Galatians 6

Galatians 6 is the final chapter in this epistle. This chapter has some surprisingly good, practical and relevant advice in it. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, it is the Bible after all, but some of the advice given is not what I expected it to be.

First, Paul deals with how to help other brothers and sisters caught in sin. It is with gentleness and care. The care is also that you do not get tempted by the sin to sin themselves. Paul says we should support one another, and that’s a mark of a believer.

Verse 3 seems somewhat terse and basically condemns hypocrites and the arrogant. Then it goes on to say that comparisons are worthless.

Verse 8 is definitely worth remembering:

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, for the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Verse 9 then goes on to talk about perseverance. This is definitely something I need more of, and if you want to pray for me in this, please and thank you. If you look at my record of posting, you can see how I start well but it soon dies off. I’ve been trying to learn verses off by heart by writing them out loads of times; this might be one I add to the list.

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

Verse 10 is nice too. It simply says, if you have the opportunity to do good, then do it. I like this advice. It’s so simple. If you can do it, do it. I think so many of us miss opportunities to do good that are given to us. If this was a rule we all followed, the world would be such a nicer place.

The rest of the chapter asks us to only boast in the cross of Jesus. Again, it reminds us comparisons or arrogance is pointless. The only thing we have of any value is Christ. We try to put value in so many pointless things or boast in such futile achievements. What we should rejoice in are the eternal things that count towards God’s kingdom.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Galatians 3

Galatians 3 is a bit weird and confusing at times, but also quite interesting. In it, Paul seems to explain that the law was for a time between Abraham and his descendent that would fulfil the law. Those who did not fulfil the law were under a curse, but Jesus became that curse for us. Therefore, all who are justified in Christ are heirs to the promise.

It’s interesting as throughout this chapter, Paul reiterated that the gospel is for all people. All are able to become descendants of Abraham through faith. In verse 8, it reminds us of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis that “All nations will be blessed through you.” It’s reassuring to read this as a missionary, that the gospel for the nations was the plan all along.

I also like what Paul does with the idea of the law. He remarks that following the law is not an act of faith. That’s a really interesting idea that has been mentioned to me in a few contexts before. It might be because I have a slight Pharisaical bent. If I do what I should, I will get what I want. That isn’t faith. That is me being in control of my destiny and the outcome of the situation. Faith is that Jesus’ grace is available to me, no matter what I do or my attempts to control it. It’s not that I shouldn’t be obedient. But I should be obedient out of love, not out of a manipulative desire to have control. It’s like a toddler saying please just because they want to get the thing they’re asking for, not because they are showing respect and care.

Paul also refers to the law as a guardian. This is quite a nice way of looking at it. I often look at the law as something negative, but it wasn’t. It was a loving covenant between God and his people. So this is a positive spin on it.

The chapter ends with these famous verses, which say it much better than I ever would.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:27-29

Galatians 1:10-24

Today, I’m tackling a slightly larger chunk than 5 verses. I worked out that if I read the Bible at the rate of 5 verses a day, I’d finish the whole thing by May 2032. Of course, that’s no bad thing and it’s good to ponder the Bible both slowly and in depth but also to read large passages and get a wider overview. It’s amazing that you can spend so much time delving into such small sections and reap such large rewards.

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Well, I’m a typical people pleaser. This is probably one of my largest person threats to my own personal faith; often, I’m a servant of man before I’m a servant of God. I like the word “obviously” in the verse, as if it’d be crazy to suggest otherwise. I believe it with Paul. It’s not so obvious a trait in me.

Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted God’s church. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors.

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.

Galatians 1:11-16a (NIV)

In some ways, I’ve been more blessed than Paul. Paul’s knowledge and message doesn’t come from a human source, it comes from direct revelation from Jesus. This is the same with me and with all Christians. The gospel has a power of its own that it provided by the Holy Spirit. This power needs to work in the hearts of all believers. (John 16:8-11) However, I have also had the blessing of many people who have spoken the gospel into my life, from parents, pastors, youth workers. (See Colossians 1:3-8 for the work of Epaphras and the power of the gospel working in unison.)

I was also blessed because God called me before I was born, and revealed his Son to me at an early age. I was probably younger than seven when I first decided to be obedient to Jesus. It was a decision I remember making and one I have (poorly) tried to stick to.

When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.

Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie.

After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. And still the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” And they praised God because of me.

Galatians 1:16b-24

Paul’s urgency to go and preach the gospel is seen in verses 16 and 17:

Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles... Instead, I went away into Arabia.

The three years Paul spent in Arabia is a bit of a mystery, but connecting the two verses it’s probably likely that Paul preached the gospel while he was there (Hengel, 2004). It’s interesting that he chose to include this in his summary of his post-conversion life here. He seems to make quite a point that he didn’t “rush out” to consult, but rather, rushed out to preach the gospel. (Though this may also have something to do with quite a few people chasing him and hating him.)

It makes me reflect on where I should be going and what I should be doing next. What is the most urgent task? What things can wait?

Finally, I like the verse, “And they praised God because of me.” That’s something I would like to be able to say.

_________

Hengel, Martin, “Paul in Arabia,” Bulletin for Biblical Research, 12 (2002), 47–66

Galatians 1:6-9

I’m continuing in my reading of Galatians. I’m taking it pretty slowly as you can see, only 4 or 5 verses at a time. However, it’s quite nice to chew over small sections of scripture, rather than blitz through them. Slow and steady wins the race – at least, I hope so.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)

One of my favourite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

It’s a really beautiful summary of the gospel.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
  Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
  Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
  Interposed His precious blood.

However, in the final stanza, it talks about wandering hearts.

O to grace how great a debtor
  Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
  Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
  Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
  Seal it for Thy courts above.

This is what appears to have happened in Galatia. Their hearts have wandered to another gospel. What I find interesting is that it’s not the Galatians that receive the condemnation, but those who are leading them astray.

It makes me want to ask a series of questions:

  • What false versions of the gospel are being preached in our churches right now?
  • Where have I turned to another gospel or been thrown into confusion?
  • Have I ever preached a false gospel? Do I need to repent of this?

I’m sure there are false gospels being preached. There are quite a few things I feel particularly weary of, but I’m not sure if it’s just my personality and personal prejudices rather than actual prophetic concern. So, I’ll probably leave it for another post after a good, long, hard think. However, this article suggests a few.

Also, I’m sure I’ve been thrown into confusion. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me and help me in this. I need the Holy Spirit to bind my heart to the one true gospel. Indeed, O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!

Finally, I know I have bumbled and blustered my way through an attempt at evangelising. In some cases, I probably butchered the gospel. If my failed attempts moved people away from moving God instead of towards, I truly repent. Fortunately, it’s not actually my job to convict people of their need of Christ, it’s the Holy Spirit’s. His power to do this if far greater than my power to ruin it. It’s not an excuse or a glib dismissal of what I did, but it’s reassuring nonetheless. Again, O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!

Galatians 1:1-5

I’m currently reading through the book of Galatians, so I thought I would share my initial thoughts as I read a bit each day. The aim is to read a chapter a week (not quite as daunting as the failed attempt of the Bible in a Year). As it’s not overly arduous, hopefully I’ll be able to jot down some thoughts. They may just be in note form, but I’ll try my best to post something!

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:1-5 (NIV)

God-given calling

I like the way Paul introduces himself here. He does it because people have been bad-mouthing him and saying that he has distorted the real message of Christianity. It serves to remind them of his God-given role and that it was indeed God-given.

It reminds me of the verses in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus had already died by this point in Matthew and was speaking to his disciples. He sent them out to spread the good news. We, too, respond to this Great Commission and we are sent by God. This further affirmed by Ephesians 2:10:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(NIV)

We are not sent by men, but rather by God. This call should define our attitude towards what we do, working as if for God, not man.

God-given power

Verse 1 also reminds us that Jesus was raised from the dead. Romans 8:11 also links God’s call on our lives and his power to raise from the dead. It’s amazing to think that the same power that resurrected Jesus is the same power that resurrects our lives. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus, lives in us. That Holy Spirit guides us, transforms us and empowers us. We have the power of Jesus’ resurrection living in us daily.

God-given salvation

The summary of the gospel message here seems somewhat pertinent in the chaos of modern times. With American, British and European countries seemingly split down political seams, modern culture getting more debauched and secular than ever and the church losing its relevance and purity across the west, we seem to live in an evil age. We definitely need saving from it.

Jesus died so that we may be saved; God raised him so we may be called; the Spirit empowers us so we may do good deeds. This is all a bit challenging, especially in light of Philippians 1:27:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

(NLT)