Verses for the Day: Galatians 4:12-20

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

In this passage of Galatians, Paul expresses again his concerns for the Galatian believers. We saw last time that he seems to go back and forth between identifying a concern and responding to it with the truth of the gospel. What an excellent pattern that we can put to use in our own lives, always returning to the gospel, reminding ourselves of the gospel, putting ourselves in places to be taught again the gospel. It will never grow old. It will never be outdated. It will never be powerless. It will change us and shape us and form us.

This is what Paul wants for these Galatian believers. He desires that Christ be formed in them (v.19). Paul is coming to them as a spiritual father. He calls them his “little children” (v.19). As a father cares for his child, Paul is laboring over these young believers (v.11, v.19), and he expresses concern over them: “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (v.11).

Paul asks them, “How is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements?” He says “you desire to be in bondage” (v.9); “you observe days and months and seasons and years” (v.10); “I am afraid for you” (v.11); “what then was the blessing you enjoyed” (v.15); “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (v.16); “I have doubts about you” (v.20.)

These sound like heavy concerns on Paul’s heart. Picture a wayward child, a person walking away from his or her faith. They have been given the knowledge of the truth, but they are turning from it. They are being deceived. They have been set free in Christ and are returning to bondage. And Paul comes with the truth of the gospel to expose the lies and help them return to the freedom that Christ has given them. He does it with the love of a father who so desires their best, that is that Christ would be formed in them. This is why Paul writes; these are his concerns.

Paul reminds the Galatians of how they received him initially (v. 14). They have not injured Paul at all (v.12), and they did not despise or reject him and the trial that was in Paul’s flesh (v.14). They would have plucked out their own eyes for him (v.15). Paul urges them to become like him (v.12) and contrasts himself with the false teachers. Paul is telling them the truth (v.16) and means good for them. The false teachers court them, but for no good; they want to exclude them, so that the Galatians will be zealous for them (v.17).

The false teachers would have them be in bondage to the law, observing the days and months and seasons and years, depending on the law rather than grace. But Christ came to set them free, and Paul desires them to be zealous for a good thing (v.18) and that Christ be formed in them.

We have seen that through Christ’s death and resurrection, by faith in Him, we are delivered from this present evil age (1:5), redeemed (4:5), adopted (4:5), and given new life. We are justified (made right with God) by faith (2:16, 3:11, 24). By faith, we become a child of God (3:26) and heirs to the promise (3:29). We are given the blessing of God (4:15). We are given the Spirit of God (4:6). We are no longer a slave, but a son (4:7).

The law which we could not keep points us to our need for a Savior, Jesus Christ, who could perfectly keep the law. He sacrificed Himself for us, forgiving our sins, that we can live in newness of life. And all that we have been given in Christ enables us to live for Him, in freedom, not in bondage.

Paul desires these truths to take root and sink deeply into the hearts of these Galatian believers so that they might be full of joy and free in Christ. Do we know this freedom and joy?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for being our Creator, Savior, Redeemer, Father, King. Thank you for giving us all that we need for life and godliness. Thank you that we can turn from sin and turn to you for forgiveness. Thank you that you love us and have made a way for us to know you. Thank you, Jesus, for humbling yourself to death on a cross to bring us to God. Thank you for the joy we find in trusting you and walking with you. Thank you for your Spirit who teaches us and leads us. Let us believe your truth and live in this freedom that you accomplished for us. My heart is full of gratitude. Thank you for a relationship with you, for seeking us. May we now seek You and find true blessing and joy. Keep our eyes fixed on you. May we study your Word so we can know you and be reminded again and again of this glorious gospel of grace that has saved us and redeemed us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Verses for the Day – Galatians 4:8-11

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

In this letter to the Galatians, it seems like Paul is going back and forth, back and forth between identifying the way these young Galatian believers are turning away from the true gospel to declaring this true gospel again. Like a seesaw, up and down, exposing one way of erroneous thinking or living and revealing again the great truth of the gospel of grace.

You might remember he started this letter not with words of praise and affirmation as he does in others of his letters, but straightaway he began to deal with these issues at hand.

Galatians 1:6 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,”

Galatians 1:7 “… there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Paul goes on and in 3:1 asks, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth…?”

As we’ve seen, Paul discusses false teachers, circumcision and law, and contrasts them with justification by faith. We are saved not by works, but by grace, a gift of God.

Each time Paul gives one of the issues at hand, he brings it back to the gospel of truth, this simple message, and Jesus who frees us from all of these many kinds of bondage.

Today in Chapter 4, verses 8-11, Paul tells the Galatians that when they did not know God, they served those who by nature were not gods (verse 8). It seems to indicate that we are worshipers. We will always worship and serve something, either the true God, or things that are not gods. We’ve seen that from the Old Testament idol worship up to today where many are worshipers of things like self and materialism. Who are we serving and worshiping?

Paul goes on in today’s passage to ask them, now that they have known God – or rather were known by God (indicating it is God who first knows us, before we can even know Him!) – how is it that they turn again to the weak and beggarly elements to which they desire again to be in bondage (verse 9-10). He tells them they observe days and months and seasons and years, and Paul is afraid for them, that he has labored in vain (verse 11). It’s possible to observe religious holidays, Sabbaths, special feasts, and totally miss true worship of the risen Christ. These observances can have the appearance of worship, but lack the heart of true worship.

If they truly knew God, how can they return to lesser things, the things that bring them into bondage? And what about us? How do we do that as well? Do we observe days and seasons but miss meeting our almighty God and having true worship of Him?

And what is our remedy for this? A turning back again and again to the gospel of Christ, the true gospel that tells us who we are and who He is. We receive forgiveness at the cross of Jesus Christ, a cleansing from our sins and unrighteousness, if we confess those sins (1 John 1:9). Just like Paul bringing these believers again and again back to truth, we need this as well. We need to know and obey God’s Word and be led by His Spirit into truth.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that you are worthy of worship. Thank you that in you, we find full satisfaction. Forgive us for turning aside to other things, lesser things, for returning again to bondage when you have set us free. May we know you in such a way that these other things no longer are desirable, but you are our heart’s longing and affection. May we worship you and walk in your ways now and always. Bring us back again to your amazing gospel of grace that frees of from sin and law/works to know and love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Who Are You? (from Galatians 3:26-4:7)

To read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

I remember going to church with a friend once when I was young. All I remember about the sermon that morning were the preacher’s opening words, stated very slowly and emphatically: “Who are you?” In my youthfulness, I replied in my head laughingly with my actual name. And that was about all that I remember or took away from the service that morning!

However, it is a good question. Who are you? Do you know who you are and what you have?

Before you read on, think about it. How do you first identify yourself?

Do you think, “I am so and so (insert name). I go such and such school. I work at x job. I have lots of friends. I go to church and have a small group. I drive a red car. I live in such and such town. I am a student making good grades. I am rich, or I am poor, or I am somewhere in between. I am a traveler. I am a sports player. I am a writer. I serve the needy. I give to such and such.”

You get the idea. When I ask, “Who are you?” those might be some things that come to mind, right?

Well, as I was all set to move into the next section of Galatians, I was re-reading some of what I’ve already studied, and it struck me how often Paul was saying, “you are” and “you were” and “you have.” He is giving them their identity in these verses in Galatians 3:26-4:7. And it’s also our identity as believers in Christ.

We live out of our identify, so we need to know who we really are. This is a most important question.

So listen to what Paul says:

Galatians 3:26: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Our faith in Christ has made us God’s child. Soak up that truth. When we believe by faith in Christ, we are a child of God. This speaks of intimacy and love. He knows us as His child, not a distant relationship. No longer enemies of God in our sin, we have become sons of God through Christ.

Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Then as those baptized into Christ by faith, we have put on Christ. The NIV says they have “clothed” themselves with Christ. So now as a child of God, we have been baptized into him and literally put on Christ and are clothed with him.

Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew not Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

You are a child of God, baptized into him, putting on Christ, and you are one in Christ.

So as we read who we are, we see that each of these things come to us through Christ!

Galatians 3:29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

These verses just keep building with more and more good news about our identity. If Christ’s, then Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise. My notes say, “All people equally can become God’s heirs and recipients of His eternal promises.”

We who were once in bondage (Gal. 4:3) have been redeemed and adopted as sons (4:5).

Galatians 4:6: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!'”

Also as children of God, we have God’s Spirit in our hearts! Can you even comprehend this wonderful truth?

Galatians 4:7: “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

You are a son and heir, again, through Christ!

When someone wants to know who your are, consider thinking in this way, even if you don’t necessarily say it:

“By faith in Christ, I am a child of God. I have been baptized into Christ, and I have put on Christ. I am one in Christ. I am Christ’s. I am Abraham’s seed and an heir to the promise. I have been redeemed and adopted. I have the Spirit of God living in me. I am not a slave in bondage, but a son who is free and has an eternal inheritance.”

If you know then who you are, really know it in your heart and believe it in your mind, you will live differently, because we live out of who we think we are.

If we think we are just all the things that we do or that we are defined by what people think or say we are, then we will live trying to get people to think a certain way about us or trying to do more and more to prove our worth.

But when we know it is already established in Christ, we are free to live for him, undefined by the world and other people, living to please the One who has made us all these things.

Give praise and glory to His wonderful name, Jesus Christ, our Creator, Savior, King, Father, Redeemer, and Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, help us to know who we are in Christ, not just intellectually, but in the fibers of our being. Let these truths take hold because they truly define us and give us truth about you and ourselves out of which we can live. Free us from sin and bondage, from wrong thinking, from living to be defined by what we do and what people think of us, and deliver us into freedom in Christ, filled by your Spirit, by the power of your holy name. In Jesus name, Amen.

Verses for the Day: Galatians 4:1-7

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

We’re halfway through Galatians!There are three crucial things in life that are all described in this passage today.

The first is the gospel by which we are saved.

We’ve seen in Galatians that there is one true gospel, the gospel of grace. It is not by the law. It is not of works. It is not according to man. Nothing should be added to it or removed from it. The simple gospel message is what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:4, “who [the Lord Jesus Christ] gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” The gospel is freedom from our sins through faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for us. It brings deliverance and new life in Him.

A second key thing to understand in life is our identity.

We’ve also looked at this in Galatians already in our last passage. Galatians 3:26: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” When we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, then we are adopted as His child. This is our identity. We are made in His image and now children of God. Knowing our identity will shape what we believe about ourselves and who we let define us (God, not others) and how we live our lives. When we truly understand our identity as a child of God, as an heir, as adopted as His, it changes how we view everything.

A third key thing is knowing that our lives in Christ are lived by the power of the Holy Spirit given to us.

God doesn’t save us by grace and then leave us to just work hard and do our best, returning to law. We don’t have to live this life by our own strength, but in His. We don’t have to strive in our own power; He enables and helps us by His Spirit, given to us. It changes everything. Even if our actions look the same sometimes, the motivations and source of strength are altogether different and frees us to depend on Him and live a Spirit-filled life.

Much more could be said about each of these three things, but I point them out because today’s verses in Galatians 4:1-7 talk about all of these important truths of gospel, identity, and the gift of the Holy Spirit:

Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

We were in bondage, but verses 4-5: “When the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” This is gospel truth — God sending forth His Son to redeem us — and our identity – being adopted as sons.

And as His sons, God has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts crying “Abba, Father!” God’s Spirit in our hearts as His child – what an incredible thought!

We are no longer a slave but a son, and as a son, an heir of God through Christ (verse 7).

Prayer: Praise you Lord Jesus for our redemption, our deliverance, our salvation, our adoption, and the gift of your Spirit in us when we are saved. By your sacrifice and love for us, through your death on the cross and resurrection, we become dead to our sins and alive to Christ, filled with your Spirit, able to live life in your strength, identified as heir and child of God. What wondrous things! Praise you and thank you! Let us remember that we are yours and let these truths seep into the deepest parts of our hearts so that we understand them and grasp more and more the massive truth of how much we are loved by you, how you have created us, saved us, and have plans for our lives. Let these words of truth become living realities in us all so that we grasp the wonder of what you have done for us and how you have made the way for us to be free and know you. In fact, you haven’t just made the way; you are the Way! We give you praise. We love you so. Thank you, Jesus. In your name, Amen.

Verses for the Day – Galatians 3:23-29

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

I think my daily reading of Galatians has been bogged down through trying to study the heavy verses on law. It surely must be a picture of how the law actually does burden us and weigh us down…

But grace sets us free!

I left off last time looking at what the law is not and what it doesn’t do, saying we’d see then today what the law does do.

This takes us to Galatians 3:23-29:

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

These verses tell us what the law does. It was a tutor to bring us to Christ so that we could be justified by faith. Once we have faith, we no longer have need for the tutor. A tutor teaches us something. The law shows us that we are sinners, that we cannot keep the demands of the law perfectly, that we are in need of a Savior. It brings us to Christ, to our Savior, that through faith, we might know Christ and be saved. This is a gift of grace, not by works (law) or anything we have done.

This is how we become a child of God – through faith in Jesus Christ. We are baptized into Christ, we put on Christ. Then, as we have already seen, we are Abraham’s seed, his spiritual descendants. We become heirs according to the promise.

We heard a sermon at church last week on Romans 3:22, that there is no distinction. We are either saved by faith in Christ, or we are not. And here we see that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek (imagine how that sounded to their ears at that time when there was such a distinction among them!), neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, but we are all one in Christ. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of Christian unity? My Bible notes there are no racial, gender, or social distinctions to keep us from Christ – all can come to Him by faith.

We live in a world that is always making distinctions. What is your level of education? What sport are you involved in? What kind of leadership do you do? Where do you serve? What school do you go to? Are you skinny or fat, short or tall? This may not be intended to classify us, but it’s just natural. We see people who are “different” or don’t seem to fit in. We can find ourselves wondering what is my place? Do I belong? Do I fit? It happens at work and school and in community. We can be striving and working to matter.

But God tells us who we are. We are his! We are made in his image, and in Christ, by faith, we find our true identity as a child of God, a child of the King, and heirs according to the promise. Once an enemy of Christ, now adopted by Him as His own child.

This is the only one thing that matters. Do we know Christ? Do we have that relationship with Him by faith? Are we trusting Him for the forgiveness of our sins? There should be no other distinction. We are one with other believers in Christ. We can be for them, support them, love them.

We also live in a world where so many want to work their way to heaven – if they can only be good enough, if their good deeds can outweigh their bad ones. They live by law. But this is not what the Bible teaches us. The law and works can only show us that we can’t do it. We can’t earn anything from God because our sin is too deep and keeps us separated from Him. The law points us to Jesus. And when we have Him, we have everything. And we want to live for Him. We live lives of joyful obedience and faithfulness to Him because we love Him as He has first loved us.

We are not bound by law, we are free in Christ. We are freed by the gospel Paul has been writing about earlier in Galatians. Live in this freedom!

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you for the law that leads us to you. How could we ever thank you enough for your sacrifice of your very life for our sins so that we could be saved! And for the many blessings accompany our salvation. Thank you that by faith through grace we can know you, we can be forgiven, we can walk in freedom, we can live an abundant life. Give us great joy as we seek and follow you each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Verses for the Day – Galatians 3:19-22

Note: To find out about the verses for the day, click here. And to read the other posts in the Galatians series, click here. (They appear in reverse order.)

Summer is officially over for our family. We’ve had the annual back-to-school picnic, the faculty in-service dinner for my husband, I started back to work this week, and my children are headed back to school.

I studied 1 and 2 Thessalonians this summer in a home Bible study with various women, many of whom I had never met, but who heard about the study and joined us. It’s amazing to see how God’s Word draws people together. One evening after the study, I was struck by the reality of what God can do when you are willing just to open the door to your home and invite people in.

After a wonderful summer of a slower pace, fascinating travel, and having time away from work and school, we return to routine and more structure to our days. We welcome this. My Galatians study had been put aside, but now I hope to daily study and complete this goal!

Today I pick back up with Galatians 3:19-22:

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Paul has been talking about the law and faith. What is the law? You know, the law given to Moses in the Old Testament? 

We had been looking at what it is not.

The law does not justify (make us right) before God. (3:11). (This happens by faith.)

The works of the law did not give them (or us) the Holy Spirit or accomplish the working of miracles among them (3:2, 5). (Again, this happens by the hearing of faith.)

In fact, the law actually brings a curse (3:10).

The law is not God’s covenant with Abraham and does not annul the covenant. God gave his covenant to Abraham by promise, not law (3:17).

The law is also not contrary to the promises of God (3:21), as we see in today’s text.

The law cannot give life, and righteousness does not come by the law. (3:21).

So let’s see two things, one today and one tomorrow, about what the law is:

  • Why then was the law given? (our question for today)
  • And what does the law do? (our question for tomorrow)

So why then was the law given? The law “was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (3:19-20).

Basically, because of the sin of God’s people, the law was given through a mediator (Moses) until the Seed (Jesus) should come. The law then showed them clearly how they were to live – and how they were not able to keep this standard perfectly – and what therefore to do when they sinned. (Remember the sacrifices they made in the Old Testament?)

Ultimately, in this way, the law will then really lead them to God, to their need for a Savior because of their sin. Jesus, the Seed, would come and be the once for all sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18). At his coming, the Mosaic law no longer would have the same force. More on this tomorrow.

PRAYER:Heavenly Father, thank you for a new day and a new school year. We look forward with anticipation to what you have for us in the coming year. We rejoice that you are a God who loves us and gave your Son for us so that we might know you. You have purposes and plans for our lives, even this year, even this day. We are not just meaninglessly existing. Let us live to follow you and bring you glory. Teach us this year your ways, that we might walk in your path and rely on your faithfulness. Give us undivided hearts to fear your name. Let us praise you with all of our hearts and glorify your name forever, for great is your love toward us (Psalm 86:11-13). In Jesus’ name, Amen.