Day 317 – Thru the Bible
Today we complete Galatians. Nice job!
Galatians 5 – This is the first time in the letter that the issue of circumcision is dealt with directly. Paul’s point is clear: if someone requires one part of the law—circumcision—such a person is obligated to do all the works of the law ( ). The response to those who are seeking to be justified before God by the works of the law is the reminder that “faith working through love” is the indicator of a life that knows it is saved by grace alone. This is the first mention of love in the letter, and it now becomes a major theme (Romans ).
There appears to be a leader of these false teachers who is described as one who will bear the penalty for his actions, although the nature of the penalty is not specified. Paul expresses confidence that the Galatians will return to Gospel truth: they will realize that justification by faith brings freedom, while the works of the law bring slavery.
Obedience is the result of faith (Romans 10:16; 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:3); it is not the same as faith, nor is it required in addition to faith. Human effort cannot be added to grace; to attempt to do this brings Paul’s sharpest condemnation. The true Gospel, when received with the empty hands of faith, makes us “obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17).
The freedom brought about by the Gospel is not a license to sin but an opportunity for love and service. A true understanding of faith, working through love, is the antidote to self-oriented behavior, and results in service. This service does not merit anything but is the outworking of faith.
Paul has mentioned the work of the Spirit multiple times in this letter (3:2, 3, 5, 14; 4:6, 29; 5:5, 16, 17, 18, 22, 25; 6:8) and he now exhorts the Galatians to walk “by the Spirit.” Unlike the requirements of the Mosaic law that were written on stone, God writes the requirements of the covenant of grace on the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33) through the activity of the Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26–27), transforming them to live according to God’s requirements of loving regard for His name and for His people.
The moral requirements do not vary, but the motivation to obey and the power to obey are entirely different. Now we live the life of love (“keep in step with the Spirit”) as we are guided by the character and care of God as reflected in His law. We do this to follow our Redeemer rather than to distinguish ourselves, striving to follow Him in the power of His might rather than in the strength of our own resolve or resources.
The works of the flesh are evident, for they do not prioritize others above self and God above all. Those who practice these works show that they have not encountered the transforming work of the Spirit. Paul has already taught that the Christian life begins when one receives the Spirit through hearing with faith (Galatians 3:2; 4:6). The Spirit exercises a transforming work of grace in the life of the person who walks by the Spirit. This life produces results (fruit) consistent with the character of the Spirit. Notice that Paul speaks of “fruit,” not “fruits,” of the Spirit—the fruit of the Spirit is not a checklist to work through but the unified blossoming of a heart liberated by the Gospel of grace.
How is the Spirit of God leading and empowering you to live in the fruit of the Spirit?
Galatians 6 – Paul’s letter began with rebuke (Galatians ; ) and with justification of his apostolic authority (Galatians , ); it now adopts a more familial tone as Paul addresses the Galatians as “brothers”.
The injunction to watch one’s own life is prominent in this section. The fulfillment of the law is seen in the expression of love as fruit of a transformed life empowered by the Spirit.
Grace does not negate the need for moral character; it empowers it.
Evidence of this work of grace in the life of the Believer will be seen in bearing each other’s burdens and in a true assessment of one’s own life.
The warmth of Paul’s relationship with the Galatians is seen as he instructs them to support their teachers, a theme repeated elsewhere in the apostle’s writings (1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:17–18). The importance of teaching is underscored in Paul’s agricultural illustration: that which is sown affects what is reaped. In Galatia, false teaching has impacted the churches, but correct teaching enabled by the Spirit produces life and good works. A true understanding of grace working through faith will result in good works.
Paul concludes by addressing a key issue of the letter: circumcision. Those who require circumcision are motivated by a desire to avoid persecution by appeasing Judaizers. Paul plays on the word “flesh”, which refers both to the skin removed in circumcision and the “works of the flesh” as outlined in Galatians 5:19–21. The enforcement of circumcision is a denial of the Gospel.
Paul concludes with the most appropriate word: grace. This is the message of Galatians for guilty sinners.
It’s all about grace!
How is the grace of God leading and empowering you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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