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When we meet in person, we take some time to share our joys and concerns from the past week. Consider what your past week was like. If you have any prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them in the comments on this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
Father God, we gather here today under your care and protection. Thank you for your lovingkindness that never fails us. We thank you for those with us, that you would guide our thoughts and actions to bring you glory. Strengthen us and fill us with your peace. May we love and serve each other as Jesus has shown us. Fill us with the Holy Spirit to do your good work on earth. Amen.
Today's lesson is on Galatians 5:1-15.
Teaching a child to seek good for others remains a difficult part of parenting. A child’s behavior highlights the intrinsic selfish nature of humanity. A child may fight over toys, demand the last cookie or balk at household chores. Parenting involves more than telling spiritual truths; it also involves modeling ethical behavior for children.
Yet even mature adults have trouble overcoming selfish practices. Adults are often no better than children regarding love for others. The churches in Galatia were wrestling with the tension of personal freedom and what is required of them as God’s children. Division had been formed; Paul like an attentive father, offer a new perspective on the nature of the law, liberty and love.
Among the Galatians were individuals who required Gentile believers' adherence to Jewish customs and practices. Paul called out these Judaizers for compelling “Gentiles to follow Jewish customs.” Judaizers emphasized faithfulness to the old covenant, the Law of Moses, for salvation. The most visible way such faithfulness could be shown was by the act of circumcision. What resulted among the Galatians was a tension between the works of the law and expression of faith. Paul makes it clear that it is through faith not law adherence, that God’s blessing is inherited.
Paul reminded his audience to stand firm in light of that freedom. Freedom in this regard was the result of the believer’s life made new in Christ. But freedom is not without cost. That Christ has set believers free indicates the Cost: He “gave himself “ for humanity’s sins, “becoming a curse for us” as he hung on the cross. God desired that his people live freely following Jesus reminder that “my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Paul warns that their outward practices- circumcision or uncircumcision- were considered nothing of value. Neither practice automatically allowed a person to experience God’s promises. When a person depended on the works of laws - including circumcision- for their salvation, that act served to “set aside the Grace of God “ Paul desired that a person show faith in Christ, not righteousness by the law. If the Galatians accepted the requirements of circumcision as mandatory for salvation, Christ’s work in freeing people from the curse of the law, sin, and death would provide them no value.
If the Galatian believers choose to be circumcised then they would be required to follow the entirety of the Law of Moses. It was not as though they could pick or choose which part of the law to observe. A person cannot be justified by both Christ and the law. Only faith can bring justification. Any attempts to find justification in the law would be equivalent to falling out of grace’s realms. While justification is a one time occurrence, believers have hope that the Holy Spirit will transform and sanctify. This transformation begins when a believer is justified and progresses until the end of their life .
Paul calls the persuasion of the Galatian Judaizers a different gospel which would pervert the gospel of Christ. Their message distracted other Galatians from following the gospel that calls to faith, obedience and love.
A little yeast would effect the whole patch of dough. As they allowed a little of opposing persuasive teaching to catch hold, specifically the alleged need for circumcision, the rest of the false teachings would take hold. The result would be division among the Galatians. Paul wanted them to know that he was not preaching circumcision and that the agitators should finish the job and emasculate themselves.
Paul’s Galatian brothers and sisters were called from the yoke of the laws demands and to live into the freedom that Christ had given. Paul extends a caution. The word flesh describes human nature that acts in sinful ways contrary to God’s spirit. The remedy for living under the flesh is to serve others in love .
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” God is most loved when his children show love towards others. If believers are not filled with love their actions may tear others down. If the Galatians attacked each other, the result would be mutually assured destruction.
As Peter Scholtes (1938-2009) directed his South Side Chicago youth choir in the 1960’s, he wanted a song that would unite the varied experiences of his church’s youth group. After a day at work, Scholtes composed “They’ll Know We Are Christians.” The song, now made popular in numerous hymnals, reflected the sentiment of Jesus’ teaching that “by this everyone will know that you are disciples, if you love one another.”
While believers might be free from the demands of the law, Paul taught the Galatians that such freedom requires active love for others. Showing this love is the litmus test for a believer’s love for God. Self-examination regarding love is prudent for followers of Jesus.
Our Father, thank you for the freedom you have given us because your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us use that freedom to express neighborly love to all people that we encounter. Focus our hearts to love as you loved us. In Jesus name. Amen
This week's benediction is from the King James Version.
Next week's lesson picks up where we left off today, Galatians 5:16-26.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.