Note from Jesus
Some of Paul’s language in his letter to the Galatians is harsh. He begins his letter without his normal prayer of thanksgiving for them. (Even though the congregations in Corinth were a spiritual mess, Paul began his letter to the Corinthians with a prayer of thanksgiving.) The lack of his normal thanksgiving combined with the strong language Paul used toward those promoting legalism should be shocking to you. It was shocking to them. However, Paul wanted to get their attention! Grace and My good news message were at stake:
No matter the source of the false gospel [you people of Galatia are now believing], even if it is preached by us [Paul and the apostles] or a heavenly messenger, ignore it. May those who add to or subtract from the gospel of Jesus be eternally cursed! Listen again: if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than what you have accepted, may he find himself cursed.
Paul demanded their attention with these very harsh, but needed words!
Paul went on in his letter to the Galatians to share his open rebuke of Cephas, whom you know as Peter. He and Barnabas had behaved poorly, their treatment of Gentile brothers and sisters were sinful and influenced by Jewish prejudice (Galatians 2:11-18). In the verses you will read today, you will see Paul use tough words again — notice especially the words emphasized in bold. Paul was using very intense language. What was the compelling reason for such a sharp edge to Paul’s words? The truth of My gospel was being perverted.
- Are people justified before the Father and accepted as His beloved children because they have earned it through their good works? No! They are justified because they hear the message of My gospel and accept it by faith.
- Are people accepted as holy and considered part of the Father’s family because they obey a set of rules? No! The Father’s acceptance and the grace they receive move them to act consistently with My character and compassion as they are led by the Holy Spirit.
Too many teach and so many labor under the false notion that they have to earn their way to heaven. This false understanding was true with the Galatians. It is also true in your day. People fear that they have to work hard to gain the favor of an angry god. This fear is not the teaching of My gospel. This false concept is not the truth about your God. This legalistic approach to righteousness is not the truth about the Father Who sent Me. It is not the truth about Me. Since I gave up everything to save you, why would I or My Father give you a set of obscure religious obstacles for you to navigate so you could find My grace? A false approach to discipleship based on your accomplishments drips with the rot of the devil’s vile work. It is not the truth about the Holy Spirit Who lives in you to comfort, encourage, and empower you.
You do not have to earn Our loving grace. I came to give you that grace. I paid the debt of sin so you could experience that grace. I ask you to accept that grace through faith in what I did for you. You don’t do good deeds to earn My favor. Your acts of kindness toward others are your response to the grace you have received. Your good deeds are your demonstrated appreciation for your salvation and adoption in My family. These actions are also a reflection of who you are becoming by the power of the Spirit — you are being transformed to be like Me (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
When you became a child of the Father, I gave you the Holy Spirit to live in you (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:3-7; Romans 8:9) and to empower you to live as the Father’s child in your world (Romans 8:13; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). As you will see in a few days, the Spirit is at work to produce character and compassion in you that reflect My nature. This evidence of the Spirit’s work in you is called the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is your guarantee of ultimate salvation (2 Corinthians 5:4-5; Ephesians 1:13-14). So don’t just begin your life in Me through the Spirit; seek the Spirit’s help in all you do!
Verses to Live
Paul chose strong language to address My followers in Galatia. He chose this harsh language because his message was vitally important to them. If they gave up grace, they would lose Me and the salvation I came to bring them! He’s telling them, “Don’t give up grace for law-keeping. Don’t give up the power of the Holy Spirit for your own futile efforts to live for Me.” Some of his strong language in the verses below is in bold. On the other hand, also notice the underlined words where Paul mentioned the great spiritual benefits of faith, the Spirit, and love.
Galatians, don’t act like fools! Has someone cast a spell over you? Did you miss the crucifixion of Jesus the Anointed that was reenacted right in front of your eyes? Tell me this: Did the Holy Spirit come upon you because you lived according to the law? Or was it because you heard His message of grace through faith? Are you so foolish? Do you think you can perfect something God’s Spirit started with any human effort? Have you suffered so greatly for nothing — if it was indeed for nothing? You have experienced the Spirit He gave you in powerful ways. Miracle after miracle has occurred right before your eyes in this community, so tell me: did all this happen because you have kept certain provisions of God’s law, or was it because you heard the gospel and accepted it by faith?
So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law.
Listen because I, Paul, am going to make this message very clear so it cannot be misunderstood: if you undergo the rite of circumcision, then all that the Anointed accomplished will be lost on you. And understand this: if you choose to be circumcised, then you will oblige yourself to do every single rule of the law for the rest of your life. You, and anyone else who seeks to be on the right side of God through the law, have effectively been cut off from the Anointed, circumcised from grace, and cast off from the favor of God. We, on the other hand, continue to live through the Spirit’s power and wait confidently in the hope that things will be put right through faith. Here’s the thing: in Jesus the Anointed whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference. What makes a difference is faith energized by love.
Who has impeded your progress and kept you from obeying the truth? You were off to such a good start. I know for certain the pressure isn’t coming from God. He keeps calling you to the truth. You know what they say, “Just a little yeast causes all the dough to rise,” so even the slightest detour from the truth will take you to a destination you do not desire. Despite this, I’m confident because the Lord reassures me that you will truly hear and take my message to heart. Besides, I also know that these troublemakers, whoever they are, will answer to God and be judged accordingly. As for me, brothers and sisters, if I continue to preach circumcision — as these agitators claim — then why do I still face persecution? If I were to preach a compromised version of the good news, then the scandal of the cross would come to an end. I really wish that these people who weigh you down with corrupt counsel would mutilate themselves.
Response in Prayer
O Father, I don’t want to delude myself into thinking that I can be transformed by my own power to become the person You want me to be. Thank You for the grace You have given me in Jesus. Your grace has saved me. Thank You for the continuing grace of the Holy Spirit within me — the Spirit Who is at work to transform me to be more and more like Jesus. I give You thanks and praise You for Your grace to me in Jesus. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.