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 2:17-21

Today we come to a typical question that arises when people consider that we are saved by faith in Christ, not as a result of our works. The question that Paul lists here in verse 17 is similar to other ones that he writes about in Romans (See Romans 3:5-8 or 6:1-2, for example).

The question here is that if we are justified by Christ, made right with God through Him, and yet are sinners, is Christ a minister of sin – and Paul exclaims, No!

17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

The law was given not to make us righteous (v.21), for it cannot do so, but to make us aware our sin (as we break the law) and our need for Christ as our Savior from those sins.

But once we receive Christ by faith, see verse 20 – we are crucified with Christ, and it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. The life that we then live is by faith in Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us. After we have been justified through Christ, made right with Him, through His death and resurrection, we are in Christ, and He is in us. This is the power we are given in Christ to live a life of obedience, not of sin, so sin does not continue to have the same power over us. Christ would never be a minister of sin or promoting sin!

As our pastor pointed out Sunday as we studied Romans 3:5-8, Christianity is the only faith that asks these kinds of questions. Anything else tells you that you have to be good and do good works to earn something – so you would never ask these kinds of questions because you are of course working hard to attain something (you think).

But when faith is given to us as a free gift of God’s grace and mercy, this incredible gospel we are studying about in Galatians, the natural question is, “Wait, but if it’s free, do we just continue to sin and that’s okay?” or ones similar to this.

As we come to understand that God’s gift of salvation frees us to not sin, to serve Him, to love Him, to live in joyful obedience, by the power of Christ in us, we begin to understand the gospel, and it truly causes us to stand in awe of our God. Jesus, who loved us and gave His life for us, then gives us everything we need for godly living – His strength, His power, His Spirit – Praise God!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving us the law to see our need for you. We are powerless and desperate without you. Praise you, Jesus, for your death and resurrection, taking our sins on the cross, that we might be crucified with you and be raised to life in you so that we have power through you over sin in our lives. Please cause us to live in this freedom today that you have accomplished for us. You do it all! Praise you! Free us from sin that entangles us and help us to fix our eyes on you, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Verse for the Day – Galatians 1:6-9

Today we move from the greeting into the body of the apostle Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia.

In his other letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc.) after the greeting, Paul would often write words of thankfulness and encouragement, a prayer or blessing.

However, in Galatians, he goes directly from the greeting into words of admonition. There’s a seriousness to the letter he is writing, a concern that he must address immediately and that appears to be the focus of his letter, the reason he is writing.

Here is what he writes in Galatians 1:6-9:

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (NKJV)

From these verses it sounds as though the gospel of Christ, the gospel of grace is going to be a key theme of the book of Galatians. Paul is writing because the Galatians are turning away from God – who has called them in that marvelous grace we read about yesterday (v.3) – to a different gospel.

He twice states (v.8-9) that if anyone preaches a gospel other than what he has preached to them and that they have received, let that person be accursed. It’s strong language.

Paul warns of those who would pervert the gospel of Christ and is surprised that the Galatians would turn away to a different gospel.

We can see there is one true gospel of Christ. Yet there are those even today who will try to twist it, pervert it, redefine it, make it fit our culture, add to it, or change it to fit our human desires and preferences,

What is this gospel? It’s what we read about yesterday in verses 3-5: Jesus Christ giving himself for our sins that we might be delivered from this evil age. The truth of the gospel is that we as people have sinned, we were unable to fix that situation on our own, Jesus came to earth in human flesh (fully God, fully man), lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again (v.1). We place our faith in Jesus to receive forgiveness of our sins, and he delivers us, saves us, redeems us.

We can’t do this on our own or though our good works. We can’t earn this salvation. It is a free gift of God by His grace and mercy. We put our trust and faith in Him.

The purity and simplicity of this gospel message was being distorted. The Galatians were being given other gospels – ones that would add to or take away from the true gospel, some saying you must do other things to be saved. But it is by God’s grace alone, not by the works of the law or our good deeds.

This theme will develop more as we continue to read and study Galatians. But for today, let’s praise God for this gospel of Christ, its truth and simplicity, that He saves sinners such as us and redirects our lives around Him and His Word. And let’s know this gospel and be on guard against anyone who would distort it, so that we are assured in our hearts and able to lead others, by His power and grace, to truth to Christ.

PRAYER: Praise You, Lord Jesus, that you would humble Yourself to come to earth and die the death for sins that we deserved, that You would take that upon Yourself so that we though You might live. I pray that those who do not know You and Your gospel message would find You and that we would be people who know the truth and share it with others. Thank You for Your grace and mercy toward us, for your love and the peace that You give us. Guard us from ever turning away from the beautiful gospel of Christ that you have given us, and let us live in that gospel and its truth each day. Praise and thank You, In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Verse for the Day – Galatians 1:3-5

As we continue in our study of Galatians, the verses for the day are from Galatians 1:3-5:

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ who 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.” (NKJV)

The benefit of Bible study is that you can take time to linger on a short section. You can use commentaries or Bible dictionaries, read the verses in other versions of the Bible, use the cross references in your Bible, read your Bible notes, etc. to learn more about that passage.

One of the things that jumps out to me in reading these two verses today is that they sound very familiar. Paul gave similar greetings when he wrote his other letters, and we start to see his pattern and style of writing that make his letters identifiable as being his. (Of course, he says at the start he wrote this letter, and the authorship is not debated, but it is interesting to see the structure of his writing.)

Look at these passages below that are greetings to some of his other books of the Bible, and see the familiar greeting giving author, recipient, and the language of grace and peace:

Ephesians 1:1-2:”Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:1-2: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:1-2: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We could keep going with 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Philemon, and find much the same thing.Paul’s greetings were very similar in each epistle.

Paul writes of the grace and peace that come from God – the grace of God that saves us and the peace with God and from God that this salvation brings.

In Galatians, Paul lengthens that greeting of “grace and peace” with the following:

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ who 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.

That is a summary of the gospel. Jesus gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from evil, according to His Father’s will, to whom be all glory be given forever. This is grace – nothing in ourselves we bring – and this gives peace.

We went to my husband’s grandfather’s funeral this week. While we were there, I was looking at his well-worn Bible with handwritten notes, evidence of much Bible study. I looked up the beginning of Galatians to get a small nugget from what Grandpa had gleaned when he studied Galatians. By this verse Grandpa had written “Titus 2:14” which says, “who [Jesus] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  It’s the same idea of Jesus giving Himself for us to deliver us, to redeem us, to purify us for Himself.

This is what Bible study can do. It can connect verses and books and thoughts and teach us wonderful truths as we make observations that lead to application in our lives.

That makes my heart feel so full this morning to remember that Jesus gave Himself for you and me, a gift of grace, such that a result can be expected and hoped for! That is, that I am delivered from evil, redeemed from lawless deeds for purification, for good works, for peace. Out of evil and sin, into purity and good works. All by grace, resulting in peace. Jesus gives us what the world cannot – grace, peace, forgiveness of sins, redemption, deliverance, purity. He makes us His own.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, how can we find words to praise You rightly and fully for all that You have done for us and given us in Christ. He gave Himself for our sins so that we might live abundantly now and eternally forever with You. Your grace and peace upon us humbles us. We did not earn or deserve this, but You did this for us while we were sinners to deliver us. Thank you for this deliverance, this redemption. Please guard and keep us from evil, purify our hearts as You are pure, and let us rest in the grace and peace that you give and offer us today. Thank you, Lord, for Grandpa’s life, for the legacy he leaves, for his example of love for You and Your Word. May we also study it faithfully, live it joyfully, and may our lives show others You and Your salvation and the treasure that You are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

But He Gives a Greater Grace

 James: Mercy Triumphs (Member Book)

One of the highlights of this summer has been studying the book of James with about 12 women. If I had tried to plan a Bible study, it wouldn’t have happened. I was marveling the other day about how God really planned it and brought us together.

Earlier in the spring, three different friends had asked me about what I would be doing for Bible study this summer. Then I ran into my friend Sasha, and she was willing to do this James Bible study with me and help lead it. My mom was moving here and had the DVDs. We decided to just pray about it and see who God brought into our paths. I contacted the three friends, and then the rest of the ladies truly were people who entered our paths at exact moments. (Those are fun stories, too!) They range in age from 28 to 68, attend a variety of churches, and most of the women met each other here in the group!

This group has been such a blessing. This study has been wonderful!

A verse from this study that has stayed on my mind this last week was James 4:6a: “But He gives a greater grace….” I’m not sure exactly what to make of it in context or even out of context!

I’ve been intrigued by learning that James is much like the Proverbs of the New Testament with lots of wise sayings that often don’t seem connected (but upon further study, sometimes actually seem like they are). Is this statement (“But He gives a greater grace…”) simply one that stands alone and separate, or is it in some way connected?

I’ve also benefited from thinking through how the teachings in James mesh with and complement the teachings of Paul, despite a first glance that might make us think they could be contradictory. One writer focuses more on the works of our faith (James), while one stresses grace over works (Paul). Yet here, in the middle of the book of James, we see, “But He gives a greater grace…”  It makes me think of this overarching grace over all our works, grace flowing down, the acknowledgement from James that grace really is greater than all our sins, all our works.

But I don’t know. I haven’t studied this in depth (nor did the study we’re doing), and I’m no theologian or scholar. But it has been running through my mind… grace, grace, grace… His grace is enough, it’s sufficient for all my sins. It’s greater than I know. It flows from the top down to me, not me working hard from the bottom up to earn it. It’s just flowing down on me. God’s grace. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it. It covers me. It covers my sin. It’s greater than my shortcomings and my best efforts. For this I am so thankful.