Glory in the Cross – Galatians 6:11-18

These are the concluding marks of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. Within these few verses, we have a recap that it isn’t by the flesh that we should live, but by the Spirit. Now, we can compare this statement with other statements that Paul makes elsewhere, such by saying that his Gospel is not in word only, but in the demonstration of power. They who are compelling the Galatians to be circumcised, according to Paul, are not speaking with this power, but speaking from the flesh. It is not the flesh that profits anything, but the new creation.

For those of you who struggle, listen to Paul’s advice. I’m always amazed at how simple the language is. It’s never some exotic, or some “super-spiritual” thing that is commanded of us. All we’re called to do and be is what Christ has already made us to be. We’re “new creations”, and therefore no longer under the same bondage that we once were. I know that there is still struggle. We all have them. But, don’t let your struggle and temptation define you. You’ve been bought with a price, and with that freedom you’ve been given, do all you can to remain free.

Grace and peace in Christ. Next we’ll begin looking at the Gospel of Matthew, because I’ve been saying that we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus, but haven’t yet gone through them… Pray for me, because this is the deep end.

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Share in All Things – Galatians 6:6-10

Within this passage is a mandate to all. First, let me explain a bit of what it meant to be within the first century Church. Second, we’ll look at the passage directly. Third, we’ll ask the question of how we get there.

Within Acts 2:42-47, we read that they who were added to the Church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, having all things in common, selling their possessions and distributing as anyone had need, and spending time together daily, whether in the temple, going from house to house, or or otherwise. It was completely natural. You didn’t have to tell anyone to sell their possessions; they did it naturally. You didn’t have to tell people to live in obedience to the apostles’ teaching; they did that naturally. It was the logic of the salvation and outpouring of the Spirit that caused them to come together daily, and not merely weekly.

It is within this context, spending day after day with the other believers throughout your city, that we have a definition of Church. The Greek word (ekklesia) actually comes from the Hebrew Kahal, neither having any kind of religious connotation. It simply means an assembly, or a group of people who have gathered together. The sunagoge (synagogue) was where they met. Once again, there was absolutely nothing religiously affiliated with that word in the first century. Herod called the scholars together, and that gathering was called a sunagoge (Matt 2:4). In Hebrews 10:25, the “gathering together” is sunagoge. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, the place where Jesus gathers His Church is called an epi-sunagoge.

From this context, let us ask again what “Church” is. Within that first century manifestation, the Church was simply the people of God. For this reason, we find that Paul writes to whole cities, and not congregations within those cities. They met together daily, and anyone who had need was provided for. How did they have so much money? They didn’t. Everyone lived within their means, living a peaceful and quiet life. They didn’t spend their money on large homes, fancy clothing, or “things”. Rather, they spent their money on one another, putting it to a greater use than themselves.

This all came down to the eschatological dimension. The end times were not something far away and outside, but were a dynamic that was lived out in daily life. There was an expectation of imminent judgment upon the House of Israel, and a knowing that the righteous should be preserved. There was a knowledge that God was progressing His people forward in an ultimate drama, and therefore every day was another chance to grow and develop, progressing with God toward that ultimate climax of the age.

When we come to Galatians 6:6, we find Paul telling the people to give to they who teach. For you who are being taught, and who are finding much growth spiritually through a certain teacher, you should do what you can to provide for their needs. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul uses the idea of sowing and reaping in a similar context. But, notice that Paul doesn’t remain with providing for they who teach, but the conclusion in verse 10 is to do good to all. Given the context, it must be that Paul is speaking about physical need, and giving to those who have need.

Why is this stressed?

It is the logic of our salvation, the logic of love, to provide for one another. Simply living what we’ve received demands that we would take care of one another. And how do we even get back to such a thing? In our day and age, especially here in the West, we are enshrouded with debt, with expenses, and with financial trouble. How do we get free of this? Let me be clear: Dave Ramsey might speak about getting free from debt, but he doesn’t give the biblical answer.

From the New Testament text, it seems that the way that we get free from debt is selling everything. You have your house paid off? Invite they who don’t have their homes paid off in, and allow them to live with you until they have the necessary provision to buy a home without debt. Are you still paying on your car? Sell it and get something much less exotic. Are you struggling to pay your bills? Get rid of the cable, the Internet, the cigarettes, the Netflix, and anything else that is unnecessary, and ultimately is a waste of life and time. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, THEN come and follow me.” How many of us would also go away saddened, and not follow Jesus?

You want freedom? How much? You want the first century reality in your midst? How much? Are you willing to buy your brother or sister a new roof on their house because they need it? Are you willing to ding-dong ditch some groceries? Are you willing to purchase a car for the single mom who can’t afford to fix the minivan that she is currently driving at 250,000 miles? Are you willing to get to know the people around you well enough to know their needs, and know whether you can provide or not? It is a shameful testimony that you can have someone who can’t even afford to feed their child and someone who has tens of thousands of dollars in their bank account gathering at the same building for “church”.

My wife and I live at a level that is so far in poverty that we don’t even register on the chart. Yet, we don’t have debt, we pay our bills, we have clothes, we have food, and everything is provided in its time. I confess, we often do have struggle, and we’ve gone without meat, we’ve gone without reasonable shoes, we are currently going with clothes that are worn out and falling apart, we have no computers, our apartment is so small that the living room is our bedroom, when car insurance or veterinarian bills come we get nervous, we’ve known hunger, we’ve known what it is to only afford water, we’ve known what it means to have a drafty house that chills you in the winter, we’ve known what it means to skip changing the oil in the car because you can’t afford it, we’ve known what it means to debate paying the electric bill or buying groceries, we’ve experienced the ghetto poverty even outside of the ghetto, and yet I boast in these things because His grace is sufficient.

You want to know why my words are often so powerful? You want to know why I speak so much of resurrection? It is because if my God is not real, then my wife and I will perish. Everything is cast upon God. If He doesn’t come through for us, providing us our daily bread, then we don’t eat. It’s not expedient, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s life from the dead.

So I ask again:
How much are you willing to experience the first century phenomenon?

 

To Help, Or Not To Help – Galatians 6:1-5

When we begin the last chapter of Galatians, it seems to be starting off well. Paul says that the who are spiritual should restore someone who struggles with temptation (notice he doesn’t say sin – more on that in a minute). Yet, when you come to the last statement of the passage, you read Paul saying that everyone should bear their own load. What the heck? Am I supposed to help, or not help? Are we to bear one another’s burdens, or examine our own work?

This makes me to think of the crucifixion of Jesus, even. Did He carry His own cross, as Matthew and John say? Or, did Jesus have help from this Simon fellow, as Mark and Luke say? I’ll try to give some advice, even if the truth is that I find this passage perplexing as well lol.

If someone is struggling with a sin, then let you who are spiritual do all that you can to help them bear that temptation and overcome. Yet, if it isn’t “temptation” in this sense, but is rather the following of an utterly different Gospel, a Gospel of works, then each man must examine his own work. For you who are attempting to stop smoking, or quit drinking, or break the porn addiction, or find healthier lifestyles in eating and exercising, then you need to find someone who is able to wrestle alongside of you. Find someone who you know to be spiritual, and not simply a pastor or elder. This is one of the biggest problems in our day. With all of the people in “leadership”, I don’t know them well enough to know whether I can trust them. And, it only takes that one time that you confess a fault to someone, and they then gossip it around town, that you no longer trust anyone.

We need to be incredible careful and wise with who we reveal our faults to. They need to be someone that we know will have gentleness and compassion on us, but at the same time are spiritual enough to perceive past just the struggle.

What do I mean?

You aren’t smoking because you’re addicted to cigarettes. You’re not playing video games for many hours into the night on multiple days a week because you simply enjoy video games. You’re not looking at porn, or flirting with boys/girls, or seeking intimate relationships because you enjoy the feeling. There is something deeper here. Before you ever smoked your first cigarette, you never had the need for a cigarette. Before you lost your virginity, you never needed sex. You never needed alcohol to have a good time and party before you first started drinking. What has changed that you now look for it?

This is the issue behind the issue. They who are spiritual can help you wrestle that one though, and in wrestling together, to overcome the original problem that led to the addiction. It might be that there are wounds that haven’t healed, wounds that you’ve forgotten of, but when you start to attempt to wage war against the demonic voices and the lies that you’ve believed, the wound is uncovered, and now you’re reminded. It takes someone who is able to stand with you, and not accuse you, in these moments. This is why Paul charges they that are spiritual to restore their brother with gentleness, and not to assail them.

In regard to the other issue, in examining ourselves, notice the context of the statement. “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” What are you saying Paul? He’s saying that there is a mindset of exaltedness, one that comes from a knowledge that puffs up, in which we can live and believe, simple because we are under law. You who are spiritual, who think yourself at a place to help they who are struggling with temptation: Why are you capable? Is it that you don’t commit the same sins they do, and therefore you’re at a place of higher devotion and holiness? Or, is it because, by the grace of God, you’ve been given a disposition that is servant-like? Are you at a place to better help others because you’re “more spiritual”, understanding “spiritual warfare”, and “prayer”, and other such tactics to cause for this “weaker brother” to be brought into maturity like you are? Or, are you able to recognize that apart from the grace of God, none of us are righteous, none of us are able, and therefore it is only through the grace and power of God that we will have ability to help them overcome?

Here is the dividing line, dear children. I could go off into the various Scripture references to bring you to seeing how Paul uses this language all over his epistles, but what is more important to me is your freedom. For you who are free, and who live in that freedom, and who fight to remain in that freedom, help they who are overcoming. Notice that Paul doesn’t call it sin. According to the Gospel, we’ve died with Christ, and we aren’t any longer “sinners”. The “sinner” is dead; I am alive in Christ. What now must happen is that I need to learn how to live again. I must relearn what it means to walk, to talk, to live, and to move, and to have my being in God instead of self. That is not a process of putting to death the old man, for the old man has always been dead. That is a process of learning to live out of the new man, the one who is truly alive. It takes time, but they who are mature should be able to perceive what is necessary to bring the young into maturity.

Fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-26

I want to begin this by claiming that I am not qualified to go through these fruits. Let me begin the same way as the post on the fruits of the flesh. We’ll examine the text around the list of the fruits, and then we’ll list off the fruits and put forth a couple ideas.

It captures me that the statement immediately following the fruits of the flesh is, “those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Immediately after the fruits of the Spirit is the statement, “Against such there is no law.” Is it possible that these statements are somehow being paralleled? Is there something inherent within “the Kingdom of God” that requires “against such things there is no law”? Certainly the whole sweep of Galatians would propose this. We begin with Paul expounding to us that the law is more than just Leviticus and Deuteronomy, for I confess that I delight in such books (as did Paul). Law is something other, it is putting anything in between you and Christ. It is exploring traditions, whether like the Pharisees or like evangelicalism, and in that exploration suggesting that the fullness that people seek is within something utterly outside of Scripture and Christ.

You who want to know Jesus more deeply, where do you think this comes from? It isn’t from going to church more often, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from serving more, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from Bible college or seminary, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from having such and such big name pray over you, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from getting baptized in the Spirit to pray in tongues, for I’ve done that. It isn’t in louder, or “more intimate” worship, for I’ve done that. It isn’t in becoming an elder, or a deacon, or some other higher appraised position in your church (I haven’t done this one lol).

All of these things may have their place (some are questionable), but what I’ve found is that none of them bring the satisfaction that I continually sought. I kept praying for more of Jesus, more of God’s Spirit, more of God’s power, more submission to God, more of God’s presence, more of “more”, but I’m not sure what “more” is…

This is once again where it is actually really simple, but we’ve made it so complicated. What does Paul say? “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Where in there do you find, “put to death the sinful nature”? Where in that statement do you find, “Always keep searching for something more, something deeper”? Where do you find, “Do this, don’t do that”? It isn’t there. It is simply, you’re in Christ, and therefore you’ve crucified the flesh and its lusts. You live in the Spirit (I’ve also read “by the Spirit”), so therefore walk in the Spirit. This last statement isn’t about rules or “don’t do this”, but a natural outworking of what Paul has just said. It’s like saying, “You’ve been given a body that has certain needs, so make sure to take care of yourself.” If you add on the end, “Don’t smoke, and don’t drink”, it isn’t a command, or “law”, but the simple obvious example of what it means to “take care of yourself”.

So, where do we find the satisfaction that so many are looking for? IHOP and other ministries are actually based entirely upon this seeking.

Satisfaction to the uttermost is found in everything that it means to be “in Christ”. What is it that God wants you to do with your life? He wants you to be “in Christ”, and therefore not in the flesh. What does God approve of? Jesus says that God’s will is this: “To believe on Him whom He has sent”. What about all of the amazing glory-cloud, and visions, and dreams, and prophecies, and tongues, and gifts, and corporate worship, and serving, and evangelism, and…? That stuff is not the foremost, but the secondary. It is the outworking of that which is foremost: being what God has told you to be.

If you are what the Bible marks out for humanity to be, and you simply uphold what Jesus taught that we should live, then go in peace. You already are “deeper” than most people. Here is what I’ve found: the Bible maps out for us a progression. God has been working in the earth since its formation. He rested on the seventh day, and Hebrews 4 then takes that idea and claims that we can also rest from our works, thus entering into the cosmic rest that God has already established (from the foundation of the world). God has been revealing Himself more and more through history, and I dare say that Jesus walking upon the earth was a greater revelation than what Adam and Eve saw in the Garden. Yet, there is an even greater revelation still: Jesus’ second coming and the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon the earth. And yet, there is a greater “unveiling” still: the New Heaven and New Earth, where heaven and earth are one, and where God is in unadulterated splendor before all creation, and where Spirit and flesh are married.

Here is the question, then: How can we be a part of what God is already doing to bring all things unto that ultimate climax and revealing of God? To answer that question is to know what it means to be a “saint”, and specifically a saint in our own day and age. It is answered in knowing God’s heart, and basing our understanding of everything in theology (but especially our end times perception) off of that heart and character. When we know what God is up to, then we can work hand-in-hand with Him, and this is the satisfaction so many are craving.

So, what are the fruits, that we might better understand what to do/be here and now?

Love
I’m sure you’ve heard that “agape is God’s love”. This isn’t true. If you’ve ever looked into the Greek words more deeply than just the way they are used in Scripture, you’ll know agape was a Greek word before the New Testament began using it. It is true that agape is often used as God’s love, but agape is also commanded. Therefore, it was already understood to have a certain connotation. What is love? Love is the essence of what it means to be human. It is the act of reconciliation with all things (God, humanity, and creation). It seeks to perceive more than just circumstances, and in that to perceive to the very heart and essence of the other, cherishing that very essence. It is for this reason that 1 Corinthians can give us things that love does and doesn’t do – because it sees beyond just flesh and outward experience/circumstance.

Joy
I’ve heard it said that joy and happiness are different. Happiness can fluctuate, but joy remains. While this might be true, we need to recognize that there is still a deeper way of expressing what joy is. Joy is the result of satisfaction in Christ. It is the result of freedom. It is the result of being in the Kingdom of God, and no longer in the kingdom of darkness. Joy is the result of working hand-in-hand with God, to be the saints of God in your own generation.

Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers, because they bring conflict wherever they go. They realize that true peace is not avoidance of the issues, but rather the result of dealing with issues. To be a peacemaker is to have the ministry of reconciliation; peace is reconciliation. As much as it is up to you, live at peace with all men.

Longsuffering
Other translations call this “patience”. Longsuffering instills the image of being nagged excessively, and yet just bearing it for a long time. That attitude is not longsuffering. It isn’t patience. Patience requires that we can perceive beyond the circumstances, to realizing that we are an eternal people, and that though time itself might bring aggrevating conditions, God is the one in charge. Instead of getting angry at so and so, we know that there is something else at play (demons, their immaturity in Christ, they are of this world and therefore acting like this world, etc). Instead of getting angry about being late, or persecution, or whatever is out of our control, we know that “there is but one God, from whom all things came” (1 Cor 8:6, and see Eph 4:6 and Hebrews 10:32-35).

Kindness
Chréstotés, which comes from chréstos, and means (loosely) to be well fit for what is truly needed. Chrestos means useful, and therefore this “kindness” isn’t about not being mean or cruel, but about perceiving what is truly necessary, and to act according to that need. In this, I think Shakespeare had said something remarkable in Hamlet, “Sometimes one must be cruel in order to be kind.” It isn’t cruelty for the sake of being mean, but cruelty for the sake of snapping someone into reality. In this, we find Jesus and all the prophets railing against the religious in Israel, and speaking such harsh statements, which we would all find to be absolutely “unkind”, and yet fully revealing kindness and love.

Goodness
Agathosune (ag-ath-oh-soo-nay) means “inherent goodness”. Notice the suffix “syne” (sune), which in the Greek suggests a condition or quality. It isn’t that goodness is something that we work on, or attempt to be, but that this fruit of the Spirit demands that we simply are. We have the condition, or the quality, of being good, and therefore can do no other. So, what is “goodness”, which I’m sure that all of you are thinking you fall way short of? This word seems to be specific to the New Testament, and from what I understand is not a word found in secular Greek manuscripts. Agathos is what originates and emanates from God, and is impowered through His life. I would like to suggest that it is the very condition that we all know. When you woke up the day after coming to Christ, did you experience a different set of morals? I did. I no longer desired to live the way I had always lived. That is agathosune.

Faithfulness
This comes from the word “faith”, which is a pursuasion of that which you believe. It might well be that faith is not faith when you can see it with your own eyes, but is revealed as faith when you trust it, even if you can’t tangibly prove it. Faithfulness is the act of faith. It is the pursuasion of your confession, and the lifestyle bent toward God in all things. God is real, Jesus has saved my soul, and now I shall eternally cry, “All to Jesus”. That is faithfulness – to do the things God desires, even when it is unconvenient and difficult.

Gentleness
I met a man from Sweden with such gentleness and quietness. When he spoke, it was barely louder than a whisper. Yet, when he spoke, everyone shut up to listen. His words were charged, and in them were the most beautiful things. His eyes were always red, because he from when I met him, he was always crying. In him was gentleness, and that was his strength. There was strength shown in this man that I had never seen before, and it paradoxically came most powerfully from his meekness.

Self-Control
This is our discipline to do that which God demands.

These are freedom, and it isn’t a requirement. This is the “symptom” of freedom. All is permissible, but not all is beneficial. Some acts of freedom are your last act of freedom. Therefore, do the things that freedom is, and in that, live as you already are: free.

Fruits of the Flesh – Galatians 5:19-21

Lets begin by looking at the first statement, then the last, and then listing out the “fruits” of the flesh. So, first off, notice that Paul is asserting that the fruits of the flesh are “evident”, or “obvious”. It isn’t any mystery as to what acts are of the flesh and which acts are spiritual. This isn’t rocket science, nor something debatable. If you know even the most elementary things of Christianity, you shouldn’t have to ask many questions before you come to these.

With that said, let us not be surprised at what is listed. And, let us not be surprised that “those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God”. How can they? They do the very things that are the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. This would be like an American who wants to destroy America. If you hate America so much that you forcefully battle in all of your ways against the very foundation of what America is and stands for, then you have no reason to be within America. Now, this isn’t about patriotism, but the Kingdom of God. If the Kingdom of God is about certain things, such as love, hope, faith, peace, and righteousness, then how can you expect they who hate to be a part of that Kingdom? If the Kingdom is righteous, then would it really be heaven for the unrighteous to dwell there? If the Kingdom is of self-control, will the impulsive and undisciplined actually find it to be heaven?

Adultery
Jesus defined this pretty sharply when claiming that to even look at a woman with lust is to commit adultery. Essentially, what Jesus is getting at is that the act of adultery doesn’t begin with intercourse, but way before that there was a moment when your heart went from recognizing the beauty of the other person to desiring them. It was at that moment, when you went from recognizing the beauty to desiring them sexually that you not only committed adultery, but began to see them as an object for your own pleasure and satisfaction.

Fornication
Just like adultery, this act doesn’t begin with the pre-marital sex, but with the moment that you go from simply being attracted to the other person to pursuing more than mere “attraction”. Now, here is the interesting thing: Often, the act of sexual intimacy isn’t condemned in the Bible. Fornication isn’t simply the act of having sex outside of marriage, but having sex for pleasure. When you will have sex with someone, only to then move on to the next person, you have committed fornication. Once again, this gets back to the heart of seeing people as objects instead of people. I think the biblical response to a couple who were attempting to remain pure, but got carried away in the heat of a certain moment, is that we allow them to get married. Don’t tell them they sinned and now need to break up. Instead, if they can’t keep their hands off of one another, let them express such things in the bonds of marriage. These are two completely different circumstances and dispositions of the heart, and therefore need to be treated as such. (BTW, not condoning pre-marital sex, but simply trying to help give better advice than the kind of condemnation that will lead to people forsaking Christ. Let’s be honest, there are a lot of people in my generation who probably have already had sex, or performed sexual acts, before they’re 20. How about we think through what we’re saying to them.)

Uncleanness
In Leviticus, uncleanness was never treated the same as sin. Sin meant that you needed to repent and offer these sacrifices in order to be made right before God again. Uncleanness simply required washing yourself and then at the evening sacrifice you were made clean. Certain things did require an amount of time to be made clean (like the purification after child birth – Lev 12), but most of the time it was an issue of doing something, or having something happen to you, that defiled your body, and therefore wasn’t specifically sinful. It’s on this list because from a New Testament perspective it isn’t what goes into a man, nor what is necessarily a “defect” or sickness, that makes a man unclean, but rather what comes out of the man (Matthew 15:11).

Lewdness
What is lewdness? Is it not the very thing of the heart that has already been expressed through adultery and fornication, only the outward display of it? It is lewd to be sexually profane, whether in word or in action, but it’s also lewd to display any kind of indecent or profane behavior. Once again, it comes from the heart that is bent toward injustice, objectifying people, using people for selfishness, and bigotry.

Idolatry
Idolatry in the Old Testament is often the spiritual counterpart to adultery. Whereas adultery is the physical act of cheating on your spouse, idolatry is the spiritual act of following other gods. Idolatry is manifest in any thing that you devote yourself to in order to find satisfaction, relief, and/or happiness – especially, but not exclusively, when that is found in a religious context. When you’re relieved from the sense of shame through “things” that you do, you have committed idolatry. This could include even religious things, like tithing. It isn’t through tithing that you’re saved, but through faith in Christ Jesus. It isn’t by sports that you find the deep satisfaction of your soul, the calling upon your life, but by being what God has created you to be in Christ.

Sorcery
There is a verse in the Old Testament that claims rebellion is worse than witchcraft. Some have taken this to mean rebellion IS witchcraft, but I’m not so quick to endorse that. There are obvious examples of sorcery and witchcraft in the New Testament, Simon the sorcerer of Acts 8 being one of them. Sorcery endorses the wisdom of demons, and the power of demons, in order to accomplish signs and wonders. I can say that this happens within the “church”, especially when healings, miracles, demonic deliverance, etc are being promoted heavily. It isn’t through God’s wisdom and compassion that such things take place, but through a carnal grasping of things that the Bible says, and therefore an unholy boldness in “naming and claiming” through the supposed “power” of those Scriptures and Jesus’ name. It’s sorcery at its finest.

Hatred
Hatred doesn’t begin with a condemnation toward another human being, but with being angry at your brother/sister for no warrant. Jesus said that anyone who says, “Raca” shall be condemned to hellfire, but why? Raca is the term used to say someone is worthless. You feel as though there is nothing that this person can contribute to society, nor the world in general, and therefore you hate them. To consider someone worthless is to hate, and that doesn’t begin with the feeling of “worthlessness”, but rather with the anger and bitterness that should be processed and overcome. When you can go from acknowledging someone on the road, being angry with them cutting you off, and then go from there to blowing past them without even considering that person at all, you have begun the process of hatred.

Contentions
Contentions are brought about by moments that should be overcome. A brother/sister offends you, and so what do you do? Biblically, we should go to them (and them alone), and should strive to work out our differences. If they won’t listen to you, then take someone else with you to talk to them. Reason with the other person. If they caused offense, what is it that they did that specifically offended? If they won’t listen to that, then they don’t have a tender heart (another way of saying their heart is still hardened, and possibly unchanged by the Gospel). Contentions arise when we won’t consult one another to work things out, but rather gossip or let things fester.

Jealousies
Once again, jealousies arise when we see “worthlessness”. This time, it isn’t another who is worthless, but self. Why be jealous of what another has, whether physically or spiritually? Has God not created you to be different, and therefore not have the same things? Why, then, jealousy? They don’t have what you have, and you don’t have what they have. Rejoice in that, because God builds all things together according to His wisdom and not out own.

Outbursts of Wrath
This is the expression of hatred, contentions, and anger. If you are not willing to deal with these issues like healthy adults, then it will explode at some time in some way. Whether in physical violence or verbal/emotional violence, it makes no difference. Both require that hatred, contentions, and anger fester instead of being dealt with.

Selfish Ambitions
This doesn’t mean that we should have no goals or hopes or ambitions. What it means is that our ambitions should be loving enough to consider others. Why does Paul say to seek prophecy? We have thought we should seek tongues, but Paul doesn’t say to seek tongues. He says to seek prophecy, or if you do seek tongues to also seek the interpretation of tongues. Why? Because it is the loving thing to do. Above all, seek love, which then leads straightway into “seek prophecy”. Why? Prophecy edifies the whole Body, and interpretation of tongues edifies the whole Body, but the gift of tongues only edifies you. Do you see how this is an example of selfish ambition?

Dissensions
This is similar to contention, but doesn’t specifically have to result in anger or offense. It could be that you are jealous, that you gossip, that you don’t like someone, or even that you disagree doctrinally. Doctrinal differences aren’t to result in church splits or denominationalism. Is there not one truth? If there is one truth, then why split churches? Should we not wrestle together until we come to the same conclusions?

Heresies
Heresy is not simply false teaching. Heresy is the renunciation of all truth. It is the establishment of lies in the place of truth. Heresy demands that you have said something so contrary to the truth that there is absolutely no way that you are in Christ, but rather are antichrist. You’ve rejected truth on such a fundamental level that the only satisfactory response is damnation.

Envy
This is likened to jealousy. What do you have that you have not received could be changed to, “What do they have that they have not received?”

Murders
Jesus’ point in Matthew 5 was that murder starts with the heart. It begins by saying someone is worthless, and then progresses to even further extremes. Not only are they worthless, but actually a hindrance to society, and the world would be better without this person. Have you ever heard someone say something like that? They might not have actually murdered someone, but they haven’t done any better by expressing “young earth creationists”, or Christians/Jews in general, are a hindrance to the progression of society.

Drunkenness
This comes down to self-indulgence. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. When you can’t even control yourself enough to know how much you can drink before getting drunk, you haven’t only sinned against your own body, but against the very drink itself. Alcohol isn’t forthright condemned in the Bible, but drunkenness is. You can treat the alcohol with respect, knowing that wine has some medicinal properties, and that alcohol itself can relax your muscles. I can add to this the very lack of self-restrain that obesity demands. It isn’t genetics, nor a sickness, but self-indulgence that brings about obesity. These things are not fitting for the Kingdom, and they who struggle with them need to be encouraged with a godly encouragement.

Revelries
This is like partying, which if you’ve ever been to a college party, you know exactly why this is condemned. Hollywood exaggerates, this is true, but that doesn’t mean that the mentality doesn’t exist or pervade many of the college parties. That mindset can be very much alive without the need for a “party”.

Walking in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-18

I want to give some practical advise to walking in the Spirit. Let me make it simple: It’s really simple. Got it?

After about 10 years in the Lord, I’ve heard a lot of messages about walking with God, about walking with the Spirit, and I’ve read a lot of books, articles, and blogs. This is pretty well what I do. When I was first saved, I went to church daily. 7 days out of the week I was spending all of my free time either at church, in a Bible study, or on the streets evangelizing. I have about 500 sermons on my computer that I’m still working through. That number was upward to about 10,000. I say all this to say that I know this is a question that people are asking about, and I know that a lot of times the answers are clouded in uncertainty (to say the least).

So, first things first, let us reason naturally. When you’re born, you can’t walk immediately. Most of you muscles are unfit for being used in maturity. You drink milk, you flail about without hand-eye coordination, and even your vocal/speaking mechanisms are unable to communicate as adults. After a couple years, the child has probably gotten to a place where he/she can say some words, can walk (somewhat), is eating food instead of milk, etc. It takes time for the body to grow and mature. The same is true spiritually.

When you’re first born into the Lord, you probably don’t know a whole lot of what you’re doing, or how to do much. There is nothing wrong with that, because you can’t expect an infant to be potty trained or reason with the philosophers of our day. There has to be maturing that takes place. Whether you’re years or months (or decades) in the faith, don’t feel like because you haven’t seen the fruit you were hoping for that you’re somehow doing it wrong. It takes time, it takes devotion, and it takes dedication.

Now that that is out of the way, what exactly do we even mean when we say “walk in the Spirit”? I’m afraid that it has almost been supercharged into this unattainable super-human, super-spiritual thing. Just as walking is such a natural ability of the creature (what animal do you know that isn’t naturally able to figure out the walking thing?), so too is walking in the Spirit. It’s simply what you do when you’re in the faith. So, lets go ahead and look at a few Scriptures (you’ll notice that all of these pertain directly to our passage):

Rom 6:12-14, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (see Gal 5:16 and 18)

Rom 8:1-4, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Rom 8:12-14, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

I know all of these verses are in Romans. You’ll notice if you go through a concordance (or search Bible Gateway with the phrase “walk in the spirit”) that in almost every case (if not every case), it is immediately in regard to not walking in the flesh, not falling to temptation, beholding the Day of the Lord and our redemption that comes with it, and therefore living in purity before God here and now.

So, what is walking in the Spirit? If our theology tells us that to walk according to the Spirit is to somehow be led out of our homes, across the country or across the world, to preaching to people that need Jesus, or to knowing with intuition that someone needs help that we can offer, then we have missed the mark. Prophecy, healing, miracles, and missionary work is not the definition of walking according to the Spirit. It isn’t about hearing some Divine emanation and then doing what this voice from heaven speaks. It is not about knowing the will of God for your life and then pursuing it.

Walking in the Spirit is really simple. In fact, if you’re truly in Christ, it is the most basic thing that you can do. What it comes down to is this: What does God approve of? If you open the Bible and simply begin to read it, what conclusions will you come to about what God approves of and expects His people to act like? Let me give a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  1. Compassion on the oppressed
    Compassion is about justice. God hears the cry of the oppressed, whether the poor, the widows, the fatherless, or the sojourner. If you’re in Christ, and you truly have the Spirit of God within you, then you cannot ignore this cry. Something in you drives you to noticing when there is injustice and oppression of the lowly. You can’t ignore it, because it is fundamentally something that God gets super pissed about. I told my wife the other day, “I’ve figured it out… I’m an Amos.” The reason that I continue to harp and gripe about the injustice I see Christendom doing, and the theories that promote selfishness, is because I’m an Amos. I might not have the glorious visions and prophecies of Isaiah or Zechariah, but when you read Amos you can’t ignore the compassion and love that he radiates for His people and for the poor.
  2. Faithfulness
    This word is something that has been lost to us. Faithfulness doesn’t mean that we’re sinless, nor that we somehow spend all and are expended upon the Lord’s behalf, but that we’re simply faithful. We devote ourselves to the Lord, and if He directs our path in another direction, then we go. If He doesn’t move us, then we’re content to stay and live a simple life. We’re faithful with what He has given us, and we’re faithful to not complain and covet what others have. When we have need, we pray, and when we don’t have need, we have gratitude.
  3. Acknowledgement of God
    How sad is it that one of the biggest things that God desires is to simply be acknowledged? Even within Deuteronomy, one of the statements that rings out is to not forget God when you get blessed… To acknowledge Him is to recognize on a deeper level that it is by God that you live, and move, and have your being. Don’t think that simply saying, “Oh, but God provides” is enough. That statement shouldn’t be a quick cliche to spout out, but the very reality that you live from.
  4. Simplicity
    There is never anything, anywhere, in the Bible that is complex. You might have deep thoughts, amazing wisdom, and incredible insight, but you don’t have anything complex. Things like “Bible codes”, hoops to jump through, demands that you need to know multiple languages to understand the Bible, etc are all lies. God is simple, and He expects that we live simply. In Exodus, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little did not go hungry. You live within your means. Proverbs speaks against debt profusely. In all things, live simply. Know that the Bible is simple, and even Leviticus can be easily understood when you’ve read it a couple times to become familiar with it, and that we’re asked to live within our means, not desiring bigger, better, faster, more. That kind of thinking (bigger, better, faster, deeper, more) comes from demons, and not God.
  5. Mercy
    Once again, this seems super simple, right? God has granted you mercy, so go and do likewise to/for others. There isn’t a “unless” or “except for” in that command of Jesus. You weren’t deserving of mercy, and neither are they.

To learn to live in this manner (and this is just a quick off-the-top-of-my-head outline) is to walk in the Spirit. Learning of God’s character and the things He approves of is to learn to walk according to the Spirit. Therefore, “spirit-led worship” and “spirit-led sermons” and other stuff is nonsense. To be “Spirit led” is to learn from the Spirit the very wisdom and lifestyle of heaven, and to then live from that reality in all things that you do. This is why “walking in the Spirit” is the opposite of “walking in the flesh”.

Love Fulfills the Law – Galatians 5:7-15

In this passage, there are a couple things noteworthy, but it all leads to the point: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What is it that leads to this “for” declaration? What is the “for” resting upon that is the so obvious conclusion of?

We noticed in the last segment how Paul is expressing “Christian liberty”. It isn’t that our freedom for freedom’s sake is given so that we can go out and live like we want to, but that we are not bound to a righteousness that demands we live according to what others conceive of being righteous. Our foundation is not upon a law, nor upon what we do, but upon Christ and what He has done. In that, we can rest in the fact that we are alive in Him, and that through Him we can be content simply in being His. One of my friends once told me, “We’re human beings, not human doings.”

It’s the proverbial Moses’ call to “come up the mount and BE there”. Don’t think about how your going to get down. Don’t think about food and water. Don’t think about the Israelites at the base of the mountain. Come up the mount, and be with me.

Now, we haven’t come to Sinai, which Paul so brilliantly already declared in Galatians 4:25-27, but unto Zion (New Jerusalem – Hebrews 12:18-24). The mount that we’re to climb is not one based upon “do this, don’t do that”, but upon faith and the grace of God. We’ve come to Zion, the very heavenly dwelling of God’s throne and glory. We’ve come to Zion, the very beauty that draws out the angel’s worship, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. The whole earth is filled with His glory.” We’ve come to Zion, the place where brothers dwell together in unity, and tears flow for the sake of God’s glory being established on the face of the earth.

Because we’ve come unto that, and not unto the mount that burned with fire, that caused for the people to declare that they were too afraid to hear God anymore, and even Moses declared, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Deut 9:19, Heb 12:21), the next thought is one of love fulfilling the whole of the Law. Between here and there, we have Paul asking again, “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Notice that this was asked before in Galatians 3:1 a different way.

Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? And what exactly is that leaven? Jesus uses leaven in a couple different ways. He uses it in regard to the Kingdom of God, that even just a little leaven within the large batch of dough works its way through the whole lump, and this is how the Kingdom of God is (Matt 13:33). He also warns His disciples to “beware the yeast (leaven) of the Pharisees” (Matt 16:6). In both times, the leaven is neither good nor bad, but simply the very contagious mechanism that causes for the whole lump to become holy or unholy.

We can see how this pertains again to the foundation of our lives. Obviously the Galatians want to obey Christ, and obviously they are doing what they are being told will help to be closer to Jesus. So, it isn’t about making Jesus the center, as if that alone is all that is necessary. The question at hand is the very means by which we serve and worship Jesus. Does the way in which you perceive yourself before God stem from whether you have overcome that besetting sin or not? Do you determine whether you’re truly right with God by whether you have stopped getting angry so easily? Is it through your outward works that you determine where you stand before God, or is it through what God has declared?

Please don’t misunderstand me. We can’t simply cast off what Jesus and the apostles have said elsewhere about the way that we live and treat one another, but we also shouldn’t expect that if we’re somehow not living up to it that we just must not be saved. I’ve heard that kind of damnation on the Internet, really on just about every Christian video that you can find, which would conclude that your brother or sister is not actually saved because of what they believe or because they struggle. There is no room for arrogance in the Kingdom of God, and that includes a self-despising.

The leaven that leavens the whole lump is the basis by which you define yourself, and from there, it works its way through the whole lump. If you perception is “to God be glory in all things”, then it doesn’t matter whether you fall or not. With time, God will bring you through. What bothers me so heavily is when people start making statements with their theology like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, “God will deliver us, O King!” But, don’t forget the rest of the statement: “But even if He doesn’t, we still will not bow and worship your statue…”

Is it about God delivering you from suffering, from poverty, from sin, and from the difficulties of life, or is it about God gaining glory in all things? How can it be that Stephen would be stoned, and instead of crying out against the injustice he is able to reiterate what Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”? Such a heart of compassion and love, even for they who are killing him, does not come from a mind that is saturated in self. That kind of prayer can only be prayed honestly when you have no care for your own life, and your only care is God’s name and His glory. If it grants God the greater glory that Stephen should be martyred, and that Saul would behold this and later come to the faith through such a sight, then who are we to grumble that Stephen could have done great things? Nothing would have exceeded what we find in the New Testament, not because of Stephen’s incapability, but because it is about God and God’s glory alone.

When your heart pants for the glory of God in all things, and not that you would behold it or share in it, but that He would be glorified, you find that people get very upset indeed. “If I still preach circumcision, then why am I still being persecuted?” I could rephrase this for myself: “If I were still preaching the Kingdom of Jesus and me, then why do people get offended at my words?” It isn’t about “Jesus and me”, but about Jesus, and Jesus alone. Circumcision means nothing apart from Christ, and if through Christ you’ve been circumcised in heart, then why do you need to now get circumcised?

The fulfillment of the law is this: love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t do that apart from Christ, for it is only in having that disposition, “may Jesus be glorified”, that we have the possibility of this. If it is about myself, then I’m going to tend to my own wants and needs. But, if it is about Jesus, then it must also be about His Body. Therefore, if my brother has no coats, and we’re living in Ohio where the winter can get down to negative temperatures (Fahrenheit), then how can I not have compassion on him to give him one of my coats? If my sister has to decide between repairing the roof of her house or buying groceries, how can I not buy her groceries so that it’s no longer a decision? If my other sister is going to need to drop out of college because she can’t afford it, but we both know it is God’s will that she finishes, then how can I not send her thousands of dollars to pay for her tuition?

(I give these examples as things I’ve actually done)

It is love that matters. Knowledge will come to a brim, prophecy will cease, and even tongues mean nothing if we have not love, but love goes on forever. Paul never tells us to seek tongues, nor any other gift (except prophecy), but to seek love. Why? Because if you are truly doing the loving thing, you aren’t wanting the gifts that edify yourself, but the gifts that edify the Body. And, if an unbeliever were to be in your midst, and you have a prophetic word, or you have unction from the Holy Spirit to pray for their healing, why would tongues even matter at that moment? Tongues mean nothing, for you don’t know what you’re saying unless you also have interpretation, and they certainly don’t know what’s happening. Therefore, pray for prophecy, pray for interpretation of tongues, pray for the operation of healings and miracles, because in these gifts there is fuller expression of love.

Do you see how this is completely contrary to what modern Christendom teaches? The law of love is utterly different and distinct, as it should be. Unto which mindset have you come? Have you come to the place of “all to Jesus”, or are you still in the “kingdom of Jesus and me”? And, more importantly, what has stolen your joy that you had at the beginning? Why have you transferred from that first moment when you loved Jesus with all of your being, only to go back into the self-centered mindset? Who has robbed you of this joy? Return, thou sleeper, unto your first love. Arise, and shine, for the true Light is already shining, and He is alive in our hearts.

Christian Liberty – Galatians 5:1-6

Paul likes to repeat himself. He likes to make the same statement twice, both with different ways of stating and different contexts. By somewhat progressing from this subject, to that subject, and then to that one, and then tying them together with similar wording and phraseology, Paul helps us to build a larger view than to be stuck assuming that it all has the exact same meaning, or that he is speaking in regard to completely different subjects.

We’ve examined the justification through faith (3:1-9), the eternal covenant (3:10-18), the purpose of the law (3:19-25), sonship and adoption (3:26-4:7), the principalities and powers (4:8-20), and the two covenants (4:21-31). Notice here that we have a few subjects that are interlocking. Justification through faith and the purpose of the law seem at polarity with one another, and the eternal covenant is the subject to interlock them. We have then again the two covenants repeated later after the issues of adoption and the principalities and powers. Within the text examining how the powers of the air are at work within “law”, we find Paul explaining that we shouldn’t return to “beggarly elements”, thus being brought again into bondage. Here in Galatians 5:1, we have Paul addressing the issue of putting ourselves back in “bondage”.

It is for freedom that Christ has made us free, therefore don’t go back into the miserable principles, those “beggarly elements” that brings you into bondage. Notice again, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with these posts, that the whole point of “law” and “beggarly elements” isn’t specifically the words of the Torah (five books of Moses). It isn’t specifically the Old Testament. There is something at work behind it, a righteousness that comes from works, that because we have the “manual” of how to live (the Bible), we can attempt by our own abilities and our religious systems and institutions to be “righteous”. Yet, the whole mantra that Paul explains in every single one of his epistles is that righteousness comes by faith, and not by works.

The works are not to be what make you righteous, but simply what the righteous do. The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously? Therefore, when we read Paul’s assertion that they who become circumcised are somehow “fallen from grace”, it isn’t to mean that they who do one or two things of the law (like grow peahs or keep kosher) are indebted to the law entirely, but that they who find the necessity to do such in order to maintain righteousness are indebted. I have peahs (the curls on your sideburns), but I don’t find righteousness within my peahs. My wife and I attempt to eat kosher, just not the Leviticus 11 kosher diet. We try to eat healthy, caring about where our food comes from, and in that keep kosher. Does that mean that our righteousness comes from law? God forbid. It’s about maintaining my body – which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Let us not forget that Paul continues to explain that both the circumcised and the uncircumcised wait for the righteousness that comes through faith. It isn’t like one is somehow more righteous than the other based upon what they do or don’t do. My walk with God is not based upon my adherence to Scripture and how well I keep the commands (even within the New Testament). My walk, and the proximity to God that I have, is totally based upon the faith in Christ Jesus, and the relationship that I cultivate through that faith.

If the Spirit tells me to not watch television because I’ll spend five hours watching shows, but I won’t spend five minutes reading and/or praying, then I need to give up watching television. That isn’t about law or commandment, but about relationship. Imagine if your best friend told you they love spending time with you, and yet every time that you ask if they’re available they give you some lame reason they aren’t available. I’m not talking about legitimate reasons, but lame excuses. If my best friend said that he can’t spend time with me because he wants to make sure that he knows his job schedule for next week, that’s a pretty lame excuse. You look up your job schedule when your at work, not when you’re at home. Who do you know that purposefully goes to work to check their schedule unless they’re coming back from vacation or something? (By the way, Jesus got at this too when he gave the reasons for why people refuse to come to the wedding at the end of the age – Luke 14:16-24.)

Our Christian liberty, as my Bible has the subtitle for this passage, is not found in our “liberty” from the law, but that in Christ we have been set free from the things that have kept us in bondage. In Romans 8:1-2, we find that there is a law of the flesh and a law of the Spirit. There is no condemnation for they who walk according to the Spirit, but for they who are working according to the law of the flesh, you stand condemned. Do you see the importance of this? It isn’t freedom from the law, but freedom from the death. It is freedom from the flesh.

In Colossians 3:1-7, Paul puts it this way (to paraphrase):
You have been raised with Christ, resurrected and no longer dead, and therefore are no longer of the earth, but now in heaven. As such, think upon and live out the things that are of God, that which is heavenly and eternal, and put off the old mindsets and lifestyles that you inherited from the death that you’ve lived in. You are no longer dead, but alive in Christ; therefore act like it.

Does that sound like freedom from law? With one breath Paul speaks about freedom from the law, and righteousness by faith, and salvation of grace. With the next breath he speaks of works, of do this and don’t do that, and of judging whether you’re truly saved by that which you do or don’t do. This is the way Paul writes, because it is exactly what I said earlier. I shall repeat it, and finish with the statement:

The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously?

Two Covenants – Galatians 4:21-31

This is one of the passages used to say that Israel has been replaced by the Church; after all, didn’t Paul plainly say that the woman of bondage is the Jerusalem which is now? In regard to this, all I can say is that such an exegesis can only come from arrogance. To interpret this passage so shallowly astounds me. This would be likened to someone standing before God in all His radiance and saying, “Yeah, but that guy over there is just a normal guy…”

When I read this passage, such hope fills my heart. Can you vision it? We aren’t any longer bound by this Jerusalem upon the earth, but are of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is free. Maybe a little bit of historical culture might help.

In the time of Jesus and Paul, Judea was ruled by the Herods. Herod the Great (given the name by Romans, no doubt) taxed the people of Judea to such a point that people could not afford to live. The normal tax across the board, unless you were in Jerusalem, was 80%-90% of your income. You had to tithe 10%. Then, there was the temple tax on top of that. There were taxes from the money changers to buy the sacrifices necessary. By the time you finish paying just the religious taxes, you’ve spent about a third of your paycheck. On top of that is the fact that Jerusalem didn’t have any kind of agriculture accessibility. So, the question is, how do you, if you’re in Jerusalem, eat? You force those who are making a living from agriculture (which was about 80%-90% of the people, so I’ve been told) to pay a “tax” that gives their produce to Jerusalem.

Thus, after the religious taxes, there were political taxes to Herod, and then beyond Herod there were political taxes to Caesar.

To live in Judea during the time of Paul or Jesus was to live in utter bondage. In fact, there are historical records of Herod being reprimanded because of the poverty of the common people in his governance. There was such poverty that there was only hopelessness among the people of Israel. And, if you can’t afford to pay your taxes, you’re evicted from the family land – which you inherited from Joshua’s generation. If you’re evicted, you have to find a city and move there, taking up some sort of trade to figure out how to make ends meet. Can you imagine the guilt and shame?

Essentially, there are only three groups of people in Jerusalem. There were the religious leaders under Herod, who served as political leaders as well. These were the Sadducees, also sometimes called the chief priests and elders/rulers. Then, there were the religious elite, who could afford to live in Jerusalem because they were the leading scholars who taught at the Temple – known as the Pharisees. Lastly, there were the poor who had nowhere else to go, and were essentially the homeless of Jerusalem.

What kind of religious system is it that is built upon oppressing the people for the benefit of wealth and security? (I want to remind you that Paul’s own testimony was of being a Pharisee.) It is the religion that is built upon law, rather than faith. The oppressive Jerusalem is directly the result of a religion that is founded upon “do this; don’t do that”.

Here in Galatians 4:21-31, what is important to gather is that we are no longer bound by that. For example, in regard to paying tithes, Jesus asks Peter, “Do the sons of the king pay taxes or the common people?” Peter answers, “The common people.” Thus, the sons are exempt (paraphrase). Do you see how radical Jesus’ statement is here? The sons of God are exempt from the Temple tax and the tithe. If you suggest something like that today, you’d not only be labeled a heretic, you’d be cast out with furor! Yet, because we’re not of the oppressive Jerusalem, but of the freedom of New Jerusalem, we are no longer in bondage to the religious infrastructure ruled by the principalities and powers!

Does that statement make you want to turn to Israel and be like, “Yeah, but… they don’t have this, right?”

Do you see why I find replacement theology about as detestable as it comes? It takes the very promises of God and tosses them aside, simply because it would rather show that God has chosen the Church instead of Israel. How about we look at what is being proclaimed here and rejoice to the uttermost. (For the record, I don’t believe that this passage, nor Galatians 3:16 or 3:28-29 suggest that Israel has been replaced. After all, if we take Galatians 3:16 to mean that Jesus is the only seed of Abraham, then that excludes you and I, which ironically defeats replacement theology anyway. Paul expressly claims that you and I are part of Abraham’s seed, so obviously the “seed” versus “seeds” point can’t be about whether Abraham’s seed is only Jesus or plural.)

What would it mean for us to take this seriously?

For my wife and I, we’ve pretty well proclaimed that the thing that calls itself church, the fathers promoting such bitterness and spite against the Jew and women that you can barely read their words without feeling the venom, isn’t our mother. That thing that calls itself the real deal, but is only a brick and mortar system isn’t really my mother. My mother is beautiful, has compassion, and weeps for her children. That thing that calls itself church, but is only too quick and willing to cast away the marginalized and perplexed is not. It is at best to be likened to the woman who rides the beast; at worst the beast itself.

Those Which Are Not Gods – Galatians 4:8-20

Within this passage of Scripture, Paul is conveying a connection with the kingdom of darkness and the “elements” that has already been defined as law. Notice where this passage comes. We’ve been noticing how Galatians 3 is Paul’s excursus on Genesis 12-17, and we’ve noticed that the conclusion of that exegesis is our adoption as sons and daughters through faith in Christ Jesus. Now Paul turns focus again upon the law and the notion of salvation through works, and identifies such a notion with demons.

It seems harsh, but is there something to this? For the sake of not putting forth too many words in this blog post, let me just put up some key passages for you to read at your leisure. Notice the theme here. All of them revolve around “law”, and all of them are letters of Paul:
Romans 6:7
Romans 6:11-14
Romans 6:8 (out of order on purpose)
Romans 6:23-7:6
Romans 7:7-12
Romans 7:14
Romans 7:21-25
Romans 8:1-4
Romans 8:7-9
1 Corinthians 15:25-26
1 Corinthians 15:51-56
Galatians 1:4
Galatians 1:13-16
Galatians 2:4
Galatians 2:14
Galatians 2:16
Galatians 2:19-21
Galatians 3:2-3
Galatians 3:10-13
Galatians 4:17-18
Galatians 4:4-9 (out of order on purpose)
Galatians 4:21-26
Galatians 4:31-5:5
Colossians 2:11-23

Aside from the list being rather large, it is neither thorough nor exhaustive. You’ll notice that not all of the passages use the word “law”, but there does seem to be a common interweaving of themes throughout all of these passages. It doesn’t take long before you begin to realize that Paul sees the law and the principalities and powers side-by-side. For Paul, the law is not simply about letters and commands written on stone at Sinai, but instead an entire system of religion that has been established in order to “do for God” what we think He requires. The law is about righteousness through our own ambition and ability; because we have zeal to memorize what the Law says, and because we have the gumption to attempt to live accordingly to it, we feel as though we’ve attained a certain righteousness through observance of the law.

Now, what Paul is not saying is that the law is the work of the devil. Nor is Paul saying that the law is not to be observed. Rather, the point is pressed that righteousness comes through faith, and through faith alone. To be under the law is to use the wisdom of the principalities and powers, which is to say, to use our own strength and endurance, in order to attain unto righteousness. However, it is a false righteousness. This is why Paul tells the Galatians not to submit again under the law, because the law is not simply the written words of the Old Testament, but a wisdom that promotes self-righteousness according to deeds and accomplishment. Through the wisdom of the principalities and powers, we formulate a conception of righteousness, and we thus pursue that end through our own strength, but the Law of Christ is freedom in the Holy Spirit – to walk according to the fruits of the Spirit.

This is why Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. That sentence should strike fear into our hearts. Yet, we don’t fear because we don’t realize the absolute righteousness that the Pharisees had. If you wanted to know who to model your life after, you modeled it after the Pharisees. They were the ultimate example of godliness. Only the most elite and the most learned could possibly be considered a Pharisee. Then Jesus tells those He is speaking to – most likely common folk – that their righteousness needs to exceed that. It isn’t humanly possible, and that is the point. Our righteousness is not according to the works of the Law, but rather according to the Spirit.

How it is that the law is the wisdom of principalities and powers? What do I mean to imply?

We can look to passages like Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 to find the fall of “Lucifer” (which is Latin for morning star). In both places, what is acknowledged is the pride of this ‘angel’s’ heart. The reason that law and self-righteousness through the law is the very mindset and pattern of demons is because it formulates a pride in the heart. It is thinking outside of the command of God; it is concluding that what I believe to be true and good must indeed be that which is true and good. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents this fully. It isn’t that God doesn’t want us to have knowledge, nor that He doesn’t want us to discern (such things are commanded of us even in the New Testament), but that this kind of knowledge is a humanly contrived knowledge rather than revelation.

In Colossians, the Greek word used representing these “basic principles” is stoicheia. It is a neuter plural from the root, which means “first principles”. When Paul uses this word, he seems to be drawing a parallel between the principalities and the basic principles of nature. Here we have “principalities” and “powers”. The prinipalities are the very demonic forces demanding worship through the medium of these unseen “forces” (powers) that dictate nature. Now, for the Hebrew, the forces that dictate nature are not simply contained to nature. The Hebrew mind sees emotion, societal culture, and aspects of daily life all under the same kind of “powers”. For the true Hebrew, it is God who is in control, who gives and takes away. For the idolatrous Hebrew of the Old Testament, they attribute such things to beings that are not god.

Ultimately, when we attempt to plunge into the depths of understanding the law in the mouth of Paul, we end up finding difficulty because it so heavily depends upon the principalities and powers, and the power of sin. Often Paul mentions the law and sin right next to one another. Sin and death are also mentioned side-by-side. The mystery being expressed is that the bondage of the law does not come from the law per se, but from the law of sin at work within the person. We are enslaved by these powers, whether powers of morality, powers of nature, or powers of religion. The powers demand worship, and many are still worshiping the powers that be. It is upon the freedom found in Christ Jesus that we find liberty from the oppression of these powers.

In the question of what it means that the law is the power of sin, we need to understand the problem. What is it about the law that binds us to sin? We don’t simply define sin as an action, but instead a condition that we cannot be made pure apart from Christ. If we say that the Law in itself binds us to sin, then we lie, because the Law is holy and righteous. Yet, if we claim that there is something at work behind the Law, what exactly is it that is at work? If we say that the law is the power of sin, and that the law is defined as a self-righteous system of religion that desires to perform certain religious acts and functions to “be right” before God, then we see quickly how this is binding. We are constantly enslaved to a system of performance. For example, if the gods are pleased with our sacrifices, and we end up with more wealth next year, then we cannot simply offer the same offering because it pleased them last year. We must show our gratitude by offering more. But what if the gods are angry and our crop is devastated? In order to please the gods, we then need to offer more.

Thus, whether we please the gods or whether we upset the gods, we must offer more – more to either keep them pleased or to stay their wrath. In this, we find what the power of sin is. It is that false mindset that tells us we are entrapped in a system of constantly offering more and more until we’re cutting ourselves and offering our children on altars. The Law actually tells us opposite of this – once you have offered the required sacrifices, you are considered right before God. Our sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ. This is our freedom.

But for those outside of Christ, they are entrapped in a system of continuing to offer more and more. Law is a tricky word, because on the one hand it means the true and holy words of God in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which are indeed freedom and life to those who are justified through faith. Yet, there is another law, which is aimed solely at the oppression and endless cycle of never appeasing the gods. The people who continue to work hours that lead to death are enslaved to that system. Work is their god. The people who continue to find their fulfillment in relationships with others, sex and relations are their gods. Of course, when you find fulfillment in something that does not give satisfaction, you find yourself giving more and more and more until there is nothing left to give – thus resulting in death. Whether our gods are drugs, work, sex, education, religion, or the State, we are entrapped in systems of bondage through that law.