Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Galatians 6:1
Paul has spent much of his letter to the Galatians addressing how they have been deceived by these false teachers requiring adherence to laws for salvation. But he also recognizes that we are sinful people who will mess up and fall to temptation from time to time. And though it doesn’t impact our salvation, it does diminish our impact. He says that in these cases we must – with gentleness – restore them.
Our lives aren’t meant to remain in a pit of sin and its effects. We must seek restoration and alignment with the will of God. The goal is always RESTORATION. We are called to restore – not ignore or destroy.
Think about how most interactions with sin are handled. They are often ignored, hoping it will all just go away, or terrified of the consequences of addressing it. Equally devastating, the alternative is often a brutal and public attack, or behind the back gossip, all with harsh judgment.
Neither ignoring or destroying leads to a restoring. When we are dealing with sin, it must be handled with gentleness. We are all prone to wander. Paul reminds us to keep watch on ourselves. As we seek to restore, we must examine our own shortfalls. Pride is a sneaky and destructive poison.
Paul also reminds us we are called to bear one another’s burdens. If we want to know how to love our neighbors, we can bear their burdens. We all have burdens and we weren’t meant to carry them alone.
Life is hard and full of trials. What if instead of piling on more burdens of legalism and striving to save ourselves, we bore each others’ burdens? What if we became burden-lifters by preaching the freedom found in Christ alone? What if we were a community that carried each other’s burdens and made life a bit easier and lighter?
Questions: When it comes to sin, is your natural tendency to ignore or destroy? How might Paul’s words change your approach toward restoration instead? Whose burdens can you help to bear today?
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son. Galatians 4:4
God is in control and His timing is perfect. He has the patience to wait for the perfect timing, and He has the power to put all things in place when the time is right.
Imagine that day in the heavenly realm when the Father looks over at the Son and says, “strap on that flesh…it’s go time.” The overwhelming joy and anticipation of the heavenly beings must have been about to explode.
The fullness of time had come. The precise and perfect moment ordained by God the instant Adam and Eve bit into that fruit had arrived. Everything that had to happen was complete; everything was in place, just as God had told His people for thousands of years.
It was time. It was just the right time. What we now celebrate on the same predictable and scheduled time each year wasn’t as perfect or predictable for everyone on that first Christmas.
Imagine Mary, joyfully planning and anticipating her wedding day. Her world is rocked by the visit from an angel. Imagine the shepherds going about their daily chores and responsibilities. An ordinary day. Every day the same, with risks of danger, mocked by others for their menial profession, and long boring nights keeping watch. This was no ordinary day as an angel comes into focus. Imagine the magi. Gazing at the stars and referring to their charts, as they had done countless times. But this night was different. “See that over there…something big is happening…this is the star of a king. We must go at once and find out where.” The fullness of time had come.
The timing on that first Christmas was perfect for a new chapter in the book of the kingdom of God. Enter the baby, Emanuel…God with us. The fullness of God in the fullness of time, coming as a baby to make us heirs to His kingdom; to His family.
Questions: Are you generally an impatient person? How does recognizing the truth of God’s perfect timing help you in the waiting?
But 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
Obedience minus relationship is just legalism. The more we impose Christian regulations on others as a requirement for salvation, the more we preach a false gospel and turn people away from the only One who can create a change in them.
When we preach a message of obedience before relationship, we are turning God-ordained ways of living into human precepts and teachings. This is what Paul is calling out. The false teachers with their religious requirements have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value when it comes to making us right with God. They may carry an air of authority with smooth talk, charm, persuasive personalities, the appearance of devout spirituality and gifted speech, but when they add something to the work of Jesus for salvation, they preach a lie that mocks the sacrifice.
It is easy to be deceived because they aren’t atheists or followers of the many cultural “gods”. They are believers, but in their insistence on observance of laws for salvation, they miss the relationship. They miss the grace. The Pharisees were religious elites, full of Scriptural knowledge. They walked and talked with Jesus, but they missed Jesus. They missed their Savior.
Why then does legalism have such a strong appeal? Grace is hard for us to accept. It goes against the grain of our culture where we work and strive to achieve personal success. And we like to have some standard by which we can measure success. We like the checklists to know if we are doing okay. But these things take an elevated role and ultimately mock the work of Jesus. And left unchecked, they reek of superiority… creating more sin, rather than washing us clean. It is easy to see the sin and legalism in others, but hard to see it in ourselves. When we focus first on the rules, we lose our focus on Jesus. We need Jesus, not a checklist.
Questions: What is grace to you? Is grace a hard thing for you to accept?
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. Galatians 2:12
Peter – who first received the revelation from God that He showed no partiality between Gentiles and Jews (Acts 10)– is happily eating with the Gentiles in Antioch…UNTIL…some men from the Jewish elite come to town. He slowly draws back, separating himself from the Gentiles, hoping to not get noticed; hoping to not be seen with “those people.” Old habits die hard.
Peter knows full well that nothing in the Jewish law is required for salvation. He lives in the freedom of the work of Christ alone for Jews and Gentiles alike, yet he quickly reverts to old ways when these men come to town.
Why? FEAR. The crazy thing is that Peter is one of the most prominent Christian leaders at the time. And even he succumbs to fear. It is a doozy of an emotion that causes us to do all sorts of things we don’t want to do and know we shouldn’t do. Fears cripple us and lead us down ungodly paths…fear of what these people will think, fear of being talked about, fear of missing out, fear of compromising our prestigious position, fear of not fitting in, fear of failing... So, what do we do?
The opposite of fear isn’t bravery. It is faith. We have to be secure in our beliefs. We have to be assured of the truth. We have to have confidence that God has our back; He is for us. We have to trust that God works all things for good. We have to believe that it is better to please God than man…even ourselves.
Peter’s small act of slipping away caused other believers – loyal, faithful co-leader Barnabas, and then the rest of the Jewish Christians – to follow and do the same. I’m sure Paul was nervous confronting Peter, but he wasn’t afraid. He had faith. He knew truth was on his side. This was one of those big issues worth fighting for and calling out. In God’s eyes everyone is equally clean by the blood of Jesus. The Gospel is for everyone.
Question: How often does fear play a role in your disobedience?
…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16
Paul reminds us that if it were works of the law that saved us, no one would be justified. It is Christ alone that saves us.
To continue to rely on the law, or any part of us, to achieve salvation for ourselves is to look up at Jesus…body limp, beaten and bloody from head to toe, pressed up against the cross, and say, “I see you up there Jesus. You did your part. Good job. Now let me just add my kosher meal, circumcision and good works and we’ll be good to go.”
Pride makes us want to believe it has something to do with us. It is hard for us to ask for help and even harder to grasp the idea of grace – that something so precious, valuable, important is given to us freely and unearned.
Grace isn’t us doing our best on our own and then hoping God will patch in the holes. Grace is God doing it all. When we add anything to what Jesus did for us, we are in essence nullifying grace. There is only one name by which we are saved. There was only one plan that would work.
Justification is a legal concept. It is getting a favorable verdict in court on judgment day. Imagine being in court with a pile of charges rightly mounted against you. Though you tried to live a good life, you know you are guilty of all of these offenses and the judge will surely sentence you harshly. The little slip here, the falling into the bad crowd season there, the really stupid decision that day. But just as the judge is about to read your punishment, Jesus walks in and agrees to take the penalty for your offenses and you are free to go home; to start over with a clean slate, living a new life of freedom with no record of wrong. Amazing freedom. Amazing grace.
Questions: Do you believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough for you? Do you believe your slate is wiped clean by the blood of Jesus?
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. Galatians 2:1
The false teachers are relentless, causing increasingly destructive division. Unity is a big deal to God. It’s time to confront this elephant in the room head-on. After 14 years, God tells Paul to go to Jerusalem.
Four times Paul refers to the leaders as ones who “seem influential” or “seem to be pillars”. If feels snarky, but Paul is recognizing their clout in the Church. These are the people looked to for guidance and authority.
Paul acknowledges their status, but says it makes no difference to him; they add nothing to what he received directly from God; God shows no partiality. These men may be Christian “super-stars”, have all the “followers”, bring in the big crowds, get all the attention….but, in God’s eyes, they are no better than Paul or anyone else who is doing what God called and ordained them to do.
There are no top dogs in God’s eyes, regardless of how it may look to the outside world. In fact, in God’s upside-down-first-will-be-last kingdom, the top dogs are likely on the bottom.
If you are abiding in God and He has given you a calling, you are just as important and qualified as anyone else fulfilling their God-given calling. If God is telling you to write, you are no less qualified than a best-selling author. If God is telling you to teach, you are no less important than a mega-church pastor. If God is telling you to start a non-profit, you are no less equipped than the founder of a multi-million-dollar organization. God shows no partiality.
Questions: Do you ever feel like you “less than” those around you doing things you want to do? Do you believe God shows no partiality and you are just as qualified as they are if He has given you the calling?
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Deep down, beneath all of the layers of what we tell ourselves, are we trying to please man or God? Whose approval are we really seeking in what we say and do and post and share?
Paul asserts that seeking the approval of man and trying to please man is a disqualifier for being a servant of Christ. They are incongruent. Mutually exclusive.
If I'm honest, more times than not I am seeking the approval of man. Maybe I feel like God already loves me no matter what…kind of like how we take things out on our family we would never do to our friends. They love us and are stuck with us. Is that how I treat God? But maybe it is even more offensive than that, based on pride, without even consideration of God’s approval. Do I put the majority of my efforts into pleasing others whose approval really means nothing, does nothing for my eternal salvation, and is certainly fragile and fleeting?
Is God getting second place to all of the false messages and enticing pulls of the world? Bottom line for us to remember: There is only ONE Gospel. There is only ONE to please. There is only ONE worthy of approval.
Here’s the really good news for us today: No matter how many times we mess up getting this right, we are an equal number of times loved and forgiven. That is the beauty of this message, this Gospel. Jesus saves, not us. Faith in what Jesus did secures our salvation, not us getting this or anything else right on our own. Nothing needs to be added to what He already did for us. Our job is to let our gratitude for this freedom overflow into our lives, seeking only His approval.
Challenge: If you feel tempted to be hard on yourself for falling short, breathe in the freedom of Christ. Go again, even if for the one-millionth time, and apologize to the One who was pleased to do the work He knew we couldn’t do for us. Rest in His still, quiet voice telling you, “I’ve got this; peace be with you.”
…I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Galatians 1:17
Upon his conversion, Paul tells us he spent three years in Arabia. Why Arabia? We aren’t specifically told, but we do know the desert is a special time of preparation in the Bible. Moses was in the desert 40 years prior to being called by God to set the Israelites free from Egyptian slavery. It would prepare him to lead the Israelites through the desert for 40 years before entering the promised land.
The Israelites’ time in the desert taught them who God was and what it meant to be set apart; what it meant to follow and worship Him.
David spent much time in the desert prior to becoming King of Israel, hiding for his life, but also drawing near to God. Here he wrote many of the Psalms.
Jesus, upon being baptized, immediately went and prayed and fasted in the desert for 40 days, overcoming temptation from the devil himself. Preparation for His public ministry.
Paul spends three years in the desert preparing for his calling.
Deuteronomy 8:2-6 gives some insight into what desert times teach us and prepare us for: They humble us (8:2), they reveal what is in our heart (8:2), they challenge us to keep His commands (8:2), they remind us that God alone provides all our needs (8:3-4), and they remind us to fear and obey Him (8:5-6).
I’m praying now for all those in desert times. That instead of fighting and lamenting it, you are able to embrace it. That you are drawing nearer to God and being filled with His love and knowledge and power while in the desert.
Questions: Has your world been rocked? Do you feel like you are going through a desert time? What might God be preparing you for? What can you be learning and growing in during this desert time?
…[God] was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone. Galatians 1:16
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the Galatians, Paul is relentless. It is him versus all the false teachers that came behind him. It is critical they remember where the true Gospel they heard and believed came from; that they don’t look at it as just Paul’s word versus another man’s word. It is God’s Word.
Paul reminds them it was not preached to him. It was not received by man. It was not something he was taught. It came directly from Jesus (Acts 9:1-19).
What Paul tells us about his actions after receiving the revelation from Jesus is not to be overlooked. He did not immediately consult with anyone or go to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.
Instead, he went away. Alone. To the desert in Arabia. For three years.
Paul’s world was rocked. Everything he thought was true was turned upside down. Paul knew all of the Jewish law, customs, Scriptures – most even by memory – but he didn’t know Jesus. He wanted to learn from Jesus – the One the law pointed to; the One who fulfilled the law.
Paul needed time to process and reevaluate everything about this new revelation. Like the apostles in Jerusalem -- the ones who walked with Jesus three years and were specifically appointed by Him -- Paul needed quality time with Jesus.
Paul eventually does consult with Peter and James, leaders of this new Christian movement, after three years. Paul knows consultation with wise and Godly counsel is important. But FIRST, he is alone with God the Son.
Challenge: Has God revealed something to you? As tempting as it is to run to another teacher or consult human advice, run to God first. Spend that quiet time in conversation with Him. Process it with God first.