Playing With Wrong Motives (Galatians 1-3)

Galatians 2:11-14 ESV But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Growing up I used to love to play basketball. I would always go to the park and play pick-up games with whoever was there. Normally I was a really good team player. I’d set picks, pass the ball to my teammates, played an aggressive defense, and took good shots. Yet, whenever the girls would come to watch some of us play, my game changed. I didn’t pass the ball as much and I took way too many bad shots. The reason was simple. I wasn’t playing to win anymore, I was playing to impress the ladies. I was playing with the wrong motives.

Cephas was a leader in the church who was acting hypocritically. Even though he was from a Jewish background, he was visiting and eating in the homes of the gentiles on a regular basis (A great thing for pastors to do.) It was a very real demonstration of how we are saved by faith in Christ and not the rituals that we keep. Yet when the Jewish folks came from headquarters, Cephas began playing a different game and no longer went to eat/ visit with the gentiles. So much so, that other folks who were looking to Cephas as an example stopped hanging out with the gentiles as well. This was a problem because it also communicated that the faith of the gentiles was inferior because they weren’t born into a Jewish family and they didn’t keep all the religious customs of the Jews.

Paul knew better, he’d fought many battles with folks who’d antagonized him on this issue, been to the first ever church council to clarify a major doctrine, and had seen many gentile believers firmly established in the faith. Yet now he encountered a church leader who had changed the way he was doing ministry and it was hurting the church. Paul called him out on it publicly because it was a public issue that affected the entire church. Public sins should be dealt with in public, private sins should be addressed in private.

This isn’t just an issue for church leaders though. Each day we have an opportunity to live a clear gospel witness. Indeed through the great commission we are called to take the gospel to the whole world. We may encounter some situations where we find ourselves hiding or muddying the waters on the gospel in order to fit in with the crowd. In such instances we may be playing to an audience rather than running the race the Lord has put before us.

Father, thank you for the grace. Thank you for friends and ministers like Paul in our lives who will call us out in our sin for the sake of the gospel. I pray that you give us wisdom and courage to live a clear gospel witness in whatever we do. Give us wisdom in living out a clear gospel witness today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Day 59: Galatians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

oday’s reading comes from Galatians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter four Paul continues to write with both passion and personality as he attempts to persuade the churches of Galatia ( Galatians 1:2) to reject the false gospel of salvation through Old Testament covenant law (specifically circumcision).  Paul continues to be very adamant that whoever has introduced this heresy to the churches in Galatia is in serious sin (5:10).  Just a few verses later, Paul uses a graphic double entendre (5:12). In one sense he means the grossest understanding of the text, in that those stirring up strife would physically emasculate themselves. In another sense, he has eluded to the fact that those who preach a false gospel will face the wrath of God (1:8-9, 5:10), and suggests that they would cut themselves away from the covenant people of God.

Paul presses the church in Galatia to ‘love their neighbor as themselves’ (5:14) and to walk by the Spirit (5:16). The deeds of the flesh flow out of a failure to love their neighbor (5:19-21). The result of walking in the Spirit (fruit of the spirit) is Love, which is what Paul commanded in verse 14. Since the word fruit isn’t necessarily plural and the context is ‘loving our neighbor’, it is reasonable to think the the fruit of the spirit is love, and from love, flows the rest of the attributes that are listed (5:22-23). It would read something like this: love is joyful, love seeks peace, love bares all things, love is kind, love is good to others, love is faithful, love is gentle, love demonstrates self-control. The bottom line is that you can’t love your neighbor without walking in the Spirit (5:25) 

We are reminded in chapter six that love looks out for others. It restores those who have fallen. Love causes a humble carefulness when we do restore others. Love causes us to share what we have learned from our teachers.

FATHER, we thank you for the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets us free from sin. We pray that you would guard our hearts from heresies. We ask that our love for you would be pure. We are grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We pay he would produce the fruit of love in all of it’s forms in our lives. We thank you that you work in us that which we cannot work in our selves. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 58: Galatians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Galatians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul uses some very strong language in Galatians chapter one. He says if anyone preaches another gospel (a false gospel), let him be accursed (damned to Hell) (1:8-9). Believing a false gospel and never trusting the true gospel does lead to Hell. While Paul is harsh, he is honest. It’s worth noting that he writes with passion because this is not a small issue.

He even goes out of his way to say even if “we or an angel” speak a false gospel, let them be accursed (1:8). Coincidentally at least two religions (Islam and Mormonism) are based on accounts of angels visiting “prophets” to say that the gospel Paul preached was all wrong and shared their version of the gospel. We remember that from our reading just a few days ago that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

The false gospel and “work” of the Law at stake here was circumcision. The Jewish council had already ruled that converts to Christianity need not be circumcised to be saved (Recorded in Acts 15 which Paul recounts here in Galatians 2:1-10). Some people had come in behind Paul with the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. All through Galatians, as we will see tomorrow, Paul defends the gospel against this heresy.

Side Note: Context is important. We read the phrase “works of the Law” (2:16) through western eyes and all we hear is the word, “works.” We don’t always take time to understand the “work of the Law” as used here, was related to Jewish rituals, specifically circumcision (5:1-6). If we aren’t careful, we create a false dichotomy between works (in general) and faith.  The specific issue at stake is that we cannot be saved by keeping the ceremonial law, but we can only be saved by faith. This is the way Abraham was saved (3:6). True faith manifests itself in good (not ceremonial) works (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14).  As we will see near the end of chapter three in Galatians, the ceremonial law served the purpose of pointing us to Jesus for salvation (3:24-25).

I realize I’m a little wordy. To put it simpler: We are saved from our bad works (sin),  unto good works (the fruit of the Spirit), by the work of Jesus (Substitutionary Atonement), that we receive through faith (Believing God).  The rituals of Judaism (such as circumcision) pointed to our sin, but didn’t cover or remove our sin. To go back to Jewish rituals denies the power of the cross to forgive our sin, to reconcile us to God and fill us with His Spirit.

FATHER, We are grateful for salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that we would live in the full power of our salvation. Keep us from idols and false gospels that would attempt to lure us away from hope we have found in you. I pray that you are glorified in our lives this week. Thank you for the grace to shepherd and lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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