Galatians: A Free Online Commentary–Grace In Your Face

Galatians—Free At Last!

Trusting Grace, Releasing Life

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm

and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NASB).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a worldwide conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches.

And neither should we.

On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation:

We are justified by faith in Christ because Christ was faithful!

Galatians is the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, settling the issue of the Gospel: Salvation is by grace, through faith, plus nothing!

I. The language and message of Galatians has been setting Christians free since it was written.

A. Impact of Galatians on church history: Religious people have always mistrusted grace and the Gospel. Galatians stands against the lie of grace plus works.

1. Early Church: The Book of Acts records the necessary separation of Christianity from Judaism. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, “no doubt was one of the greatest forces” in that separation. (Merrill C. Tenney, Galatians)

2. Reformation: Galatians catalyzed the Reformation more than any other book of the Bible. Tenney calls it “the cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation.” G.G. Findlay writes, “Martin Luther put it to his lips as a trumpet to blow the reveille of the Reformation (The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 3). Luther so loved the Book of Galatians that he called it “his wife”. “The Epistle to the Galatians,” he wrote in his commentary, “is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine.”

3. Today: The Gospel of grace is under siege again. This little book insists that the church not add works to grace.

B. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to set Christians free of the yoke of slavery to works-righteousness by defending his apostleship, his grace-plus-nothing message, and the freedom his message releases in Christians.

1. The message of the Gospel was at stake: Judaizers were teaching that Gentile believers must be circumcised to be saved.

2. The health of the churches in Galatia was at stake: These false teachers were confusing Gentile believers everywhere and their lie was beginning to influence the fledgling churches of Galatia.

3. The future of the church was at stake: Christian liberty—which grows out of justification by faith, is essential to the survival and influence of Christians and Christianity.

C. Outline: Righteousness is and always has been by grace through faith. Embrace faith, because the gospel and your freedom in Christ are at stake.

1. Introduction: This is a letter so critical that Paul dispenses with the usual niceties and gets right to it: Are you Galatians nuts? Why are you deserting the grace and the gospel of Christ? (1:1-10).

2. Defense of the Messenger of Grace: Paul defends his apostleship by proving that messengers of grace-righteousness are the true messengers of Christ and noting that the message of the gospel is at stake (1:11-2:21).

3. Defense of the Message of Grace: Paul teaches what justification by faith means, and why it is true (3:1-4:31).

3. Defense of Freedom in Christ: Paul demonstrates that the full experience and demonstration of the new creation in Christ can only come by grace through faith (5:1-6:10).

D. Conclusion: Paul closes his letter as powerfully as he opened it by exposing the evil motives of the false teachers and comparing these with his pure motives (6:11-18).

II. Galatians settles it! Deliverance from sin and righteousness comes only by grace through faith, not by following the Law or any set of religious rules and regulations.

A. Have you settled it in your own life? Or are you insisting that God count some of your good works as reasons to accept you as righteous?

B. Have you settled it in your view of others? Or are you insisting that God count some of the good works you feel must accompany faith before He accepts others who don’t measure up to your standards?

C. Legalism is adding works to grace. What legalistic influences from your home or church of origin still haunt you as you struggle with being free in Christ?

D. How do you really feel about Paul’s message in Galatians where he puts grace in your face? Do you, as Martin Luther, rejoice in the Book? Or do you remain suspicious of all this talk about grace and freedom?

This is Serious!

Galatians 1:1-5

“Our Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins

that He might deliver us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:3-4).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a worldwide conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

The Apostle begins his epistle uncharacteristically. After a customary salutation, there’s no thanksgiving or commendation. An ominous precursor to an uncompromising letter focusing on the essential truth of Christianity: It’s not our works but God’s grace that matters most.

Glory to God who sent His Son to deliver us from our sin and this evil age!⇦Tweet that!

Galatians, the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, begins with five verses that summarize the message of the entire book.

I. Paul begins his epistle with words of greeting that preview the contents and set the solemn tone of the book.

A. Paul emphasized the authenticity of his apostleship (Cf. chapters 1-2) in the greeting (1-2).

1. His enemies were claiming that his apostleship was inferior because Paul didn’t actually walk with Christ or witness His resurrection. Paul reminds them of his impeccable credentials. The risen and glorified Christ commissioned him. His authority was not sourced in any man, neither did it come through the mediation of men (Acts 9, 26:12-18).

2. We don’t know all the brethren who joined in the greeting from Antioch/Jerusalem, but we know at least Barnabas was with Paul. It may be that Peter and the leaders of the church at Antioch, the church at Jerusalem, or both are included in the greeting.

3. This is the only one of Paul’s letter sent to all of the churches in a geographical area. These were the churches of the Roman province of Galatia he and Barnabas planted on their first missionary journey (Acts 14, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe). This is a reminder to all Christians that Christ views His church as one—the many local churches in a geographical area may be unique, but should remain unified under the Good Shepherd.

B. Paul emphasized his message (Cf. chapters 3-4) in his uncustomary salutation (3-5a).

1. Paul’s common greeting of grace (God’s favor) and peace (God’s blessing) isn’t followed by the usual thanksgiving for the Galatians or the usual commendation of the recipients. It’s worthy to note that Paul emphasizes that blessing always follows grace.

2. Grace and peace come from God the Father and His Son. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the title Paul chooses to characterize the exalted rank of Christ as fully God.

3. Verse four summarizes the truth Paul’s enemies, the works-righteousness false teachers were denying. The Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross delivered believers from their sins and the power of this evil age according to the will of His Father.

Note: This present evil age=the present world system that dominates this era in contrast to the age to come where righteousness will reign in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Verse five describes what always happens when God’s grace is received—God is glorified. Grace glorifies God!

C. Paul emphasized the seriousness of the letter in his uncharacteristic “amen” (5b). Amen means “truly” and it’s used to emphasize and substantiate a statement.

II. The first five verses of Galatians give us three things we should be sure of:

A. Peace follows grace; blessing follows favor. Are you sure that the lack of peace in your life isn’t due to your refusal to trust in the grace of God?

1. Is there something God has said in His word or through His community that you’re refusing to trust Him with because you don’t see it as an expression of grace?

2. Is there something you’re still trying to control or manipulate rather than trusting in God’s gracious and loving provision for you?

B. The message of Christianity is: Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Are you sure you have trusted in Christ so that you have been delivered from your sins and this present evil age? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be delivered.

1. Notice what the Bible does not ask you to trust in: repentance, baptism, church attendance, turning from your sins, good works, reasoning, religious culture….

2. Deliverance from your sin and this present evil age begins with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us (died for our sin, was buried, and rose again) to rescue us. He loved you too much to leave you enslaved to your sin and this evil world without a way out. Faith in Him is your only way out.

C. Grace glorifies God. Are you sure that your life glorifies the grace of God in Christ?

1. If you told people that the grace of God in Christ explains your life, would they think, “Wow, look at what the grace of God did for him/her! I want some of that grace.”

2. If you told people that the only way to live the way you’re living is to receive the grace of God in Christ, would they ask, “Then show me how to receive this grace?”

“Another” Gospel

Galatians 1:6-10

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you

than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

The Apostle begins his epistle uncharacteristically. After a customary salutation, there’s no thanksgiving or commendation. The denunciation of the Galatians for deserting the gospel he had preached contains the strongest words from Paul’s mighty pen:

There is only one Gospel—the gospel of Christ Paul preached!⇦Tweet that!

Galatians, the Magna Carta of Christian liberty, insists that there is only one gospel—the gospel Paul taught in Galatians 1:4, 2:16, and 3:11.

I. Paul replaces the customary thanksgiving introducing epistles with a severe rebuke: “I can’t believe you have forsaken the gospel I preached and the grace of Christ for the false-gospel preached by those who are under God’s damning judgment.”

A. Paul charges that the Galatians, succumbing to the agitating pressures of those who would pervert the true gospel, have deserted God’s grace for an entirely different gospel (1:6-7).

1. Paul states his amazement at the Galatians’ hasty desertion of God’s grace for a “different” gospel (heteros—another of a different kind, qualitative difference, not the same at all).

Note: It had only been a few months since the Galatians had accepted his gospel.

2. Paul explains that this “different” gospel is emphatically not “another” (allos, another of the same kind) gospel. It was in fact an attempt by agitators to pervert the true gospel and to confuse, stir up, shake up the Galatains’ faith (7).

B. Paul strongly contends that anyone (hypothetical or actual) who preaches a different gospel than he preached (see 1:4; 2:16; 3:11) will be accursed (damned, under judgment) by God (8-9).

1. The expected result of anyone (even an angel, hyperbole for emphasis) preaching a gospel contrary to the simple gospel of Christ is that one will be accursed by God (anathema, 8).

2. Paul emphatically repeats what he preached before and just wrote. Anyone who preaches any other gospel but the one Paul preached is accursed (anathema, 9).

C. Paul refutes the charge that his gospel of grace—righteousness by grace, through faith, plus nothing—sacrifices the truth to please men. He reminds his readers that he is a slave to Christ and asks them to review his record of suffering (5:11; 6:17, v 10).

James Montgomery Boice writes: “The vehemence with which Paul denounces those who teach another gospel (literally, he says, ‘Let them be damned’) has bothered some…. But this shows how little the gospel of God’s grace is understood and appreciated and how little many Christians are concerned for the advance of biblical truth.” (Galatians, p 429)

II. Some things never change. The Gospel of Grace and preachers of grace are still under siege!

A. The issue hasn’t changed: Any addition of works to the Work of Christ ruins the gospel. It’s not “another” gospel that is just a little more serious, asking for just a little more commitment, wanting just a little more devotion to God. It is a different gospel, a heretical gospel, an accursed gospel.

1. What additional “work” have you heard false teachers add to the Work of Christ in a false gospel?  Baptism, turning from sin, counting the cost, putting it all on the line for Christ, not being lukewarm…others?

2. Are you able to see from these verses that adding works to the Gospel of Christ isn’t a good thing; it’s the worst thing?

B. The allure of false teachers hasn’t changed: Instead of measuring the message of teachers against what kind of buzz they’re generating in Christian circles, measure their message against Galatians 1:4, 2:16, and 3:11.

C. The charge hasn’t changed: Preachers of grace are trying to please men with “easy-believism,” or “cheap grace.” And the charge is just as absurd today as it was then. Look at church history. It’s not the preachers of works who have suffered; it’s the preachers of grace. Grace is immensely unpopular in religious and secular culture.

Where Did This Gospel Come From?

Galatians 1:11-12

“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on road to Damascus (1:11-12):

Like the sweetest water from a high mountain spring, the gospel Paul taught refreshes because of its divine source—direct revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus told Paul to offer deliverance from darkness, Satan and guilt by faith in Him!⇦Tweet that!

I. Paul, in defense of his apostleship, proves that his gospel came from God by reminding his readers that he received and was instructed in his gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ rather than mere men.

A. The source of Paul’s gospel was God, not man (1:11-12).

1. “But I make known to you” is Paul’s way of introducing a statement that he especially wants to emphasize (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 15:1, 2 Corinthians 8:1).

2. Paul’s gospel is not “according to man”—not an idea that a human would come up with, not sourced in human intelligence or reasoning.

3. Paul’s gospel is not “received…from, nor…taught by man”—not from a school of thought or a theology or a religious tradition.

4. Paul’s gospel came “through the revelation of/from Jesus Christ”—revelation, disclosure, unveiling, revealing.

B. Acts records the very words of that revelation to Paul to preach deliverance to righteousness through faith in Christ alone. Paul recounts his conversion before Agrippa:

“I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:17-18) I will send you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, in order to turn them..from darkness

…to light

…from the power of Satan

…to God

…that they may receive..forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified

BY FAITH IN ME!

1. This is what Jesus had always said about eternal life: John3:16; 5:24; 6:47.

2. This is what Paul faithfully preached:Galatians1:4 (before the Jerusalem Council), Acts 16:31(after the Jerusalem Council), Ephesians 2:8-9.

II. The gospel of Christ is not easy-believism or cheap grace.

A. Is it easy to believe? Not if you realize what is involved in faith. The object of our faith is a Person we’ve never seen nor has anyone else living today ever seen. This Person claims to be the Substitute for our sin in records written by His friends and devoted followers. The only explanation for someone trusting in Christ to receive eternal life is that the Holy Spirit persuaded that person to believe in Jesus.

B. Is grace cheap? No, it’s free. But it is extremely costly—the suffering and death of the Son of God.

C. Our flesh—the capacity to live life apart from God and sinful desire to make it work—loathes trust and desires control (Romans 7:18; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:17). From the Bible’s perspective, works-righteousness is far more appealing to unregenerate human beings.

III. The gospel of Christ is not “decisionism.” Those of us who hold to salvation by grace, through faith, plus nothing would never give someone assurance of salvation because they went forward or raised their hand, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into their life. Our question is always the same: Who are you trusting in?

A. The Healthy Roots of RevivalismThe Second Great Awakening swept through America in 1798 and lasted over 30 years. This powerful movement of the Holy Spirit transformed institutions (Yale), denominations, and communities. The Second Great Awakening or The Great Revival, wasn’t personality driven and was primarily driven by faithful pastors who led people to pray fervently and taught the Word of God.

B. “Decisionism” is an unfortunate by-product of revivalism. Near the end of the Great Awakening, Charles Finney converted to Christ. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1824.

1. Finney taught and practiced that conversion could be facilitated by what he termed “New Measures.” People could be persuaded by proper application of biblical arguments and were converted as soon as they “yielded to the truth” of those arguments. But Finney’s idea of the proper application of biblical arguments involved a lot of shame and manipulation.

2. With this understanding of conversion, Finney held huge meetings where people were shamed and manipulated into “yielding to the truth” by coming forward, praying the “sinner’s prayer,” or demonstrating their “yieldedness” through some tangible step of commitment.

3. These mass meetings were impressive to onlookers, but men of God bemoaned the real outcome of these “conversions”—alarming recidivism rates. Even Finney later admitted that his grown children who had prayed all the prayers and took all the “steps” of commitment weren’t “converted.”

From Persecutor to Preacher

Galatians 1:13-24

“But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us

now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy’” (Galatians 1:23).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (1:11-12). The product of the gospel of grace is stunning. The greatest enemy of the early church became its greatest missionary:

The gospel of Christ Paul taught powerfully transforms

believers to glorify His grace!⇦Tweet that!

Paul offers two powerful lines of evidence to authenticate his apostleship and his bold teachings on grace: His dramatic and unique interaction with the Lord Jesus over many years apart from Judean influences, and his dramatic and unique transformation by grace through faith.

I. Paul, in defense of his apostleship, proves that his gospel came from God by stressing his miraculous transformation by grace, even though he never consulted with any other apostles for three years after his conversion, except for a brief visit with Peter (1:13-24).

A. There was nothing in Paul’s preconversion life that could explain his current zeal for the gospel. In fact, he was its enemy (1:13-14).

1. In his former life as a religious Jew, Paul was a relentless persecutor of Christians (13, Cf. Acts 8:3; 9:1).

2. Nobody had more zeal for the works-righteousness of Pharisaic Judaism than Paul before he met Christ (14).

Note: “Being more exceedingly zealous for the tradition of my fathers” shows that Paul isn’t narrowly arguing against the specific works of the Law—circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, or following the Torah. The Pharasaic traditions did not equal the written law, but included thousands of interpretations and additions to the Law that were afterward embodied in the Mishna (AD 200). “In connection with Judaism it refers to that body of oral tradition which was complementary to the written law and in fact possessed equal authority to the law.” (Guthrie, Galatians)

B. The historical development of Paul’s ministry was due solely to the grace of God rather than Paul’s own efforts or any input from the Jerusalem apostles (1:15-17).

1. Paul’s conversion (probably in AD 34) and calling were totally by grace. He did nothing to earn either.

2. Paul’s revelation from Christ and growth as an apostle occurred in isolation from the Jerusalem apostles. Therefore, it was just as authoritative as any they had received. This all happened in Arabia, the geographical area east of Palestine, probably settling just south of Damascus. Apparently Paul devoted this time to personally restudy the Scriptures, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, as a new creation and an apostle.

C. Three years after his conversion Paul spent fifteen days with Peter and saw only James, the Lord’s brother (Mark 6:3). Then he immediately continued his ministry north into Gentile territories. Therefore, the Judean church knew him only by reputation and glorified God for the mighty work of grace in his life—their persecutor was now preaching to the Gentiles (1:18-24).

1. Paul’s emphatic claim to be telling the truth in verse 20 reveals the intense attack the apostle was under.

2. Paul did not spend time in Judea where he would have heard others preach the same gospel he preached. He ventured into Syria (above Judea) and Cilicia (the province of his home town, Tarsus, Acts 9:30). He served Christ in these provinces for seven years (AD 37-43) until Barnabas found him and recruited him to Antioch (Acts 11:25).

II. We know what Jesus revealed to Paul, how does this compare to what Jesus has revealed to you?

A. Except for the apostle part, your calling is the same—make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20)

B. Except for the apostle part, your message is the same—be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

C. Except for the apostle part, your responsibility is the same—glorify God’s grace by your life.(Romans 12:1-2)

“Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.” –Jonathan Edwards⇦Tweet that!

Definition of Terms: Repentance

Selected Scripture

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

The letter to the Galatians is Paul’s response to an insidious attack on the central truth of Christianity—salvation by grace, through faith, plus nothing. It’s his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

Salvation is the grandest theme in the Scriptures. “The doctrine of salvation…embraces all of time as well as eternity past and future. It relates in one way or another to all of mankind, without exception. It even has ramifications in the sphere of the angels. It is the theme of both the Old and the New Testaments. It is personal, national, and cosmic. And it centers on the greatest Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p 319)

Much of the debate and confusion about the doctrine of salvation could be avoided if we were more careful to define our terms. The word repentance is one of those terms we use assuming that everyone agrees to its meaning. I know there are differing views on its meaning, translation, and relationship to eternal salvation. But I feel usage, context, and an understanding of the history of this troublesome term should determine our definition of repentance:

Repentance is a change of “heart” that involves a turning to God!

The great need in discussing repentance is to think biblically.

I. The Problem With the Word: Repentance has become a religious word freighted with cultural definitions unmoored from the original meaning.

A. The Basic Meaning of the Word: The English word repentance translates the Greek wordmetanoia (verb = metanoew). This word is formed from two words, meta, which means after orchange, and noew which means to think (a form of the word nous, or mind). Thus the resulting word suggests the meaning of after-thought or a change of mind. Many language scholars agree on this basic definition.

However, the word itself does not designate what is the object of the change of mind. That is left to the context. In biblical times, metanoia was used in common language for one changing his mind in a non-ethical sense about a variety of things. Thus repentance is a fluid term that leaves its final definition to the context. Much like the word dozen causes us to wonder, “a dozen what?” the wordmetanoia forces the question, “a change of mind about what?”

In the New Testament, we see examples of one changing his mind about a sinful attitude (Luke 18:9- 14), ineffectual works (Heb. 6:1), trust in pagan idols (Acts 17:30), or God Himself (Acts 20:21). Though it is most often associated with sin, sin is not always its object. In fact, in the King James Version of the Old Testament the English word repent translates a Hebrew term in reference to Godrepenting, showing that it does not automatically refer to sorrow for sin or turning from sin.

B. The Great Pollution of the Word: The English word repentance has its roots in the Latin wordpenitentia which denotes penitence as sorrow, or worse, the Catholic doctrine of penance, in which a person’s sins are absolved by a priest’s prescribed acts of punishment. Repentance should not be defined by these specific outward actions or sorrowful emotions. Metanoia may involve these outward actions and sorrowful emotions, but they’re not required.

C. The Root Fallacy: As early as the late second century, church father Tertullian argued that the meaning of “change of mind” is the best translation of metanoia. Even though the basic meaning ofmetanoia is “change of mind,” we need to avoid the error linguists call the root fallacy. By that we mean taking the two root words as the actual meaning of the word in usage.

Tracing the root meanings is very helpful towards, but not determinative of, final meaning. Still, a word’s origin is not arbitrary, but informative. Thus we cannot ignore the formation of metanoia, which gives us the basic definition a change of mind.

D. The One-Word Difficulty: English-speaking scholars have long complained that there is not a good single-word translation for metanoia. Greek expert A. T. Robertson remarked, “It is a linguistic and theological tragedy that we have to go on using ‘repentance’ for metanoia.”

E. The “Turn From Sin” Difficulty: One popular meaning of repentance today is “turning from sin.” I have two problems with that:

1. Linguistically: In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word shub (= to turn [from something] is primarily translated by the Greek term strephw (to turn) rather than metanoia.

Example: In Jonah 3.10 its the people of Nineveh who turned (shub/apostrephw in LXX) from their wicked way and God relented (niham/metanoew) from destroying them.  See also Joel 2.12-13 has a similar usage.

2. Theologically: The overwhelming evidence for total depravity (irreparably perverted, adokimos—not standing the test, Romans 1:28) argues against sinful flesh’s capacity to turn from sin.

II. A Working Definition of Repentance: A change of mind/heart that involves a turning to God.

A. The biblical usage of mind (nous) often refers to the inner orientation and moral attitude. (Cf. Rom. 1:28; 7:23, 25; Eph. 4:17, 23; Col. 2:18) Thus the mind, biblically speaking, is not always the pure intellect. This brings a nuance to metanoia that I believe is best captured by what we would calla change of heart It refers to a person’s inner change of attitude and moral direction. The Bible does not psychologically dissect the inner person, but leaves it at that.

B. The biblical usage of metanoia often involves a turning from something/someone to something someone. Primarily in Luke’s writings, there appears to be an overlap between faith and repentance (Mark 1:15, Luke 5:32; 24:47; Acts 11:18; 17:30, 34; 2 Peter 3:9). I prefer emphasizing the turning to God when speaking to unbelievers because that’s what an unregenerate person is capable of, though logically there is a turning from sin.

III. We Believe in Repentance: Though we would be more comfortable saying, “We believe in metanoia.” Rightly defined as “a change of mind/heart that involves a turning to God,” we believe in repentance.

A. In relation to unbelievers and eternal salvation, repentance is not a prior step or condition. Neither is repentance a second step that is necessary. Salvation is always through faith alone in Christ alone. Repentance, or more accurately, metanoia, is the more general concept, for a person can change his or her heart about something, even God or sin, but not be saved. But when someone one believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit persuades them of something they did not formerly believe. They have had a change of mind or heart about whom Jesus is and what He has promised about eternal life that causes them to turn to Him for deliverance (cf. Acts 20:21).

B. In relation to believers and deliverance from the power of sin, repentance is ongoing. Christian growth is always through faith in what God has said. Once again, there appears to be an overlap between faith and repentance. Since faith is being persuaded that something is true or someone is trustworthy, when we believe or trust, there is a change of mind and heart from unbelief to belief, from not trusting to trusting. Repentance, or more accurately, metanoia, is a change of heart that involves a turning to God in trust.

The Danger of Compromise

Galatians 2:1-5

“To whom we did not yield submission even for an hour,

that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:5).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (1:11-24). When Paul did consult with the apostles fourteen years into his ministry (2:1-10), they affirmed his refusal to circumcise Titus to make Judaizing legalists happy. That would have undermined the Gentiles’ understanding of the gospel:

Submitting to legalistic pressures to add works to grace

undermines the gospel of Christ!

Though Paul’s gospel came by direct revelation of the Lord Jesus, he made sure that his readers knew he preached the same gospel the apostles did.

I. Paul, in defense of his apostleship, proves that his gospel came from God by sharing the story of a time when the apostles affirmed his refusal to circumcise Titus because that would compromise the message of the gospel of Christ (2:1-5).

A. Fourteen years after Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he went to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus (2:1-2a).

1. Barnabas recruited Paul from Cilicia to help him plant a church in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26).

2. In response to a direct revelation from God through the prophet Agabus that there was going to be a great famine, the church at Antioch took an offering and sent it to Jerusalem with Barnabas an Paul (“by revelation,” 2:2a, Acts 11:27-30).

B. Paul took this opportunity to privately consult with “those who were of reputation,” probably the apostles to prevent his critics from undermining his ministry (2:2b).

Note: It doesn’t seem that Paul is worried about the accuracy of his gospel and is seeking the approval of mere humans, even if they are apostles (1:11-17). “It seems rather that Paul feared that if he did not contact the Jerusalem apostles (Peter, James, and John) his critics might undermine his evangelistic work.” (Constable)

C. The proof that they absolutely affirmed his gospel was that they upheld his emphatic refusal to circumcise Titus. Submitting to legalists in this way would undermine the gospel of Christ (2:3-5).

1. The controversy was stirred by pressures from false brethren—legalistic non-Christians trying to impose Judaism on Gentile Christians.

2. These spies weren’t concerned with the purity of Paul’s message, but with bringing Christians into the bondage of the law and their traditions.

3. Paul didn’t yield, even for a moment.

4. The reason he didn’t yield is because he knew that yielding to legalists on issues like this undermines the gospel of Christ—justification by faith apart from works of the law (see 2:16).

II. To circumcise or not to circumcise? Circumcision was one of the primary examples of issues of Christian freedom in the New Testament. What can we learn from Paul’s response to the controversy?

A. The argument of the Judaizing legalist: Since circumcision is the mark of the people of the covenant, it should be a prerequisite for being recognized as a Christian.

B. Paul’s “inconsistent” response to the pressure to circumcise new Christians.

1. When the legalists spying out his freedom tried to force the leaders of the church at Jerusalem to compel Titus, a Greek man, to be circumcised, Paul refused. Why? So “that the truth of the gospel might remain with you (Galatians and other new Gentile converts).” (Acts 11:25-30; Galatians 2:1-5)

2. When Paul took Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, to join him as he planted churches on his 2nd missionary journey, Paul circumcised him. Why? “Because of the Jews who were in that region (Lystra and Iconium), for they all knew that his father was Greek.” (Acts 16:1-5. Paul typically took the gospel to the Jew first—Romans 1:16—by preaching in synagogues as he planted churches.)

C. Paul’s consistent ethic concerning religious culture and the gospel of Christ—all for the gospel to win the lost (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

1. Paul submitted his freedom in Christ to his calling to be an ambassador of Christ begging people to be reconciled to God (19; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

2. Paul’s freedom in Christ was situational—it varied according to the values, expectations, and cultures of the people he was trying to win to Christ (20-22).

3. Paul put the gospel first, meaning the reception of the gospel of Christ by the people he was trying to reach. For Paul, the gospel always came first—before freedom, reputation, pressures, or even persecution. His behavior among the lost was determined by their need to understand the gospel, not by his need to be free in his lifestyle, or by his need to be esteemed by religious people.

The Bottom Line: Mature Christians should protect unbelievers/new believers from cultural or religious issues that confuse their understanding of the gospel of Christ!

This is the beginning, not the end of our discussion of Christian freedom. The specific context of Galatians 1-2 speaks to those issues that are added to faith as requirements “to be saved” or to be assured of salvation. I know you have a lot of questions, hang in there and let the message of Galatians unfold, trusting God’s Word one verse, one paragraph at a time. His Bible will not disappoint you!

The Joy of Cooperation

Galatians 2:6-10

“Those who seemed to be something added nothing to me, gave me the right hand of fellowship, [and] desired only that we should remember the poor.”

(Selected from Galatians 2:6-10).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (1:11-24). When Paul did consult with the apostles fourteen years into his ministry (2:1-10), they affirmed his refusal to circumcise Titus to make Judaizing legalists happy because that would have undermined the Gentiles’ understanding of the gospel. They added nothing to his gospel, but they did heartily endorse his ministry, as long as he didn’t forget the poor:

Cooperating with others who teach the gospel of Christ enhances its impact!

Though Paul’s gospel came by direct revelation of the Lord Jesus, he made sure that his readers knew he preached the same gospel the apostles did.

I. Paul, in defense of his apostleship, proves that his gospel came from God by demonstrating the pillars of the Jerusalem church added nothing to his gospel while affirming his ministry to the Gentiles and his care of the poor (2:6-10).

A. The highly reputed and esteemed leaders of the Jerusalem church added nothing to Paul’s gospel (2:6).

1. This refers specifically to Peter, James and John, but may also include the elders of the church in Jerusalem or leaders of the church in Judea.

2. The repetition of the Greek expression, hoi dokountes (Cf. 2:2—those who were of reputation,those who seemed to be something), probably refers to the title ascribed to these men by the Jerusalem church. It’s laced with a hint of irony, more than likely due to the inflated and prideful claims the Judaizers were making about the “more important Jerusalem apostle.”

3. Paul’s main point is that they contributed nothing to the authority of his message; neither did they add any condition of works to grace.

B. James, Peter, and John not only agreed with Paul’s message, when they understood his passion and calling to take the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles, these pillars of the church offered Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (2:7-9).

1. “Pillars of the church” once again seems to have been the words those who admired James (not an apostle, but the leader of the church and half brother of Jesus), Peter and John used to describe them. Once again, Paul is using it with a tinge of irony.

2. The “grace” given to Paul refers to his apostleship to the Gentiles. The word grace is often used as cause for effect description of our assignment from God as we fulfill our Ephesians 2:10 works. (Acts 9:15; Romans 1:5; 12:3; 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 1:7)

3. “Right hand of fellowship” simply means, “we agreed earnestly” or “we shook on it” as fellow believers in Jesus.

C. The only point the pillars of the church made with Paul was that he should not neglect the poor in his ministry (2:10). I believe this has a double reference. First, the poor saints in Jerusalem Paul and the church of Antioch had just given money to. Second, we should never neglect the poor in general while ministering the gospel of Christ.

II. Lessons for today from Paul’s meeting with the pillars of the church in Jerusalem:

A. Don’t compromise the gospel of Christ by adding works to grace.

B. Don’t be afraid to cite other authorities.

C. Don’t be intimidated by Christians of reputation. The truth of the Bible is more important than esteem and reputation in the Christian community.

D. Don’t be defined by what you’re against. The unity of the church is more important than minor differences. Cooperate with other Christians and churches that have the main things and the plain things of the New Testament right.

E. Don’t judge those reaching other cultures by your culture’s hang-ups but by their message and their passion to pursue their calling in Christ.

F. Don’t forget the poor. The Gospel is more than a debate; it’s a way of life. It’s not only important to defend the truth of the Gospel, but it’s also important to live out the truth of the Gospel.

No Turning Back

Galatians 2:11-21

“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, 

then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defends his apostleship. He begins by vindicating his gospel. The source of the gospel he taught was divine, not human. Paul received his gospel and the commission to preach it directly from the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (1:11-24). When Paul did consult with the apostles fourteen years into his ministry (2:1-10), they affirmed his refusal to circumcise Titus to make Judaizing legalists happy. That would have undermined the Gentiles’ understanding of the gospel. He then tells them about the time he confronted Peter’s hypocrisy and uses that report to introduce the theme verse of the letter (2:16) and one of the most concise statements of sanctification by grace in the New Testament (2:20):

Don’t turn back to works-righteousness!

You’ll only confuse others and fail miserably.

I. Paul, to further establish the truth of his gospel, reports the time he confronted Peter for hypocritically separating himself from Gentile converts in order to appease religious moralists because Peter’s behavior was undermining the gospel, destroying grace, and making a mockery of the cross (2:11-21).

A. Soon after Paul, Barnabas and Titus returned to Antioch after the famine trip, Paul confronted Peter for separating from Gentile believers to appease the pro-circumcision party from Jerusalem spying out their freedom (2:11-12).

1. Paul got in Peter’s face because Peter was clearly wrong (“because he stood condemned by his own actions,” 11).

2. The reason his actions condemned him was that he withdrew himself and separated from eating with Gentile believers because he feared a delegation of Jews from Jerusalem 11). Note: This isn’t the first time Peter’s fear of others caused him to compromise his convictions (trial of Jesus, Mark 14:66-72). Note: There’s no reason to conclude that James sent this delegation. James had already agreed with Paul’s gospel. More than likely these were some of the same legalists who had tried to compel Titus to be circumcised in Jerusalem. They were simply from James’ church or from James’ community.

B. Peter’s behavior not his beliefs was undermining the truth about the gospel (2:13-14).

1. We know that Peter heartily agreed with Paul’s gospel (2:1-10). But he was playing the hypocrite—“to answer from under a mask,” pretending to believe that he agreed with the legalists when he knew they were wrong (13a).

2. Peter’s hypocrisy quickly spread to other Jewish Christians (13b). Note: Paul uses this term only in Galatians 2:13—twice! “While confessing and teaching that they were one in Christ with Gentiles they were denying this truth by their conduct.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

3. Without speaking a word, Peter’s hypocrisy was undermining the truth of the gospel. Note: People believe what we live more than they believe what we say.

4. Paul remembers and records the exact words in verse 14. The thrust of his confrontation was, “How dare you impose these standards of the Jewish law you yourself no longer live by on these Gentiles!” Note: “It is perhaps curious that nobody seems to have recalled that Jesus ate ‘with publicans and sinners’ which can scarcely mean that he conformed to strict Jewish practice.” (Morris, Galatians, cf. Mark 7:19)

C. Paul explains his words by assuring his readers that Jewish Christians had initially agreed that it is absolutely impossible to be righteous by Law keeping and by teaching what really works: Building on our co-crucifixion with Christ by releasing our new life in Him as we trust Him in everyday life (2:15-20).

1. Christian Jews who are not considered sinners by their fellow Jews know that righteousness is only by faith in the faithful Christ (15-16).

2. The charge that justification by faith leads to sin is absolutely wrong! The only result of Christians returning to the Law to be righteous is that the Law once again condemns their behaviors and fleshly works as sin (17-18).

3. The alternative to building on the old system of works-righteousness that only condemns is to build on the new system of grace-righteousness that frees and empower believers to live by faith in the merciful Son of God (19-20).

D. Paul concludes with a dramatic contrast: Returning to works-righteousness nullifies the power of grace in our lives and makes a mockery of the work of Christ on the cross (21).

II. Two Truths to Live By:

A. Don’t be a hypocrite! If you know that the expectations of legalists are religious nonsense, don’t appease them because you’re afraid of them. The truth of the Gospel is at stake. Don’t talk the gospel of Christ but live as if it’s really religious works that make your righteous.

B. The alternative to the hypocrisy of trying to measure up to religious nonsense is the reality of living out the Gospel of Christ.

1. Justification by faith: Trust in the fact that God declared you righteous when you believed in the faithful Christ (2:16).

2. Sanctification by faith: Trust in the fact that you are dead to your old life and live by faith in that same Christ who gave Himself for you (2:20).

Everybody who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, sanctification, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and despises the death of Christ. –Martin Luther

Definition of Terms: The Gospel

Selected Scripture

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

The letter to the Galatians is Paul’s response to an insidious attack on the central truth of Christianity—salvation by grace, through faith, plus nothing. It’s his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

Salvation is the grandest theme in the Scriptures. “The doctrine of salvation…embraces all of time as well as eternity past and future. It relates in one way or another to all of mankind, without exception. It even has ramifications in the sphere of the angels. It is the theme of both the Old and the New Testaments. It is personal, national, and cosmic. And it centers on the greatest Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p 319)

Much of the debate and confusion about the doctrine of salvation could be avoided if we were more careful to define our terms. It’s important to know what we mean when we use the word, gospel. God only pronounces a curse on Christians two times for our failure to do something. One is not loving His Son, our Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 16:22), and the other is preaching a gospel other than the Gospel of the grace of God (Galatians 1:6-9).

A lot is at stake. Failure to clearly understand the doctrine of salvation invariably leads to preaching a false or perverted works gospel. God surely saves those who trust in Christ in spite of a fuzzy or errant gospel, but that does not make it a good thing or an acceptable error. A healthy life demands a healthy birth, and there is only one way to a healthy new birth—a correct Gospel:

The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ offers eternal life freely

to all who believe!

The great need in discussing the gospel is to think biblically.

I. What is the Gospel? The word “gospel” (euangelion) means “good news.” The gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) is the good news that Jesus Christ offers eternal life freely to all who believe.

A. The Content of the Gospel: Christ died for your sins and arose. This is stated clearly by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-5.

B. The Condition of the Gospel: Faith in Christ. Nearly 200 times faith, or belief, is the single condition in the New Testament (John 1:12, Acts 16:31). Belief and faith are just the verb and noun of pisteuo, a Greek term that means taking people at their word, trusting that what they say is true. When faith has an object it means “to have confidence; trust”.

C. The Object of the Gospel: Faith must be placed in Christ as one’s substitute for and Savior from sin. It is not easy to believe someone whom you have never seen about the most important issue of your life—your eternal destiny. But this is what the sinner must do!

II. Don’t Add To The Gospel! There is great temptation to try to “get people committed to Christ” before they have been regenerated by His Spirit! Throughout church history various other requirements have been added to faith to develop a perverted or false works-righteousness gospel.

A. Baptism. Though an important ordinance, baptism should not be added to belief in Christ as a requirement for salvation. Mark 16:16, if a part of the canon of Scripture, refers to baptism of the Spirit. Acts 1:5 was spoken by the Lord Jesus at the same time. In Acts 2:38 Peter addressed the Jewish generation that crucified the Lord Jesus. There was a need to turn to the true God, Christ (repent) and, I believe, to identify with the baptism of John that they had rejected.

Even if you do not accept my conviction that this speaks of the baptism of John, the Greek could read, “Be baptized because of (eis) forgiveness of sins.” When Peter addressed Gentiles in Acts 10:43 he told them plainly that forgiveness comes through believing in Him. Then, in the following verses the NT typical pattern occurs: they believe, they are baptized with the Spirit, and then they are baptized with water.

B. Repentance. This is a valid condition for salvation if we properly define repentance as a change of mind and heart that involves turning to God—a virtual synonym for faith in Christ. But, if repentance is defined as turning from sin in order to be saved, it is a work and the merit is to the worker…not to the Savior.

C. Surrender. The question is this: Does one have to make Christ Lord of his or her life or be willing to do so in order to be saved. My answer to that is, “No.” I know that this is a controversial view and radical grace, but my simple question is this: If commitment to God could save us, why did Christ die? I believe in the Lordship of Christ—that it is the expected fruit of salvation. But I do not believe it should be added to the Gospel as a condition to be saved. Most of my reason is the careful groundwork of theology we have studied this week. Here are some more considerations:

1. Lot lived a life of decadence, but he was righteous in God’s eyes (2 Peter 2:7).

2. The believers in Ephesus were clearly Christians (Acts 19:18). But they continued their superstitious practices from their pre-Christian life as idolators.

3. When Jesus offered eternal life, He offered it freely (Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well, John 3-4).

4. Every passage that supports so-called Lordship salvation is, in my opinion a passage on rewards, discipline, or intimacy with Christ.

III. Bigger Picture of the Word: Often the term Gospel is used to represent Christianity in general, especially as a metonymy of cause for effect. The Gospel is almost personified as a power and the word becomes a virtual synonym for what we would call “ministry” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

A. Wherever it is proclaimed it is powerful. It creates faith (Romans 1:16; Philippians 1:27), brings salvation and life (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:2), reveals righteousness (Romans 1:17), brings the fulfillment of hope (Colossians 1:5; 23), intervenes into the lives of men and women and creates churches (Corinthians 1:6).

B. Believers are encouraged to live out the implications of the gospel: As partners of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:23) we are to “walk worthy of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27), meaning that we should be careful to live lives that affirm the good news about Jesus Christ.

IV. Be Clear. There is something to believe, Christ died for your sins and arose. There issomeone to believe, Jesus Christ, the Substitute for your sin. There is a need to transfer trust—from whatever you are trusting in now to make payment for your sin to Christ and Christ alone.

Do You Believe?

Have you relied on Christ for salvation or have you been trying to get to heaven by your own ability? If you have not trusted Christ to get you to heaven, why not do it now? You might like to express your faith to God like this:

Dear God, I come to You now. I know I am a sinner. Nothing I will ever do can get me to heaven. But I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins. Right now, I put my trust in Him alone as my only way to heaven. Thank You for the free gift of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Are You Kidding Me!?

Galatians 3:1-5

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?”(Galatians 3:1) 

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

In 3:1 Paul appeals to the Galatians’ personal experience with the Gospel of Christ—deliverance from sin and its power by grace through faith:

Don’t be a fool! You know the power of the Spirit you received 

when you believed in Christ.

I. Paul applies the principles of justification (2:16) and sanctification (2:20) to the personal experiences of the Galatians by telling them it would be foolish to abandon what always works (by grace through faith) for what never works (by works through religion).

A. In an emotional appeal, Paul asks the foolish Galatians who bewitched them to stop obeying the truth of the Gospel of Christ—that we are declared righteous and live righteous lives by faith in Christ—the same Gospel he clearly preached to them (3:1).

B. In a series of rhetorical questions, Paul exposes the folly of mixing law and grace by reminding his readers of their own experience of deliverance from the penalty and power of sin by faith alone. Each question assumes a “yes-to-grace” answer (2-5).

1. How did your Christian life begin? Did you receive the Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13) when you heard and believed the Gospel of Christ, or was it by works of the law? (2)

2. Are you foolish enough to actually abandon the Spirit’s work in your life up to now and start trying to move toward maturity through self-effort? (Later in Galatians 5, Paul will contrast walking in the Spirit with walking in the flesh.)

3. Have you experienced all of this new life in Christ (including even suffering for Him) for nothing? I can’t believe it was all for nothing (so that you now are turning back to works-righteousness).

4. Did you receive the bountiful, miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit by the works of the law or by believing the Gospel of Christ?

II. Only a fool who has been bewitched by legalism would abandon what always works—deliverance from the penalty and power of sin by faith in Christ, to embrace what never works—righteousness by works of the flesh (Galatians 3:1-5).

A. Don’t be a fool! Beware of the bewitching teaching of works-righteousness. It appeals to the flesh and religious people, but it never works (See also—Colossians 2:23).

B. Stay with what your first believed! (See also—Colossians 2:6-7):

1. Justification by faith: Trust in the fact that God declared you righteous when you believed in the faithful Christ (2:16).

2. Sanctification by faith: Trust in the fact that you are dead to your old life and live by faith in that same Christ who gave Himself for you (2:20).

C. Beware of the times in your life when you are vulnerable to the heresy of works-righteousness:

1. When you’re disappointed in God’s plan, and you begin to wonder if you could manipulate God into a better plan by performing better.

2. When you’re dissatisfied with God’s provision, and you begin to wonder if you could get Him to provide for you a little better if you just performed a little better.

3. When life hurts, and you just want the pain to stop. The false teachers will tell you that you can get rid of the pain by performing better for God.

Everyone who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, satisfactions, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God and despises the death of Christ.  –Martin Luther

Real Children of Abraham

Galatians 3:1-9

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

Paul appeals to the Galatians’ personal experience with the Gospel of Christ—deliverance from sin and its power by grace through faith in 3:1-5. In 3:6-9 the Apostle connects the faith of New Testament believers to the faith of Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel:

Faith in God, not works for God, set His people apart from all others.

I. Paul applies the principles of justification (2:16) and sanctification (2:20) to the personal experiences of the Galatians by telling them it would be foolish to abandon what always works—by grace through faith—for what never works—by works through religion (3:1-5).

A. In an emotional appeal, Paul asks the foolish Galatians who bewitched them to stop obeying the truth of the Gospel of Christ—that we are declared righteous and live righteous lives by faith in Christ—the same Gospel he clearly preached to them (1).

B. In a series of rhetorical questions, Paul exposes the folly of mixing law and grace by reminding his readers of their own experience of deliverance from the penalty and power of sin by faith alone. Each question assumes a “yes-to-grace” answer (2-5)

1. How did your Christian life begin? Did you receive the Spirit (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13) when you heard and believed the Gospel of Christ, or was it by works of the law? (2)

2. Are you foolish enough to actually abandon the Spirit’s work in your life up to now and start trying to move toward maturity through self-effort? (Later in Galatians 5, Paul will contrast walking in the Spirit with walking in the flesh.)

3. Have you experienced all of this new life in Christ (including even suffering for Him) for nothing? I can’t believe it was all for nothing (so that you now are turning back to works-righteousness).

4. Did you receive the bountiful, miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit by the works of the law or by believing the Gospel of Christ?

II. Paul declares that the true children of Abraham, his spiritual descendants, are those who receive the blessing of righteousness through faith (3:6-9).

A. Major Premise: Abraham was justified by faith, and his true children are those who, like him, put their faith in his God (3:6-7; Genesis 15:6).

B. Minor Premise: God promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed because of his faith (3:8; Genesis 12:3, 18:18).

C. Conclusion: Gentiles who believe are blessed with the same blessing Abraham received by faith (3:9; Genesis 12:3, 18:18).

Note: Paul uses the Greek expression, ek pisteo, three times in 3:6-9. It is accurately translated “by faith” in the NKJV or “those who believe” in the NET Bible. The expression literally means “those who are from faith” and denotes separation. It is an emphatic way for Paul to say that faith in God was the starting point for Abraham and all of his true spiritual descendants. What sets Christians apart from all others is our faith in the faithful Christ.

III. Never forget that what first sets the people of God apart from all others is our faith in Him!

A. Abraham was declared righteous when he believed all that God said about him and his future. You were declared righteous when you believed in what He said about you and your future—He would forgive your sins, give you eternal life, and prepare a place for you in heaven if you would believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.

B. Abraham’s faith blessed his entire family, an entire race, and the entire world. How does your faith in Jesus have the same potential to bless others?

C. What sets us as the people of God apart is our faith in God. Read Hebrews 11 and notice the refrain, “by faith.” What is God asking you to do by faith today? How do the stories of Old Testament saints encourage you to trust Him enough to do what He’s asking you to do?

The Scriptures ascribe no righteousness to Abraham except through faith.    –Martin Luther

Why Stay Cursed?

Galatians 3:10-14

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.”

(Galatians 3:13)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

Paul’s positive defense of justification by faith appeals to the Galatians’ personal experience with the Gospel of Christ—deliverance from sin and its power by grace through faith. He then refers them to the first believer justified by faith—Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel (3:1-9). In vv 10-14 the Apostle argues negatively against the possibility of justification by works:

The law can only curse us, so Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.

I. Paul defends justification by faith by proving that it has always been God’s one and only plan to deliver us from our sin (3:1-18).

A. In an emotional appeal, Paul reminds his readers that we received the Spirit by faith, not by works (1-5).

B. Paul proves from the Old Testament that the true children of Abraham, his spiritual descendants, are those who receive the blessing of righteousness through faith (3:6-9).

C. Paul proves from the Old Testament that the law can only bring a curse and that only faith in Christ can remove the curse so that we can receive the justification and sanctification blessing of Abraham (3:10-14).

1. Living under the Mosaic Law does not bring blessing but a curse because the standard is perfection. If we don’t follow all the law perfectly every day of our life, we fail (10, Deuteronomy 27:26; see also Galatians 5:3; James 2:10).

2. Living by faith never brings a curse, only the blessing of justification (11, Habakkuk 2:4: Literally—“the one who is righteous by faith will live.”).

3. The law is not of faith, and the person trying to follow the law is doomed to try to live by all of the law and, of course, will fail and be cursed (12, Paul’s edited version of Leviticus 18:5).

“Law and faith are as different as apples and elephants. The Law requires works, but the gospel calls for faith.” (Tom Constable)

4. Christ redeemed (exagorazo—to buy out of the marketplace, to redeem, to ransom from slavery) us from the curse of the law by becoming our substitute. Jesus took the curse we deserved (13, Deuteronomy 21:23; see also 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Note: The bodies of those who committed especially heinous sins were hung on a tree after stoning. The Greek word translated “tree”—zulon—can also refer to a cross, the Roman form of execution (Acts 10:39).

5. The reason Christ took on our curse by dying on the cross was so that we could receive the twofold blessing of Abraham—justification by faith and sanctification by faith (the promise of the Spirit) (14).

II. Here’s your choice: The freedom of grace in the Gospel of Christ or the slavery of performance in the curse of the law!

A. The only way to release new life is to trust the grace of God in Christ. The blessings of justification and sanctification only come by faith.

B. The only way to trust grace is to risk freedom. The temptation to manage the sin of ourselves and others never leads to what we want, it always leads to failure and cursing. The fear of risking Christians “taking advantage of grace” always leads to what we’re trying to avoid—more sin, more guilt, more shame, more failure.

C. The Bible, Paul, your pastors and leaders would never say that the Old Testament isn’t valuable (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 15:4). What the Bible, Paul, your pastors and leaders are saying is that obeying the law never results in justification or sanctification.

“Christ has done all that is necessary,

and his death is the means of making sinners free.”

–Leon Morris, Galatians

Justification by Faith Came First!

Galatians 3:15-18

“And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later,

cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ.”

(Galatians 3:17)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

 The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). One historian describes the inhabitants of Galatia: “Fickleness is the term used to express their temperament. Their religious tendencies were marked by passion, ritualism, and mysticism.” (Lightfoot, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians)

Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

Paul’s positive defense of justification by faith appeals to the Galatians’ personal experience with the Gospel of Christ—deliverance from sin and its power by grace through faith, and first believer justified by faith—Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel (3:1-9). In vv 10-18 the Apostle argues negatively against the possibility of justification by works. Trying to be justified by works puts us under God’s curse of the law (10-14), and the covenant of justification by faith God made with Abraham was not invalidated when God gave the Law to Moses 430 years later:

Faith came first; Law came second.

 The Law given to Moses did not invalidate the covenant of faith with Abraham.

I. Paul defends justification by faith by proving that it has always been God’s one and only plan to deliver us from our sin (3:1-18).

A. In an emotional appeal, Paul reminds his readers that we received the Spirit by faith, not by works (1-5).

B. Paul proves from the Old Testament that the true children of Abraham, his spiritual descendants, are those who receive the blessing of righteousness through faith (3:6-9).

C. Paul proves from the Old Testament that the law can only bring a curse and that only faith in Christ can remove the curse so that we can receive the justification and sanctification blessing of Abraham (3:10-14).

D. Paul proves from the Old Testament that the law given to Moses did not invalidate the covenantal promise given to Abraham (3:15-18).

1. The Illustration: When humans confirm a legal covenant—last will and testament—no one can annul or add to it (15).

2. The Fact: God made a covenant with Abraham and his Seed—Jesus Christ. (16, Genesis 22:15-19)

The Laminated Promises of God to Abraham…

(…to bless the nations because of his faith in Him, Stan Toussaint):

Promise

Given

Promise Reaffirmed

Promise Sealed

(Covenant)

Promise

Confirmed

Promise

Sworn

Genesis 12

Genesis 13

Genesis 15

Genesis 17

Genesis 22

The Four Seeds of Abraham in Scripture (Tom Constable):

Natural Seed

All physical descendants of Abraham

Genesis 12:1-3, 7

Natural-Spiritual Seed

Believing physical descendants of Abraham

Isaiah 41:8; Romans 9:6, 8; Galatians 6:16

Spiritual Seed

Believing non-physical descendants of Abraham

Galatians 3:6-9, 29

Ultimate Seed

Jesus Christ

Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 2:16-17

3. The Point: The Law given to Moses cannot annul the covenant God made with Abraham and confirmed in Christ. The Law could not void the promise God made to Abraham and the Patriarchs (17). 430 years is the exact duration of the sojourn in Egypt (Ex. 12:40). It measures the time from the year that Jacob’s family left the promised land until the time they were freed from Egypt.

4. The Application: The reception of the promise (inheritance God guaranteed by covenant) given to Abraham and his descendants—specifically justification by faith—is not secured by following the Law but by believing the promise (18).

Note: I believe the inheritance offered to Abraham’s believing non-physical descendants is the promise of justification and sanctification by faith (3:14). Only his believing physical descendants are promised a physical kingdom on earth corresponding to the promised borders of Israel.

II. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

A. God will never go back on one of His promises. He promised to bless the nations through Abraham’s faith and that is exactly what He will do. Israel absolutely failed in following the Mosaic Law, but God did not and will not revoke His promise to Abraham. In the same way, He will not revoke His promise to justify you by faith, even when you fail.

B. Are you uncomfortable with the implications of grace and the gospel of Christ? Does it bother you that believers who aren’t as faithful as you get into heaven free? It’s not their performance that’s bothering you, it’s the unconditional promise of God!

Imprisoned by the Law of Moses,

Set Free by Faith in Christ!

Galatians 3:19-25

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

(Galatians 3:24)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

But this defense of justification by faith raises a question: If God originally gave the promise, then why did God add the Law. “The Law,” Paul answers, “was temporary (3:19-25) and inferior (3:26-29). The law’s relatively short-lived purpose was and is to remind the nation Israel and every person that works-righteousness is absolutely inadequate. But it does point all to Christ:

The Law exposes our sin and leaves us hopeless—to turn us to faith in Christ.

I. Paul explains the purpose of the Law and the Old Testament: To point people to Christ by enslaving would-be children of God to the harshly impossible demands of works-righteousness (3:19-26).

A. The law was added to temporarily restrain and reveal sin to provoke us to believe in the Descendant of Abraham through which the promise is claimed—Christ (19a).

B. Moses who stood between God and the Israelites mediated the conditional Mosaic Covenant and it seems a host of angels were also involved (Deuteronomy 33:2), but the unconditional promise of the Abrahamic Covenant needed no mediator  (19b-20).

Note: The Judaizers seem to have made much of the presence of angels at the giving of the Law. The Scriptures imply that too much significance was placed on the angels, which even caused some to worship them (cf. Col. 2:18). This is apparently the background for Hebrews 1 and 2 in which the superiority of Christ to the angels is stressed. (Bob Deffinbaugh, Galatians 3:19-29, Bible.org). Note: The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17, 22) was unconditional. God made the promise and Abraham had no responsibility but to trust Him. The Mosaic Covenant (Leviticus 28; Deuteronomy 26—blessings and cursings) needed a mediator because Israel had responsibilities.

C. The promise and the law work together: The law, indeed all of the Old Testament (Scripture) cannot give life, but it can forces us to admit we need to trust in Christ (21-22).

D. The law protected and disciplined us much like a nursemaid cares for the master’s children. But once we believe in Christ, we are free from the nursemaid’s demands and are under the personal care of the Master (23-25).

II. The Promise, the Law, the Old Testament, the Covenants and you.

A. If you have not yet received the blessing of eternal life and the indwelling Holy Spirit by faith in Christ, let the Law and the Old Testament teach you. You/we/every human who ever drew a breath are hopelessly sinful. Turn to Christ in faith (Romans 6:23).

B. If you have received the blessing of eternal life and the indwelling Holy Spirit by faith in Christ, don’t let the Law and the Old Testament re-enslave you to the futility of works-righteousness. You don’t need to follow the Old Testament Law because you’ve been set free to follow a higher, more encompassing righteousness—the law of Christ (Galatians 5:1-6).

C. Much like the conditionality of the Mosaic Law determined if the Israelites would receive their inheritance in the kingdom promised to Abraham, the conditionality of rewards determines if Christians will receive their full inheritance in the coming Kingdom. The contrast between entering the kingdom and inheriting the kingdom is an important New Testament distinction.

1. All Christians are heirs of God (Titus 3:7), His children who will enter His Kingdom by faith alone (John 3:3ff).

2. But not all Christians are co-heirs with Christ.

a. Romans 8:16-17: Unconditional promise–we are children of God, heirs of God (benefits of salvation). Conditional offer–and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him. Every believer is a child of God (John 1:12) and heir of God (Titus 3:7). But only those who endure the suffering of service to Him are co-heirs with Him.

b. Revelation 2:25-29: The Lord exhorts the saints at Thyatira to hold fast to their initial success as believers (2:18-19) until He comes. To hold fast and overcome in this context means to resist the temptation to stop following Him by joining in the sexual immorality in which many in that church were involved (2:20-21). Those who overcome in this way and endure in their faithfulness will be co-rulers with Christ over the nations (2:26-29).

c. 2 Timothy 2:11-13: Chiasm, a structural way of holding two truths that are closely related together.

A (11) Unconditional promise concerning living with Christ in heaven: “Since (if and it’s true) we died with Him (Romans 5:6-21) we shall live with Him.”

B (12a) Conditional offer of reigning with Christ in His Kingdom: “If (true condition, if, maybe yes, maybe no) we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

B` (12b) Warning against being denied our inheritance, or right to reign: “If (true condition) we deny Him (in terms of enduring), He also will deny us (our opportunity to reign).”

A` (13) Assurance that He will not deny us anything He has promised (eternal life): “If (true condition) we are faithless (failure to endure), He remains faithful (to His unconditional promises to us); since He cannot deny Himself (what He has promised, John 6:47).”

Not Law But Faith—

Three Striking Differences!

Galatians 3:26-29

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). 

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

But this defense of justification by faith raises a question: If God originally gave the promise, then why did God add the Law. “The Law,” Paul answers, “was temporary (3:19-25) and inferior (3:26-29). The law’s relatively short-lived purpose was and is to remind the nation Israel and every person that works-righteousness is absolutely inadequate. But it does point all to Christ:

The Law exposes our sin and leaves us hopeless—to turn us to faith in Christ.

I. Paul explains the purpose of the Law and the Old Testament: To point people to Christ by enslaving would-be children of God to the harshly impossible demands of works-righteousness (3:19-26).

A. The law was added to temporarily restrain and reveal sin to provoke us to believe in the Descendant of Abraham through which the promise is claimed—Christ (19a).

B. Moses who stood between God and the Israelites mediated the conditional Mosaic Covenant and it seems a host of angels were also involved (Deuteronomy 33:2), but the unconditional promise of the Abrahamic Covenant needed no mediator  (19b-20).

C. The promise and the law work together: The law, indeed all of the Old Testament (Scripture) cannot give life, but it can forces us to admit we need to trust in Christ (21-22).

D. The law protected and disciplined us much like a nursemaid cares for the master’s children. But once we believe in Christ, we are free from the nursemaid’s demands and are under the personal care of the Master (23-25).

E. Christ’s coming dramatically changed believers’ relationship with God (26-29).

Note: Paul is contrasting the status of believers before and after Christ. Before Christ came, Israel was under the care of a pegagogue (tutor, nanny)—the Law that exposed the need for a Savior. But when Christ came, everything changed.

1. Now all who trust in Christ are adult sons (26-27).

Note: This is speaking of spiritual baptism. What unites us to Christ and one another is the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit that occurs the moment we believe in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). It’s also true that water baptism dramatizes and pictures what happened when we believed in Christ. Much like when a Roman male child reached son status and the father gave them a special toga to identify them as a son with full rights and privileges.

2. Now all who trust in Christ share the same privilege and position, regardless of their privilege and position in this world (28).

Note: This is a radical departure from the Jewish view of access to God. Gentiles, slaves, and women did not have the same access to God in Israel’s worship. Jewish free men were viewed as special to God. “The reason for the threefold thanksgiving was not disparagement of Gentiles, slaves or women as persons but the fact that they were disqualified from several religious privileges which were open to free Jewish males.” (FF Bruce) Galatians 3:28 says nothing explicitly whatsoever about how male/female relationships should be conducted in daily life or in the organization of the church. It’s not erasing distinctions in roles on earth or in the church but making all equal in access to God.

3. Now all who trust in Christ are spiritual descendants of Abraham inheriting the promise of justification and sanctification by faith (29).

Note: The Jews will inherit the promises given to Abraham’s physical descendants—physical Kingdom on earth ruled from Jerusalem. All believers—Jew and Gentile—inherit the promises given to Abraham’s spiritual descendants—justification by faith and the reception of the Spirit.

II. Grace—living beyond the Law! When you trust in the Lord Jesus, everything changes!

A. If you have not yet trusted in Christ, you don’t have to live as a slave to sin and death. When you believe in the Lord Jesus everything changes. You become a full-privileged child of the Living God (John 1:12-13).

B. If you have trusted in Christ, God cherishes you—regardless of your earthly status or your recent successes and failures.

Not Slaves But Sons!

Galatians 4:1-7

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18). He will make three points: believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18).

But this defense of justification by faith raises a question: If God originally gave the promise, then why did God add the Law. “The Law,” Paul answers, “was temporary (3:19-25) and inferior (3:26-4:7). The law’s relatively short-lived purpose was and is to remind the nation Israel and every person that works-righteousness is absolutely inadequate. It points us to Christ, the only One who can redeem us from our slavery to the Law to become children of God the Father:

Faith in Christ redeems us from slavery to become children of God.

I. Paul explains the purpose of the Law and the Old Testament: To point people to Christ by enslaving would-be children of God to the harshly impossible demands of works-righteousness so that we will turn to Him in faith to become children of God (3:19-4:7).

A. The law was added to temporarily restrain and reveal sin to provoke us to believe in the Descendant of Abraham through whom the promise is claimed—Christ (19a).

B. Moses who stood between God and the Israelites mediated the conditional Mosaic Covenant and it seems a host of angels were also involved (Deuteronomy 33:2), but the unconditional promise of the Abrahamic Covenant needed no mediator  (19b-20)

C. The promise and the law work together: The law, indeed all of the Old Testament (Scripture) cannot give life, but it can force us to admit we need to trust in Christ (21-22).

D. The law protected and disciplined us much like a nursemaid cares for the master’s children. But once we believe in Christ, we are free from the nursemaid’s demands and are under the personal care of the Master (23-25).

E. Christ’s coming dramatically changed the believer’s relationship with God (26-29).

Note: Paul is contrasting the status of believers before and after Christ. Before Christ came, Israel was under the care of a pedagogue (tutor, nanny)—the Law that exposed the need for a Savior. But when Christ came, everything changed.

F. Illustration: The Law is like a guardian of privileged children, treating them like immature slaves until they are mature enough to receive their inheritance. But Christ came at the perfect time to redeem God’s people from slavery to the Law through faith in Christ and to put His Spirit in their hearts to confirm that they are His children (4:1-7).

1. Paul had compared the Law to a prison warden (3:22) and a nanny (3:24). Now he compares the Law to a trustee appointed to care for an immature child. This clearly contrasts the immaturity of Israel under the Law. But it also illustrates everyone’s immature spiritual awareness of sin and the Law or any system of works-righteousness to hopelessly enslave us to failure (1-3).

Note: The “age of majority” for privileged sons in the New Testament world varied. For Jews it was 12, in Greece it was 18, and under Roman law it was between 14 and 17. The Galatians would readily understand this illustration.

Note: “elements of the world” literally means “things placed side by side in a row,” or we might think of it as ABC’s. I believe Paul uses this to describe any system or righteousness based on works—both pagan and the Jewish Law. It could be taken to mean, “what any human being would think of.” Humans naturally think up systems of works-righteousness to please their god/gods. See also v 9, Colossians 2:8, 20.

2. God sent His Son to usher in a new era of grace—the church age when those who believe in Christ are delivered from their slavery to sin to become children of God (4-5, John 1:12-13).

3. God also sent His Spirit to indwell His people and encourage us to relate to Him as our dear Father (6-7).

Note: Abba could be translated “Daddy.” It speaks more of intimacy than infancy. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (Romans 8:9) to facilitate this new relationship with Our Father in heaven. This was a term grown children used to claim their inheritance in the reading of a will.

II. Do you want to live your life as a slave to sin and death or as a child of God relating to Him as your Loving Father?

A. If you have not yet trusted in Christ, you don’t have to live as a slave to sin and death. When you believe in the Lord Jesus everything changes. You become a full-privileged child of the Living God (John 1:12-13).

B. If you have trusted in Christ, the Law has accomplished its mission in your life. To go back to the Law is to needlessly live as a slave when you have full rights as God’s cherished child.

C. Would you describe your relationship with God the Father as warm, inviting, and safe? How do you feel you may be suppressing the Spirit’s ministry in your life to call out to God as your Abba?

Please, Don’t Turn Back!

Galatians 4:8-20

“So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16, NET Bible)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18): believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18). But this defense of justification by faith raises a question: If God originally gave the promise, then why did God add the Law. “The Law,” Paul answers, “was temporary (3:19-25) and inferior (3:26-4:7). All it can do is condemn and enslave!”

He closes this section with a personal appeal (4:8-31). “Please stop this insanity of returning to the slavery of works-righteousness. It’s alienating you from me and robbing you of your joy in Christ!”

Works-righteousness—whether it be to please pagan gods or to measure up to the Law—

always enslaves, alienates you from the grace community, and steals your joy in Christ!

I. Paul appeals to his Galatian readers: Please don’t turn back to the slavery of works-righteousness. You’re just exchanging slavery to pagan gods with slavery to the Mosaic Law. These legalists are alienating you from me, and robbing you of your joy in Christ. I’m so perplexed by your insane attraction to legalism (4:8-20).

A. The Appeal: The Galatians were in danger of exchanging one enslaving system of works righteousness for another, and Paul fears that the legalists are going to undermine the entire work in Galatia (8-11). In spite of their status of sonship (4:1-7, “known by God” v 9), the Galatians are returning to the slavery of works-righteousness.

Note: This is a startling indictment against following the Mosaic Law to become righteous. The impact of forgetting the Law’s purpose to expose sin and using it as a path to righteousness enslaves in the same way pagan gods enslave their followers!

Note: Paul observed the Jewish liturgical calendar sporadically and voluntarily for the sake of reaching lost Jews (1 Corinthians 16:8). But he never followed any part of the Law to appease or impress God.

B. The Question: Paul begs the Galatians to live like he lives and had lived among them—free from the bondage of the Law. He then asks them to explain why telling them the truth about the grace of God in Christ has caused them to turn against him after they had received him warmly in Galatia (12-16).

Note: “I urge you to become like me” (v 12) is the first imperative in the book of Galatians!

Note: On Paul’s 1st missionary journey he showed up in Galatia with some type of disfiguring  or loathsome disease. Whether this is the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), malaria, or some other physical problem we can’t know. Nevertheless, they received him and his message of the gospel of Christ with enthusiastic joy.

Note: The only other time Paul says “please” to his readers is 2 Corinthians 10:2, when he begs them not to believe the rumors about him. This is one of the most personal appeals of Paul in the Bible. “I became a Gentile like you, now please become free from the Law like me!”

Note: His rhetorical question in v 16 is best translated by the NET Bible and is meant to be a rebuke: “So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

C. The Answer: Paul identifies the source of the problem—smooth talking, manipulative, power-hungry legalists. He then speaks frankly as their spiritual father. “I may not be there with you, but I’m the one who truly loves you. My dear children, it’s like trying to rebirth you so that the life of Christ in you can grow! I’m not trying to be harsh. It’s just that your behavior perplexes me.” (17-20).

Note: Paul contrasts the pure motives of his zeal for the Galatians with the self-serving motives of the false teachers of legalism.

Note: “My little children” appears only here in Paul’s writing.

Note: The dual metaphor of Paul repeating his labor pains to birth Christ until the life of Christ can grow in their hearts is a wonderful picture of the pain and goal of disciplemaking, church leadership, and ministry in Jesus’ name. We suffer to see Christ birthed in others and to nurture that life to maturity. See also Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 13:3, 5; Colossians 1:27, 3:11.

II. The grace vs. works debate isn’t just theological; it’s personal! True undershepherds of Christ want what’s best for His sheep: Christ formed in you.

A. Legalists want your allegiance to and admiration of them. Shepherds want your allegiance to and admiration of Christ Jesus.

B. Legalists want you to work hard to measure up to their standards. Shepherds want to work hard to see Christ formed in your life.

C. Legalists forsake you when you fail to perform for them. Shepherds chase you down and beg you to receive their love in the name of Christ Jesus.

“God will and can be known in no other way than in and through Christ.”

–Martin Luther

 Law or Grace? Slave or Free? 

Galatians 4:21-31

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman but the free woman!” (Galatians 4:31, NET Bible)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper (1:11-2:21) Paul defended his apostleship. Now, in 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification by faith and why it’s true. He begins by defending the doctrine of justification by faith (3:1-18): believers receive the Spirit by faith, not by works of the Law (3:1-5); Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law (3:6-14), and the Law cannot invalidate the promise of justification by faith because it came 430 years later (3:15-18). But this defense of justification by faith raises a question: If God originally gave the promise, then why did God add the Law. “The Law,” Paul answers, “was temporary (3:19-25) and inferior (3:26-4:7). All it can do is condemn and enslave!”

He closes this section with a personal appeal (4:8-20)“Please stop this insanity of returning to the slavery of works-righteousness. It’s alienating you from me and robbing you of your joy in Christ!” And supports the appeal with an illustration from the Old Testament contrasting the difference between Christians, who are free children of faith and promise, and moralists, who are slave children of flesh and works

Before you read on, learn from the Old Testament and do this: Throw out legalism as a method of justification or sanctification!

Paul illustrates the difference between law and grace: Using the story of Abraham and a prophecy of Isaiah, Paul reminds Christians that we are not like children of the slave woman Hagar who were driven from the family and denied a share of the inheritance. We are children of the free woman Sarah, with a glorious destiny and responsibilities to live out our freedom and stand up to those trying to enslave us (4:21-31).

A.The Illustration From Genesis: Like soldiers marching in two different directions, Abraham’s two sons’ destiny was determined by their mother’s status as slave or free. Hagar represents the Law and Sarah represents grace (21-26).

Note: Paul is using an Old Testament story as an illustration because the moralist works-righteousness false teachers in Galatia were using these same stories to try to support their lies. “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?”

Note: The key word in determining the impact of the illustration is the term “corresponds” in verse 25. The Greek term sustoixeo literally means “soldiers standing in the same line.” It speaks of what is connected and what must follow. The choice to embrace the Law is the choice to be a slave. The choice to embrace grace is the choice to live free.

1.The Two Types: Hagar is a type of the Mosaic Law; Sarah is a type of the covenant of grace through faith.

2.The Contrasts (From Dr. Tom Constable’s notes on Galatians):

Hagar is the bond woman Sarah is the free woman
Ishmael was born naturally Isaac was born supernaturally
The old covenant The new covenant
The earthly Jerusalem The heavenly Jerusalem
Judaism Christianity

B.The Illustration from Isaiah: Isaiah’s prophecy of the progress and glory of Israel given to an enslaved people illustrates the glorious future of the church (27).

Note: Isaiah promises that the children of freedom (after deliverance from captivity) will eventually be more than the children of slavery the nation grieves over in the malaise of being a conquered people.

Note: Paul applies this as an illustration of Sarah being the mother of faith and promise and the church having a glorious destiny in freedom that those enslaved to the Mosaic Law will never realize. But Paul does not say the church fulfills this promise. I believe that this prophecy will be fulfilled literally by Israel’s destiny in the coming Kingdom of Messiah.

C.The Application: Like Isaac, Christians are supernaturally born children of promise, and will be persecuted by the natural-born children who live according to the flesh (legalists). We should keep in mind that the Law and the gospel of Christ cannot coexist, but that as full-rights children of God we will be heirs of all (28-31).

Note: These are strong words, but it shows what is at stake: The well-being and freedom of the family of faith.

Note: Children born “according to the Spirit” (v 29) anticipates Paul’s radical teaching on sanctification by grace through faith in chapters 5-6.

Blended theologies of faith and works are a disaster. They always enslave the free and empower the slave-masters of legalism.

A.Chapters 3 and 4 prove the incompatibility of faith and works as methods of justification (freedom from the penalty of sin) or sanctification (freedom from the power of sin). Are you convinced? If you aren’t, the last two chapters are only going to confuse you and anger you.

B.Tolerating hardcore legalists and legalistic leaders in the name of love isn’t spiritual leadership. Loving a legalist and tolerating legalism are two different things. Love them with all your heart, but stand up to them with all your might!

C.Here’s your choice: Make the legalists in your life happy and live like a slave. Courageously trust the Spirit’s work in your life and live free to pursue your destiny in Christ.

“Our quarrel is not with those who live in manifest sins. Our quarrel is with those among them who think they live like angels, claiming that they do not only perform the Ten Commandments of God, but also the sayings of Christ. We quarrel with them because they refuse to have Jesus’ merit count alone for righteousness.”

–Martin Luther

Free to Love and Serve!

Galatians 5:1-6:10

“But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does.”

(James 1:25, NET Bible)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-25). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

The big picture of Paul’s glorious presentation of Christian liberty contrasts two systems of righteousness: works-righteousness, which always enslaves and grace-righteousness, which always liberates. It also forces us to see that true liberty is always about Christ and others:

Free to be righteous: Walk in the Spirit and you will express your faith through love!

I. Paul explains how to live the liberated Christian life: Stand fast in your freedom as the Spirit now leads you to express your faith through love (5:1-6:10).

A. Stand fast in your freedom rather than being enslaved by the law so that you can pursue righteousness by faith that is expressed through love  (5:1-6).

B. Don’t let false teachers of works-righteousness sidetrack you from the freedom you have been called to—a freedom to love and serve others (5:7-15).

C. Walk in the Spirit to defeat the flesh and you will display the very character of Christ demonstrated in radically selfless relationships  (5:16-26).

D. Fulfill the transcendent law of Christ by loving one another well in community (6:1-10).

II. Christ set us free to love and serve others!

A. Your Christian freedom is not about you; it’s about Christ and others.

B. Christians who are living by the “law of liberty” are doing the works you would expect from a follower of Christ. The Spirit is compelling and empowering them to bridle their tongue, care for the powerless (specifically widows and orphans), and not allow this self-centered world to stain their lives.

Stand Firm In Freedom!

Galatians 5:1-6

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then,

and do not be subject to the yoke of slavery.”

(Galatians 5:1)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-25). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

The big picture of Paul’s glorious presentation of Christian liberty contrasts two systems of righteousness: works-righteousness, which always enslaves and grace-righteousness, which always liberates. It also forces us to see that true liberty is always about Christ and others. And it all begins with  standing firm in grace because we understand what is at stake:

Stand firm in your freedom!

Don’t fall from grace, but let the Spirit give you faith, hope and love!

I. Stand fast in your freedom rather than being enslaved by the law so that you can pursue righteousness by faith that is expressed through love  (5:1-6). 

Note: Five reasons why this paragraph does not teach loss of salvation.

1. This would revoke the promises of God (John 3:16; John 6:47; Ephesians 2:8-9). Romans 8:29 tells us plainly that this will never happen.

2. Paul calls the readers brothers and sisters (v 11) even after telling them that those who are submitting to circumcision have “fallen from grace.

3. This is describing two contrasting systems of righteousness—law/grace; works/faith—not two states of being (saved/unsaved).

4. The verbs speak of losing our grip on something (grace) or rendering something useless (our resources in Christ). They do not speak of God losing His grip on us because that will never happen (John 10:29-30).

5. Logically, this would mean that even the slightest submission to legalism would mean loss of salvation.

A. Transitional Command: Stand firm in freedom—introducing chapters 5-6), and stop being enslaved by works-righteousness—a summarizing chapters 1-4 (5:1).

B. Warning Against the Enslaving Power of the Yoke of Legalism (5:2-4):

1. Listen, I Paul! Paul is emphasizing his authority in the strongest way. If you submit to this (condition uncertain, maybe you will/won’t), then (conclusion certainChrist will be of no benefit to you at all! Literally: Christ will be an advantage to you in now way (2).

2. I say again (5:2; 3:10; 3:24), if you submit to even one aspect of the law, you’re obligated to follow the whole law (3).

3. If you try to be righteous by works, you have been alienated (passive—by these works) from Christ. The verb means to be estranged, make ineffective (4a).

4. If you try to be righteous by works, you have already fallen away from grace. The verb means to lose one’s grip and fall away. It was used to describe withered flowers that fall to the ground or a ship that drifts off course (4b).

C. Invitation to the Liberating Power of the Spirit (5:5-6):

1. By the power of the Spirit we (who still cling to grace, cf. v 4) wait expectantly or eagerly for the hope of righteousness (5). I believe this hope is for both the present transformation that is making us more righteous in our experience daily as we by faith trust the Spirit’s power working in us and our future hope to be a righteous citizen of His righteous Kingdom (Isaiah 51:5).

2. By the power of the Spirit we who remain in the sphere of our benefits in Christ (who do not alienate ourselves from Him, cf. v 4) know that these works don’t matter to God. We know that what matters to God is our faith being expressed through love (6). Note: This is the first mention of love in the epistle. When faith becomes operative, when grace works, it becomes operative and observable in love.

II. Stand in the freedom of grace or wallow in the slavery of works.

A. The choice is yours. You, not the legalist, decide to submit to their religious nonsense. And when you do, you sever yourself from the real-time benefits of the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus.

B. More is at stake than you ever imagined. Literally your sanctification and your impact for the Lord Jesus depend on your decision to either rely on your works or to rely on the Spirit.

C. The Spirit is compelling you to use your liberty in ways that your faith causes you to become impatient for experiences of true righteousness in this world and the world to come. Would you say that your heart is listening to the Spirit and wanting this righteousness more and more?

D. The Spirit is compelling you to use your liberty in ways that your faith is expressed through love. Would those closest to you—your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors—say that this is what most impresses them about the way you use your freedom in Christ?

Use Your Freedom!

Galatians 5:7-15

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-25). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

The big picture of Paul’s glorious presentation of Christian liberty contrasts two systems of righteousness: works-righteousness, which always enslaves and grace-righteousness, which always liberates. It also forces us to see that true liberty is always about Christ and others. And it all begins with standing firm in grace because we understand what is at stake:

Legalism hinders Christian growth and ruins Christian unity!

I. Stand fast in your freedom because your personal growth is at stake, but be sure to use your freedom to love one another well (5:7-15).

A. Rhetorical Question to Make a Point: Who disrupted your Christian growth? (5:7)

Note: Legalistic teachers “bump Christians off course” so that we do not “obey the truth.” Notice that it’s only by grace through faith that we “run well” in our Christian life so that we obey the truth of Scriptures. Legalism always hinders sanctification.

B. Jarring Answer: God didn’t give you this idea to mess up your growth in Christ with works-righteousness (and one work is enough to ruin the whole thing). I’m confident that you’ll agree with me. These legalists who stir you up are accountable to God. They’re persecuting me because I teach the scandalous truth of the Cross. I wish they would just go away and leave us alone! (5:8-12)

1. The cross will always be an offense because it casts off all human effort. Our flesh hates dependence and weakness.

2. Paul couldn’t have expressed his exasperation with these legalists more graphically. If they’re so interested in “cutting around” to be spiritual, why don’t they just “cut off”? See also Philippians 3:1-7. I believe he’s also wishing that they would become spiritually impotent so that they wouldn’t “reproduce” any more little legalists.

C. Warning Against Using Our Liberty to Live for Self: Use your freedom to love and serve others rather than what’s going to happen if you continue listening to these legalists—you’re going to destroy one another! (5:13-15)

1. Freedom in Christ does not mean, “Live for yourself by indulging your flesh” (13).

Note: Logically this includes giving your flesh a beachhead in your life by indulging in freedoms that would harm our personal spiritual life. However, the emphasis here is on indulging your freedom in ways that are insensitive to others. The contrast is: “But through love serve one another.” Regulating our freedom by love ensures that we fulfill every commandment in God’s word.

2. “If you continually bite and devour one another” speaks of the current trend in Galatia. Once Christians begin trying to follow rules to be righteous or acceptable it unleashes jealousy, envy, and competition that tears a fellowship apart.

II. Christ set us free to mature and love others.

A. Liberty leads to maturity; legalism leads to immaturity. Even one legalistic rule, regulation, or preoccupation derails the work of the Spirit in your life to make you more like Christ. What is a rule, regulation, or preoccupation that you feel you are most vulnerable to following to “become righteous” due to your home, church, or religious culture of origin?

B. Liberty leads to unity; legalism leads to disunity. What do you feel is a non-biblical “standard of righteousness” you’re most prone to judge others by?

C. Maturity always loves; immaturity always self-indulges. Ask God, “Where am I using my liberty in ways that are unloving”? When He answers you, listen!

D. Love fulfills every commandment; legalism focuses on just a few. The truly liberated Christian is fulfilling every commandment as he or she follows the Spirit’s leading to love Christ and others.

Walk in the Spirit!

Galatians 5:16-26

“But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.”

(Galatians 5:16)

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

In one of the most important passages on the Christian life in the Bible, Paul explains the grace alternative to the law. By walking in the Spirit, Christians overcome the self-indulgent sins of the flesh and express their faith through love, a love that glorifies God by displaying the character of Christ:

Walk in the Spirit to glorify God in your liberty!

I. Live by the Spirit and you will defeat the flesh, secure your inheritance in the Kingdom, and glorify God (5:16-26).

A. Command to Live by the Spirit: Live by the Spirit to defeat the flesh instead of living as if you’re under the law (5:16-18).

1. Simple Imperative: To “walk in the Spirit” is to live moment by moment submissively trusting in the Holy Spirit’s strength and desires rather than the self-indulgent flesh’s strength and desires.

2. Amazing Promise: When we do what the Holy Spirit is telling us to do we will not do what the flesh is telling us to do.

3. Constant Conflict: During our days on earth the Spirit and our flesh are always opposed to one another. This means that we are always conflicted, even when we walk in the Spirit. But we must trust the Spirit enough to do what He wants us to do.

4. The Christian Alternative: We are led by the Spirit rather than living under the law.

B. Warning Against Living by the Flesh: Those Christians who live according to the self-centered flesh rather than the other-centered Spirit will be disinherited (5:19-21).

1. The works of the flesh are obvious! Notice that the common thread to all these acts is that they are self-indulgent and against others. They are the opposite of the selfless love Paul has been teaching in this section (5:6, 13, 14).

2. I don’t believe this is warning Christians against losing salvation for the same reasons stated before (See notes on Galatians 5:1-6). An added reason is that it seems the Galatians, who he calls “brothers and sisters” are still engaged in some of these communal sins (5:26).

3. I believe this is a warning to true believers that if we persistently grieve and suppress the Spirit in lifestyles characterized by flesh-dominance, we lose rewards in the Millennial Kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; Revelation 2:26-27, 3:1).

4. Though I don’t believe this is warning against losing our salvation, it does provide a diagnostic tool to help others. It’s hard to give someone assurance who is living this type of lifestyle un-conflicted! I would want to examine this person’s belief to see if they really have trusted in Christ.

C. Result of Living by the Spirit: Those Christians who live by the Spirit display Christ’s selfless love, not by following the law but by having crucified the flesh (5:22-24).

1. This is the true fruit of liberty—love. We have been set free to live by the Spirit so that we can love with the type of love characterized by the eight characteristics listed (22-23).

2. Since the law was given to constrain the flesh, there’s no need for the law when we live by the Spirit (23b).

3. When we trusted in Christ the power of the flesh in our lives was crucified (24).

D. Recap and Specific Warning to the Galatians: If you’re led by the Spirit you’ll live by loving one another well, not the way you’re treating one another according to the reports I’ve heard (25-26).

II. How Grace Works in Real Life: Liberated Christians living by the Spirit glorify God by their Christlike love.

A. God’s Spirit within you is always shouting, “Live for Christ and others!” Whenever you’re wondering what God wants you to do, know that His Spirit is telling you to do the selfless and loving thing. See also Philippians 2:13.

B. Your flesh within you is always shouting, “Live for yourself!” Whenever you’re wondering what God doesn’t want you to do, know that your flesh is telling you to do the self-centered and unloving thing. See also Colossians 3:11-15.

C. But, you have the spiritual resources to do what the Spirit is telling you to do. Christ’s work on the Cross rendered the flesh powerless. When you trusted in Him your flesh was crucified. See also Colossians 2:11-12 and Romans 6:14.

D. If you feel as if it’s impossible to do what the Spirit’s telling you to do, something’s wrong. Have you trusted in Christ? Are you living in community?

Rewards/Inheritance?

Selected Scripture

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because your reward is great in heaven.”

–Jesus Christ, Luke 6:23 

When most Christians encounter the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles on eternal rewards and an inheritance in His coming Kingdom we’re initially surprised. “Why would Jesus want to reward me for my faithfulness? Eternal life seems reward enough!”

Though it may seem incredible, an honest reading of the New Testament connects our willingness to trust Him enough to obey and suffer for Him during our life on earth with His desire to reward us with significance in His coming Kingdom.

Our eternal destination is decided by our belief. In all His teaching, Jesus identified only two places to spend eternity: heaven or hell. All who believe in Him, trusting Him as their Savior who made payment for their sin, receive eternal life and spend eternity with Him in heaven (John 3:16-17).

Once we believe, our experience of eternal life is based on our faithfulness to Jesus. While there is no good hell or bad heaven, Jesus offers eternal rewards to those believers who trust Him enough to remain faithful during our lives on earth.

It may be the greatest difference between Christians today and the early church. The original readers of the New Testament lived with a healthy respect for and desire for eternal rewards:

Jesus wants to reward you in heaven for your faithfulness to Him on earth!

I. Without explanation or apology, Jesus and the Apostles encourage Christians to seek eternal rewards and warn against losing eternal rewards.

A. The contrast between the first century believer’s awareness of the subject of an inheritance and Christians today shows that modern teachers have neglected this doctrine.

1. The New Testament writers assumed their readers understood the concept of eternal rewards and every believer’s accountability.

a. Warnings against losing our inheritance or rewards come with no clarification (1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:19-21; Col 1:21-23).

b. Reminders of our accountability at the Judgment Seat of Christ come with no explanation (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 22:12).

2. Inheritance means ownership of the coming Kingdom rather than mere residence there            (Col 1:12-14).

a. The idea or possibility of a future inheritance is a central theme of the Bible. The New Testament offer to inherit the Kingdom is directly borrowed from Daniel’s term to “possess the kingdom” in Daniel 7:22. It refers to rulership over the kingdom of the Son of Man given to the saints. This pattern was established by Israel in Genesis 49:28, “And he (Jacob or Israel) blessed them, everyone with the blessing appropriate to him (literal Hebrew).” Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the unfaithful sons, were disinherited. Judah, Joseph, and Benjamin, the faithful sons, were given their inheritance.

b. Inheritance means much more than “going to heaven when we die.” To inherit the Kingdom refers not to entering heaven but to possessing the Kingdom and ruling there.

c. Every believer should desire his or her inheritance and be thankful that Christ has qualified us to share in this inheritance of the saints (Col 1:12-14).

B. Jesus and the Apostles describe the type of life God rewards.

1. God rewards those who seek Him through spiritual disciplines (Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 11:6).

2. God rewards those who submit to their employers as faithful stewards (Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 6:8).

3. God rewards those who deny self to serve His Son (Matthew 16:24-27).

4. God rewards those who serve the needy and hurting in His name (Mark 9:41).

5. God rewards those who suffer for Christ and His reputation (Luke 6:22-23).

6. God will reward those who sacrifice for Him (Luke 6:35).

7. God rewards those who invest their time, talent, and treasure in His Kingdom                   (Matthew 6:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:18-19).

C. The point is not gaining reward or receiving an inheritance for our esteem. The point is pleasing Christ. The inheritance and the rewards are merely indicators of how pleasing our lives have been to the Savior and the significance of our eternal service to the Lord (Matt 25:21, parable of the talents; 1 Cor 4:5; 1 Pet 1:7; John 12:26; Luke 19:12-27, parable of the minas).

Note: The 24 elders of Revelation 4 “casting their crowns” before the throne of Christ in v. 10 is an act of worship in heaven. But it is not an indicator of a “more sincere and humble” attitude toward the rewards Jesus wants to give us. Jesus chose to give us reward, not because we demand it but because He wants to.

II. 3 Reasons Why I Believe in Rewards:

A. Jesus and the Apostles told us to seek rewards in heaven.

B. The doctrine of rewards and our inheritance in the Kingdom explain the warning passages in the New Testament. The warnings are not against losing our salvation but are warning us to remain faithful to receive the reward and the inheritance Jesus wants to give us.

C. Rewards, like the rest of the Christian life, are secured by grace through faith:

1. God the Father prepared the works we will be rewarded for in eternity past (Ephesians 2:10).

2. God the Spirit gives us both the desire and power to accomplish these works on earth (Philippians 2:13).

3. God the Son promises to reward us at His coming (Revelation 22:12).

Restoration Through Community

Galatians 6:1-5, Selected Scripture

“Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1) 

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

Those who walk in the Spirit glorify God in their liberty. Freedom from the Mosaic Law does not mean freedom from responsibility. Truly spiritual Christians will fulfill the “law of Christ” by gently restoring those within the community of faith who have lapsed into sin:

You who walk in the Spirit: Gently and humbly restore your sinning brothers and sisters!

I. Live by the Spirit and you will gently and humbly restore sinning saints in your community of faith (6:1-5).

A. Command to those living by the Spirit (5:16-26): Restore your sinning brothers and sisters in the church (6:1a).

B. Clarifying Instructions to those living by the Spirit as they restore: Fulfill the law of Christ by shouldering the burden of their sin gently, carefully and honestly, and humbly (6:1b-4).

II. Humility in this process involves the entire community when a disciple has wandered from the Shepherd and the sheep (Matthew 18:15-20).

A. Context: This is the fourth major discussion in Matthew—the discourse on the necessity of humility in disciple-to-disciple responsibilities (Matthew 18).

1. Jesus introduces the theme of humility by reminding His disciples of the childlike attitude required to enter His Kingdom and telling them that that same humility will determine their greatness in His Kingdom (1-4).

2. Jesus warns His disciples against impeding the progress of His followers by pointing out the severe judgment this world will receive for abusing His “children” (only time “believe in me” occurs in the Synoptics, v 6, 5-14).

B. Specifics: Jesus explains how a humble disciple should restore fellow-believers who have wandered from the Shepherd and the sheep (15-20).

  • Go to them by yourself and “show him his fault.” The verb means to point out a sin in order to create an awareness of guilt.
  • If they do not listen, “take two or three others with you” to establish credible witnesses to help establish the truth in the matter. The reason for two or three others is not to make sure they understand that you are right or to prove the other party wrong. The purpose of the witnesses is to observe the erring disciple’s reaction to the confrontation.
  • If they still do not listen, “tell it to the church.” This is only the second use of ekklesia in Matthew (16:18). Jesus’ disciples heard “assembly of the disciples.” Today we know this to be the local community of faith. There is no procedure to follow, but a mandate to bring the leverage of the community to bear on the problem.
  • If they still refuse to listen, “treat him as a Gentile or a tax collector.” This doesn’t mean stop relating to this person, but it does mean to stop offering the warmth, encouragement, and comfort of fellowship in the community.
  • The overarching purpose is “to regain your brother.” To restore the believer who has wandered away from the Shepherd and the sheep.
  • The conclusion of the community in such matters is affirmed in heaven!

C. Jesus emphatically reaffirms the necessity of humility how a humble disciple should restore fellow-believers who have wandered from the Shepherd and the sheep (21-35).

III. Humility in this process is especially important when the erring disciple is a leader (1 Timothy 5:19-20).

A. All of the above applies to leaders, especially the need for two or three witnesses to the process of restoration (5:19).

B. The leader’s sin must be “rebuked before all as a warning to the rest.” This seems different from “tell it to the church” in Matthew 18. “Before all” probably refers to the whole congregation. “The rest” seems to indicate the remaining elders, and by implication any who may want to be an elder.  The elders of Church of the Open Door have interpreted this to have two applications in regard to our leaders

1. If the leader refuses to repent, then a rebuke before all “as a warning to the rest” of those who lead or seek leadership is called for.

2. If the leader repents and cooperates in the restoration process, then the leader must disclose to those he or she wishes to lead.

IV. How Grace Works in Community: Liberated Christians who are living by the Spirit will restore their overwhelmed brothers and sisters, especially those overwhelmed by the burden of sin.

A. The depth of the relationship determines the impact of the personal confrontation.

B. The strength of the connections determines the power of the healing. 

C. The humility of the leaders determines the success of the process.

Sharing By Grace

Through Faith

Galatians 6:6-10

“Now the one who receives instruction in the word

must share all good things with the one who teaches it”(Galatians 6:6). 

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section (5:1-6:10) demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

Those who walk in the Spirit glorify God in their liberty. Freedom from the Mosaic Law does not mean freedom from responsibility. Truly spiritual Christians will fulfill the “law of Christ” by bearing the burdens of one another’s sins (1-5), bearing the financial burden of teachers of the Word (6-9), and taking every opportunity to do good, beginning with the family of God:

You who walk in the Spirit: Share your finances with those who teach you the word of God!

I. Live by the Spirit and diligently bear the financial burden of those who teach you the Bible, realizing that God knows where you’re investing your resources—selfishly or as the Spirit directs—and will bless you accordingly (6:6-10).

A. Command to those living by the Spirit (5:16-26): Provide for the physical needs of those who provide for your spiritual needs by teaching you the Word of God (6:6).

1. The resemblance of language in this passage with other passages on giving to the needs of spiritual leaders leaves no doubt that Paul is speaking of material needs (1 Corinthians 9, especially v 9; Philippians 4:10-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18).

2. This was a radically new concept, especially for the Jewish Christians. Under Judaism pupils paid a tax, and the teachers’ pay came through the Jewish government. (Dr. Tom Constable, Notes on Galatians)

3. Though Paul, as a church planter, did not personally claim this right (1 Corinthians 9:12;             2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:9), he did teach it as an obligation for the church               (1 Corinthians 9:4; 1 Timothy 5:17-18), and rejoiced when the un-coerced Philippians sent him a generous gift to support his ministry (Philippians 4:10-14).

B. Underlying Principle: God knows if you are investing your resources according to the desires of the flesh or according to the leading of the Spirit and will bless each one accordingly. Therefore, don’t grow weary in giving to the needs of your spiritual leaders because you will reap spiritual blessings (7-9).

1. The law of sowing and reaping: God knows how you’re using your money and promises a richer experience of eternal life to all who use their money in the other-centered ways the Spirit directs rather than the self-centered ways the flesh desires.

Note: The term “eternal life” has two different aspects to it—quantitative and qualitative. It is the life of God that He shares with those who believe in His Son. Quantitatively, it is the life of God that will never end we receive by faith (John 10:28ff). Qualitatively, it is the rich experience of that life that depends on walking in fellowship with God (John 10:10). I believe it’s this second sense that Paul is using “eternal life” here.

2. So don’t be preoccupied with what you’re giving up, that will cause you to grow weary in doing this good thing. Be preoccupied with what you’re gaining as you deepen your relationship with God and experience more of what the Spirit wants you to experience through your new life in Christ.

C. Concluding Burden-Bearing Command: Take every opportunity to bear someone’s burdens, especially your fellow-Christians in your community of faith (10).

II. How Grace Works in Community: Liberated Christians who are living by the Spirit will give to the physical needs of their spiritual leaders and look for opportunities to do good, especially to the household of faith.

A. The best way to stabilize the finances of a local assembly is not by programs, threats, and manipulation. The best way to stabilize the finances of a local assembly is to make disciples who trust grace and know how to walk in the Spirit.

B. When the command to financially support the spiritual leaders is ignored in a local church, everyone loses because the leaders will be distracted by physical needs.

Who ever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense,or does the law not say this as well? For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for us, because the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest. If we sowed spiritual blessings among you, is it too much to reap material things from you? (1 Corinthians 9:7-11) 

C. The Principle of Sowing and Reaping reveals the absurdity of “not talking about money in church.” Christians need to know that God is interested in their finances and that their use of money is connected to their experience of eternal life.

D. The Spirit-controlled Christian is always on the lookout for someone to help, especially his or her fellow-Christian.

Paul’s Heartfelt Plea

Galatians 6:11-18

“For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; 

the only thing that matters is a new creation.”

(Galatians 6:15).

In 49 AD a delegation of Judean religious teachers came to the predominately Gentile church at Syrian Antioch and started teaching the Christians that those who were not circumcised as followers of the Law of Moses could not be saved from their sin by simple belief in Jesus (Acts 15:1). They were part of a conspiracy to undermine the Gospel of grace sending emissaries of the lie to the daughter churches planted by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:23).

The most vulnerable to the lie were the fledgling assemblies of the Roman province of Galatia. Paul and Barnabas had planted these churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). Paul’s response is swift and strong. He will not tolerate this false gospel—that works are essential to salvation—to take root in the lives of these new Christians and churches. On the eve of the Jerusalem Council, Paul writes his most passionate letter, reminding the church of the real basis of our salvation.

In the first section of the epistle proper, 1:11-2:21, Paul defended his apostleship. In 3:1-4:31 the Apostle clarifies the implications of justification and sanctification by faith and why it’s true. His final section, 5:1-6:10, demonstrates how this grace works in life. Grace works through liberty. Christ set us free to demonstrate His righteousness in ways that transcend any enslaving set of rules or moral codes (5:1-12). This liberty isn’t so that we can indulge the self-centered desires of our flesh as we did before we trusted in Christ. Using our freedom in that way will cause us to lose our inheritance in the coming kingdom (5:13-21). We’ve been set free to walk in the Spirit (5:16-18) so that we can display Christ’s righteousness through the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-26). But even this transformation isn’t about us; it’s about Christ and others. What we’ve really been set free to do is to love and serve others (6:1-10).

Paul closes his epistle with bold letters from his own hand to highlight the urgency of its message to his beloved Galatians (6:11-18). He unmasks the true motives of the legalists and reminds them of his pure motive to release new life by preaching the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Finally, preach the Cross of Christ because all that matters is the new creation!

I. Paul’s Final Words from His Own Hand: Legalists want to impress religious people to avoid persecution, even though they don’t follow their own rules. I only care about the message of the Cross because all that counts in this world is being recreated in Christ (6:11-18).

A. Bold Personal Closing. Paul takes the pen from the scribe he’s been dictating to and personally writes in big letters (capital letters, or literally large letters) to emphasize his passion for the message of this little letter (6:11).

1. Paul often closed his letters in this way to prevent forgery (1 Corinthians 16:21-24; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17-18).

2. But here he devotes an entire paragraph written in bold letters, summing up the epistle in intense, disjointed sentences that reflect the passion and determination of his soul on the subject of the gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

B. Contrasting Motives: The impure motives of the Judaizers to control, impress, and avoid persecution are obvious when placed alongside Paul’s sincere desire to preach only the Cross of Christ to release the new creation from redeemed hearts (12-15).

1. Paul was concerned with the Spirit’s inward work (chapters 5-6), but the legalists were preoccupied with boasting of how many people had been circumcised (outward religious works), even though they themselves did not follow their own laws, so that they could avoid persecution.

Note: The message of the Cross of Christ—that we are sinners who cannot redeem ourselves—inevitably brings persecution from both religious people who believe they are redeeming themselves by their works and irreligious people who don’t want to admit that they are sinners.

2. Paul, conversely, boasted only in the Cross of Christ (metonomy of cause for effect—all that Christ’s work on the Cross means to humanity) because all that religious nonsense meant nothing to him. He only cared about the new creation (see also Ephesians 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

C. Conditional Benediction: In the same way Paul pronounced a conditional curse in 1:6-9 on all who pervert the gospel, he now pronounces a conditional blessing on all who follow the “rule” (wordplay with “rules” of legalists of focusing on the Cross of Christ and His ability to create people new by grace through faith) on all believers—Gentile and Jew (16).

D. Personal Note: Paul’s suffering for Christ has earned him the right to absolutely ignore these legalists (17).

Note: This is another strong wordplay. The “mark” of the legalist was a cutting of the flesh (circumcision) that identified someone as belonging to them, as a slave to the Law. The “marks of Jesus Christ”—the scars on his body from persecution as a minister of the gospel—identified him as a slave to Christ.

E. Tender Goodbye: This is the only epistle that ends with the reminder that the recipients are Paul’s “brothers and sisters.” (18).

II. PLEASE REMEMBER NEVER TO FORGET THE MESSAGE OF GALATIANS: ALL THAT MATTERS IS THE NEW CREATION AND THE ONLY WAY TO BE NEW IN CHRIST IS BY TRUSTING IN THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.

A. Look out for so-called spiritual leaders who want you to follow them so that they can impress their religious friends.

B. Look out for religious nonsense that tells you to “get to work” to earn, keep, or pay Jesus back for your salvation.

C. Look for spiritual leaders who want you to follow Christ as His new creation.

D. Look for people the Holy Spirit is telling you to love and serve in His name.