“For it is by His grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to devote ourselves to good deeds for which God has designed us.”
We — you and I — are designed by God “to devote ourselves to good deeds.” Yet, “we are God’s handiwork.” He designs us and saves us. “It is not [our] own doing. It is God’s gift.” Our salvation, even our good deeds, are not “reward(s) for work done.” We do not earn the right to perform those good deeds; we do not earn our entrance into the heavenly places. Jesus goes to prepare a place for us; the place is His handiwork, not ours.
“God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bears us, brings us to life with Christ even when we are dead in our sins; it is by grace you are saved. And in union with Christ Jesus He raises us up and enthrones us with Him in the heavenly realms, so that He might display in the ages to come how immense are the resources of His grace.” (Ephesians 2: 4 – 7)
God’s mercy is rich; His grace is resourceful. His kindness is beyond us. If we are to boast, we are to boast of the Lord — of His mercy, His kindnesses, His grace. Amen.
Paul bemoans what is happening in the Galatian church, writing: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who calls you by the grace of God and are turning to a different gospel –”
The “turning away from [Christ]” happens in error due to the influence of Judaizers who call for men in the church to be circumcised. (Who knows to what Law these Judaizers might subject women!) At any rate, Paul is bewildered and disturbed that the Galatians are falling prey to people who demand full obedience to the “old covenant.”
In Paul’s mind, there’s no doubt these men (and women) of Galatia are called “by the grace of God.” They’re now deceived. Paul is distressed that they’ve been deceived “so quickly.”
Paul defends the gospel. He calls the gospel what it is — “the good news about the Messiah.” (Galatians 1: 7) He curses anyone who “preaches to [us] a different gospel contrary to what [we] receive.” (Galatians 1: 9)
He tells us that he is “advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among [his] people.” (Galatians 1: 14) He understands more than anyone what it means to obey the “old covenant” in order to please God. He fully comprehends the futility of human effort. He asks the Galatians (and us), “You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ is vividly portrayed as crucified? I only what to learn this from you: Do you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?” (Galatians 3: 1-3)
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”
Notice Paul says “your bodies as a living sacrifice.” He implies that it is the offer of our collective bodies which constitutes this “living sacrifice.” Together, we create “spiritual worship.” We individually “renew [our] minds” and are “transformed” “so that [we each] may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12: 2) So, we act individually and then mutually to worship God.
Paul explains, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12: 4-5)
Therefore, “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Psalm 95: 6-8)
After comparing flesh to grass which “withers” and to flowers which “fail,” Peter writes that “the Word endures forever.” Unlike flesh — which is subject to death and decay — the Word of God stands eternally.
Recall that “man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8: 3)
The psalmist asks God, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” And answers his own question, “By keeping Your Word.” (Psalm 119: 9) He says to God, “I treasure Your Word in my heart so I may not sin against You… I do not forget Your Word.” (Psalm 119: 11, 16) “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)
The psalmist recognizes that God “gives [him] hope through [His Word].” (Psalm 119:49) God’s Word “is [his] comfort in affliction; [God’s] promise gives [him] life.” (Psalm 119: 50)
The psalmist declares, “I put my hope in Your Word.” (Psalm 119: 81) “Lord, Your Word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven.” (Psalm 119: 89)
“For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”
The Word of God tells us that “the Word of God is living and effective!” Why is the Word of God alive? Because “the Word is God.” (John 1: 1) Through the Word of God, “all things are created.” (John 1: 3) “Apart from Him [the Word] not one thing is created.” (John 1: 3)
“Life is in Him [the Word], and that life is the light of men.” (John 1: 4)
The Word of God is life; it is “the light of men.” The Word of God gives us life and light.
The Word of God is “sharper than any double-edged sword.” The Word creates our life in Christ. “It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”
“Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and songs; sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord; and in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ give thanks every day for everything to our God and Father.”
Paul calls us to “let the Holy Spirit fill [us].” (Ephesians 5: 18) As He fills us, we find it easier to “make music in [our] hearts” and to “speak to one another” in this music. While we make music to God, we are also “to give thanks every day for everything.” Giving thanks for everything can be, at times, challenging. Seeing the good in what appears to be bad is, to put it mildly, downright difficult.
Paul reminds us, “We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit Himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because He pleads for God’s people in God’s own way; and in everything, we know, He cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8: 26-28)
Because we know that God actually “cooperates for good” with us, we are able to “sing and make music to the Lord,” and “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and songs” and to “give thanks every day for everything.”
“Every inspired Scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind.”
The Word of God enables us to “be efficient and equipped for good work.” The Word teaches us the Truth and shows us error; it reforms and disciplines us. “The Word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the place where life and spirit, joints and marrow, divide. It sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Word is not just written information on pages in a book; it is the very breath of God. The Word enters us through sight and hearing and changes us through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables us to comprehend its truth and amend our lives.
Stay in the Word of God. Don’t rely on your memory of sermons, of commentaries, of secondhand exposure to it. Rather, read it for yourself. Study the Word; allowing God to transform you from the inside out.
“Bear [or carry] one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Yet within the next few sentences of his letter to the Galatians, Paul adds: “For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6: 4)
Carry your own load, but look to your neighbor — to help him bear his load. Look to your neighbor — not for help with your own burdens — but in order to help him carry his.
Jesus says, “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-45)
So, Jesus is saying that it is not enough to help your neighbor; you must also help your enemy carry his burden. And when you examine this, of course your enemy necessarily carries a heavier burden than does your neighbor. Your enemy’s burden includes hatred, vengeance, bitterness, rage. How do you help one such as this with a load so enormous? Jesus gives us the answer — through prayer.
“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” asks Jesus. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 46, 48)
“A word in season, how good it is!”
I’m sure you’ve been in that situation where you are not certain of what you should say to the other — they’ve lost a child; their marriage is in shambles; they’ve done something horribly wrong and hurt others; they’ve utterly lost their way.
Solomon says, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16: 23-24) He also warns that “without counsel plans fail.” (Proverbs 15: 22)
Often, when uncertain of what to say, learning from others is a wise course of action. “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” (Proverbs 15: 2) Therefore, “whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17: 27) Remember, “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17: 28)
Solomon might say to us that perhaps it’s better not to say anything; rather the best solution is to pray with the person. I don’t mean pray for the person at some later date, but to actually pray with that person at that time. Lay out before the Lord the truth and leave it to Him.
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans are established.” (Proverbs 16: 3)
“I desire to do Your will, O Lord,” sings the psalmist.
Oh that we each have that desire — the desire to discover, know, and do the will of our God. Many, if not most of us claim to desire to do the will of God, but I must admit to doubting this is true. We spend so little of our time contemplating God, meditating upon His Word, praying for His will in our lives; that it’s hard to believe we really desire His will.
Some of us might think that God’s will is enigmatic. His thoughts are so far above ours that we are incredulous. We think how can we know what God wants.
But, God’s Word is rather clear — He wills for us to seek Him first, to love Him first; then to love our neighbors in the same manner that He loves us. This perfect love may indeed be beyond our capability, but we have an obligation to yield ourselves to God the Holy Spirit who works within and through us to accomplish His will.
Yielding is the key.