Galatians 6: “You Reap What You Sow”

Paid In Full

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a little girl opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it so slowly, and then asked, How much do I owe you?”

You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for kindness.” He said … “Then I thank you from my heart.”

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Many year’s later that same little girl, now a young woman became ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to her case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won.

Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words …

“Paid in full with one glass of milk”

(Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly.

Tears of joy flooded her eyes as her happy heart prayed: “Thank You, God, that Your love has spread broad through human hearts and hands.”

By the way, Dr. Howard Kelly (1858-1943) was a distinguished physician who was one of the four founding doctors of Johns Hopkins University Hospital.


Galatians 6:7b-9 (NLT) You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.


My District Superintendent has been teaching me the meaning of an old proverb: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Although this is a powerful proverb to learn and understand, it’s also quite fragile in theory because it rely’s on one thing… choice. We can never forget that ultimately we have a choice to make. This is the point that leads up to the last part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The writer (Paul) has written, and now the readers have to make a choice between living to please their sinful nature or living to please the Spirit.

You will always harvest what you plant. Think about the power of that one thought. If you plant sweet-potatoes you’ll get sweet-potatoes…every time. While we’ve come accustomed to Paul using agricultural analogies, he’s actually taking this one a step further. Paul wants us to think about the repercussions of planting either sin or planting life through the Spirit.

The Challenge

The challenge today is to always be mindful that we’re always reaping. There’s no neutral in the reaping process. We’re either reaping things that will lead to a harvest of decay and death, or we’re reaping things that will lead to everlasting life from the Spirit. So do what Paul suggested today… Don’t get tired of doing good, and especially don’t give up!

 

Galatians 5: “Mutilate? No! Worse!”

 

Galatians 5:12 (NLT) 12 I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.

(Insert record scratch sound effect)

Wait, did Paul just say what I think he said? Did he really just wish the people who’ve been preaching circumcision would mutilate themselves? Have I been so focused on the Fruits of the Spirit in verses 22-23 that I completely missed Paul’s comment here? Looks like it!

Mutilate? No! Worse! 

Let’s start off first by clearing up exactly what Paul said. So for some context, you have to know that Paul has spent a significant amount of time arguing that circumcision is powerless to save anyone. He also tries to convey that the people who are teaching this heresy don’t understand the first thing about grace and faith.

If you want to get more clarity about what Paul actually said, you have dig a little deeper into Paul’s phrasing here. The word the NLT translates “mutilate” is actually the Greek word “apokoptō” (ἀποκόπτω), which means “to cut off.” As strange as this sounds, Paul is not advocating circumcision here, he’s actually advocating castration! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder. If you’re fearful there’s no point to this reflection, just skip down to verses 22-23 and read about the Fruits of the Sprit. But if you’re like me and you could stand to learn more about this passage and it’s author, keep reading.

Introducing Cybele: The Mother Goddess of the Earth

Remember, Paul is arguing with a group of false teachers. These teachers were all about sensationalism. They loved the spotlight and buzz, so imagine if every male in the Galatian Church decided to be circumcised! So Paul, knowing the M.O of these false teachers decides to call them out and compare them to a group of radical priests common to that area. Being the master of sarcasm, Paul says, shoot, if they really want a sensational ceremony, why don’t they take it a step further and completely castrate themselves like the Galli! 

(Again, insert record scratch sound effect here…)

Scholars agree that Paul is probably referencing the actual brutal ritual that would commonly be found in the pagan temples around Galatia. Let me introduce you to Cybele, the mother goddess of the earth and her priests (Galli). I won’t go into detail, but lets just say Cybele’s priests would make a mean castrati quartet. These false teachers were trying to sensationalize the idea that Galatian Christians needed to participate in a sacred act, like circumcision, in order to be drawn into closer fellowship with God. But remember what Paul already said in verse 6, For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Paul again is clear, no ritual has the power to invoke faith expressing itself in love.

If we cheat and look ahead to tomorrows reading we will see Paul calling out the true motives of the false teachers. Galatians 6:12-13 (NLT) 12 Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. 13 And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.

The comparison Paul makes between the false teacher and the Galli priest would have resonated not only with the Galatian Christians, but also the false teachers! They would have been mortified by Paul’s boldness!

Who/What are Your False Teachers?

You may not be confronted today with the proposition of circumcision, but you need to ask yourself, what are you confronted with today? Who/What are the false teachers in your life that are trying to convince you to compromise your standard? Paul understood that the only thing the false teachers were looking for were trophies; question is, who’s trophy are you?

Galatians 4: “God Took Our Head Out”

Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT) But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

I included more of the passage for context, but the point for today can be made directly from verse 5. As we discussed Saturday, we serve a mighty and powerful God who although can’t have anything to do with sin, loved us enough to send his one and only son to die on our behalf. This particular passage, especially verse 5 is a great example and representation of being justified, regenerated, and adopted by faith. Being a Nazarene pastor it brought to mind Article 9 from our denominations Manual.


 IX. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption (From the Manual 2013-2017)

9 We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

9.1 We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.

9.2 We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.

9.3 We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.


Paul often uses the imagery of slavery to describe our life before Christ. He also uses it to explain our life after salvation, but that’s for another time. Here in verse 5, Paul indicates that before Christ we were slaves to the law, but we could experience freedom because Jesus would buy our freedom.

God Took Our Head Out

Eugene Nida, former American Bible Society Executive Secretary for Translations, told this story in his 1952 book “God’s Word in Man’s Language”.

“How do you say ‘God redeemed us’ so that your Bambara people can understand?” the missionary asked.

“We say ‘God took our heads out,’” replied the missionary’s Mali, West African translation helper.

He then explained about the long lines of men and women wearily walking to the coast, each with a heavy iron collar around his neck and with a chain leading from one slave to another.

Sometimes as a line of condemned slaves went through a village, a local chief or king might see a friend being led away and would want to keep him from slavery. The chief or king would have to pay the Arab slave traders enough gold, silver, brass, or ivory to redeem the friend, and then the chief or king would literally “take his head out of the iron collar.”

Nida then said, “And so today Bambara evangelists explain to the huddled bands around the evening village fire that God saw us in slavery to sin and self, being driven under the lash of Satan, and so He sent His Son to die that men might live. He redeemed us. Literally, ‘He took our heads out.’

“‘And furthermore,’ the evangelists explain, ‘just as in ancient times a redeemed slave felt an obligation to serve for a lifetime the one who had redeemed him, so we may be the voluntary slaves of Jesus Christ.’”

 

Galatians 3: “Protective Custody”

Lets be clear before we dive in today: God despises sin, and not just sin, God despises disobedience, unlawfulness, rebellion, and stubbornness alike.

Examples:

  • Psalm 5:4 (NLT) O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness;
        you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
  • Hosea 9:15 (NLT) 15 The Lord says, “All their wickedness began at Gilgal;
        there I began to hate them.
    I will drive them from my land
        because of their evil actions.
    I will love them no more
        because all their leaders are rebels.
  • Amos 6:8 (NLT) 

    The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his own name, and this is what he, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says:

    “I despise the arrogance of Israel,
        and I hate their fortresses.
    I will give this city
        and everything in it to their enemies.”

At multiple points along life’s journey, God has been confronted with the reality that His people are far from Him because of their sin. As the prophet Isaiah shared with the people of Israel: Isaiah 59:2 (NLT) It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
    Because of your sins, he (God) has turned away
    and will not listen anymore.

In one of the most stunning declarations from God, while Moses is on Mt. Sinai God declares that He has had enough with the disobedient, stubbornness, and the rebelliousness of the Israelites: Exodus 32:9-10 (NLT) Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. 10 Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” 

A Vengeful Blood-Thirsty God

I’ve had many conversation with people who declare that they don’t like the God of the Old Testament. They claim He’s too harsh, judgemental, angry, and blood-thirsty. Blood-thirsty is my favorite description that people have against God. As if God is patrolling earth in search of his “next victim.” In those moments I find myself thinking, “well, yeah!” Of course he’s going to be harsh, angry, and certainly judgmental… He’s God! I wouldn’t be a very good Father if I never corrected my son for doing something wrong.

I’m not sure when we started to believe that God can or should tolerate a little sin, but the reality is, God can’t have anything to do with sin, so wherever sin runs rampant, God run’s rampant. STAY WITH ME…

Now that we have somewhat of a baseline understanding of God’s loathing of sin and authentic desire to destroy sin, lets jump to Galatians 3.

Protective Custody

Galatians 3 is all about the debate between the “Way of Faith” versus “the Way of the Law.” In it, Paul is declaring that the law is powerless to save. He fights this battle on many fronts because there were still insurgent groups of Judaizers who claimed that you needed to keep the whole law in order to be saved. It’s true what they say, “some habits die hard.”

Paul continues by explaining what the real purpose was for the law and how we got to that point. Basically, Paul indicates that the law was used to reveal the sin of the people. He continues however to share that the law was also used to hold off the wrath of God. This is how we get to Galatians 3:23-24 (NLT) 23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.

“Under guard” and “protective custody” are both Greek words that aren’t ment to represent keeping someone in but rather to keep someone or something out! Meaning, we were placed, as Paul says, in protective custody not for fear of what we would do, but in fear of what God would do with us! The law was put in place like foster parents protecting a child in protective custody. When we read that the law was our guardian we have to ask the next question, guardian from who/what? Keep reading: it (meaning the law) protected us until we could be made right with God through faith (meaning Christ).

Then we get to verse 25 (NLT) 25 And now that the way of faith (i.e. Jesus) has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

This for me gives a whole new understanding of being made right with God through Christ! It also helps us today to understand the great lengths God has gone through to protect, love, shelter, and care for His people. What an awesome and powerful God we serve today!

 

Galatians 2: “Guilty By the Right Association”

Galatians 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore.


I hated “some friends of James” type of people. You know who I’m talking about, those “friends” who seem to come in and ruin a good thing. It’s amazing how fast people can change just because of the association of others. Today is all about recognizing the influence our friends and family have not just over us, but also our behavior as Christians.

Guilt By Association

My dad used to tell me all the time, “be careful who you associate with; even if you’re not doing what they’re doing you will be guilty by association.”

The night before I was to leave with my family on an epic trip to Scotland, twelve-year-old Steve was hanging out with some of his friends in front of the V.F.W. (Veteran’s of Foreign War) Hall. I was simply sitting on the curb, but my friends were messing around under the large truck parked on the street. Since my friends and I had an obvious reputation for no good, neighbors called into the VFW to tell the driver that we were messing with his truck.

Suddenly the metal door to the hall swung open and a large group of drunk men came stumbling out towards our direction. Everyone did the obvious thing and ran, but because I wasn’t doing anything wrong I didn’t run. Again, my dad always taught me, “if you don’t have any reason to run, don’t.” Trust me, there were plenty of times I had reason to run…plenty.” But not this time.

I large drunk man with a club came over and picked me up off the ground by the back of my neck and drug me into the VFW. [SIDE NOTE] I had never been in the VFW before, it was a bit of a mysterious place to us kids. No windows, only a side door, and people either went in, or came out, angry. This was all new territory for me. After being inside, an old skinny off duty county sheriff grabbed me and took me to a Christmas tree in the corner of the hall. Since it was days away from Christmas he literally rammed by head into the tree and threatened to arrest me if I didn’t give up the names of my friends. Folks, there weren’t a lot of rules growing up in my neighborhood, but there was at least one, “you NEVER snitch!” Ever! It doesn’t matter if you go to jail, you don’t snitch! Knowing I wasn’t going to say anything, and they didn’t have any reason to arrest me. They threw me (literally) out of the VFW with a stern warning.

What I didn’t know was my friends ran to my house to get my dad. As I was walking towards my house my dad and my friends were walking towards the VFW. My dad later told me my friends were hysterical because they beat me with a club and drug me inside the VFW…never to be seen again…  But they also told my dad that I didn’t do anything wrong.

Walk With The Wise

Proverbs 13:20 (NLT) 20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
    associate with fools and get in trouble.

Even though Peter typically walked with the wise, in Paul’s account of this situation, Peter was instead, “associating with fools.” Antioch’s congregation was fully integrated with Christian Jews and Gentiles. Peter, up to this point, followed the custom of eating with the Gentile Christians and would often share meals with his non-Jewish brothers and sisters. This practice even included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which if you recall included a “Fellowship Meal.” Since the “Apostle to the Jews” (i.e. Peter) was associating with the Gentiles this way, he was putting his official stamp of approval on the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church. We can imagine this behavior would have meant a lot to the newly accepted Gentile believers. Peter in those moments was painting an incredible portrait of God’s Kingdom.

Then, some friends of James came and were able to sway Peter to stop eating with the Gentiles and lean back towards the fundamentalistic laws of the Jewish customs. That quickly and that easily “some friends” came and could have possibly destroyed the work God was doing in Antioch. That’s all it takes. That’s how fast it can happen.

Don’t allow the “friends of James” in your life to distract you away from being guilty by the right association. 

 

Galatians 1: “Introduction”

Here we go again…

Paul during his first missionary journey was able to start and support several churches in the region of Galatia. This was a huge region found in modern day Turkey and was an important location for the growth the church east. Although Paul was able to establish these primarily gentile churches, soon after he left a group of false teachers came behind him trying to convince these newly converted Gentile believers that they were’t really Christian unless they were circumcised. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Iconium, Derbe, Lystra, and Antioch, is an, “awe… heck no” to these Judaizers. Paul basically says, “you think you need a snip-snip? Well you must have lost your grip-grip! Faith in Jesus alone is the only way to salvation”…basically…he said that.

We might be inclined to think the only thing on the line was circumcision or no circumcision, but there was so much more to consider. The gospel (Good News) that Paul preached to the Gentiles itself is at stake! Remember the words of Jesus, “First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. Jesus included the law-free Gentiles into his salvific work on the cross. If the Galatians cave in to circumcision, everything God has done in Jesus Christ and is doing by the Spirit to include Gentiles in the people of God will have come to nothing (2:21). God’s story itself is on the line.


Galatians 1:6-7 (NLT) I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.


Paul wants to be very clear with the Galatians, you’re following a gospel, but it’s not the gospel of Christ. The gospel you’re falling for is like the Diet Coke of Gospels…just one calorie.  Continuing to talk about the gospel message he preached, Paul continues in verse 11 (NLT):


 11 Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. 12 I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

When look at this verse a little closer we realize that Paul is not only defending his authority, but the authority of the gospel itself. From the beginning of this letter, Paul wants to be very clear about where he did and didn’t receive the gospel message. It wasn’t based on something man dreamed up, or was passed around as a story, but rather it was God’s effort to reach down and communicate with man. What’s unique about Paul’s declaration is specific to the way he did receive the gospel.

Most everyone hears the gospel from someone else; this is God’s “normal” way of communicating the gospel (Romans 10:14-15).  But Paul was not “normal” in this respect.  He received the gospel in a dramatic, direct revelation when He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Buckle Up

Although Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of his shorter letters, it is jam packed with thought provoking ideas and challenging realities. As we read, lets read with an open mind and even more importantly, an open heart.