For the next series we will journey through the book of Galatians, first doing an overview followed by a more detailed verse study. Paul's letter to the Galatians is a sort of mini-Romans, particularly focussing on the issue of salvation by faith in contrast to that by the law. There are two ways in which Christians (or alleged Christians) deviate from the straight path. They might deviate either to the right or to the left. To the left is Licentiousness in which Christians feel they have license to sin and live however they please. Much of the Bible deals with that misconception - including some content in Galatians chapter 5. To the right is Legalism in which faith in Christ is replaced by salvation being contingent upon the doing of particular things, like ceremonial practices. This was the issue with the Galatian Christians.
Paul was aware that the Galatians were being influenced by a cult - the group of the circumcision - whose doctrine is summarized by "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 or more generally "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."Acts 15:5 In contrast to this the gospel Paul preached was "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" Acts 16:31
The book of Galatians will contrast these two concepts.
One issue at hand is the fact that there is no difference between the gospel to the Jews or Gentiles. For there are some even today who have the misconception that Jews are saved under different conditions than non-Jews (Gentiles). Or that the group of the circumcision was preaching a gospel meant for the Jews only. They were not. They were preaching a gospel that wouldn't have even saved Jews.
The Bible teaches that both Jew and Gentile are saved under the same conditions of faith in Christ. And Paul did not preach a different gospel to the Gentiles than Peter as some today allege. In fact Peter himself said, "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe." Acts 15:7 And he goes on to say, "we (Jewish believers) believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they (Gentile believers)." Acts 15:11 So also Paul preached the same gospel to Jew and Gentile. He says at the beginning of his gospel presentation in Romans 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." And "there is no distinction between Jew and Greek" (Rom 10:12) in this matter.
So this will be one of the issues Paul deals with in Galatians.
Another issue to understand in our study of Galatians is Paul's usage of the term "law".
When he uses that term, he is generally not referring to the particular commands contained in the Law, nor to general principle behind those commands, which is namely to love God and your neighbor, but rather to the covenantal aspect of the law - whereby a person is justified before God by the doing of the Law. However, by their behavior, and in particular by their adherence to the ritualistic aspects of the law he inferred that the Galatians were trying to be saved through the keeping of the law.
This explains Paul's paradoxical statements like:
Rom 14:5,6 "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God."And:
Col 2:16 "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."In Contrast to:
Gal 4:9-11 "But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you."For wasn't Paul judging the Galatians with regards to the observance of days?
And while he says, "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." Gal 5:2 Didn't Paul circumcise Timothy? Acts 16:3 "Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek."
Thus by the observance of the "Law" Paul is not referring to the actual doing of the things contained in the Law, but rather one's intention in doing them. Christians can do the Law, but not if their intention is to be saved by the doing of it. (Don't throw out the baby with the bath water! Don't through out the Spirit of the Law with it's regulations and customs)
It's important to understand that Paul's stand is against legalism and not against good works. Again by "legalism" is meant the covenantal principle that salvation is achieved by keeping the law. Paul is not discouraging Christians from following the spirit of the law - which is namely to love God and your neighbor. But this is much in contrast to many alleged Christians today who have the attitude that doing good is indicative of legalism and thus discourage Christians from doing good. For them "grace" implies a license to sin.
It's interesting that Paul often applies the Law to the Christian life. For example in both 1Cor 9:9 and 1Tim 5:18 he quotes Deut 25:4, part of the Law of Moses, and applies it to the Christian life. And in 1Cor 14:34 he says that "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." Apparently the principles found in the law have application in the Christian life.
Another aspect of Galatians is to contrast the attributes of the minister
of the gospel versus that of the ministers of a cult. This chart portrays
some of these attributes.
sent by Jesus Christ
|1:1||No authority and
not sent by anyone
|Attitude||Humble, pleasing God
|Prideful, pleasing man
|Objective||Brings freedom||2:4; 5:1||Brings slavery||2:4|
|Technique||Preaches true gospel from God||1:6-24||Preaches false gospel from men||1:6-12|
|Focus||Boasts in the Cross
|Boasts in the flesh
|Effect||Causes them to run well
Reaps eternal life
|Hinders obedience to God
|I. Justification by Faith Defended (1:1-4:31)|
|A. Consider my credentials (1:1-2:21)
Paul's experience with the circumcision (2:1-21)
Do you now reject me because I tell you the truth?
The group of the circumcision tries to make a good showing in the flesh
while telling you lies.
Perhaps you have not really believed and my work has been in vain.
Sarah's son Isaac - the believers in justification by faith
Hagar - the Doctrine of justification by the Law
Hagar's son Ishmael - the group of the circumcision
Ishmael persecutes Isaac - the circumcision persecutes the believers
Cast out the bondwoman with her son -
|II. Justification by Faith Applied (5:1-6:18)|
|Stand in Freedom (5:1-12)
Gal 1:1,2 Paul, an apostle— sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia:
If people don't respect you, they're not going to listen to you. Thus in many of Paul's letters from the outset he establishes his credentials and often throughout his letters he'll remind his readers of his authority and his background with them. This is particularly the case in Galatians where he is in competition with false teachers over the hearts and minds of the Galatian Christians.
Why should we listen to Paul over that of the opinions of other preachers and theologians down through history? One relatively unique credential he had was being called as an apostle directly by Jesus Christ, his testimony of that event being affirmed in the book of Acts. And this in contrast to the lesser credentials of those who may be called by men - like missionaries sent out from a church. But in fact his opponents of the group of the circumcision didn't even have those credentials. For while they may have come from the church in Judea, apparently they had not been officially sent.
Notice also that despite his credentials, Paul also speaks of his letter coming from a fellowship of brethren - these also giving credence to his claims.
Gal 1:3-5 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Consider the content and emphasis of this brief presentation of the gospel message.
vs 1 spoke of the resurrection of Christ from the dead - which is always included in a gospel presentation. (1Cor 15:3,4) giving physical evidence affirming its truth. Here he speaks of Jesus Christ as Lord - who died for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. The gospel has to do with deliverance from sin. Through Christ's blood we are delivered from the guilt which sin incurs to our account. But also having been justified we will be delivered from the evil inherent in this present age. Perhaps Paul reminds them of this fact because the Christians were getting too caught up in the things of this age and had lost perspective on eternal things.
Col 3:1,2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Gal 1:6,7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ
This is primarily what Galatians is about - defending the true gospel from false imitations.There are many who through denominational allegiance and indoctrination have been trained to gullibly accept whatever they hear rather than subjecting the ideas to scrutiny, as John instructed, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 In fact one of the tests of right doctrine is to compare it against the standard set by the apostles, as John also said, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6 Thus we'll find in Galatians the apostle Paul contrasting his gospel with that of the false teachers.
I bet that many of the Galatians hadn't realized that they were turning
away to a different gospel. That's the way it often is. Of those Christians
who believe a false gospel even today, most think that they are believing
the gospel testified to by the apostles. Most don't realize they've been
led astray. Paul uses words here like "I am astonished" and "quickly deserting"
to wake them up.
Gal 1:8,9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Obviously once again Paul is trying to wake Christians up to the seriousness
of this matter. The gravity of his words and the fact he repeats this curse
twice shows just how seriously he takes this matter. Getting the gospel
right is an extremely serious matter upon which the eternal souls of men
hang. And thoses who teach and preach will be judged more strictly as James
says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers,
my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."James
3:1 For false teachers not only condemn themselves, but drag others
along to hell as well, much like Jesus said of the Pharisees, "woe
to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom
of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow
those who are entering to go in." Mt 23:13 And the false
teachers Paul was referring to were much like the Pharisees in their doctrine.
out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Mt
Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Some preachers are just too concerned about their popularity to say what needs to be said. But if you examine the rhetoric of Jesus and Paul, among others, you find that they didn't seem to care about issues of popularity. They weren't trying to please people. They didn't seem to care whether what they said would "turn people off" because they knew that those who appreciate the truth would listen.
If your objective is to please people; if your objective is to make
people like you; then you're not being a servant of Christ.
Gal 1:11,12 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Paul was not taught the gospel from the other apostles. He was not only called uniquely and personally by Jesus Chris, he was also taught directly by Jesus Christ. The other apostles had been witnesses to Jesus' ministry and Jesus' teachings while on earth. Thus the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain a great deal of historic content. While Paul preached the same gospel as they, his content was primary theological - propositional truth told him by the resurrected Christ.
The reason why he brings this up is to pit himself against the circumcision
who might falsely claim that they had second-hand knowledge of their gospel
through Peter and John from the church at Jerusalem, whereas they may claim
that Paul had no such contact with them. This will be an on-going subject
for many verses.
Gal 1:13,14 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
You would think to bring up his sinful past - particularly his persecution of the church would have been counter-productive in his defense against these false teachers. But in fact by this he shows that he knows where they are coming from, having had the same zeal as they for things like circumcision and the legalistic keeping of the law.
So before criticizing your opposition, show that you know where they are coming from, that have some experience dealing with them, or at least have studied their point of view.
Gal 1:15-17 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Paul was not an after-thought in God's plan. From birth God had set Paul apart, preparing him for his ministry even prior to his conversion. And after he was called in Acts 9, Jesus began to dwell in him, of which he'll also mention in Gal 2:20 saying "Christ lives in me." His revelation of the gospel - his gospel message - came from Christ who dwelt in him. He didn't have to go somewhere else to learn of Christ. He didn't have to go to Jerusalem to have the other apostles tell him about Christ. For wherever he went, Christ was with him. In fact he started to preach his gospel in Damascus - prior to even meeting to other apostles.
He says this not only to contrast his credentials with that of the false teachers who had no personal relationship with Christ, but also this was an important contrast his his gospel with that of the circumcision - namely that the gospel is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as Jesus also mentioned in his prayer in John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." And in his invitation in Rev 3:20 "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."
Gal 1:18-20 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles— only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
This event probably corresponded to what was recorded in Acts 11, when Paul and Barnabus went to deliver a gift to the saints in Jerusalem.
Essentially he's saying that after 3 years preaching the gospel given to him prophetically, then he had a short visit to Jerusalem - of the apostles only seeing Peter. James, though a major player had not been one of the Twelve, but was worthy of note, being the half-brother of Christ, growing up with him, and being one of the church leaders in Jerusalem. This is to say that they had no impact on his gospel - as he will go into further detail later about this trip.
Gal 1:21-24 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they praised God because of me.
Once again Paul establishes the fact that he didn't get his gospel second-hand through the churches of Judea. Furthermore the fact that he was preaching the faith that he once denied indicates that he seriously must have scrutinized the faith, being well aware of all the possible objections. People that come to faith under those circumstances often end up having well thought out convictions concerning those ideas of which they had formerly been hostile.
Though it's ashame that the churches of Judea hadn't taken to Paul. Afterall one of the reasons why they didn't know him personally was because, despite the fact they praised God for his conversion, they were reluctant to know him. And they were suspicious of his doctrine due to their prejudice against Gentiles - (yes, against Gentile Christians). They could have learned alot from Paul. The Christian life can be like that. One can miss out on a blessing because of some unjustfied prejudice one may hold against some other Christian.
One thing that resulted in the Galatians going astray was their gullibility. They listened to the wrong people without scrutinizing their dogma, whereas in Acts 17:11 the Bereans were commended for even scrutinizing Paul's doctrine. But even to this day many Christians gullibly accept whatever they hear without scrutinizing what is said in light of the Bible. They figure if such and such post-Biblical theologian or preacher said it, it must be true. Allegiances are made to one theologian over another, one denomination over another, institutional Christianity disallowing any scrunitizing of doctrine by individual Christians who are taught rather to play the role of stupid gullible sheep. And thus is the origin of many denomination divisions.
Gal 2:1,2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
The event Paul refers to in this and following verses is found in Acts 15. That is "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15:1,2
But what does Paul mean when he says he just intended to meet with the leadership, "for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain."? For we note Paul was quite confident of his convictions. And as we noted from chapter 1, Paul didn't feel he needed the other apostles to validate his gospel. For if that had been the case, he would have gone to them years ago prior to his preaching of the gospel. Rather he was concerned as to whether or not these kinds of false teachers were among the reputable leadership of the church at Jerusalem. And if so, he was concerned about their power. And indeed he had cause for concern, for in that case it would mean that Peter, John and James, who were the heads of the Jerusalem church, had failed to deal with them. And why? Likely because Peter, John and James were afraid of the popularity of those guys. (Very common, even among the apostles, to fear issues which threaten one's popularity) In fact Paul gives an instance of this in the case of Peter later in this chapter.
Thus if Paul was going to Peter, James and John to deal with the false
teachers within their own church, he was going to have to get them together
in private, where their flesh would be more free from the pressures and
power of popularity inherent in public meetings. Now the issue would be
as to whether the false teachers had power in the private meeting - which
leads to the next verse.
Gal 2:3-5 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Now if Titus were to be convince by the false teachers, indeed Paul would have run in vain, having wasted his time discipling that guy. But in fact these false teachers had no power, no influence, no effect at all in the private meeting. Their argument was completely uncompelling and had no effect on Paul's presentation of the gospel. They were powerless. Often bad theology is just not scrutinize because it's propagated solely through popularity. Remove the popularity issue, examine it in private, and alot of bad theology just falls apart and indeed often ends up looking quite foolish.
Another interesting thing about these verses is that here he speaks of "false brothers". Notice the parallel section in Acts 15:5 where it says, "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.'" In Acts they are called "believers" because Luke is writing in an historical sense of their public affiliation, whereas Paul called them "false brothers", identifying their actual status. So throughout history to this day there are those who associate themselves with the Christian community, they are referred to as "Christians" or "believers", they may even hold positions of leadership in a church, and yet are false brothers. This was the case in the early church.
Gal 2:7-9 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. (For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.) James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
This was one of the purposes of Paul's mission to Jerusalem - to receive affirmation by the church leaders there so as to lend supporting evidence against the circumcision. Paul needed no affirmation for himself, for he knew his calling and was confident of his gospel. But the endorsement of James, Peter and John would provide evidence of that fact to the Galatians. And it would discredit the circumcision who may have falsely claimed that they had been sent by the Jerusalem church.
However this idea that Paul alone was to be an apostle to the Gentiles while everyone else, like Peter was to go to the Jews, was contrary to what Jesus commanded, not to mention what Peter himself mentioned at that very meeting when he said, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe." Acts 15:7 You would think it was Paul speaking, but it was Peter!
Furthermore Jesus told Peter and John, "go and make disciples of all nations" Mt 28:19, the word "nations" here and "Gentiles" in the Galatians verse being the same Greek word "ethnos". And furthermore he told them, "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 But Peter and John settled into a Jerusalem ministry most likely because of prejudice against Gentiles. (Even despite the fact that Jesus gave Peter the vision to preach to the Gentiles in Acts 10 saying that "What God has cleansed you must not call common", referring to the Gentiles.)
So why did Peter give up his commission to the Gentiles at this time? I think it was simply prejudice. Seems to me it was because of prejudice against Gentiles that they had overlooked what harm was being done to Gentile Christians by those who were likely members of their own church. It wasn't until years later that circumstances (and no doubt the Spirit of God) forced them to overcome their prejudice.
And I find it interesting that while they gave Paul and Barnabus the
right of fellowship, no mention was made of Titus who was also present.
But he was a Gentile.
Gal 2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
The last time Paul and Barnabus visited Jerusalem was in Acts 11 where it is written, "for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." Acts 11:26-30
If the famine was to be over the whole Roman world, then why direct their gifts to the brothers in Judea? First of all Judea was almost entirely dependent upon rainfall for water. So the land was particularly prone to suffer during famines. And Jewish Christians had it especially difficult, being persecuted by unbelieving Jews. Thus Jewish Christians were generally among the poorest. And having become accustomed to receiving financial support, I have the impression, I don't think that James, Peter and John had poor Gentile Christians in mind by this instruction, but rather they were simply trying to secure more contributions for their own church. For while they had reluctance in receiving Gentile Christians, they had no reluctance receiving their money.
And Paul was eager to raise financial support for their church, as were the Gentiles Christians. Paul writes in Rom 15:25-27 "But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things."
The generosity of the Gentiles no doubt became another element in helping
Jewish Christians, like James, Peter and John, to overcome their prejudice
and reluctance to fellowship with them.
Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
Sometimes you just have to opposed fellow Christians to their face, even if they be the apostle Peter (or your institutional church leader). This is part of appropriate Christian ministry. What checks and balances did Peter have in his life to maintain his humility and to help keep him free from the hypocrisy of which institutional leaders are particularly prone? Who dared correct Peter when he screwed up? Paul dared, knowing full well that he was risking Peter's endorsement of his ministry.
Paul brings up this incident
1. to show the clarity and confidence of his convction on this matter
2. and to provide an example to for the Galatians to follow - namely to oppose the circumcision to their face.
Doesn't matter who they are. If people are clearly in the wrong on this
matter, they need to be confronted. (And yes, expect to be rebuked - if
not crucified - in return.)
Gal 2:12, 13 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
At least at this stage of his Christian life, Peter was a man-pleaser. He was afraid of what other people thought of him. And his fears controlled his behavior. Remember what Paul said ealier in his letter. For after saying, "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!", he went on to say, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:9,10 Here he again puts that principle into practice. Paul is not trying to win the approval of Peter, nor of the circumcision. He's not afraid of men.
You know, sometimes Christians are reluctant to say the things which need to be said, because they're afraid they'll lose the approval of men. Ever happen to you? These study guides are an example of applying Paul's principle. For I have consciously endeavored to say what has to be said regardless of whether people will be please by it or not. And I hope others follow this example.What Peter was doing was endorsing an unjustified prejudice against Gentile Christians. And the fact it was "Peter", a highly respected apostle of the faith, others were more easily led astray. When you treat other Christians with unjustified prejudice, you may not realize just how serious that is. John learned this lesson and wrote, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1John 3:14,15
The priority in the Christian life is to love fellow Christians without
prejudice. So get upset when you see Christians treating fellow
Christians with prejudice.
Gal 2:14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
What they were doing was not in line with the truth of the gospel. One aspect of gospel truth is that to be a Christian you don't have to give up your cultural identity - at least concerning things not dealing with sin. The Jewish legalists had the idea that for Gentiles to become Christian they had to adopt Jewish customs - they were to get circumcised, not eat certain foods, dress a certain way, observe certain days. These things are not relevant to salvation. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking" Rom 14:17
As Christians we need to consider how we might inadvertently be misrepresenting the gospel, as for example in making Christian fellowship contingent upon cultural conformity.
Many churches have not learned this lesson. The idea that "we do it this way and we don't fellowship with those who do it that way." i.e. modes of baptism, ceremony, etc. Now as the church institutionalized on a large scale, it became even more guilty of this. (See a View of Catholicism) When you institutionalize, you develop customs. Customs then grow into requirements. Virtually every denomination is guilty of this to varying degrees, some more so than others. So consider what restrictions your church has placed upon fellowshipping with Christians outside of your church. Like for example what restrictions your church places upon receiving communion. See also The Shortcomings of Institutionalized Christianity.
Gal 2:15,16 "We, who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’, know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Actually Peter himself made a similar argument in favor of the Gentiles when he spoke up in the Jerusalem council dealing with this very matter. For he said, "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:7-11
So if God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile, as Peter himself realized, then why was Peter making a distinction between the two in actual practice. This was the hypocrisy that Paul was pointing out. For Paul said virtually the same thing as Peter did in the Acts 15 passage above. They had no difference on the theology. But in practice Peter was acting hypocritically, not acting in line with the very things he himself said.
Fellowship with Christians and fellowship with God go hand in hand. If a person rejects fellowship with other Christians upon the basis of customs or culture, such a person is likewise communicating that fellowship with God is a function of customs and culture.
Gal 2:17,18 "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker."
It's often a problem for those who reckon themselves to be "good people" from an allegedly "moral culture" to come to Christ. Back then it was the religious elite among the Jews, and so also today along with Muslims and many others from cultures that reckon themselves morally superior to others. For such people to be justified in Christ they have to come to the realization that they are sinners. And not simply that they are innocent victims of Adam's sin. No, each one has actively been involved in committing sin. Such an admission is too humiilating for many such people.
Prior to this Paul said, we are 'Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’, and yet they're no better off, for the fact is that all do sin to a greater or lesser degree. The fact that Paul is convicting Peter of sin at this time was not to promote further sin. Peter was trying to rebuild what he destroyed, which is to say he was acting hypocritically. Paul was out to destroy his hypocrisy altogether.
Being justified in Christ may mean that you will have to destroy certain ideas. If you do so, don't look back. "Remember Lot’s wife!"Luke 17:32
Paul writes, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." 2Cor 10:5
Gal 2:19,20 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Likewise Paul writes of the Christian life, "now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter." Rom 7:6
The oldness of the letter is the bondage to the keeping of the customs and particular regulations one derives from the Law of Moses.
"He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant— not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2Cor 3:6
Jesus' ministry likewise revealed the deadness of bondage to the regulations which the Jews derived from the Law. Like he was often rebuked for healing people on the Sabbath. For as the Law commanded rest on the Sabbath, by way of regulation the Jews derived the idea that it was in violation of the Sabbath to heal. And yet healing was actually consistent with the Spirit of the Sabbath - giving rest and relief to the suffering.
So also to allegedly keep themselves pure, the Jews derived a regulation which prevented them from eating with Gentiles, though the Law had no such regulation. But in doing so they violated the Spirit of the Law - to love your neighbor as yourself. And this was especially an issue with Christians - as it broke Christian fellowship over an illegitimate issue.
You can't really live to God until you die to the legalism.
Furthermore, what is relevant about the Christian life is not the Christian, but Christ who dwells in the Christian. "To (the saints) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Col 1:27 So also Jesus said, "I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." John 6:38 This is contrast to Peter's fear of man. People who are afraid of what others will think of them are too concerned for themselves. The Christian lives for Christ, not for themselves. "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15
Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
Eph 2: 14,15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace
The barrier which divided were the regulations associated with the Law which kept Jew from Gentile. He "canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col 2:14 and Paul goes on to say in Col 2:16 "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" These two ideas go hand in hand. Legalism died on the cross.
Gal 3:2-5 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing— if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Paul presumes that they had received the Spirit. Afterall it says, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 Once a person comes to faith in Christ he receives the Spirit. The point here is that the receiving of the Spirit is not a matter of ceremony or following certain rules and regulations. It's not even a matter of prayer, nor of wishful thinking. It's a matter of believing the gospel.
Paul says elsewhere, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." Col 2:6 The way you're supposed to receive Christ is by faith and not by ceremony; not by following certain rules and regulations. And in the same manner you received Christ, so you're supposed to live - by faith.
By "human effort" Paul is referring to relying upon rituals to attain the goal. The observance of days, the eating or abstaining from certain foods, or even water baptism and communion - if people are relying on such things to achieve their goal, then they are caught up in legalism. It is not that rituals are bad, or even inappropriate. For some, such as water baptism and communion, are even commanded by the Lord. But the issue of legalism comes up when people rely upon the ceremonial aspects of these to confer some sort of grace or salvation.
Furthermore when Paul speaks of "faith" here obviously he is referring to faith in Christ and not faith in ceremonies or rituals. For indeed the Galatians were exercising "a faith" - but it was a faith in ceremonies and not a faith in Christ.
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6) Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." (Gen 22:18) So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Likewise Pauls writes, "It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith."Rom 4:13
Note that even Gentile Christians are reckoned children of Abraham. In a sense Christians are the true Jews, and Christianity the true Judaism. Paul invokes Abraham's example again in Romans chapter 4 as a model for Christian faith. In saying this Paul reveals that there is no distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers, and so none should be made in the Christian community. What is relevant to salvation is not a person's cultural background but rather their faith in Christ.
Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Deut 27:26) Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." (Hab 2:4) The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." (Lev 18:5)
Some are under the impression that people in the Old Testament and perhaps Jews today are justified by their obedience to the Law. But the Bible teaches that no one has ever been justified by obedience to the Law. And Paul even goes so far as to say that this fact is clearly evident. Justification has always been based upon faith and not upon law. This is not to say that there is not a lifestyle characteristic of faith. For indeed "The righteous will live by faith". If their lifestyle is inconsistent with their alleged faith, that is just evidence that they don't really believe. But faith in works is not faith in Christ. Faith in works for salvation is relying upon law for justification.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Deut 21:23)
That is, Jesus took the curse of the Law upon himself and thus nullifying its penality with regards to us. Interesting that Jesus' used a similar illustration in John 3:14 "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up." There he was alluding to Numbers 21:8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." By analogy Jesus identifies himself with the snake, which is quite a negative connotation, just as here Paul speaks of him being cursed.
Legalists tend to overlook the denigration that Christ suffered, belittling the significance of the manner of his death, and rather look to themselves for their salvation.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
This is in contrast to being justified by law. The blessings promises Abraham were not conditioned upon law. Rather the promise to Abraham was given with the intention of applying it to Gentiles - those who were not under the ceremonial laws of Moses.
Secondly note that the promise is not simply salvation, or justification. Rather it incorporated the reception of the Holy Spirit. Only those who have received the Spirit belong to Christ. (Rom 8:9) The reception of the Spirit is based upon faith - not upon things like Baptism (as some today practice with regards to unbelieving infants). Nor, in the case of the Galatians, is reception of the Spirit contingent upon the circumcision commanded in the Law of Moses.
Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
Notice how Paul's interpretation concerning "seed" depends upon a grammatical detail. This is the extent to which we can rely on the accuracy of the scriptures, where details matter. The singularity of the "seed" implies a singular category - namely those who are in Christ. For those Jews and Gentiles who are not in Christ, this covenant does not apply. "Commencing with Gen 3:15, the word "seed" is regularly used as a collective noun in the singular (never plural). This technical term is an important aspect of the promise doctrine, for Hebrew never uses the plural of this root to refer to "posterity" or "offspring." ... Thus the word designates the whole line of descendants as a unit, yet it is deliberately flexible enough to denote either one person who epitomizes the whole group (i.e. the man of promise and ultimately Christ), or the many persons in that whole line of natural and/or spiritual descendants." Theological Wordbook of the Old Testment, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1980.
When did the Abrahamic covenant end? It never did. It was the covenant of grace applied to all believers up to the present day. Consider for example King David committed murder and adultery. Under the Law of Moses he was to be put to death. So under what agreement was he forgiven? While being under the curse of the Law, he was also under the covenant of grace. What is called "The New Covenant" is actually a fulfillment of the promise spoken to Abraham, and in this sense the New Covenant precedes the Old.
Thirdly note the concept of "precedent", a concept which is commonly used both by Jesus and the New Testament authors and is even applied in courts of law today. In this case with regards to salvation the precedent of the covenant of grace could not be overridden by the covenant of the law. That is, it was the promise of the imputation of righteousness being a function of faith was prior to the idea of salvation by works.
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.
So the covenant of law did not replace the covenant of grace, but rather was an addition. It was added to make us aware of our sin. For "through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20
Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant while Christ was the mediator of the new. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" 1Tim 2:5 "The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to (the Levitical line of priests) as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises." Heb 8:6 The New Covenant is founded upon promises given to Abraham which are superior to promises given in the law, as those in the law are performance-based instead of faith-based.
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Understand that the debate is over the issue of the means of salvation. The Law makes no provision for salvation - only that Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." (Lev 18:5) But there is no salvation from sin under the law - the sacrifices in the law only having to do with sins of ignorance and ceremonial matters. Thus while the law brings condemnation, it does not bring life. Life comes through the righteousness which is by faith. Thus one does not oppose the other, but complements the other.
"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Rom 3:19-24
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
And we should allow the Law to lead people to Christ. Afterall that's it's purpose. Didn't the ministry of John the Baptist, preaching a baptism of repentance, precede Jesus? And didn't Jesus utilitize the Law in his own ministry to convict people of sin? And doesn't Paul start off his gospel in Romans convicting people of sin? If people are not convicted of sin, neither will they see or understand the relevance of the gospel of Christ to themselves. Like Paul said, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." Rom 7:7 and "in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." Rom 7:13 So let us not under utilize the law in leading people to Christ.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
A person being born of God is preconditioned upon their putting their faith in Christ. Thus it says, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12
"Baptize" does not necessarily refer to water baptism. The word "baptize" simply means to immerse one thing into another. Thus Jesus said, "John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:5 In the case here in Galatians 3:27 Christ is what people are being immersed into. To be baptized into Christ is to be immersed into Christ - belonging to him and inheriting the promise of Abraham given him.
Now if a person belongs to Christ, he should take on his character qualities. Paul writes, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Rom 6:4 The clothes are alluding to the works and attitudes of faith, like Peter said, "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another" 1Peter 5:5 and in Rev 19:8 "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints." But Paul's main point here is that you all wear the same "uniform" - namely Christ. And therefore the next verse....
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The Jewish legalists attempted to give Gentile Christians the sense that they were still outsiders - strangers to the promise, which in fact was the case prior to their becoming Christians as Paul himself wrote, "at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Eph 2:12 But Paul's point is that having become Christians they now do belong, as he said, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." Eph 2:19
Because all Christians equally belong to Christ, regardless of cultural background, gender, social status or the like, the Christian community should be free of prejudice. The legalists may have been arguing that the Gentiles had to become Jews to become Christians. But the fact is that Christians are already Abraham's seed through faith - apart from the Law of Moses. In fact it is the Jewish legalists who are not Abraham's seed and are therefore disqualified from the promise.
Likewise there are alleged "Christians" today who will treat legitimate Christians as if they were still outside the body. Like there are those who may say of those who are not members of their particular denomination that they are not legitimate Christians.
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
What he is referring to by "basic principles or elements of the world" are religious regulations and ceremonial practices upon which a relationship with God was considered contingent. Likewise Paul is saying by analogy when a child is young he too is subject to rules and regulations. In fact young children are subjected to much more restrictions than when they mature. They have very limited freedom. And that's the way it should be for them. Giving too much freedom to children is harmful.
We are now Free
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, <"Abba>, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
When a child comes of age he is given full rights. One of the rights of believers is right to sonship. "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 And we see here, one of the rights of sonships is to receive the Holy Spirit. And indeed a son shows his sonship by behaving in accordance with the spirit of his father. So also with Christians. But in addition to rights and priviledges, he is also released from the rules and regulations that he was formerly subjected to. Thus the Galatians should not view themselves as being subject to those things.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God— or rather are known by God— how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!
What was the measurable sign that the Galatians had been caught up into legalism? It was the fact that they were observing special days and months, seasons and years. It was things like that. They were zealously putting their faith in religious ceremony.
Likewise Paul wrote the Colossians saying, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Col 2:8 and "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—— "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings."Col 2:20-22
When Christians get too much caught up into the observance of religious regulations, it may be indicative that they are being enslaved to legalism and being cheated out of the freedom which is in Christ and as such may not even be in Christ, lacking faith in Christ. And a sign of a legalistic church is one which involves itself in a good deal of ceremony. Faith in ceremony is contrary to faith in Christ. So beware of "sacramental" theology or Sabbatarian theology or the like. You shouldn't view your salvation status as being contingent upon the observance of any religious ceremony.
I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
Likewise, in view of their behavior, Paul exhorted the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 In view of their religious zeal with regards to ceremonial matters, Paul had doubts as to whether these Galatians were genuinely of the faith. So, much as the circumcision was trying to scare the Galatians into legalism, Paul was trying to scare them back into the concept of grace. Funny as it may seem, but their religious zeal may very well be their undoing. Such was the case with the Scribes and Pharisees. They were religously zealous. But their religious zeal would not save them on the judgment day.
Likewise if you're discipling someone, it is not a good sign if they get all religiously zealous over ceremonial matters or over the legalistic practice of the "faith".
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Generally speaking if a person is going to accept the message he also has to accept the messenger. Have you ever notice how two preachers can give the same message and yet some people may accept one and criticize or ignore the other? This is often because they don't respect one of the preachers. In fact if a person doesn't respect you, it may become impossible to teach that person anything, or even so much as to carry on a conversation or debate with such a person. Therefore a number of times throughout Galatians we find Paul either reminding them of the respect they had for him or otherwise trying to gain their respect.
Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.
Sometimes Christians are just too gullible and need to learn to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1John 4:1 On the other hand there are also many Christians today who are too quick to judge and end up committing slander, bearing false witness against their brothers. This is particularly the case when it comes to making accusations concerning "motivations". Often when one person hates another for no good reason, they will make up all kinds of accusations concerning their opposition's motivation without dealing with the actual facts - namely what the person actually says and does. However, as we note in Galatians, Paul deals with his opposition much more objectively, revealing their doctrinal folly, and with regards to their motivation realize that Paul had much experience with such people as he records in chapter two, and so his critique of their motivations has a significant basis.
With respect to "zeal", it says in Prov 19:2 "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." But on the other hand it also says, "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD." Pr 23:17 Or if you'd like contrasting verses in the New Testament on zeal, there's:Rom 10:2 "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." And Rom 12:11 "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." So zeal is good and commendable as long as it is directed appropriately.
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
Paul often expresses his attitude towards his churches as being likened to that of a parent. For example in 1Thess 2:7 he says, "we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." And in 1Thess 2:11 "you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children." His parental attitude is in contrast to that of the circumcision. The circumcision was simply out to promote their cause and as such they didn't really care for the Galatians, in contrast to which parents are concerned for the edification of their children.
Here is a lesson to those involved in ministering. Evaluate your motivation as to whether you're just out to make a name for yourself, your cause, your organization, or whether you would sacrifice it all for the sake of the sheep. Do you care about those you're ministering to as a parent does their children, or is it just a task?
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?
The gullible uncritically believe whatever they hear from leaders they trust without examining the source materials themselves. Those who have been denominationally indoctrinated often exhibit this weakness. But even concerning Paul's teachings the Bereans were commended for their skepticism in examining the scriptures every day to confirm whether what Paul said was scriptural.
Furthermore the gullible often don't consider the implications of their faith, since they lazily rely upon others to think for them. Examine your beliefs and consider whether there are implications you may have overlooked.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. (Genesis 16-18,21)
There's alot of historic content in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. Wouldn't it be nice to learn Biblical principles of application of such passages? From here to the end of chapter 4 we'll see how Paul develops applications from some historic sections of the Bible. And given verse 21, it seems these will be the kind of things he expected the Galatians to infer from the scriptures.
First he starts with historic facts. The two sons he's referring to here are, of course, Ishmael and Isaac. (The Koran actually gets this history backwards in many cases, putting Ishmael in the place of Isaac - A fact from which I'll later infer my own application) Isaac had a promises associate with him, of which Paul has already spoken of.
What are the implications of these facts? Read on.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." (Isaiah 54:1)
Here Paul infers a number of analogies, of which I'll also add a modern
|Covenant of Law||Covenant of Grace|
|from Mt. Sinai (Arabia)||from heaven|
|Present Jerusalem||The New Jerusalem|
|Judaism (Then)||Christianity (Then)|
|Judaism & Islam (Now)||Christianity (Now)|
Islam today has much in common with the legalism Paul was dealing with then. And besides, Muslims themselves identify their origin with Ishmael.
The offspring of the desolate woman are spiritual in nature. Like the
Gentile Galatians were reckoned children of Abraham. Thus even if a Christian
is not married and has no children of their own, they may end up having
more offspring that those who are married.
Gal 4:28,29 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.
One of the primary identifying marks distinguishing children of God from children of the devil is that children of God love their fellow Christians, but children of the devil hate them. (1John 3:10,15) So "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." 1John 3:13,14
This is particularly the case concerning those of a superficial religious
origin. Back then it was the zealous unbelieving Jews persecuting the Christians
(which I remind you was compose of those who believe in Christ - both Jews
and Gentiles). Today this is largely played out in the Muslim's persecution
of Christians, particularly in the Third World - The sons of Ishmael (Muslims)
persecuting the sons of Isaac (Christians).
Gal 4:30,31 But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son." (Gen 21:10) Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
The idea is to not mix yeast in the dough, the yeast being the false teachings of the circumcision. It is the spirit - the idea - of these false teachings which constitute the "slave woman". Her children are those who propagate her ideas, in this case being the group of the circumcision. What Paul is instructing them to do is to not consider their legalistic doctrine to be a part of Christian doctrine, and also to not consider those who propagate such doctrine as being Christians. Such people are not to have a say in the Christian community.
More generally, this is the position concerning cults. While dialogue
may be necessary for the purpose of evangelism, Christians are not to define
their doctrine based upon cults, like Islam. Mohammed is not a prophet
of God, and the "Jesus" of the Islam is not the Biblical Jesus. And Muslims
are to be reckoned unsaved and are not among the children of God. (See
also Islam and the Bible)
Gal 5:1-3 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
The yoke of slavery is the burden of all the rules and regulations associated with the keeping of the law, circumcision being one example. Those who get circumcised for the purpose of fulfiling the law obligate themselves to keep every single rule and regulation of which the law speaks. And by doing so they show that they reject the salvation Christ has provided.
Yet often times Christians get caught up in this same kind of legalism. What are indications you may be a foolish Galatian?
Gal 5:4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
It is not their keeping of the regulations of the law which was the problem. The issue was motivation. The issue was whether they were trying to be justified by law.
Christians who are trying to be justified by law have turned their backs on God's grace as presented in the gospel and as such are no longer considered believers. They have become alienated or estranged from Christ. The Greek phrase Paul uses for "alienated" also shows up in Romans 7 verses2 and 6. Romans 7:2 speaks of being released from marriage after one dies - or as the common phrase goes, "till death do you part". In a twist to Gal 5:4, Rom 7:6 speaks of being aliented from the law, having become dead to it through the body of Christ, much as being release from a binding marriage through death. But here in Gal 5:4, the Christian's status is reckoned as being alienated from (or dead to) Christ, just as any unbeliever. Such a status is that of the unsaved.
Jesus spoke of people falling away in his parable of the sower. As a sower sowed, "Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." Mat 13:5,6 Jesus described such people as, "The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." Mat 13:20,21
Such people have a superficial faith. Their faith is too shallow to endure through trials. And while Jesus spoke of the trials of persecution, there are many kinds of trials and temptations which cause such people to fall. These Galatians were shallow in their faith in that they had not seriously considered the implications of their faith and so were open to false teachings.
Gal 5:5,6 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Faith in Christ, including faith that it is Christ's death and not the law which saves, is the prerequisite for the salvation offered in the gospel. But how is faith expressed? Indeed there are inevitably outworkings of faith. If not, then such "faith" is merely alleged and not real. Alleged "Christians" with such superficial faith are unsaved.
The primary way Christian faith is expressed is through love of fellow Christians. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Joh 13:35
But what is the "righteousness" for which we hope? Are we not reckoned righteous, having had our sins forgiven? Indeed. But what Paul is referring to is a time when we will be perfectly sinless, such that we no longer commit any sin - sin having been completely removed from us. For while being born of God has a significant impact on our behavior, there is yet a greater state of righteousness for which we eagerly await.
Gal 5:7-9 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." (Luke 13:21)
Here Paul applies one of the parables - The
Parable of the Leaven - in which Jesus said,
"What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:20,21 And likewise Paul interprets this as a negative connotation in 1Cor 5:6-8 where the Corinthians were proud of their toleration of a sinning Christian brother. "Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast— as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth."
Gal 5:10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.
It's a bit of a paradox here. Previously Paul expressed doubt saying, for example, "how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!" Gal 4:20 Or "I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." Gal 4:11 But I think he means is "In light of what I've written, I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view."
The elect often reveal themselves by the way they respond to correction. It's inevitable that those who are Jesus' will follow Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:27, along with the voice of his apostles, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us." 1John 4:6 We need correction to maintain a proper walk, but we must also beware of false shepherds who would falsely "correct" us off the right path.
Paul shows little sympathy for false teachers here, and such is generally the case throughout the New Testament. Thus James warns, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James 3:1
Gal 5:11 "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished."
What was so offensive about the message of the cross? Elsewhere Paul writes, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1Cor 1:18 And "we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles"1Cor 1:23
One reason the message of the cross is offensive is because it calls us to abandon any reliance upon religious ritualism for salvation. And that may be particularly offensive to the religious elite, like among those of Islam for example, who end up losing constituents. In contrast, the message of circumcision is, "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 But you could just as well turn that into the general statement,"Unless you are _____________, according to the custom taught by ________, you cannot be saved." That's one aspect of the message of legalism.
Gal 5:12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
While Paul's expressing his anger at those false teachers, he's also being humurous here. Circumcision is the cutting off of the foreskin of the penis. (You probably never guessed you run into the word "penis" in a Bible study guide!) Well what Paul was saying was that if they thought that circumcision was such a big deal, if indeed God has made salvation contingent upon cutting off a piece of skin, then why don't they just cut their penis off altogether!
This is not simply an insult, it's part of his persuasive argument showing the message of circumcision to be completely foolish. It might be interesting to think about how Paul might have phrased this for other legalistic groups. Like for those who teach that you have to get wet to get saved, I wonder if he would have said, "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and drown themselves!" Or how might you apply this to other examples of legalism?
Gal 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Bondage to legalism promotes hatred for one another. Islam is the more extreme example, but even within Christendom those denominations or individuals with legalistic leanings tend to characteristically display illegitimate contempt for fellow Christians. In contrast love can be more freely exercised among those who are free from legalism. We see this principle in Jesus' ministry where he freely ministered to sinners and healed on the Sabbath, while the legalists not only abstained from such things, but criticized him for doing so.
However on the flip side one can go to the opposite extreme in which one views freedom in Christ as a license to sin. Likewise Peter writes, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." 1Peter 2:16 So feel free to serve.
Gal 5:14 The entire law is summed up in
a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
There's an important distinction between following the spirit of the law - which is love - and following legalism which puts one in bondage to rules and regulations. By placing emphasis on rules and regulations over that of love, Legalism often comes at odds with the very purpose of the law. This was often a source of conflict between Jesus and the religious elite of his day.
So consider what rules and regulations you may have in your life and whether they are promoting love for your neighbor or hindering it. Does you practice of your religion in any way get in the way of loving your neighbor as yourself?
As for who is your neighbor, see the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Gal 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
When people abandon the principle of love, they end up destroying the community. Today Iraq is an example of this - factions of the legalistic Islamic religion abandoning love and killing one another. One would hope this wouldn't occur in the Christian community, but it does to some extent.
But understand that Paul is not speaking about the roles of shepherding - criticizing, correcting, exhorting as we see Paul doing throughout this letter. Rather who does the biting and devouring? Not the Shepherd; not the sheep; but the wolves. There were wolves among the Christian community there, and some of the Galatians were going along with them, acting in the part of wolves. In John 10 Jesus also compares wolves to thiefs of whom he says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" John 10:10
Furthermore the word "destroy" in Gal 5:15 more literally means "consumed" or "used up", which points to the fact that when people fight to defend their legalistic opinions, they waste alot of energy that could have been used to promote love. And likewise when combatting legalism, don't let the battle consume your love for fellow Christians.
Gal 5:16,17 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
The "sinful nature" is contained in the body of flesh into which we are born which provokes us to sin. Paul describes his own struggle with his sinful nature in Romans 7 where he personifies the sinful nature as he does here speaking of it as having its own desires contrary to the Spirit which lives in us, and we are caught inbetween the two constantly struggling to chose one over the other. Consequently good intentions are not always translated into perfectly good actions, and in everything we do sin is not absent, as Paul said, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." Rom 7:18-20
However, by walking in the Spirit we will not fulfil all that the sinful nature desires. The word "gratify" is the word "teleo" which is "to finish". Thus the sinful nature is kept in check by walking in accordance with and submission to the Spirit.
Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
Afterall, law is made for those who need rules and regulations to limit the behavior of those who lack love for others. But the spirit of the law is love, and those led by the Holy Spirit will be led into the way of love, and as such don't need law. For the law becomes part of their nature and as such are over the law rather than under it.
"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation— but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Rom 8:12-14
Gal 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul offers no sense of eternal security for those Christians living a lifestyle of sin. Likewise he says elsewhere, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 And "of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person— such a man is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Eph 5:5,6
It's unfortunate that these days some of the Christian community has abandoned such warnings - both by way of preaching and practice. Ironically these ideas are often treated as legalism in those communities which view freedom in Christian as a license to sin and who are of the opinion that there is not necessarily any correlation between a person's behavior and his salvation status.
Gal 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These are but some of the effects of the Spirit. Ironically this list is often used by worldly Christians in a legalistics attempt to misjudge others. For if a Christian behaves as Jesus did in the gospels and as Paul does here in Galatians, they may be accused of lacking these characteristics. So to clear up such a misunderstanding, these terms are supposed to be understood in the light of the behavior of Jesus and his apostles who are the standard to follow, in contrast to that of the world's view shallow view of these concepts. So if the world has confused you as to what constitutes appropriate behavior and attitude for the Christian, follow the examples of Jesus and Paul in word and deed to the best you can.
Secondly the word "fruit" here is singular. That is, the fruit of the Spirit is not any one of these in particular, but all together. So if a person portrays one of these attitudes without the others, such is not the fruit of the Spirit.
Gal 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Likewise Paul writes, "if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." Rom 8:13 This is not something which passively occurs for the Christian, but rather something in which the Christian has actively involved himself. For in Gal 5:24 who does the crucifying? Those who belong to Christ.
If you belong to Christ you will break your allegience with your sinful nature with its passions and desires and reckon it your enemy. And so the rest of your life will be lived at odds with your sinful nature. Thus one has to constantly evaluate whether particular passions and desires which surface are due to the sinful nature, in which case they are to be discarded, or to the Spirit. That's part of the Christian life.
Gal 5:25,26 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
To keep in step with the Spirit first of all means that we're going to have to let the Spirit lead and we humbly follow. "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Rom 8:14 This puts us in a role subordinate to the Spirit, in contrast to which are the conceited and those envying others, who have taken their eyes off of Christ. "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:16
Gal 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
That is, if someone's sin had been hidden, but is found out, then restore that one gently. In contrast to that are those who blatantly and openly sin, being proud of it, like the Christian of 1Cor 5 who was sleeping his mother in law. Paul didn't deal gently with him, but rather handed the man over to Satan for discipline.
Those who are overly legalistic may also tend to be overly harsh in dealing with their fellow Christians concerning every matter, so that when they catch a fellow Christian in sin they are tempted to overreact with harshness, and by doing so they themselves sin.
Gal 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Realize that in a few verses Paul will also say, that "each one should carry his own load." So what he is saying here is with regards to loads which are too burdensome for oneself alone. For "each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Php 2:4
The law of Christ is to love one another as he said in John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Paul mentioned this kind of thing also Gal 5:14 as being the summary of the law. Something for legalists to consider.
Gal 6:3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
The selflessness alluded to in the previous verse is really contingent upon the humility which Paul alludes to in this verse. Notice also in Php 2:3-4 the relationship between humility and a selfless concern for others:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.Humility is the most essential of character qualities in the Christian life upon which all other character qualities are contingent.
But with legalism one tends to exalt the teaching and traditions of man. Thus denominational doctrines and denominational leaders become overinflated, and allegiances to such become a matter of pride and a unnecessary source of conflict within the Christian community.
Better in fact to make nothing of oneself than to make something of oneself. Consider Jesus, for example, he made nothing of himself. Php 2: 5-8 "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" Or consider what John the Baptist said concerning his ministry, "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30 So let not denominational differences overshadow what Christ is doing in his Church.
Gal 6:4,5 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Legalists have a tendency to judge others over issues of which Christians are free to act in accordance with their own conscience. Paul speaks of this application in Romans saying:
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Rom 14:1-5So when it comes to judgment, let a Christian firstly apply it to himself. Examine yourself as to whether and to what degree you are fulfilling your personal responsibilities in living the Christian life, and whether you are bearing your own load, or unnecessarily burdening others with what you should be taking personal responsiblity for.
Thus Paul evaluated himself saying, "Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God." 2Cor 1:12
Gal 6:6 Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
What Paul might be alluding to here is the idea of providing instructors with some kind of financial compensation. A couple of times in scripture he invoked Deut 24:4 to support this principle, and also mentioned of the "Lord's command" with respect to this idea.
1Co 9:9-14 For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." (Deut 25:4) Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
Though he taught this principle, Paul and Barnabus did not actually exercise their right for financial compensation as it may have hindered the gospel in doing so. He also mentions this principle in 1Tim with regards to church elders.
1Tim 5:17,18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (Deut 25:4)
The double honor being respect and financial compensation.
As for us at the Berean Christian Bible Study Resources, we follow Paul's example and do not exercise this right. And we encourage fellow teachers and preachers of the Word to follow Paul's example so that they can speak as Paul did to the elders in Acts 20 saying, "I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" Acts 20:33-35
Gal 6:7,8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
In other words, there are inevitable consequences to how we invest ourselves. Our time, our energy, our efforts all will reap some kind of fruit. There are those who mock God saying, "See I sinned and there were no immediate consequences." You may not see the effect right away, but you will bear fruit. So the question is, what kind of fruit or effect would you like to see coming from your life? If we invest ourselves in satisfying the cravings of our sinful flesh, the effects will be destructive. But if we invest ourselves in spiritual matters, the effects will lead to eternal life - and not just for ourselves.
Gal 6:9,10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
If you persist in doing good, you will inevitably bear good fruit. This is a principle you can count on. So look for opportunities to do good, and not just to believers but to all people, and in the name of Jesus "who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."Titus 2:14
But why does Paul say "especially to those who belong to the family of believers"? This is the priority in the Christian life. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34,35 He wasn't speaking of loving others in generally here, but rather this commandment was specifically referring to loving fellow Christians. So when considering what good you can do, consider firstly what you might do for fellow believers.
Gal 6:11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
Paul is not referring to the length of his epistle to the Galatians but rather to the size of the characters he's making in his own handwriting. So why is his handwriting so large? And what relevance does that have to the Galatians?
One speculation I've come across is that when he first entered Galatia he contracted an eye disease known as opthalmia the symptoms of which gave one a repulsive appearance. This may well explain his comment in Gal 4:15 where he says, "I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."
Here Paul is reminded them they had received him despite his outward appearance. The relevance will become evident when viewed in conjuction with the next verse.
Gal 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Paul previously reminded the Galatians that they had not received him on the basis of outward appearance. In fact they received him in spite of his outward appearance. In contrast, the false teachers are shallow. They just trying to make a good showing in the flesh, and were primarily concerned for the things of the flesh like circumcision.
As to their motivation, the cult leaders were trying to introduce a version of Christianity which would be more palatable for legalistic Jews - a version which excluding the preaching of the cross. Remember Paul previously noted, "Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished." Gal 5:11
"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1Cor 1:18So don't water down the message of the cross. And if you're preaching the gospel correctly, you inevitably will offend certain people. That's the way it's supposed to be.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." 2Tim 3:12,13
Gal 6:13,14 Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Hypocrisy is common among legalists. Jesus pointed this out in Matthew 23:13-33, as did Paul in Romans 2:17-24.
The circumcision was looking for an endorsement by the Galatian Christians. But from the beginning of this epistle Paul noted that he sought no such endorsement, not even from the apostles. Rather from personal conviction he preached the cross of Christ - the significance of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, which brings salvation. Thus he likewise said to the Corinthians
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." 1Cor 2:1,2
Gal 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
Likewise Paul writes, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"2Cor 5:17 And Jesus said, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3:3 Rituals done to the flesh neither save nor sanctify. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." John 3:6 Or as Paul said in Gal 3:3 "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (NKJV) So those born of the Spirit follow the spirit of the law rather than necessarily following the letter of the law. "For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2Cor 3:6b
Gal 6:16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
And what is the rule but to walk by the Spirit. The "Israel of God" walk in this manner. The group of the circumcision, though they were Jews by birth, were not part of the "Israel of God". For they did not walk in accordance with this principle. "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel." Rom 9:6 And "man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code." Rom 2:29
Gal 6:17,18 Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
Paul had proven his allegience to the message of the cross suffering as Christ did in bearing the reproach of his enemies, being stigmatized by them, and suffering physically for the sake of the ministry. In 2Cor he makes a similar comparision between himself and false apostles (probably also of the circumcision), by saying,"
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." 2Cor 11:22-28Consider what you have suffered for Christ and what you are willing suffer.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Edition: Jul 29,2015