By Thomas Williamson, Th.M., Ph.D.
INTRODUCTION TO PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
The epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians was written sometime during the decade 50-59 AD. There is no doubt about Paul's authorship of this epistle. Such Second Century church fathers as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Polycarp declared that Galatians was written by Paul.
The Galatians were inhabitants of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and they originally came from France in the 3rd Century BC. Paul came to Galatia with the gospel on his first missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13-14. He founded churches in the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.
Paul wrote this epistle because he had heard that the Galatian believers were listening to false teachers, who were teaching that faith in Christ was not sufficient and that it was necessary to keep the ceremonial law of Moses and be circumcised in order to be saved.
In order to deal with and refute these false teachers, Paul defended his authority as an apostle in Galatians 1 and 2; he defended his doctrine of salvation by faith alone in chapters 3 and 4; and in chapters 5 and 6 he demonstrated that the principle of Christian liberty results in a life of good works, not a life of vice and libertine excess.
COMMENTARY ON PAUL'S EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
GALATIANS 1:1-5. Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2. And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3. Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul begins by assuring his readers that he was chosen to be an apostle, not by men but by the Lord Jesus Christ (as well as by God the Father). This statement implies the deity of Christ - only if Christ is God can it be said that Paul was not sent by man. The literal, bodily resurrection of Christ is also clearly taught here. This cannot refer merely to the continuing existence of Christ's spirit after death, since the spirits of all men continue to exist after death. The bodily resurrection of Christ distinguishes Him from other men.
In verse 2 we see that Paul, though he had great authority as an apostle, was not alone in his convictions - all the brethren were in accord with his teaching. Paul and his brethren practiced true Christian unity, a unity of faith and belief, based on the Word of God (not a false unity which unites different beliefs). This unity does not in any way override the independence of the local churches or congregations. Paul addresses the churches (plural), not the denominational headquarters of the Church of Galatia, which would be an unscriptural term - the word for church or assembly always means a local congregation or meeting in the New Testament and in classical Greek literature.
Paul desires for his readers grace and peace, verse 3. Grace refers to God's activity in saving us from our sins, while peace symbolizes our reconciliation with God. God is the source of grace and peace, and we receive these through Christ.
Christ gave Himself for our sins, verse 4. He was not an unwilling martyr, John 10:17-18 - He freely offered Himself. Not only are our sins pardoned because of Him, but we also are liberated from the sinful life that we would otherwise live as part of this present evil world-system. Our salvation results not only in escaping eternal punishment in hell, but also in a life of holiness here on earth, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7. The ultimate purpose of our study of sound doctrine is that we might live a holy and sanctified life. As a result of living that kind of life, we will give glory to God, verse 5. The purpose of our Christian life is to glorify God, not ourselves - "it's not about you."
GALATIANS 1:6-9. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Having completed his brief introduction, Paul gets right to the point of his epistle. The Galatian Christians were allowing themselves to be led away from the pure gospel of salvation by grace. They were departing from the God who had called them, 1 Peter 1:2, 15. They were being drawn away to a gospel of a different kind, which mixed grace and works. In reality, there cannot be any other true gospel, only the gospel of grace. The Galatians were being troubled, verse 7, by the Judaizers or legalists, who perverted the gospel of Christ by insisting on the observance of human efforts such as circumcision.
In verse 8 we see the absolute impossibility of there ever being another true gospel besides the one that Paul preached. Salvation has always been by faith alone, even for Abraham before the giving of the Law (Romans 4:2) and David under the Law (Romans 4:6-8). There never has been, or will be, a time when salvation by works is part of God's plan of salvation for any portion of mankind. Some have imagined that in Paul's time, there was one gospel for the Jews and another for the Gentiles, but Paul rules out that possibility. He is so emphatic about this that he warns the Galatians that they should reject Paul himself, or an angel from heaven, if they should preach anything different. We see here that our final authority is not any preacher, no matter how trusted or respected, but the Word of God. If even the Apostle Paul or an angel were to be rejected for preaching false doctrine, then we have a duty to reject any pastor, evangelist or television preacher who presents false doctrine contrary to the Word of God. Paul repeats himself in verse 9 for emphasis - salvation is always by grace without works, and anyone who preaches otherwise is to be accursed.
GALATIANS 1:10-12. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men: for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In verse 10 Paul responds to his enemies who maligned Paul's motives, saying that Paul was preaching the things that he preached only to please men. The Judaizers said that Paul's opposition to circumcision as a requirement for Gentile converts was not based on the Word of God, but merely on Paul's desire to please men and tell people what they wanted to hear. The surgical operation of circumcision was quite painful for adult men, and modern techniques of anesthesia to control the pain were not available in those days. The Jews in those days found it relatively easy to make converts among the Gentile women, who would not need to be circumcised, but not among the Gentile men, many of whom were content to be "hearers" in the Jewish synagogues without undergoing the physical mutilation that would be required for full membership and acceptance. If the Judaizers could impose this same hindrance on the growth of the Christian churches, then Christianity might end up being mainly a women's movement, and it would be much more difficult for Christianity to become a vital, expanding worldwide movement. It would be nothing more than a tiny, comfortable sect of ethnic Jewish people with the proper pedigrees and credentials, and perhaps that is the way the Judaizers wanted it. Rapid growth in any church or movement is sometimes unsettling to certain types of members who would rather just have a "good little group" - they do not want to risk losing control, being pushed out of their comfort zone, or having to rub shoulders at close quarters with new members who are "not like us."
The Judaizers tried to uphold circumcision as a requirement for salvation, Acts 15:1-2, but Paul was steadfastly opposed to this. The Jerusalem Council decided that circumcision would not be necessary for the Gentile converts, which was a great victory for the principle of salvation by faith, but the Judaizers did not accept this decision and they carried on a long -running controversy with Paul over the matter. In order to make Paul look bad, they said he was merely pandering to the Gentiles by telling them what they wanted to hear.
Paul denied this, saying in verse 10 that it is impossible to serve Christ properly if we are motivated by the desire to please men. Nowadays there are entire movements and schools of thought on the subject of church growth, that are dedicated to the principle of pleasing men. They say, "Do a market survey, go out in your community and do a poll to find out what the unsaved people would like in a church, find out what kind of music and entertainment 'Saddleback Sam' and 'Unchurched Harry and Mary' would like, and give the people what they want." (Of course, we ought to be sensitive as to the proper ways to relate to Harry, Mary and Sam and present the gospel to them without raising any unnecessary barriers or offenses. But we should not have them tell us how to run our churches, at least not as long as they are still unsaved). The earliest recorded example of this market-driven approach can be seen in Exodus 32, where a market survey by Aaron determined that the people wanted to worship a golden calf. The results of Aaron's sincere effort to please men were disastrous.
Paul made it clear that his doctrine was not based on men-pleasing motives or market surveys to see what was popular among the Gentiles of Asia Minor. He was preaching the gospel that God had revealed to him, nothing more and nothing less. We must do the same - we must be careful not to make the gospel too hard, or too easy. There are those who make the gospel too easy: they say, "just give mental assent to the truth of the gospel, close your eyes, bow your head, repeat the words of a prayer, and thou shalt be saved, with no need to repent of your sins or even sense any consciousness of sin or regret concerning how we have offended a holy God."
Then there are those who make the gospel too hard - they want the sinner to reform his whole life first, or be willing to go to Africa, or add in a dose of rituals like baptism or speaking in tongues, before one can be saved. In the matter of circumcision, Paul refused to make the plan of salvation any harder than it really was. He was not caving in to the Gentiles by refusing to demand their circumcision. He was only remaining true to the simple gospel that had been divinely revealed to him.
In verse 11 Paul affirms that his gospel was not according to man's reasoning, nor influenced by man, nor had he altered it to please man's sensibilities. The false "gospels" that are according to man always include a dose of salvation by works and self-esteem, as well as whatever else is found to be necessary to cater to the "felt needs" of sinners. In different times and places, proponents of false gospels will rely on beautiful church buildings, impressive rites and processions, worldly entertainments, or psychological techniques to build up the sinners' sense of well-being. Paul did not rely on such man-centered tactics - he preached the plain gospel message and relied on an all-powerful sovereign God to give the increase.
Paul assures us in verse 12 that man was not the source, nor the channel, from which he received his gospel message. He received it as a revelation, or unveiling, of Jesus Christ.
GALATIANS 1:13-24. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14. And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16. To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22. And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23. But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24. And they glorified God in me.
To illustrate the point that he wants to make about the divine origin of his gospel message, Paul goes into a lengthy review of his life story and ministry, which runs from here to the end of Chapter 2. In verse 13 he makes it clear that his message of salvation by faith alone was not a product of his early religious environment; on the contrary, his "conversation" or life-pattern had been the life of a zealous follower of the sect of the Pharisees (Philippians 3:5) which taught salvation by works, and he persecuted the Christians who believed in salvation by faith without the works of the law. (The "church of God" is a reference to the congregation at Jerusalem, Acts 8:1).
Paul outdid his fellow religionists in his zeal for the Jewish traditions, verse 14. This would have included circumcision. His change of policy on the issue of the necessity of circumcision was obviously based on the revelation of Jesus Christ, not a desire to please men.
His destiny was to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ, and this was something that God had determined long before his conversion - even as an unborn child, God had set him aside for the work of the gospel, verse 15. This reference shows that Paul was a distinct human personality, valuable in God's sight, even in the womb (as was the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:5, and John the Baptist, Luke 1:41, and by logical extension, all unborn children. This is a powerful testimony against the brutal practice of abortion, which was forbidden by the Law of Moses, Exodus 21:22-23). Of course, God's plan for Paul was not determined only from the time of his conception in his mother's womb - God had chosen him for salvation before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4.
Paul was converted on the Damascus road, verse 16, in order that Christ be revealed in him and preached to the Gentiles. In Paul's case, his conversion and calling were due to a direct appearance of Christ to him, and a direct revelation to him of the truths of the gospel, so that it was not necessary for him to confer with mere mortals to find out what his message was to be. The true apostleship of Paul rests firmly on the fact that Christ appeared to him on the Damascus road - without that revelation of Christ, we have no explanation for the conversion of the bitterly anti-Christian persecutor Saul, or for his ability to start preaching the gospel almost immediately after arriving in Damascus, Acts 9:20-22. When he had to flee Damascus to avoid those who wished to kill him, he did not feel any need to go to Jerusalem (verse 17) to be tutored by the other apostles who were there. Instead, he withdrew into Arabia, before returning to Damascus.
Three years after his conversion, Paul finally traveled to Jerusalem, verse 18. At this time Paul received the vision from the Lord which he describes in Acts 22:17-21. Paul was sent to the Gentiles, not by the other apostles, but by another direct revelation of Christ. Paul did not spend a lot of time studying with the apostles; on the contrary, we are told in Acts 9:26 that all the Christians avoided him at first because they were afraid of him. Finally as a result of the good work of recommendation that Barnabas put in for Paul (Acts 9:27) he was able to meet with Peter and also James, verse 19. The course of church history was thus changed for the better by Barnabas, a good man who was willing to speak up for and promote other good men such as Paul, thus helping him get started in the ministry. Paul spent only 15 days in Jerusalem, meeting only two of the apostles, which was hardly enough contact for him to be able to learn an entire system of theology from them. He sees this as an important point and assures us that he is telling the truth, verse 20.
Some might be tempted to say at this point, "Paul, why do you worry so much about those who call you a liar and who defame your motives? Don't waste your time replying to the false accusers - just let God handle it." (One wonders why those who make the false accusations against us in the first place are not willing to "just let God handle it)." In this case, Paul felt strongly that in order to defend the truth of the gospel and the authority of his own ministry, it was necessary to reply in detail to the false accusers. When Nehemiah was slandered, he publicly responded and branded his accusers as liars, Nehemiah 6:8. There are times when it is necessary and proper for us, as ministers of the gospel, to rebuke those who accuse us falsely, just as Paul did. Somehow we have gotten the idea that it is unspiritual for the man of God to defend himself against false accusations, but Paul's defense against such false accusations is one of the main themes of his epistle to the Galatians, and even more so of his second epistle to the Corinthians. While we must not allow ourselves to be sidetracked or overly distracted in battling against those who oppose our ministries, there is a proper time and place for responding to the railers and false accusers, in order to defend the honor of our ministry as ambassadors of Christ. Once that has been done, we need to trust the Lord for the consequences, and move on.
From Jerusalem Paul returned to his home town of Tarsus in Cilicia, verse 21 and Acts 9:30. He appears to have spent 7 years there, with no direct contact with the apostles or other leaders of the churches of Judea, verse 22. They heard about Paul's continuing ministry, verse 23, and they glorified God as a result, verse 24. They could have glorified Paul, which would have been inappropriate. Or they could have been critical of Paul, looking for reasons to find fault with his ministry. Too often we go to extremes with our preachers, either deifying them, or defying and demonizing them. Let us be appreciative of the work of our preachers, and give God the glory for them.
GALATIANS 2:1-5. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4. And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Starting in verse 1, Paul describes what was probably his third visit to Jerusalem, for the purpose of attending the Jerusalem Council which is recorded in Acts 15. (Some commentators believe that this is to be identified with his second visit to Jerusalem, which was recorded in Acts 11:30. The chronology favors the view that this was his third visit, however). His third visit took place about the year 50 AD, 14 years after his conversion. The purpose of the Jerusalem Council was to deal with the question which had been raised by the Judaizers or legalists, who insisted (Acts 15:1) that unless Gentile converts were circumcised, they could not be saved. The decision of the council was that circumcision was not necessary for salvation or for church membership, but Paul does not mention that decision here. His teaching against legalism, and against the requirement of circumcision for the Gentiles, was not based on the authority of the council, but rather on his own independent authority as an apostle. Obviously Paul was in full agreement with the decree of the council, but such decrees do not bind the consciences of believers outside of the church where the decision is rendered, because all the Lord's churches are independent. Nowadays we have associations of independent Baptist churches which issue resolutions on various issues, and there is nothing wrong with this. But such associations do not have the power to force any of the churches to obey those resolutions - they only have the power to expel from the association any churches who depart from the agreed-upon faith and practice of that association.
When Paul went to the council in Jerusalem, he took with him Titus, a Gentile convert from Paul's first missionary journey, who had not been circumcised. Titus had sincerely come to the Lord but he had not been circumcised according to the law of Moses. The purpose of taking Titus to the council was to demonstrate that a Gentile could be saved, sanctified, and be a member in good standing of the Lord's church, without keeping the ceremonial law of Moses and being circumcised. In Titus, all could see the grace of God which had been given to the Gentiles without any necessity of being circumcised.
Paul went up to Jerusalem by revelation, or specific directive from the Lord, not by human authority, verse 2. The Lord sent him to Jerusalem specifically for the purpose of opposing the doctrine of the legalists. Does this mean that we cannot go anywhere or do anything without receiving a specific revelation or directive from the Lord? No, it implies the opposite - Paul himself did not receive divine directives for everything he did, and the reason he tells us here that he went up to Jerusalem "by revelation" is because this was not the usual procedure. If he did not tell us so, we would assume that he made the decision without a specific revelation from the Lord, just as we have to make all such decisions today on all matters not specifically covered in God's written Word. Nowadays, of course, we do not have the kind of direct revelation from the Lord, as Paul did in his office of apostle, and we now have the liberty and responsibility of making our own wise decisions, using our God-given reasoning abilities, based on the complete, written Word of God.
Even Paul did not always have a direct revelation from the Lord as to what to do, and he sometimes had to make his own decisions without any specific directive from the Lord. We see examples of this in Acts 15:36-38 (Paul determined to go on a missionary journey but thought it not good to take Mark with him - there was no revelation from the Lord to settle the dispute between Paul and Barnabas on this issue); Acts 20:16 (he made travel plans to go to Jerusalem); Romans 1:13 (Paul decided to go to Rome but was hindered from actually making the trip); and 1 Corinthians 16:6, 12 (Paul decided to go to Corinth, he asked Apollos to go there also, Apollos said he did not feel like going, and Paul accepted Apollos' decision to not go to Corinth at that time - evidently there was no divine directive at that point commanding Apollos to go).
Paul and Apollos made their own decisions concerning their personal ministries in 1 Corinthians 16 and at other times, and we have the same liberty and responsibility. We must avoid the trap of thinking that we cannot make any move until God has personally given to us a new revelation that we are to go to a certain place or carry out a certain specific ministry. God is no longer revealing such narrow directives and giving out revelations as he did in New Testament times, and He did not always do so even in New Testament times.
Some people are paralyzed with the fear of making the "wrong" decision, with regard to who to marry, what school to attend, where to live, whether to accept a job in a different town that may require a switch to a different church. Some pastors will take advantage of this uncertainty in the decision-making process, and will step in and make those decisions on behalf of their members. This is a violation of the scriptural principle of Christian liberty. We find many examples of liberty in the Word of God. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, widows are given liberty to marry whom they will - no need for a direct revelation from the Lord or the permission of the pastor or church. Matthew 19:12 gives single Christians the liberty to remain single (making themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake) but this is a decision that singles must make for themselves - no one can make it for them.
Romans 14 emphasizes the principle of Christian liberty and warns us not to judge each other over the exercise of liberty on such matters as diet and observance of holidays. Paul gave Philemon liberty on the question of whether or not to send Onesimus back to Rome to assist Paul in the ministry, Philemon 14. Ananias and Sapphira had liberty as to how much money to give to the church, Acts 5:4.
The Christian life is meant to be a life of liberty, not slavery. This is one of the great themes of Galatians (see Galatians 5:1). Any time that we find ourselves in a situation where every move we make is being dictated by domineering preachers or laymen, this is an unhealthy situation, totally contrary to what God intends for mature believers.
In order to make sure that Paul was in the right place at the right time to take his stand for Christian liberty, God gave Paul the necessary special revelation to make sure that he went to the Jerusalem Council. The council ended up rendering a harmonious decision on the matter, perhaps because Paul had privately, diplomatically conferred with the other apostles beforehand, verse 2, to impress on them the importance of the issues involved.
Paul made it clear that his gospel was no different from that of James and the other apostles, thus assuring that they would be of one accord in the public meeting.
Paul's participation in the council helped to make sure that the council would make the right decision for present and future generations, giving Christians the liberty to decide for themselves on the matter of circumcision. This clear decision insured that the churches would continue to grow and that the gospel would continue to make progress into new regions of the globe. If the council had made the wrong decision, it would have done great harm to Paul's ministry, making it much more difficult for him to win converts among the Gentiles. This would have the effect of causing Paul to "run" in vain, making all his past evangelistic work to be in vain, and causing his future ministry to go nowhere and accomplish nothing. We need to be sure that we do not make decisions in the Lord's churches that would cause our pastors to have to "run in vain" by hampering and hindering their outreach. There are some churches that have placed crippling restrictions on ministry to different racial or economic groups, or to prisoners or other disadvantaged people in the community. We need to be careful about taking any action that would hamstring or disgrace the outreach of our pastors, so that their ministry and sacrifice ends up being in vain.
Paul brought Titus with him to the council, verse 3, as a test case showing that an uncircumcised Gentile convert like Titus could be just as saved, just as sanctified, just as much a member of the Lord's church, without yielding to the demands of the Judaizers.
There were false brethren lurking in the council, verse 4, carrying out espionage work to see how far Paul and the brethren had gone in their exercise of Christian liberty, to see what they could catch them on. All too many churches and movements have a "gotcha squad" keeping an eye on the brethren, ready to pounce on and expose anybody who strays too far from the legalistic observances and dogmas of the self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy. Paul knew that these sanctimonious thought-police were watching his every move, but he didn't care - he was not going to be held in bondage to such roguish characters.
There are a wide variety of folks nowadays who are still trying to restrict the liberty of Christians on various issues. There are still a few who make circumcision an issue and a requirement for godliness, just as if the epistle to the Galatians had never been written. Then there are those who impose certain Sabbath observance on Christians, and those who want to impose dietary rules (contrary to Romans 14 and 1 Timothy 4:3). There are those who make regulations on women's apparel or the exclusive use of a certain Bible translation, and then seek to impose these rules on other churches. Then there are those who want to get us under their apostolic succession, under the rule of their bishops or their pope. Everybody has a different angle and a different strategy to add something to the Word of God and to tell us that we are not good Christians unless we come under their authority and let them tell us what to do. They want us to feel guilty and inadequate if we have not circumcised our children, or "baptized" them as infants, or if we have not always been in perfect health, or kept a certain diet, or spoken in tongues, or been baptized under a "Jesus only" confession, or if our ministry was not authorized by vote of a church that is part of their exclusive clique. These folks are keeping an eye on us at all times, to see if they can catch us in violation of their man-made regulations, so that they can bring us into bondage.
They claim for themselves authority from God, or from their superior ecclesiastical pedigree, which they do not in fact have, just like the Judaizers who falsely claimed to be acting under the authority of the Church in Jerusalem, Acts 15:24. It is proper for the Lord's work to be done under the authority of a properly constituted New Testament church, as seen in Acts 13:1-3 where Paul and Barnabas were sent out by elders of the church of Antioch. But we must beware of those who falsely claim such authority, or who try to misuse and abuse the authority that they have, in order to lord it over the flock and bring Christians into bondage (2 Corinthians 11:19-20).
Some easily manipulated Christians will go along with those who bring them into bondage, in order to keep the peace and avoid unpleasant conflicts with ecclesiastical bullies, but Paul, as we see in verse 5, did not submit to the false teachers, even for one hour. It was important that Paul not submit, or appear to submit, to the legalists even for a moment, so that Christians would not be deceived by those who would bring them into bondage, and in order that the vitally important principle of salvation by free grace might be preserved for all believers. Nowadays there are those who urge us to go along with, and compromise with, those who are enemies of the faith, in order to show our "love" and not be thought of as a bunch of old-fashioned grumps. Some, in order to keep the peace, have participated in community-wide union religious services with such groups as the Church of Christ, which insists on the necessity of baptism for salvation, and the United Methodists, who practice infant baptism and who have bishops who openly deny the virgin birth, deity and resurrection of Christ.
Paul would not have appeased or submitted to such groups, not even for one hour. Sometimes our refusal to submit to those who seek to steal our liberty and independence will result in drawn-out conflict, just as it did for Paul. But this is the price that we must be willing to pay, in order that the truth of the gospel might continue, in our generation and the generations to come. Paul never would have compromised with those who demand that we baptize our babies, or speak in tongues, or receive Campbellite baptism, or be under the control of their bishops, or attend their ecumenical stadium meetings. For Paul, the truth of the gospel was more important and valuable than a phony, forced, awkward, outward "unity" with the enemies of grace.
GALATIANS 2:6-10. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7. But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8. (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9. And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
When Paul met with the other apostles, verse 6, he didn't learn from them anything new concerning the gospel, since he already had learned it directly from the Lord. Nor was he inclined to hero-worship of the apostles. Paul discouraged the practice of Christians giving excessive honor to big-name preachers who "seem to be somewhat," even if the adulation was being directed to himself (Acts 14:13-18, 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 3:4-5). Then, as now, there were folk who went beyond the proper honor due to the apostles, so as to regard their pronouncements as infallible and beyond question. They saw no reason to check out the teachings of their favorite preachers to see if they lined up with God's word, Acts 17:11. They were ready to wear buttons declaring that they were 100% for their favorite preacher. This is the spirit that Paul discouraged.
All the apostles agreed, verse 7, that God had given Paul a special open door to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and that Peter had been given an open door to preach to the Jews. This does not mean that Paul never preached to Jews, nor that Peter never preached to Gentiles. Peter, in Acts 10, preached to Italian Gentiles, while Paul preached to the Jews in the synagogues of Philippi, Corinth and other places. But the main thrust of the ministry of Paul would be to the Gentiles while Peter would concentrate on the Jews. They specialized in areas of ministry, rather than trying to be an expert in everything. They both preached the same gospel - the fact that this gospel is called by two different names here does not indicate two different gospels, which would be impossible according to Galatians 1:8-9.
It was evident, verse 8, that the same God was working through both Peter and Paul, vindicating their ministries through signs and wonders and great revivals. It was impossible to say that God was working through Peter without concluding that he was working through Paul also. They had different gifts and areas of competency in the ministry, but God worked equally through both of them.
James, Cephas (Peter) and John recognized that Paul and Barnabas were preaching the same gospel, verse 9, and they publicly sanctioned and endorsed their ministry. James was the apostle who was most zealous for the traditions of the Jews, but it was clear that he and Paul were preaching the same gospel message of salvation by grace without any requirement of circumcision. The legalists could not claim the support of any apostle for their heresy, because all the apostles were in harmony on this issue.
They were also in harmony on the matter of helping the poor Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, verse 10. Many of these believers had suffered persecution by the unbelieving Jews, including confiscation of their goods, Hebrews 10:34. Paul had already brought an offering from Antioch for these Hebrew Christian brethren, Acts 11:28-30. Later he wrote to the Corinthians to raise funds from the Jerusalem brethren (2 Corinthians 8-9) and personally carried that money to Jerusalem at risk of his life (Acts 21:13). Paul placed a great emphasis on promoting Christian unity by reaching from one ethnic group to another in the spirit of Christian love. We ought to do the same today, going out of our way to assist churches of like faith and practice which may be of a different racial group or in a depressed inner-city area.
GALATIANS 2:11-14. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him: insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
After the Jerusalem Council, Paul returned to Antioch, but the battle for Christian liberty, and for the equality of Jewish and Gentile brethren, was just beginning. Peter came to Antioch also (verse 11), was influenced by the legalists, fell into error, and it became necessary for Paul to rebuke him in public. There is much that we can learn from this unpleasant episode. First of all, we see that the Roman Catholic Church is in error in claiming that Peter was the first Pope or that he had any position of pre-eminence or infallibility on matters of doctrine. Second, we see that it is possible for anyone to fall into doctrinal error, even an apostle, as well as prominent preachers today. The apostles were inspired by God and free from error only when they were writing those portions of the Bible that God assigned to them. At other times, they were subject to possible error. Third, we see that it is not always a sin to disagree with a pastor. We should always give our spiritual leaders the benefit of the doubt on any issue, and not bicker with them over unclear or obscure points of theology, but in cases of clear violation of the revealed Word of God, such as we see here, it may become a painful necessity to approach a pastor privately to call his attention to error, and in certain rare instances it may be necessary to withstand him to the face, before all.
Peter was to be blamed for his inconsistent theology. He had publicly agreed with the decision of the Jerusalem Council with regard to the reception of Gentiles as equals in the church (Acts 15:7-11). Not only that, but God had patiently given him clear and direct revelation on the subject of freely accepting the Gentiles, teaching him that he was not to regard them as unclean (Acts 10:28, 11:2-3, 15). The Jewish and Gentile Christians at Antioch had been eating together, and Peter at first had not had any problem with this. But then, under the pressure of the Judaizers, Peter caved in on this issue, bowing to peer-group pressure, just as he had when he denied his Lord 3 times just before Christ was crucified.
The legalists wanted to create a church within the church, a clique of superior and arrogant super-Christians who were too good to associate with those who had not been circumcised and did not come from the right ethnic background. Paul, with his usual foresight and vision for shaping the course of Christianity in future generations, recognized that the churches could not grow and attract Gentile converts if they discriminated against the Gentiles. In order to protect the future of the church in Antioch and all churches in all future generations, it was necessary to stand up to Peter and make it clear that the Jews could not be regarded as a superior race. We should always be ready to endure unpleasant controversy in defense of clearly revealed doctrinal principles from the Word of God, but this episode should not be used to justify endless bickering and hair-splitting over minor points of disagreement where good brethren disagree and where the Bible has not clearly spoken.
At this time some men came to Antioch from James, verse 12. There is no evidence that these men accurately represented the sentiments of James concerning this issue of fellowship with the Gentiles. Perhaps these men were dishonest, pretending to bring a message from James which would give Peter the impression that he ought not to eat with the Gentiles. Because of his fear of these men, Peter suddenly reversed his convictions and decided he would have to separate himself from the Gentile Christians. There are times when we should be willing to admit that we have been wrong on some issue, but we must be careful not to change a policy based merely on the fear of men, especially if this leads us to go against God's word - the fear of man brings a snare, Proverbs 29:25.
In verse 13 we see that the other Jewish Christians in Antioch followed the bad example of Peter, so that many of them including Barnabas also took a holier-than-thou attitude to their Gentile brethren, and separated themselves from them. All of us must be careful what kind of example we set by our actions, but this is especially true of pastors and all those who are in any kind of leadership position among Christians, since our bad influence can have very far-reaching consequences.
Peter and those who followed his example were clearly not walking according to the clear principles of the gospel, verse 14, which had recently been publicly affirmed at the Jerusalem Council. They were walking contrary to the truth. Peter himself had just recently declared (Acts 15:8-9) that there was no difference between the Jews and Gentiles. He had stated in Acts 15:10 that the yoke of legalism was something that he himself could not bear and that therefore it should not be placed on the Gentiles; but now he was reversing himself, compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews. Peter was a hypocrite, placing burdens on others that he himself would not wish to bear. It is regrettable that Paul had to reprove him in public, but the future of Christianity was at stake here. There are times when we also must enter into controversy in order to prevent well-meaning folks from hijacking our movement and causing us to swerve aside from the clear principles of the Word of God.
Those who insist that all controversy be avoided, and that all differences of opinion be swept under the rug, should meditate on what the consequences would have been, if Paul had followed this policy when confronted with Peter's error. And those who maintain that we are not permitted to correct the erroneous teaching of their favorite televangelists or popular big-name preachers should ask themselves just where Christianity would be today, if the error of Peter had not been boldly and publicly challenged.
May God give us wisdom to do battle only for those vital, agreed-upon matters of faith and practice, and not for every nit-picking issue of personal opinion, preference or interpretation of obscure passages. Of course, everything that the Bible teaches should be considered a "fundamental" of the faith, but not everything is equally clear. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ is undeniably clear, but the meaning of every toe or horn on some prophetic beast of scripture is not always so clear.
GALATIANS 2:15-21. We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 17. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul and Peter were born as Jews, verse 15, but they were not justified by the works of the law, v. 16. If such good Jews as Paul and Peter could not be saved by keeping the law, it is clear that no Gentile could be saved that way either. There is no example of any Jew in history who was saved by obedience to the law. Salvation has always been by faith in all ages and dispensations (see Genesis 15:6 concerning Abraham's salvation, also Psalm 143:2).
Paul assures his readers in verse 17 that he is not promoting a life of sin and libertinism, when he counsels Jews to abandon their traditional observances. We are still to avoid those things that God declares in His moral law to be sin, which is the teaching of Romans 6. Christ is not a "minister of sin" - He does not encourage us to remain under the domination of sin. But obviously an association with Gentiles in the Lord's church is not a violation of the moral law. Christ's teaching was that the walls of separation between Jew and Gentile should be broken down (John 10:16, Ephesians 2:11-16, 3:6).
In verse 18 Paul says that the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ is not intended to build up again the things that he has been out to destroy, that is, the system of attaining righteousness by keeping the law. Anyone who would go back to that plan of trying to achieve righteousness by law-keeping, as Peter was doing, would condemn himself and make himself a transgressor, since there is no one who keeps the law perfectly. Or perhaps it means that one is a transgressor if he preaches the false doctrine of righteousness as a result of law-keeping.
In verse 19 Paul says that he, through the law (which convicted him of sin and showed him his need of a Savior) is now dead to the law. In other words, he is not under the power of the law, he is not condemned by the law, and does not depend on the law for his salvation. He was liberated from the power of the law, not so that he could live a life of sin (which of course would be anything that was a violation of the moral law) but so that he could live a life of holiness before God.
Paul identified with Christ and yielded his life to Christ, verse 20, thus entering into a union with Christ. He died to his former life of trying to save himself by the works of the law, and now permitted Christ to live in him. The life which Paul lived in the flesh was not lived by the power of the flesh, but by the power of the faith of the Son of God who loved him (Ephesians 5:25) and gave Himself for Paul, and for us. Christ had to deliver Himself to those who crucified Him, because otherwise they could never have had power over him (Matthew 26:53, John 10:17-18, 19:11). Christ's death was not a tragic accident - he gave Himself up for us, and even came into the world for that purpose, John 12:27.
Paul suggests in verse 21 that if it was possible to save ourselves by keeping the law, then Christ did not need to die for us. Why should He have to suffer for us on the cross, if we could save ourselves? Those who say we can be saved by our good works are frustrating the grace of God. This includes all those who teach baptismal regeneration or any other form of salvation by works. By depending on our works in addition to our faith, we do not make our salvation more sure. Rather, we frustrate the grace of God, because if we are trusting in Christ plus any form of good works, then in reality we are not trusting in Christ at all.
Up to this point it appears that Paul has been repeating the speech that he gave before Peter in the presence of "them all" in the church of Antioch. In chapter 3, having finished the story of his early ministry and his stand against legalism, he now addresses the Galatians directly, explaining to them the proper role of the Old Testament law in the Christian dispensation.
GALATIANS 3:1-5. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2. This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3. Are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The Galatians had been fascinated by false doctrine, causing them to forget the clear and lively preaching that had presented in their midst the story of the crucified Savior, verse 1. Someone had cast a spell on them, causing them to cease trusting in Christ and in the grace of God, so that they might instead trust in their own good works. They were foolish, because anyone who departs from Christ and the gospel of grace, in order to seek salvation by the law of Moses, is foolish. The law cannot save - it can only condemn us and deliver us to slavery. Paul was sad because his converts who had heard of the finished work of Christ and had believed in Christ were now returning to the works of the law.
In the next two chapters, Galatians 3 and 4, Paul will use 6 forms of argument to show the error of those who attempt to earn the grace of God by the works of the law. In 3:1-5 Paul uses the personal argument, asking the Galatians to remember their personal experiences of the grace of Christ when they were saved. In 3:6-15 he uses the Biblical argument, citing passages in the Old Testament that support Paul's position. In 3:15-29 he uses the logical argument, based on God's covenant with His people. In 4:1-11 he uses the historical argument, showing the function of the law among the Jews of Old Testament times. In 4:12-18 he uses the sentimental argument, based on the memory of the good relations that he and the Galatians had had when Paul was among them as a church planter. In 4:19-31 he uses the allegorical argument, based on the life of Abraham and his relations with Sarah and Hagar.
In verse 2 Paul asks this question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the law or by faith? He is saying here that salvation is by faith, not works, because we receive the Holy Spirit at the same time that we receive Christ as Lord and Savior, Ephesians 1:13. We are saved not by working and doing, but by hearing and receiving, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8-9.
The Galatians began their Christian lives in the Spirit, verse 3, responding to the apostolic ministry of Paul which had been endorsed by God through miraculous gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is a divine life which proceeds from faith imparted by the Holy Spirit, but the Galatians thought that there was a better principle for completing the Christian life, the fleshly principle of keeping the law. They had switched from dependence on the Holy Spirit to a dependence on the flesh. It is foolish to start out in the Christian life depending on Christ and the Holy Spirit, but then to seek maturity and perfection in the flesh. The Galatians did not have the patience to be willing to grow and progress in their sanctification and Christian growth. They did not want to have to wait for many years to complete their sanctification - they were looking for a quick fix, a short-cut to spirituality. They thought they could go to a Jewish surgeon, have themselves circumcised, and thus instantly move up to a more superior and exalted state of Christian perfection.
We 21st Century Christians are not much different from the Galatians. We too are looking for the short-cut to perfection. Some have thought that they could attain to that higher life by speaking in tongues. Others are seeking a "second blessing" or some sort of ecstatic experience of being filled with the Spirit, not recognizing that we are to always be filled with and yielded to the Spirit at every stage of our lives, Ephesians 5:18. Just as the drunkard is not satisfied with just one bottle of wine, the Christian is not to be satisfied with receiving the Spirit at salvation, nor with just a second blessing - why not a third, fourth or fifth blessing, or better yet, the blessing of being fully yielded to the Holy Spirit every day of our lives? As for the ecstatic emotional experiences that make folks to jabber in unknown tongues or make their bodies tingle, these are not proofs of the fullness of the Spirit, since such experiences are common to followers of various false religions. The Mormons spoke in tongues in Ohio in the 1830's - does that prove that they were filled with the Holy Spirit? The proof of our fullness with the Spirit is not a mystical ecstatic experience, but rather the evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives, Galatians 5:22, and our living according to the Word of God day by day. There is no such thing as a one-time shot of Holy Spirit sanctimony that can cause us to say that we have "made it" in the Christian life.
There are others who have sought to "make it" and perfect themselves in the Christian life through the bondage of perfect obedience to a discipler. This is contrary to the spirit of Christian liberty which Paul teaches in Galatians and other epistles - obedience to a tyrannical human leader will never set us free to live for the Lord. Then there are those who travel thousands of miles to attend a "Laughing Revival" or the meeting of a noted charismatic healer where phony "signs and wonders" are being trotted out to impress the gullible masses. Those who attend these services find neither physical nor spiritual healing.
The way to be sanctified is to read the Bible regularly, obey what we find taught there, pray, attend church and serve in the church, cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, and keep on doing all this for 20, 30, 40 or more years until we die and are finally totally liberated from our sin-nature. There is no short-cut.
In verse 4 Paul refers to the persecutions that the Galatians had suffered (Acts 13:45, 14:2). The persecution in Galatia, as in so many other places, had been instigated by the Jews (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15), and perhaps the Galatians thought that if they became Jews, at least outwardly, they could avoid being the targets of the hatred of unregenerate Jews. Paul says that if the salvation by grace alone which he had preached to them was not the truth, then they had suffered persecution for that gospel in vain.
In verse 5 Paul reminds the Galatians that God had authenticated his ministry by working miracles through them, and that God performed those miracles in order to testify to them of the truth of the gospel of salvation by faith, not the false gospel of salvation by works of the law.
GALATIANS 3:6-9. Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
It was not just the Galatians or Christians in the church age who were saved by faith. Believers in all ages have been saved by faith, and Abraham is presented as an example of that in verse 6. We are told in Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:2-3 that Abraham was saved by faith. The Jews were proud of Father Abraham, the first Jew to receive the covenant sign of circumcision, but Abraham was saved before he was circumcised, Romans 4:9-10.
All those, and only those who obey this principle of salvation by faith are the children of Abraham, verse 7. Not all those who are classified, ethnically or religiously, as Jews, are children of Abraham - only those who have received their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith. In John 8:39-40, Christ made it clear that those Jews who rejected Him were not children of Abraham, even though they had proudly identified themselves as such. John the Baptist cautioned the Jews not to put any trust in their descent from Abraham, Matthew 3:9. Abraham is the father of all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, who put their faith in Christ, but he is not the father of those who reject Christ. In Romans 2:28-29, Paul tells us that the true Jews are not those who are identified as Jews by their ethnic origin or the mark of circumcision, but rather those who are redeemed by faith in Christ. Peter in Acts 15:8-9 stated that God has put no difference between Jews and Gentiles.
In verse 8 Paul tells us that it was foreseen in the Bible that God was going to justify the Gentiles by faith. Paul quotes Genesis 12:3, in which God tells Abraham that through him, all the nations of the world would be blessed. Genesis 12:3 is often quoted these days as a proof-text mandating that Christians provide political support for the modern nation of Israel, founded in 1948. This interpretation completely misses the point of the verse. In Genesis 12:3 God is not commanding us or anyone to do anything - he is addressing one person, Abraham, in the singular grammatical form, telling him that God would bless those who bless him and would curse those who curse him (Abraham). The blessing is not for a multitude of people who would come along in modern Israel 4000 years later, but it is literally for Abraham, and the purpose of that blessing is that through him and his spiritual descendants, all the Gentile nations of the world would be blessed as a result of the preaching of the gospel of salvation by faith. That is how Paul understands it - he does not see Genesis 12:3 as a promise of special blessing or privilege to unregenerate ethnic Jews. Such an interpretation would go against the entire point he is trying to make in this epistle, that circumcision does not convey any extra privilege on anyone. (It should be added that those who would spiritualize Genesis 12:3 to make it a mandate for political support of all literal children of Abraham would have to apply it not only to the Jews in Israel, but also to the Palestinians and all Arabs, since they too are literal descendants of Abraham. Also, we are told in Isaiah 19:25 that God has promised to bless Egypt, and in Genesis 21:18 that He has promised to bless Ishmael. According to the reasoning by which Genesis 12:3 is transmuted into a command for us to provide political support to Israel, should we not be providing the same measure of political support to modern Egypt and all the Arab nations that are descended from Ishmael?)
Over the centuries, unsaved Jews have been a blessing to the nations, through their achievements in the fields of commerce, arts, sciences, philanthropy, etc. But that is not what Paul is talking about here, nor what Genesis 12:3 is talking about. It is talking about an even greater blessing, the blessing that would come to the Gentile nations through the preaching of the Christian gospel message of salvation by faith.
In verse 9 we are told that the spiritual blessings that God has promised through Abraham are equally shared by all those who are of the faith, including Gentiles. Once again, it is clear that the purpose of God's promise to bless Abraham in Genesis 12:3 was the propagation of the gospel to the Gentiles, not the establishment of a political entity of unsaved Jews bearing the name of "Israel."
GALATIANS 3:10-12. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12. And the law is not of faith, but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
In verse 10 we see that those who seek to save themselves by keeping the law place themselves under a curse (see Deuteronomy 27:26). There has never been anyone in the world who has perfectly kept the law (1 Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes 7:20). Keeping the law is an all-or-nothing proposition, James 2:10 - if we break one law, we are totally guilty before God. The Word of God does not encourage us to try to save ourselves by perfect obedience to the law, since we are all condemned already (John 3:18) and the only remedy is to look to Christ by faith for our salvation.
We are told in verse 11 (quoted from Habakkuk 2:4) that the just shall live by faith. No one is justified by the law. That is not the purpose of the law - the purpose of the law is to condemn us, to reveal our sinfulness, so that we might then understand the need to be justified by faith.
The law does not require faith, verse 12 - it requires perfect obedience. Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 here to make the point that the only way to be spiritually alive through the law is to keep all of God's statutes and judgments, all of the time. This, of course, is impossible.
GALATIANS 3:13-16. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
In verse 13 we are urged not to follow those who want us to be under the curse of the law; instead we are to follow Christ who has redeemed us from that curse of the law. Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 21:22-23 which warns of an especially heavy curse of the law on those who are hanged on a tree. The Jews hung the corpses of their enemies and criminals in order to pile more shame upon them. Examples of this include the hanging of the king of Ai, Joshua 8:29; the corpses of the 5 kings in Joshua 10:26; the assassins of King Ishbosheth, 2 Samuel 4:12; and the sons of Saul, 2 Samuel 21:9. Quite possibly the accidental hanging of Absalom by his head from an oak tree (2 Samuel 18:9-14) is a further illustration of the shame and contempt that comes from being hanged on a tree. Christ willingly took that curse and that ignominy upon Himself, on our behalf, in order that we might understand that He also took upon Himself the curse of the law which would otherwise rest upon us. How can we possibly turn away from the salvation that Christ has provided freely for us, in order to take upon ourselves the burden and curse of law-keeping for salvation, which has a 100% failure rate?
Because of the shameful death that Christ suffered while hanging on the Cross, we who are Gentiles have the blessing of Abraham upon us, verse 14. This is a reference to salvation by faith. We also have the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was promised by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29). Peter stated that Joel's promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, Acts 2:17-21, but those of us who were not there at Pentecost are sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise when we are saved, Ephesians 1:13.
Paul reminds us in verse 15 that when a human being dies, his last will and testament are followed to the letter, and no one can add to or take away anything from it. It is the same way with the testament or covenant that God has made with us, based on Christ's death.
God's covenant with us was given by Him to Abraham prior to the giving of the law, and it is a testament of salvation by grace forever, verse 16. The giving of the law to Moses did not change anything in God's covenant with Abraham and his seed. The promise was given to Abraham's seed, not "seeds" and Paul places great emphasis on the fact that the word "seed" is singular, not plural. This demonstrates for us the principle that God has inspired every word of the Bible, down to the very letters of each word. God has not inspired just the thoughts of the Word of God - each word is inspired and we must not dare to change any word or any letter, since we may come out with a different meaning entirely if we change anything.
The seed to which the promises were made is none other than Christ. Those Jews who tried to be saved by keeping the law are not the seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made - there is only one seed, and that is Christ. Salvation is not promised to all the literal descendants of Abraham, only to those who are believers in Christ. Abraham had a lot of literal descendants, including the Hebrews, Ishmaelites, Edomites and Midianites, but there is only one true seed of Abraham: Christ and those who are in Christ.
GALATIANS 3:17-20. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
The covenant that God made with Abraham, verse 17, cannot be broken. It was not broken by the coming of the law of Moses, 430 years after Abraham's descendants entered Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41). This covenant has only one condition, that of faith.
We are heirs of this blessing of salvation by faith, based on the promise that God gave to Abraham, not based on obedience to the law, verse 18. We cannot receive an inheritance under two different sets of terms - if it is by the law, then it is not by the promise made to Abraham. If it is by the promise made to Abraham (salvation by faith) then it is not by the law.
God gave the law after He gave the promise of salvation by faith, verse 19. This means that the law is not necessary for our salvation nor for us to be able to receive the promise given to Abraham many centuries before the giving of the law. If Abraham could be saved by faith without the law of Moses, so can we. The law was added because of transgressions, in order to help men feel their guilt and thus cause them to seek the mercy and grace of God. The law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator, Moses, who in that role of mediator prefigured the mediatorial work of Christ. The law was a provisional institution until the coming of Christ the "seed."
The existence of a mediator presupposes that there are two parties that are to be reconciled, verse 20. Those two parties are God and man. The mediatorial work of Moses was not between the persons of the Trinity, because God is one - the Persons of the Trinity are in perfect harmony. Moses mediated between God and man, and the mediatorial work of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5) is also directed between God and man. Christ's mediatorial work is successful - those of us who are saved have been reconciled to God, Ephesians 2:16.
GALATIANS 3:21-25. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
There is no rivalry between the law and the promises of God, verse 21, because the law was not given for the purpose of saving us or giving us spiritual life. The law does not contradict the promise, but rather cooperates with the promise in order to bring sinners to Christ. The coming of Christ did not in any way abolish the moral law - in this Age of Grace, the law and the promise continue to work and operate together, with the law pointing sinners to Christ.
The law has condemned all of us as sinners, verse 22, causing us to realize that we are sinners and that we must come to Christ to receive pardon for our sins. The purpose of the law is not to save sinners, but to teach them that we are sinners so that we might turn to Christ.
Before the coming of Christ, verse 23, the Jews were under the law and were confined by it. The law was like a jailer, keeping the Jews under protective custody, protecting them from falling into the gross sins of paganism, and showing them their sins and their necessity of pardon for those sins.
The law was like a tutor, verse 24, like the Greek slaves that wealthy Romans hired to watch over their children, to take them to school and make sure that they did not wander on the way to school or on the way back home. The law fulfilled this purpose for the Jewish people up until the time of Christ - it kept them from wandering out of the path of God's will for them as a people. Now that Christ has come and provided for our justification by faith, there is no need for anyone, especially not a Gentile, to place himself under the legalistic restrictions that were meant for the Jews only until the time of Christ's coming.
Once we have come to Christ, we are no longer under the law, verse 25. We no longer have to keep the rites and ceremonies that were prescribed for the Jews by the law of Moses. We now live by faith in Christ Jesus, and this faith, as expounded in the New Testament, frees us from obligation to obey the ceremonial law. But we are still to obey the Ten Commandments and the moral law that was given by Moses - the New Testament reaffirms our duty to obey the moral law, as part of our faith in Christ Jesus.
Some have said that the Ten Commandments and the moral law were only for the Jews, and that the Gentiles are not now, nor ever have been, under any obligation before the Lord to obey the moral law. But Amos the prophet condemned the Gentiles for their disobedience to the moral law (see his condemnation of Damascus, Amos 1:3, of Gaza, Amos 1:6, of Tyre, Amos 1:9, of Edom, Amos 1:11, of Ammon, Amos 1:13, and of Moab, Amos 2:1. Elisha reproved the Syrian king Hazael for his violations of the moral law, 2 Kings 8:11-13. In Leviticus 18:24-28, the Lord condemned the Canaanites for their violations of the same moral law that He had given to the Hebrews, and stated that the Canaanites would be ejected from the land because of their violation of the moral law. How could the Gentiles be punished for violating the moral law, if it was not meant for them to obey? Obviously, the moral law was meant for them also. (See also Leviticus 24:22, stating that the law would apply to foreigners in the land as well as to the Hebrews). In Romans 1:32 Paul stated that Gentiles knew the judgment of God with regard to their immoral conduct. Why would the Gentiles be in any trouble with the Lord for their homosexuality, or the other sins that Paul mentions, if the moral law is not for them?
As for the notion that the Ten Commandments were for the Old Testament dispensation but not for today, it should be noted that Christ said in Matthew 5:17-19 that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill. Christ reaffirmed the need for obedience to the Ten Commandments in Matthew 19:17-19, as did the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:9-10, Ephesians 6:1-3, 1 Timothy 1:8-10. He described the law and commandments as just, holy and good in Romans 7:12. Therefore Paul's teaching in Galatians cannot be understood as meaning that we as Christians are no longer expected to obey the moral law and that we may now steal, commit adultery, etc. Paul says that as mature Christians, we are no longer as children who must be watched every moment to keep us out of trouble. But this does not give us license to run wild and disobey the moral law, any more than a mature Roman adult, freed from the control of his tutor or schoolmaster, could revert to the behavior of an untaught spoiled brat. Our Christian faith sets us free to obey the moral law, without having to be forced to do so.
The objection has been made that we cannot abolish the ceremonial law while keeping the moral law, since the Bible makes no distinction between the two. In reality, the New Testament does give us guidelines for retaining the moral law while discarding the ceremonial law. We have seen in Galatians, as well as Acts 15 and Philippians 3:2-3, that circumcision is abolished. (Colossians 2:11 says we have been circumcised with a non-literal circumcision, "without hands)." The dietary laws are now abolished, Acts 10:9-16, 11:1-10, Colossians 2:16, 1 Timothy 4:3-5. The laws pertaining to the Sabbath and Jewish holy days are abolished, Colossians 2:16. The laws of animal sacrifices are now outmoded and set aside as a result of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross, Hebrews 9:9-10. The laws pertaining to Israel's possession of the Promised Land are now obsolete and non-operative as a result of God's expulsion of the Jews from the land in 70 AD. This eliminates the laws concerning the sabbatical year, the year of Jubilees, laws concerning slavery, the cities of refuge, and the law of levirate marriage, among others. The New Testament gives us the principles that we need for distinguishing between the moral law which is for today, and the ceremonial law (such as circumcision) which is not for today.
GALATIANS 3:26-29. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In verse 26 we see that as children of God, we are no longer like the little children who need to be watched every minute to insure our good behavior. We are as adult children who can walk in liberty because we are obeying Christ and God's law.
Those who have received Christ as Savior, and have demonstrated their obedience to Christ by placing themselves in the waters of baptism, verse 27, are clothed with Christ, so to speak, and have submitted to the obedience of Christ. They have put away childish things, 1 Corinthians 13:11 - they have put off the childish garments that little children wear and have dressed themselves with the robes that a mature person wears.
The denominations that believe in baptismal regeneration have used verse 27 as a proof-text for the notion that we are saved at the moment of baptism, by the waters of baptism. It should be noted, however, that Paul is not saying here that "those of you who were baptized are saved (put on Christ) at the moment of, or as a result of, your baptism." All he is saying here is that to be saved (to put on Christ) and to be baptized are two things that just go naturally together, like love and marriage, or a horse and carriage. Paul is speaking of things as they should ideally be, the way things ought to be.
Ideally, everyone who is saved will also be baptized, and no one will ever be baptized before they are saved. We know that it does not always work that way - there are some saved people who have not yet been baptized, and there are some baptized people who have not been saved. Paul does not intend to deny such possibilities, any more than he intends to say in verse 26 that every person throughout history who reads his epistle to the Galatians is saved, or to say in verse 28 that there are no distinctions whatsoever between Jew and Greek in any of the Lord's churches. Obviously, there were indeed some deep distinctions being made between Jew and Greek in the Galatian churches, which is why Paul had to write this epistle to try to straighten things out, pointing out to the Galatians the ideal that they should be seeking.
So let us not read things into these statements of Paul that Paul did not mean to say. He was not saying that baptism and saving faith must take place simultaneously in the life of every Christian, but he does strongly imply that they do go together in the normal course of things. When sinners get saved, they just naturally receive scriptural baptism (Acts 2:41, 16:33, etc). Paul certainly was not teaching baptismal regeneration here. This would have gone against everything he has already said in this chapter about how salvation is by faith (see verse 2 and 5, the hearing of faith, verse 6, Abraham believed God, verse 7, those who are of faith, verse 8, Gentiles justified by faith, verse 9, those who are of faith, verse 11, the just shall live by faith, verse 14, receive the promise by faith, verse 21, no righteousness given by the law, verse 22, the promise by faith, verse 24, justified by faith, verse 26, children of God by faith). After all those references to salvation by faith, there is no way that verse 27 could be understood as saying that we get saved by faith plus baptism.
As for the mode of baptism that Paul is talking about, there can be no doubt that he is talking about immersion (see Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12, Acts 8:38-39, etc).
Some interpreters have denied that Galatians 3:27 is referring to water baptism. Perhaps they want to avoid any appearance of teaching that we are saved by water baptism (although we have already seen that that is not what Paul is teaching). Perhaps they want to downgrade the importance of baptism, thus accommodating the modern movement of nondenominationalism and of "community churches" which do not require baptism for membership. (They prefer watered-down doctrine instead of the waters of baptism). Whatever the motivation, they say that Paul is not talking about literal water baptism here, but rather "spirit baptism" or the "baptism with the Holy Spirit" which they say takes place at the moment of salvation.
Actually, the Bible does not teach that we are baptized with or by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. In Matthew 3:6-8 we see that John the Baptist was baptizing only those who had already been saved, as evidenced by their repentance, but at that time he told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Ghost at some point in the future, Matthew 3:11. Obviously, for these converts, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit was not simultaneous with their salvation. In Acts 1:5 Christ told the apostles, who were already saved, that they would be baptized in the Holy Ghost in a few days. The Bible presents the Baptism with the Holy Spirit as a corporate experience which fell upon the church at Pentecost, not as an individual event that happens at the moment of salvation.
A proper literal method of interpretation will accept all references to baptism in the New Testament as a literal immersion in water, unless there is something in the context to indicate that the word is to be taken in a figurative, non-literal sense. In this case there is nothing to indicate that the baptism of verse 27 is non-literal. Any attempt to turn it into a non-literal "spirit baptism" brings us into conflict with what the New Testament actually teaches with regard to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
In verse 28 Paul tells us that we as believers are to be one in Christ Jesus, and that the practical result of this oneness and equality will be the elimination of distinctions between Jew and Gentile, freemen and slaves, and men and women. There is to be no privilege in the Lord's church for those who have kept the ceremonial Jewish law with regard to circumcision, any more than there would be for a freeman over a slave. Obviously the differences in ethnic, gender, economic status, etc. continue to exist, but we have no advantage before God because of these things. The rite of circumcision was for men only, and that may be the reason why Paul brings in the male/female issue here. Women would not have any access to the alleged superior status that would be conferred by being circumcised, but it doesn't matter since that advantage does not exist anyway.
Some have quoted this verse as a proof-text for the acceptability of woman pastors, but it is dishonest to do so, since Paul clearly was opposed to the idea of women pastoring over the churches. He said that the pastors and deacons should be husbands of one wife, 1 Timothy 3:2, 12. All believers have the same advantage and opportunity to come to God for salvation, regardless of circumcision status or gender, but this does not eliminate the fact that there will be different roles for various people in the church. The head of the woman is to be the man, but this does not make woman inferior, any more than God's headship over Christ makes Him inferior to God, 1 Corinthians 11:3.
While we cannot accept the concept of women as pastors, we do want to recognize that women share completely in the priesthood of all believers as described in 1 Peter 2:9. The New Testament depicts women as speaking and prophesying for the Lord. Anna the prophetess spoke to a large number of people in Jerusalem, Luke 2:36-38. By comparison of Acts 2:3-4 with Acts 1:14, it appears that all of the disciples at Pentecost, women as well as men, were filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke with other tongues. Peter said that women would prophesy, Acts 2:17, and Philip had 4 daughters who prophesied, Acts 21:9. Euodias and Syntyche worked alongside Paul in the gospel work, Philippians 4:2-3. Women were to pray and prophesy in the church, 1 Corinthians 11:5. Phebe, a traveling minister of the gospel, was recommended by Paul for financial support, Romans 16:1-2, while Junia was commended as being "of note among the apostles." Romans 16:7. Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, tutored Apollos and expounded the word of God to him, Acts 18:26. Older women were to teach the younger women, Titus 2:3-5.
All this is pointed out to demonstrate that women have a very important teaching ministry in the Kingdom of God, and that indeed in Christ there is no male or female. Paul did say that the women should keep silence in the churches, 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12. In light of other New Testament teaching, these two verses need not be understood as a total prohibition on any speaking by women in the church services. These verses appear to teach that wives should not challenge the authority or convictions of their husbands in public during the congregational meetings - any differences that may arise between husband and wife are to be settled in private, at home.
As for the emphasis here, as elsewhere in the Galatian epistle, on the equality of Jews and Gentiles before God, this certainly goes against the modern teaching that Jews are in some way a superior race who have some kind of special advantage with God, as well as an exalted status over the Gentiles. Some prominent television preachers have gone so far as to say that the Jews do not need to be saved like the rest of us because they have their own distinct covenant with God, and can be saved without coming to Christ. (But if Jews are automatically saved just by being Jews, then why did Paul have such a burden for the salvation of the Jews, Romans 9:3, 10:1, 11:14, 1 Corinthians 9:20, etc.?)
Then there is the teaching concerning the so-called "Church/Israel dichotomy," the differing destinies of the Jews and Gentiles, and so forth. All of this is contrary to the very point that Paul is trying so hard to get across throughout this entire epistle, that there is no advantage before God just for being Jewish. Had there been such an advantage, Paul would have advised everyone to go ahead and get circumcised and become a Jew so that all of us (at least the men) could get in on the special privileges accorded to the Jews. Paul, throughout this epistle, is telling us the opposite message.
For those who want that advantage of being one of Abraham's children, Paul tells us in verse 29 that all of us who are in Christ are the children of Abraham, and thus heirs of the promises made to Abraham and his descendants. All Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, are of the lineage of Abraham. Paul makes the same point in Romans 9:6-7 where he says that not all who are of Israel are really Israelites and not all who are the seed of Abraham are true children of Abraham. Those who reject Christ, whether Gentile or Jew (see John 8:39-40) are not the children of Abraham nor heirs of the promise.
This raises the question, "Just what is promised to the children of Abraham? Is it the land of Palestine, over in the Middle East?" We find the answer to that in Hebrews 11:13-16, where we are told that the country we are promised is not in Palestine or anywhere on earth - it is in heaven. We are told that even Abraham himself is not interested in any earthly inheritance - he and the other patriarchs desire only the city that God has prepared for them in heaven. Paul will return to this point in Galatians 4:25-26, where he tells us that we are to seek the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one. In Paul's day, the Jews were fixated on getting and keeping control of the earthly Jerusalem, and we still have that problem today. Those of us who are Abraham's true children, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) are not to be focused on such temporal, worldly issues - our inheritance is in heaven.
GALATIANS 4:1-7. Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all: 2. But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Before the coming of Christ, all humanity was in the condition of a child, verses 1 and 2. Mankind was kept out of trouble by the law, and was closely watched as by tutors and nannies, until the appointed time for man to enter into its proper inheritance through the riches of Christ's grace. The time appointed by the father was given in Daniel 9:24-27 - 70 weeks or 490 years from the time of the command by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2).
The Jews were like children, verse 3 - so closely watched and guarded and led about by the hand, that they had no more freedom than slaves. They were under the elements or rudiments of the world (Colossians 2:20), this being a necessary preparation for them to be able to enter into the liberty of the Spirit in the Christian life. The Jewish laws with regard to animal sacrifices, washings, diet and other such things, were rudiments which hindered their liberty, similar to laws we have today which hinder the liberty of our children (compulsory school attendance, laws forbidding child labor, driving a car, marriage, voting, military service, etc. before attaining a certain age). These laws are necessary to protect children, but once we have become adults, we no longer need to remain under the protection of such laws. It would be foolish for a 30-year-old adult to regard himself as being prohibited from voting, getting married, driving a car, etc. just as if he was a 12-year-old child. Similarly, it is foolish for those of us who have entered upon the liberty of the Christian life to enslave ourselves under the Jewish ceremonial laws from the Old Testament. While we are still to obey the Ten Commandments and moral law of Moses, we are not under the ceremonial law, and no mature Christian would want to return to the bondage of those laws that were written for immature persons.
In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, verse 4. Christ did not come immediately after Adam's Fall, because it was not yet the right time for Him to come. God waited until the consequences of sin had become fully apparent among mankind, so that men would fully sense the results of their sinfulness and their need of a Savior. It was necessary to permit the complete development of the sin principle before fully revealing the remedy for that problem. God sent His own Son, born of a woman, not of man, which reminds us of His Virgin Birth. He was born under the law, and submitted to the law, keeping it perfectly, in order that He would be worthy to suffer the punishment for sins on our behalf on the cross, thus paying the price for all who have broken the law. In Genesis 3:15 it was predicted that the Redeemer would be the seed of a woman (here again there is no mention of man). There has been only one Person in history who could fulfill this prophecy, being born only of a woman and not of a man, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us are the seed of men - only Christ was the seed of a woman.
Christ came to redeem those who were under the law, verse 5, in order that we might no longer be as slaves or lowly servants - we are now adopted as mature adult sons of God.
The Holy Spirit, working in our hearts, verse 6, gives us the proper desires as to what we should pray for (Romans 8:26), and makes us understand that we are the adopted sons of God and therefore no longer need to be under the law in order to become His children. Here, as in Romans 8:9, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Christ. He proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father.
We are no longer slaves, but now sons of God, and heirs of God through Christ, verse 7. Those who want to return to the ceremonial law, with its onerous restrictions, are actually seeking to return to slavery, which is totally unnecessary and illogical.
GALATIANS 4:8-11. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
The Gentiles, before their conversion to Christ, worshipped false gods which had no real existence, verse 8. This yoke of false religion was a heavy burden, similar to the yoke of Jews under the law.
The Galatians now know God (verse 9) or rather are known by God who has elected them to be sons of God, Ephesians 1:4-5. Having received this wondrous grace of God, it is truly surprising that they would want to return to the weak and beggarly elements of the ceremonial law. They are weak because they have no power to save. They are beggarly or poor in contrast with the riches that we have as heirs and adopted children of Christ. Sensible and intelligent people, when given a choice between being weakly and poor, or being strong and rich, will go for the "strong and rich" option every time. When given the choice to be a serf, churl, lackey or varlet in the home of the great lord, or the adopted son of the great lord, we would all want to be the adopted son. But the Galatians were inexplicably seeking to cast off their Christian liberty and their riches in Christ, in order to be in slavery under an antiquated, outmoded religion.
They were keeping days (sabbaths, fast and feast days), months (new moons), times (or seasons) and years (sabbatical years), verse 10. All this was no longer necessary or commanded by God (see Colossians 2:16-17). The command to observe one day in 7 as the Lord's day is not abrogated here, any more than the other 9 of the Ten Commandments are abrogated. We ought to use the Lord's day for congregational worship (Hebrews 10:24-25) but the strict requirements of the law (no fire to be kindled on the sabbath, etc). are not binding, nor are there any other holidays, fast days or observances that are binding upon us. The Christian religion is a religion of liberty, as we see in Romans 14:5-6 where Paul says to go ahead and observe a holiday if we wish, but we are not to judge those who do not observe that holiday, nor need we let them judge us for observing it. This principle, as properly understood, would settle all the controversies as to whether or not we are commanded or permitted to observe Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc. The answer is that we are permitted to observe all of these, but not commanded to if we do not wish to - therefore let us save the fighting and fussing for matters that are really important, not the debates over holidays. At no time should we take the attitude of observing any holiday as a legal requirement, or as a work of righteousness that confers merit on us of itself.
Paul was afraid for, or concerned about, the Galatians, verse 11, because if they continued on this emphasis on legalism, it would mean that his ministry in Galatia, in planting scriptural churches, had no permanent results and therefore was in vain. For Paul, it was not enough to just "get them saved" and then let them wander off into false doctrine, as today's ecumenical evangelists do. His work as a church-planting evangelist was not done until his converts had been discipled and confirmed in the faith (Acts 15:41, 16:4-5).
GALATIANS 4:12-19. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. 13. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Jesus Christ. 15. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. 16. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? 17. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. 18. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
Paul urges and begs the Galatians to be as he is, verse 12. This is Paul's style, wherever possible - to beseech and plead with his hearers, rather than to harshly command them to do things. He wants the Galatians to be like Paul, in the sense that when Paul was among the predominantly Gentile people of Galatia, he lived as they did, rather than observing all the strict observances of the Jews. Paul, being a Jew himself, had lived among the Galatians enjoying the freedom of Gentile customs, and not thinking that observance of the ceremonial law would add anything to his justification and sanctification. And the Galatians had not injured him at all or held anything against him for his non-observance of the Jewish rites. Paul is telling the Galatians that they were right the first time when they felt that the Jewish ceremonial law was unimportant, and he is asking them to go back to that original conviction of theirs.
He reminds them of the personal sacrifice that he made to get the gospel to them, preaching in the infirmity of the flesh, verse 13. Possibly Paul had plans to leave Galatia but he had to stay because of some illness, and the Galatians had showed him their hospitality by allowing him to tarry with them. Those "charismatics" who insist that it is never the will of any Christian to be sick will presumably deny that Paul was suffering from physical illness here, but it is thought, based on verse 15 and 6:11 that he may have had some sort of eye trouble. Others have suggested that the "infirmity of the flesh" was malaria. While we should always seek God's healing (James 5:14-15), we should recognize that it is not always God's will to heal - otherwise why would Paul have left Trophimus at Miletum sick, instead of healing him, 2 Timothy 4:20? It is a fact that even the most prominent teachers of the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel" eventually get sick and die. Their death rate, like all the rest of us, is still 100%. As of this writing, the prominent healing teacher Kenneth Hagin has recently died, which would not have happened if there was anything to the healing powers that are claimed by his associates in the ministry.
Whatever illness Paul had, it may have made his personal appearance repulsive, verse 14. Eye troubles would have caused this. In spite of this, the Galatians received him as a messenger of God, even after the Jews of Galatia had rejected him. They certainly did not judge him, saying as some do today, "If he is so sick, he cannot be right with God."
They were so satisfied to have Paul in their midst, and regarded themselves so blessed to be able to hear his preaching, that they were willing to sacrifice anything, even to pluck their eyes out and give them to Paul, verse 15.
At some point, perhaps at the time of Paul's second visit to the Galatians (Acts 16:1-6), it must have become necessary to speak to the Galatians in a harsh manner concerning the errors of the legalists that they were embracing, verse 16. For this reason he was regarded as their enemy by some, because he had told them the truth. None of us want to create enemies for ourselves, but sometimes it is necessary to do so merely by preaching the truth and the whole counsel of God. There may be something seriously wrong with our ministry if we have not created any enemies for ourselves. We must be prepared for the opposition and controversy that may inevitably be raised up as a necessary consequence of telling the people the truth. Let us never be guilty of turning against any preacher or man of God, or working against him as an enemy, only because he had the courage to confront us with an unpopular and unpleasant truth.
In verse 17 we see that the real enemy of the Galatians was not Paul, but rather the legalists, those who had excluded them, rejecting them as unfit for Christian fellowship, in order to make them feel inferior, with the ultimate motive of bringing them under the bondage of the Jewish rites. They were applying peer group pressure, for the purpose of getting the Galatians to knuckle under to their false doctrines, in order that they might be accepted as part of the in-crowd and the elite people of God. There are plenty of religionists who would "exclude" us and try to make us feel that we are inferior to them until we submit to them. The Episcopalians claim to have preserved the so-called "historic episcopate" and they say that we will never be part of the in-crowd until we submit to one of their bishops. The charismatics offer us health and wealth, while the Jehovah's Witnesses fancy that they, with their denial of Christ's deity, are the only ones who truly follow Jehovah All these groups and many others, would, if they could, make us jealous of what they have, but in order to get what they allegedly have got, we would have to go under their bondage.
Paul says in verse 18 that it is good to practice zeal in a good cause, and to be steadfast in that cause, not only when Paul is around but all the time. Christ is our example of zeal for a good cause - in John 2:17 He described Himself as being consumed with zeal for the House of God. The Lord's churches could certainly use a lot more people who are consumed by zeal for the House of God, the church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Timothy 3:15. If only the zeal that some people lavish upon their sports, their hobbies, their work, their travels, their prized material possessions, or their false religions, could be channeled into the work of the House of God, we would have an explosion of godly zeal on behalf of "a good thing," which would change the world.
GALATIANS 4:19-23. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. 21. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Paul has such a burden for the Galatian Christians that he compares himself to a mother suffering the pains of childbirth, v. 19, as he waits for Christ to be formed in his converts. All is vain unless Christ be formed in us. The new birth is just the beginning of the Christian life - even as mature Christians, we are to desire that we should abound more and more in knowledge and judgment, Philippians 1:9, so that we will no longer be prey for the false teachers. When Christ has been formed in us, we no longer follow the false teachers who teach "another gospel." Paul was not satisfied with converts who followed an impressive, respectable outward religious ceremony - he wanted to see Christ formed in them.
It is not enough to follow a good system of morality, or to make a decision, or a profession of faith, or be baptized - we need for Christ to be formed in us. While we rejoice at all professions of faith, we cannot be satisfied with them. We must seek to disciple the converts, so that Christ is formed in them. Paul was not content to just get a lot of decisions, have a lot of people walking the aisle, and then turn them over to false teachers as today's shallow, ecumenical "easy believism" preachers do. He watched over his converts and agonized over them, desiring that Christ would be formed in them, and seeking visible evidence of that. One visible evidence was that they would continue in the truth, rather than follow false teachers.
In verse 20 Paul expresses his perplexity with the Galatians. He is puzzled that they did not appear to be trusting in Christ alone for their salvation - they were trusting in Christ plus certain rites, ceremonies, holy days and circumcision. When we are united with Christ, there are evidences of this union. When there are no visible evidences of union with Christ, there is reason to doubt whether the person is saved. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul exhorted the Corinthians to examine themselves, as to whether they were in the faith. Nowadays some preachers tell the people they should not ever doubt their salvation, no matter what, but this is the opposite of the way Paul dealt with his converts.
In verse 21 Paul begins another form of persuasion - since the Galatians were so zealous for the law, he would argue from the story of Abraham and his two sons, taken from the book of Genesis which is part of the law of Moses.
The Galatians wanted to be good Jews and sons of Abraham, so Paul reminds them in verse 22 that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, and he is concerned that they were modeling themselves after the wrong son. Ishmael was a slave, the son of the slave woman Hagar, while Isaac was a free man because his mother Sarah was free.
Ishmael was born according to the flesh, verse 23, in a natural manner, without any miraculous intervention, while Isaac was born according to the promise of a miracle by which his aged mother Sarah would give birth at the age of 90. The lesson here is that we should not have confidence in the flesh, and in the things that we can produce in the flesh. Rather, our confidence is in God who can do the things that we could never accomplish, as long as we exercise faith, as Sarah did (Hebrews 11:11).
GALATIANS 4:24-26. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar, 25. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Paul makes, from the literal and true history of the sons of Abraham, an application beyond the literal meaning of the words, verse 24, just as modern preachers do today as they preach through the Bible. This does not in any way detract from the literal and historical truth of the story, nor does it give us license to set aside the plain and literal interpretation of any passage in favor of a fanciful "allegorical interpretation." The two mothers, Sarah and Hagar, represent the two covenants, the covenant with Abraham and the covenant made through Moses at Mount Sinai. The covenant of Moses, just like the slave girl Hagar, is capable of producing only children who are in a state of bondage. This is a contrast to Isaac who was a child produced in joyful circumstances, whose very name means "laughter." Hagar, who gave birth about 13 years before Sarah, tried unsuccessfully to do something that only Sarah could do. Only Sarah could bear a true heir to Abraham. The application is that the law cannot do what grace can do. Grace can save the sinner and produce a regenerated child of God - the law cannot.
Mount Sinai, and the territory around it in Arabia (which may indicate a location east of the Gulf of Aqaba, rather than the traditional location on the Sinai Peninsula) are dry desert territories, with no water, no shade, no comforts. This worthless desert land, according to Paul in verse 25, corresponds to the literal city of Jerusalem. While the devotees of several modern religions, including Judaism, regard Jerusalem as the Holy City, we see God's low estimate of the place in Revelation 11:8, where He describes it as the city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified. Those who focus with longing on modern Jerusalem and who desire to fight over its control, whether they be Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox or even fundamentalist Christians, are for all practical purposes sons of Hagar, and in legalistic bondage. Fortunately the Christians who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Paul were not under any such delusions as to the sanctimony of their doomed hometown. They knew that, as an act of judgment on the part of a sovereign God, the Roman armies would come shortly and destroy Jerusalem, and they were prepared to permanently abandon the city before it was too late, Luke 17:20-24. Many of them had already sold off their real estate holdings, Acts 4:34, making it easier for them to flee when the time came.
The Galatians were in bondage, looking to the earthly Jerusalem and desiring to be enslaved in the same legalistic system as the Jews they admired so much. Many Christians today are in a similar bondage. They are focused on Jerusalem, watching everything that happens there for some sign that a temple with animal sacrifices will be built there or that the Rapture is to come soon. They agonize over the question of who gets to control the so-called Temple Mount, and donate millions of dollars to Jewish terrorists who plot to blow up the Muslim shrines. They act as if they think the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is not sufficient, and therefore we need to go back to the Old Testament animal sacrifices and legal observances, which were but a shadow of things to come, Hebrews 9:9-11. This all-consuming fascination with, and desire for, a restoration of the outmoded Jewish forms of worship in "the Jerusalem which now is," is a mark of the sons of Hagar.
In verse 26 Paul tells us that those of us who are the spiritual sons of Isaac are to be fixated on the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of all true believers. The original Hagar was meant to be only the servant of the sons of Abraham, not the mother of those true sons. Likewise, the law can only be our servant, not our mother. We are not children of the literal city Jerusalem in Palestine, but rather we are children of the celestial Jerusalem which is free. That is the Jerusalem that we are to long for and pay attention to, not the one down here on earth. This is the same teaching that we find in Hebrews 12:22, where we are told that we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. (It is a present reality as well as our future hope). Our inheritance as Christians (Jewish or Gentile) is in heaven, Philippians 3:20. Our hope is not in anything that happens in the earthly Jerusalem, and certainly not in any transfer of control of the Temple Mount or construction of a Jewish temple there. Our hope is in Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and His shed blood, Hebrews 12:24.
Talk to some Christians today about the question of Jerusalem and who should control the Temple Mount, and you may be subjected to an emotional tirade about how the Arabs have no right to be there, about how all the Arabs should be cleared out of Palestine so that the Jews can take control of everything and build themselves a temple there. But "what would Jesus do?" Would Jesus want to see the Jews and Arabs fighting and blowing each other to bits over the question of who gets to be "king of the mountain" in Jerusalem, and does He expect Christians to take sides in that ferocious dispute?
When the woman at the well tried to get Jesus into a big debate over the Temple Mount question, Jesus refused to even express an opinion over the question of where the true Temple should go. He stated in John 4:21 that in the Christian dispensation, the whole question of where to worship or where to put the Temple would be immaterial and unimportant, because true worship would be offered up to God apart from any Jewish temple. The fact of the matter is that in this age, the House of God is no longer fixed in one location in Palestine, but it is to be found wherever there is a properly constituted New Testament church, 1 Timothy 3:15. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to support or seek the reconstruction of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem or anywhere else.
In fact, much of the epistle to the Hebrews was written for the purpose of persuading Christians not to support any such project, on pain of being considered an apostate. Herod's temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD as part of a judgment on the Jews that was predicted and ordained by God, Matthew 24:1-2. There is no reason why we should seek to go back to that outmoded temple, any more than the believers in Solomon's time were to try to go back to worshipping in a tabernacle (tent). God always moves forward, not backward. It is not part of God's plan that we ever go back to the ceremonies and animal sacrifices of Old Testament Judaism, as much as some modern Galatian legalistic types would like to see that happen.
Today in America there are Christians who eagerly watch the news for any hint that the Temple will soon be rebuilt. They catch their breath at every report of an archeological dig or collapsing wall in the earthly Jerusalem, or the birth of a red heifer on the ranch of a Mississippi farmer who is trying to breed such brutes for the purpose of restoring the Old Testament sacrifices. They give millions of dollars a year to help Jews to move to illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, and to put their children in Jewish religious schools. This spirit of longing for all things Jewish, and desire for the restoration of Jewish religious practices, is something that the deluded Galatians would have identified with - it is the spirit of "Hagar the Horrible," and it is something that Paul fought against throughout his ministry. As for the sons of Isaac, they pray for the peace of Jerusalem and wish only the best for the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Jerusalem, but their focus and emphasis is on the Jerusalem that is above.
As Christians we take no position in favor of the construction of a Jewish temple for animal sacrifices in Jerusalem. Nor do we deny that some deluded Jews might construct such a temple some day. We are opposed to the persecution of any people by reason of their religious beliefs, and we also practice the Golden Rule and recognize the property rights of all people of all faiths. Since the Israeli government has officially recognized the property rights of the Muslim leadership to the supposed, so-called "Temple Mount" in Jerusalem, we cannot support the demolition of that mosque for purposes of putting a Jewish temple there, any more than we would support the demolition of any Jewish religious site to be replaced with a Muslim mosque. To those who feel that they really must set up a temple dedicated to Judaism or any other non-Christian religion, we can respond, "You may do as you wish, but not by confiscating and demolishing someone else's religious edifice - go build your temple somewhere else."
GALATIANS 4:27-31. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Verse 27 is a citation of Isaiah 54:1. Hagar gave birth to a child without any particular problem, but Sarah was sterile and could give birth only after the miraculous intervention of God. Likewise, there are now more sons of Abraham to be found among the Gentiles, a group that was formerly not responsive to the Lord, than among the Jews who had Jehovah for a husband. Implicit here is the conviction (and prediction) that the Christian faith will be a fruitful, growing movement among the Gentile nations (see Isaiah 9:7, Matthew 13:31-33), not a shrinking movement that eventually fails and dwindles down to almost nothing. Even back in the First Century it could be said that there were "many more children" of Abraham among the Gentiles than among the Jews, and that is all the more true today after 20 centuries of missionary advances and worldwide church planting. It is unscriptural to say, as some do, that revival is not God's plan for this age. God's plan is for revival to "break forth" among the Gentiles, resulting in "many more children" than there ever were under the dispensation of the Jewish ceremonial law.
Christians are children of the promise, not children of slavery, verse 28, and as such, it is Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, who are to be identified as the "Isaac people" today. The heritage of Isaac is liberty - in 1 Corinthians 7:23 we are exhorted to not be slaves of men. The Galatians were in danger of making themselves the slaves of the Judaizers who taught that Gentile Christians must become Jews and obey all Jewish rites and customs.
Verse 29 reminds us that Ishmael persecuted Isaac, Genesis 21:9. In Paul's time, those who were in bondage, born of the flesh (sons of Hagar, unsaved Jews) were persecuting those who were born of the Spirit (Gentile and Jewish Christians). Most of the persecutions of Christians in the book of Acts were carried out either directly by the Jews, or by Gentiles who had been instigated by the Jews. The persecutions of Christians at Philippi and Ephesus are rare examples of persecutions where the Jews appear to have had no role. But the Jews were very much involved in the persecutions at Jerusalem, Damascus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, etc., and were harshly denounced by Paul for their nasty attitude, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. There is still persecution of Christians by Jews in Israel today. Those who persecute and mock true believers are identified by Paul with the spawn of Hagar. As spiritual children of Isaac, we ought not to persecute those of other religions. In fact, we should be cautious about even mocking false religionists or indulging in harsh name-calling. The use of humor and sarcasm in exposing false doctrine is sometimes appropriate (see 1 Kings 18:27, Matthew 23:24, etc) but it probably does no good to tell Roman Catholics that they are part of the "whore of Babylon" or to rub it in the faces of Hindus that "we eat their god." Generally speaking, a courteous, tactful presentation of the simple gospel message is more effective than scornful mocking comments or harsh denunciations.
Verse 30 is cited from Genesis 21:10. Abraham's wife Sarah is speaking here, but Paul tells us that it is really the "scripture" that is speaking - it is God who told Abraham to cast out the bondwoman and her son, and God tells us to do likewise. There were a lot of problems and tensions in Abraham's family, and God proposed a radical solution to the endless commotions - kick out Hagar and Ishmael. As Christians we need to take an equally radical approach to the problem of legalism (defined as keeping the law in order to be saved). The solution is to kick out the teaching of salvation by works, and to kick out those who teach that. There was a lot of longing for a return to Jewish ordinances among the Galatian churches, and 20 centuries later we still have the same problem with this fascination with, and longing for, a restored Jewish temple and Jewish animal sacrifices and rites and observances and ceremonies. Those who think this way are of Hagar, not of Isaac.
Paul concludes in verse 31 that we are not to be children of the bondwoman who was cast out of Abraham's family; rather, we are children of Sarah, children of the promise, children of the free. With our heavenly inheritance, we, in common with Abraham and Sarah, have no reason to be in bondage to the wrangling over territories or temple sites in the Middle East. Abraham himself is satisfied with his heavenly inheritance, to the exclusion of any interest or claim on the earthly Palestine, Hebrews 11:15-16, and we as children of the free should enjoy that same freedom.
GALATIANS 5:1-4. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Christ has not called and chosen us in order that we might live in a state of abject slavery, verse 1. He has called us as free people, and we are exhorted to stand firm in that principle of freedom. It may seem strange to have to beg people to choose freedom rather than slavery, but in the religious world there are always some weak, timid folks who are afraid to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions. It is easier for them to turn everything over to a strong-willed pastor or discipler who will make the decisions for them. When the Israelites. escaped from Egypt, they longed for a return to slavery and tried to go back to Egypt. Likewise today there are people who will actually seek out a church that is legalistic and dictatorial, and others who have allowed themselves to be brainwashed into believing that their salvation and Christian growth depends on allowing some bullying preacher to tell them what to do. They see it as a mark of spirituality to allow themselves to be taken into bondage, but Paul warned the Corinthians not to be in bondage to abusive spiritual leaders, 2 Corinthians 11:19-20. There is no reason for mature Christians to give up their liberty to decide things for themselves, nor for them to return to a spiritual babyhood in which some tyrannical leader is deciding everything for them and managing their personal affairs. We are at liberty to decide for ourselves, not only on the issue of circumcision, but also on such matters as diet and holiday observances (Romans 14:4-6) and by extension we are encouraged to make our own decisions on every issue that is not specifically covered by some directive in God's Word.
The idea of verse 2 is that if we submit to circumcision, with the idea that this is necessary in order to be saved, then Christ will profit us nothing. Salvation by faith and salvation by works cannot be mixed, Romans 11:6. If you are trusting even a little bit in any good work for your salvation, then you are not trusting in Christ and are not saved. Paul is not saying here that anyone who has been circumcised is not saved - after all, Paul had Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3, because Timothy was part Jewish and in this case it was felt that circumcising him would eliminate a possible hindrance to Timothy's ministry among the Jews. In Galatians 5:6 and 6:15 Paul says that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision will help or hinder us as to our standing before the Lord. His objection is to those who make it a requirement for the Christian and who teach that this fleshly observance will in itself make us closer to the Lord.
In verse 3 we see that those who have chosen to be circumcised in order to save themselves by the law must keep the whole law - it is not enough to keep just the law of circumcision. The whole law must be kept perfectly without any slip-ups, and this is plainly impossible.
Those who seek salvation by the works of the law have lost the benefit that they could have had by placing their faith in Christ, verse 4. They have fallen from the principle of salvation by grace. Paul is not saying here that the Galatians have lost their salvation - in Galatians 4:6 he refers to them as sons of God, and frequently refers to them as brethren. Those who are saved but holding to false doctrine have made their relation with Christ to be useless and inactive as long as they are following these false doctrines, and cannot grow in grace. Those who devote themselves to legalistic observances in order to perfect themselves cannot properly enjoy the benefits of faith in the finished work of Christ. The "fall" here does not refer to loss of salvation, but a descent from the exalted principle of living by faith in Christ, to the debased notion of self-improvement and self-righteousness as represented by those who emphasized the outmoded rites of Old Testament Judaism.
GALATIANS 5:5-10. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8. This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 10. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
Our hope is in salvation by faith, not works, verse 5. We must depend on the Holy Spirit, not the works of the flesh, to justify us. Paul here expresses his conviction that the day will come when we will experience perfect righteousness. Paul had not attained to that himself (Philippians 3:12) but we will achieve that perfection when we die and go to heaven - and it will be achieved by faith, not works.
We do not become a better Christian by keeping the ceremonial law, nor by breaking it for that matter, verse 6. We must walk in love and show that love, in order to grow spiritually. Christian growth and maturity do not come by any quick fix, whether it be the knife of the circumcising surgeon, or some ecstatic emotional experience such as speaking in tongues - it comes as a result of a lifetime of faith which is expressed through love.
The Galatians started out well in the Christian life, verse 7, coming to Christ as helpless sinners. But now they have been led astray by the legalists who have persuaded them to turn aside from the truth. Paul was not satisfied to just get people converted and them let them wander off into error. The Great Commission requires us to go with the gospel, and also to make sure that the converts receive scriptural baptism and that they are taught to obey all things that Christ has commanded, Matthew 28:19-20. This requires a lot of work and effort over a period of many years, but this is what the Great Commission is all about. Evangelists who obtain professions of faith and then look the other way as their converts wander off into false doctrine in "the church of their choice" are not carrying out the Great Commission, not by any stretch of the imagination.
In verse 8 Paul speaks plainly, that the emphasis on Jewish religious observances did not by any means proceed from Christ who had called them.
Any false teaching, such as that which confronted the Galatians, is like leaven, verse 9. A little bit will leaven a large lump of dough. A seemingly small deviation from sound doctrine, in a church movement that is for the most part doctrinally sound, will eventually permeate and overthrow that entire movement, if allowed to fester and propagate without challenge. Most of us will throw out a bowl of soup that has been cooked with a fly in it, but all too many of us are ready to embrace any false movement in religion, on the basis that after all, there is a lot of truth in it. The fly-infested bowl of soup still consists of 99% wholesome and nutritious ingredients, and the rotten apple still has a lot of food value, but we will throw these out. When it comes to any religious movement with the leaven of error in it, we ought to completely root out the error if that is possible, or else separate from that movement, instead of making excuses about all the good that they are doing or teaching. Christendom today is littered with dozens of movements which teach mostly the right things but which lack a proper understanding of the principle of salvation by faith.
In verse 10 Paul expresses confidence that the Galatians will return to the truth as a result of reading this epistle and receiving his apostolic correction, and that those who have troubled them with false doctrine will suffer the judgment of God. Those who set themselves up as religious teachers must be aware of the responsibility that they carry, and the condemnation they will suffer before God if they teach false doctrine, James 3:1.
GALATIANS 5:11-15. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. 12. I would they were even cut off which trouble you. 13. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
The false teachers had lied to the Galatians, verse 11, telling them that Paul had preached that circumcision was necessary for all believers, in order to promote their own cause by claiming Paul's endorsement. Paul reminded the Galatians that he had been persecuted by the Jews, thus showing that he was not in accord with them on their insistence on circumcision. Paul's preaching was a stumblingblock and offense to the Jews, because he taught that Christ had accomplished on the Cross all that is necessary for salvation, thus rendering the Jewish rites such as circumcision unnecessary.
In verse 12 Paul expresses the wish that the legalists, instead of troubling the Galatians with their demands that they submit to a painful surgical procedure, would just go and mutilate themselves instead. This is an expression of righteous anger at those who had created discord, disturbing the peace of the churches, distorting the divine plan of salvation and stirring up opposition to God's appointed preachers. Paul here demonstrates his zeal for the truth and his determination to stand for doctrinal purity at all costs. When the grievous wolves are entering the flock (Acts 20:29) the man of God must speak up and not be silent. Paul did not adhere to the politically correct, ecumenical sentiment that insists that we must ignore all doctrinal differences and just get together with all who name the name of Jesus. There is no question that the Judaizers named the name of Jesus, but this did not entitle them to be received in the spirit of ecumenical love. Their misuse of Jesus' name made them all the more dangerous and deceitful than if they had come in the name of Zeus, Mercury, Mithra, etc. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
We have seen in this epistle an emphasis on liberty, not servitude, but in verse 13 we are reminded of the purpose of that liberty. We are use it to serve our brothers in the faith. We are not set free for the purpose of serving ourselves, but rather to serve Christ, the church and the brethren. We must hold on to our liberty, not for selfish purposes but so that we can freely serve others. Christian liberty is not a license to sin or to offend other Christians (1 Corinthians 8:9-13, 10:23-33). We are told in 1 Peter 2:16 to use our liberty to serve God.
Verse 14 refers to the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, Leviticus 19:18. This is not intended as a command to cultivate self-love first, in order that we may later on be able to love others more. The assumption is that we already love ourselves quite well (Ephesians 5:29) so now we are commanded to love others as much as we already love ourselves. By doing this, we will fulfill all the law, and we certainly will not offend others by breaking any of the laws or commandments of God.
Paul warns us in verse 15 not to bite and devour each other. There were no cannibals in the Galatian congregations, but there were some folks who were almost as bad - folks who destroyed the reputation of their neighbors and fellow church members with their gossip, lies, gripes, selfishness and strong-arm attempts to control the church and the lives of their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul dealt with this matter also in Colossians 3:12-15, advising church members to put aside their quarrels and exercise love. As Christians we must avoid the critical spirit, the spirit of unforgiveness, bitterness and division, the "gotcha mentality" that finds fault with everything that people do. We are soldiers of Jesus Christ and must direct our energies to fighting the enemies of the faith, not each other. With all the Great Commission work that we have to do, we simply cannot allow ourselves to degenerate into a situation where we are devoting all our time to strifes and complaints and infighting among each other.
From time to time, folks will emerge in the churches who think that their Prime Directive is to go into combat against their own troops, and to spend all their time contending with other pastors and church workers who are trying to get something done for the Lord. These divisive, spiteful and critical folks are heretics - they are to be shunned and removed from the membership of our churches, Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10-11. What a shame that James had to write to the churches to rebuke them for the wars and fightings in their midst, James 4:1-4. We, like the men of Zebulon (1 Chronicles 12:33) need to learn how to keep rank and devote our efforts to fighting the world, the flesh and the devil instead of spending all our time taking potshots at each other.
GALATIANS 5:16-21. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21. Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
In verse 16 Paul presents the solution for trouble and turmoil in the church - it is not self-esteem, nor submission to the domination of legalistic tyrants. The solution is to walk in the Spirit, which will keep us from walking in the flesh. The concept of walking in the Spirit sounds rather vague and mystical, but in the next several verses Paul leaves us with no doubt as to what he is talking about. He is not talking about an ecstatic experience that leaves us jabbering in an unknown tongue, laughing uncontrollably, slumped on a church carpet or tingling from head to toe. He is talking about a sanctified manner of conduct which, if practiced, shows evidence that we are filled with and directed by the Spirit. The evidence of walking in the Spirit is that we avoid the sins listed in verses 19-21 and practice the lifestyle described in verses 22-23. Those who fail these tests are not walking in the Spirit, no matter how many times they may have been "slain in the Spirit" or how much "carpet time" they have spent under the hypnotic spell of some bogus, mountebank "healer."
The flesh and the Spirit are contrary to each other, verse 17, and therefore if we walk in the flesh, we oppose and exclude the Spirit. Likewise if we walk in the Spirit we squeeze out the flesh from having the domination. If we walk in the Spirit, then this keeps us from doing "things that we would," that is, the bad things that the flesh wants us to do. As Christians we are not sinlessly perfect, but we certainly are not helplessly wallowing in the sins of the flesh, because the Spirit acts contrary to the desires of the flesh and gives us the victory over them.
In our new life in Christ, our guide and conductor is not the law, but rather the Holy Spirit, verse 18. We are not under the bondage of the ceremonial law nor under the condemnation of the law. Of course, this does not give the Christian license to disobey the moral law. All people in the world, Jews and Gentiles, saved and unsaved, have an obligation to obey the moral law, the Ten Commandments. Jesus in Matthew 19:17-19 told the rich young ruler that he was under the obligation to obey the Ten Commandments. Some have said that since Paul said in Romans 10:4 that Christ is the end of the law for those who believe, this means we are no longer under an obligation to keep the law. But what Paul is saying in Romans 10:4 is that Christ is the goal or destination to which the law leads us, by convicting us of our sins and showing us our guilt and our need for a Savior. In Romans 3:31 Paul strenuously denied that he was making void the law; rather, the effect of his ministry was to establish the law. Right here in Galatians 5 and many other places Paul "lays down the law" by describing many forms of forbidden conduct. There is no way that Paul's statement here in verse 18 that we are "not under the law" can be interpreted to mean that the Ten Commandments and moral law are not for today - not when in the very next verse, Paul tells us we are forbidden to commit adultery, fornication, etc.
The works of the flesh are manifest, verse 19, because no one can hide these sins forever. The evil that is inside a man will eventually work its way out and be evident to all, Matthew 15:18-19. Paul now enumerates a loathsome catalogue of works of the flesh, and before we go any farther, let us take note that those who practice these things are not saved, no matter what sort of profession of faith they may have made (see verse 21).
Adultery is when a married person is unfaithful to his/her husband or wife. Fornication refers to all other sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage. Uncleanness or impurity includes all activity that degrades the normal functions of the human body, including homosexuality and bestiality. Lasciviousness refers to open, unashamed indecency, a dissolute and libertine life, a person with an insatiable appetite for sin, violating all standards of moral and social conduct. Up to now, this list is similar to Paul's list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 in which he warns that fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind will not inherit the Kingdom of God (they are not saved). Other lists of forbidden conduct, not to be found among Christians, are found in Romans 1:21-32 (where Paul includes covetous, whisperers, backbiters and such folks in the same category as homosexuals) also 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 and Colossians 3:5-9.
In verse 20 Paul condemns idolatry, which would refer to actual adoration of inanimate gods created by man, as in Isaiah 44:15-18, but it can also refer to any religious system that has fashioned a false god or false Christ according to man's imagination, and in Colossians 3:5 we are told that covetousness is idolatry.
Witchcraft includes all magic arts and the worship practiced by so-called Wiccans or witches, but it also can refer to the use of mind-altering drugs. All those who use illicit drugs to "get high" are practitioners of witchcraft, or sorcery as it is called in Revelation 21:8, where all such sorcerers are condemned to the lake of fire.
Hatred means an attitude that despises others, that wishes them harm and seeks to damage them, even if only by our harsh words. Christ condemned this attitude in Matthew 5:22. Variance refers to the outward manifestations of the hatred that is lodged in our hearts. Emulations or jealousies are the rivalries that are produced when someone is envious of another's position in the church. Wrath refers to the clamors and explosions that happen when jealous people vent their frustration over their failure to get their way.
Strife covers the ambitious and selfish people who use unworthy means to get what they want and to move into the positions of power that they covet. Their ambition and determination is not based on a desire to serve the Lord and the church, but rather to serve themselves, and if allowed to do so, they will establish dictatorial control over the church and every member, in order to get what they want for themselves. They disturb the church and destroy God's work, but not out of zeal for sound doctrine, or loyalty to the pastor, or desire to evangelize the community - all that they do is for themselves, in order to make it clear to everyone who is in control and who has the power. Sometimes they will conduct rump meetings of members who have been hand-picked for their quality of being easily manipulated to go along with their nefarious designs. Those who are privileged to be invited to these meetings will not hear any discussions of how to better accomplish the Great Commission, nor how to support their pastor, nor how to advance the work of the Kingdom. Rather, they will be plotting how to impede the work of the church so the pastor will look bad, and how to coerce the leaders to swerve aside from sound doctrine. When we see people acting this way in the church, we should keep in mind what Paul says about them - they are in the flesh and they should be booted out of the church.
Seditions refers to those who divide the church and stir up controversies so that they can take control. Heresies are those dissensions that are the result of false doctrine. This is not a reference to a member who quietly adheres to an oddball conviction that he keeps to himself. When such a member starts publicizing his unsound beliefs and making trouble in the church, then he becomes a heretic.
Envyings, verse 21, covers those in the church who are covetous of what someone else has - money, reputation, a position in the church. This is a serious problem that is listed along with murders, drunkenness and revellings (orgies) and other serious offenses. In 1 Corinthians 13:4 Paul tells us that love does not envy. A good dose of love would cure the sin of envy. In Luke 14:7-11 Christ gives us another solution to envy, and that is humility. We should always take the lowest place in the church or any organization devoted to Kingdom work, and wait for the brethren to recognize our ability and invite us to move up to a higher position. If we have no recognizable ability in the Lord's work, then we have no reason to aspire to move to a higher level of incompetence. If we want to be considered great in the Lord's church, the way to do that is to make ourselves the servant of all, Luke 22:24-27, not by trying to take control or get power over others. We are to give honor to others rather than seeking it for ourselves, Romans 12:10, and esteem others better than ourselves, Philippians 2:3, which is the opposite of the popular emphasis on "self-esteem."
Sometimes envy and desire for preeminence in the church are motivated by the feeling that "I could do so much more for the Lord if I can just get control of the church and tell other people what to do." We need to realize that God is all-powerful, He does not need our help to get His work done, and that we are not to cause strife in the church even for an allegedly noble motive of enhancing our service (doing evil that good may come, Romans 3:8). If God wants to open to us a door of greater service, He will do that (Revelation 3:8) without us having to elbow anybody out of the way to get that position. A lot of strife in churches, and church associations, would be avoided if everyone would be of the conviction that "God's people put me in this office because they thought I could serve the Lord and serve His people. If they ever feel that I can no longer serve them as I should, then I will step down without creating controversy."
Those who indulge in the sins listed here, on the basis that "I just can't control myself" or "this is my personality, it's just the way I am" should consider Paul's stern warning, which he has given before, because of its great importance. Those who live this way shall not inherit the kingdom of God. They are not saved, and heaven is not their destiny. Without holiness, no man will see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14.
GALATIANS 5:22-26. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
In verse 22 Paul is speaking of the "fruit" of the Spirit, not 9 "fruits," but one 9-fold fruit. It is a package deal, with no optional accessories. The evidence of having the fruit of the Spirit is that all 9 of these qualities will be present in one's life. This fruit does not come from the flesh or from our natural disposition or human effort - it comes from the Spirit who dwells in us, and for this reason we cannot glory in, or take the credit for, these spiritual characteristics, because they are produced in us by the Holy Spirit and received as a gift from God.
Love is that which causes us to put aside our natural tendency to "look out for Number One" and makes us seek the blessing for others, not for ourselves. Love always thinks of others, always seeks ways to be a blessing to our fellow Christians and to help the work of the church to move forward.
Joy does not refer to enjoyment of superficial worldly pleasures, but rather to the deep satisfaction that the Christian has in his relation with the Lord, in spite of any and all unfavorable circumstances in his life.
Peace begins with justification by faith, which gives us peace with God (Romans 5:1) and then leads into a life of tranquillity which we experience and show forth because we have ceased to give place to our natural selfishness. Christ left His disciples in a state of peace, John 14:27. Those who manifest peace in their lives will not be in a constant state of conflict with their church, pastor or fellow Christians, because they are content and are controlled by the Spirit, not their own selfish desires.
Longsuffering or patience is the quality of not being easily provoked (1 Corinthians 13:5) and of being willing to bear with the irritations and adversities of life. Christ is our example of such patience (1 Peter 2:23) and James exhorts us to let patience have her perfect work in our lives, James 1:4. All of us as Christians need to have patience with one another, since we do not always respond to and grow in the truth as fast as we should.
Gentleness refers to common courtesy, a kind and caring consideration for the feelings of others, the use of soft and pacifying words. Those who have gentleness will know how to speak in a graceful manner with everyone, Colossians 4:6, instead of constantly blundering into vociferous verbal confrontations and brouhahas.
Goodness signifies the essentially upright character of the man who is filled with the Holy Spirit. This inward goodness will produce the outward manifestations of gentleness.
Faith or faithfulness, or fidelity (Titus 2:10) deals with the quality of being a person that one can count on, a man of his word, who is aware of his obligations to his God and his church and can be relied on to fulfill those duties. There is no need to constantly remind such people of what needs to be done - not only will they do what they have agreed to do, but they are always looking for more ways to make themselves useful in the Lord's vineyard.
Meekness, verse 23, is the condition of the person who does not hold himself in high regard. This is not an indication of weakness or wimpishness, but rather of the power of the Holy Spirit in one's life, and in Matthew 5:5 we are told that the meek will inherit the earth. Meek people are not full of ambition and envy, nor do they seek to get ahead or receive the recognition of men, because they have great riches in Jesus Christ.
Temperance is self-control, with special reference to desires of the flesh (Acts 24:25, 2 Peter 1:6). We sometimes use the word to refer to those who do not allow themselves to be controlled by intoxicating alcoholic drink, and the word does mean that, and so much more. The temperate person is moderate in all things, Philippians 4:5. He keeps his bodily passions subject to control, 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Paul says to the Galatians, who were so zealous to keep the Jewish law, that there is no law against these 9 characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. The law exists for the purpose of restraining us from evil, but if we are walking in the Spirit, then there is nothing for the law to restrain. Obedience to the ceremonial law is worthless, but the fruit of the Spirit is something that is worth a lot, and very desirable to have. Without love we are nothing, no matter what heroic deeds of religious devotion we have performed, 1 Corinthians 13:3. We can all think of prominent religious figures of the past and present who attained to positions of power and prominence, but did not have love or the other manifestations of those who walk in the Spirit. The bad impressions left behind by such unloving people are a poor testimony that only drives people away from the movement that they thought they were so boldly promoting and defending.
If we are in Christ, then we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, verse 24. We still feel these passions, but we are not controlled by them, we do not indulge them, we do not give place to them. In Romans 13:13-14 we are exhorted not to give in to the fleshly passions and lusts, but to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we have the Spirit, then logically we ought to be walking in the Spirit, verse 25. We have no right to walk in the flesh. Having begun our Christian life in the Spirit, we must continue walking in the Spirit so that we can be sanctified in the Spirit day by day.
Spiritual Christians do not devote themselves to feeding their self-esteem or seeking honor from men, nor are their good works motivated by desire to provoke or irritate other Christians, verse 26. Some who preach Christ are motivated by envy and strife (Philippians 1:15) and that appears to be better than not preaching Christ at all, but we need to rise above the petty, childish motivation of trying to annoy some other Christians by the things we do. We are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9), not rivals or enemies. Whatever ability we have in the Lord's work, God gave it to us, so there is no place for pride or for envying someone else's place of prominence in the ministry. The Spirit-filled Christian will not create a commotion or fracas in the church because someone else got to sing a solo or received some form of recognition that they didn't get.
In this chapter, Paul has placed before us the alternatives that face us - the flesh or the Spirit, ourselves or God, the exalted standards of heaven or the lusts and beastly inclinations of the world. We have to decide whether to live after the manner of the natural man whose nasty, brutish and short career of debauchery and infamy is described in verses 19-21, or the spiritual man in whom dwells the Holy Spirit of God. If we are crucified with Christ, our flesh will be crucified, tied down, immobile, so that we can be controlled instead by the Spirit.
GALATIANS 6:1-5. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5. For every man shall bear his own burden.
In verse 1 Paul reminds us that we are all humans, we are all sinners and none of us is perfect. No Christian should be contentedly and habitually wallowing in sin, but there is always the possibility of momentarily stumbling and being overtaken in a fault. When that happens to our brother, it is necessary to reprove him, but in a spirit of meekness. The purpose of the reproof is not to beat our brother into the mud, but to lift him up and restore him. This work of admonishing the brethren (Romans 15:14) is not for all Christians - it is only for those who are spiritual. Some immature Christians have too much pride, they are all to anxious to pile guilt on someone in a critical spirit, and they thoroughly enjoy every opportunity to condemn someone for any reason or for no reason. These folks are not qualified for the work of restoring a fallen brethren to a state of spirituality, because they themselves are not spiritual. They cannot lift up their brother to a level of spiritual maturity that they themselves have not attained to, nor can they expect anyone to respect them as long as they show forth an arrogant, prideful spirit. It is better for such folks to just shut up and get out of the way, leaving it to the spiritual ones to deal with the dilemma of the fallen brother.
The purpose of all reproof and admonishment is to restore the brother, not to run him off or drive him away or beat him down. Church discipline is sometimes justified and necessary, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, 13, but it is the last resort. All too many churches have expelled members for trivial or trumped-up reasons, without any attempt to restore the intended victim or even make contact with him. Sometimes the intent is to generate so much bitterness and anger that the expelled person will never show his face in church again. This is unscriptural - if even the man at Corinth who was living in sin with his father's wife could be restored to the membership, 2 Corinthians 2:6-8, then there is hope for anyone. We have observed members who were booted out of the church in a harsh, bigoted unloving spirit, and we have observed the opposite evil of worldly, unsaved members who have committed the worst crimes and perversions, without any disciplinary action taken by the church. These are the two extremes that we must avoid. There is a Biblical balance and equilibrium that we must seek, as to the matter of dealing with erring church members. We are not to be too harsh and condemnatory, nor are we to be too permissive and indulgent with hardened sinners.
The sexual offender in 1 Corinthians 5 clearly had not repented of his sin of fornication, and the church was being too soft on him, so Paul had to remind the church of its sacred duty to expel that member. Later, when this expelled member had repented and sought to be restored to the membership, the church went to the opposite extreme and were too hard on him. Paul regarded this excess of harshness with the now-contrite former member as a device of Satan, 2 Corinthians 2:11, and he said that we are not to be ignorant of Satan's devices. This does not mean that we are to study up on witchcraft and occultism - it means that we must be aware that the Devil wants to hack away at the membership of the Lord's churches by any means possible, and that one of his methods is to get Christians to be too harsh on people and run them off unnecessarily.
The Corinthians had done right to vote this man out and keep him from the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 5:8) but they forgot that the whole purpose of this exercise was restoration, so that the man's spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The purpose of all rebukes, all admonishment and all church discipline should be restoration of the offender, not harsh rejection and overall disgruntlement. Paul had experienced some of the heartbreak of rejection himself as a new convert, when no one in the church at Jerusalem wanted to have anyathing to do with him, Acts 9:26. Sometimes it seems that some churches today do not want to receive believers for various reasons, perhaps because they are single, or divorced, or the "wrong" racial or ethnic group, or from the wrong side of the railroad tracks, or from a difficult and disadvantaged background. We need to realize that the spirit that causes us to reject such people is one of Satan's devices.
The work of restoration of fallen brethren is a part of the larger work of bearing each other's burdens, verse 2. We all have areas of weakness, and we need to help each other out, instead of taking joy in condemning and running off those who run into the slightest problem. We need the love that bears and endures all things, 1 Corinthians 13:7. It may be necessary to rebuke one who has sinned, but we must also be willing to provide comfort, sympathy and pardon at the same time, which is the fulfillment of the law of Christ, John 13:34.
Those who are filled with pride and believe themselves to be really something are in reality nothing, verse 3, because they do not have what it takes to be able to help anyone else. The humble and spiritual man realizes that even at his best he is nothing, Psalm 39:5; that there is nothing good in him, Romans 7:18; that whatever abilities he has are gifts from God, 1 Corinthians 4:7; that he doesn't really know it all, or even know anything at all, 1 Corinthians 8:2. Only when we understand that we are nothing are we ready to put aside our pride and help bear the other guy's burdens.
It is not proper to try to establish ourselves as a great Christian by means of comparing ourselves with weaker Christians or those who have fallen into sin, verse 4. We will be judged according to what we ourselves have done, not according to the evil works of other more sinful persons. We are to examine ourselves, not others, 1 Corinthians 11:28, 2 Corinthians 13:5. When we examine ourselves properly, we will realize that we are nothing, and we will be more ready to help our brethren instead of condemning them and taking a superior attitude toward them.
The ideal is for every Christian to carry his proper share of the load, and for every Christian soldier to carry his own backpack, verse 5. We each have a responsibility before God, and to the best of our ability, we should shoulder that responsibility rather than sloughing it off on someone else. This does not contradict what Paul said in verse 2 about being willing to bear the burdens of others. When an earthly army goes on the march, each soldier carries his own backpack rather than trying to get someone else to carry it for him. However, if a soldier is sick or wounded, then the other soldiers will pitch in and carry that soldier's backpack for a while, and maybe even carry the soldier himself until he is restored and ready to get back on his feet.
The Christian army ought to be like this, too. If a brother is temporarily unable to stagger along under an unbearable burden, we ought to help him, verse 2. Under ordinary circumstances, all of us ought to be able to take care of our own burden, whatever task, duty or post of service that God has given us, verse 5. It is said that in the typical congregation, 10% of the members are doing 90% of the work. No military organization can successfully operate on that basis, with 90% of the soldiers malingering, goofing off and watching the other 10% doing all the work, criticizing them all the while. Our churches will be much more effective when all 100% of the members are bearing their burden, standing at their post of duty, all of them pulling at the same time and in the same direction. In the day of judgment, we will be judged for what we did, not for what the other guy did, which is why Paul tells us to judge ourselves and make sure we are carrying our share of the load, without worrying so much about what the other guy is doing (verse 4).
GALATIANS 6:6-10. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good works. 7. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
In verse 6 we come to what, for some, may be the most controversial section of the epistle, as Paul brings up the sensitive subject of money. One of the burdens or tasks that all of us should bear is that of financial support of the ministry. For the preacher to suggest that church members should accept this burden or responsibility may get him into a lot of hot water with a tight-fisted flock, but if we are going to preach the whole counsel of God, then we have to talk about money. In 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 Paul stated that the Lord has ordained that preachers of the New Testament gospel are to be supported in the same manner as the Old Testament priests were supported - they were supported with the tithes of the people. Tithing is a word that some people do not want to hear, but in Hebrews 7:8 we are told that the risen, resurrected Christ was receiving tithes from men during the New Testament age. Why would Christ agree to receive our tithes if the practice of tithing is wrong, or "not for today?" If tithing is so evil, why did Christ commend the practice in Matthew 23:23? Not only is tithing not evil, but it is the method that God has ordained for the support of the ministry.
Some overpioused sanctimonious folks will say, "I believe that all preachers ought to work for their own living, just like the Apostle Paul." They do not realize that Paul had to work for his living because the Corinthians and other Christians were too carnal, childish and selfish to understand their duty to support their ministers, as Paul clearly taught them to do in 1 Corinthians 9. Through the centuries there have been many churches that were too small to support their pastors full-time, and that continues to be true today. A congregation too small or poor to support its pastor full-time need not feel guilty about that. Nevertheless, the scriptural ideal is for the pastor to be financially supported by the congregation (1 Timothy 5:17-18) so that they that preach the gospel may live of the gospel. Admittedly the matter of money is not a popular subject to bring up, but it is in the Word of God, so we dare not skip over it.
While we should teach what the Bible says about tithing, we should also keep in mind that there is no provision in the New Testament (or even the Old Testament, for that matter) for forcible extraction of the tithe from God's people, or for punishment for those who feel that they are not willing or able to tithe. The New Testament principle is that all giving is to be voluntary, not by compulsion (2 Corinthians 8:8, 9:7, see also 1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 5:4). In most cases, when church people have been inspired by a vision of victory and Great Commission ministry through their local church, they will generously provide for the financial needs of that church, without any need for arm-twisting or repeated harangues on the issue of tithing.
Those who refuse to sow in the Lord's vineyard with their financial contributions will find that they will reap a puny harvest, verse 7. (See also 2 Corinthians 9:6). Those covetous persons who try to mock or deceive God, thinking they can have an abundant spiritual harvest without investing the shekels, will find out that it does not work that way. As we give, so shall we receive, Luke 6:38. Those in Old Testament times found out that if they withheld their tithes, they would not be able to obtain the services of any ministers, Nehemiah 13:10-12. This may explain why some churches nowadays have such a hard time finding a pastor to serve them.
In verse 8 we see that those who sow to the flesh, who spend their money on material things that satisfy the lusts of the flesh, will reap corruption. Those who devote their financial resources to the work of the Kingdom will reap life everlasting. Those who use their money for the spread of the gospel will receive a tremendous reward in heaven, Luke 16:9. They will lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, Matthew 6:20. Some say that this teaching from the Sermon on the Mount is not for today - it is for the future millennial state. But won't it be too late for any of us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by the time of the Millennium? Christ's word on this matter should be seriously considered by those who think they have something better to do with their tithe money than to invest it in the Lord's work.
In verse 9 Paul speaks to those who say that they are tired of giving, because they don't see any results. Paul exhorts us not to be weary in well doing. We must keep on keeping on, trusting in God for the results. Eventually we will reap the harvest and receive the reward, if we are persistent. This applies not only to Christian giving but to all other forms of service and Christian work. If we are going to persevere in the Lord's work, we must take the long view, we must be in it for the long haul, content to lay the foundations for the future and to plant so that someone else may reap, 1 Corinthians 3:6-10.
Instead of looking for excuses for hanging on to our money, we ought to seek out opportunities to do good to others with our money, verse 10. This assistance is to be directed especially to other Christians. We are to provide for missionaries so that they can go forth, 3 John 6. The spectacle of missionaries who have to wander the North American continent for several years or more, trying to raise the money to go to the field, is a sad one. Perhaps in some cases these missionaries are not really needed on the foreign field, and should be encouraged to stay home and serve in home missions. But if we are convinced that there is a work for them to do overseas that the nationals cannot do for themselves, and that our missionary candidates are qualified for the work, then let us get behind them financially and send them on their way, instead of leaving them to make the rounds of the churches carrying a tin cup, trying to raise enough money for gasoline to get them to their next meeting. If God's people were tithing the way they should, there would be enough money to put missionary appointees, whether home or foreign, on the field immediately, instead of having them waste away the best years of their lives putting on dog-and-pony shows and going around to the preachers' meetings to try and scrape some money together, while consoling themselves with the notion that their unproductive time on the deputation trail is somehow a necessary part of the overall plan
GALATIANS 6:11-15. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. 12. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. 14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
In verse 11, Paul reminds the Galatians of how he has shown his love and concern for them by writing out this epistle himself. On some occasions he had a secretary to write the letters for him - the epistle to the Romans was written out for him by Tertius, who was allowed to add his own salutation to the church in Rome, Romans 16:22. At this time it appears that such secretarial services were not available to Paul, so he had to do the writing himself, which may have been especially difficult for him if he was suffering from eye disease, as is believed by some.
Paul says, in verse 12, that the Judaizers were motivated by desire to please their flesh by showing off their alleged superior sanctimony, and also by a craven desire to avoid persecution by the Jews. In order to make themselves look good, they attempted to constrain the Galatians to take upon themselves the unnecessary burden of a painful surgical operation. There is something wrong whenever any religious leaders try to constrain, or pressure, or bully people into doing anything that is not commanded by the Word of God. Even Paul would gently beseech his hearers to do the right thing, rather than constraining or bullying them.
Paul says that the Judaizers are hypocrites, verse 13, because they themselves did not keep all the law, only the parts that they like. That which they did was not for the glory of God, but for their own glory, so that they could brag on the numbers of followers that they had gained for themselves. We also have the temptation to seek glory for ourselves in our religious work. There are those who gain glory for themselves by pressuring people to bow their heads and pray a prayer, then brag about the hundreds of conversions they have obtained over the course of the year, but few if any of these "converts" are ever seen in church even once, and fewer still are ever baptized. They were manipulated into making a false profession of faith, without ever being convicted of their sin and their need of a Savior, and they are now twofold more the children of hell, so that those who glory in their own flesh may have something to brag about. Some churches falsify their statistics on conversions and attendance, in order to bring glory to the preacher. This may seem relatively harmless, but when people are being deceived into thinking that they have been saved when in reality they have not been, we see that this motive of glorying in the flesh is a serious problem indeed.
We are not to glory in our good works, our religious achievements, or the number of followers that we have managed to attract. We are to glory only in the finished work of Christ which He did for us on the Cross, verse 14. As a result of His work, the world is to us of no more value than a crucified man would be. No one would try to obtain anything of value from a man who is nailed to a cross and slowly dying. The riches, honors and pleasures that the world has to offer may seem to be worth something to us, but those of us who are crucified with Christ realize that they are really worthless.
The law cannot save us, nor can a work such as circumcision, verse 15. The only thing that saves is to be born again and become a new creature in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17. Circumcision has absolutely nothing to do with our justification and sanctification. It does not help us any, nor does it hurt us, as long as we are not trusting in it. Our standing before God is determined by what is within us, not by external marks and observances such as circumcision.
GALATIANS 6:16-18. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
In verse 16 we see that once we have been saved by faith alone without any trust in the works of the flesh, then it is necessary to keep walking according to the rule of God's Word. If we wish to experience God's peace and mercy, then it is necessary to believe and practice sound doctrine as taught in the Bible. Those who do so, walking according to this rule, are referred to here as the Israel of God.
There are two interpretations as to the specific meaning of the phrase "Israel of God." There is the interpretation that says that the Israel of God consists only of those Christians who are of ethnic Jewish descent. Then there is the interpretation that says that the Israel of God refers to all born-again Christians, whether they are Jews or Gentiles - the Israel of God is identical with the "household of faith" (Galatians 6:10) and the "whole family in heaven and earth" (Ephesians 3:15).
There can be no doubt that the second interpretation is the correct one. The Israel of God refers to all Christians, not to an elite class of ethnic Jewish Christians. Paul has just spent the entire epistle to the Galatians refuting the notion that Jewish Christians are a separate, superior group to be considered distinct from the Gentile Christians. This is one of the main points he has been trying to make throughout the epistle. There is no way that he would contradict himself at the end by bestowing a special benediction only for those who are Jews. In the previous verse, 6:15, Paul has just said that in the sight of Christ, it absolutely does not matter whether or not we have become Jews by means of circumcision. So why would he contradict himself in the very next verse by saying that circumcision does matter?
The grammatical construction of Galatians 6:16 indicates that the group referred to under the description of "as many as walk according to this rule" and the group called "the Israel of God" are one and the same. Paul is bestowing this blessing on all who follow scriptural principles, even the Israel of God. Considering the immediate and general context of Paul's remarks, there is simply no way that Paul would close this epistle by placing his strongest, industrial-strength apostolic blessing on those who have disobeyed his teaching by making ethnic Jews of themselves in order to try to earn a higher standing before God, and then say "Sorry, no such blessing for all you inferior Gentile schlemiels out there who didn't get yourselves circumcised."
Those who object to the identification of the Israel of God with all born-again Christians do so because it conflicts with their preconceived theological system, which demands that there must be an "Israel/Church dichotomy," which seeks to separate between the so-called alleged "heavenly destiny of the Gentiles and earthly destiny of the Jews," which insists that "Israel is not the Church, and the Church is not Israel," which says that nowhere in the New Testament is the Church called Israel.
These dispensationalist theologians want to build up the walls of separation between Jew and Gentile that God has broken down. In Ephesians 2:14 we are told that God has broken down the middle wall of partition that formerly existed between Jew and Gentile. In Ephesians 3:4-6 we are told that God has placed the Gentiles in the same body with the Jewish believers. The Bible teaches that unsaved ethnic Jews are not Abraham's children, John 8:39, but born-again Gentiles are the children of Abraham, Galatians 3:7, 29. Not all Jews according to the flesh are part of the true Israel, Romans 9:6-7. Born-again Gentiles are true Jews, while unsaved Jews are not, Romans 2:28-29. There is no longer any difference between the Jew and the Greek, Romans 10:12, Acts 10:34-35, 11:18, 15:9. One of the clearest and plainest teachings of the New Testament is that the new, true spiritual Israel is composed of Gentile and Jewish members of the Lord's churches who are children of Abraham by faith. The early Church Fathers such as Clement, Barnabas, Hermas, Justin Martyr and the author of the Didache all agreed that Christians are now the true Israel.
Those who oppose this teaching call it "Replacement Theology" and say that we are trying to take away from the Jews the blessing that is rightfully theirs before the Lord. On the contrary, we are not taking anything away from the Jews - all we are saying is that the Gentiles are now permitted to get in on all the spiritual blessings that have been and continue to be available to the Jews. No Jewish person in the world loses out on anything by reason of Gentiles being admitted to the Israel of God. This is not Replacement Theology but rather "Grafted-In Theology." In Romans 11:16-24 Paul tells us that the Gentiles have been grafted in to the olive tree which represents Israel. Not only does the admission of Gentiles to the Israel of God not do damage to the Jews in any way, but it is a blessing to the Jews - the mercy that God has shown to the Gentiles will help the Jews to obtain mercy also, Romans 11:11, 31.
In Christ there are no distinctions of race, no Jew or Gentile, Galatians 3:28. God has made all men of one blood, Acts 17:26. The equality of Jews and Gentiles in the gospel dispensation was predicted by the prophet Isaiah, who said that the Egyptians, Assyrians and Jews would all be His people and united together, Isaiah 19:23-25.
It is important to understand this teaching, in this day and age when we are constantly exhorted to support Israel. Yes indeed, let us support Israel according to the New Testament definition of Israel. The Israel of God is a reference to all born-again Jews and Gentiles, the Household of Faith, the Family of God. This is the Israel that we are to support, not an earthly nation of unsaved, Christ-rejecting people who are mostly secular and even atheistic, that was founded in the year 1948 AD. There is no command in the Word of God for Christians to support this modern nation of Israel. Some Christians believe that, while the modern nation of Israel has its serious imperfections, we are bound to support it in order that Bible prophecy may be fulfilled. However, there is no Bible prophecy that says that there will be a restoration of the earthly Jewish nation of Israel. The New Testament says nothing about it - we are told in Matthew 24 and elsewhere that the temple and nation will be destroyed, and nothing more is said about it (except in Matthew 21:19 where Christ cursed the fig tree, representing national Israel, saying that it would never bear fruit again forever, and Matthew 21:43 where Christ told the Jews that their kingdom was to be taken away from them and given to another nation that would bring forth the expected fruits of the kingdom).
Since the New Testament does not predict a revived national Israel, those who support this concept quote liberally from the Old Testament promises of regathering of Israel, but they ignore the fact that the prophets said these prophecies would be fulfilled within 70 years of the fall and captivity of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10, Daniel 9:2). The ancient prophecies of the restoration of Israel were all fulfilled when the Jews came home from the Babylonian Captivity in 538 BC (Ezra 1:1-4). Whatever is going on in modern Israel, it is taking place 2500 years too late to be considered a fulfillment of any Bible prophecy of the restoration of Israel.
Modern evangelicalism has been sidetracked away from our appointed Great Commission work, by the emphasis on support for national Israel, with millions of dollars being raised to send unsaved Jews to Israel and put their children in Jewish religious schools, with no effort made to present the Christian gospel to them. America's foreign policy in the Middle East is controlled by this desire to help Israel at the expense of the Arabs who have also been promised the blessing of God (Genesis 21:18, Isaiah 19:25). This emphasis on a superior status for those who are Jews according to the flesh is totally contrary to the teaching of the epistle to the Galatians and the rest of the Word of God. We need to understand that God has commanded us to target our support, financial and otherwise, to the true Israel of God and Household of Faith, not to those who are unsaved and therefore not the children of Abraham.
The false Judaizing teachers boasted in their circumcision, verse 17, but Paul boasted in a different kind of bodily marks that he had received over the years as a mark of his faithfulness to Christ - the scars left on his body by the whippings he had received, the stones that had been tossed at him, the chains he had worn. These were the true marks of the Lord Jesus, not the legalistic rite of circumcision.
Paul closes the epistle in verse 18 by expressing his wish that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ might dwell in the spirits of his hearers. The exterior marks on our bodies, such as circumcision, are not important. The important thing is that which is within us, the abiding grace of Christ.
APPENDIX: VIEWS OF VARIOUS COMMENTATORS ON THE MEANING OF "THE ISRAEL OF GOD" IN GALATIANS 6:16
The following is a sampling of authors and commentators who agree that the reference to the "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16 refers to all Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, and not to ethnic Jewish believers only. Some of these commentators have used the term "Church" to refer to all Christian believers. Since the term "Church" in the New Testament refers to a local assembly of believers, I prefer not to refer to the aggregate of all Christians in all times and places as "the Church." There is, of course, a true spiritual oneness that unites all Christians worldwide, but the terminology I would prefer to describe all Christians would be "Household of Faith," or "Family of God," which would be more scriptural terminology.
MATTHEW HENRY: "These, he declares, shall be the portion of all the Israel of God, all sincere Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, all who are Israelites indeed. The Jews and judaizing teachers were for confining these blessings to such as were circumcised."
JOHN CALVIN: "In a word, he now calls them the Israel of God whom He formerly named the children of Abraham by faith, and thus includes all believers, whether Gentiles or Jews, who were united in the same Church."
ADAM CLARKE: "The Israel of God: The true Christians, called here the Israel of God, to distinguish them from Israel according to the flesh."
MATTHEW POOLE: "Upon the Israel of God; upon the true Israelites, whom he calleth the Israel of God; hereby intimating and confirming the truth of what he had said, Romans 2:28-29, and what our Savior had said of Nathanael, John 1:47, calling him 'an Israelite indeed,' because in him was no guile;' and establishing a distinction between such as were so really, and those who were only Israelites in name, because descended from Jacob, to whom God gave the name of Israel. Hereby also checking the vanity of the Jews, who gloried in the name of Israelites, and thought there could no water come out of the fountains of Israel which God would cast away. The apostle doth not promise, or prophesy, mercy and peace to all Israelites, but only to the Israel of God; that is, to believers, that received and embraced Jesus Christ offered in the gospel."
JOHN WESLEY: "And as many as walk according to this rule - Glorying only in the cross of Christ. Being crucified to the world. And, Created anew. Peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel, that is, the Church, of God - Which consists of all those, and those only, of every nation and kindred, who walk by this rule."
ALEXANDER ROSS, in "New Bible Commentary:" "And upon the Israel of God, 'even upon . . . ' (Moffatt). The Church of redeemed men and women is God's Israel (Galatians 3:7, 9, 14, 29). Cf. Romans 2:28-29; Philippians 3:3; 1 Peter 2:9-10."
CHARLES WHITAKER, in "Forerunner Commentary:" "The Israel of God, like Jacob, prevails with God. Christ certainly remembered His wrestling match with the unrelenting Jacob when He inspired Paul to call His church 'the Israel of God.' . . . Spiritually speaking, we will be the kings God promised would descend from Jacob (Genesis 35:12). Yes, Israel is an apt designation for God's church; the Israel of God will rule as God."
JAMIESON, FAUSSET AND BROWN: "Israel of God - not the Israel after the flesh, among whom these teachers wish to enroll you; but the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith."
A. M. OVERTON: "But the benediction of peace from God is upon all who walk according to the rule of 'a new creation.' They are the true 'Israel of God.'"
ERNEST TRENCHARD: "In this case Paul considers the faithful (Jews and Gentiles), who walk according to the rule of the Cross and the New Creation, to be the true Israel of God in this dispensation, replacing the testimony of national and racial Israel. This is the thinking of most expositors, being very fitting to the general context."
EDWARD OVERBEY, in "A Study of Last Things:" "This Israel of God consisted of literal Jews who trusted Jesus as their Messiah. This Israel had believing Gentiles in it also. The believing Gentiles were equal to the believing Jews; both were citizens of the Israel of God, Ephesians 2:19. . . . The present work of the Israel of God and until Jesus comes again is to carry out the Great Commission through New Testament churches."
KENNETH GENTRY, in "He Shall Have Dominion:" "If Abraham can have Gentiles as his spiritual seed, why cannot there be a spiritual Israel? In fact, Christians are called by the name 'Israel.'"
WILLARD RAMSEY, in "Zion's Glad Morning," "Although the 144,000 are said to be of Israel (Revelation 7:4-8), it is not uncommon for this title to be applied to any of God's people for special honor (see Galatians 6:16, Romans 2:28-29, 9:6, John 1:47)."
GREG BAHNSEN AND KENNETH GENTRY, in "House Divided:" "New Testament theology describes the Church as 'the restoration of Israel' (Acts 15:15-20), 'the commonwealth of Israel' (Ephesians 2:12), the 'seed of Abraham' (Galatians 3:7, 29), and 'the Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16). . . . In fact, Christians compose 'the Israel of God' for we are 'a new creature' regarding which 'circumcision availeth nothing' (Galatians 6:15)."
CHARLES ERDMAN: "When he adds, 'And upon the Israel of God,' he does not indicate a second class of believers; he is indicating all who put their trust in Christ. They are the true 'Israel:' they are the spiritual descendants of Abraham and of Jacob. . . . Paul insists that the true spiritual Israel consists of those who glory in the cross and in the power of the risen Christ."
GARY DEMAR AND PETER LEITHART, in "The Reduction of Christianity:" "As the New Testament explicitly teaches, we believe that the church is the New Israel (Galatians 6:16)."
OVID NEED, in "Identifying Identity:" "Thus, according to God's Word, the true Israel of God is Christ, and hence all who are in Christ by the work of grace through faith . . . are members of the true Israel. . . . And thus all who are in Christ by faith are part of the Israel of God, Galatians 6:16."
DAVID CHILTON, in "Paradise Restored:" "The New Testament church is simply the continuation of the true 'Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16)."
WARREN WIERSBE, in "Be Free:" "Another purpose of the cross was to create a new nation, 'the Israel of God.' (Galatians 6:1). This is one of many names for the Church found in the New Testament."
RALPH WOODROW, in "His Truth is Marching On:" "Are all Christians - regardless of race - now the Israel of God? Yes. ' . . . the Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16)."
JOHN L. BRAY, in "Israel in Bible Prophecy:" "Since Calvary, both the 'remnant' of the seed of Abraham (the believing Jews) and the believing Gentiles make up one new body - called 'the Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16)."
DON FORTNER: "'The Israel of God' is not that little nation over in the Middle East. 'The Israel of God' is the church of God's elect, the house and temple of the living God, scattered throughout all the nations of the world and ages of time. The Israel of God is made up of redeemed sinners out of every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue, who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We who believe are the circumcision (Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28-29), the people of God's covenant (Hebrews 10:15-17), the chosen and blessed nation of God's elect (1 Peter 2:9-10). . . . God's church, 'the Israel of God,' will be complete when all the elect Gentiles as well as elect Jews have been brought to Christ by His almighty grace (John 10:16).
DAVID SWAVELY: "I also believe the exact term [Israel] is used in Galatians 6:16, and the term is actually used for the purpose of affirming the continuity of Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church. . . . My conclusion is that Paul was referring to all believers in a manner that would bolster and conclude the argument of the epistle, which is that Gentile believers should not be required to live as ethnic Jews under the Mosaic economy."
GREG DURAND, in "Israel and Dispensationalism:" "Henceforth, the Church, not the nation of Israel, is referred to as the 'Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16), the 'house of God' (Hebrews 10:21), 'a holy temple' (Ephesians 2:21), the 'new Jerusalem' (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:2), and 'a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [and] His own special people" (1 Peter 2:9). Moreover, the Church is referred to by Scripture as 'the bride, the Lamb's wife' (Revelation 21:9), and 'His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all' (Ephesians 1:23)."
ARTHUR PINK: "Those promises in Jeremiah 31 are made not to the Jewish nation as such, but to "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16), that is to the entire election of grace, and they are made infallibly good unto all of them at the moment of their regeneration by the Spirit."