v1-9 – God’s Word is warning us to keep the Gospel (salvation message) based on grace, not works. People struggle with this. For some, it sounds too simple. For others, they think that they can get away with being bad. Still some, find it hard to believe in a God that would forgive their horrible sin without them having to do some sort of penance. The simple truth is that we are saved by grace not works. This way, no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). In other words, we cannot do any rituals or deeds to atone for our sin in order to have eternal life. Church attendance or repeating prayers do not earn us eternal life. When we recognize our helpless, sinful state and rely on Jesus’ shed blood and resurrection, then, and only then do we have the promise of eternal life (Romans 10:9). Jesus did not come to earth to establish a religion, but rather an open, loving relationship with us. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God while Christianity is God successfully reaching man.

So how does this concept look today? Well, do all Presbyterians have eternal life simply because they’ve joined that church? No. Do all Methodists have eternal life just because they’ve chanted back the “proper creeds”? No. How about Catholics, Baptists, Wesleyans, etc., etc.? No. If yes, then the Jews would be saved just because they are Jews. No, the only true children of Abraham are the ones who have been circumcised in their hearts (born-again). Are there truly saved people within all those different churches? Yes. God has His kids everywhere. You just can’t get away from them! Thank God :-).

v6: “A different gospel” is referring to one that tacks on works to earn salvation. In Paul’s day, it would have been circumcision. Today, it could be a host of things. The Word says to let anyone who preaches this false gospel be accursed. Ouch. This is serious. I know that James 2:24 says, “…a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” But the context means that good works (“fruit”) will be an AUTOMATIC result of real faith. So we can tell if a person is a real Christian (saved) by the way he/she acts. Good works do not produce faith. Without saving faith, good works only produce pride and steers our hearts in the opposite direction. Faith does produce good works. This is how we can tell the real from the false. Religious people skip the real faith and try to produce works, but their hearts are far from God (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13). In addition, merely believing in one God does not work either, because even demons believe this and they are not saved. They shudder at the thought of God. That’s how real their faith is (James 2:19-20).

v10: Do we seek favor from men or God? If we are men-pleasers, then we cannot please God. This means that “men” are an idol (what they think about us is more important than doing what God tells us to do). Certainly we are to conduct ourselves in ways that please others, but we need to keep that in perspective. It’s like if we love money, we will serve that rather than God. We cannot have it both ways. We will love one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24).

v11: The Gospel is not made up by mankind. When you think about the whole Bible, who in this world could ever make all that up?!

v12-24: Paul says that no one but Jesus told him the gospel. He reveals great detail into his background, and, if anyone could be saved by works or credentials, he would be the one. His conclusion? “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I might gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). There is nothing wrong with becoming educated as long as Jesus is Lord of our heart. Too many people today become proud when educated, however. But education cannot earn us favor with God. Whatever we are proud of – athletic ability, musical ability, research ability, etc., are we willing to lose that to follow Jesus? I’m not saying we must never do those things any more. But IF the Lord would ask us to forsake “whatever,” would we be willing? If not, this is how we can tell if we are worshiping an idol. In my life, fishing, sports, Strat-O-Matic Baseball (hobby game), and worldly record albums were idols. Now I still fish and follow baseball, hockey, and football (a little), but they no longer have a hold on me. I no longer have an inordinate love for those things because I prayed and gave them over to the Lord and He crucified that type of love that distracted me from serving Him and prioritizing facets of my life in accordance with His Word. Now I would much rather talk about Jesus, or pray with people, or counsel people, or teach people the Word than do any of those other things. When those things had me, I did not enjoy doing the Lord’s things that much. I knew I had to do something about that. We all have developed idols from time to time, my hope is that if you have any now, you would be willing to confess it to the Lord in prayer as being sin, and ask Him to forgive you and ask Him to fill you with Himself in order to enable you to do His things successfully. Our sinful state creates an intangible void inside us and something from this world will fill it if it is not our Creator. The purpose of idols is to hinder our ability to serve Him. This is why God makes such a big deal about them in the Ten Commandments. It is listed first. Finally, before we think that God just wants to take enjoyment away from us, check out Psalms 84:11.

Fear is another hindrance to fulfilling God’s work through us, but that’s another sermon. We all battle this one. The Bible says, “Do not fear” all the time! God knows we are vulnerable to this one. You can pray against it when it invades your thought-life. The name of Jesus spoken in faith will repel it from our mind. We can have victory over it.

Galatians 2:

v1-10: After Paul was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, all the pillars of the early church met and endorsed Paul’s ministry.

v6: “God shows no partiality.” In context this means that God does not favor the rich or the famous just because they are rich or famous. A strong cultural belief was that the rich and powerful were blessed by God but the poor were not.

v11-21: Paul catches Peter in hypocrisy and publicly made an example of him underscoring that salvation is by faith and not works. This demonstrates that, although Peter was a leader, the apostles never elevated him with power and authority above themselves to make rules for the Church. Peter was never THE leader. Only Jesus Christ takes that role. In other words, Peter was not a first pope. The foundation of the Roman Catholic Church has been built upon a horribly wrong interpretation of Scripture. In addition, when the RCC developed the priest system, they totally contradicted the Book of Hebrews and insulted Jesus Christ by subjecting its people to many unnecessaries  between them and God.

v21: “If righteousness comes through the Law [being good enough], then Christ died needlessly.” I have a good friend named Bob who was a prominent man in his church and an administrative leader at his job, but he told me that he was good enough for heaven. I asked him why, then, did Jesus purposely go toward Jerusalem knowing that He would be tortured and killed? He honestly said he didn’t know. He had thought about this question for the first time. I said, “Wrestle with that question, Bob.” I prayed that it would haunt him until he got saved. He moved south and I have not seen or heard from him since.

Galatians 3 – The Law Reveals Our Deep Need

After Adam and Eve sinned, God did not give The Law. After Abraham was called and justified in God’s eyes by his faith and not by his works, God did not give The Law. God did give The Law 430 years after Abraham in order to indicate how far humans are from perfection, which is necessary if you trust in your own goodness.

Verse 24 makes it clear that the actual purpose of the Ten Commandments was to make people realize they could not obey them all of the time. Therefore humans became in desperate need for another covenant. The truth is that God coming in the flesh was “Plan A” from the get-go, but humans, being separated from God because of sin, had only a little insight about His Plan. From our historical perspective, Jesus may have seemed to be Plan B. From God’s view, however, Jesus was Plan A before time (FYI – there was never a Plan B).

God had to deal with a fallen race in ways to maximize the number of souls that would be saved during the allotted time period for the existence of earth. Scripture says that the timing of the coming of Christ was perfect (Galatians 4:4). Had He come 400 years sooner or later, something would not have worked out as well. Maybe in heaven we will understand this more clearly.

v28: Good verse for those who still think that having authority over someone means they are superior, i.e., husband being the head of his wife. Or favorable lineage, so a Jew thinking he is better than a Gentile. Or a free man better than a slave (bondservant is a better word for our culture – the Bible does not endorse the type of slavery that went on in our country years ago as critics have claimed over the years). Bottom line? We are all one in Christ.

Galatians 4:

v6:¬† “Abba, Father!” This Hebrew word “Abba” means “daddy.” It’s kind of a personal, affectionate way of addressing our dad. To think that God enjoys us calling Him this tickles me to no end.

v10: A warning about traditions built up by men and not to get caught up in them.

v15: A hint of Paul’s malady – eye disease or eye problems?

v22-31: Going way back to OT history, this pinpoints the beginning of the terrible clash between Jews and Arabs, especially in v29. A quick background: God promised a certain son to Abraham and Sarah. This prophesied son would be in the Messianic lineage. But when Abraham and Sarah became very old, Sarah suggested that Abraham have sex with the younger maidservant named Hagar. Thinking this was a good idea and that it would cause God’s Word to come to pass, he did. Hagar bore a son whose name was Ishmael, who became the father of the Arab nation. But God overruled this contrived (humanistic) plan by making Sarah pregnant while in her 90s. From her womb came Isaac, who continued the Jewish lineage for Abraham. So on one hand, we have Ishmael who came into existence from human reasoning. On the other hand, we have Isaac, who was born of the Spirit of God. Hence we have “the Spirit” against “the Flesh” wrapped up in this brief but huge piece of history. This also convinces me that there is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict until Jesus Comes. All this, of course, does not mean that Arabs cannot be saved. They can. They are saved the same way anyone is saved – Jew or Gentile – by believing Jesus is the Messiah, died for their sin, and rose from the dead. The main point God is making in all this is that there are two options to which we will believe: 1) strive to be good enough to merit eternal life on Judgment Day, or 2) surrender our sin to God and trust Him through Christ to clothe us with His own righteousness as we obtain eternal life by grace, not merit. Therefore, we (Jew or Arab/Gentile) are either the sons and daughters of the “bondwoman” or the “Jerusalem Above.”

Galatians 5:

v1-3: This does not mean all males should not be circumcised. There are health benefits such as better hygiene and less risk of cervical cancer in women having sex with a circumcised male.(HPV – human papilloma virus is the leading cause of cervical cancer). The risk of prostate cancer is also reduced. So Paul’s point here is that this procedure does not help at all in our gaining eternal life with God (again emphasized in v6). He is addressing a spiritual matter, not a physical one.

v14: If we really want to obey God’s Law, then just love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This tops any religious feast, church attendance, tithing to a church, holding an office within a church, repeating prayers, etc., etc. (We should still attend church, though).

v16-21: When we walk in “the flesh” (sinful nature) these things follow:

1) sexual immorality,
2) impurity,
3) sensuality (doing what we like – drugs & sex included),
4) idolatry (other things more important than God),
5) sorcery (turning to occult for power or wisdom),
6) enmities (hostility w/people),
7) strife (poor relationships w/others,
8) jealousy
9) outbursts of anger,
10) disputes,
11) dissensions,
12) factions (splitting off from truth),
13) envyings,
14) drunkenness,
15) carousings……everything we see in soap operas!

This doesn’t mean we will have all of these things working in us, but I would say at least several of them will be. So HOW do we “walk by the Spirit” so that we will not do these things?

1) Read the Bible regularly – our faith grows by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17),
2) hang with Christians, make them your closest friends (Hebrews 10:25),
3) pray regularly – and not just for yourself,
4) spend time being thankful to God and worship Him in your “prayer closet” and at church,
5) if your love for Jesus begins to slip, ask Him to renew it,
6) know that your life is not about you but about Him,
7) meditate on God’s Word throughout each day,
8) desire to serve Him,
9) expect Him to work through you.

These things indicate true DEVOTION. This is what we all need. Now shhhh, this next thing is a secret…Do not strive to obey God’s standards. If you do, you will fail. The way to obey is to rely on God’s mercy and grace to us (John 15). Herein lies true freedom and joy…and success! And guess who gets the glory? The only One who deserves it.

v22-23: If we do the above, then we will produce “the fruit of the Spirit” such as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16). What He meant is if we see these kinds of things in a person, then they are real children of God, not phonies. The Word says there are no laws against these things (v23). In other words, all people of the world, whether they be Communists or Nazi’s or free Americans, cannot argue against these things and say they are evil. They all know it is good to have those things. Who could debate otherwise? Bottom line is…only God through Jesus Christ can produce these things in sinners. This is how we “see” God today. Furthermore, if these good things be in us, it is to God’s credit, not ours.

v24: In Christ our old sinful desires have been crucified, meaning that many sinful things we used to enjoy are not fun anymore. There still may be some evil strongholds remaining in our flesh that we need to allow God to “surgically remove” via prayer, counseling, possible fasting for tough areas, or deliverance prayers by believers.

Galatians 6:

v1: If a believer in your church has been caught in a sin, deal with him/her gently with the hope of restoring them to good standing with God and your church, bearing in mind that it might be us next. If we love them, we should act like this toward them automatically.

v2: Bear each other’s burdens. How can we do this if people in our church come and go without developing a relationship with others? Jesus never intended His churches to be “time-clock-punch-card-factories.” He desires and expects us to knit to each other. Then, and only then, can we truly share and bear our burdens and deal properly with sin as well. This is why people don’t want to get close to others: 1) they fear gossip, 2) they do not want their sin to be exposed, and 3) they do not want to give up sin. I can understand this problem because sometimes people handle problems wrongly. Gossip is a big problem with fallen mankind. Nevertheless, if church people love Jesus, and follow His Word, they can get it right.

v7: “God is not mocked (or fooled) for whatever a man sows so shall he reap.” Years ago I had a friend that was always wondering where the exact line was that determined a sinful action. He wanted to walk closest to that line as he could. I told him he doesn’t love Jesus, for if he did, he would not be concerned with that issue. To his credit, he did admit this was a problem. What he was really saying was that he wanted to get away with as much as he could without angering the Lord. Later, when I asked why he did not tithe to his church, he said, “Because I want the benefits on earth now, not later in eternity.” How can anyone walk in the spirit with this philosophy? I haven’t seen him in years, though I hear he is still attending¬† some church (divorced and remarried). To keep this all in perspective, the truth is that God is not finished with him or any of us yet. I am glad he is still going to church.

v8-10: Sowing to our flesh reaps corruption. This means if we always do the things that this world offers, we will not only lose eternal rewards for those endeavors, but they will somehow hurt us along our earthly way. There is a battle going on for our affections. Our Eternal Creator offers His, this temporal world offers its own. I used to be a “golf-a-holic.” Nothing sinful with golf by itself, but I was addicted to improving my scores (such vanity). It became my first love in life – oh oh! The more I played, the better I got. Needless to say, I stopped reading the Word and slowly lost my love for Jesus and therefore did less and less for Him. I was golfing 4-5 X/week and getting more lonely. A simple wake-up prayer to Jesus took away this idol in my life. A similar thing happened to me with fishing. It is easy to see how drug addiction can cause a reap of corruption, but few people perceive how “innocent” things can do the same. Drugs have never deceived me. I’ve always thought they were stupid and dangerous, so the devil simply did not try too hard in that area with me. But in those other areas, he had a field day with me. Trying to catch a bigger bass or trying to lower your golf scores is “sowing to the flesh.” Do we really think our best golf game will impress God on Judgment Day? I am not saying never fish or play golf, just keep it in God’s perspective. Who knows? We just might be able to share Christ via these activities. But we won’t if the activity itself owns us. Remember – God will not withhold any good thing from us (Psalms 84:11).

Sowing to the Spirit reaps eternal life. All the things we allow Jesus to do through us during our brief stay on earth will be there in Heaven forever. When a pastor died temporarily from a car accident, he saw all the people that he had spiritually helped along during his life. They (the ones who had died before him) were there welcoming him to Heaven. So let’s get spiritual. Let’s check our priorities.

v14: But let us not boast in anything we do properly, for God, who sees in secret, will reward in secret. If we brag about what we’ve done in Christ, that will be the only reward we will have.

v16: “The Israel of God” means the New Testament universal church comprised of Jews and Gentiles.

17: Paul mentions the physical wounds (scars?) he had received because of his belief in Jesus. Probably none of us have anything like this, although we may have some emotional rejections over the years. I tend to listen more intently to those who have been tortured for Christ’s sake, and that was Paul.