You have completed our trek through Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Most of what you will get in this review should familiar. We won’t hit every point. This is a 10,000-foot flyover.
We begin with the Galatians.
There is no other gospel. It’s Christ and Christ alone. There is no Jesus Plus formula for salvation.
I have died to all of the rules. I could never live up to all of the rules. My disobedience, my missing the mark, my sin all had to die. It did. It all died in Christ.
I am crucified with Christ. Christ lives in me.
We may butt heads sometimes, but when we do, it should be as iron sharpening iron, not an insistence on our own way. Stick to what we have in common—Christ Jesus is the way to salvation. It’s all about the grace that we know in Christ.
Paul continued his chastisement of the Galatians shifting to the interrogative. Did you receive your salvation by obedience to the law or by receiving the good news? How have you been so easily fooled?
It’s been said that it is easier to fool someone than to convince them that they have been fooled. There might just be some truth in that statement.
So then, how will the righteous live? The righteous will live by faith.
You can’t read Galatians without reading Paul’s Christmas story.
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Paul challenges the Galatians to stick to the one and only gospel. He asked, Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
He says don’t buy the snake oil. As we continue into the last chapter, Paul uses metaphor to make his appeal to the fidelity of the gospel.
You were running a good race. Who cut you off?
There is a whole bunch of chastisement in this letter, but it is also home to the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Paul gives some encouragement near the end of the letter. He charged the Galatians and us not to grow weary in doing good. A harvest is coming. Hang in there.
Paul wraps us his letter with an affirmation and a challenge. He will never boast except in the cross of Jesus. So too, he challenges us to the same standard.
And there we have the 10,000-foot flyover of the letter to the Galatians. It’s on to the Ephesians.
There is only one place to begin this letter. It is with the spiritual blessings that we know in Christ Jesus. In him, we are blessed beyond measure.
Paul prayed that these believers in Ephesus would know all of these blessings. That prayer is for us as well.
And then we come to words that carried through all four of these letters. They are by grace through faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
This is where we anchor ourselves when it come to salvation. It is 100% the gift of God. Our discipleship is another story altogether. We have much to do in the areas of love, faith, obedience, service, worship, and so much more in response to this gift, but we must know with certainty that our salvation is totally the gift of God.
Our response brings us out of division into unity. We are one in the Spirit. Christ has made us one. We have a diversity of gifts and responses to grace, but we are to be of one accord in the Spirit of God.
We who have professed Jesus as Lord must undergo a paradigm shift, a renewal of the mind, an exchange of old thinking for new thinking. We are no longer people governed by rules, but people ruled by love.
Our whole identity is in God. We are indeed his new creation.
How do we know that we are living the Christian life? One way is to ask this question. Do I speak the truth in a spirit of love? Speaking the truth in love is a benchmark of our Christian maturity.
Speaking the truth without love is easy. It is simple condemnation.
Giving people what the world calls love without the truth is not so hard either. That’s the vending machine.
Being able to speak the truth and do it in a spirit of love takes Christian maturity. It’s no picnic.
And now we come to words that challenge us to live in response to the grace that we know.
Live a life worthy of the calling that you have received.
Much of that worthy life involves unity. We should live in accord with each other. We may have to practice some patience, gentleness, humility and other Christlike traits and qualities, but we must remember that our response to this gift of grace should be the best response we can muster.
In that response to grace, we strive to hit the target. That could be strict obedience to the law. It could be pure love. We know that love will not harm others so in most cases, you might not be able to tell the difference, but God will show us the target.
If we want to please God, we had better aim at the target and do our best to hit it.
The words from God that we read in Leviticus and that were repeated by some of the apostles should ring true.
Be holy because I am holy.
We have been saved from sin and death so we can live completely for God. He will show us our targets.
What does that mean? It means that we have eyes to see opportunities all around us. God wants us to make the most of the opportunities.
Yes, these opportunities exist in a world ruled by sin. We must be wise. We must use the sound mind that God gave us.
It’s a target-rich environment, but we must hit the targets at which we take aim.
Paul wraps up this letter with some counsel for families. Love, respect, obedience, and remembering who the parent is when things get stressful. This is still excellent counsel for this century.
Finally, we get the full armor of God.
But, let’s put on the armor-all of it.
· The belt of truth
· The breastplate of righteousness
· Feet fitted—these are your combat boots—with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
· The shield of faith that extinguishes the arrows of the enemy
· The helmet of salvation
· The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
Now it’s on to the Philippians.
As we begin this letter we must understand that our salvation is a done deal. God did it all. Jesus paid it all. It’s all from God so that nobody can boast about their own salvation.
In our response to this done-deal salvation, we often find ourselves to be a work in progress. We have a lot of work to do to live up to the person that God made us to be.
Early in this letter, Paul proffers the ultimate win-win. For him to die right now would be fantastic. He would be with the Lord. Oohrah, hallelujah, amen.
For him to live another day would be another day that he could take the good news to the lost. It was the best mission—the best commission ever.
It was win-win. To live is Christ. To die is gain. It should be the same for us.
There are other familiar words that we know from Paul’s letter to the Philippians—every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Those are some good words, but we should finish the sentence—to the glory of God.
We should not expect a forced confession, but the ultimate expression of the truth: Jesus Christ is Lord!
This letter brings us to our response to the gift of God that we call salvation. Paul tells us to work out our salvation as the most important thing that we do.
Our response to God’s incredible gift of mercy and grace that we have received through faith is the most important thing we do for the rest of our days in these bodies on this planet.
We have an abundance of opportunities in which to respond with love for one another as we live out our salvation.
We are reminded that we are citizens of heaven and that we go through this life with purpose. Press on. Don’t lose your focus. Don’t go native. This world is not our home.
Paul noted to the church in Philippi and others as well, that so many had made ad hominem attacks on him and he wasn’t playing this game.
But if he were to play the game, he had the best resume of any of his so-called challengers. He just did not regard his religious status of any value when it came to right standing with the Lord. He considered it as valuable as manure.
It’s Christ, Christ, and only Christ who brings us to right standing with God.
Paul, writing from prison in whatever form that looked like, challenged us to be happy, to rejoice, to know the joy of the Lord.
Our joy comes from the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord. We talked about the source of our joy—our gladness—being the favor of the Lord.
Paul also challenged us not to worry. Don’t be anxious about anything. We can know a peace that comes from God that goes way beyond what we can understand.
Our job is to go to God in thanksgiving, have our talk with him, and receive a peace that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul understood that God made us right with him but we were not quite there yet. It’s a done deal but we are still working on our part. One day, God will finish the good work that he began in us, but for now, we are still working on it.
So, Paul equipped us with a simple piece of counsel. Think on good things.
The governing verb here is think. In a world governed by red herrings, nonsequiturs, and other logical fallacies as well as purely emotional appeals, we are challenged to think.
We are charged to use the sound mind that God gave us.
That brings us to the Colossians.
We begin with Christ being the image of the invisible God. Remember that Jesus told his disciples before he went to the cross, if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father. Quit asking for what you already have.
After the resurrection, he told Thomas, but he was speaking to all gathered in the room with him that they believed because they had seen. Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed.
Next, we are reminded that we are redeemed and reconciled. The work to reconcile the entire creation was accomplished in Christ Jesus. It’s hard to see now, but the work of the cross accomplished it.
What comes next is a throwback to the Galatians and others who were being courted by fancy arguments. Do not be deceived.
There is one gospel and you heard it. Stick to it.
We talked about the law, written codes, and the invoice for our sin. What we should have walked away with was that man’s rules must not get in the way of God’s love.
The third chapter of this letter had some umbrella sort of counsel.
Whatever you do, do it in the name of the Lord.
Whatever you do, work at it as if you are working for the Lord, not for men.
Live in love but keep your eyes open for the tricks of the world. Be a little salty.
How do we wrap this up?
Salvation one hundred percent the gift of God.
Rejoice in the Lord, always.
Be anxious for nothing.
Pray about everything. Start by being thankful.
Think on good things.
It’s what you do with what God gave you not your titles and accolades that count.
Never lose sight of the fact that we are working for the Lord.
Put on the full armor of God.
Live in the fruit of the Spirit.
Above all else, put on love
Talk and live grace but be seasoned with salt.
Those should get you through the week.
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