Now you, my friends, are children of the promise, like Isaac. (Galatians 4:28 NRSV)
In this section Paul uses the allegory of Abraham having children by the slave woman, Hagar, and the free woman, Sarah, for the two covenants – the first, the law given on Mount Sinai and the second, corresponding to the covenant from Jerusalem above, given through Jesus.
Were we born into slavery or freedom? Through an act of the flesh, or through faith in God’s promise?
We are all, like Isaac, ‘children of the promise’, born through faith and into freedom.
Paul had known the weight of the Law, he had lived as a very strict Pharisee, but now he had tasted freedom in Christ he could not imagine choosing to be enslaved once again by the law that leads to death. It is no wonder that Paul’s pleas in this letter are so heartfelt and genuine. His pleas touch your spirit, as you touch his heart while reading his letter.
Were we set free to remain free or so that we could choose to go back into slavery? As Paul says, ‘For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.’ (Galatians 5:1 NRSV). Are we going to be firm and remain living in the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross or are we going to act as if Jesus never died and rose again and return back to slavery?
Heavenly Father, Thank you that I am a child of the promise, and as such I choose to remain in the freedom that Jesus won for me. Help me never to go back voluntarily into a slavery to a system that can condemn me but never save me. Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged Abraham, cross, faith, flesh, freedom, Galatians, God, Isaac, Jerusalem, Jesus, law, Mount Sinai, Paul, slavery
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods. Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (Galatians 4:8-11 NRSV)
Before we became Christians we were slaves to false gods who were in fact no gods at all. One person’s god might have been alcohol, another’s could be evolution, and someone else’s the false gods of Hinduism or some other religion. On the surface these gods give freedom, but in reality all they bring is slavery, but a slavery that those enslaved cannot see.
Once we have become a Christian we now know God and more importantly, he now knows us. This is as real a relationship as any physical relationship – if anything more real – as we are now spiritually alive and our spirit and the rest of us is now known by the Living God. This is true life and freedom.
Knowing this it is no wonder that Paul is shocked and incredulous that they are turning back to legalism, slavery and bondage instead of living in the permanent Sabbath and Jubilee that is in Christ Jesus.
The spiritual eyes of the Galatians seem to be closed, and so they seem to be back to living solely by natural sight. It is no wonder that Paul is shaking his head in frustration.
It is no wonder that about 10 years later when Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians that he says how he is praying, ‘that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’ (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIB) It is so important that we pray for spiritual light, life and growth for each other so we don’t turn our back on the great salvation that we have in Jesus!
Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see if we have slipped back into bondage and slavery in our lives, or if we are living in the fullness of all that you have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged bondage, Christian, Ephesians, false gods, freedom, Galatians, God, inheritance, Jesus, Jubilee, legalism, Paul, sabbath, slavery
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7 NRSV)
In Paul’s letter to the Galatian church he is dealing with Judaizers who were saying to the Gentile Christians that faith in Jesus alone was not enough, but that they also needed to become Jews and live under the law of Moses.
The whole letter is a treatise from Paul calling Jew and Gentile alike back to living by faith, not by works. This is central to the gospel, and the crux is Jesus’ death on the cross. It is not the whole counsel of God on faith, works and their relationship to the rest of the gospel. We need to see things in context, only then will we be good workmen and women when it comes to our handling of the Word of God.
The law of Moses was given to the Jews, yet all it did was reveal the sinfulness of all people. Even throughout the OT time we see that people lived by faith just as Abraham had done. But the law was necessary, at least for a time.
Jesus was born a Jew, ‘of a woman’ as Jewish lineage even today is through the female side of the family. If your mother is a Jew, then you are a Jew. He redeemed everyone under the law (the Jews) first, and then everyone else (the Gentiles) through the blessing of Abraham. We are now all equal children of God!
We are now children of God and this means something, this is one thing that makes being a Christian unique that, ‘God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts’. We are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and what the Holy Spirit says in our hearts to God is ‘Abba, Father!’ We never need to doubt our relationship with Father God because the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Spirit, living inside us confirming that relationship both to us and to Father God.
We are now heirs who are old enough to receive our inheritance through what God has done for us.
Father God, help us to grasp what it means to call you Father and to live as children and heirs in the freedom you have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged Abraham, child, cross, faith, father, Galatians, Gentiles, God, heirs, Holy Spirit, Jews, law, Moses, relationship, son, works
Jesus is unique. He fulfilled the Mosaic Law completely. But did Jesus live by works or by faith. Jesus was fully God, but he laid aside all the rights and privileges that were included in that when he became a man. All he did when he was on earth was because he was a man who was untainted by sin and empowered by the Holy Spirit and in conversation with the Father.
As Jesus fulfilled the Law he would not be under the curse for not fulfilling it. Jesus was righteous and Paul quotes, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith’ (Galatians 3:11 NRSV), so Jesus must have lived by faith. What hope does this have for us?
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14 NRSV)
This also means as Jesus lived his life by faith and empowered with the Holy Spirit so can we.
Heavenly Father, help me realise that Jesus lived a life of faith as a man empowered by the Spirit, so I can live a life just like him. Help me to live such a life touching others, doing miracles and revealing you glory. In his name, Amen.
Posted in Devotions, Galatians, Thoughts On...
Tagged Abraham, faith, father, Galatians, Holy Spirit, Jesus, law, redemption, works
Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? – if it really was for nothing. (Galatians 3:3-4 NRSV)
Paul still sounds exasperated with the Galatian Christians, and is still trying to get them to get their focus back where it should be – on living by faith and not by works.
This is such a challenge! Am I foolish like the Galatians? Are we? I would say that if you cannot hear the challenge of the first five verses of chapter 3 of Galatians then you are in a bad way! It is a damning indictment on any Christian or church if they can no longer even hear when God challenges them!
The Christian religion is a living and experiential faith – or at least it should be. True knowledge of God is not primarily theological (although theology is important). True knowledge of God is experiential and it is not to be a one off experience but a continuing experience of God’s mercy and grace.
Paul wants the Galatians to come back to where they once were. Back to living in the Spirit, back to living by faith, back to experiencing God afresh.
He also wants them away from where they are now. He wants them to move away from living in the flesh, and away from a life living only on past experiences.
Heavenly Father, help me to keep living in the Spirit and to always be open to be challenged by you to keep going and keep growing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2 NRSV)
Asking questions is powerful! Here Paul challenges the Galatians on a central point of their faith. He wants to know how they received the Holy Spirit – was it by works or by faith.
This is such a pivotal question, and it is also a rhetorical question, Paul knows that the Galatians really know the answer already, they have just forgotten it!
If we received the Holy Spirit by our own works in fulfilling the law, then Jesus’ death is worth nothing. The Holy Spirit could not indwell us as we could not be filled with him if we still had unclean hearts, and we would not live in the power of the Spirit as all works would continue to be done in our own strength alone.
If we received the Holy Spirit by faith, then Jesus’ death on the cross was effective at cancelling sin. He was also physically resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven from where he sent the Holy Spirit who played a vital part in our accepting Jesus as Saviour. When we were baptized in the Holy Spirit we were empowered to live for God and serve him, and to perform the good works that he had prepared in advance for us to do.
It is not by doing good works that we receive the Holy Spirit, but by receiving the Holy Spirit that we are able to do good works!
Lord Jesus, thank you that baptize us in the Holy Spirit whom we can only receive through faith and believing in your promises. Amen.
It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified.(Galatians 3:1 NRSV)
This verse is a challenge! Do we publicly exhibit Jesus Christ as crucified? Or do we try to get around and avoid the insult and scandal of the cross?
At the cross there is peace between men and God, and between men and men. At the cross is forgiveness of sin. At the cross the price for sin was paid.
Do we publicly declare and display that Jesus was crucified or do we hide away?
Lord Jesus, help me to declare you as crucified publicly and openly. So that others may see you for who you are and for what you have done. Amen!!!
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1 NRSV)
Paul sounds exasperated here! Verbally he is picking them up by the scuff of the neck and shaking them to wake them up.
How much we all need this at times!
Do I need to be shaken and woken up? Or do I need to shake and wake up someone else?
Lord, help us to see things as they really are not as we may want them to be! Amen!
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who lives, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21 NRSV)
No one is justified through fulfilling the law, because none of us are capable of fulfilling the law. Jesus fulfilled the law on all counts so did not deserve to die, but he did to break the hold of sin on everyone else.
Each of us was crucified with Christ, not because by doing so makes his death more effective, but because all our sinful nature must die so we can truly live our lives with Jesus, or more correctly so he can now live his life in and through each one of us.
Our whole lives should be lived ‘by faith’ in Jesus who died as a substitutionary sacrifice in our place. If we think, live or act as if anything we do can justify us then we are living hypocritical lives and saying that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was worth nothing and has no power. But this is not true, Christ’s death is totally efficacious in every way and is powerful as here the hold of sin on each of us was broken if we only accept the finished work of the cross in our lives.
We are justified by faith in Christ alone!
Also if we live as if we are justified by our own efforts then we make the gospel of no effect and will not be able to proclaim it with power and authority, if we proclaim it at all!
Heavenly Father, help me always to remember that we are only saved by faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and by that alone. Help me never to fall into legalism, the hypocrisy that goes with it and so cheapen your work on the cross. In your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.
… they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me. (Galatians 1:23-24 NRSV)
People who were once like Saul, and most adamantly against Christ, when they come to know the Lord, and some of his most powerful proclaimers.
This is the future for Richard Dawkins. God is after him as he was after Paul. If I look back at my own life I can see a time when God was pursuing me even though I resisted him. Eventually all I could do was run to the one I had once run away from.
If you are reading this then please stand with me and others around the country who are praying for Richard Dawkins to be saved.
Lord Jesus, give Richard Dawkins a Damascus road conversion experience, where you break in and shine your light on him and open his spiritual eyes as you opened Paul’s. Amen.
(The Apostle Paul was known as Saul before his conversion. It is quite possible that Paul was one of the three names he would have had as a Roman citizen. It was possibly taken as a name by his father (or forefather) when he was freed from slavery or sponsored for citizenship and was part of their former owner’s or sponsors name.)