Galatians 1:4

Redeemed from the Law

According to Paul, grace and peace come from God the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Then in Galatians 1:4, Paul says something more about Jesus. He “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Notice Paul’s identification of himself as a sinner. It was “our sins” he says that Jesus died for. The law condemns us all to hell. If the law is our standard not only will we live with uncertainty and stress, we will eventually end up condemned to hell. Paul realizes that it includes himself. Jesus had to die for us. If man could make himself acceptable to God by works of the law, Christ would not have had to die for our sins. If the legalists of Paul’s day are right in that there are still stipulations of law that are essential for our salvation, we shouldn’t have needed a savior. But Paul knew he did. Sinners know that they do. The healthy don’t need a physician only the sick. The righteous don’t need a savior, only sinners do.

Many people refer to Jesus as our example. Although it is absolutely true that Jesus did set an example for us to follow, He is much more than our example. When you’re drowning, you don’t need someone standing on the dock doing the dog paddle shouting “go like this.” We need someone to save us. That’s what Jesus did and then he illustrates a lifestyle that’s worth living. Kenneth Boles writes, “Paul wants to establish from the beginning what is the important theme of Christianity. Salvation is not based on man’s ability to keep God’s rules, but on Christ’s ransom, paid with His blood. It was Christ ‘who gave himself as a ransom for all men’ (1 Tim 2:6, cf. Mark 10:45). As the Galatians will be reminded, the atoning sacrifice of Christ is not compatible with man-made salvation. Either Jesus saves us, or we save ourselves.”

It was God’s will that Jesus would die for our sins to “rescue us from this present evil age.” The Greek word for “rescue” or “deliver” in this verse is used five times in the book of Acts to described how God rescued people who could not rescue or “deliver” themselves: the rescue of Joseph from his afflictions (7:10), the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (7:34), the rescue of Peter from prison (12:11), the rescue of Paul from the temple mob (23:27), and the deliverance of Paul from the Jews (26:17). The interesting thing is that even the law of Moses was included in the idea of “this evil age” in Galatians 4:3. Jesus died not to enable us to live out the law, but to save us from it. The law condemns us all and it’s too late to win God’s approval by keeping the law. The law has never and will never make anyone acceptable to God. Jesus save us from the law and makes us acceptable to God by His righteousness not our own.

2 Peter 1:1-2, Galatians 1:3

Grace and Peace

In Galatians 1:3, Paul begins his address to the Galatians who have wandered away from the truth by saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The emphatic subject is “grace.” He’s commending God’s grace and Jesus’ grace to his readers who are being beguiled by legalists who are commending law to them. Imagine them greeting the Galatians from their gospel (which is not a gospel at all). It would say “Law to you.” It argues that God and Jesus send us law to live by through which we can win God’s favor and acceptance. The phrase might be “Law to you, and strife, or stress, or anxiety, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Relating to God on the basis of law is a relationship that is totally unsettling, uncertain, and unloving. I’ve known married couples that relate to each other on the basis of law rather than love. It feeds a miserable life.

Paul wants the Galatians, from the very beginning of his letter to them, to consider the difference between what is being offered by the legalists and what he has preached to them about what is being offered from God through Jesus Christ. With Grace comes peace from God. Peter begins his second letter with an even stronger greeting regarding grace and peace. It took Peter some time to comprehend the extent of God’s grace with which He would deal with sinners. But once he got it, grace and peace became the central theme of Peter’s life as well. He writes in 2 Peter 1:1-2, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” His opening greeting acknowledges that our righteousness is that of “our God and of Jesus our Lord.” It’s not a righteousness earned through obedience to a law. He calls for it to be multiplied! The more we get to know Christ, grace increases exponentially.

People don’t need law. People need God’s grace and peace. Most people are well aware of their failures and shortcomings, even if they are unwilling to admit it. They know they have a need for help. I’ve heard people say they don’t want grace, they want justice. If God gave us justice, as we deserve, we would need “to go shopping for a flame retardant suit.” What we want and need from God is grace and mercy. God extends his gracious hand to the whole world from the cross of Calvary. God is so rich in mercy that he saves us by His grace. God loves everyone. He extends a gracious, merciful hand to everyone. He wants no one to perish or none to be fearful of perishing. Through Christ Jesus we find God’s grace and it gives us peace with God. Law brings stress and anxiety. Grace brings eternal life, an abundant life.

Galatians 1:2

Leaving Our Religion Behind!

Paul isn’t the only believer or Apostle that preaches the good news of God’s grace. We are saved by grace through faith plus nothing. The law is always alien to the concept of grace. If it’s by grace it’s not law. If it’s by law there’s no grace. Paul will make this clear in his letter, but in Galatians 1:2 he says that his letter to them on this subject is not only from him but also “…all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia.” I believe Paul is insisting that they are also joint writers with him. He means something very specific when he says that these brothers are “with” him.

I think the Greek preposition will shed some light on this for us. In English the word “with” means many different things and only the context can help us determine which definition is best. I can fight “with” my brother. This actually means “against.” I can fight “with” the 51st Airborne. This actually means “alongside of” for a common cause. It’s this later sense that the Greek preposition “syn” signifies. In this case Paul is saying that the other “brothers” are in complete agreement with him. Paul usually names his co-writers of letters but in this case he left their names out. Many commentators say that they wish Paul had included their names so there would be more information on which to base some interpretation or “the letter could be better defined historically and geographically” (UBS handbook). But Paul wants his readers to know that his message is not dependent on others. He leaves the “brothers” anonymous. The divine origin of Paul’s message is all that matters as he prepares to defend himself against the attacks of the legalists and religious leaders of his day.

He then identifies his recipients as the “churches in Galatia.” These churches were planted on Paul’s first missionary journey after he had assumed the leadership role from Barnabas. After the event on Cyprus in Acts 13 where Saul – the Pharisee – became Paul the apostle to the gentiles, John Mark left the ministry and returned to Antioch. I’ve always been of the opinion that Paul’s new leadership with a gentile focus was too distasteful for the Jewish John Mark who became Peter’s disciple. Paul’s message was the divinely inspired message of salvation by grace through faith apart from the law. Those who had strong religious convictions had difficulty with this message. Even Peter struggled with it when God insisted he violate the dietary law and eat like the gentiles ate. People are so offended by the gospel of God’s grace that all across Galatia, Paul and his companions were beaten, stoned, imprisoned and driven out of town. Christ calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him. For most people, the most difficult thing to leave behind is not their money! It is their religion.

Acts 13:9, Galatians 1:1

The Apostle of the heart set free!

The first word in the letter Paul wrote to the Galatians is “Paul.” Up to Acts 13:9, the Apostle was called by his Jewish name, Saul. It made him acceptable to his Jewish audiences. When he joined Barnabas and John Mark on the first missionary journey to Galatia, his role changed radically. To begin with, the journey was led by Barnabas who brought his cousin John Mark along. Both Barnabas and John Mark were solid Jewish believers. I would argue that their intention was to go to the Jews only, but while on the Island of Cyprus a “Jewish” false prophet attempted to prevent the governor, Sergius Paulus, a Roman Official, from accepting the faith. It was then that Paul stepped up and cursed the false “Jewish” prophet with blindness. Sergius Paulus became the first gentile convert under the Apostle Paul’s ministry. It is interesting that after Acts 13:9, Saul becomes Paul from that point on. Some early church fathers think that Saul took his gentile name at that time to honor his first convert who had the same name, but I see it as part of God’s plan to move Paul from a Jewish focus to a gentile focus.

Being of the tribe of Benjamin (as we read in Philippians), I’m fairly certain that his parents named Saul after the first King of Israel who was also of the tribe of Benjamin. King Saul was head and shoulders taller than most of the men in Israel at that time and it made him stand out. It is interesting that “Paul” means “small” or “little.” Maybe that was an intentional change for this proud Pharisee who was humbled and knocked to his knees and blinded by the Lord. Paul’s blindness led to his salvation, but not so with the “Jewish” false prophet. Instead it led to the salvation of Paul’s first gentile convert. The Jews who insisted on forcing the law into the salvation equation were as furious with Paul’s message as the religious leaders were of Jesus who put Himself above the law. Religious people hated Jesus. Religious people hated Paul. Religious people are violently opposed to a salvation message that is freely offered to irreligious people.

The second thing worth noting in Galatians 1:1 is that Paul calls himself an “Apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead.” Paul’s apostleship to the gentiles came directly from God. As Rushdoony observes, “Paul is emphatic because there was a major effort to belittle his calling, his teaching, and his person.”[1] This attack on Paul came from the Judaizers who insisted on connecting obedience to the law with salvation by grace through faith. Paul preached a Gospel that put the person and work of Christ at the center. It forced each person to see their sinfulness and their need for a savior. It took God’s divine intervention in this hyper-religious Pharisee’s life to get his attention. It takes divine intervention today as well for religious people to get the truth of the Gospel. Jesus did not come to set up another religion but to destroy all religion. It always takes divine intervention to set a person free from the law of sin and death.

[1] Rousas John Rushdoony, Romans & Galatians (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1997), 315.

Luke 7:37, 1 Timothy 1:15

We Are All Sinners!

In Luke 7, we encounter two characters when Jesus dines with Simon. One sees themself as a sinner and one does not. Simon the Pharisee, did not see himself a sinner. This becomes obvious throughout the story that Luke tells. First, we see the contrast between the way sinners see Jesus and the way non-sinners see Jesus. Simon’s lack of hospitality was a dead giveaway. Jesus points this out in the story. It was customary to provide water for foot washing for guests. This custom was established as early as Genesis 18-19. Often, a servant would be appointed to remove the sandals from the feet of honored guests and wash their feet for them as Jesus did for his disciples at the last supper. But Simon didn’t even bring water. Simon did not greet Jesus with a cordial kiss as was the custom as well. It’s interesting that the kiss of greeting is what Judas used to betray Jesus in the garden. It was also customary for the host to provide oil for anointing of their guests.

Next, we see the woman. The text goes out of its way to note that she was a notorious sinner in that city and well known as such. The passage is crystal clear. Luke 7:37 reads, “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner…” the phrase “woman of the city” carries with it the connotation of being well known for what she does. And what is that? It is being a sinner. Some identify this woman as Mary Magdalene but we don’t know her identity for sure, but we do know she was a sinner and unlike Simon, she knew she was a sinner. Luke wants us to understand this and makes it clear that what was lacking in Simon, a warm and loving welcome, was lavishly provided by the woman. She washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed his feet repeatedly and then anointed them with expensive perfume.

Simon had no love for Jesus as seen in his lack of hospitality because he did not see his need. It was a matter of perception. This is what repentance truly is. It is the comprehension of our sinfulness. When we grasp this truth and find forgiveness in Jesus we now can truly love but not until then. Paul understood that truth when after 40 years of ministry, he writes to his young disciple Timothy saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). St. Francis of Assisi understood this too: “There is nowhere a more wretched and miserable sinner than I.”  Kent Hughes notes this statements and says, “Their greatness, their spiritual health, rested upon the knowledge that they were sinners in need of the constant grace of God. This is true of all of us. Do not succumb to the self-righteous delusion that God’s grace has been so effectual in your life that you don’t need it anymore”.[1]

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 282.

Luke 7:34-36, 1 Timothy 1:15

Jesus Accepts All Invitations!

Jesus was often criticized for eating and having contact with sinners. The religious leaders were his primary critics. John the Baptist was rejected by them because he was this wild, crazy man living in the wilderness like Elijah, and fasting and abstaining from drink. In Luke 7:34, Jesus confronts the religious leaders by contrasting their rejection of Him with their rejection of John. It says, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Yes, Jesus eats with sinners and he wasn’t particular regarding what “kind” of sinner he reclined at table with. In verse 36 we read, “One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.” Jesus accepts invitations from anyone. You see, everyone is a “sinner.” Paul makes that insight known in his letter to the Romans when he says, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s standards” (Romans 3:23).

To get into the context a little more when we consider Jesus’ dinner with Simon the Pharisee, look at Luke 7:35. Jesus seems to be quoting from the book of Proverbs when it talks about “wisdom” calling out to her children. The verse immediately preceding the meal with Simon says, “Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Does Luke expect some connection between this obscure statement and what follows?  In Proverbs chapters 5-7 we learn about the morally loose woman who calls from the street for the young men passing by. She corrupts their moral standing in the community. Her lips drip honey but bring only disgrace. Then in Proverbs chapter 8 we see wisdom crying out to her children who know sin when they see it. They are not deceived by the temptress. Children of wisdom see sin for what it is and acknowledge it as such. The deceived are blinded by its subtle ways and fall prey to its wiles.

Now Luke presents us with an episode of a self-righteous pharisee who saw himself as “wise” and a woman of the street who saw the depths of her sinfulness. But going even deeper into Luke’s context we see that Jesus made it clear concerning his mission. Luke writes in Luke 5:31-32, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” Arnold says it right, “The self-righteous Pharisees see no need to repent because they don’t think they have done anything wrong. They respond not with love, but with indifference and rejection to God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus.”[1] Towards the end of his life, Paul writes to his young disciple Timothy about an attitude that is worthy of acceptance by everyone. I think that means it should be seen by everyone as true of themselves. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 388.

John 15:4-17, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 3:17-19

The “Fruit” of the Spirit is Love!

To understand John 15:4-8, we must leap forward to John 15:9. It says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Jesus is talking about God’s Love expressed through himself to them and how receiving and abiding in that love brings about the spiritual fruit of love in the branches who “abide” in it. When commenting on the “Fruit” of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, most writers talk about the “fruits” (plural) of the Spirit and then quote the passage which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Please notice that every translation gets it right when it uses the singular for fruit. It doesn’t say the “fruits” of the spirit “are” love, etc.… It says the fruit of the spirit “is” love. Love is the fruit and joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness and self-control proceed from love.

The fruitfulness that Jesus is speaking of in John 15 refers to the spiritual fruit of love. Jesus is the branch and through him flows God’s love that reproduces itself in us. This is what Paul meant in Ephesians 3:17. He prays that his readers, “…being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” The fullness of God is “Christ.” The fullness of Christ is love. It is love that nourishes and brings forth joy. This is what Jesus concludes in John 15:11. He closes this part of his passage by saying, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He’ll then move into a deeper discussion about “love.”

John 15:12-17 says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” I hate to admit it but the Beatles were right: “All you need is love.” Paul (the Apostle not the Beatle) says in Romans 13:8 to owe no man anything but love. Then in verse 10 he says that love fulfills the law. 1 John 4:16 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Faith and hope are important, but love is greater than both according to 1 Corinthians 13. Paul (The Beatle not the Apostle) is right: “Love, love, love! All you need is love.”

John 15:3, John 13:10-11, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 3:17-19

Jesus is the “Message” of God’s Love

In John 15 verse 3, the word that was translated as “prune” in the previous verse is now translated as “cleanse.” It reads, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” A study of this word points to the predominant meaning of “cleansing.” But since the result of this cleansing is the production of “more fruit,” it’s not hard to understand how in gardening the idea of “pruning” is preferred in this context. But regardless of whether it is “cleanse” or “prune” it is clear that the disciples Jesus is addressing have already gone through that process. Some argue that the “pruning” that has been done had to do with Judas who betrayed Jesus and was cut off from the other twelve.  This is supported by Jesus’ washing of the disciple’s feet in John 13:10-11. Peter said he wanted Jesus to wash all of him and not just his feet. But “Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” Judas was not “purified” (or cleansed) by God’s Word.

Like most commentators, Guzik suggests that the “word” in this passage is referring to the entire Bible as the “word of God.” He writes, “The word of God is a cleansing agent. It condemns sin, it inspires holiness, it promotes growth, it reveals power for victory.”[1] It’s definitely true that the Bible does all those things, especially “condemning sin,” but I agree with other commentators who see the “word” referring to the Good News of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Kysar says, “In 13:10 it is Jesus’ act of surrendering his life which cleanses the disciples; here it is his word (logos). Word means the whole of Jesus’ message, including his life and death as well as his spoken proclamation.”[2] Jesus’ “act of surrendering his life” is the clearest expression of love. Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” As we see a few verses later in John 15:12-14, it’s about “abiding” in Jesus’ love as Jesus abides in the Father’s love and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

The “cleansing” that Jesus is speaking of isn’t a physical cleansing of dirt from the body. This was even clear in the washing of the disciple’s feet in John 13. It was only symbolic of a deeper kind of “cleansing.” We must remember that the purpose of God’s gardening is that “fruit” and then “more fruit” will be produced. Cleansing is the removal of anything that prevents production of fruit. The fruit referred to in this whole context is not apples, oranges or grapes! He’s referring to the Spiritual fruit of Love. He is going to address the drawing of nutrients by abiding in him, the branch, is what Paul meant in Ephesians 3:17. Paul prays that his readers, “…being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

[1] David Guzik, John, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Jn 15:1–3.

[2] Robert Kysar, John, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986), 237.

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