Vs. 4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Paul eloquently contrasts the vast difference between our former way of life and the new life we have in Christ (vs. 1-10). It is important for all believers to have such a perspective to appreciate what Christ has done for us. Though we were sinners, it is the work on the cross that enables us to be able to do good works. The latter section of our chapter (vs. 11-22) involves Paul striving to keep the unity in the church at Ephesus. Because a good majority of believers were Gentiles, Paul appeals to them. The sign of circumcision was never given to the Jews for pride, but to be a blessing to the Gentiles. Circumcision did not save them, for God looks at the circumcision of our hearts. Now that Jesus has finished the work on the cross, we can now bridge both Jews and Gentiles together.
Regarding application…Break Dividing Walls. Vs. 14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” This wall that Paul speaks of was the wall of the Law (vs. 14) that separated the two. Question: Are their walls up in our cultures, our church, our family, our personal lives? Remember, that the church in Ephesus needed to remember the unity they had together. Many of us have heard, “Don’t be a part of the problem, but be a part of the solution.” I suppose there will always be a reason to put up dividing walls in our lives. Culture has always been a delicate issue in the church. The world’s population is exploding and this is causing cultures to mix together now more than ever. Let’s not allow our differences to outweigh the biggest common denominator that we have in Christ.
Vs. 1, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Paul continues to expound upon what freedom in Christ looks like in our life. Rather than ignore those who are going astray, Paul encourages believers to reach out (vs. 1-5). However, in the process of reaching out, we must be careful not to be so prideful to think that we cannot be stumbled. Paul goes on to encourage the Galatians to share and support those who have given their lives to teach and minister (vs. 6-10). It is so important to remember that none of the things we have belong to us. We are stewards of any thing we own and we must remember to use them wisely for the good of the church. In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 11-18), Paul concludes his whole letter to the Galatians. His conclusion summarizes his intent of writing this letter. It was so important for the young believers in Galatia not to succumb to the false teachings of adhering to the law and circumcision. Paul compares and contrasts the Judaizers and himself (vs. 12-17). One of the major differences is that Jesus is in Paul’s intentions while legalism is in theirs.
Regarding application…Doing Good. Vs. 9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” One of our responsibilities as believers is this: doing good. Because we live by the Spirit, we are no longer bound by our own selfish desires. Some may perceive doing good as part of the legalism that Paul was trying to refute. Doing good and bearing good works does not bring salvation. However, those who are truly saved will do good things and bear good fruit. We do good for each other, especially in the church (vs. 10), even when we are not perfect. Question: How are you doing at doing good for others? Don’t grow weary, but know the Lord sees our actions and most importantly, the intentions of our hearts!
Vs. 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Freedom is one of the major overarching themes in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Having explained his own freedom and expounding upon theological arguments, Paul now goes into sharing practical ways of living out this so called “freedom” in Christ. Many of the Judaizers were fearful that such ways of thinking would cause the believers to sway into living anyway they wanted. Question: What is this freedom that Paul is talking about? Freedom in Christ is being free from the bondage of sin. Freedom in Christ is having full access to the Lord Almighty. Freedom in Christ is having the Holy Spirit with us. When we are in that amazing relationship with the Lord, there is freedom to be what God desires us to be without any pressures. Freedom is not being able to do whatever we selfishly want. We are now servants of the Lord Most High. Let us not be obligated to the law (vs. 2-6) or be sidetracked by those who try to sway us (vs. 7-12). The latter half of our chapter (vs. 13-26) involves Paul exhorting us to live by the Spirit rather than the flesh (worldly ways). Jesus summed up the law in loving God and loving others, and Paul refers to such adherence (vs. 13-15). Paul expounds upon the fleshly way of life (vs. 19-21) and then contrasts that with the fruits of the Spirit (vs. 22-26).
Regarding application…Replace It. Vs. 16, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Question: Do you see it? In order to stop living the worldly way of life, we must replace it with walking with the Spirit. Paul expounds and shares how these two things are in conflict with each other (vs. 17-18). If we try to live this life based on our own merits and abilities, we will fail. The flesh tries to overcome trials in life. But the Spirit involves us dying to ourselves in surrender. When we replace ourselves and put Christ in the rightful spot, it is then that we are able to live a life in the Spirit. Question: What conflicts are you facing in your life today? Don’t be surprised, because such conflict will come when you surrender yourself to the Lord. Take time to pray that the Lord would reveal in your heart any desires of the flesh that are contrary to the Spirit. Replace such ways of thinking with the fruits of the Spirit! Any doubts you may have could be because you are not truly believing that freedom from sin is possible! Let us not be double-minded and doubt as James reminds us (James 1).
Vs. 8, “For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.” Paul continues his testimony and defense regarding the false teachers who had infiltrated the Galatian churches. He shares his past experience for the Galatian churches to understand their own present situation. After Paul’s first missionary journey with Barnabas and Titus, they would go up to Jerusalem to share in their joys and experience (vs. 1-10). However, Paul would experience conflict by Judaizers who would try to demand the new Gentile believers be circumcised. This debate became so big that they would call a council (Jerusalem Council – Acts 15) to help settle the matter. Paul would use Titus (Gentile) as his test case to show that he was in fact saved but not circumcised. The council headed up by James (1/2 brother of Jesus), the apostles, and the whole assembly would deliberate on this. Led by the Holy Spirit, James would issue the right judgment by declaring Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. Paul ensured he shared this to remind them that the matter had already been settled, but the enemy was not giving up. The latter half of our chapter (vs. 11-21) involves Paul giving one more important example of an encounter with Peter eating with believers in Antioch. Paul rightly rebuked Peter’s public action because something bigger was at stake. The unity of the church, the justification by faith, and the freedom we receive in Christ was all ramifications of such old ways of thinking.
Regarding application…It’s Not About Me. Vs. 20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We can have the tendency to live a in very myopic world. But Paul didn’t just speak to Peter, Barnabas or the Galatians, he was reminding us all! While we may not have the traditions of Judaism, we do have our own cultures. And when I say cultures, I’m not just talking ethnicity. Our cultures can be predicated on geography and even within the realms of our church denominations. When we make it about ourselves, walls of division and hostility are sure to come up. However, don’t misunderstand, we do make it about someone and that is Jesus! Jesus is both portrayed a lion and a lamb. He brings peace, yet also a sword. Paul would take the sword of God’s word and cut through the bologna of the Judaizers! Booyah~~~ Let’s live this life in faith to King Jesus!
Vs. 9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In our previous chapter, we were reminded of the dangers of sexual immorality. Paul now confronts the differing views of marriage and sex within marriage. Because of the rampant sexual immorality, there were some that went to the extreme of promoting celibacy as the only way to respond (vs. 1-9). Though Paul felt celibacy was a better way, he did not go to such extreme. He understood that God created many be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:7). Because of the sexual immorality, it was important for married couples to not deprive each other, lest they be tempted to access the readily available prostitution. Paul also had to address the issue that some were advocating divorce (vs. 10-16). Christianity was still very new to the Corinthians; they do not grow up being believers. Most married their spouses before the Gospel came to Corinth. Question: What should a converted believer do when they had a spouse who did not believe? They should not divorce, unless the unbelieving partner wants nothing to do with the marriage to their newly believing spouse. There are many couples who can find themselves in the same situation today as they might have been married before they believed or made a commitment wholly to the Lord. In next section (vs. 17-24), Paul admonishes believers through other examples (circumcision and slaves) to remain satisfied in where they are at when they became believers. Of course, if they were offered freedom from slavery they should take it (vs. 21). Just remember slavery then was not the way it was in the United States in the 19th Century. Paul closes out the chapter addressing marriage again but with the emphasis on those who have not yet married (vs. 25-40). There are blessings in marriage, but also hardship.
Regarding application…Pressure to Marry. Vs. 7, “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” It’s important to note that both marriage and celibacy are gifts from God. We still live in an era where we just assume something is wrong with someone because they are not married yet. This is wrong. While there are advantages to being married, there are also many advantages to being single (vs. 32-35). If the temptation for sexual immorality is too high, than it might be good to marry (vs. 9). But, all temptations can be overcome (I Corinthians 10:13). It is not temptation, but giving into temptation that is a sin. As a young adult Pastor, I see the pressure for the church members of the ministry to struggle with being single. I remember all too well my own pressure from others and even myself. In the end, we must pray for the Spirit of God to give us direction and peace in which direction each of us goes down (marriage or celibacy). Be content in whatever situation you are in!
Vs. 12, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” What a wonderful and eloquent reminder of our duty and heartfelt response to our LORD! In the first half of our chapter (vs. 1-11), Moses finishes up God’s response to his intercession for the Israelites. God’s grace was evident in the fact that new stone tablets were to be replaced. God was following up on His covenant! In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 12-22), Moses takes the time to explain a clear understanding of what the 2nd generation was getting themselves into. God was partnering up with the Israelites and they needed to know what this renewed partnership entailed. We see words like “fear”, “walk”, “love”, “serve” that are imperatives to living up to this partnership with God! We also see a wonderful picture of God’s compassion towards the fatherless, widow and foreigner (vs. 18).
Regarding application…Cutting Time. Vs. 16, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” Circumcision aside from the obvious meaning, also served as a covenant sign between God and Abraham. Yet, throughout scripture, we are also given a deeper understanding what true circumcision is. It’s much more than the cutting of skin, it is the cutting of our hearts. Question: How is your heart? Circumcision of the heart is going to entail us cutting away the things that we are putting first before the Lord. When I was younger in my walk and was putting secular music on a pedestal, I realized I was putting this first. So I threw out all my tapes and CD’s. It was cutting time for me. If I hear secular music now, it’s not a big deal any longer. I cut that priority in my life. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to reminisce when I hear an old 80’s song. But secular music no longer is a stumbling block for me. I had to let that go. Question: What do you need to cut in your life?
Vs. 1, “Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?” Moses continues his worries about being the wrong man for the job. But God patiently calms Moses fears by giving him the ability to do signs and wonders that would help God’s people believe (vs. 2-9). Yet, Moses in exasperation pleads that he can’t speak well and to send someone else (vs. 10-13). While we are told God was angry (vs. 14), there certainly was no coincidence that God would happen to orchestrate Aaron traveling to see Moses. It wasn’t always an easy partnership with Moses & Aaron, but God would work in them. Upon getting Jethro’s blessings (vs. 18), Moses and his family begin the journey back to Egypt. It is a bit shocking to see that the LORD nearly killed Moses along the way (vs. 24). Question: Why? Moses had not circumcised one of his sons (vs. 25-26). When God gives commands, we would be quite foolish to not obey them. Some scholars believe Moses didn’t circumcise one of his sons to appease his Midianite family. And the latter section of our chapter, we see the hope of God’s promises come true as Moses reveals to the Israelites their deliverance!
Regarding application…A Hardened Heart. Vs. 21, “The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” Question: How’s the condition of your heart today? Interestingly enough throughout the book of Exodus, ten times we are told God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and ten times we are told Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It doesn’t make sense, yet we are given both perspectives. Did one come before the other? Regardless, Pharaoh was given the choice, but chose to harden his heart. God obliged and let it happen. It is serious business when it comes to our heart condition. Take time to examine your heart and reach out to God!
Vs. 2, “When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her.” While some biblical interpreters try to downplay the rape, Jacob’s sons would not have responded so violently and deceitfully if this had not been a forcible situation. The world that we live in is a violent one and women are often victims. As we read yesterday, Jacob had decided to settle in Shechem which was a mistake. He should have gone down to Bethel. Instead, his daughter is raped, his sons plot a deceitful revenge, and the men of Shechem would be massacred. Question: Why are we subjected to such a crazy story? I suppose a response to violence with violence is not the end all be all. We must be wise in how we respond. Of course, the Lord will be the one to avenge (Deuteronomy 32:35).
Regarding application…Bad Company. Vs. 1, “Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land.” Shechem was not a good place to allow a beautiful woman on her own to venture out in. I can’t help but think that Jacob’s lack of discernment was a part of this debacle. Nothing good stays out late. It would be like a father allowing his teenager daughter out after midnight. It’s irresponsible and there are many dangers that could present themselves. This is kind of the thought of what happened with Jacob and his daughter Dinah. It’s a sad story, but I believe it is recorded here in the Bible to teach all of us a lesson about being wise. On a lighter note, please have a blessed week and turn to the Lord!
Vs. 5, “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, c for I have made you a father of many nations.” Abram (father is exalted) would now have his named changed to Abraham (Father of a multitude) and Sarai would have her name updated (vs. 15) to Sarah (princess). The Almighty God (El Shaddai-Ēl-Šaddaı̂), would remind Abraham of His covenantal promise. Bear in mind, it has been thirteen long years after Ishmael’s birth in our previous chapter. On this fourth occasion of appearance, the LORD would command Abraham to walk before Him (vs. 1). The word blameless is not to be perfect, but to be wholly devoted to God. It is this idea of a relationship as Abraham walks with God just as we go on walks with our loved ones. The LORD would establish His covenant through sign: circumcision. Question: What is the significance of this? The practice of circumcision was not a new concept at the time. But the LORD God would now give it a new purpose and special meaning. Circumcision was to be a reminder of God’s grace upon His people. It was an active response of faith and obedience. Sadly, over the years, people attributed circumcision as a perquisite for salvation. The early church centuries later would have a big debate (Acts 15) regarding circumcision. In the latter half of our chapter, the LORD God would remind Abraham that His promise regarding Sarah having a child (Isaac – laughter) would be fulfilled (vs. 15-22).
Regarding application…New Identity. Throughout our history, the meaning of a name holds much significance. Sometimes we name our child after someone in our families whom we have a deep respect. Some have named their child from a popular movie star, athlete, singer, etc. Names tend to express who we are. When we are introduced to someone, we first ask them their name. Knowing the name of a person begins the road of knowing them. In our text today, the LORD introduced His name (El Shaddai), He changed Abrams and Sarai’s names, and He gave them the name Isaac to give to their son. Having a new name can give a new perspective and commitment. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, we see people’s name being changed at times: Abram-Abraham, Jacob-Israel, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul, etc. I even had my last name changed back to my Korean name. While we may not all have our names changed, there is a new identity that the LORD gives us. We went from being a “sinner” to a “saint” when we put our trust in the Lord! If we know who we truly are, we will be able to start the road of living in our new identity.
Vs. 6, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” It’s important to see how Paul shifts the personal pronouns “they” in chapter one to “you” in today’s chapter. Question: What does this mean? In chapter one, Paul began the process of addressing sin in our lives. It would have been easy for those who were Christian and the Jews to begin thinking they were okay. They were not like the “they” referred to in chapter one. However, Paul ensures that everyone realizes that no one is without excuse. God has revealed himself to both Jew & Gentile (vs. 9). The Jews could not rely on their past views, history and especially law (vs. 12-16). The Jews had much to be thankful for (vs. 17-29), but they were not living up to the standard that God had called them. They were prideful (vs. 23) and their hypocrisy was bringing shame before God (vs. 24). And lastly, we see Paul address circumcision (vs. 25-29). Question: Why was this important. The Law and circumcision were two distinguishing aspects that set apart Israel (Jews) from the rest of the Gentile world. But, even from the origins, circumcision was more about a heart matter (Deut 10:16). The Jews were proud about this, but Paul reminded them that salvation came from the heart through the Spirit (vs. 29).
Regarding application…God shows no Favoritism. Vs. 11, “For God does not show favoritism.” The incident in Acts 6 concerning how the early church were treating the Hebraic widows from the Greek influenced widows is an example of how we tend to show favoritism. Allow me to put it more bluntly; the Jews were displaying signs of prejudice and racism. Not much has changed, huh? The country is still dealing with racism with the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. God created us in His image. As we are remembering the last week of Christ, Jesus came to give life to all who would believe in Him. We would do God’s word a disservice by not considering soberly our own issues with favoritism. Let us be people who do not look at the color, reputation or talents of another.