promise of a deliverer who was to come. His faith in what was to come, and not his works, saved Him, just as we look backward on the finished work of Christ and look ahead in expectation of his return – by faith. The law was meant to lead us to Christ, a tutor, if you will, that teaches us of our need for Him, so that by our faith in Him, we may be justified.

Before Christ came, the law was a guardian of sorts to the people of God. They were His children, but as young children, they did not have full-claim to all that was theirs. They were under the guardianship of another, until they would grow and receive their inheritance in full. As it were, they were like slaves to this guardian (or tutor or trustee), having to do what he said and follow his rules. This guardian was the law in their lives. But this changed when Christ came. We grew up into heirs, if you will.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (4:4-7).

Just as Abraham had two sons, one of the flesh and one of the promise, we now must live under the promise – the Work of Jesus by the will of God and His Spirit– and not by the flesh, with its laws and regulations. Christ came to set us free! And as free men, it is ridiculous for us to once again put ourselves back into slavery. Instead, we are to live in freedom, and wait for the hope of righteousness that is to come!

What does it mean to be a child of the King, filled with His Spirit? It means that our faith in Him shows itself to others by our love for them. The law is summed up by this, “To love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, in love, we are to serve each other. It only makes sense that those who have received so much love would be joyously looking for ways to shower love on others.

When we are acting in opposition to love, living in the flesh, living as slaves once again, it shows up in these ways, to name a few: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (Note that the idea of "love" doesn't give us a blank card - it's love on God's terms, and these are not on God's terms.)

In the flesh, when we’re living “well” by our own standards and strength, we become boastful, which is wrong. And when we’re caught in legalism, we challenge others. “Why aren’t they living this way or doing this and that, like I am?” That’s pride talking! And when we’re tangled up in our own sin, and not calling out to God in repentance, we envy others. “Why don’t they have the same problems I do?” All of these actions are clues to us that we are living a life contrary to the freedom we can have in Christ.

By God’s will, we were saved by Jesus and given His Spirit, and when we walk with Him, full of thankfulness for all He has done, we are then gracious to others. Our life is marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

What then, do we do, when we see others in sin? If the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives, then we are free to restore them with gentleness. The word “restore” has an element of mending to it. Think of a kind mother tenderly mending the wound of her child, or a vet carefully mending the broken wing of a bird. Gently.

In this restoration process, we are to bear each other’s burdens. We don’t sit on the sidelines and point fingers in judgment. We come alongside, carrying the weight ourselves, until our brother or sister is strong enough and takes it to the cross.

At the end of the day, walking with the Spirit is something that can’t be measured and weighed and exacted out. We mustn’t find out how we’re doing by comparing ourselves to others.

Instead, we are to keep on sowing the good seeds of righteousness! It is hard. We will not be perfect human beings on this side of eternity. But if we keep sowing the good seeds of the Spirit, repenting when we sin, and humbly ask for His help, we will receive His grace to faithfully follow Him.

Keep going! Sow to the Spirit! Serve others out of love, and don’t lose heart!

Sin might tempt us to think living contrary to God’s will brings joy. It deceives us into believing that a life of fearful rules gives peace. But it is a lie.

Instead, there is grace and peace to those who follow God’s plan. To those who are full of joy for all God has done for them and choose to walk in love by His Spirit, there is grace and mercy.

“And to those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.”

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