Thursday, July 30, 2015

A divine rescue - Colossians 1:13-14

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)
This world is a mixture of two kingdoms; two kingdoms living side-by-side. These kingdoms are not differentiated by lands and borders but by obedience and fealty to one master or another. Both kingdoms can, and do, exist together in the same neighborhoods, offices, schools, and families. You can be in one kingdom while the person standing next to you is in the other. These kingdoms are real and one's destiny in determined by the kingdom in which they live.

One kingdom is a kingdom of darkness. Some of this darkness is self imposed by the evil of our own hearts. John says, "the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1 John 2:11) The evil thoughts and intents of our heart blind us to the light, to love, to relationships, and to the beauty of the creation all around us. In addition, some of our blindness is the work of the lord of darkness in whose kingdom we live. Paul says, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) Not only are we in darkness, but darkness breeds further darkness.

This kingdom exercises dominion over our lives. The Greek word translated here as "domain" can also mean power, mastery, or privilege. The Kingdom of darkness exercises privilege in our lives. Because of our surrender to his kingdom, the lord of darkness has privileges in our lives to rule us and to force us into compliance. He is our master and we are his servants. Paul reminds us that, "when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Romans 6:16) When we yield to darkness its becomes our master and, over time, its mastery over us becomes complete.

The second kingdom is a kingdom of light and it is ruled by love, It's master is the one and only Son of God. The Father loves Him and has given His kingdom to Him that He might rule it in truth and righteousness. This kingdom is greater than the kingdom of darkness in as much as the Son of God is greater than the lord of darkness. Satan is himself under the dominion of the Son and therefore so is his kingdom. At will, the Son is free to rescue those caught in darkness and transfer them into His Kingdom of light. He is the one who created all dominions and thus He is the ultimate ruler over of all creation.

However, the price of our translation from darkness to light was not cheap, for it required the forgiveness of our sins. So great were our sins that it required a great sacrifice to pay their penalty; that penalty death. Our freedom required the substitutional sacrifice of one whose life was exemplary and holy. It required the death of one who was altogether righteous. This death Jesus freely came to give. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

A great price has been paid for our freedom by Jesus.All means have been secured for our release. Let us now choose to transfer our allegiances that we might be translated into His kingdom. Let us leave darkens behind for the light of eternity.

David Robison

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A holy prayer - Colossians 1:9-12

"For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." (Colossians 1:9-12)
As the Gospel was spreading throughout the whole known world and continually bearing fruit towards God, Paul's desire was that it would also do so among the Colossians. Paul prays several specific things for them as they continue to grow in God and bear fruit through His Gospel.

First he prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God's will. Most of the time we hope that such knowledge will come through some direct prophetic word, like when the Father told Mary and Joseph to flea to Egypt. "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'" (Matthew 2:13) However, knowledge of God's will often does not come in this fashion. We learn to understand God's will by growing in wisdom and understanding. It is only through gaining wisdom and growing in spiritual understanding that we come to discern and understand God's will for our life and for the world around us.

Secondly, he prays that we might walk worthy of the Lord. This requires both a knowledge of His will and the courage to act upon it. It is not enough to know what God wills but we must also do what He wills. Additionally, we must come to know and understand what it means to please the Lord. Doing the things that please the Lord does not often come naturally but is something we must learn as we walk with Him. Paul commands us to, "walk as children of Light... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:8,10) Learning what pleases the Lord requires a relationship with the Lord. We cannot learn what pleases our spouse without a relationship with them by which we might learn what pleases them. The same is with the Lord. We must know Him if we are to find out what pleases Him.

Thirdly, Paul prays that, as the Gospel is bearing fruit throughout the world, so might it also bear fruit in us. The fruit of the Gospel is not only the lives it redeems but also the fruit born in the lives that have been redeemed. There are two aspects to this fruitfulness in God. One is the production of good works in our lives. Paul tells Timothy to instruct the believers, "to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share," (1 Timothy 6:18) Good works are the result of faith working through love. The second aspect is an internal growth and it is a growth in the knowledge of God. The Gospel did not come just to save us but also to reconcile us back to God. It is God's hope that as we live and walk in Him, we might also grow in our knowledge of Him.

Lastly, Paul asks that we might grow in strength and might, not for the performing of great works, but for the purpose of patience, endurance, and steadfastness. Jesus reminds us that it is "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." (Mark 13:13) Life is not always easy and there are bound to be trials and tribulation along the way. We need the power and strength of God to see us through these times and to deliver us safely back home to Him. It is in times like these that we will find that it the joy of the Lord that is our strength. It says of Jesus that, "for the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross," (Hebrews 12:2) Without joy we will not endure. We need's God's joy in our lives and this joy comes only through Him. Let's get to know Him so that as we grow in the knowledge of Him we might also grow in the joy of Him.

David Robison

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New commentary on Galatians

I have gathered my postings on the book of Galatians and compiled them into a downloadable commentary. This commentary can be downloaded from the Commentary tab on my blog.

The Galatian church had started out well, but now they were being distracted by those who said that they must also keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Though they had started out in the Spirit, they were now trying to be perfected by the flesh. Paul writes a passionate letter to them, urging them to discard the law and to continue in the freedom the had received from Christ. Many today are similarly confused regarding the relationship between our salvation and the law. Paul seeks to clear up these confusions for us.

David Robison

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A potent Gospel - Colossians 1:3-8

"We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras...and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit." (Colossians 1:3-8)
Jesus tells us that people differ in how they receive and persist in the truth. Specifically, there are those who receive it quickly but also quickly fall away. "In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away." (Mark 4:16-17) However, the Colossians had both received the word and remained in the word despite trials, difficulties, and persecutions. They held on to the truth "because of the hope" they had in the truth. Hope is a powerful thing. If we see Christianity as mere religion or just our best efforts at enlightenment and self-improved then we will be easily swept away by difficult times. However, if we see in it the hope of righteousness and the hope of eternal life, then hope will cause us to remain steadfast even till the end.

When we preach the Gospel, our message must not be solely about sin, punishment, and the promise of absolution from sin. It must also contain the hope to which we are called. Peter says that we have been called to a "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3) through the Gospel. If we merely communicate a Gospel that is something that we must believe and do then people will be quick to discard it when times get tough. However, if we preach a Gospel that is hope both for this life  and the life to come, then it will strengthen and fortify them through their difficult times and delight them in their times of ease. Through the Gospel we find "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3) and this should be at the heart of our preaching of the Gospel.

Paul further tells us something important about the Gospel; that it is fertile and growing throughout all the world. The Gospel is potent and has the power to produce fruit in all who hear and receive it. The results of the sowing of the Gospel have little to do with us. It is as in the parable of the farmer which Jesus told. "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows — how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head." (Mark 4:26-28) Our job is not to convince people concerning the Gospel, nor are we responsible for the growth of fruit in someone's life because of the Gospel. Our job is to preach the Gospel and the hope of the Gospel and to let the word take root and bear fruit in the lives of those who have "hearing with faith." (Galatians 3:2)

Finally, Paul tells us that the Gospel does not singulrly produce the fruit of salvation but continues to produce fruit in the lives who hear and believe it. The Gospel is not something we hear, accept, and then go on our way. It is something that should become a regular part of our lives that our lives may continually bear fruit to God. There is never a time in our Christian walk where we no longer need the truth, hope, and power of the Gospel . We need its power, we need its truth, and we need its hope to change us and to raise us up in the things of God. In the end, the Gospel is meant to produce in us faith and love; faith towards God and love towards each other. These things will increase in our lives as we let the Gospel increase and bear fruit in our lives as well. May we today continue to fine new reasons to love the Gospel of God in our lives.

David Robison

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Greatings - Colossians 1:1-2

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. " (Colossians 1:1-2)
Paul writes to the church at Colossae; a church he had never personally visited. However, his friend and partner, Epaphras, had. Epaphras was not only a friend of Paul's, but also a partner in his apostolic endeavors. We see him mentioned here in Galatians, "Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf," (Colossians 1:7) and also later in Paul's letter to Philemon, where Paul writes, "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you." (Philemon 23-24) Epaphras means "Devoted to Aphrodite" but Epaphras had become devoted to Jesus Christ and His church.

Paul was not a lone ranger, he operated as part of a larger team. He understood that the work was too important and too vast for him to do it alone. He needed other people both to help him and for him to help. It is tempting to form ministries around our own giftings; highlighting our strengths, abilities, and calling. However, it is more productive to develop teams with varying giftings, strengths, callings, and abilities. When we learn to work as teams, we extend the Kingdom of God in ways we could never do by ourselves.

Paul writes in his name and in the name of Timothy whom he calls "brother." This is significant, Notice that Paul does not write, "and Timothy my son and your bother", thus placing himself above them, but simply "timothy our brother." In calling Timothy "our brother" he is placing himself on the same level as the believers in Colossae. If Timothy was Paul's brother, and Timothy was a brother to those in Colossae, then Paul was also a brother to them in Christ.

One of the keys to ministry is to see others as brothers and sisters in Christ. For some, the entry into ministry is an entry into an elevated class and a distinction from those they serve. Class distinctions such as clergy and laity, leader and follower, spiritual and carnal are not helpful when it comes to the administration of the Kingdom of Christ. Jesus never intended for there to be class distinctions between us for, as He said, "you are all brothers." (Matthew 23:8)

It is also interesting to note that Paul writes to the "saints" at Colossae. This Greek word is the same Greek word translated in other places as "Holy" such as in the "Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit could also be translated as the Saintly Spirit and the saints could also be called the holy-ones. In calling them saints he was referring to the entire church, not just a select few of them. They were all holy and they were all saints. What makes us holy in Christ, and thus saints, is not how spiritual we are or what acts of piety we've done but whose presence is within us. Something is holy because God is there. When Jesus lives within us, then we too are holy.

Paul was an apostle by the will of God. An apostle is not something you can study to be. It is not something that you can aspire to and become through hard work and determination. It is something you are called to do by God, even if that calling is contrary to your wishes.Paul writes of his own calling saying, "For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me." (1 Corinthians 9:17) Sometimes we can feel jealousy for whom others are in Christ but our focus should be on who and what God has called us to be. God's grace is found in His calling. Trying to be someone else will only make us weary and ineffectual. We must be whom God has called us to be.

David Robison

Friday, July 17, 2015

In what do you boast? - Galatians 6:14-18

"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen." (Galatians 6:14-18)
I know no one that goes around boasting that they are circumcised. In fact, during Jesus' and Paul's days there was a booming business in Jerusalem to performed circumcision reversals. This was so that Jewish men could practice, without fear of ridicule, at their local gyms along side the Greek men who also practiced there naked. However, this is not the boasting that Paul is referring too.

The boasting that Paul is referring to is the boasting in how we achieved what ever manor of success, prosperity, or goodness we have arrived at in our lives. Some boast in themselves as the enabler and producer of their success. The Judaizers boasted in the Law as that which gave them righteousness. Still others boast in a method, program, or conference they attended that caused them to turn around and make something of their lives. All of these boast in the means by which they attained that which they attained.

However, Paul understood that the path to true change wasn't through any combination of will, method, or law. True change comes when one is thoroughly and complacently changed on the inside. So great is the stain of the world on our lives that the only hope for us to be different is to be born again of a purer seed. Peter put it this way, "you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Peter 1:23) The door that opens up this change to us and allows us to be born again as children of God is the cross of Christ. Nothing short of His death and resurrection on our behalf could have sufficed to announce to us the offer of being born again. To change, one must be changed.

There are many people selling the likes of snake oil, promising to know the path to change, but none of that matters unless you have already been changed. Here is the question: have you been changed? Have you been reborn unto a new life? Have you been set free from the bondages, influences, and forces of this world? Has your heart been changed to desire new and better things then you did when you were still in the world? If not, then no manor of program, discipline, or law will suffice to award you what you truly seek. Those things may seem worthy, but they can never produce the true and lasting change you seek on the inside. All real change begins at the cross. It is at the cross that we die to the world and become alive to God. This is the new birth Jesus came to bring us.

Paul comes to the end of his letter and he asks the Galatians to choose between him and those pushing the law. They mark themselves to appear righteous where as, for Paul, his righteousness earned him his marks in the flesh. One was cutting themselves seeking to be changed yet the other already bore the marks that proved his change. One bore the marks of the law and the other the marks of his savior. Whom will you be like today?

David Robison

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Putting on a good show - Galatians 6:11-13

"See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh." (Galatians 6:11-13)
It is unclear exactly what was the problem with Paul's eyes. However, Paul makes mention of it in this letter when he reminds the Galatians that the reason he stayed with them in the first place was because of of some illness that affected his eyes, for he says, "For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me." (Galatians 4:15) Because of this affliction he apparently had to write with large letters which because his signifying mark in all his letters to show that they were authentic and from him. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes, "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter;" (2 Thessalonians 3:17) During the time of the Apostles there were a lot of forged letters being circulated that purported to be from the Apostles, The large letters of Paul's own hand was his mark of authenticity in his letters.

There is a seduction in the law that allows us to appear righteous without actually having to be righteous. All the law requires is external conformity without any real heart change within. Those who preached circumcision preached a very attainable righteousness; all you had to do was be circumcised. It did not require a radical transformation of your heart, it did not require the adoption of a new life style, it only required a mark in your flesh.

While they delighted in their apparent righteousness, the lives of the true believes witnessed against them. Their lives stood as a shining beacon of hope to all who desired real righteousness and exposed the shallow righteousness of those who depended on the law. Fools Gold may look real by itself, but when placed against the real thing its fakery becomes quite apparent. When surrounded by those whom Christ had changed, it became very hard for those who trusted in the Law to continue to assert their own brand of righteousness.

The persecution of the cross is different from the persecution of men. The Greek word for "persecution" means to flee or to pursue. The cross pursues those who trust on the flesh. It witnesses against them. It testifies of their own inability to obtain righteousness. It shows us the depths of our own depravity. So deep is that depravity that nothing other than the death of the Son of God could free us, transform us, and restore us to right standing before God. The cross is an offense to those who trust in the law because it declares the utter futility of what they are pursuing; righteousness apart from Christ.

Those who trust in the law despise our freedom. Only by bringing us back into bondage under the law can they hope to convince themselves that only in bondage can righteousness be found. However, in doing so they nullify the power of the cross and make Christ of no avail to themselves. They boast in your conformity, not because it makes you any better, but because it eliminates the witness of your freedom that testifies against them. Let us not surrender to them. Let us not stop being "the light of the world. A city set on a hill." (Matthew 5:14) Let our lives continue to show what true freedom and righteousness looks like in Christ.

David Robison

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Opportunity for good - Galatians 6:7-10

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:7-10)
These words ought to be as red flashing lights before our eyes, warning us of impending danger if we proceed past them unawares. While we are no longer under the law, we are, nonetheless, still subject to the consequences of our actions. Our actions may not render us as unrighteous and subject to the eternal judgment of God, but that does not mean that they have no effect on our lives. James speaks of the progression of sin."Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." (James 1:14-15) If we continue in sin, yielding to the lusts of the flesh, then we will continue to experience the work of death in our lives and our relationships. I knew a Christian man who, one day, started drinking with his friends, which lead to him doing drugs, which lead to him abusing his children, which lead him to jail, and which lead to a restraining order against him seeing his family. All this in the span of about six months. It only took six months for the process of sin in his life to steal away from him all that he cared about. He was still a Christian man, but his actions had cost him everything he loved. Be not deceived! This could be the story of any one of us if we continue to sow to the flesh and live a life of sin,

Sowing and reaping is an immutable law of God. If we sow to the flesh we will reap death but if we sow to the Spirit we will reap life and life eternal. However, one of the greatest challenges in sowing and reaping is the waiting between the two. Sometimes much time must pass between sowing and the eventual reaping. The promises of God, even the promise of reaping, are received by faith, but sometimes faith alone is insufficient to received the things of God. Sometimes we must add patience to our faith. The writer of Hebrews says, "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:11-12) It is easy to become weary in sowing when we do not see the immediate fruit of our labors. Sometimes we must sow while we wait for the harvest. What is worse is that, sometimes, in the midst of sowing good seed, we still have to deal with the bad fruit of the seeds we had previously sown. Often we are in the situation where we are called to sow good seed and pull up the bad weeds while we wait for the promised fruit of the harvest. However, if we do not give up or grow weary, we will reap in due time. This too is a fixed promise from God.

So how does one sow to the Spirit? By capitalizing upon the opportunities to do good to others. By walking circumspectly, aware of the world around us, looking for those opportunities to bless and do good to others. Paul says, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) Not only has God created us for good works, but He has already planned them for our lives. God has gone before us, laying out good works for our doing. All we must do is to recognize them and yield our lives to their opportunity. It is through these good works, by doing good to others, that we sow to the Spirit and reap for ourselves eternal life. Let us start looking outward, looking for those things that God has planned for us, and find the life of service and doing good that God has called us to.,

David Robison

Monday, July 13, 2015

The teacher and the student - Galatians 6:6

"The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him." (Galatians 6:6)
Paul is presenting to us a basic Christian principal that it is good to share material things with those who share spiritual things with us. We see this principal in regards to the gentile's debt to the Jews. "For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things." (Romans 15:26-27) Paul also used this principal in regards to himself. "If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more?" (1 Corinthians 9:11-12) However, though it was his right, Paul did not often make use of this right. Paul also uses the same Greek word for "share" to describe how other churches shared in his ministry. "You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs." (Philippians 4:15-16) The principal is, that it is good to share materially with those who share spiritually with us.

It is interesting that Paul speaks here specifically of those who teach, Paul places a premium on teachers. He enumerates the functions of the church saying, "God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28) He places teachers above even miracle workers. I believe that the reason is because, for the long term heath and growth of the church, teachers are a necessity. In Paul's day, some churches had resident teachers, such as the church at Antioch. "Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers." (Acts 13:1) However, we know that some churches existed without any teachers or even any formal leadership. We see that both Timothy and Titus were sent to appoint elders in the churches that Paul had started, implying that they previously had not formal leadership until they appointed elders for them. The same is true today. There are many churches that have pastors but no teachers. Those who are lead by evangelists but have no pastors. It is possible to be part of a church that cares well for the members but that depends on outside resources for its teaching and for the equipping of the saints.

The early church was a church that shared its resources with each other. Luke writes that, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45) Even two hundred years latter, the church was still involved in caring for the needs of one another. Turtullian writes that the church was, "One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives." (Turtullian, Apology, Chapter 39) I think what Paul is driving at in his letter to the Galatians is that, in their sharing of what they have, do not forget those who minister among you, especially if they are visiting or itinerant ministers in their midst.

There is little to no evidence that the local church eldership in the early church was paid or drew a salary from the church. However, there were those who dedicated themselves to the preaching and teaching of the gospel. Often traveling great distances to preach and teach the word of God. Peter spoke of his own dedication and that of the other Apostles. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:4) Those who dedicate themselves in this way deserve to be supported by those whom they bless. In caring for one another, let us not forget those who minister among us and to us.

David Robison

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lifting burdens - Galatians 6:2-5

"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load." (Galatians 6:2-5)
What I find interesting about the law of Christ is that it is not written down anywhere. Unlike the law of Moses, there is no place where you can go to find the exact details, requirements, and judgments that make up the law of Christ. That is because the law of Christ is not an external law but an internal one. Towards the end of the first covenant, God began speaking of a new covenant saying, "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (Jeremiah 31:33) And Paul concurs that this promise has come true, that God's law has now been written on our hearts. "You are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Corinthians 3:3) The law of Christ is something we know within ourselves, by the Spirit of God, and in relationship with Jesus.

In the Greek, the words for "burden" and "bear" are believed to come form the same root meaning "weight". The idea of bearing someone's burden implies the lifting up of that burden and the enduring underneath its weight along side its owner. This is the opposite of what Jesus noticed the Pharisees doing, "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." (Matthew 23:4) Part of living in community is learning not to be so self-absorbed. We need to be open to seeing the needs and burdens of others, those things that have them weighed down, and to be willing to lift those burdens in what ever way we are able. In some cases that may be financial in others it may be by offering aid and assistance. Paul tells us that, "God has so composed the body... that the members may have the same care for one another." (1 Corinthians 12:24-25) At times, we may be the ones in need, at other times, we may have what is needed. Either way, we are called to lessen the load for our fellow brothers and sisters in what ever way we can.

Sometimes, we can have pride by association. We are prideful of how our church helps the poor, sends our missions, and provides all kinds of services for the community around us. However, our pride is in what others are doing rather than what we personally are doing. In the end, Jesus words, "for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink" (Matthew 25:42) will be spoken to individuals and not churches. We will all have to give an account for what we did in this life; in our life and not that of another. Paul says that we all have our own burden to bear, but here he is referring to our calling and purpose in God. This Greek word means "an invoice" or a job that is given to us by God. There are some burdens that we can carry for each other, but there are some jobs that we must do ourselves. In the end, what matters is what we have done, not what others have done. We cannot live off the shirttails of others, we must go and do what God has given us to do.

David Robison

Friday, July 10, 2015

Caught in sin - Galatians 6:1

"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)
To be caught in sin is different from living in sin. One is a habitual practice and a lifestyle while the other overtakes us in a moment of weakness or inattentiveness. We are all people in process and, from time to time, we all fail to hit the mark. While we are all striving for the glory of God, we sometimes will still fall far short of it. James warns us, "For we all stumble in many ways." (James 3:2) And John comforts us saying, "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Knowing that sin is still a real possibility for most (if not all) of us. When we fall, and sin takes over us, it is good to have those around us who can pick us up and restore us onto the right way.

Paul places three conditions on those who would desire to aid and restore those taken by sin. First that they be spiritual. The spiritual man or woman is a mature man or woman, one who understands the wisdom and truth of the Kingdom of God. Paul speaks of that wisdom that is taught to the mature, "which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." (1 Corinthians 2:13) The spiritual man or woman is also one who can accurately appraise the world and situation around them. Paul says that, "But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one." (1 Corinthians 2:15) Finally, a spiritual man or woman is one who has already learned how to restore themselves from their own stumbling and falling. They have taken to heart the words of Jesus, "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5)

Secondly, Paul says that we should restore them in a spirit of gentleness. James tells us that wisdom is best expressed and demonstrated through meekness and gentleness. "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." (James 3:13) Even Christ came in gentleness as He sought to restore us back to God. Jesus said of Himself, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." (Matthew 11:29) There is too often the impression in our society that to be tough on crime we must be tough on criminals. Many times we take this same attitude into the Kingdom believing that to be tough on sin we must be tough on the sinner. However, Jesus did not see it this way. He was tough on sin by dying for the sinner. Perhaps the greatest stroke we can lay against sin in the world is to lay down our lives for its sinners.

Finally, Paul warns that we not loose sight of ourselves, let we too be tempted. The word used for "look to" means to "aim at" or "spy on." We must never forget that we too are subject to sin. No matter how mature we are, we are never too mature to sin. It is not that we are destined to sin, but we are all still people in process and each of us still have areas of our lives where we are susceptible to temptation and sin. One of the greatest dangers to those attempting to save a drowning person is drowning themselves. The same is true when restoring the fallen. None of us are invincibly, all of us have our weaknesses. It is only pride that would convince us otherwise. Let us not forget what King Solomon said, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling." (Proverbs 16:18)

David Robison

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Living and walking - Galatians 5:25-26

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:25-26)
Our Christian life is a partnership between God and us. Paul tells us to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13) Paul knew that, in our life, there is a part that God does and a part that we do. God's part is to change us on the inside; to make for us a new person. Our part is to let that new person shine through in our every day actions, attitudes, and behaviors. Who we are on the inside must become who we are on the outside. There must be consistency in our lives.

Religion attempts to change our outward man in hopes that it will change the inward man as well. Even the Law of Moses came as external requirements to regulate our outward behavior. However, it was powerless to change who we were on the inside. The write of Hebrews says that the Law, "can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near." (Hebrews 10:1) However, Jesus came to change our inward man by overthrowing the power of sin, setting us free from its bondage, and reconciling us back to god knowing that by changing our inward man, it would eventually change our outward man as well. Instead of external laws, Jesus brought a Kingdom that was written in our hearts. This was the promise spoken by so long ago.
"I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Now having been changed by Christ it is up to us to live by Christ. The Greek word used to for "walk" means an orderly march or to march in rank and a straight line, Our walk in Christ is not to be haphazard but orderly, purposeful, and in sync with the will and purpose of God. Our live should be ordered by the new reality that is within us.

As part of that new reality, we must change how we relate to others. Paul enumerates, specifically, three things that are harmful in a church or any organization that is built upon relationships. The first is boasting or "vain glory." Paul tells us "not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment." (Romans 12:3) We are only a part of a larger whole and it is only in to that whole that we find our true purpose and calling. Secondly, Paul warns us against warring with one another. The word means to call one another our, to provoke, or to irritate. Paul says, "so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18) Or as I put it, we should not seek to push each other's buttons! Finally, Paul warns against jealousy and envy. Paul tells us that contentment offers great rewards and that "if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:8) knowing that, "those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." (1 Timothy 6:9) If we so choose to live in this manor then we will show by our outward orderly life the change that has been wrought by Christ on the inside.

David Robison

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Works vs fruit - Galatians 5:19-24

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality... and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24)
It is not hard to tell who a person is on the inside. The inward character of a person is always reflected by their outward behavior and deeds. The Greek word translated here as "evident" literally means "shining." In our outward expressions our inward man is shining through. Jesus, warning His disciples of false prophets, said, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16) We may think we are hiding our true self well, and we may succeeds for a while, but who we are in truth, on the inside, will always come shining through on the outside. Paul reminds us, "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed." (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

It is also interesting that here, Paul contrasts the deeds (or works) of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: works verses fruit. The Greek word for "deeds" is the same root from which we get our English word for "energy." There is a contrast between that which is always in motion, always working, always striving and that which is at rest, peaceable, and content. In speaking of the tongue, James describes it as, "a world of iniquity." (James 3:6 NKJV) The flesh is always in motion; always lusting, always desiring, always scheming and working to satisfy its longing. However, life in the Spirit is a life at rest. Jesus beckon us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The righteousness we desire does not come as a result of our works but as a byproduct of our life in the Spirit. As we follow the Spirit, the Spirit produces in our lives the fruit we desire. We seek the Spirit and end up with His fruit.

What the Spirit is trying to produce in our lives are the habitual deeds and persistent practices that are reflective of the nature and character of Christ. Christians may occasionally stumble into sin just as a sinner may occasionally stumble into righteousness. However, what the Spirit desires is fruit that remains; fruit that is habitual and repeated in and through our lives. Paul makes it clear that it is those habitual practices that determine our eternal inheritance. Those who practice righteousness will inherit the Kingdom of God while those who practice unrighteousness will inherit eternal damnation. However, this does not mean that Paul is again preaching a religion of works, for the works we do are merely a reflection of the live we hold on the inside. Jesus said, "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." (Matthew 7:17-18)

Those things we practice are determined by who we are on the inside. This is why Paul says that we must impale our flesh upon a cross and kill it with its passions and longings. We must lay aside our old life and take up the life of the Spirit. It is only by living by the Spirit that we will produce the fruits of the Spirit and thus inherit the things of the Spirit. Such a transformation is a process but it is a process that yields eternal rewards. Now is the time to start; to reckon ourselves dead in Christ and alive in the Spirit; to live by His promptings rather than the promptings of our flesh; to find out what truly living is all about.

David Robison

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A war within - Galatians 5:16-18

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." (Galatians 5:16-18)
Prior to our being born again in Christ, there was only one driving force in our lives, that being the lusts of our flesh. While we instinctively understood the call of righteousness and the difference between right and wrong, we failed to find the strength and power to do what was right and righteous. We were slaves to the carnal desires of our flesh to do its bidding and to seek its satisfaction. We may have wanted to do right but we always seemed to end up doing what was wrong. Paul explains it this way, "I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:21-24)

In our fallen state, our flesh never desired the things of the Spirit and it opposed our desire to do what was right. Our bondage to sin enslaved us to our fleshly desires so that we were no longer free to do the good we wished to do. There was a war within ourselves, a war we were unable to win. Paul says, "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:14-15) Fortunately, Jesus came not only to forgive us and to free us from our sin but also to send forth His Spirit into our hearts to lead us into righteousness. Now there are two driving forces within us: our flesh and His Spirit and it is up to us to choose between the two. We are no longer slaves to our flesh but are able to choose whom we will listen to; whom we will obey. We can now choose the leading of the Spirit over the cries of our flesh.

The goal of the law was to regulate our lives by stipulating the denial of the flesh with its lusts and desires, a command that we were helpless to keep in totality. However, now that we have the Spirit of God living within us, we no longer need the law to command our flesh. If we yield to the leading of the Spirit then it will always lead us into righteousness and never to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Therefore the law is no longer necessary. We know longer need the law to teach us right from wrong for our worry is not with right and wrong but rather simply obeying the Spirit of God. If we follow the Spirit then we will automatically do what is right for He will only lead us into what is right.

The Spirit and the law; both have the same end in mind, that being righteousness, but only one has the power to guide and deliver us to that end. The Law speaks of righteousness but it is the Spirit that can grant it in our lives. Both are good, but only one has the keys to unlock the promise. Let us live by the Spirit and worry no longer regarding the law.

David Robison

Monday, July 06, 2015

The responsibility of freedom - Galatians 5:13-15

"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another." (Galatians 5:13-15)
There was a time when our free will was held captive under our bondage to sin. We desired to do right but we instinctively did wrong. We knew that, at least to a degree, we had free will be we failed to find the strength and power to exercise that free will for good. Try as we might, sin seemed always to be the outcome. However, in Christ, our bondage to sin has been broken and our free will has once again been set free; free to choose how we shall respond to the message of grace and forgiveness in Christ. Will we use our new freedoms to satisfy the pleasures of our flesh or will we use them for a more noble purpose? Will we use our freedom to continue in our former manor of life or will we use it to chart a new course for ourselves? We have been set free, but what will we do with our new found freedom?

Man was not designed to live as his own master but to live in servitude to one master or another. As that great prophet Bob Dylan used to say, "You gotta server some one!" Paul put it this way, "though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18) Having been freed from sin, we may (or must) now choose to whom or what we shall attach our lives; having been freed we now get to choose our master. This is the responsibility of freedom; to choose how we shall use the freedoms we have been given.

Paul says that we should use our freedoms to serve one another. The Greek word for serve means to be a slave to or to be in bondage to. We are to use our freedoms to serve others rather than ourselves. While we used to be in bondage to our fleshly lusts and desires, now we ought to chose to become the slaves of the needs and prayers of others; living a life of service rather than a life of self satisfaction. True freedom is not found in getting what we want but in living apart from our own wants and desires and serving the needs of others. To be like God is to want for nothing and to care for everyone.

True righteousness is not found in regard to the flesh; by submitting it to the Law or disciplining it through suffering, starvation, or harsh punishment. Righteousness has nothing to do with how we regulate ourselves, rather it has everything to do with how we treat other people. Righteousness does not demand that we circumcise our flesh, rather that we love and care for our neighbor. So often we make righteousness self-serving. It is all about us and how we constrain ourselves to be righteous. However, righteousness is always directed outward, towards other people. Righteousness is not found when we love ourselves but when we love others as ourselves. If we learn to live in love towards others, then we will find the righteousness within ourselves that we seek.

A community where people live for themselves is a community that will eventually, in the end, consume itself. It is a community that is destined to fail and fail miserably. However, a community where people live for others, where they love others as themselves, is a community that will grow and flourish and one that will always have room for others. To another church, Paul put it this way, "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) Let us learn to live together, not looking to ourselves, but looking to others that the Body of Christ may grow up and shine forth His glory to the world around us.

David Robison

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Offence of the Cross - Galatians 5:11-12

"But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves." (Galatians 5:11-12)
Paul refers to the stumbling block, or the offence, the cross represents to other people. How could something that represents such great strength and power from God and such great grace and forgiveness towards men be an offense or cause of stumbling to anyone? Its because it is not what it represents that causes their stumbling but what it requires that offends them. The cross testifies of our complete inability to save ourselves and our total dependency on God for our forgiveness and salvation. The cross testifies of what God did in our place since we were incapable of doing it ourselves. As such, the cross also demands our all. You cannot receive a cross in part, you must receive it all, even to the point of death; a death in dying to yourselves and the world that you might live to God.

For those who want just enough religion to save them but not enough to cause them to change their lifes, the cross is offensive because it testifies of the foolishness of what they seek. The Judaizers desires the good things of the Kingdom but wanted to retain their prideful self righteousness that made them seem better than others in their own eyes. To them, Paul and his message was a thorn in their side for he continually preached the folly of trying to save oneself. He taught that the Law was not strong enough and the will too weak to effect salvation. One must humble themselves in total submission and trust of the Son of God. This meant that, because salvation could not be earned, there was left no reason left for one to boast. Paul reveals their true motives. "For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh." (Galatians 6:13) However, in Christ, all such boasting has been brought to an end. "God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. "(1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

Finally, Paul shows some of his frustration for those who depended upon the law. Since they placed such a high value on circumcision, they might as well just go ahead and amputate themselves. Yes, if you are feeling a bit queasy or squirmish right now then you understood him correctly. However, Paul is driving home a very important principal. Speaking of the Law and its regulations against the flesh, Paul writes, "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh." (Colossians 2:23 NKJV) We can punish the body all we want; we can submit it to fastings, flagellation, circumcision, and the like; but it will have no effect on our soul where our lusts and passions lie. The problem is not with our flesh; it is our inner man where sin is conceived and birthed. Circumcision values nothing where it really counts; in leading us to holiness. Therefore let us be done with the law and even amputate it from our lives and let us lay hold of that which has true power and true hope for righteousness. Let us lay hold of Christ and his love, forgiveness, and grace for us. Herein is the true power to righteousness.

David Robison

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Who changed you? - Galatians 5:7-11

"You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is." (Galatians 5:7-11)
The Greek word that most translators translate as "obey" can also mean to agree, to be persuaded, or to be conciliated by something. Those who seek to draw us into error need not to try and get us to stop obeying the truth, they merely need to try and change our perception of the truth. Once we loose our persuasion and acceptance of the truth then there is little reason for us to continue in obeying the truth. If we come to believe that the truth is no longer a worthy goal and that it, or its preachers, are suspect and to be called into question, then we are prime for another truth to take its place. Our perception of the truth is key to securing our obedience to the truth.

In writing these words, Paul is not writing primarily to the individual but to the church. Not only had the people changed, but the church had changed as well. The church had stared out well but now they were stumbling. They were running freely but now were being hindered by the bondage of law. They were running with aim and purpose but now were running aimlessly and amiss, What changed? Why the departure from the good course of the race they had began to run?

Paul asks them this question, "Who?" Most often, when an uncharacteristic change takes place in a church, it can be traced back to a person. When a church goes from running well to wallowing in the mire we must stop and ask, "Who?" Who was it who brought about this deviation in path and diversion from the truth? Paul makes it clear that such change does not come from the Lord. The Lord does not call us down one path and then change His mind later on; He does not lead us into truth and then change the meaning of "truth" over time. If, as a church, we are no longer running well, then we must ask "Who?"

In any given church, there will be various opinions and differing ideas surrounding certain doctrinal issues. Such differences are normal and, at times, can even be healthy. However, when someone steps forward to teach or assert doctrinal error, especially when done in a schismatic spirit, such error must be swiftly and decisively addressed. Error may start out small and even seem insignificant but if left to fester it will spread until the entire church is affected. Easier to remove a spot of level early then to try and remove the leaven later from an entire loaf of bread.

Some churches today try and avoid all forms of judgment and discipline, but those who seek to divide the body of Christ and to lead the church astray need to be addressed and, if needed, removed from the church for the health of the church. An early Christian writer once said, "For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism." (Irenaeus, Against Heresy, Book 5 33:7) Unity in the body and obedience to the truth ought to be sought and defended from all attempts to destroy it. Let those who seek to persist in and spread their error bear their rightful judgement, but let the church continue unhindered in the persuasion of and obedience to the truth,

David Robison

Friday, July 03, 2015

Hope of righteousness - Galatians 5:5-6

"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:5-6)
So if we must choose between the Law and grace then what hope do we have of righteousness under grace? Somehow we instinctively feel that, if we are to be righteous, then we need some list of things that we must do and not do so that we may know how to be righteous. How can we be righteous without someone or something telling us what to do and not do? If we reject the Law, then how do we know what is expected of us? How do we know if we have arrived and been completed in righteousness if we do not have the Law to measure ourselves by? We need the law for righteousness, don't we?

While the law provided a framework and guide to righteousness, its problem was that it actually lead no one to righteousness. Previously, Paul had admitted "that a man is not justified by the works of the Law." (Galatians 2:16) Following the law may seem like a good idea, but it is void of any hope for righteousness. However, there is another way. The coming of Jesus changed everything. In Jesus we understand that, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4) The justification we sought in the Law we have now found in Christ. "Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus... we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Romans 3:24, 28) The hope we sought in the law, the hope of righteousness, we have now found in Christ. Christ is our hope, not the Law.

So if the Law is no longer our guide to righteousness, then what is? What is our standard, what is our rule, what is our guide? What matters is not keeping a list of do's and don'ts but expressing our faith through love. The Greek phrase "working through" has the idea of being channeled through and energized by. When we allow love to energize and channel our faith, then the good works it produces are works of righteousness. It is no longer law that guides us but love.

Faith without love is worthless. That is why Paul said, "if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2) Also, James speaks of faith working through love when he said, "faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) Love without faith can cause us to spend our love amiss. By faith we understand that there is an order to love. Jesus defined this order as: "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) We might define it as: God, spouse, children, family, brethren, then world. Without faith our love may be misdirected. However, faith without love can be destructive. There was the time the disciples reacted to a slight against Jesus saying, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54) They had faith but no love.

What is righteousness? It is faith working through love? What is the hope of righteousness? It is that the God who is love has forgiven us, come to dwell within us, and empowers us to love as He loves. It is the reality of Christ in us that gives us hope, even the hope of righteousness in our lives today.

David Robison

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Owning the Law - Galatians 5:2-4

"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:2-4)
Paul is not saying that if you, or your parents, had you circumcised then you are forever doomed to a live apart from the grace of God. Rather, he is writing to those who wanted part of the law and part of grace. They wanted to trust in some aspects of the law while still claiming to rely on the grace of God in the other areas of their lives. They are the "Christ Plus" crowd. Their message was that you need Jesus plus circumcision for salvation. There are many versions of the "Christ Plus" crowd even today, but whenever we add anything to Christ, it always ends up as law.

The Greek term Paul uses for "obligation" literally means to "own". When we purchase part of the law for ourselves (in this case, circumcision) then we purchase the entire law and are obligated to keep the entire law. The law cannot be appropriated piecemeal, it is an all-or-nothing proposition. Keeping one part of the law does you no good if you offend in other areas of the law. The law's benefits are only realized if you keep all the law.

The problem with the law is that it is incompatible with grace. The law knows nothing of grace and grace knows nothing of law. Just as you cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve law and live by grace at the same time. We must either live by the law or live by grace but we cannot live in a mixture of the two.

When we try to live in mixture, Paul tells us that we end up being severed from Christ and fallen from grace. The idea of the Greek term here translated as "severed" means to be separated to the point where we no longer benefit from the source. For example, a leaf that has been severed from the tree may still live a bit longer on its own but it no longer benefits from the strength and life that the tree provides. In time it will die because it has been severed from the source. When we try to live by the law, even just a part of the law, we separate ourselves from the benefits of Christ. Its not that Christ has become powerless but rather that we have removed ourselves from the source of that power. Furthermore, the Greek term for "fallen" can also be interpreted as being diverted from one's course or path. We may start out well, but if we revert to trusting in the law, then we are diverted in the path of our life from a path of grace to a path of bondage. Our choice to trust in the law diverts our lives and chooses for us an alternate path that does not lead to life and sanctification.

The decision is ours, we must choose. We must choose the course and nature of our lives. We must choose to trust in Jesus and His salvation or trust in Moses and the law that he brought. John said, "For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) These are our choices and we can only choose one: Moses or Christ, Law or grace and truth. For me, I choose the latter!

David Robison