June 24, 2018

Galatians


General Remarks on Galatians

Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul to the churches of Asia, where Paul has spent so much time and effort preaching the Gospel (Acts chapters 13 and 14).  The churches were being troubled by people, claiming to be Christians, but teaching that Gentile Christians must become Jews to be truly saved.  As Jews, they would need to keep the Jewish ceremonies and customs, just as other Jews do.  Their difference would be their acceptance of Christ as the Messiah.  To these people, Christianity must be absorbed into Judaism.

Paul disagrees.  To him, Christianity expands out of Judaism into the global Church.  In fact, the Church is the New Israel according to the New Covenant so often predicted in the Old Testament.  Christ fulfills the Old Covenant by His death and resurrected.  Therefore, the Old Covenant, with its forms and rituals, has completed its task of preparing the way of the Messiah.  Therefore, it is fulfilled and completed.  The New Covenant in Christ is now in effect, calling both Jews and Gentiles into it by faith in Christ.  

Questions of morality and pagan religious practices are also addressed.  But the main point is how people are forgiven and restored to God.  If we must continue the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament, the cross of Christ is meaningless, and salvation is something we earn by keeping the law.  In short,  the issue at stake is; are we saved by the work of Christ, or by our own works through keeping the ceremonial law?  Paul is convinced that the work of Christ is the only way of salvation, which we accept as His gift by faith.  This is the primary point Paul makes in the book of Galatians. 

June 24
Galatians. 1

The Galatians, like us, are confronted with a wide variety of choices and decisions in religion.  The pagan cults around them are too numerous to count.  In addition to them is the Jewish faith, and now, in the preaching of Paul, they face the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  By the grace of God they are drawn to Christ, but as soon as Paul leaves them to establish churches elsewhere, others come to them, claiming to believe in the same Jesus, same crucifixion, and same resurrection, but teaching a different way of salvation.  Paul, they said, was mistaken about the Gospel.  You cannot be saved by Christ alone; you must earn it by keeping the Jewish ceremonial law. You must become Jews.  Only then will your sins be fully forgiven.  Others said the preaching of Paul is incomplete because leaves out spiritual knowledge and experiences taught in Greek philosophy and religions.  Only by following their knowledge and having their experiences, will people really know the fulness of God.  So the Galatians faced the question, whom do we believe?  Realising their dilemma, Paul reminds them of his Apostolic authority and the origin of his Gospel. 

Paul is not just a traveling philosopher or entertainer.  Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  This means more than being just "a person sent" which is the literal translation of the Greek word, apostolos.  An Apostle is an emissary from God, and his message is from God. He has no authority to change the content of the message, or to add to or delete from it, but he has full authority to proclaim it as the message from God Himself.  So, like the Apostles in Jerusalem, Paul's Apostleship is not conferred on him by people (1), it is a direct calling from Christ Himself.

His message is not his own, nor did he receive it from other people (11).  This does not mean Paul never heard the Gospel before he met Christ on the Damascus road.  In his zeal to kill Christians (13) he had probably heard many Christians tell him about Jesus.  As a rising star in the religious leadership of Israel he had probably learned the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, for he had to know what Christians believe in order to determine who is or is not a Christian.  Nor does it mean Paul never received any instruction in the Gospel.  He spends some time in Damascus after his conversion, during which he must have heard the Gospel preached in the worship services of the Church, and spent much time discussing it with the ministers there, particularly Ananias and Barnabas.  He goes to Jerusalem to confer with the Apostles (Acts 9:8-30).  After this, he goes into Arabia to ponder what had happened to him and to devote himself to studying the Scriptures (17). He wants to learn what the Old Testament really teaches about the Messiah and His Kingdom. He then returns to Damascus, to the very Christians he had once intended to kill, and becomes a part of the Church there.  By this time he has a solid understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures and their relationship to Christ.   So, while he undoubtedly grows in his faith and understanding of the Gospel while in Damascus, he does not receive his message from the ministers of the Church there.  After three years in Damascus, Paul goes to Jerusalem and confers with Peter and James.  Paul mentions this because it is important for the Galatians to know Peter and James agree with him, both in the content of his message and in his calling as an Apostle.  His Gospel is the same Gospel they preach, and his Apostleship has the same validity as theirs (18-20).  Having this confirmation from Jerusalem, Paul travels to Syria, where he becomes a part of the church in Antioch, from which his missionary journeys will begin (21-23).

So, Paul is appointed to the Apostleship by direct commission from Christ.  He learns the Gospel message by revelation from Christ.  The truth of his message is affirmed by the Church in Damascus and Antioch, and by the other Apostles in Jerusalem.  Can the people who teach against his Gospel produce such credentials?  If not, should the Galatians believe them or Paul? 


June 25
Galatians 2

Galatians 2 brings us to the famous council at Jerusalem.  The promoters of the gospel of the law, often called the party of the circumcision, or, Judaisers, have gained a large following in the Church and the question of whether Christianity must be absorbed into Judaism or grows out of Judaism into the global Church must be dealt with.  Many Jewish Christians, especially in Jerusalem, have continued in the Old Testament traditions, though some were forced to start Christian synagogues, rather than worship with non-Christians Jews.  They have no problem with the old traditions, nor do they see them as adding to the work of Christ or earning salvation. These people are not the Judaisers.  The Judaisers believe the ceremonial law is absolutely necessary to salvation.  No one, they maintain, is truly a Christian or going to Heaven unless he keeps the ceremonial law.  This, of course, requires Gentiles to become Jews, and means Christianity must be absorbed into the Jewish faith, keeping all the Old Testament laws of worship, diet, circumcision, and sacrifices, differing from other Jews only in their belief in Christ as Saviour and Messiah.

The council of Jerusalem shows the Judaisers' gospel to be a wrong interpretation of the true Gospel of Christ.  The culmination of this council comes when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, certify the veracity of the Gospel preached by Paul as the one true Gospel by extending unto him the  right hand of fellowship (9).  This is a public statement by the Apostles that Paul has Apostolic authority to preach, and that he preaches the same Gospel they received from Christ and preach themselves.

There is yet another issue at stake in this whole consideration of the place of the ceremonial law in the Church.  That issue is the very nature of the Church itself.  Is the Church simply a continuation of the Old Testament Israel, or is it the fulfillment of Israel?  If it is simply a continuation of the old Israel, then they are correct who say Gentiles who want to follow Christ must also become Jews.  If the Church is the fulfillment of all the promises and prophecies to Israel, then Gentiles are not required to become Jews, and, even Jewish Christians are not bound by the ceremonial law.  So, which is it?  Before we can answer this question we must assert there is much continuity between the Old and New Testaments.  We may be better able to understand this if we remember that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old, and that, together, they tell the same story of salvation by grace through the sacrificial blood of Christ.  The Old Testament ceremonial law pictures the sacrifice of Christ in a way that is similar to the Lord's Supper today.  So, the two are part of the same story.  The Old Testament is the first chapter, preparing the way for the Messiah; the New Testament is the fulfillment and completion of the story.

But the Jewish nation and the Church are also different, and Gentiles are not required to become Jews or keep the ceremonial law.  This is because the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ.  Why would we offer animal sacrifices when the Lamb of God has offered Himself once for all?  Why would we concern ourselves with things that made people symbolically clean when Christ makes us truly and completely clean by His own blood?  Thus, the Jewish rituals have done their job.  They have pointed us to the one Sacrifice that can take away our sins and make us clean in our souls before God.  Having completed their work, they, like John the Baptist, must decrease while Christ increases.

It is important to see that the Apostles and elders already understand this.  It is not a concept formulated in debate and decided by majority vote.  Peter speaking for the Apostles, and James, speaking for the elders, affirm it (Gal. 1:18 & 2:1).  The purpose of the council is not to decide what is true, but to declare what is true to a large gathering of Church leaders so all will know the truth on this issue.

Yet the idea of ceremonial uncleanness, which is a central part of the ceremonial law, is difficult for Jewish Christians to surrender.  Even Peter has lapses of faith on the issue, for when he was in Antioch he ate with Gentiles freely, but when Jews came up from Jerusalem, he separated himself from the Gentiles.  Why the separation?  In the ceremonial law, a Gentile is unclean.  That means he is unacceptable to God and unacceptable to God's people, Israel.   Eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles make a Jew unclean, meaning the Jew is in the same situation as the Gentile before God.  But if a Gentile becomes a Jew and begins to keep the traditions and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, he becomes acceptable; he becomes "clean."  The Gentile Christians at Antioch did not become Jews, so Peter, thinking the Jewish emissaries from Jerusalem would consider them unclean, stopped eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles (12).  

This gives Paul another chance to proclaim what is already known by the Church; that it is not the rituals of the ceremonial law that make people clean before God.  Only the shed blood of Christ makes a person clean (16). Paul points out that Peter knew this, as did other Jewish Christians in Antioch, for they freely ate with Gentiles as brothers and sisters in Christ until the other Jews arrived.  If they did not keep the ceremonial law by remaining separate from the Gentiles, how could they expect Gentiles to keep the law?  And why had they eaten with the Gentile Christians, thus, breaking the ceremonial law, in the first place?  It was because they knew it is not keeping the law, but faith in Christ that makes a person clean to God (14-21).

June 26
Galatians 3:1-18

The Galatian Christians know it was Christ, not the law, that made them clean and acceptable to God.  But when the Judaisers come teaching that Paul is wrong and that they need to keep the ceremonial law to make themselves acceptable to God, their faith wavers.  So Paul addresses the very heart of the matter in chapter 3.  He asks two questions.  First, in verse 2, did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law or by hearing the Gospel of Christ in faith?  The Galatians have to admit that when they believed in Christ as their Saviour, they received the Holy Spirit of God, which represents all the blessings given to a person in Christ.  They also had to admit that they did not receive the Spirit by doing the rituals of the ceremonial law.  They received Him by grace through faith.  This forces the Galatians to realise again that they are saved by the grace of God in Christ, which they receive by faith, not by doing the works of the law.  Second, if the blood of Christ made you clean enough for the Spirit of God to dwell in you, do you really think you can make yourself cleaner by rituals and ceremonies (3) or by any other thing you can do?  To make such an assumption is blasphemy.  "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [unclean]" (Acts 10:15, 28, 34-47).  Even Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, was saved by grace, not law (6) and it is those who trust in Christ through faith who are his true children and heirs of the promises of God (7-9).

Verses 10-18 reinforce the two main points of the book of Galatians.  First, they reiterate that those who try to make themselves acceptable to God by keeping the law, always fail. Why? because to become acceptable through the law requires absolute, complete, and perfect obedience to it, with no failures in thought or deed.  Any failure to keep it to its fullest measure, including having the proper mental and spiritual intentions and attitudes, is sin, and makes you unacceptable.  This includes both the ceremonial law and the moral law, so, to fail to keep the moral law perfectly renders you unacceptable to God.  Since no person is able to keep the law perfectly, no person is able to keep the law perfectly, no person is able to make himself acceptable to God by keeping the law.  Even if someone could keep the ceremonial law perfectly, it could not atone for his failure in the moral law.  Therefore, since no one has ever kept the moral law, anyone who tries to make himself acceptable by means of the ceremonial law is wasting his time (10).

Second, only those who are in Christ are acceptable to God.  They are only accepted on the basis of Christ's sacrifice (3) received by faith (11).   This is true of Gentiles as well as Jews, for Christ died for us, that the blessing of Abraham (8) might come to the Gentiles, meaning, we are made fully acceptable to God and receive His Spirit through faith (14).

Abraham also was accepted by grace not works.  He actually lived more than 400 years before the ceremonial law was given (17).  Therefore, he could never have made himself acceptable by it. He was accepted by God because he trusted God, and God accepted his faith and treated him as though he were without sin (6).  Abraham received the promise of Christ (8 & 16) 400 years before the ceremonial law was given, and the giving of the law did not negate the promise of grace (7).  So the entire history of redemption has been the history of God's grace as promised to Abraham (8).  It is the story of the grace of God, not the good works of man.

June 27
Galatians 3:19-29

Verse19 raises an important question; what is the purpose of the law of God?  Of course God's law has many purposes.  The moral law, summarised in the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Christ, reveals the absolute perfection of God.  It reveals the will of God for all mankind in everyday life.  It shows mankind how to live in harmony with God and each other.  Thus it shows the way of peace and happiness (Ps. 19:7-14).  It also shows our sin and need of God’s grace.  We break the moral law every day by thought, word, and deed.  The ceremonial law reveals that those who break the moral law are unacceptable to God unless something is done, apart from the moral law, to make them acceptable.  The law shows, then, that, by our own actions, we are unclean and unfit for any kind of fellowship with God, and that we need to be made clean by something outside of the moral law, or we will remain forever unacceptable to God.

This is brought out in several verses in  Galatians 3.  Regarding our failure to keep the moral law, we are told the Scripture "hath concluded all under sin" (22).   Regarding the ceremonial law, we are told we can never make ourselves acceptable to God through it (21).  This is important, for if we can atone for sin by performing a few ceremonies, then sin is a very trivial thing to God.  If sin is trivial to God, it can be trivial to us, and if sin is trivial, so is righteousness.  Holiness, justice, integrity, the Commandments of God, love for God, and love for one another really don't matter.  Only the ceremonies matter.  This mistaken view of the law was held by Israel many times throughout her history, and she paid dearly for it. 

We come now to one of the law's most important purposes; it is our teacher to lead us to Christ (24).  How does the law lead us to Christ?  First, it concludes all people under sin (22).  This means it reveals to us that we are sinners.  Comparing ourselves to the moral law of God does not reveal how good we are.  It reveals how wicked we are and how far short we are of the total perfection of God.  Many people compare themselves to the Ten Commandments, and conclude they are pretty good.  But no one says he is perfect.  They may say they have never murdered, are honest, and believe in God, but they can’t say they have never lied, never coveted, or never  had lustful thoughts about another person.  All, if they are honest, must admit they have not lived perfectly according to the law of God.  In this admission, they show themselves to be concluded under sin (22).

Second, the ceremonial law reveals there is nothing we can do to atone for our sins.  Do we really think a ceremony, or even the life of an animal can make up for our sins?    A right view of animal sacrifices reveals how pitifully small and powerless they are to cover our sins (Heb. 10:4).  In short, they reveal the absolute impossibility of making ourselves acceptable to God.  If we are going to be made acceptable to Him, He is going to have to accomplish it for us.  Thus, the law teaches us that we need a Saviour.  It leads us to cast ourselves on the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Christ, that we may be justified by grace through faith, not by the works of the law (24).

Third, the law shows the deadly seriousness of sin.  It is not trivial to God and it cannot be trivial to us.  It is so serious that sinners are called dead (Eph. 2:1) and worthy of death (Rom. 1:32), whose eternal destiny is the fires of hell (Rev. 20:15).  Sin is so serious that we are unable to atone for it ourselves.  Nothing can save us from the fires of hell but the sacrifice of Christ Himself.  That's how serious sin is to God.

So, what is the relationship of the ceremonial law to the Christian?  The short answer is, it has fulfilled its task and is no longer necessary (Heb. 8:13).  It has been our schoolmaster, but in Christ we have graduated from it.  From it we have learned that we are sinners.  From it we have learned that our sin must be made right before we can be acceptable to God.  From it we have learned that we cannot make our sins right by the ceremonies of the law.  From it we have learned that its ceremonies and sacrifices symbolise the life and ministry of Christ, "the Lamb of God:" who alone can atone for our sins. From it we have learned to trust in the suffering of the Lamb of God as the payment for our sins and the ground of our acceptance with God.  Now that we have graduated from the school of the law, it no longer has control over us.  We have moved into faith (25-26).

There is now no difference between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles.  All are shown to be sinners unable to save themselves, and all are saved only by the grace of God received by faith (28-29).  Those who are God's by faith in Christ are the true seed and descendants of Abraham; the true heirs of the promises of God (29).

June 28
Galatians 4:1-11

We are heirs of God through Christ (7).  The Apostle is telling Jewish and Gentile Christians that  all who are in Christ by faith are the heirs of all the promises of God given in the Old Testament.  We inherit the promises not by means of the law, but by trusting in Christ's sacrifice as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins.  It is very important to understand that faith is the means by which we become a child of God and an heir of the promises.  Physical descent from Abraham does not make one an heir.  Failed attempts to keep the moral and ceremonial law cannot do it.  Becoming Jewish cannot do it.  Only faith can open the door to Heaven.  Only faith is the key to the Kingdom.

Verse 7 is the conclusion of the flow of thought that begins in verse 1.  We are told that, under the ceremonial law, we were as children under the care of tutors and governors (guardians).  But when God had brought the world to just the right moment, according to His plan, He sent His Son to redeem those who were under the law (4-5).  He released them from their tutors and guardians and gave them the inheritance foreshadowed in the law and foretold in the prophets.  Everything promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ and given to His people of faith, the Church.

Verses 8-11 make a second point based on the preceding verses. It is stated in the form of a question in verse 9, and it asks the Galatians why they would want to go back to being ruled by the guardian when they can have the inheritance of Christ.  Why would you turn your inheritance back over to the guardian instead of keeping and enjoying it yourself?  Why would you want to be bound by rules and rituals that cannot take away your sins, when you can live in the freedom of Christ, who can take away your sins?

We understand the meaning here, because we are familiar with inheritance.  It is possible to put a clause in a will that places the inheritance under the care of trustees until the inheritor reaches a specified age or completes certain actions, such as graduating from college.  We understand the idea of tutors because we have all been placed under the authority of teachers.  But that authority ends when we graduate.  In Christ we have inherited all the riches of God.  In Christ we have graduated from the law.  We are now free to enjoy our inheritance.

June 29
Galatians 4:12-31

To attempt to cleanse your own sins through your own actions is to reject Christ. Thus, Paul writes to the Galatians, "I am afraid... lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (12).  Paul's appeal that we become as he is, means to trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins and reconcile you to God.  That he was as the Galatians were, means there was a time when he also was counting on his own works to make him acceptable to God.  But he realised that he, like all people, must receive acceptance as a gift of God, not as a reward for his own efforts.
  
Paul apparently suffered an illness while in Galatia, but it did not prevent him from sharing the Gospel, and it did not prevent the Galatian people from receiving him with love and hearing him gladly (15).  But, by the time Paul writes the book of Galatians to them, their apparently strong faith in Christ has wavered so much that Paul doubts they were in Christ at all (20).

People often stumble over this passage because it appears Paul has imposed a meaning onto a Bible passage that is completely foreign to it.  The Old Testament story of Isaac and Ishmael is obviously a straightforward record of historical events, but Paul seems to make it an allegory of law and grace.  The difficulty people have with this is fourfold.  First, if Paul can allegorise one passage of Scripture, what is to stop us from allegorising all of it?  Second, if the Bible has an allegorical meaning, what is it and how can we know it?  Third, if the Bible has an allegorical meaning as well as a literal meaning, which is more important?  Fourth, and most important, if the Bible has a meaning beyond the plain and obvious meaning of the words, we can never really understand the Bible.

Before we address these issues, let us recall two very important principles of Biblical interpretation.  First, Scripture interprets Scripture.  This means the meaning of one passage will always illuminate and compliment the meaning of other passages in specific, and the entire Bible in general.  Second, we should always understand the Bible in the plain and obvious meaning of the words, unless we have good reason not to.  We are not to allegorise passages that are clearly meant literally.

The difficulty with this passage disappears when we realise Paul is not allegorising the Old Testament; he is simply using the historical facts of Isaac and Ishmael to illustrate the point that bondage begets bondage and freedom begets freedom.

Ishmael, was the child of bondage. It is as though Paul is saying, "Let Ishmael symbolise people trying to atone for sin by keeping rules and performing rituals.  The rules and rituals themselves are bondage, for the people are bound to observe them, yet they can never really atone for sin."  Bondage begets bondage.

Isaac was the child of freedom.  Paul is saying, "Let Isaac symbolise those who have trusted Christ to make them acceptable to God.  They are free of the bondage to rules and ceremonies.  They are free of the need to earn Heaven.  It is given to them as a gift from God."  Freedom begets freedom.

Paul goes on to use Hagar as a symbol for the law given at Mount Sinai, and Sarah as the symbol for grace given through Christ, "the Jerusalem which is above" (26).  Those who were born into Israel were in bondage to the law until the Saviour came to fulfill the law and release them from its requirements.  Those who are born into Christ are born into freedom. Therefore, they are no longer enslaved to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament.  "[W]e are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (31).

June 30
Galatians 5

Chapter five begins with a plea to stand fast in the liberty of grace and not return to the bondage of trying to earn God's favour by our own works.  There is no middle road; either we must keep the law and become Jews, or we are saved by grace through faith, and the ceremonies of the law are superfluous.  Any attempt to return to the law is a rejection of the work of Christ and a fall from grace (4).  And, if you are going to reject Christ for any part of the law, you must keep the whole law perfectly to be acceptable to God (3).  

We see an important point in verses 11 and 12.  Paul preaches salvation by grace through faith alone, and has never taught that Gentiles must become Jews, or that Jewish Christians are required to keep the ceremonial laws in any way.  If he had, the Jews would not be persecuting him.  They would be praising him, for he would be bringing multitudes of converts to the Jewish faith.  They may have disagreed with his view of Christ as the Messiah, but they could have tolerated that.  But Paul, preaching the Gospel of grace, actually makes the Jewish faith obsolete.  If Paul's Gospel is true, the Jews need to come out of Judaism and into the Church.  The Old Israel has fulfilled its mission and it is necessary for Jews to join the New Israel, the Church. This is what angers the Jews and the Judaisers of Paul’s day.  The Temple, the sacrifices, the rules of clean and unclean, circumcision, kosher food, and everything that typifies and identifies the Jewish people, are rendered obsolete by grace through Christ.  This is why they persecute the Church. This is why they riot at the preaching of Paul, and beat him and stone him and try to kill him.

Salvation by grace through faith is not a license to sin (13).  Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18, which our Lord quoted often, as part of the summary of the moral law's requirements of the way we treat each other.  Paul, like our Lord, quotes it to show its continuing relevance and authority in the lives of all people.  It is still the standard of life to which Christians aspire because, by God's grace, we love our neighbors and we love God.

Living by love is not as easy as it sounds.  Love requires us to choose against ourselves.  Love requires us to do things we don't want to do, and to sacrifice things we don’t want to give up.  Just as love of God requires us to organise our schedules in a way that makes public, family, and private worship a top priority; love of neighbors requires us to orient ourselves around giving rather than receiving.  This causes a spiritual battle to take place in us (17).  It is the battle of our own desires and wills (flesh) against the desires and will of God (Spirit).  It is the battle of our sinfulness against God's holiness.  It is a life-long war, and we must expect to have to fight it, and we must expect it to be difficult. 

Since the war is spiritual, our weapons are spiritual.  Our power to fight is the Spirit of God.  Those who surrender to the flesh are easily known by their actions and way of life, called the works of the flesh (19).  Those who fight on in the Spirit are also easily recognised by their actions, called the fruit of the Spirit (22).  The victory we seek is absolute.  The goal is to exterminate our sin, rise above our own desires and live for Christ alone.  Paul uses the gruesome practice of crucifixion to illustrate our objective.  We are to crucify our own desires, in order that we may live for God.  If this sounds difficult it's because it is.  If it sounds painful it's because it is.  If it sounds unpleasant it's because it is.  But this is what it means to live and walk in the Spirit (25).

Most "Christians" will not fight this war.  They will not crucify their wills and comforts to live for God.  Seeing the difficulty and personal sacrifice required to truly follow Christ, they will retreat.  They will opt for an easier gospel, like some of the Galatians have done.  They will choose religious ceremonies over self-crucifixion.  They will choose happy feelings over obedience to God.  They will choose self indulgence over service to God.  Yet, all the while they will convince themselves they are in Christ.  But those who live by the Spirit walk by the Spirit.

July 1
Galatians 6

Verses 7 and 8 express the essence of the entire letter of Galatians.  If we sow unGodliness (flesh) we reap death in the soul.  If we sow Godliness we reap life in the presence of God forever.  The Galatians have been sowing to the flesh by trying to make themselves acceptable to God through rules and rituals.  But rules and rituals cannot make a person fit for the presence of the absolute and consuming holiness of God. Only God can make someone acceptable, as a gift from Him received by faith.  Faith, trusting God to make us acceptable through Christ, is sowing to the Spirit, which produces the fruit of everlasting life.
Sowing to the Spirit goes beyond simply trusting God for Heaven.  Important and essential as that is, sowing to the Spirit also includes walking by the Spirit day by day and moment by moment (Gal. 5:25).  It naturally includes the things we often call "religious," such as prayer, the Bible, and public worship.  But it also includes the mundane things of daily living, such as home, family, and work.  It especially includes putting our own comforts and desires under the control of the Spirit so we may live for the will of God (Gal 5:24).  Living for fleshly desires is sowing to the flesh.  Crucifying our affections and lusts to live for Christ, is sowing to the Spirit.

We are to help one another sow to the Spirit.  This is an essential part of the fellowship of the Church.  We seek to help our fellow Christians when they are overtaken in a fault (1).   We seek to help others bear their burdens as they also help us bear ours (2).  We are like a team, a family, a body, working together for the glory of God and the good of all.  If we stand one stick on end, it will fall, but if we put several together and let them lean on each other they will stand.  Likewise, a heavy load may break one stick, but several together can bear it easily.  This is the picture Paul is trying to give us of the Church bearing one another's burdens. This requires us to be willing to give and receive support with meekness.

Verse 6 refers to the other side of pastoral care; not the care of the pastor for the Church, but the care of the Church for the pastor.  The pastor visits and prays and teaches and studies; the congregation "communicates unto him... all good things."  Love, respect, reception of his teaching and council, and financial support, are some of the ways we communicate to him all good things.

Finally, we are to continually sow to the Spirit.  It is to be the habitual work of our lives, even when we think we do not see any fruit of our labours.  We are not to allow discouragement to dissuade us.  We are not to give up because things are not going the way we think they should, or the way we would like.  We will not grow weary in well doing, especially in our service to our fellow believers, for we know we will reap in God's own time (9).

If it were possible to earn Heaven by our own efforts it would be the same as earning fellowship with God, and that would be making ourselves His equal.  We would be able to "boast" of our achievement and our status.  But no mere ritual can accomplish this.  Not even circumcision can atone for sins or change the sinful inclination of our hearts.  Only God can make us acceptable to Him, and He has done so through the cross of Christ.  So Paul will not boast of his own efforts, though they surely outshine those of the Galatians.  He will boast of Christ, the Saviour who by His own suffering and death accomplished what Paul could never accomplish for himself, eternal peace with God.


Grace, not works, has been the theme of Galatians.  Thus Paul closes with the very appropriate words, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."

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