the following is a translation of the letter to the Galatians by Paul into my own understanding. This is NOT an official translation of Scripture. It is the words and ideas of a non-theologian. An average dude that wanted to put what he read in the bible into his own words. Based on his own knowledge and experience. Please use it as a interesting side exercise in your bible study. Nothing more!
Verses 1 – 5:
Greetings from me, Paul. I’m an apostle. That means I was not given a certificate by a bunch of men or from a government. No, being an apostle means much more than that. It means, as you all know, that God Himself chose me to deliver a message from Him to all humanity. Only a few people have this apostle-hood. I’m one of them. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God the Father have sent me to you. God the Father brought Jesus back to life after the gruesome crucifixion. Men can’t do that. Only God can. And He did. Also, remember that all the hard core Christians who are suffering for the Gospel message have supported me in coming to you and they approve of what I have to say.
This letter is for all the Christian churches in the province of Galatia. Grace! Grace! Grace to you! And peace too! Not from governments or scholars or doctors or men, but from the Creator Himself! This includes the Son, the One who allowed Himself to be molested, beaten and murdered and nailed to a wooden cross. And He suffered the Wrath of God the Father. Why? So He could literally pay for all our sin. Incredible. Just incredible. He didn’t just want to pay for our sin but rescue our minds and lives from being just like everyone else in this crazy, fallen world. This was not because we deserved it, but only because our Father in Heaven, who loves us incredibly, wanted to do it. He should be the most famous Person on earth for doing that. Not only today, but tomorrow, next year, in a hundred years. A thousand. A million. Forever.
Now, considering how free this gift of salvation is that you were given, I can’t wrap my mind around why you would not want it. What are you thinking? Now you are wandering off and asking to pay for something you could have for free. What sense does that make? And by the way, whatever type of salvation you are trying to buy with your own money is not a real salvation. It won’t work on the Day of Judgment. You won’t even get your money’s worth.
There are some people in your churches that have been saying things that confused and frustrated you. That’s what I have been told. These people are standing between you and Jesus’ free gift of salvation and are trying to sell you fake little gospels. Now, I don’t care if the head of the Dallas Theological Seminary comes to you with a fancy looking “gospel” that he wants to sell you. Heck, I don’t care if the heavens opened up and the head of all the angels came down with a bright, shiny angelic “gospel.” Don’t pay any attention to it. The Creator of the Cosmos. The One who spoke the Big Bang into motion. Who created absolutely everything. Including men and angels! He is the One whose Gospel you need. Not the tinkering of little ants (i.e.: people). Remember that!! Did I not make this clear in the first place? God has spoken! God has acted. Who in the world cares what men have to say?! Sheesh! If a man or even an angel tries to tell you any different than what God has said, they should be strapped into a rocket and that rocket should be sent straight to hell. Fast! Look at me. I left everything that was comfortable in order to spread this message of God’s free gift of salvation. I used to be respected by men and have a comfortable salary and was very successful as a theologian. It was easy then. I left all of that to become a poor, travelling pastor that teaches things that are not at all popular. My own people have rejected me for doint this. So, as you can appreciate, I’m not doing this to be cool. I’m doing this to be faithful to the mission God gave me. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I wanted people to like me or my message. Get it? I’m doing this simply because it is true.
Look, what I’m telling you about God’s plan to save you from your sin is not the teachings of a group of scholars. Nobody on this planet taught it to me. Not the heads of seminaries, not the most well respected team of theologians. Not CEO’s or scientists or teams of academics. This one folks, comes right from the top. Jesus Christ taught it to me. Directly. That’s how big this is.
You heard of how I was before Jesus confronted me. I’m the one that was hard core I tried to kill or imprison people like you. I was a terrorist against the Christian church. I was taught by the best teacher in the best school of judaism. I was the top student. Most of my peers were not nearly as skilled as I was or as well educated. I was studying all night, every night. I wanted to know everything about the Jewish faith and its history. And learn I did. Then, out of the blue, the God who had planned for me to be on His team since I was an embryo floating in my mother’s womb came and shook my world. Even though I was way off base and dangerously zealous, He had mercy on me and showed me His Son in a very real and powerful way. Very few people have had this type of experience. It changes everything! Believe me. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Christ in His power and majesty. And when He speaks, you listen. Oh boy do you ever! I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was to be the one who would tell the non-Jewish world about God’s plan to save everyone. All of humanity is God’s creation and He wants to save them all. Now, do you think I felt the need to go and talk to some dude in a school and double check with him if I should listen to God? Ha! Of course not! When God speaks nothing else matters. I was fairly shaken up by my encounter with the glorified Christ (you would be too). So I went off to Arabia alone. And then back to Damascus.
Then, 3 years later I went to Jerusalem to meet Peter. I was with him about 2 weeks. The only other apostle I met was James, the Lord’s brother. (All of what I’m saying is true, look into it yourselves if you must but I make this promise before God Himself). After my meeting I went up to Cilicia and in parts of Syria. At that time none of the churches in Judea had ever seen me. But they had certainly heard of me. You don’t try and kill a bunch of Christians without getting a reputation! How confused they must have been, ha! When they heard that I was now a full blown Jesus freak! You can imagine their joy and excitement at the turn of events.
Verses 1 – 3:
Then after 14 years, I went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. The reason I went down was quite serious. I had had another revelation from God. I wanted to make absolutely sure that everyone was on the same page throughout the Christian church leadership. The top Christian leaders in Jerusalem is who I met in a private meeting. I knew if they were still in line with what Christ had shown me that things would be in good working order. I was not disappointed. No one put any pressure on my Greek friend Titus to get circumcised, for example. So I knew legalism had not penetrated the church leadership in Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, like in all good action spy movies, some bad guys found a way to mess things up. The bad guys were the legalistic jewish “Christians” who got to us somehow during my time in Jerusalem. They put a ton of pressure on us to observe the Old Testament laws. But we completely resisted. We didn’t do a single thing they asked. We wanted to show how seriously we believed that the New Testament was here and the Old was gone. Forever. This way, you can be assured that we are not joking when we say you don’t have to live according to Moses’ Law. We certainly aren’t concerned about the Law anymore. Titus has yet to do any Old Testament protocols and he is my faithful minister in Christ.
Now, as all of this was going down, all of the top leaders in the Church at Jerusalem (which, as you know, is the head of the worldwide Church) were agreeing with us, not the legalists. Remember that. I’m not saying that so you will be wowed that the Jerusalem leaders agreed with me. Personally I couldn’t care less who they were. Neither would you if you had been personally instructed by Jesus Christ. People don’t impress you very much after you’ve had that kind of experience. Trust me.
In fact, the leaders were impressed and convinced that God had obviously made me the chosen apostle to the whole world of non-Jews. This is significant because Jesus personally selected 12 of them to be the apostles. For them to accept another apostle and to trust that apostle with the whole planet filled with non Jews means they were very convinced that just like Jesus personally chose Peter to be the leader of the Church of the Jewish world, Jesus had obviously personally chosen me to lead the non-Jewish Church (which is the same Church as you well know).
James, Peter and John, who are the top 3 Christian leaders in the whole world made a solemn gesture to me and Barnabas, fully accepting us as one of their own. They personally blessed our mission to the whole world of non-Jewish peoples. They were still focused mainly on reaching all of the Jews throughout the world. The only thing they really added to our mission was to make sure to take care of the poor. Which I have always been eager to do anyway.
Now, I wish I could end on that note, but me and Peter did have some heated moments too. I had to confront him face to face at one point because he royally screwed up. Here’s what happened:
Peter always ate with Jews and non-Jews, because deep down, he knows what it means to have the New Testament relationship with God the Father. We don’t have to remove ourselves from the unclean non-Jews anymore. Which is something God has been waiting for ages and ages to deliver to mankind. It’s all God’s idea, not man’s (why people don’t see this baffles me!). But, when a group of fancy, important and educated men came (James invited them) they happened to be those who believed that new Christians are forced to get circumcised and follow a bunch of Old Testament rules (why they only chose some and not all makes me laugh, who made them smarter than God that they can choose how much Law makes someone righteous?). My jaw dropped because Peter, who I know agrees with me and not them, was too impressed by these fancy legalists and he snubbed the non-Jewish Christians when it came time to eat together. He actually separated himself from them. And the other important Christians followed his lead! Heck, even my faithful right hand man Barnabas got caught up in this hypocrisy. I just about threw something at them I was so furious.
You know me, I’m not one to be shy when it comes to confrontation. Right there, in front of everyone, at meal time, I stood up and said very sternly to Peter’s face:
“Hey, Peter, if you are a Jew, but when these legalists aren’t here you live like a non-Jew, why do you want to force non-Jews to live like Jews. You certainly don’t live like a Jew. What’s up with that?
Sure, we are Jews, God’s Chosen People and the rest of the world has historically not been given the type of inside information we have about God and His plans. We have always been in a special relationship with God. But, and this is a big but, we now know how bad sin is. It is so bad that only God can actually cure it. Following rules will not cure us. God has to supernaturally deal with our sin and remove it. We have to trust Jesus to do that. Remember, this is what He taught us. This is God’s plan. The Old Testament was meant to lead into the New Testament. This is all God’s idea, not ours. God taught all of us directly, in person, that we cannot be cleaned by the Old Testament Law. God taught us! Why listen to men?! He was very clear, NO ONE CAN PAY FOR THEIR SIN BY FOLLOWING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND ALL THE LAWS OF MOSES. NO. ONE. NOT EVEN ONE. EVER.
So now what? If us Jews, God’s Chosen People and the leaders of the Church as apostles are screwing up (like you just did), does this mean Jesus Christ has failed? That He is a leader of a bad and weak movement? Of course not! That’s the whole point. We are all prone to screwing up royally. All men are. Jews and non-Jews. Doesn’t that show you that being a Jews had having the Law doesn’t actually make you any better than a non-Jew?
I’m not going to rely on the Grace of God for my salvation and then, when I screw up, forget God’s Grace and then try and be perfect by my own efforts in order to be accepted by God. Why believe in His Grace in the first place? It was the Law that highlighted how bad my sin was. Think of it like an x-ray. An X-ray is perfect. It doesn’t lie. It shows you exactly what is happening. If my x-rays reveal a deadly cancer, I cannot use that x-ray to save me from cancer. All it did was show me the cancer and that I was doomed to die.
My only hope, after I properly understood the Law, was to throw myself in the arms of God and let him do it all.
Just like Christ was completely destroyed on that Roman Cross, I am completely destroyed by God’s Law. So God the Father punished His Son fully as though He was punishing me (and all of you). So when God sees me, He now sees His Son. I know this can seem complicated but it really is simple and beautiful. Christ lived completely without sin. Every minute of every day. All the way to the end. And before He came down to earth as a human, He was eternally sinless and will continue to be sinless into eternity. His life now lives inside of me. That incredibly pure and powerful Divine life of absolute perfection has been put into me (and all those who throw themselves onto Christ for Mercy). Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us and endured unimaginable torment for us. God suffered for little old us!
So, just because I am found to still sin (and you guys too!) doesn’t mean that I don’t have the perfect and pure life of God in me. If it came down to how we live and that it was actually possible to clean up our own acts and literally get to heaven on our own, what an incredible waste for the Son of God to come down from Heaven, into our world, live for decades in a dark sinful world. Never sinning. Constantly tempted. Go through the trials of His public ministry. Go through the brutal crucifixion (you have all seen those who have been crucified by Rome and some of you even saw Christ crucified, it is beyond horrific!). Then Christ was cut off from the Father. Suffered hell for us. If we could actually get to Heaven on our own, what an incredible waste of time and effort for the Royal Son of God to go through all of that. Don’t you see? We. Can’t. Do. It. So. He. Had. To!!”
So now I want to know, my Galatian friends, why are you being so illogical? So foolish? Has someone lobotomized you? You were told of the horrific torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Do you not quite understand how much Christ did for us at the Cross?
The only thing I want you to seriously consider is this: how were you first saved? Remember when I came to you and explained the Gospel? Remember how you understood that God had done everything He needed to do to save you from your sin? And remember that you accepted all of that by faith? By trusting in that already finished work by Christ? Was it by obeying a long, hard list of rules that you were finally saved? Or was it simply by trusting in Christ’s finished work? Of course you know the answer. You listened to my explanation, believed then trusted on Christ’s work and you were overjoyed to receive the Holy Spirit freely!
Are you too foolish to forget all that? Remember that sin is so bad, it is like a planet about to be destroyed by a series of meteors. You have to get off that planet. Fast. Should you exercise your legs so you can successfully jump off that planet? Ha! Good luck with that. No. You need outside help to get off that planet. Christ is the rocket that you sit and rest in and IT, not you, does all the work of getting you to safety. So, picture you after take off, on your way out of the atmosphere, and you go and open the door to jump out of the rocket and “swim” through space on your own. How stupid would that be?! But that’s exactly what you’re doing!!
All the things that have happened to you since accepting Christ – insults, losing jobs, family members ignoring you, beatings, etc – were they all for nothing? Why accept Christ then reject Him?
So then, does the God who provided you with the spaceship of Christ to save you from the endangered planet now expect you to jump ship and float or swim through space to another planet? Of course not. It starts and ends with Faith in Christ. Just sit back in the space ship seat and trust that He will get you to Heaven safely.
You love the hero of faith Abraham don’t you? He is one of the shining examples in the Old Testament. Guess how he got to be saved? The same way I taught you! He trusted in God. Just like we trust in Christ. Same God. Same salvation. Same way to Heaven: trust, not works. If you trust in Christ you are just like Abraham. You are in his “faith family.” Rest assured nothing else needs to be added or done. The Old Testament saw that God would save even non-Jews by faith as well. So God told Abraham: “All the Nations will be blessed in you.” So if you want to be on Abraham’s team, sit back and trust in Christ. That’s all Abraham ever did.
Verses 10-14 :
Those who disobey this faith teaching always get real busy working hard at a bunch of rules. Well, go right ahead but don’t be fooled, if you work for your salvation you will have a pitiful, card-board and duct tape, man-made salvation. Which is no salvation at all. Then you will be cursed on Judgment Day. Yikes. The Bible says: “Cursed is anyone who does not PERFECTLY follow every command in the Bible in word, thought and deed.” Good luck trying to be perfect. It’s impossible.
Is it not plain and obvious that no one could ever live up to those demands? And again, the Old Testament says: “The righteous man shall live by faith.” Now remember, faith is TRUSTING in the finished work of Christ, it is NOT working overtime to be really, really good at following a bunch of laws and rules. “He who practices rules will only have to save them.” Christ saved us from the unbearable curse of having to perfectly follow rules by following the rules perfectly Himself and then receiving God’s full Wrath. He took our place under God’s Wrath so we would never have to. “Cursed is everyone who is nailed to a tree” says the Old Testament. That was referencing Christ’s crucifixion.
Now that Jesus has finished accounting for all our sin, as a descendant of Abraham He can bring this salvation to the whole world and not just the Jews. This way, we all receive the Holy Spirit by trusting in Christ’s finished work.
Verses 15 – 18:
To use an example from daily life, let’s say we have our lawyers draw up a very precise contract for a business deal. You read it carefully and I read it carefully. Then we both agree to it and sign it. Once that is done it’s done. There is no changing it after it is agreed to and signed. God made a contract with Abraham and his descendant. Note that the Old Testament did not say the plural “descendants,” but singular Descendant. It was referring to Christ not the Jews.
Hear me clearly, the Law (i.e.: the Perfect Set of Rules that Lead To Heaven if Followed Perfectly Every Second of Every Day in Thought, Word and Deed) came 430 years AFTER God had made a contract with Abraham. So, like in our example, if you bring something in AFTER both business partners have signed the contract, it cannot change the contract. That’s why we have contracts in the first place, to avoid ever-changing conditions. So, if salvation is achieved by the Law, why did God make a contract with Abraham before the Law was even revealed? He made that contract with Abraham because the promise of the contract was the way to Heaven NOT the Law that came hundreds of years later! Get it now?!
Verses 19 – 27:
“So then why even bring in the Law?” you might be asking yourselves. Well, because of how sinful we all are. We needed to see what perfection looked like to understand fully just how impossible it is for us to be perfect. The Law was given by a mediator (i.e.: Moses) while the world waited for the Messiah to come and pay for our sin. Now, remember above I told you that God had signed a contract with all of humanity. The Law came through Moses and acted like a mediator. A mediator does not nullify a contract and is neither on the side of one of the business partners or on the side of the other. Or else he could not be called a mediator. So, as you can see, the Law (being a mediator only) had nothing to do with the contract signed by God and mankind. So forget trying to jam the Law into the contract of salvation (i.e.: the Gospel).
Look, if there was a way for us to be saved by following a set of rules, then salvation would have been the Law and God would have started with it and ended with it. What God has done is to silence everyone on earth and make them see that nobody can be righteous. Now, the world is finally ready to accept a Saviour because it knows it needs one badly. But before Christ came with salvation, the Law towered over us, pointing out our sin. We were blind to the arrival of our Saviour and could only see our sin through studying God’s Law. But all the Law did was point us to the Saviour and make us glad we had such a free salvation. Now that we see Christ and His finished work, we can go ahead and receive salvation by faith. But now that faith has come we don’t need the Law to point our sins out to us because we are sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Because all of you believers were baptized into Christ and now are wearing Christ the same way you wear clothing. To cover up your nakedness. Christ now covers your sins.
Verses 28 – 29:
So now, what is the difference between a Jew and a Greek? Nothing! In Christ there is neither a boss and an employee or a man and a woman. We are all one in our faith in Christ. And if you believe in His finished work on the cross and trust in His gift of salvation you are a descendant of Abraham and have been given the same promise as he was given. You are just as much God’s Chosen People as the Jews were before Christ came.
So now, if a child is set to inherit a company and private property from his rich father, whilst he is still a youth he has no more power over the company and properties than a regular employee. When he is old and wise enough, the father will give him full power of ownership and the child (now a grown up) will be in total control. This is what humanity was like. God kept humanity under the constraints of His Law while we “grew up” and became ready to receive His Son. This Son was born like all of us, from a human mother. He grew up and had to follow the Law perfectly. Every moment. Every day. For His entire life. As we know He did live perfectly and so was a viable Sacrifice to pay for our very real sins. This allowed us to become adopted as sons of God the Father. We will inherit God’s Kingdom as if we were the children of a wealthy business and property owner. And because you are now fully sons of God, the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of you and this Spirit causes your insides to call God “Daddy! Father!” Therefore you are no longer just a slave or just an employee but sons! And because of this, you will inherit everything God owns!
Remember that before you knew of God’s plans through Christ’s Sacrifice, you were enslaved to things which are not god (your earthly appetites, the need to be accepted by performing well, etc). But now you know God in a more accurate way (and God — who fully knows everything about you — has completely wrapped you in Him and has penetrated the deepest parts of you) why do you want to crawl back to being just slaves!? Working hard not to anger your Boss? Even good slaves can get fired by the Boss. Being a slave is NOT a secure position at all. Some of you go and make up rules and special festivals, thinking this makes you hard working slaves that will keep an angry Boss satisfied with your efforts. Man, I’m freaking out! I’m afraid for you! Has all the pain staking work I’ve done to teach you that YOU ARE NO LONGER SLAVES BUT SONS been for nothing!!??
As you know, I have a reputation as a Superman Pharisee who followed the Law nearly perfectly. I’m also known as a hardcore evangelist risking my life to spread God’s truth to the Roman world. So now I say… be like me! But I don’t mean imitate my hard work. No, be like me because I have become like you. What I mean is that I am only saved because I believe in Jesus, just like you non-Jews. I’m not saved because of my hard work. I work hard because I have been freely turned into a son of God and am no longer a slave trying to keep his job.
Remember when you first met me it was because I was really sick. But God used that as an opportunity to have me teach you the Gospel. It was a lot of work for you to take care of me but you never made me feel bad about that. In fact, you treated me like I was an angel from heaven or even like I was Christ Himself! What happened to that attitude and that level of gentleness and respect you had for me? And where is that great joy you had, of knowing that Christ had fully accepted you for free? When I first met you I swear you would have yanked your own eyeballs out to give to me. But now, you see me as an enemy! Why, because I keep telling you the Truth about the Gospel? These ding dongs — those Pharisees — are acting like they really care about you. Ha! They only want to keep you away from God’s free Grace so you will follow them instead of God. They want that human power because that’s all the Flesh desires. Imagine someone who actually cares about you for your own good, not theirs. That’s me! And trust me, unlike those Pharisees, I don’t just care about you when I’m with you, but even when I’m far away like I am now. I am so messed up that you are hurting and despairing by trying to follow the Law all over again. I know how much pain that causes. I feel like a mother giving birth. I’m trying to birth your joy and freedom all over again! I want you to be born again in Christ so you can rest in Him fully! I wish I could magically appear amongst you right now and use a gentle, soft tone and soothe you again towards the only true Gospel of resting in Christ’s finished work. Man, I’m totally at a loss right now, knowing you have been turned back to despair.
So, tough guys who want to follow the Law all over again, don’t you know what the Law says happens to those who are its slaves? Remember that Abraham had two sons, one by his concubine slave and a second by his free wife. Now, the son he had by his slave Hagar was born because Abraham didn’t trust God’s promise to give him a son by his old wife Sara. So, in a sense, Abraham’s son through the slave Hagar was typical human effort that tries to do God’s work for Him.
Now, even after this disobedience, Abraham’s free wife Sarah ended up miraculously having a son, Isaac, which God had promised them. This son was the one that God had intended for Abraham to give his inheritance to. Isaac was God’s idea, Hagar’s son Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s desire to fulfill God’s promise through human cunning and effort. Now this is a great metaphor for those who follow the Law versus those who follow the Gospel of grace and mercy through Christ. Hagar represents the Pharisees stuck under the Law. Like those you met from Jerusalem who came to confuse you. Just like Hagar and her son Ishmael were never God’s plan, the Law and the Pharisees were never God’s plan for salvation (just to show the need for salvation). Now, the true Jerusalem (i.e.: Heaven where God lives) is free and is above the earthly Jerusalem. The True Jerusalem is like Sarah’s son Isaac, it is God’s plan to free us. The Old Testament says:
“Be very happy, women who can’t have children. Jump up and shout for joy those of you who don’t have to go through labour. Because you will have more children than the woman who is married and gives birth.”
Imagine that! Not having to go through labour in order to have a family. That’s what the Gospel is like.
God does all the work, you get all the reward. Amazing! And you, brothers, are like Isaac. You are born again miraculously because of God’s promise, not because of human effort. And remember that Hagar’s son Ishmael was frustrated at Isaac’s inheritance and he treated him poorly. Well, it’s just like the Pharisees who abuse you, they hate the idea that they have been chasing their tails their whole lives and that you are freely given the Kingdom without any effort. Remember that the Old Testament talks about what happens to the Ishmaels and Pharisees and all who love to be slaves to the Law:
“Cast Hagar and Ishmael out! For they will NOT inherit what Sarah’s son Isaac will inherit.”
Wow. Think about that. Take all the time you need. It is clear as day. Christians are NOT born into slavery to the Law, but into freedom from it!! We are Isaac. Born miraculously by God’s Power because of His Promise!
Now, if we are trapped in a car and Christ uses the “jaws of life” to get us out, does He want us to crawl back in? Of course not! He set us free so we could be free.
Look, it’s me, Paul, and I’m telling you that if you try and stay on Jesus’ team by working hard to follow some rules (e.g.: getting circumcised to be like Old Testament Jews) you can’t pick and choose which rules. You have to FOLLOW THEM ALL. All. You have to be perfect if you want to do it by following rules. If you get off the rocket ship called Jesus Christ, you now have to travel from one planet to the other by jumping. Good luck! You have fallen out of your secure place on the rocket ship if you choose to work your way to Heaven. Because it is through the Holy Spirit, only by trusting in Christ, that we are waiting for the hope of God’s righteousness. For when we trust in Christ we are in Christ, and whether or not you are circumcised (or follow any other rules) means absolutely nothing. Only FAITH working through you by God’s Love has power to save you.
You were doing so well, who messed with you and convinced you to stop obeying the truth? It certainly was not Jesus. Remember that when you have a pile of dried kindling, it takes just a little flame to set the whole thing on fire. See how easy it was for some false teacher to set your peace ablaze! Nevertheless, I am confident in you because of God’s Spirit, that you will not change your mind about how I taught you to be saved. But the one who is telling you false information will be punished, whoever he is. But me, brothers, I never taught you what these confused teachers are teaching. I am not on their team. Think about it, if I am saying the same things to you as these false teachers, why are they still hating on me? If I was one of them, they’d embrace me. Instead, they persecute me. So me and them are NOT preaching the same thing. Choose one of us. Now, I understand that the idea that Jesus, on the Cross, paying for all sin — once and for all — trips a lot of people up. Seems to easy. But it’s the truth! Man, I’m so upset with those teaching you the wrong gospel, telling you that you need to “do that,” and “do this” in order to be saved. Gosh, I wish they’d hurry up and go all the way and be crucified themselves if they’re such hard workers! Go ahead and do everything Jesus did!
But my advice to you is: walk by the Spirit, not by your own efforts. If you walk by the Spirit you will not do what your flesh desires for you to do. For it’s a clash between the flesh and the spirit. Like Darth Vader vs. the Jedi. Or Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. The Flesh vs. the Spirit. They are in a dog fight. But as this combat wages itself inside you, you can choose the Spirit over your Flesh at any time. And someone who believes and trusts Christ is led by the Spirit. Which means they are not going to be judged by God for the sin of their flesh. The criminal record they have accumulated won’t count against them.
Now, what does the flesh do when it does whatever it wants? It’s obvious:
- being immoral in general
- thinking, saying and doing impure things
- being sensual
- being obsessed by something other than God, like career, fame, women, power, things, etc
- being involved in the occult or acts of sorcery
- always being in conflict with others
- always fighting with others
- being jealous of what others have
- outbursts of anger
- always being engages in disputes
- always planting the seeds of discord at work, between friends and family or your neighbours
- always forming a clique to break up harmony in the people you hang out with
- seething with envy over what others have
- getting drunk
- looking to get some “action” with someone your not married to
I think you get the picture. Now, I warned you before so I’ll warn you again. We are all sinners, but if you live like the list above, and you have no shame, no regret nor any sense of guilt. And you fully embrace the lifestyles I just listed, with no sign of concern, well, you are NOT someone who believes or trusts in Christ. And you are NOT SAVED!
But God’s Spirit grows the Fruits of the Spirit in you, like a Gardener draws good fruits from His garden and fields. Here are some Fruits of the Spirit:
- being at peace
- being a patient person
- simple, but obvious goodness
- being committed and faithful in your close relationships and at work
- having self control over your fleshly impulses
No Law from God will condemn things like this. Now those who follow Jesus have run a car over their Flesh and all its ugly desires. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a fleshly nature still bubbling up inside us! Think of it like a bad guy that used to have you kidnapped in your own truck. He was driving and you were tied up in the back seat. Now, with Christ, things have changed. The bad guy has been pulled out of your truck and run over. Now he’s just in laying in the back of your pick up bed, barely alive and dying fast. Bad Guy can still talk to you but you don’t have to listen. And now you are untied and back in the driver’s seat and can follow Jesus’ instructions.
So, if we have God’s Spirit let us also use its Power to live according to the Fruits of the Spirit. Let us not become braggers, let us not challenge each other over one thing or another. Nor envying what each other has.
Look, somewhere, somehow, one of us is going to sin sooner or later. And we may even feel trapped by a sin. In that case, those of you who are spiritual — and by that I mean more experienced in fighting that particular sin — should help the weaker brother in a gentle way. Don’t be harsh. Now be careful not to fall into that sin yourself! By helping each other like this, you are doing the Law (not according to the Pharisees and legalists, but according to Jesus Christ). Some think they are amazingly spiritual because they memorize rules and books, but those might be empty if you are not doing the work of helping of other Christians when they are in need (don’t fool yourself!). If you think you’re “all that and a bag of chips” but really you’re just selfish and hoarding information, well, you’re only fooling yourself. So take a good look at yourself and be honest, are you doing what God wants you to do. If so, then you can quietly be proud that you are better today than you were yesterday. But don’t go around bragging about that. Worry about your sin and work on your weaknesses and rejoice in your strengths — silently!
If you are being taught all this by a minister, don’t neglect to help them with their needs. And I mean food and housing, not just a pat on the back. And don’t think you can hide anything from God, if you are not quietly working on the things He wants you to work on, but are just doing things for selfish reasons, you will be eventually exposed as a fraud — now or at the Judgment — and you will not be rewarded here or later. If you think, like the legalists and Judaizers, that you can depend on your own works, you are fooling yourself and only depending on your flesh. And you will be disappointed on how that turns out. But the one who depends on the Spirit — on Grace, Christ’s Sacrifice, God’s Power — will not be disappointed and will be eternally alive.
Don’t be discouraged and don’t lose the desire to do good things. All of your works are being watched and counted by God. Not one good deed will go unnoticed and either in this life or the next you will be rewarded. That is, if you keep on plugging along. So if you have the chance, do good to your Christian brothers and sisters.
Recognize my hand writing? Unlike the other letters that I dictated to my assistants, I wrote this letter myself. Now let me drive my point home. Those Judaizers who want you to do good works like circumcision in order to be saved are trying to look good and trying to please the Pharisees so they won’t be persecuted like me and you. And look at these circumcised “superstars,” they don’t even keep all of Moses’ Law anyway. They aren’t concerned with righteousness, they are trying to get more followers and have a big movement they can brag about.
I am not trying to get you to follow me just so I can brag. No way. I want Jesus to have you, not me. It is to Jesus and His Cross that I belong and brag about. It has put me in a place in which the world and its fleshly desires are dead to me. And I am dead to the world. Because no act of righteousness like circumcision — and heck, even the act of faith which leads you to NOT be circumcised — makes us holy. Only being a new creation by God’s Spirit can do that.
To those of you who will listen to the call of God’s Grace and live by it, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon all of God’s People in this world.
From now on let no one get me in more trouble for this kind of foolishness, as you can see from my scars, I’ve suffered enough already for this precious truth of Christ’s free gift of salvation through faith alone.
May that beautiful Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit brothers and sisters. Amen!