“A Puzzle” ( Galatians 6:7-8, WYC ) by Carley Evans


English: Jesus Christ, polychromed and gilded ...
English: Jesus Christ, polychromed and gilded woodcarved relief by Martin Vinazer (* 1674 in St. Ulrich in Gröden; † 1744) signed MVF (MV Fecit) Deutsch: Gefasstes Holzrelief des Martin Vinatzer gezeichnet MVF (MV Fecit) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Puzzling, yes? The Word of God teaches us two things which appear to be opposed. We are taught that God can not be scorned; that if we continue in sin, we pay the ultimate price – we die eternally, in corruption.

Roman Catholics get around this puzzle by teaching that some sin is minor – deemed venial or ‘easily forgiven’ – and does not lead to corruption while other sin is major – deemed mortal or ‘deadly’ – and will lead to eternal death, i.e. to damnation of the soul.

The bulk of the New Testament seems to teach, on the other hand, that sin is sin – that all sin leads to corruption. The problem then for mankind is what to do about sin. In Romans 7, Paul speaks of his woe – that the good he wants to do he can not do. He asks who will rescue him from his body of sin and death and then praises God that it is Christ who secures that rescue.

Yet, here in his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul warns that sin somehow hasn’t been nailed to the cross with Jesus.

“Do not ye err, God is not scorned; for those things that a man soweth, those things he shall reap [for why what things a man soweth, also these things he shall reap]. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh he shall reap corruption; but he that soweth in the Spirit, of the Spirit he shall reap everlasting life.”

Then there are those who claim that Christians – if they are true Christians – never sin. I presume this belief is to reconcile themselves to the many scriptural passages that imply that if a Christian commits a sin, then God can not be in his or her body. After all, a Christian is the temple of God the Holy Spirit. How can a holy God dwell inside an unholy thing?

Yet, Paul speaks of the deeds done in the body that are unworthy of God burning off as the Christian passes from life into death and from there into eternal life – the mortal being swallowed up by the immortal, so to speak. In these passages, Paul implies that Christians do indeed sin. We makes mistakes, yet we are saved though as through fire.

Sometimes, I imagine Paul himself struggling to fully understand the good news. The good news that we are saved while we are still sinners, that God loves us so much that He considers us His friends while we are still His mortal enemies.

Why would God die for us while we are dead in sin, and then turn away from us because we fail? I can’t imagine. I don’t think Paul was able to imagine that, either. Instead, he reminds us that God’s love for us is higher and deeper and wider than anything we have ever known; that Jesus Christ does for us more than we will ever understand while we remain on this earth.

“Desire For God” ( Psalm 73:25-26, KJV ) by Carley Evans


King David, Russian icon from first quarter of...
Utter alone-ness — loneliness, not solitude — descends upon a person at any given time and often without warning. David says that when he looks around him and sees the wicked prosper, both “his flesh and his heart fail.” (Psalm 73:26) He bemoans, “As for me, my feet are almost gone; my steps are well nigh slipped” (Psalm 73:2)
Despite abject distress, David rejoices that “God is the strength of [his] heart, and [his] portion for ever.” (Psalm 73:26) He sings, “I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23) God is David’s inheritance — “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 73:25)
What compares to God? What want transcends desire for Him? Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 20)
Oh, to walk with Christ, my portion for ever!

“Are You So Foolish?” ( Galatians 1: 6, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


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)

“No Longer Under Management” (Galatians 5: 22 – 23, ESV) by Carley Evans


“Against such things, there is no law.”

I think the Christian walk is a walk of a positive life — a life of love, gentleness, patience, goodness, self-control, joy, calm, peace, forgiveness, understanding. As Paul says, “against such things, there is no law.”

Law is a negative. Law tells us what we must not do. Law condemns. Law separates.

Jesus came to fulfill the demands of the Law, living to serve and reflect only His Father, dying to free us from sin and death.

“We are enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time comes, God sends forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we may receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4: 3 – 5)

In the Christian walk, we are “sons of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3: 26) “The law is our guardian until Christ comes…But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3: 25)

Therefore, let us walk in freedom.

“The Children Of Sarah” (Galatians 4: 4 – 5, ESV) by Carley Evans


Are we under law?

“Before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” (Galatians 3: 23) Being under the law, we “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” (Galatians 4: 3)

But,”now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian;” (Galatians 3: 25) we are no longer under the law because “God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4: 4 – 5) As adopted children of God, we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, His only begotten Son.

Therefore, we are not the children of Hagar, but are the children of Sarah.

As such, we are not under law. We live by faith alone.

“The Vine” (John 15: 4 – 5, 7 – 8; ESV) by Carley Evans


A branch fallen to the ground is either already dead or is in the process of dying. Soon that branch will be perfect kindling for a fire. If the branch remains on the vine, then the sap of the vine keeps that branch alive and productive. Rather than being perfect firewood, the branch is the perfect receptacle for the fruit of the vine.

Jesus compares Himself to the vine and calls us the branches. Without Jesus, we are dead. Without Jesus, we bear no fruit.

“As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me,” says Jesus.

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.”

Naturally a branch on a vine will produce the fruit of that vine; naturally Jesus’ disciples will produce the fruit of the Spirit, which “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)

“The Promise Rests On The Gift of Faith” (John 3: 17, ESV) by Carley Evans


“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

God’s intention is not to condemn the world, but to save it. God saves the world not through adherence to the law but through faith in His Son.

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring.” (Romans 4: 13 – 16)

God’s promise to save the world is guaranteed by grace and depends on faith in His Son. While wrath comes through the law; righteousness comes through faith.

“If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3: 21 – 22)

How are we to believe? We believe in Jesus Christ by the power of God in the gospel.

“The gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ (Romans 1: 16 – 17)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2: 8)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

“Not To Be Served, But To Serve” (1 Peter 2: 15 – 16) by Carley Evans


“Put to silence the ignorance of foolish people,” writes Peter. And how is this accomplished? “By doing good,” responds Peter. He tells us to “live as people who are free.” At the same time, we are not to use our “freedom as a cover-up for evil.”

Our freedom is made perfect as we live “as servants of God.”

Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13: 16 – 17)

And He tells His disciples, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 26 – 28)

Jesus sets us His example. “He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2: 7)

Therefore, if the Son of God emptied Himself of His glory to the point of death on a cross; then we must empty ourselves, “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Philippians 3: 10)

“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5: 1)

And “only faith working through love” “counts for anything.” (Galatians 5: 6)

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.” (Galatians 6: 10)

“Look Carefully Then How You Walk” (Ephesians 5: 15, ESV) by Carley Evans


“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”

As you consider Jesus, all that He is, all He has done and continues to do; look carefully then. Are you one who shrinks back?

“Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4: 25)

Paul exhorts us to “make the best use of time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5: 16) “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the desires of the flesh, for these are opposed to each other… But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5: 16, 17, 18)

Consider Jesus, who was Himself — while on the earth — led by the Spirit.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5: 25)

“The Letter Kills; The Spirit Transforms” (2 Corinthians 3: 6, ESV) by Carley Evans


Paul and Timothy write that they are commended not by themselves but by the Corinthian church body, each member being their “letter of recommendation, written on [Paul and Timothy’s] hearts, to be known and read by all.” (2 Corinthians 3: 2) They are not boasting; the “confidence that [they] have is through Christ toward God.” (2 Corinthians 3: 4) Paul and Timothy recognize that they “are not sufficient in [themselves] to claim anything as coming from [themselves].” (2 Corinthians 2: 5) They know that “[their] sufficiency is from God.”

“God has made [them] competent to be ministers.”

And of what ministry are Paul and Timothy? Theirs is the ministry of the new covenant in which God places His Spirit within His people, writing His will upon our hearts. Paul and Timothy are not of the “ministry of condemnation, and death” but of the “ministry of righteousness, and life.”

“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

“Only through Christ, is [the veil] taken away. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3: 14, 16)

Peter writes, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.” (1 Peter 2: 16 – 17)

And Paul reminds, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5: 1)

“Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4: 9)

Paul tells us that the ministry of condemnation and death has been “brought to an end;” there is then no rationale for going back under the yoke of the letter of the law, for “the letter kills.” We are free in Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes form the Lord who is Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3: 18)