The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians
Galatians 1: 24 “...in me..”
John Gill says that these believers in the churches of Judea glorified God for the wonderful
grace bestowed upon Paul and the surprising change that was made in him.
So often we are disappointed by those we “lead to Christ.” They don’t grow, they don’t reproduce, there is little reason to even think they are saved. Probably they are not. But occasionally we also have reason to glorify God for someone that we see change and develop into a useful Christian.
I would like to tell you about John. In the early days of the work in Bucksport, John came into our evening service. A stranger to us, he had come from his work as an engineer on a tugboat moored on the waterfront. It was Christmas and for some reason he could not get home to Belfast so he decided to try to find a bar. Being Sunday night, that was impossible but on inquiring about a church to attend, a waitress in a local restaurant steered him to us.
After the service and a message designed to reach out to an unsaved man, as we suspected him to be, he indicated an interest in talking further and before long he was on his knees receiving Christ.
It seems he had been witnessed to by a tug boat captain and evidently the Lord prepared him for that spiritual encounter with Him that night.
After getting into a church where he began to grow, John led most of his family to his Savior. He joined the Gideons and began witnessing at the county jail. Later he became the chaplain of that particular jail and conducted weekly Bible studies there, where he often saw some good results.
Let us glorify God for John and ask the Lord that his tribe may increase.
Galatians 2:20 Crucified with Christ
Recently Gloria and I came across this reading in The Continual Burnt Offering, a daily devotional by H.A. Ironsides. Published by Loizeaux Brothers, 1944, we have enjoyed reading it each evening before retiring. Dr. Ironsides, who once pastored the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, also published a series of commentaries on the whole Bible.
I was particularly struck by the grasp this brother had on positional teaching as exemplified in this example which we copied word for word in order to emphasize his rich and forceful handling of this text. Enjoy!
“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.” Gal.2:20.
Crucifixion with Christ is judicial. When He died God saw the end of man in the flesh. All believers therefore can look back to the cross and say in faith, “It was there I died, in the Person of my Substitute.” Therefore I am no longer viewed as in Adam. I am now in Christ. In the power of this truth I am called to walk. I live in Him. He lives in me. My life here in the body is to be the manifestation of Christ in me. This is true experimentally as I reckon myself dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. It is not that I am to try to die to the old order. I have died, and I take that place in relation to everything that is of the flesh, mortifying the deeds of the body. Practically, I die daily, as earth-claims are refused. Thus I live unto God.
Now I will glory in the cross,
For this I count the world but dross.
There I with Christ was crucified.
His death is mine; with Him I died;
And while I live my song shall be,
No longer I, but Christ in me.
Galatians 3:3 “Are ye so foolish?”
Their discussion of Spirit versus law is important to us particularly in its application. We are not troubled by the Mosaic law as was the early church. The legalizers of that day were apparently teaching that it was not enough to “begin in the Spirit” or, i.e., to be born again (born of the Spirit (John 3:6). Having been saved, the believers must now go back under the law in order to live a life pleasing to God. To these false teachers that simply meant to do all that the Jews were taught in the law of Moses.
Paul calls this reasoning “foolish.” The law was a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (v.24). It could not give us life in the first place (v.21) and we don’t need it now that we have life!
This teaching is especially important for the new christian who, once saved, is confronted with the “dos” and “don’ts” often emphasized by the established church. It is important to see that Paul equates the “law” with the “flesh” (vss.2&3). If we are trying to live the christian life by keeping a set of rules (laws) then we are doing it in the flesh. This line of thought is taken up again in chapter five. There he speaks about “walking in the Spirit” (vss.16&25).
To sum up; if we try to live the christian life by rote reading of our bible, praying, witnessing etc., all good things in themselves but legalistic if used as means of growth, we will fail and God Himself will see to it that we do fail. He wants more of us than that! He wants us not our works.
We must learn to fellowship with the Lord by walking in the Spirit and the outgrowth of that fellowship will be victory over the flesh and the resultant fruitfulness of abiding (Jn.15).
Lord, help me to learn to walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 4:19 “...til Christ be formed in you..”
Physical birth is often used to illustrate spiritual principles. Our Lord effectively compared spiritual birth to physical as He talked with Nicodemus in John three. In this chapter Paul twice makes such a comparison.
First he helps us understand the important principle of christian growth and development by sharing with us the fact that he prayed that if the Galatians were pregnant by the Spirit, there should be evidence. He had some doubts (v.20) about the reality of their testimony and he labored (travailed) for them that, in turn, their spiritual pregnancy might develop as Christ would be filling them with His fulness.
Col.2:9 tells us that the fulness of the Godhead is bodily present in Christ and in Eph. 3:19 he prayed that they “might be filled with all the fulness of God.” This is further developed in his portrayal of the edified church as a “perfect man” measured by the “stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph.4:12&13). I use the descriptive word fulness to emphasize that ripening development in the womb of an expectant mother. As individuals and as a local church the evidence of a vital relationship with God is Christ seen in me.
Paul is concerned that the things he is hearing (v.10) about them is evidence to the contrary and he wishes he were there to see for himself whether they are born “after the flesh” or “after the Spirit,” his further use of the illustration. His allegory contrasting law and grace illustrate the important difference between those who are produced by natural means and those who are “children of the promise”(Isaac). Abraham had two sons. The mechanical birth of Ishmael engineered by Abraham, Paul likens to the law which he calls a birth “after the flesh”,i.e., purely natural. The birth of Isaac, in contrast, was miraculous and “after the Spirit.” John 3:6&7 and Romans 8:5 also show the contrast. The law cannot generate life (3:21), therefore “cast” it out. (Ch.4:30).
Galatians 5:24 “.....has crucified the flesh.....”
Circumcision was being advocated by the legalists, the false teachers, Paul warned against and he uses a play on words in v.12 as he wishes them to be “cut off” who were being so troublesome. We must go to Col. 2:11 to see how Paul spiritualizes the concept of circumcision, where he even describes the cross as the “ putting off”(cutting away) of the flesh which is what he longs for the Galatians to understand. It is not a new concept, that of spiritualizing this old covenant ritual, (see Deut.10:16, 30:6 & Jer.4:4).
Positionally the flesh has been crucified (cut off) and I do not think it a stretch of the truth to say that those who walk as though this were true, appropriating the truth of Rom.6:6, are indeed “walking in the Spirit”(vs.16 & 25).
It is important to note the emphasis in v.16. It is not, as some would have it, that we will walk in the Spirit if we can only struggle effectively against the lust of the flesh, but indeed, it is the exact opposite. If we walk in the Spirit ( by appropriating the truth of identification with Christ’s crucifixion) we will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
If the works of the flesh are manifest in our lives, it shows that, either we are not saved (Rom.8:8), or we have not yet learned to walk in the Spirit. On the other hand, if we live in the Spirit (are saved) then we must learn to “walk in the spirit” (v.25) and the evidence that we are doing that will be the fruit of the Spirit (vs.22-23).
Note the use of the past tense “crucified,” and watch out for those false teachers among us that tell us to do something that God says is “a done deal”! “We must crucify self”,etc. NOT TRUE! Can you see that this is the same as going back under the law? (Col.2:6; Gal.3:3).
Galatians 6:14 Dead to the World
As is the case with many scriptures, there is a tendency to isolate the injunctions in this chapter from the context of the whole letter. Let us remember that every scripture has only one true interpretation but usually has many applications.
Probably Paul is admonishing those in the Galatian church who understood the truths of the proceeding chapters to restore (v.1) their brethren who are caught up in the legal snares of the enemy who had sowed tares among them (Matt.13:38).
We must be careful to invest in those who sow to the Spirit (v.8) if we really want a harvest.
Paul uses his own example to show how serious a matter this false gospel (1:7&8) really is when he indicates that he abandoned his usual habit of employing an amanuenses and actually wrote this epistle himself (v.11).
Verses 12 & 13 show that he is still on the same theme, that of the “other gospel.” He impugns their motives without hesitation. They are afraid of persecution if they abandon Judaism (v.12) and they want to enlist the Galatians in this cause so they can pat themselves on the back at their conquest.
What a wonderful conclusion to this letter is seen in verse 14 where Paul says that he is dead to the world and all he glories in is the cross of Christ by which this has become true. (An effective cure for worldliness). Let us also walk by this rule (v.16; 5:25).
Paul had suffered greatly for this truth (2 Cor.6:5 and 11:23-25) because it was the legalists who hounded him from place to place (Acts 14:19), and his body bore the marks of this suffering for Christ. We often get our worse handling from those who claim to be christian.