Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Bethany Bullet - Week of July 3, 2016

We finish up our time in the book of Galatians as we turn to chapter 6. Before we get into the text let me remind you where we have been.

Many Bible scholars and your two pastors are of the opinion that this letter was most likely the very first New Testament book to be written.  It comes before Paul is put into a physical prison, yet talks extensively about freedom.

There were some in the community who, after Paul left the Galatian church, began to influence the new believers that there was something they had to do in order to be a follower of the Messiah. 

The ceremonial requirements of the law, they said, needed to be followed as a prerequisite to being a believer. 

But as we heard when we began our study of this book, the Gospel is no longer the Gospel if there is anything we need to do to be a follower of Jesus. 

Throughout the letter Paul has been talking about two different things; justification and sanctification.  We spent time with this last week but let me give you a quick reminder.

In Christ we have been justified, that is our bill has been paid, our account has no debt, we are all square, everything is lined up correctly in our relationship to the Almighty ONLY because of what Jesus has done. It is a state of being.

We claim no merit, we add nothing, we don’t deserve it and we are made right only through the blood of Jesus and his defeat of sin, death and the power of the devil.

When we are justified, it is “just as if I’d” never sinned.  “We are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone the new has come.” (Those are Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 5:17)



The End! 

We have been freed from the tyranny of sin!  We could stop right there because there is nothing else that is needed in regards to our salvation.

But that is not where Paul stops.  He goes on to talk about our response to all of this.  That is what we call sanctified living

Last week we talked about that freedom that we have to live for God. We also saw how this is a struggle between our sinful flesh and our Spirit filled life. 

Sanctification is that daily battle we all face, and, that we all too often fail at living for the Spirit.  But that does not mean we give up.  We are freed, not to do anything we want but freed to serve others in love. 

It’s important for us not to get the cart before the horse when we think of Justification and Sanctification. 
We don’t do things so that God will love us.  But we are still called to do things that please God. 

I had a seminary professor explain it this way. 

Many feel that the life of a Christian is “Do, be, do, be, do”

Meaning that some think we need to do something before we are justified.

But really the Christian life is, “Be, do, be, do, be”

I know the grammar is not correct, but the doctrine is.

We ARE justified, it is a state of being, and because we are, we can do…do for others.

So when you get confused remember, it’s not “Do, be, do, be, do” it’s “Be, do, be, do, be.”  Always ending on the “be” that you “are” justified on account of Christ.

OK, Pastor, that’s a lot of talk and we haven’t even gotten into the text for this Sunday morning.  Yes, I know, but to understand the end of the letter we need to have some perspective before we see how Paul closes it out. 

So, let’s dig in…

From Galatians 6, starting at verse 1:  Once again this week I am reading from the New International Version, the one that is in the pew Bibles.  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)

Paul is talking about interpersonal relationships here.  Like we did last week, as we look to the original language we get a little more perspective.  You could rightfully translate the beginning of verse one as “whenever someone is caught in sin…”  

In reality, at some point, every one of us will be caught in sin, be it by a brother or sister coming to us in love or by the work of the law showing us our sin. 

Paul hearkens back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)

When we correct and admonish one another we do so not to lord it over them but sharing the burden with them.  We do not walk the road of sanctification alone.  And we walk the way with humility and grace.

Paul continues, “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.”  (Galatians 6:3-5)

Not only is the stronger believer’s kindness and consideration important for the weaker believer, but such action is important for the stronger believer also. 

The temptation is always there for the stronger believer to compare him or herself to the weaker and then feel smug in a position of relative strength, but that is falling into sinful behavior.  We need to understand that we all carry the load in the life of sanctification.

This is not something to be proud about.  We should never go wagging our fingers at others in judgmental disagreement upon their sin.   That’s God’s job, and the law does a pretty good job at it as well.  We are all in need of God’s grace and mercy.

Because we have been freed from sin, we freely give help, encouragement and share words of grace and mercy with others who need it.  This is living free in the Spirit. This is living a life of sanctification.  This is “Be, do, be, do, be.”

In Christ, and in the Spirit we are able to carry one another’s burdens.

Moving on to verse 6, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:6-9)

In Paul’s encouragement to the Galatians it is very important to remember that the activities he is discussing is sanctified living. 

The activity of proper sowing is not in and of itself the thing that leads to reaping eternal life. 

Rather, the sowing is a Christian’s response, which is the proper use of the material things God has given.

The sowing is an outward indication that living faith is at work in the believers’ life.

It’s “Be, do, be, do, be” not “Do, be, do, be, do.”

Paul describes the sanctified life this way in verse 10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)

This does not mean we play favorites.  Paul calls us to do good, that is bring the love and grace of God in Christ to all people.  We do not get to pick and choose, but we should never turn our backs or our works on the family of faith.

Paul continues in verse 14 and following, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor un- circumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:14-16)

Paul doesn’t launch a full scale attack on circumcision; instead he returns to the core issue, salvation does not come by anything we do.  Nothing we do improves our statues before God.  It’s not “Do, be, do, be, do.”

What counts is a new creation. And that new creation is what happens when sinners come to faith in Christ. 
By faith we exchange our own filthy rags for the glorious garment of Christ perfect righteousness.  Clothed in this, we are forgiven, at peace with God, assured of an eternity of bliss with God in heaven. 

Until that time, we spend our days on earth in cheerful service to the God who gives us everything by grace, freely as a gift. 

We cannot boast in works, or actions, or earthly status.  The only thing we boast about is the cross and in that alone. 

The rule here is just that, to boast in Christ and his cross alone. 

It is at the cross that we are made heirs of Christ and receive the blessings of eternal life so that our lives may be described as “Be, do, be, do, be.” 

Paul puts his “money where his mouth is” at the end as he says, “Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen” (Galatians 6:17-18)

Paul paid the price and experiences personal suffering and hardships because of Christ and he had the scars to prove it.  But I think there is more to it than just telling scar stories and showing how much he endured, but Paul, and every one gathered here today has been marked by Jesus.

His scars have marked you as his own.  He has called you by name and even placed His name upon you in baptism.  The marks of Jesus are given to us as a deposit and guarantee of what Jesus promised by his life death and resurrection, that you are his forever. 

For that he desires the grace of Jesus to be with all believers.

So forgive my bad grammar and let me say, never forget who you “be” so that you can “do” in His grace for others.  It all about “Be, do, be, do, be.”

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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