SHOWING GRATITUDE

SHOWING GRATITUDE

Psalm 100 (CSB)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name” (4)

When my family lived in the Philippines, we discovered that they do not have a national day of Thanksgiving, like we have in America. Instead, each church had its own Thanksgiving Day. It usually corresponded to the date when that particular church was established.

As Americans, we tried to keep our national Thanksgiving as well. One time we had a big spread with all the fixings, only to discover later that we had done it on the wrong week.

But we appreciated God and we enjoyed celebrating him and his connection to all of us. It just seems natural for us to show our gratitude. Showing gratitude is what this psalm is all about.

who should show gratitude?

The psalm is not too particular about who should celebrate their gratitude to God. In fact, note the expression “the whole earth” in verse 1.

Neither does the psalm limit the celebrants to the very old or the young. Verse 5 says that “all generations” should show their gratitude to him.

There is no age limit, no ethnic, geographic or cultural boundary to showing gratitude to the God of the Bible.

how should we show our gratitude?

We should show our gratitude to God by serving him. Verse 2 encourages us to “serve the LORD.” Do you know that is an honor to serve a great leader? People send in resumes and take proficiency exams in order to get an opportunity to be the president’s butler, or the queen’s maid. They don’t do that because they are slaves, but because it is their opportunity to express their gratitude. In the same way, our service to God demonstrates the level of our appreciation for him.

We should also express our gratitude to God with our worship. Verse 4 talks about entering God’s gates and his courts. It is talking about the gates and courts of the temple in Jerusalem. People had all kinds of reasons for entering into the gates of Jerusalem. But when they entered the gates of the temple, they were supposed to do it as worshipers. Our English word worship is a contraction for worth-ship. A worshiper is someone who is in the act of expressing how much God is worth to him or her.

The Jews had gotten too formal and materialistic about their worship. It had come to the point where people rated a person as a worshiper by the monetary value of the gift they brought with them. But this psalmist suggested that there are two things every worshiper needs to bring with him when he comes into the temple. note what comes after the word “with” in verse 4. The worship had to enter “with thanksgiving” and “with praise.”

We also need to check our emotional state when we dare enter God’s presence to worship him in public. What comes after the word “with” in verse 2? We are to serve “with gladness.” The way some people act in church, you would think that it said “with grimness.” They seem to regard the worship service as a chore. No sir. We will earn our living in ways that cause our brow to sweat and our back to ache and our feet to blister. But when we come into the presence of our God, we need to do it with gladness.

We have lots to be glad about. God has blessed us with a place, and a time, and a community like no other in history. We are overflowing with potential. And at the same time, our God has prevented so many disasters, diseases, pestilences and wars that we could have experienced. One of the advantages of learning history is that it gives a person perspective. For us, as believers in Christ, we have every reason to worship the Lord with gladness.

Also in verse 2, we are to show our gratitude “with joyful songs.” It does not say dirges, or mournful songs. There is a time and a place for singing the blues, but it is not this time and this place. God wants to hear our joyful songs. He is listening for the sweet sound of joy coming from his children’s throats. It brings a smile to his face.

And look at verse 1 again. It says we are to shout triumphantly. This is the first psalm I memorized as a kid. From my Rainbow edition of the King James Bible, I memorized “Make a joyful noise.” Saying those words, I think of Joshua and the Israelites attack on Jericho. They marched with their musical instruments, but they didn’t blow those horns until the last day of the march. Then they blew those horns, but not just that. Joshua told them to “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city” (Joshua 6:16).

Brothers and sisters, a triumphal shout is a sign of faith. It says my God is stronger than those city walls. It says God is the God of my coming triumph. The walls didn’t come down when the people marched. They didn’t even come down when the trumpets blew. The walls came down when the people shouted triumphantly!

So, I have exhausted all the ways we can show our gratitude from this text. No, I lied, there’s one more. Look again at verse 4. It says we can show our gratitude by blessing his name.

God has a name that is above all names. We cannot add to his greatness by anything we do. But we can bless his name. He allows us the privilege of demonstrating the greatness of his character by affirming it.

There is a world all around is which is gaining an ever-increasing gratitude for the planet itself, but has never learned to express its gratitude for the planet’s creator. When we bless God’s name, we complete the circuit. The world is not going to learn how to do that unless we demonstrate it.

Which brings me to my third point.

why should we show our gratitude?

Verse 3 challenges us to show our gratitude by acknowledging that the Lord is God. He is God and we are not. I, for one, am grateful that I am not God. I do not qualify. I don’t have the skill-set it takes to control this planet. I cannot even set my alarm clock.

Also, according to verse 3, “he made us, and we are his.” We are living in an age dominated by mechanical computers, but we are still not able to reproduce the computing capacity of the human brain. God is our creator, and we should show gratitude for that.

Also, in verse 3, the psalmist calls us God’s sheep, which implies that he is our shepherd. A shepherd guides and provides for the sheep. Without the shepherd, sheep tend to wander off and die by accident, predators, or starvation. Even stupid sheep learn this. They learn to respond the voice of their shepherd, obeying out of gratitude.

Now, look at verse 5. Here are three more reasons that we should show our gratitude to God. He is good. All the time. We don’t always know how God is manifesting his goodness based on what we are experiencing. But we know that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). If we cannot spot his goodness short-term, we know enough to expect it to manifest long-term.

God is also faithful, and that is another reason to show our appreciation for him. He is faithful to his promises, and for keeping his covenant. The word translated “faithful love” in verse 5 is a technical term for covenant faithfulness.

And finally, look at that word “forever” in verse 5. That is the word “le’olam” in Hebrew. It indicates permanence. I am grateful that God is not temporary like I am. I have a “use-by-date” but my God does not. My grandchildren’s grandchildren will be reading this same Bible and serving this same God long after I have expired. My only hope for permanence is his promise of a resurrection.

LORD, we want to show our gratitude because you are our good, faithful, permanent creator, guide and provider God.

________________

ABEL’S ONE SHOT

ABEL'S ONE SHOTABEL’S ONE SHOT

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith” (Hebrews 11:4 CSB).

The author of Hebrews encourages his fellow Jewish Christians not to draw back into unbelief, but to live their lives by faith. Note the final words of chapter 10:

“So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him. But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:35-39).

It is in that context that he wrote that amazing chapter that we will be studying in this series. It highlights several heroes of the faith, who serve as illustrations of what a life of faith looks like.

Abel is the first in the list, and he is one hero who we know very little about. Besides these four verses, he is mentioned in Genesis:

“The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord’s help.” She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:1-8 CSB).

What is it that made Abel a hero, and Cain a villain? Is it just the fact that he died? Is that what makes a person righteous before God? If so, we are all set, because we are all going to die. But the author of Hebrews highlighted Abel not because he died, but because he manifested faith before he died. Abel’s story is also significant because it highlights only one act of faith. Abel had only one shot at being in the heroes list of Hebrews 11, and he did not throw away his shot.

Abel is a hero of faith because he believed in the unseen God who created him.

Abel’s one shot at faith in God gave him hope (1)

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen”

Both brothers responded to a religious need to show their appreciation for God. Both gave from what they had to give. But God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and did not accept Cain’s sacrifice.
Why? We do not know, and that is the point. There is something going on in the heart of Abel that is not going on in the heart of his brother. It may have had something to do with the animal sacrifice that God performed in Eden in order to clothe his parents. We don’t know.

What we do know is that Abel’s hope was real, and Cain’s was not. But the only reality – the only evidence was Abel’s faith. It was Abel’s faith in God which led him to expect God’s approval.

My friend, if you have hope for the future today, then the reason for your hope cannot be explained by what you have experienced in the past. If you have hope for a permanent future, you did not manufacture that hope. It came from God, when he gave you faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 NASB).

When God gives gifts, he gives them in bundles. The gift of salvation comes bundled with faith, hope and love. You get all of them at the same time.

That is why Abel was happy and hopeful about his sacrifice, but Cain was despondent and furious about his. He had no hope. It was in that hopeless, faithless, loveless condition that Cain decided that if he was never going to have a happy life, he was going to make sure that Abel didn’t have a long life.

Abel’s one shot at faith in God gave him understanding (3)

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.”

The world without God looks at itself and thinks “this is all we have, and it is all that is real.” Abel looked at his world and believed in its creator, even though he had never seen him. Abel dared to have a relationship with God sight unseen. That is faith. Faith filled in the blanks in Abel’s understanding.

Now, we live in a world just like Abel’s world. We can choose to only trust the things we see, or we can do like Abel did and let our faith fill in the blanks of our understanding.

Abel’s one shot at faith in God gave meaning to his life (4a)

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts…”

What was better about Abel’s sacrifice? Well, we know that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness, but Abel didn’t know that. It was Abel’s faith that pushed him to give up the lives of his animals, but not just any animals — “some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.” He gave his best. He wanted to show his appreciation and respect to God. His relationship with God was what gave meaning to his life.

People who are in the royal family live different lives than others because of who they are related to. People related to celebrities live different lives because of who they are related to. We believers in Christ have been adopted into God’s family, and it is that relationship that gives meaning to our lives as well.

Abel’s one shot at faith in God outlasted his life (4b)

“and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.”

In our Bible studies in Ecclesiastes, we discovered that the name of Abel (Hebrew hevel) became a word describing anything that is temporary. Because Abel’s life was cut short, his name became synonymous with things that do not last.

Solomon discovered that the pursuit of knowledge is not as satisfying as he thought it would be, because it does not last. He tried partying his life away; that didn’t last. He tried building a bunch of things; that didn’t last. So Solomon concluded that everything was hevel. He finally concluded that the best thing to do is to fear God and obey him, because only a relationship with God will last. Our only future is him.

But Abel knew that. He did not live long, and he is dead today. He has not yet received the inheritance that God promised him. But Abel’s short life was worth it, and even though he is dead today, he still speaks by the example of his life of faith.

If Abel were to join us today, he would tell us that even if we are given only one shot at living a life of faith, we should not throw away our shot. We should take that one shot and make the best of it.

We have the opportunity to live lives of faith like Abel. We are not guaranteed long lives. Abel’s life wasn’t long. But God has prepared a city for us. He has another life in store for us. It is better to live a short life focused on God than to live a long life of hopelessness and selfishness.

In Wednesday’s Maranatha Devotional, Millie Griswold asked “Has your name been added to the litany of faithful people in Hebrews 11?” You may just get one shot a life of faith, like Abel did. Don’t throw away your shot.

the Gospel of LOVE

the Gospel of LOVEthe Gospel of LOVE

“For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14 CSB).

We are approaching this study in Galatians with this question in mind: How does Paul define the gospel that he preached, in contrast to the counterfeit gospel that was being spread among the Galatian churches?

So, I want to draw your attention to a word repeated four times in this chapter: the word love.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love” (6)

“For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love” (13)

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” (14) (Leviticus 19:18).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (22)

Paul teaches in this chapter that love is the motivating force behind what the gospel believer does. People can say that they believe the gospel, but if they are not living in love, others will have reason to doubt their sincerity. A life of love is the evidence of faith in Christ.

the four loves

But what kind of love was Paul talking about? Nowadays, we use the word love for just about anything. In Paul’s day, people were a bit more specific. There were four major Greek words that we could translate as love, and each had a different meaning.

Gospel love is not storgē – the love of family, respect and familiarity.

Gospel love is not philia – the love of friendship and shared experiences.

Gospel love is not eros – the love of passion and romance.

God’s love is agapē – the love of unconditional care and self-sacrifice.

When I see the word agapē in the Greek New Testament, I use the word “care” to translate it. C.S. Lewis used the word picture of a gardener who poured himself into his garden every day. That is what agapē does. Believers in the gospel focus their lives on caring for others.

Now that we have that established, let’s see what Paul says about this kind of love in Galatians 5.

Love is how faith and freedom work together (1-6)

“For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. Take note! I, Paul, am telling you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all. Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to do the entire law. You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. For we eagerly await through the Spirit, by faith, the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.”

Paul says that believers in the gospel are set free, and they have a choice. They can either stand firm in that freedom or become enslaved again. He urges the Galatians to stay in grace and not fall from it. He knows they are concerned about living righteously before God, so they are being told that they need the law to do that. But Paul tells them to await righteousness through Christ. Meanwhile, they need to focus on working out their faith through love – caring for the people around them.

Love is how believers fulfill the law (13-14).

“… serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love redirects the focus of your life. Love focuses on blessing your neighbor, not yourself.

Love serves reciprocally. People in agapē love serve one another.

Love is how believers defeat the works of the flesh (19-21).

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The works of the flesh are all self-focused. That is why Paul said that they are obvious. You know it when someone is caught up in the flesh. these sins just pour out of them. They are in slavery to those self-motivated passions and perversions. Practicing the works of the flesh get people further and further from the kingdom of God. But believers can defeat these works in our lives by redirecting our walk toward agapē love – caring about others more than ourselves.

Love is how believers begin the journey of walking by the Spirit (16, 22-23, 25).


“I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.”

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

Love is the launching point to manifesting all the attributes of Christlike holiness. It is the first step of walking in step with the Holy Spirit. All the other attributes will fall in line if we get the first step right. Don’t worry about all the things you have to do to manifest all the fruit of the Spirit. Take the first step and focus on loving others and the other attributes will be reflected in your life.

It was Donald Grey Barnhouse who said: “Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Longsuffering is love enduring. Gentleness is love’s true touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Meekness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins”

We have the opportunity to live out the gospel we believe in. Love is how we as believers begin that journey. As we continue to focus on loving others, the Holy Spirit will change us into the people God wants us to be.

Lord, we confess that somewhere along the walk, we have taken some false steps. But we commit ourselves to getting back on track by walking in love, fulfilling your law, loving our neighbors, and loving one another. Demonstrate your love through us, and draw the nations to yourself.

Piney Grove Advent Christian Church, Delco North Carolina, USA

the gospel of FREE

the gospel of FREEthe gospel of FREE

“Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26 CSB).

I have been highlighting the meaning of the gospel by focusing on key words suggested in each chapter of Galatians.

For chapter 1, the key word was DIFFERENT. The troublemakers were tempting the Galatians to reject the true gospel, and substitute a different one.

For chapter 2, the key word was GO. The gospel is good news for all nations, and so it comes with a mandate for us to go to others and share it.

For chapter 3, the key word was IN. The gospel invites us to put our faith in Jesus, and find our unity and equality in him.

For today’s chapter, the key word is FREE. The gospel offers freedom as opposed to slavery.

I want to concede some things from the get go. I am not suggesting that the gospel guarantees freedom from physical suffering.

Take a look at what Paul says in verses 13-15.

“you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a weakness of the flesh. You did not despise or reject me though my physical condition was a trial for you. On the contrary, you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”

Paul actually came preaching the gospel to the Galatians while he was suffering from a physical problem. He wasn’t preaching a gospel of health and wealth. The freedom he was talking about was something different that freedom from illness or injury.

I am also not suggesting that the gospel frees Christians from stress. Take a look at these texts in today’s chapter:

“You are observing special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted” (10-11).

“My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you. I would like to be with you right now and change my tone of voice, because I don’t know what to do about you”(19-20).

It sounds like Paul was going through a stressful time. His concern and love for the Galatians made him worry about them. It is wise to not worry about things, but it is heartless to choose to not worry about people. Love worries.

I am also not suggesting that Christians will be free from opposition. Note verse 17:

“They court you eagerly, but not for good. They want to exclude you from me, so that you would pursue them.”

Paul had opponents in Galatia, and if we are serious about living the gospel message, we will have enemies too.

So, what does freedom mean for Christians?

Look at verses 4-5:

“When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Christians are free to reject the law as a means of salvation.

The law is holy and righteous and good, but the law did not bleed for us on Calvary. It can make us wise to salvation but it cannot save us itself. The purpose of the law of God in the Old Testament was to show us our need for God’s Son. Jesus redeemed those who were under the law by fulfilling the law’s demands for them. He turned them from slaves to sons, not because they obeyed the law, but because they put their faith in him.

That means that you and I are free to seek deliverance from our sins through Christ without first going through law school. God’s law can be many things for us, but it can never be the means of our salvation.

Christians are also free to receive the Holy Spirit, who testifies of our new relationship with God.

My friend Mark Wolfington wrote this comment a few years ago:

“Some friends of ours recently welcomed their first child into their home. Instead of the usual nine months, the parents had waited nearly 10 years for the day to arrive. Their son joined their family through adoption. It was a long and costly journey for them, involving a lengthy application process and costing tens of thousands of dollars. The look on their faces when they brought their son home told the story: their long struggle was worth it. They loved their little boy long before they ever held him, and they’d do it all again. The little boy that now has a home was born in a part of the world where children have virtually no value, and child-labor laws are non-existent. If not for the intervention of parents that he’d never met, he may have ended up as little more than a slave. That would-be slave is now a son.”(Maranatha Daily Devotional – Wednesday, June 7, 2017).

Paul told the Galatians that because they are sons, God gave them the Holy Spirit (6). They have a new relationship, adopted into God’s family, and the Holy Spirit bears witness to that fact.

The Bible encourages us to receive the Holy Spirit, and we should expect power from God. But the focus here is not empowerment as much as relationship. The Holy Spirit assures us that we always have access to our heavenly Father. Knowing the Father’s love encourages us to invite others into his family.

I’m reminded of that song “Big House”

“I don’t know if you got some shelter, Say a place to hide
I don’t know if you live with friends, In whom you can confide
I don’t know if you got a family, Say a mom or dad
I don’t know if you feel love at all, But I bet you wish you had

Come and go with me To my Father’s house
Come and go with me To my Father’s house

It’s a big big house, With lots and lots a room
A big big table, With lots and lots of food
A big big yard, Where we can play football
A big big house, Its my Father’s house.”

​​Audio Adrenaline – Big House – YouTube

Christians are also free to rejoice by faith in the future we are promised regardless of the barrenness of the present.

Note verse 27:

“For it is written, Rejoice, childless woman, unable to give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate woman will be many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.”

The prophet Isaiah was talking about a time in the future when Israel would begin producing sons of God again. He called on God’s people to begin worshiping and rejoicing now because of that glorious future. That’s what God’s people do. We worship in anticipation of future blessing.

Christians are also free to repent of anything that keeps us in bondage.

One of the greatest freedoms anyone can ever experience is the freedom to change. Paul told the Galatians that they were getting off track, but they could get back on the right track. What they needed to do was:

“Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never be a coheir with the son of the free woman” (30).

God had told Abraham that there were too many women in his house. He had to let Hagar and Ishmael go.

Brothers and sisters, we might need to do some housecleaning too. We are called to be free, and to share that freedom with a world in bondage. Freedom is contagious. People everywhere want it, but they are not going to look for freedom in a house of slavery.

Lord, thank you for our freedom you gave us, bought by the precious blood of Christ. Show us how to live in that freedom, so that others can find it through our witness.

the gospel of IN

the gospel of IN

the gospel of IN

“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:22,28 CSB).

Galatians 3 is one of the most crucial passages of Scripture that help define the gospel, but it is also very complicated. I want to try to simplify Paul’s teaching in this chapter by focusing on what Paul said in these two verses. Notice the word “in.” It will help us to understand the gospel if we learn what it means to have faith in Jesus (22) and what it means to be one in Christ (28).

the gospel is the story of a prison: we are either under the power of sin, or set free by faith in Jesus Christ.

I know something about prisons because my father was a prison guard. He became quite cynical about prisoners because he noticed so many repeat offenders who spent their time in prison learning how to be more efficient criminals once they got out.

The Bible tells us that sin is like that. The early chapters of Genesis tell us that once sin entered our world, it wasn’t long before everything people were thinking or wanted to do was a sin.

So, the prison analogy is an appropriate one. We cannot know freedom until we get out of that prison. While we are under sin’s power, the best that we can hope for is to become more efficient sinners.

We cannot get out of the prison of sin any other way except on the basis of faith in Christ.

Paul told the Romans that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but we can be justified as a gift of God’s grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24).

The cross has made a difference. While we were still helpless, at the right time in history, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).
We are justified by faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross (Romans 5:1). That was our way out of the prison.

Now, being out of the prison does not mean we will never sin again, but it does mean we are not stuck in the situation we were in where we couldn’t do anything but sin.

the gospel is the story of a promise: long before the law, God promised a blessing to the nations.

Verse 22 mentions that promise.

You see, the troublemakers had gone to the Galatian churches and told them that they had to get out their Bibles and review their history. They told them that God gave the law at Sinai, and that nobody is going to be blessed if they do not follow that law to the letter.

The trouble with the troublemakers is that they did not go back far enough into biblical history. Paul reminded the Galatians in this chapter that the blessing was promised to Abraham centuries before Sinai. Abraham received that promise through faith, not through obedience to the law.

The Galatians received that promise too. In verse two, Paul asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit by works of the law, or by believing the gospel. He then asked them “Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?” (3). You see, the promise of a blessing and freedom from the prison are the same thing. And we cannot get either by works of the law.

the gospel is a story of a position: believers today are equal before God.

We are all in Christ, and share his status and inheritance.

This is how Paul explains the purpose of the law in this chapter:
There are two stages. Stage one is the guardianship. Note verses 23-26:

“Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.”

Under this stage, believing Jews were imprisoned just like the rest of the world was. Their prison was the law, and it kept them longing for the faith that was to come. Once Christ came, many Jews came to him by faith, received the Holy Spirit, and were set free from both prisons.

Now, the troublemakers came to Galatia trying to get the Gentile Christians to go back to prison. They were teaching them that God wanted them to obey the law that Christ had set the Jewish Christians free from!

This is how Paul explains the reality of sonship that came to the Gentile Christians. Note verses 26-29:

“for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. Sons and Heirs For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”

The promise is that by faith in Christ, all of us have a new position before God, and that position is equal. Our ethnic background does not matter: both Jew and Gentile are set free from prison. Our socio-economic background does not matter: slaves and non-slaves need this freedom, and can get it equally. Our gender does not matter: whether we were born as sons or daughters, we were all reborn as “sons of God in Christ Jesus.”

Now, before we leave this chapter, though – we have to ask the application question. As I mentioned already in this series, no one is tempted to follow the Jewish law much anymore. Oh, maybe there are a few who are hung up on the sabbath issue. But that does not mean that the principle taught in this chapter is irrelevant. In our discussion this week, Penny brought up a very helpful question: “Has the church replaced Jewish law with their own?”

I think we are in danger of replacing the gospel when we give people the impression that the kingdom of God happens when we stop sinning, become good citizens, go to church on Sunday, and just fit in with everybody else. No! That is not the definition of saving faith. I wonder if Paul were alive today, would he write us a letter similar to Galatians? Faith in Christ has no substitutes.

Lord God, thank you that we can be free from the prison of sin by trusting in Jesus Christ. Keep us from falling into slavery by turning away from this gospel of grace, and help us to share it with those who are still under sin’s power.