Galatians 5 – Called to Liberty

Jesus came to set us free. In John 8 Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 33, 36). As we begin Galatians 5, we’ll see this same theme. Let’s look at five questions as we go through this chapter.

 

Are You Standing?

“For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (v. 1). Paul goes on to say that it makes no difference if a person is circumcised or not. His point being that works do not get us to Heaven. Are you standing in Christ and His finished work on the cross or are you trusting in your own good works? Paul is telling them not to focus on being moral, religious, spiritual, or good. Focus on Jesus because the closer you get to Him, He makes you spiritual, moral, and good. He changes you. It’s not about you being good. It’s about Him being good. It’s not about you pleasing God. It’s about Him pleasing God. It’s not about what you can do. It’s about what He can do through and in you. Stand firm in what He’s already accomplished! Stand on the words of Jesus – “It is finished.”

 

Are You Falling?

“You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace” (v. 4). Falling from grace does not mean you lose your salvation. Hell is not mentioned in this context. It means they went back to the law. It means they have substituted regulations for a relationship. Alienated means to become distant. The Bible warns us of the danger of backsliding. It speaks of backsliding, being lukewarm, and losing your first love. It is possible for a believer to turn back. We have all heard stories and know of people who quit. The Christian life is pictured here as running a race. One day you will die and cross the finish line. Make sure you finish well.

 

Are You Running?

Paul tells the Galatians, “You were running well. Who prevented you from being persuaded regarding the truth?” (v. 7). We’ve all seen Christians who get off course on doctrine. That’s what’s happened here. Someone cut in on them and cut them off. Someone hindered their progress. Maybe you were running well but something happened. Maybe you believed a false teaching. Maybe someone disappointed you or other professing Christians turned you off. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus not other people! People will let us down. False teachers will come and teach things contradictory to what the Bible says. That’s why it’s so important that we know the truth!

 

Are You Serving?

In verse 13, Paul says we are to use our freedom to serve one another through love. We don’t want to do anything that would hurt others or hinder the work of God. We want to help others and honor the work of God. Don’t use your freedom to sin, but use your freedom to serve. Think about it – This is how you have a good marriage. This is how you have good relationships. Joy is not found in others serving you, but in you serving others. Love motivates us to serve. Are you serving others or yourself?

 

Are You Walking?

Paul concludes this section reminding them to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh (v. 16-17). The struggle is real! In Romans 7, Paul says, “I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate… For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v.15-24). There is only one person who put death in its place!  You don’t have an alcohol, drug, addiction, gossip, pride, pornography, lust, jealousy, selfishness problem, you have a Jesus problem. We need Jesus! Being right with God is not about trying harder but in trusting Jesus. Are you walking in the Spirit or trying to do things on your own?

 

 

 

Galatians 4: Adopted by God

In chapter 3 we saw that Father Abraham had many sons! Jews and Gentiles are sons of Abraham by faith not works. When we put our faith in God, He adopts us into His family.

 

Who You Are

Paul begins chapter 4 reminding the Galatians of their identity. “When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (v.4-5). The Father sent the Son, all God and all man, to purchase us from the orphanage of sin. God purchased us to redeem us, to set us free, to adopt us as His own son or daughter. He is a good, good father! If you have put your faith in Jesus, you need to remember who you are. You are not who the devil says you are. You are not who your past says you are. Everyone has a past. Maybe you were bound by religion, drugs, alcohol, one bad relationship after another. Don’t allow the past to control your present or ruin your future. Jesus was born under the law and He kept the law. He did what you and I cannot do. I am redeemed, forgiven, free, and my past is under the blood, in Christ. He accepts us and adopts us not based on our weight, height, beauty, intellect, or anything we do or don’t possess, but based on the finished work of His Son Jesus.

 

What You Have

“So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir” (v. 7). Everything you have been searching for and more is found in Jesus. Look at some of the differences between a son and a slave, and notice all that we have as sons of God. A son has a father. A slave has a master. I would crawl up in my father’s arms, sit on his lap in his embrace. Maybe you see God as a cruel master who is making life hard on you just barking out orders. It may be that you had a bad earthly father and it messed up your view of God. Christianity is about a relationship not rules. A son loves. A slave rebels. I wanted to please my dad. I wanted to please my grandfather. Rules without a relationship only leads to rebellion. A son is driven by devotion. A slave is driven by duty. A son loves to go to work. It is the family business. A slave hates to go to work. He has to go to work. He hates his job. If you view the commandments of God and prayer like bondage, it means that you don’t love him. You have the heart of a slave. God wants you to have the heart of a son. He isn’t just after obedience, He wants you to obey with joy! A son is rich. A slave is poor. My grandfather and I were always working outside, but I remember on rainy days we would sing hymns together by the fire. One of his favorites was A Child of the King, which talks about all that we have because of all that our Father has. You don’t have to be a slave to dead religion, to your past, to the opinions of others, or to sin. Realize what you have in Jesus. Everything Christ has we have because we are coheirs with Him (Rom. 8:17).

 

Where You Are Going

In verse 9 Paul asks the Galatians, “How can you turn back again?” Everyone is either going forward or backward. You can’t live life looking in a rearview mirror. In verses 22-24 Paul references Sarah and Hagar. Hagar’s son Ishmael was born through the power of the flesh, but Sarah’s son Isaac was born through the power of the promise God had given. The Apostle Paul is saying that turning back to the law is like attempting to fulfill the promise of God through the flesh. In verse 27 he goes on to say Sarah will be more fruitful than Hagar. God chose the one with no potential to accomplish his promise. That is the good news of the gospel. God doesn’t need any potential from you to work His miracle in you. You may come from the most jacked-up past, your resume may be one failure after another, but God can still bring about his promise in you. The gospel is not, “Change and I’ll accept you.” The gospel is “Admit that you are a sinner in need of change and I will accept you and adopt you into my family.”

 

With Christ, we can wait with confident hope, knowing the same God who worked miracles for Abraham and Sarah will work miracles in and through us. We can confidently know who we are, what we have, and where we are going, because we have been adopted into His family.

 

 

 

Galatians 3 – Justification by Faith

As we continue through Galatians 3, Paul continues to elaborate on the true Gospel. The key verse is verse 11: “Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.” The just shall live by faith. We are saved by grace and not by works.

 

Personal Experience

Salvation was meant to be personal. It is not about your parents’ or grandparents’ religion. It is about a personal relationship with God. In verses 1-4, Paul calls the Galatians out for turning to dead religion, versus a living relationship. They started out under grace but were guilty of backsliding into legalism. He reminds them that it was before their eyes that “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” They saw Jesus for themselves. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. They received the Spirit not by keeping the law, but by believing in Jesus. The real evidence of salvation is the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Humanly speaking, it takes a dad and mom, male and female, for a child to be conceived and born. Spiritually speaking, it takes the Spirit of God and the Word of God for a person to be born again. We could never do enough works to save ourselves. Paul reminds the Galatians of their story – they did not receive the Spirit by keeping the law. They received the Spirit when they believed.

 

Biblical Examples

After reminding the Galatians of their own salvation experience, Paul then turns to the Scriptures. We should never judge the Bible based on our experience. We judge our experience based on the Bible. The Judaizers wanted to go back to Moses, but Paul takes them back even further. Abraham, who lived over 430 years before the law was even given (v. 17), believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (v. 6). In verse 10 Paul says that “all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed.” Why was the law given in the first place? To create the frustration so we would see our need for Christ. It informs us of our sin, it does not save us from our sin. The law is not cafeteria-style; we can’t pick and choose. We have to keep all of it and breaking even one commandment makes us guilty. We are all guilty! The good news is that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (v. 13). Jesus purchased our freedom. Jesus paid a high price to redeem us. Grace is free but it was not cheap. Our debt was not just forgiven. It was paid. “For if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law.” (v. 21). But as we’ve seen with Abraham, God’s plan is based on a promise, not the law. God made a promise to Abraham (Abraham did not make any promises to God), before the law was given. The law did not invalidate that promise (v. 17). God’s plan is based on Him and what He’s done, not on us and what we do. No one can obey enough, give enough, be baptized enough, take the Lord’s Supper enough, or work enough to be saved.

 

Relational Equality

Justification by faith is seen also in relational equality. Paul closes out the chapter saying, “through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 26). The law created distinctions and differences, but Jesus came to unite not divide. Race (Jew or Greek), social status (slave or free), gender (male and female) are distinctions under the law that are made one in Christ (v. 28). We are all equally children of God.  There is no hierarchy. Think about your own children. You love your sons and daughters equally. The last verse of the chapter says, “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (v. 29). The law could not make you an heir, but the promise can. It is not about what we have to do to be saved, but about how much Jesus has done! Salvation is a free gift.

 

In conclusion, justification by faith is seen in:

  • Personal Experience – You receive the Holy Spirit by believing, not by keeping the law. Have you received the Holy Spirit?
  • Biblical Examples – 430 years before Moses gave the law, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?
  • Relational Equality – We are all one in Christ Jesus. The law cannot change the human heart and tear down racial and social barriers, but Jesus can. We are family! Are you a part of God’s family?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galatians 2 – Freedom in Christ

Last week, in Galatians 1, we saw that there was another gospel that was being taught to the Galatians, even though there is only one true gospel. The true gospel is about a relationship. The false gospel is about rules.  In chapter 2, we will see the effects of the true gospel and freedom in Christ.

 

Creates Unity

Paul begins chapter 2 explaining how he met privately with the leaders of the church to be sure he had not been running in vain (v. 3). He explains, “false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in ChristJesus in order to enslave us” (v. 5). Wherever Paul went, false teachers followed, trying to create unrest in the church and discredit his message and ministry. Paul had a private meeting with church leaders. He wanted a united front before he went to the whole assembly. Paul said we are all running a race and we need to be sure we are on the right track, headed in the right direction.

 

It was clear to the leaders that Titus was saved but had never been circumcised. Circumcision had lost its spiritual meaning. It was something external their parents did for them. Baptism today is an outward expression of an inward conversion. It loses meaning if it is only something outward that your parents did for you as a baby. It has to be personal. In the New Testament people believed and were baptized, in that order. Verse 6 is clear that “God does not show favoritism.” There is no Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised. God is looking for faithful servants. Every member in God’s family is important, accepted, loved, and called to minister to different people. “Remember the poor” (v. 10) is the practical application.

 

Confronts Hypocrisy

In verses 11-14 Paul explains that he confronted Peter over his hypocrisy. Peter was eating pork with Gentiles until Jews came from Jerusalem. He gave in to peer pressure.At every age there is the pressure to give in, compromise, and go along. Do you have any hypocrisy in your life? Do you act one way on Sunday and another on Monday? One way at home and another on a business trip? Paul confronts Peter to his face. He did not say it behind his back. If you have something to say, say it to the person’s face. We are all accountable to one another. Your lifestyle has a ripple effect. Even Barnabas was influenced.

 

Jesus fulfilled the law.  When he died, the temple veil was torn. The wall between Jew and Gentile has been removed.  To go back to the law is to rebuild what Jesus tore down. Peter himself said in Acts 15 that we are to put no difference between “us” and “them,” but he was acting like there was a difference. The truth is there is only one race, God is the giver of all gifts and talents, He determines where and when you were born, and we are all sinners, dead spiritually apart from Jesus.

 

Cultivates Maturity

In the final verses of this chapter, Paul recaps the truth. Salvation is not found in the law, but in Jesus. Justification is an act of God. At the moment of salvation God declares the sinner righteous, from then on, in Jesus. The guilty is declared not guilty!No believer is more justified than another. If a person could be justified by works, why would God send Jesus to die on the cross? There is a constant battle between the old nature we were born with and the new nature given to us at salvation. We are free in Christ, NOT to do anything we want to do, but to live for Jesus. We are set apart for His purposes.

 

What is the crucified life? The exchanged life? Jesus takes all our sin and gives us all His righteousness.  Jesus takes all our weakness and gives us His strength. In order to live, we have to die. In order to receive, we have to give. In order to be first, we must be last. That is living the crucified life. False teachers have always tried to add somethingto the gospel. Only the true Gospel saves!

 

Galatians 1 – The Gospel

This Sunday, we started a new series in Galatians. I love to walk through books of the Bible and I’m so excited about this one. Martin Luther said Galatians was his epistle. If he could marry a book of the bible this would be his bride. Galatia is modern-day Turkey. Paul went there, started churches, and raised up leaders. Then, false teachers came preaching another gospel. There is only one gospel – the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  In the first two chapters, the word “gospel” is used 10 times.

 

God’s Story

From the very beginning of the book, Paul makes it clear that the gospel is God’s story. In verse 1 he says that he’s an apostle “not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.” In verse 4 he says Jesus “gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Christ died for our sins. He was buried and rose on the third day!  Salvation is about God rescuing us. We are born dead in our sins and God brings us from death to life. The only thing we contribute to salvation is that we did all the sinning. Jesus did all the saving! It is not of works less anyone should boast.

 

In verses 6-7 Paul is shocked that the churches were turning away from this truth. He says, “…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” (v. 8).  Again, there is only one gospel! Mormons teach that an angel appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him the book of Mormon. Muslims teach that an angel appeared to Mohamed and gave him the Koran. God knew these things would come, so he had Paul write this verse long before it happened! The other gospel the false teachers were preaching was turning from grace to law, from relationship to rules. The Judaizers said, “We believe in Jesus, but Jesus is not enough.” They were saying that people needed Jesus plus something, grace plus works. In this case, Jesus plus circumcision.

 

How do you get to God? Go to the first story in the Bible. In Genesis 2 and 3, we read about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam and Eve that they were free to eat of any tree, but not of that one. Satan deceived them into to thinking they would be like God if they ate from it. The fake gospel focuses on YOU. The real gospel focuses on GOD.  Today, we can get into the mindset, “Real Christians do this and don’t do that.” There is nothing wrong with rules and standards. Rules are good. You GO on green and STOP on red. But, rules are not the heart of the Gospel.  Rules are not the focus. Jesus is the focus. It is not about measuring up, but on what Jesus has already done. His last words were not, “I got it started, now you go finish it.”  His last words were, “It is finished.” Jesus is the only way to God.

 

Paul’s Story

In verses 11-20, Paul shares the message that changed his life. He told his story – his former life, how he met Jesus, and how his life changed. You can be raised in church but not raised in Christ. Paul was religious, but he was dead spiritually. Then, Paul realized that God had a plan for his life from the womb! Jesus taught him and used others to disciple him. All the world religions are about human achievement. The gospel of Jesus is about divine accomplishment. DO vs DONE! Paul had been in legalism and he knew it leads to death. Jesus came to set the captives free.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  What the gospel did for Paul, it can do for you.

 

Your Story

Paul closes this chapter saying that people heard his story and glorified God. When is the last time you told your story? Do you have a salvation story? You have no power to save yourself and no power to live the Christian life. Trust in Jesus alone. Say, “God I am all in! I trust you alone to save my soul.”