Tag Archives: works

Galatians 4:1-7 – Children and Heirs.

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.

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Galatians 3:10-14 – Jesus Lived By Faith… So Can We.

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.

Galatians 3:6-9 – Blessed to be a Blessing.

Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. (Galatians 3:6-9 NRSV)

In Paul’s argument for righteousness by faith not by works this passage is central! We are justified by faith alone because it has in fact always been that way!

Abraham was righteous because he believed God and put his trust in him, and all who believe are his descendants, whether they are Jew or Gentile. In fact God declared the Gospel even to Abraham when he declared, ‘All Gentiles shall be blessed in you.’ Which they are through Jesus death on the cross, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven.

God made promises to Abraham which he believed, these promises actually had a far greater scope than Abraham could have imagined yet we only receive those promises the same way as he did, by belief and by faith, not by works.

This is another reason why Paul looks to Abraham as the father of faith rather than Moses or anyone else. Moses lived by faith, yet he will always be associated with the law, not with grace. Abraham, on the other hand, predated the law, and the covenants that God made with him were not conditional of works being fulfilled. Abraham’s part was to believe, God’s part was to fulfil what he had promised.

If we are true descendants of Abraham then any works we do will not be to try to make ourselves right with God, but as a result of our belief in God. We will want to do what God wants as a demonstration of our faith in him. After all true obedience to God is an act of faith. It is an outward expression of the faith we have.

Let’s walk in Abraham’s blessing, and as we are blessed through him, so let us be a blessing to others!

Galatians 3:3-4 – Keep Living in the Spirit…

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.

Galatians 3:2 – Receiving the Spirit.

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.