Tag Archives: Galatians

The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit — What Do We Learn from GALATIANS about the Holy Spirit?

We can approach the doctrines of the Scriptures in two ways: One way is to collect all the data throughout the Bible into logical categories (called “systematic theology”). The other way is to work through individual books of the Bible, collecting the data on a particular subject (this is called “biblical theology,” although the term is used in other ways in less than conservative circles). When we ask, what does the book of Galatians say about God the Holy Spirit, we are taking a kind of biblical theology approach. Our conviction in these posts is that, while some believers overemphasize the Spirit, others overlook Him. We want to do neither, but long to have a balanced view of the Third Member of the Trinity.

What do we find when we unit-read (read straight through at one sitting) the book of Galatians? We find that —

Ch. 3 – You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:
“Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Ch. 4 – 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Ch. 5- 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Ch. 6- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Here in Galatians we see certain truths about the Spirit of God:

1. The Spirit is “received” when we believe the gospel (3:2).

2. We begin the Christian life “by means of the Spirit” (3:3).

3. God “gives” us his Spirit when we believe what we have heard (3:5).

4. It is through faith that we “receive the promise of the Spirit” (3:14).

5. In 3:26 being “baptized into Christ” (which is a work of the Spirit) is described as having “clothed yourselves with Christ.”

6. God sends the “Spirit of his Son” into our hearts and He is “the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (4:6).

7. We have the contrast of the two sons (Isaac and Ismael) as the son born according to the flesh who “persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit” (4:29).

8. It is “through the Spirit [that] we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (5:5). This verse also implies a future aspect of our salvation.

9. We are challenged in chapter 5 to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16).

10. There is a massive conflict between the flesh and the Spirit and if we are led by the Spirit (5:18), our lives won’t be marked by “the acts of the flesh” but by “the fruit of the Spirit” (vv. 22ff).

11. Because “we live by the Spirit” we are to “keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25).

12. One example of living by the Spirit is seen in our seeking to restore a person caught in a sin (6:1).

13. If we sow “to please the Spirit” from the Spirit we “will reap eternal life” (6:8).

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Posted by on October 6, 2019 in The Holy Spirit


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 6 Part 3)

Thank you, my friend, for sticking with me as we have worked our way through this incredible letter of Galatians.  You know I’m getting ready for my teaching time at Word of Life Korea — and these posts are helping me do that.  [I’m aware that some of these posts are scheduled for days after my trip].  We conclude our study of chapter 6 and this epistle this morning.   A third theme I see here in chapter 6 is that of pleasing people (vv. 11-18).
The Apostle is not interested in making people happy or caving in to their demands for believers to be put under the law.

These circumcision-compellers are wanting to impress people — and Paul will have none of it!  He says their motive is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ (v. 12).  And they themselves don’t keep the whole law.

In fact, these false teachers want to boast to others that they have convinced the Galatians to go through circumcision.

Not all boasting is wrong — and Paul says he only wants to boast in the cross of Jesus Christ!  And there’s been a double crucifixion in his life:  the world to him and he to the world (v. 14)!

And, mysteriously, Paul says he bears on his body the marks of Jesus (v. 17).  Did Paul have the stigmata (the signs of crucifixion) on his body?  We don’t know.  And it’s not his primary point.  His primary point is to live his life in the freedom which Christ purchased for him.  That should be the primary point of your life and mine as well!

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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 6 Part 2)

We’re getting close to finishing our study of some of the major themes in this important epistle. As I prepare to teach this book in Korea, we are now looking at chapter 6.  A second theme I see in this chapter is simply you reap what you sow! (vv. 7-10).

We may fool ourselves about our lives, but we can’t fool God!  He can’t be “mocked.”

I’m not much of a farmer, but I understand the one-reaps-what-he-sows metaphor.  And we have a choice.  We can sow “to please the flesh” or sow “to please the Spirit.”  It’s important to realize that Paul isn’t being anti-body here.  “The flesh” is our sinful nature, not our material bodies.

God is a God of process.  You sow.  Something grows.  You reap.  And there are two and only two outcomes:  sowing to the flesh will lead to destruction; sowing to the Spirit will reap eternal life (v. 8).  [As much as our annihilationist friends wish it were so, “destruction” does not equal cessation of existence].

Part of sowing to please the Spirit involves doing good to others.  Look for opportunities today to do good to others!

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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 6 Part 1)

As we enter this last chapter of Galatians, we are noticing some of the major themes of this important epistle.  Looking at chapter 6, please notice the theme of helping those caught in sin (vv. 1-6).  How do we help those who have been “caught in a sin”? 

It is those who “live by the Spirit” who should restore that person gently.  One might say, “I’m not qualified to help anyone!”  But we are all to walk and live by the Spirit!  However we need to be aware of our own weaknesses and not fall into sin as we are helping others out of sin!

We are to both carry the burdens of others (v. 2) as well as carry our own load (v. 5).  There is a proper pride in oneself which doesn’t depend on comparing ourselves with others.  And we need to be instructed in the things of the Lord. We are to support those who teach us.

Do you know of someone “caught in a sin” who needs to be restored?  Ask the Lord to guide you.  Perhaps He will use you to gently restore that brother or sister!


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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 5 Part 3)

We are making great progress as we think through the themes in this great epistle to the Galatians.  I’m teaching this book to a group of students at the Word of Life Bible Institute on Jeju Island, Korea, June 11-15.

 Let’s continue our study as we notice the next section of chapter 5.  Here the theme seems to be the battle between the flesh and the Spirit (vv. 13-26).

“The flesh” in the Bible often refers to our sinful nature, which is the case here.  We were called to be free, but we are not to use our freedom to indulge our sinful natures.  Instead we are to humbly serve one another (v. 13).

We must walk by the Spirit and such walking will keep us from gratifying “the flesh” (v. 16).  “The flesh” and the Spirit are mortal enemies.  Paul lists 15 “acts of the flesh” and counters those sins with nine fruit of the Spirit (vv. 19-23).

This is no small matter.  If we “walk by the Spirit” we will commit ourselves to crucifying the flesh (v. 24)!  Could Paul have said it any stronger?

May I ask you today — What fruit of the Spirit are you in most need of developing?  Ask God to give you specific steps in that area.






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Posted by on June 16, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 5 Part 2)

Don’t you love the variety in the Scriptures?  Here in chapter 5 Paul uses several analogies and metaphors to express his deep concern for the Galatian believers.  Let’s continue our study of this great epistle by looking at verses 7-12.  Here, I believe, the theme is misguided persuasion!

Paul commends these Christians for the good race they were running.  But someone “cut in” on them (v. 7).  Someone got in their way, cut them off from “obeying the truth”!  And those who cut in on them used their persuasive powers to take them away from the simple gospel.

And their being persuaded infected others (“a little yeast,” v. 9).  This person who misled them threw them into confusion (v. 10) and will be subject to God’s judgment (“will have to pay the penalty”).

Paul makes it clear that he is not preaching circumcision, for his being persecuted shows this to be true.  He has not given up persecution for perversion.  He has not relinquished “the offense of the cross” (v. 11).

He then, in an Old Testament imprecatory way, wishes that these false teachers would follow their own advice and emasculate themselves!  Wow!

The perversion of the gospel is serious!  And there are hidden and not-so-hidden persuaders out there seeking to confuse God’s people and to do way with the offense of the cross.  Don’t let anyone cut in on you and your race for the Lord!  And don’t just stand on the sidelines.  Get in the race!







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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 5 Part 1)

We are continuing our brief look at several major themes in the book of Galatians.  We’re getting ready to take about a fifteen-hour flight to Jeju Island, Korea, to teach students at the Word of Life Bible Institute.

I’m certainly learning a lot about this book.  And I hope you are as well.  The next theme that comes in this great epistle is the theme of freedom!  We see in verse 1 of chapter five that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free”!  Free from what?  Free from trying to justify ourselves by our pathetic efforts to keep God’s law!

Note that the verse doesn’t say “It is for Himself that Christ has set us free.” It is for FREEDOM!  What should be the experience of FREEDOM for the believer?

As servants of the Savior we are free from the yoke of slavery of keeping the whole law (v. 3).  We seek to be obedient because we love the Lord, not because our obedience saves us!  Putting ourselves under the law in a salvation-sense means: (1) we have been alienated from Christ!; and (2) we have fallen from grace (v. 4)!  Those are certainly not two consequences that I want in my life! How about you?







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Posted by on June 12, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 4 Part 3)

Let’s look at the second half of Galatians 4 this morning.  We’ve already seen a couple of themes in this chapter, but please notice what Paul does now.  He gives us the example of Abraham’s two wives!  The story of Abraham and his two wives is told to us in Genesis 16.

God has clearly promised Abram that he would have a son, even in his old age (Gen. 17). But 25 years passed and his wife Sarai wasn’t getting pregnant.  In Genesis 16 it is Sarai’s idea that Abram sleep with her Egyptian slave Hagar. Sarai even defends her advice by saying “The Lord has kept me from having children” (v. 2).

After ten years of living in Canaan, Sarai gives her Egyptian slave Hagar “to her husband to be his wife” (v. 3). Abram sleeps with her and she conceives.

In her pregnancy Hagar begins “to despise her mistress” and Sarai blames Abram “for the wrong I am suffering” (v. 5). She admits she put the slave in his arms, but add, “May the Lord judge between you and me” (v. 5).

Abram gives Sarai authority to mistreat Hagar. She does and Hagar flees. But the angel of the Lord finds Hagar and commands her to submit herself to her mistress and promises that the Lord will increase Hagar’s descendants “so much that they will be too numerous to count.” (v. 10).

The angel tells Hagar she will have a son and will name him Ismael “for the Lord has heard of your misery.” He will be a man who will live in constant hostility toward all his brothers. Hagar names the Lord “the God who sees me.” Ismael is born when Abram is 86 years old!

Was it of faith for Abram to sleep with Hagar?  for him to listen to Sarai and try to force God’s promise into fulfillment?  Or did God purposely wait until Abram was too old and Sarai too barren to fulfill His promise — so that all would know this was of God!?  We clearly have the contrast of that which was accomplished by “the flesh” versus that which was the result of “a divine promise.”





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Posted by on June 10, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 4 Part 2)

How serious is your ZEAL for the Lord? Most of us don’t even use the word ZEAL (unless we’re playing Scrabble and there’s a triple letter tile available). What is real zeal? In this fourth chapter of Galatians, Paul is doing his very best to warn these believers about succumbing to a false gospel, a gospel of justification by the law. And there is no lack of enthusiasm on the part of these false teachers to entice others to their side.

Most of life would be a lot better if we had more zeal, more enthusiasm, don’t you think?  Here in verses 17-20 Paul deals with real zeal!

These false teachers are zealous to win these Galatians over to another gospel.  But in their mission, they are really trying to separate these believers from Paul and his influence (v. 17).  And zeal begets zeal.  These teachers want to draft the Galatians into being zealous for their gospel, which is no gospel at all!

There’s nothing wrong with zeal, IF its purpose is good.  One ought always to be zealous (v. 18).  But our zeal ought to center on Christ being formed in others (v. 19).  And that kind of zeal is an automatic cure for spiritual perplexity (v. 20)!

How might your ZEAL for the Lord be shown today?





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Posted by on June 8, 2018 in Galatians


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Major Themes in the Book of Galatians (Ch. 4 Part 1)

Here in Galatians 4 we see several critical themes that will necessitate a number of posts.  Let’s look at the 1st half of chapter four this morning.

Here we have a discussion of being an heir, being subject to a guardian, and being underage as a slave.  But at the right time God sent forth His Son to make us His sons!  We have now become heirs (v. 7).

Although there is much here, let me suggest that Paul is relishing in the theme of a personal relationship with the living God (vv. 8-11).  He describes the Galatians’ lives as: formerly when they did not know God and were slaves to idols.  And now when they can be described as knowing God (but tempted to turn back to slavery) (v. 9).

What an amazing expression: “But now that you know God”!  I know God.  You know God. Everyone who has come to faith in Christ “knows” God!  Wow!  John Piper was right to write a book with the title God Is the Gospel!

But Paul interrupts himself with what I call a theological afterthought. He says, “Now that you know God — or rather are known by God” (v. 9).  What’s more important in the universe than my knowing God?  His knowing me!  This is the language of personal relationship!

How personal are you going to be with the Lord today?  Remember, He knows you!





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Posted by on June 6, 2018 in Galatians


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