Paul continues his argument that there can be NO mixing of law and grace for salvation (Galatians 5:1-15). The Jewish Christians in the Early Church, who were converted out of Judaism, tried to mix in the requirement of circumcision for the Gentile believers in order for them to be part of the Church. This could not be admitted by the very definition of grace (See Ephesians 2:8-9).
Justification before God cannot be through any part of the law. Salvation began by the ‘rich mercy of God’ (Ephesians 2:4). The slightest admission of the law for justification is like leaven; it “leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). So serious is this that anyone who believed or taught that you could add anything to grace for being right before God is cursed (1:8-9). Paul says there is a penalty for those who teach and promote such an idea; “you are severed from Christ” (5:4) and “the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty” (5:10). Much more could be said, but take this as an important warning.
At the same time, there is a challenge that comes with accepting our freedom in Christ, but we will look at that tomorrow. The point here is to make sure we are not “adding to the pure gospel of grace”!
I love the way Paul makes complicated issues so clear that anyone who takes the time to read his letter to the Galatians can understand the analogy. The issue centers on the subject of Old Testament Law versus the gospel of grace without any works on our part.
In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul reduces, what many make so complicated, down to two mothers, two sons and two totally separate conclusions. Though my quiet time this morning was short, it became very clear that these two outcomes cannot overlap each other in any way! There is no way to say that one mother can be the mother of both sons. That is an impossibility when each mother gave birth to separate sons! Yet, we try so hard to find ways to hold onto part of the law and call it tradition to justify making our practice an absolute rather than seeing that Christ fulfilled the law for us and living free in Him.
“So, brothers, we are NOT children of the slave but of the free woman” (4:31). Physically and spiritually, no one can be a son of a slave woman and a son of a free woman at the same time. Why then do we try to be both? If we try, we will “nullify the grace of God” (2:21).
Chapter 5:1 is really a continuation of this thought; “DO NOT submit again to a yoke of slavery.” How thankful we should be for the freedom Jesus purchased at such tremendous cost! So, think, live, act and speak as a true son in freedom!
This weekend has been unusual and sad for many. With two sudden deaths for one family, one for another, plus the horrific conditions in Myanmar (Burma), our hearts are heavy for those affected by these events. What can we do for those immediately connected to such circumstances?
As “members” of one body in Christ, we are to “weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). It is not a for a ‘show’ but to genuinely enter into the feelings and loss of others as if it were your own. This becomes another proof that we are placed by the Holy Spirit into “one body” and have the same care for each other. Paul has more to say about how we comfort each other in these times.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
This is true love for others in the body of Christ. Even if we are not able to physically go and be with someone who is hurting or even speak to them, our fervent prayers are heard by the Father and He will answer according to His riches in Christ. DO WHAT YOU CAN!
Paul uses words that graphically describe our condition under the control, power and domination of sin - we were “slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6,17, 20). He uses the same analogy with regard to who we were under the condemning affect of the law. It was a worldly slavery (Galatians 4:1-3).
Because so many do not grasp this concept, they live defeated and doubtful lives. They try so hard to overcome the “yoke of slavery” (5:1) with human effort, only to discover that sin has a cruel grip on the mind and heart. Any victory over habits last only for a short time and then they come under its control again, and the cycle becomes more and more discouraging and impossible.
As we will see in Galatians 5, sonship is the greatest freedom because it was “the Son” who purchased our freedom. He came from heaven to accomplish this freedom just at the right time and in the right way (4:4-5). He could have bypassed the human element and wowed mankind with just divine power, but He didn’t. Jesus’ coming in human form was the only way to express humility. The amazing fact is that through His humility, Jesus broke the power of sin over the human spirit and annulled death by dying.
But there is more! Giving us freedom from the power and control of sin was only part of the divine plan. God wanted us “redeemed” into a new relationship with Him - “sonship”! In order to know the reality of this new relationship, He gave us His Spirit to live in us as a guarantee and constant reminder of who we are through our freedom in Christ (4:5-7). Are you a “slave” or “son”?
“There is more good news about the mission trip to Quito, Ecuador. Joseph and Tim arrived in Quito March 8th to encourage the believers and follow up on our 2015 and 2017 God’s Plan for His Church trainings. We were astonished at the growth and the expansion of the church since the Seed of biblical church planting and renewal was sown that many years ago.
We do not normally keep a record of how churches multiply, but since they do, I will share with you that they have planted 47 house churches with many trainings in Canada, Spain, and England, in addition to what is happening in Ecuador. This echoes of the church in Thessalonica:
“You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8).
Almost daily we shared the Word and encouraged many church leaders and new believers face to face and on ZOOM. We thank Oswaldo and Jenny for their hospitality and taking care of us while in Quito and for Juan and Laura in Puyo. We traveled to Puyo to visit and encourage Juan who we have been serving with us for over 25 years. He is continuing to train disciples and church planters. While it is slow, he is laying a solid foundation among the believers there.” (Tim)
What an encouragement! May God the Spirit do this and more in every corner of the earth!
While in Ecuador, we met with several Quechua leaders who want us to teach their leaders so they can train disciples and church planters to go into Ecuador and all of South American with the gospel of Jesus Christ. While the Quechua are primarily labeled Christian, they are largely Roman Catholic and much of the evangelical Church seems paralyzed by many of the Western non-biblical forms and traditions.
We believe God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church will help to unleash them from these forms and liberate them to grow and multiply. There are 2.5 million Quechuas in Ecuador, 5 million in Peru and 2 million in Bolivia. You can see the potential for a great movement of God among them in South America.
Before we departed, we learned there was an outbreak of the covid virus among the ones we were staying and serving with. Thankfully, Joseph and I had previously received our vaccinations. We are thankful that we are okay, but please remember in prayer those we left behind with the virus. Ecuador has the highest death rate from COVID of any country in the world. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!
In Christ, Tim and Joseph
Again tonight, we had a very powerful time of prayer for God’s work around the world. As we were in prayer it came to our attention that our brothers in Uganda are going through a very difficult time. While we know there is much painful persecution there, a spiritual battle is also raging.
The battle is disunity among the brothers caused by disagreements over money. Though this is the immediate issue, it is not the root issue. We could look anywhere in the world and find that money, covetousness, jealousy, and greed have caused the fracturing of God’s Church. Why? We have lost our focus on the most important thing - THE GLORY OF CHRIST!
Little do we realize how disunity mars the image of Christ in our personal testimony and ministry. Jesus prayed for the Church; “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20–21).
We cannot disciple others effectively if we are fighting among ourselves. Discipleship must be lived out before others (13:35) if they are to be disciples. Unity is a characteristic of the Spirit’s work (Ephesians 4:3) and can only be maintained by Him in us. The Church started this way. “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).
What would you do to stop fighting and quarreling in the Church? It is hard to fight with a brother when you repent and are humble in prayer.
As we continue to pursue Colossians 1:24-29 in order to understand the “stewardship from God” (25), let’s look at verses 28 & 29. Everything Paul said and did was in view of proclaiming Christ as Lord and the glorious gospel of grace. At the same time, there were functions of his ministry that may not seem as pleasant as others but were necessary. Here is his next objective:
Why was this so important to Paul? There were false teachers who were bent on distracting new churches from the gospel of grace by either introducing a “works” gospel or in some way elevating man which displaces Christ and takes away from His glory. The “warning” and “teaching” had to be done so that persons were attracted to Christ, not Paul or others.
There was one objective; help believers grow spiritually and become mature. When this is done, they will not be as susceptible to false teaching and influences. Paul states this in Ephesians 4:15-16; “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
May this always be our goal!
In speaking with someone today, my attention was drawn to Colossians 1:24-29. It is clear that Paul never took his calling and responsibilities casually. In addition to proclaiming and defending the gospel of grace, he felt a deep responsibility toward the Church to help it become what God had always planned and designed it to be. Paul calls this a “stewardship from God” (25).
There is never a hint in any of his letters that he wanted to make the Church relevant and in tune with the culture. He never suggested that it become theatrical or entertaining. Such goals will change with changes in the world. Instead, Paul give a clear outline of what he included in this stewardship and how important and unchanging each one is. Here are a few:
We will look at more of these tomorrow, but these alone should captivate our minds and hearts. We could take each one of these and expand them for weeks. They are filled with glory!
Robert Murray Mc Cheyne (1813 - 1843) died at the age of 29. Yet in that short life he left behind a pattern he learned very early. His journal on February 23, 1834 states, “Rose early to seek God and found Him whom my soul loveth. Who would not rise early to meet such company?”
Another of his quotes searches my heart and should challenge yours; “A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”
I cannot inspire anyone to love the presence of God or to enjoy time alone with Him unless the fruit of that type of “abiding” is seen by others in my life (see Acts 4:13).
Perhaps we have overlooked something about Saul’s conversion that began his walk with God. The Lord said to Ananias, “And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). If your life does not have the habit of prayer in it, start today.
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