Galatians 3:7-9

Christ saves. Christ justifies. And yet He does so through faith. Faith, however, is not our work, but His gift. Faith is the beggar’s hand that receives unearned merits, divine charity. Faith is not our decision. We do not become children of God by human will, as we are reminded in John 1. Faith is the product of God’s decision, His election, His choice. We are the beneficiaries. And this faith is not restricted by race, gender, age, or anything else. Jew and Gentile (all non-Jews) alike have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and thus been sons of Abraham and sons of God. What a wonder! What a reason to support the ministry of the Word here among us as well as throughout the world through missions! Continue reading “Galatians 3:7-9”

Galatians 3:1-6

The Galatians made a good start. They had been properly taught and rightly believed that they were saved, forgiven, justified, only for Christ’s sake. And yet with the infiltration of false teachers and the arrogant nagging of the old Adam, they wavered. Yes, surely they were saved by grace and through faith in Christ, but they could play some part, even a small one, in that process, right? Continue reading “Galatians 3:1-6”

Galatians 2:17-21

In other words, if you could have saved yourself, there was no need for God to be on a cross. But God was on a cross, wasn’t He? Why? To save you, because you could not save yourself. And so we do well not to believe, live, or proceed as if God were not on a cross. Christians do not live under law and we do not live in sin. Christ has fulfilled the former and absolved the latter. We now love because He first loved us, serve because He served us, keep the Commandments, not because they are a guide to heaven, but rather because they are an expression of what pleases Him who has granted us heaven as a free gift, though not a cheap gift, costing Jesus His very life. It is, as Paul says, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” so that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ does not make us sinners by dying and rising for us, making plain our inability to keep the law perfectly, which is how it must be kept if it is to give life. No, we were already and have been sinners from conception. The law had plenty of which to accuse us and for which to condemn us even had Christ not exposed the depths of our fallen race’s and our own personal sin through His passion. What Christ has done, then, is stopped its mouth and pardoned us, justified us, declared us not guilty, all for His sake. He has become one with us, dwelling in us, working through us, renewing our will and bringing forth fruits of repentance in our actions. It’s all Christ or no Christ. There is no in-between, and comfort is found only in the Christ who is all in all, Alpha and Omega, advocate and judge, all for us. And so, may Christ and His Word dwell in your richly so that all things in your lives abound in Him, for Him, and through Him, to His glory, and sanctified in His name. Continue reading “Galatians 2:17-21”

Galatians 2:15-16

Harsh much, Paul? We were Jews from birth and not Gentile sinners? Well, isn’t that good for you, but what of the Gentile sinners? Who were the Gentile sinners? They were the very people whose freedom in Christ and whose justification by grace, through faith, without the works of the Old Testament Mosaic law, he is defending. So why call them that? Were not the Jews sinners? Surely they were. In fact, they were better sinners, because, while the law cannot save us—not because of its deficiency, but our own—it can certainly reform and refine us, so that we become reformed and refined sinners, better at hiding our impiety and putting up appearances. At this Paul’s foes were professionals. Paul is not looking down on the Gentiles whose salvation he defends and will in no way allow to be compromised with works of the law. No, Paul here is adopting the language of the legalistic Jews who were attacking the gospel and the Gentile’s legitimacy as Christians and children of God. These “Gentile sinners,” as such people would call them, Paul says are in fact the better Christians, not because they are any less sinners, but because they confess it and abandon themselves on Christ, His Word, and His righteousness for hope and salvation. Continue reading “Galatians 2:15-16”

Galatians 2:11-14

Didn’t we just discuss how a church ought to conduct itself, how brothers and sisters ought to address possible differences in love? And now what do we have here but Paul acting unlovingly? Or was he? Why didn’t Paul take Peter (Cephas) aside privately? Why embarrass him in front of everyone? That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Continue reading “Galatians 2:11-14”

Galatians 2:1-10

Here we have a good example of how the church ought to conduct itself. There was a concern that there was contradiction in the doctrine and practice of the churches of Christ. What did they do? Did they ignore it in the hope that it would just go away? Did they excuse any possible aberrations as quibbling over minor things? Did they refuse to discuss it in pride, certain that if there were error, it certainly couldn’t be on their end? Did they broadcast the potential heterodoxy of their colleagues far and wide and abroad? No, they met with each other, even when meeting together was not easy, when there were no high speed trains, jets, or cell phones, or email addresses. And then what happened? They confessed what they preached and taught and they listened, each in turn. And when it was evident that their doctrine and practice were not inconsistent with the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ and that each confessed one and the same Christ with the same pattern of sound words and according to the same revelation of the Word, they extended the right hand of fellowship, and in so doing, reminded each other that Christian faith goes hand in hand with Christian love, expressing their concern for the poor, those who had lost family and livelihood for the faith especially. Continue reading “Galatians 2:1-10”

Galatians 1:11-24

St. Paul’s gospel was not his own, and he did not preach it to please men, but Christ, whose approval was paramount, for it was the gospel of Christ that Paul of which Paul was a minister. And the gospel is still not any man’s gospel, not man’s gospel at all. No man could have thought it up. It is unlike any religious message every proclaimed in human history, or ever to be proclaimed. It turns all spirituality and religious thought on its head. Man does not go to God, and man does not reconcile himself to God or placate his Maker, but rather God and our Maker comes to us, reconciles Himself to us, and placates Himself in the person of His Son, who is the sacrifice for sin, our propitiation. Not only is there nothing for you to do, there is nothing you can do. You are incapable of saving yourself in any degree, even the slightest. You are utterly dependent upon Christ our Savior, and thank the Lord for that, because otherwise doubt inevitably would creep back in and the devil would exploit it to the fullest, as he is wont to do, and adept in so doing. Continue reading “Galatians 1:11-24”

Galatians 1:10

And right there you have the problem with the much of the American church today, and much of the church of history: striving for the wrong approval and working to please the wrong person. Was St. Paul cold-hearted or indifferent to the needs of others? Surely not. He didn’t purposefully offend. Far from that, he went out of his way to avoid giving offense in his ministry, but never at the expense of law and gospel, never at the expense of the centrality of Jesus Christ, for without the proper distinction of law and gospel and the centrality of Christ there is no God-pleasing and truly Christian ministry. Continue reading “Galatians 1:10”

Galatians 1:6-9

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Most of us are familiar with the saying, and the saying gets said for a reason: we love to tinker, and our tinkering often leaves things worse off than they were before. The gospel isn’t broken. It never has been and never will be. And yet in every age of the church, Christians and hypocrites alike have set to tinkering with it, whether purposefully or out of ignorance, whether with every good intention or with malice. The gospel is not ours, though. It is God’s, given to us, but not ours to tinker with. Things of God don’t break. Things of God are good, very good, and unchanging, like God Himself. They are sure and certain. They are reliable and always relevant, no matter what anyone says. And that is crucial. That is the reason that the Christian faith has chops. It has something to hold onto, something to bite into, something on which to rest. Continue reading “Galatians 1:6-9”

Galatians 1:3-5

Love and wholeness, isn’t that what most people want? Write a book on those topics and it’s going to sell. As human beings, we are born with a yearning for love and wholeness, we are born, in essence, with a hole in our heart that we then spend our days trying to fill. The bad news is that our old Adam and fallen reason turn to everything but what can actually fill that hole and satisfy the hungry heart and longing soul, whether a bank account, bottle, library, mirror, or one-night stand. In the end, what was never intended to fill that hole can only exacerbate our yearning, increase our frustration, and enlarge that emptiness within. And so, quite understandably, Paul begins by wishing the Galatians grace (God’s underserved love) and peace (wholeness, a right relationship with God). And not only that, but more than simply wishing them such significant things, he continues to tell them how these blessings come to us. Notice, they come to us, and we do not come to them. The answer does come from a bottle, on a plate, in a book, but not in the way fallen men would suppose. The answer comes, not in creations, but with the Creator, who uses creation to bring us these, His greatest gifts, grace and peace, love and wholeness, through the Means of Grace. Continue reading “Galatians 1:3-5”