Slave or Friend of God?

Pafreeul’s letter to the GALATIANS  (Study 4) Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church

Father Abraham James 2:22-23, John 15:14-15, Galatians 3:7-9                                             Aside from Moses, no Old Testament character is mentioned more in the New Testament than Abraham. James refers to Abraham as “God’s friend” (James 2:23/ Isaiah 41:8, 2 Chronicles 20:7), a title used of no one else in Scripture. Yet Jesus Himself said to his disciples: “you are my friends if you do what I command.”  This is why the Apostle, Paul, says that “those who have faith are children of Abraham.”  Abraham and his “children”(those like him) are friends of God because of faith in Him. When we live our lives by faith in the one true God we are God’s friends.

Jesus went on to describe the difference between a Servant (lit. slave) and a friend. It’s not the privilege of the servant to understand his master’s business. It’s just for him to do what he’s told. No questions. No reasons. A friend on the other hand is informed and encouraged to come along side and learn.  Those who live according to traditions and the law are     ritually serving God as slaves.  Those who live by faith are engaged actively in the works of God.  A person who lives by faith embraces the command of God because he/ she loves God and is part of His plan.  A person who lives according to the law lives as a slave. Are you a “child of Abraham”/ a friend of God? 

“All nations will be blessed through you.” Genesis 18:18   This was the promise God made to Abraham.  Through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 22:18/ offspring: lit. “seed”) all nations would be blessed.  The “seed” spoken of here is Christ Jesus who would come through Abraham’s lineage. Those who are called “friends of God” must therefore come through Christ— that is by faith in Him.  All nations can be blessed because nationality has nothing to do with faith in Christ.  Christ embraces anyone as a friend who believes in Him and obeys His command:

But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God —children born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.…   John 1:12-13

A Blessing or a Curse?   Galatians 3:10-18                                                                                      Paul proclaims that anyone who relies on doing works of the law to be saved from God’s judgment for sin will be cursed, for the law itself actually says that anyone who fails to carry it out will be cursed (Deuteronomy 27:26).  Carrying out the law perfectly is impossible for imperfect men.  Christ, however, died for our sins.  He who carried out the law perfectly died as a sacrifice for our imperfections.  We are therefore made righteous by His actions on our behalf. This is why the scripture says “The righteous will live by faith”—that is faith in Christ who took the curse of the law upon Himself by hanging on a tree (NIV “pole”).  The law itself read that anyone is cursed who is hung upon a tree in punishment (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

The Covenant of Grace Genesis 15:1-6, 22:18                                                                                     In Galatians 3:15–18 Paul tries to clarify  the fact that faith in Jesus was written into the original contract (Covenant) with Abraham.  The  Abrahamic Covenant given by God to Abram (later named Abraham) was spoken to Abraham and his “seed”(Genesis 22:18).  Paul states that “seed” was the name for Christ in that contract.  When God made that promise to Abraham the Law had not yet been introduced.  When the law was introduced 430 years later, it did not end God’s promise to Abraham, but was added to atone (pay)  temporarily for sin until Jesus came and paid for it once and for all.  The inheritance     promised to Abraham through that covenant does not depend on the letter of that law but upon God’s gracious promise, and God always keeps His promises.

Released from Custody Galatians 3:19-25                                                                                         So why, then, was the law even given at all? Paul rhetorically asks!  That law that was given through angels, entrusted to Moses and carried out by priests (mediators: the go-betweens in a conflict), was made to be a prison of sorts to hold back man’s eternal death sentence (because of his sin) until Christ would come with the key to the believers freedom.  Now that faith in Christ has come, we are no longer under a “guardian.”  We no longer need a prison guard…we are no longer locked up under the law.  Jesus, “the seed” of Abraham’s promise came to bring freedom to the captives:  

But scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22

Before Jesus came to earth, paid the price for sin and resurrected, believers in God’s promise were temporarily forgiven through faith in the coming Christ and held until the day of their redemption when Christ paid their debts in full.  Now that Jesus has come, believers in Christ are forgiven by faith in the risen Savior.  We are free and released from the custody of the law. There is no need to return to that prison.  Freedom has come and we are friends of Christ!

“One” Galatians 3:26-29, John 17:20-23                                                                                             If we belong to Christ then we too are part of Abraham’s seed.  We are children of Abraham, Children of God.  We are “One”!  Jesus’ plan laid out in His garden prayer illustrates this.  From the beginning…we were created to be God’s friend.  Never       His slave.  

 

The Folly of Finishing in the Flesh

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Paul’s letter to the GALATIANS (Lesson 3) Pastor Barry Bruce  The Gathering Church

Bewitched   Galatians 3:1,      Romans 12:2-3                       Paul called the Galatians foolish in regards to how gullible they were to the false teachings that distorted the truth of the gospel of Christ: fool·ish  (of a person or action) lacking good sense or judgment;  unwise.  synonyms: stupid, silly, idiotic, witless, brainless, vacuous, mindless, unintelligent, thoughtless, half-baked, harebrained…

Paul is not out to win a popularity contest with the Galatians… he slaps them with a    rebuke in order to wake them up from the spell that the Judaizers have cast upon them.  Paul asks: “Who has bewitched you?”  (The word “bewitched” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “to mislead by hypnotizing or fascinating.”)

The Galatians were so misled by the false teachings of the Judaizers that they were doubting everything that Paul had once clearly taught them about Christ.

 Have you ever needed a good slap? Most of us can recall a time as a child when we got a spanking or a slap for being disobedient or disrespectful.  The Bible actually reminds    parents that to forego discipline in a child’s life is to spoil (ruin) that child (Proverbs 13:24). The same is true for the adult child of God.

There is no doubt about it, we all need a “slap” to our senses once in a while, especially when we are wandering off into danger.  Truth can be brutal especially if we are wrapped tightly in a lie, but only the truth liberates the soul and brings life. It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).  Man has a propensity to sin, to think that he is more than he is.  We must think of ourselves with sound judgment (Romans 12:3).  Sound judgment comes from sound doctrine (teaching).  Sound doctrine comes from God’s word.  We are to be transformed by that word and not bewitched by worldly teachings that are contrary to it (Romans 12:2).

Many times the truth of God’s word “slaps” us with something that we don’t want to hear or don’t want to do. Most times it disagrees with the popular notions of society and can offend others and even ourselves, but we are not God.  We are God’s children.  His word is truth and not our feelings. We need to conform to His word, and if you think for one minute that His word leaves room for multiple interpretations then you need to stop speed reading the Bible.  His direction is clear: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13, James 1:22

Spirit and Flesh Galatians 3:2-5, Ephesians 1:13-14                                                                      Paul asked the Galatians a rhetorical question to make them think about their salvation experience. Consider yours too. When did you receive the Holy Spirit?  When did you experience the freedom from your sin and shame?  Was it after you did some work or     followed some spiritual mantra or tradition, or after you believed and received Christ on faith?  Works of the flesh never bring the liberty experienced through the Holy Spirit.   God fills us with His Holy Spirit the moment we believe and confess Christ as savior.  The Spirit is God’s pledge (guarantee) that we are His forever. The proof of the Spirit’s presence in a believer are His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit (attitudes) of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), a passion for God’s Word, conformity to His will, prayer, praise, and love for God’ s people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.F

Paul asked the Galatians “why after beginning with the freedom of God’s Spirit  do you end it in bondage with works of  the flesh. For the Galatians to continue to practice the traditions and laws of Judaism after being set free in Christ was foolish and would confuse their children.  It also demonstrated that Christ was not enough for salvation.  One should practice truth and truth alone.  Is it in vain that you believe in Christ?  Is it in vain what Christ has done to set you free?  Why go back to the thing He set you free from?  Was it religion?  Was it materialism?  Was it addiction?  Why go back into bondage once He has set you free? Did God do a miracle in your life (and in the lives of others) because of your works or because you believed in Christ?

Cut It Off Mark 9:42-47                                                                                                                     There is a passage which Jesus spoke that speaks plainly to this issue.  Some misinterpret it to be a legalistic, work oriented warning about shaping up or going to hell.  It should actually be seen as more of a passage about freedom and the encouraged passion to keep it at all costs. Firstly you will notice the stern warning from Jesus to anyone who would dare cause one of His “little ones” (those who believe in Christ) to stumble. This would be a warning to false religious teachers like the Judaizers but can also be applied to anyone who tempts a    Christian to move away from Christ (no matter how sincere they may be). Secondly comes the “cut it off” verses followed by the “thrown into hell” line. It looks legalistic but wait… consider a scampering and free little field mouse who finds himself suddenly bound in a mouse trap set by a farmer. His bondage will surely lead to certain death.  Better to chew off the part that keeps you bound than to be in bondage until you’re thrown into the furnace. “Give me liberty or give me death!” said American founding father Patrick Henry. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” said the Apostle Paul. “You can take my life but you can’t take my freedom” said Sir William Wallace.  “Cut it off” said Jesus Christ… Freedom is everything!

My Story/ His Story

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Paul’s letter to the GALATIANS  (Lesson 2) Pastor Barry Bruce/               The Gathering Church

A story is an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something. Every person who is living, or who has ever lived,  has a story.  Some of those stories have become famous in varying degrees.  Those have either been written down in books, made into movies or plays, written in the annuls of history, or inspired popular legends, songs or poetry, but most stories  have not become famous.; however, every story affects another story which means that every story is vital to the history of the human race.  In other words we are all connected through our individual stories.  Countries, peoples and races are all connected through stories.  The past, the present and the future…connected through our stories. 

 The study of genealogy (the study and tracing of lines of descent or development.) shows how those stories are connected and even more deeply aligned through bloodlines in DNA studies.  The stories (lives) of others in regards to our own has far reaching consequences.  Every story, every life is vitally important.

 The Apostle Paul’s Story Galatians 1:11-24, 2:1-10                                                                    Paul tells his story to the Galatians.  He shares with them who he was, what he became because the intervention of Jesus in his life and how his story fused with the story of the other apostles.  He tells his story so that his listeners will receive the truth of the gospel that he brings to them.  True Respect is earned, and it begins with ones story.

Paul begins with the fact that what he preached was received by him from the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus.  He spoke of how he was so religious for the Jewish law that he once persecuted the church and tried to destroy it. In the book of Acts Paul’s Story is told (Acts 9:1-30, 22:1-21), but for the Galatians he adds the detail of going to  Arabia directly after his conversion (for a time up to three years) before preaching in Damascus where he escaped a plot to kill him by being lowered over a wall in a basket at night.  The reason Paul adds this detail to his story for the Galatians is because the Judaizers were saying that he was not a true apostle (one called out to preach by Christ).  Paul was     illustrating the fact that Jesus taught him apart from the apostles for three years before he met any of them.  Note: each of the apostles had been taught under Jesus for three years.

As Paul continues his story he elaborates that he fact checked the gospel that he was teaching to the gospel that the other apostles (“those esteemed as leaders”) were teaching.  He wanted to make sure that he was not “running” in a different direction  or preaching the wrong gospel (For this same reason we have the Bible to Fact check our doctrine). His conclusion was that both the Apostles and he were teaching the same gospel and that gospel was about freedom in Christ.  The truth of this gospel was preserved even though “false believers” had conspired to confuse new converts by attempting to enslave them to rules and regulations that Christ did not teach.  (Note: the name Cephas Means “rock” in Aramaic. The apostle Simon was called Cephas by Jesus because he was to be the rock upon which the Christian church was to be built. In most versions of the New Testament Cephas is translated into Greek Πετρος (Petros) (in English Peter) Therefore Cephas is the Apostle Peter.

Paul determined that He and the apostles that were held in “high esteem” were on the same level and what they were before Christ made no difference (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).  They preached the same gospel, loved the same Lord and had discovered freedom from their bondages (John 8:36).  The only difference was that they preached to Jews (circumcised) and Paul preached to Gentiles (uncircumcised).

Your Story or His Story? Romans 8:5-6                                                                                       What is your story?  What is written on the pages of your life?  Your life is vitally important and your choices will affect others.  Not unlike Paul, your story (the good, bad and ugly parts) will make a difference, but what makes your story dynamic, abundant, powerful and victorious is when your story intersects with God’s.  No one’s story is more important than another’s in God’s eyes. He values them all equally.  The poor one, the rich one, the free one, the slave, the famous one, the obscure one, the black one, the white one, the brown, yellow and red one.  His story redeems them all.

The story of Jesus will always change any story that is introduced to it. When Christ is interjected into a life, the whole purpose and direction of that life changes.  When Paul   encountered Christ on the road to Damascus he was faced with a choice to follow Jesus or to go on ahead blindly without him.  We can continue writing our own story without the interaction, direction and wisdom from Jesus, or we can give him the remaining pages of our life and let him fill them.  When we write our own story it is a story of the flesh ending in death.  When we allow Christ to intervene it becomes a story of the Spirit full of life.  His is always a story of never-ending adventure and purpose.  His is a story that leaves a powerful legacy for others to follow and leads to eternal life.  Nothing is as beautiful as when your story intersects with his.  

Keeping The Story Straight Galatians 2:11-21, Romans 8:1-4                                                  Paul was bold, outspoken and extremely confrontive and he opposed Peter (Cephas) to his face because Paul saw him behave hypocritically.  Paul was reminding the Galatians that even those held in “high esteem” can fail and need to be corrected.

 Peter knew the truth in Christ, but when he was with Judaizers he went through their     motions (traditions) of the law.  Paul reminded him publicly that it is no longer we who live to labor under the law but Christ who lives in us. When our story meets his story we hand over the pen and Jesus becomes the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).  Freedom comes in our surrender to him.  The finished story of Christ sets    us free.