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Category Archives: Galatians

Ephesians 2 – Peace Perfect Peace

In my Bible I have 11 words boxed to highlight what the first 10 verses are talking about. “You were dead…but…God…made us alive…in Christ Jesus.” You were dead in your transgressions and sins. You had no power. You had no placement. You had no purity. You followed the lusts of your flesh and we were right there with you following the sinful nature. By nature we are objects of wrath. We are all in need of Christ to bring us into power, placement, and purity. This is not something that we can come to ourselves but only through grace in Christ do we come to this. There is nothing we do that brings us to this point. It is only through Christ. What does this mean for baptism? Is this a work that we do to be saved? By no means. The water of baptism is where God is working through Christ. We do nothing but submit to God’s work in Christ through this baptism. Sometimes we talk too much about baptism being something we do when it is something that is done to us. We need to be careful about our language to be true to God’s Word and what He is doing in us.

We are fellow citizens in the Kingdom because of Christ. We find our placement here. We find our identity here. Nothing should divide what Christ has brought together. No politics. No race. No nationality. No economics. Nothing should divide what Christ has brought together. If Christ has brought all people together in His Kingdom, who are we to put dividers in place? Christ preached peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near. Who do you need to reconcile with and bring about this reality of peace that Christ has brought us to?

 
 

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Galatians 6 – Let the Cross Be Your Identity Marker

Restore sinful Brothers and Sisters gently

Carry each other’s burdens – This fulfills the law of Christ

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you are something.

Test your own actions – We often are only concerned with the actions of others.

God cannot be mocked…this is a good reminder. You’re doing to reap what you sow. Let’s be careful here. This is not some kind of pseudo-Christian Karma thing. You will not receive payment for every bad thing you’ve done. Christ took care of that on the cross. That being said, if you sow to please the sinful nature you will reap destruction. Sow to please the Spirit and you will reap eternal life. In short…know what you’re planting!

I have always found verse 11 humorous as far as our translations go. Couldn’t Zondervan have bumped the font size up a few notches or something? Paul here makes a final push to keep them from being lead astray from their identity in Christ to be circumcised and identified as a Jew.

These people are pushing circumcision because it is what distinguishes the Jews as Jews. Rome allowed the Jews to practice their religion and did not force them to practice the state cult. If Christianity didn’t do the specific things that distinguished them as Jews they would most likely be persecuted. In case you were wondering how they knew if you were circumcised or not…they looked.

The things that mark you as different from others have lost their meaning. Your skin color, economic status, political affiliation, nationality, etc. have no value in the Kingdom of God. The only thing worth boasting about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified through him and no longer has any meaning. What matters then? Moving beyond all of those things into the New Creation. What things do you need to put on the cross?

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Bible Blog, Galatians

 

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Galatians 5 – Under Law and a Learning Exercise

Paul starts this section by talking about the problems that continue to be caused by those insisting that circumcision is necessary for salvation.  The argument is essentially this, “Either you are free from the law or you aren’t.  Quit trying to have it both ways.”  You see, some Jews were teaching that Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to come into God’s Kingdom, but they understood and celebrated that they were set free from the law.  Paul wants them to understand that they can’t simply pick and choose which parts of a failed system they want to apply to their lives and the lives (and bodies) of those around them.  Be consistent and realize that God has done away with all of the old divisions, all of the old requirements and all of the junk that used to bind us.  We are free in Christ!  Quit trying to enslave each other as if Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t set you fully free.  When you deny the cross has this power you deny grace and the power of the cross!

And then Paul does the same thing he always does after discussing freedom in Christ or the passing of the law.  He talks about the new system that we choose to live under as Christian.  Just because the law is gone, doesn’t mean you can pull out the 10 Commandments and turn the violation of these laws into your New Year’s Resolution list.  You can’t turn freedom in Christ into an orgy.  Then Paul goes and lists the things that don’t belong to Christian living.  If your life is full of these actions and this is what you are producing, then you have missed the point and are in danger of destruction.  Instead, Paul lists the nine characteristics produced by Christian living: self-control, gentleness, kindness, love, joyfulness, peacefulness, goodness, and faithfulness.

Did you see what I did there?  When I listed the fruits of the spirit I put them out of order.  It hopefully made you slow down and read them.  There are some things in life that we are so used to being in the order we know them to be in that we can simply skim them when we approach the list.  Here, take this exercise for example.

Which letter of the alphabet is missing from this sequence?

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n p q r s t u v w x y z

Now tell me which letter is missing from the letters listed below.

s d r t a z f c u v m w i j x l o p

It’s more challenging, isn’t it?  Now most of you can probably list the nine fruit of the spirit.  But can you quickly tell me which one is missing from the characteristics I mentioned in the paragraph above (Did you notice I left one out)?

It’s easy to skim over the things we know the best.  Ironically, it often means that knowing them the best means paying attention to them the least.  So actually take a moment to think about the nine fruit of the Spirit and assess how much you demonstrate those characteristics that show how God is working in your life.  Just because you know it doesn’t mean you life it.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Galatians, Pauline Epistles

 

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Galatians 4 – Sons of God, Birthed into Christ

We ended last week’s blog with Paul’s call to end race/sex/class-ism because we are all united in Christ as one people. This ongoing theme throughout Galatians comes to a climax that our identity is wrapped up in being “sons of God.” Anything else in our identity is secondary to this reality. We allow so many things to divide us because we forget about our sonship in Christ. We have His Spirit in us and we have the privilege of inheritance.

With the establishment of our sonship, Paul then transitions to our conversion from slavery to freedom. If you identify yourself with something other than Christ then you are a slave to it and not free in Christ. People will come along and try and win you to their cause and make you slaves because what you have decided to follow are mere idols and not truly God. Being zealous is great but make sure it is for God. I love Paul’s language in this middle section. He is in the pains of childbirth till Christ is formed in them. This is a passion we need to strive for in our dealings with new Christians. Too often we have babes in Christ born into His Church that we allow to go malnourished and often allow to die.

He then moves into some offensive imagery. It took me a while to realize how offensive he is being in the final section of this chapter but he basically says that the Jews are sons of Hagar (sons of Ishmael) and those who follow Christ are sons of Sarah (sons of Isaac), sons of the promise. Get rid of the slave woman who brings you down and cling to your mother, the Jerusalem from above.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Bible Blog, Galatians, Pauline Epistles

 

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Galatians 3 – Abraham’s Many Kids

Understanding Terms and Phrases

Okay, so this passage is loaded with ancient Jewish stuff.  So here’s a few things you need to know about Galatians 3 as it might have been read by a Jew in Paul’s time.

  • Abraham is the Patriarch of Israel, who was understood to be God’s chosen people.
  • Children of Abraham is a phrase that everyone would understand to mean Israelites (or Judah)
  • God Promised Abraham that he would have many descendants, becoming a great nation.  He promised him the land of Canaan.  He promised that Abraham’s seed would become a blessing to all the nations of the earth.
  • To be a good “Child of Abraham” you were expected to live according to the law and obediently toward God.

Now, Paul is going to take those understanding and terms and  turn them on their head by using a very scriptural and Jewish approach.

  • God declared that Abraham was made righteous because of his faith.  (Rather than being made righteous by the law which came centuries later).
  • Therefore, true children of Abraham aren’t genetically like him, but they are faithfully like him.  So a Gentile with Abraham’s faith is more his child than an Israelite without faith.
  • The seed of Abraham is now a blessing to all the nations because Jesus has opened access to God’s Kingdom to people from every nation through his death on the cross.
  • So now all of you in the church in Galatia who have been baptized are now children of Abraham and children of God.
  • These children of Abraham and children of God (by faith and faith alone) are the true recipients of God’s blessing and inheritance (not Israel).
  • Christians are now God’s Holy Nation and a Priestly People.  We are to be in the world, but not of the world.  We should be reflecting God to the world and be reflecting the world to God.  The church now has taken on the vocation that once was unique to Israel.

Paul’s ultimate conclusion to this argument is that this transformation and new understanding of what Christ’s sacrifice means for the “children of Abraham” has brought about an end to division, racism, sexism and prejudice.  There is no Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free, for you are all one in Christ.

That’s pretty powerful stuff.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Galatians, Pauline Epistles

 

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Galatians 2 – What Makes You Better Than Everyone Else?

There are a few major practices that they Jews did that set themselves apart from the rest of the world. Two major practices were circumcision and their table practices. One of the biggest problems in the early church was that the Jews wanted the non-Jews to take part in these practices to make them set apart like they are as Jews. Righteousness comes through Christ and our identity is found in him, not in our practices.

It is easy to ignore these practices when you are in the minority. When your Jewish friends show up you are tempted then to segregate yourself from people who are not like you to distinguish with your friends that you are different (and above) the others. This is the hypocrisy that Paul is calling out in Peter. We are all one in Christ and are not to be divided by nationally different. There is neither Jew nor Gentile.

One of the early misconceptions about how the Jews thought about the Law was that you have to follow the Law in order to get into Covenant with God. The Jews understood that they were brought into covenant with God through His grace and justified by Him. It is observance of the Law that keeps them in this covenant. This is why Paul in v15-16 says that they who are Jews by birth “know that a person is not justified by observing the law” and now understands that it is through Christ that they are justified. If it is through God’s grace that the Jews were brought into covenant and not through Law observance, why would they tell the Gentiles who have been justified by Christ that they now have to observe the Law to belong? Now that they see it is Christ who justifies, why would they as Jews not put their faith in Jesus as well?

What do we learn from this exchange?

There are things that make us different from different groups of people that we will naturally want to divide ourselves on. It could be class, race, status, gender, etc. The more important ones that I feel like need to be pointed out are our politics. Some people will pray that we will elect a new leader who is Godly, which begs the assumption that the current one is not Godly. I then begin to wonder how my Brothers and Sisters who happen to be democrats feel about these prayers. I made a comment once about my friend being a democrat and a friend of mine responded, “I thought he was a Christian?” Is our national pride more important to us than our unity in Christ? No matter where you are in politics, you are a Christian first and your citizenship in the Kingdom is far more important than your citizenship as an American.

On another scale, when we send missionaries into the world they take the American church with them and tell them that this is the correct way to be a Christian, totally ignoring the culture that Christianity should be part of. One of my friends went down to drastically different culture than ours for short term missions and when he got off the plane he saw a lot of half dressed people walking around. When it was time for worship on Sunday, all of them men showed up in dress shirts with ties on and the women in long dresses. Apparently the church back in the 50s had taken clothes for them to wear on Sundays.

We need to be careful about what we allow to divide us as followers of Christ. Do we see Christians around the world as our Brothers and Sister equally or as below us in need of our help because they aren’t from the USA? We are one in Christ because Christ has justified us. Does anything else matter?

What is divisive in your life that needs to be crucified with Christ so that Christ can live in you? The life you now live, you live in the Kingdom of God, the Church, the Body of Christ. You live this life in faith because Christ brought you into it and you have no advantage over anyone else in the Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Bible Blog, Galatians, Pauline Epistles

 

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Galatians 1 – Credentials? I Got Credentials!

Introduction to Galatians

Apparently a number of Judaizers were infiltrating the church in Galatia and causing all kinds of problems.  They had started teaching that Christianity was not the end of many old Jewish practices, namely circumcision.  In their minds, God’s people had always been set aside through this covenant and God’s people were still set aside in this way, even if it included Gentiles.  I have to think that part of the motivation of this point of view was a mindset that said, “So you really want to be one of God’s people, then you’re going to have to prove it.  It can’t just be that easy.  Here’s what it’s going to take…”  Of course, they accused Paul of being a missionary who just wanted to convert as many Gentiles as possible so he made it easy.  All you need is faith and Jesus takes care of the rest.

So Paul responds in the letter to the Galatians largely with two points.  First, Paul is qualified to speak as an Apostle of Jesus Christ and a missionary sent by God.  If you are preaching something that doesn’t match Paul’s Gospel then you are likely under God’s curse.  Secondly, it isn’t rule following, old covenant obedience, circumcising actions that save us.  We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ through grace.  Everything else is just details.

Paul’s Credentials

Paul then jumps right to his own defense.  In his introduction he is already pointing out he isn’t sent by man, but that he is sent by God.  He talks about the time he spent receiving a revelation directly from Jesus.  He spent time comparing notes with Peter and found everything to be completely correct.  It also seems that Peter has more credibility among people who are easily swayed by Judaizers, so Peter’s approval likely goes a long ways.

Paul then goes on to remind them that he understands what it’s like to be a Jew that doesn’t like Christians or Gentiles.  He used to be really good at going out of his way to torment them.  He was zealous for the law and willing to persecute anybody who spoke lightly of the law or treated it in a way he through to be wrong.  That is, until Jesus told him directly that those who he was persecuting were actually right.  Suddenly Paul didn’t have the luxury of believing all the safe and comfortable things he’d always believed.  But Paul these legalistic Judaizers to realize that he was once a great advocate for their current beliefs until Jesus confronted him to his face.

The implication is that if you disavow Paul then you disavow the one who sent him.  You cannot claim to put your faith in Jesus while fighting against his appointed messenger.  So get on board or get out of the way.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Galatians, Pauline Epistles

 

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