With Joy! – Philippians 1:1-11

Pastor Moe Bergeron
Moe Bergeron
Philippians 1:1-11 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: (2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (6) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (7) It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (8) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (9) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (10) so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (ESV)
1. Introduction
As we consider this passage my primary focus will be Paul’s telling words in verse 4 (read in context).

(3) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

“Joy”, the possession of it, or the scarcity of it, or even the total absence of it is a God given barometer of spiritual health. The word “rejoice” simply means to express “joy.” Of course you can’t rejoice unless you posses joy.
One commentator (the Lutheran Bengel [1687 – 1752]) wrote: “The sum of this letter is, ‘I rejoice, rejoice ye.”’ The proof of his statement is found in the following verses. Joy appeared like “sprinkles” on a homemade cup cake.
A. Let’s taste some of the joy sprinkles mentioned in this letter of Philippians.

Php 1:25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,

Php 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Php 2:17-19 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (18) Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (19) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.

Php 2:28-29 I am the more eager to send him (Epaphroditus), therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. (29) So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,

Php 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Php 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

And next to last this often quoted verse….

Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

And the last…..

Php 4:10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.

Wow! It’s evident Paul derived much joy from his relationship to the Christians of Philippi. I can’t help to derive joy just knowing Paul derived joy from those saints. Joy in Christ can be very contagious. 
2. Other Churches
As I looked at the evidence of joy in this letter a curiosity sprung up in my mind as to how much joy Paul may or may not have derived from his relationship and service to other believing communities. It’s a fair question. On the surface the letters to the new covenant communities of Corinth and Thessalonica appear to have contributed more or less to Paul’s joy in Christ. The fact is, Corinth had also supplied a good deal of sorrow for Paul as did the Galatians. There is far less evidence of Paul having derived joy from the other believing communities. That’s not to say he didn’t derive joy from them. It’s just not always mentioned in his letters and given how Paul loved to trade in it (joy), it is telling.
I’m not including Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus or Philemon because they were addressed to individuals and not new covenant communities.
In the following sampling of various letters and verses[1] note how Paul either encourages joy or how he has derived joy.

(Rom 14:17) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (encouraged joy)

(Rom 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (encouraged joy)

(Rom 15:32) so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. (encouraged joy)

(2Co 1:24) Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. (encouraged joy)

(2Co 2:3) And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. (mutual joy encouraged)

(2Co 7:4) I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (derived joy)

 (2Co 7:13) Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. (derived joy)

(2 Co 8:1-2) We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, (2) for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (derived joy through the saints in Macedonia)

(Gal 5:22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (encouraged joy)

 (Col 1:11) May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, (encouraged joy)

(1Th 1:6) And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (derived joy)

(1Th 2:19) For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? (derived joy)

(1Th 2:20) For you are our glory and joy. (derived joy)

(1Th 3:9) For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, (derived joy)

3. Why is this a big deal?
Why was joy so important to Paul? Of equal importance why should the possession of “Joy” be important to you and me?
Listen up! It’s because, Love for God and one another and the derived Joy we have and share in Christ, is the sure evidence of a work of God the Spirit within this church and upon your collective hearts.

A. Joy is born out of our love for God. It is the good fruit of the Spirit who indwells the people of God.

Love and joy are the product and sure evidence of the Holy Spirit’s activity and presence in the life of a new covenant community of believers. Without evidence of the Spirit’s activity we cannot determine whether the community is born of God or a fortress of the enemy. The absence of this love brought God’s indictment upon the church at Ephesus.

Rev 2:  4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

4. Joy sparks or gives animation to our prayers for others before God.
The evidence of Joy encouraged Paul’s high opinion and rejoicing in what God wrought in and through the saints of Philippi.
Almost everything about that believing New Covenant community served to give him joy. It would appear that nothing they did brought him sorrow. Perhaps they were exceptional. Yet, even when Paul did not derive joy from those for whom he labored and suffered it did not deter him from working for their joy in Christ. He did not give up on any except those who turned him away.

Romans 15:13
 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:32
 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

2 Corinthians 1:24
 24Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

5. The absence of joy should be worrisome to God’s shepherds and the people of God.
Consider the following passages from 2 Corinthians followed by another from Galatians;

2 Corinthians 2:1-4
For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Here’s another example from Paul’s letter to the Galatians;

Galatians 1:6-9
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

A primary reason church leaders and the people of God suffer discouragement and sorrow in their service to one another is simply this: those whom they love and care for in Christ have neglected their care and love for each another. God’s love is his warmth. The absence of God’s love brings a cold chill and if left unchecked it eventually becomes a deep freeze. So then, love of God and one another is directly connected to the Joy we exhibit as a community.
6. The absence of joy brings sorrow.
It is equally true when our leaders do not model the love and joy of Christ as did Paul that they neglect those saints whom God has placed in their care. Believing communities are deeply affected and suffer when they are neglected by their leaders.

They (pastors, teachers) neglect God’s saints when they fail to work for the Joy of God’s children!!!

What is the evidence of such neglect? If in our public and private lives Christ is imaged before others as a bitter, complaining, quarrelsome, divisive, joyless despicable person, condemned, burdened by sin and the terrors of the law covenant and holy wrath then we are to be most pitied. If we image Christ to one another in such a manner then we will have much to answer for when we stand before the great Liberating King Jesus.
If we are guilty of communicating to God’s children that the sins of their flesh will always be their master then we encourage the language and expectations of a defeated people. If we preach to God’s blood washed and Spirit filled community in the same manner we communicate God’s word to those who remain fast bound in their sins then shame on us. Jesus’ little lambs are not Satan’s goats.
If we be image bearers of Christ we cannot at the same time be image bearers of those who still live under the weight of their sin and guilt. Who in their right mind would want to know the God of such a person who would claim Jesus Christ to be their liberating King and Saviour when by all appearances they still look like they need saving. To that person God’s word says, You must be born again!”
Never give up on God’s redeemed community!
Unlike many of us Paul did not give up on furthering the joy of those for whom Christ died. Even though some have like the Galatians appeared to abandon the New Covenant of Christ to return to the Law covenant or like the Corinthians who did fall into all sorts of sins of the flesh Paul never gave up on them. He continued to work relentlessly for their joy even though it is evident he derived joy from some believing communities while from others like Corinth he derived much heartache and sorrow. Paul was under orders, orders given by the Great Commander in Chief, “Feed my Sheep!”
Feed on Christ!
7. Return to Philippians 1
Up to this point I have prepared the stage for us so we can work towards increasing our shared joy in our Lord so let’s now return to Philippians 1 where we will consider additional thoughts.
In verse 3 and 4 Paul writes:

(3) I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

Why was his prayer seasoned with joy for these saints? The evidence is in verses 5 through 11.

(5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (6) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (7) It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

Two telling keywords are “partnership” & “partakers”.
Paul’s joy filled response is evident in his testimony of their mutual – and abounding – and growing love in and through Jesus Christ. Picking up at verse 8….

(8) For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (9) And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, (10) so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

A key phrase: “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” He’s not content that they already know and experience the love God as community, he wants it to continue growing and maturing as it is combined with true knowledge and Spirit given discernment. In other words, sincere and pure love that’s grounded in truth. Now that’s a formula for Spirit filled dynamite!
8. Application
Within the New Covenant believing community you have saints whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to serve as community leaders (officially or not). I would hope they serve because they love you and have your best interest in Christ at heart. I also hope and pray that there’s a collective desire to see your joy multiplied in Christ. I would hope that’s why your leaders answered the call of the Spirit of God to serve.
Do you want to encourage those whom God has called to serve you?
I want all of you, each and every one of you, to consider how you can increase one another’s joy? You can do this by shepherding one another in the love of Christ. I would also hope that is why you joined yourself to the New Covenant community. I’ll tell you where to start. It’s quite simple. Get back to square one.

  • Stop pointing your accusing finger at others. Get rid of that measuring stick that you measure others by. It is Christ Jesus we want to see in each other. We are all saved by His grace. This takes repenting. We must stop sinning. Can we do that? “…be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Look to the Spirit of God for your help. After you have repented and recovered, work for the Joy of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • You might also have to do this. Look in the mirror. Point your finger at your reflection and say “I repent of you!”, I’m tired of looking at that all too familiar face. “I want to see Jesus!”, “I want to look like Jesus.” I want to bring Joy to you my Jesus! I want to be your delight. After you have repented and recovered, work for the Joy of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Actively affirm each other in Christ, even the unlovely like yourself, by partnering with them in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It will work towards increasing your mutual joy in Christ.

Partner with your leaders. Their joy will rebound to you for your good and the good of your assembly just as it did for Paul.

Philippians 1:3-5
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, (4) always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

It needs repeating. How can you bring joy to your wife, husband, family members, fellow Christians? Stop sinning and affirm your fellow saints by partnering with them in their service to your God and Savior. It’s that simple. With God’s help you can do it! And never forget who you were apart from Christ. Never forget what your God still puts up with, yes, with you. True enough, but also don’t forget that he delights in and sings over you, each and every one of you in Christ.
One last thing to encourage your joy in Christ.
Turn with me to Zephania 3:17 where it reads;

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

Did you hear that? He rejoices over you, he has joy in abundance that can never be humanly measured, OVER YOU! Yes you, dear one in Christ!
On this passage, John Piper writes,

God does not do you good out of some constraint or coercion. He is free! And in his freedom he overflows in joy to do you good. He exults over you with loud singing. Can you imagine what it would be like if you could hear God singing? Remember that it was merely a spoken word that brought the universe into existence. What would happen if God lifted up his voice and not only spoke but sang! Perhaps a new heaven and a new earth would be created. God says something almost just to that effect in Isaiah 65:17-18,
Behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth …
I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
When God spoke at the beginning, the heavens and the earth were created; perhaps at the end, the new heavens and the new earth will be created when God exults over his people with loud singing.
When I think of the voice of God singing, I hear the booming of Niagara Falls mingled with the trickle of a mossy mountain stream. I hear the blast of Mt. St. Helens mingled with a kitten’s purr. I hear the power of an East Coast hurricane and the barely audible puff of a night snow in the woods. And I hear the unimaginable roar of the sun 865,000 miles thick, one million three hundred thousand times bigger than the earth, and nothing but fire, 1,000,000 degrees centigrade, on the cooler surface of the corona. But I hear this unimaginable roar mingled with the tender, warm crackling of the living room logs on a cozy winter’s night.
And when I hear this singing I stand dumbfounded, staggered, speechless that he is singing over me. He is rejoicing over my good with all his heart and with all his soul (cf. Jeremiah 32:41)!
John Piper[2]

Of this same passage, C.H. Spurgeon said:

“I can understand a minister rejoicing over a soul that he has brought to Christ; I can also understand believers rejoicing to see others saved from sin and hell; but what shall I say of the infinitely happy and eternally-blessed God finding, as it were, a new joy in souls redeemed? This is another of those great wonders that cluster around the work of divine grace! … The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, imperfect though they be. He sees them as they are to be, and so he rejoices over them, even when they cannot rejoice in themselves. When your face is blurred with tears, your eyes red with weeping, and your heart heavy with sorrow for sin, the great Father is rejoicing over you. The prodigal son wept in his Father’s bosom, but the Father rejoiced over his son. We are questioning, doubting, sorrowing, trembling; and all the while he who sees the end from the beginning knows what will come out of the present disquietude, and therefore rejoices. Let us rise in faith to share the joy of God.” (sermons from 1837, #1990)

My brothers and sisters, imagine for just a moment, Your God, our God, the God of the blood soaked Cross, singing over YOU. Now if that does not bring joy to your heart I have news for you,,,, you are as good as dead!
The day is coming when he will no longer rebuke you.

Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice

 Grace!

Ps., Love them sprinkled cup cakes!


[1] Results were derived from a simple word search.
[2] “Pleasure of God In the Good of His People” Found in Piper Sermon Manuscript Library for Libronix
 

Completed by the Spirit Part 8: Paul, Redeemed but Struggling

Ed Trefzger
Ed Trefzger
This is the eighth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
As we visited in our previous two installments, Douglas Moo describes three different ways in which the man Paul describes in Romans 7 can be identified:

1. Paul describes his experience as an unconverted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the previous installment.
2. Paul describes his experience, perhaps shortly after his conversion, as he sought sanctification through the law.
3. Paul describes his experience as a mature Christian.[1]

Sinclair Ferguson advocates for the third view, a post-regenerate Paul (or generic regenerate man) in Romans 7, and sees the apostle as using this pericope to join chapter 6 with chapter 8 and to describe the struggle that the believer has between his remaining corrupt flesh and his new nature:

[T]hese statements simply underline Paul’s sense of the inherent contradiction of being one in whom sin continues to dwell when he or she is not under the dominion of the flesh but in the Spirit. For the one who has realized that the synchronous indwelling of the Spirit of Christ and of sin presents an appalling contradiction – not merely a paradox – is bound to express it in terms that verge on, and perhaps are, contradictory.[2]

Stephen Westerholm also makes an argument for the third position, and in doing so gives us a warning about the danger of using the law as an agent of sanctification:

To seek to define whether he has in mind the Christian or the pre-Christian struggle with sin is probably to ask a question he did not intend to answer; indeed, his account seems to mix elements from both. Most of what he says clearly reflects his Christian perception of life lived under the law, but modern scholarship has perhaps too quickly banished every suggestion of Christian experience from the passage. 7:24–25, if reflective of any experience, would seem to reflect his continuing awareness of the struggle between a mind devoted to God’s service and a “flesh” drawn toward sin.[3]

Moo explains the second, mediating view in his analysis of all three:

The main argument for the second, “immature Christian,” view is, of course, that the arguments for the first and third views both carry weight, and so the only way to reconcile all the data is with a mediating view. Paul is a Christian (explaining the data in the third-view argument), but a Christian who finds himself frustrated because he is trying to live by the law (explaining the data in the first-view argument). But the problem with this mediating view, and the reason I finally think that the passage describes an unregenerate person, is that the data in the argument for the first view involve an objective state, not a subjective feeling. Paul does not say that he feels as if he were a slave of sin or that he feels as if he were a prisoner of the law of sin; rather, he states such as the reality of his situation.[4]

Does it matter to us as an application of Romans 7 which of the three men Paul is describing? Perhaps if we consider the passage only to be applicable to the unregenerate, or more specifically an unregenerate Jew, it might. But I think close inspection will tell us that we — you and I, believer — have a lot in common with the man in Romans 7, and the danger Paul points to in looking back at the law for our sanctification.
Next: Completed by the Spirit Part 9: ‘It Cannot Justify, It Cannot Sanctify’
_________________
[1] Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002). Moo provides further depth in his Romans commentary.
[2] Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: 1996), 160.
[3] Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2004), 397.
[4] Moo, 125–6.

How to Help Others: Galatians 6:3-6

David Frampton
Dave Frampton
Introduction: Paul is giving solid instruction on a practical level about how to get the church of Galatia back together. The individual members of the church must become the menders of the church. As the physical body strives to put itself back together after a physical injury, so the body of Christ should seek to heal itself by the means which the Lord has appointed. Every believer is to be active in restoring and healing the body, which is the church. Menders must have a proper attitude. The NIV unhappily has not translated the connecting particle, “for”. Paul is emphasizing that you must have a proper view of self, if you would be a helper of others.
 
 
Exposition:
I. The problem a wrong view of self creates (6:3)
A. The essence of a wrong view of self (cf. Rm 12:3).

1. A sense of self-importance is based on self-ignorance. If you really know who you are, you cannot be conceited (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 15:9-10). There is something wrong with the idea of a “conceited Christian”. How can anyone who owes all to God’s grace be proud?

2. One who has an inflated view of himself cannot think of stooping to help the lowly. Actually, this kind of person is failing to see his unity in the Spirit with all who follow Christ; together we are spiritual brothers and sisters.

B. The dreadful deception such a view causes.

1. The person is living in the realm of fantasy. He or she is like a child who is playing “super heroes”. There are no super heroes in the church, but there is one Almighty Lord—Jesus Christ!

2. The darker side of this tragedy is that the person does not know he has been taken in by his conceit. And therefore, this person misses opportunities to honor Christ by helping others and sets himself up for a fall.

II. The importance of self-examination (6:4)
A. A personal responsibility.

1. There is no special class of examiners in the church. Some have liked to imagine themselves as such. Back in the day, we used to talk about “Baptist binoculars” or the “Spiritual Gestapo”. In the school I attended, for example, we had people like this who anointed themselves to turn all rule-breakers into the administration. But the focus is on personal rather than institutional responsibility.

2. We must choose a correct standard of measure. In context, this would be the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says that this is objective in nature – “actions” – works. What do you see the Spirit producing in your way of life?

B. The benefits of self-examination.

1. He will be able to see for himself what God has done for him and in him. Thus, the true boast of a believer is in the sovereign grace of God.

2. This involves removal of a competitive spirit and a “holier than thou” attitude (cf. Lk 18:11; 2 Cor 10:12).

III. The obligation of a proper view of self (6:5)
A. Observation.

1. Often this verse is misused, something like this: “People need help carrying big burdens, like those mentioned in verse two. But each one has to carry his own little burdens.”

2. However appealing this view might be, the context will not allow it. This is a common saying with a variety of applications. Here, it is illustrating each one’s own responsibility to God. We each must carry our own load. The connective word “for” demands this interpretation.

B. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, each one of us will give an account of himself to the Lord. Paul will not answer for Peter, nor Peter for Paul (Rm 14:9-12; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Heb 13:17).
Apply: The Galatians should not bust themselves “counting the scalps” of their erring brothers. But they should make sure that they personally are ready to appear before the Lord.

1. One who has an inflated view of himself cannot think of stooping to help

IV. The New Testament Scriptures give instruction about how a church is to be administered.
A. Meaning of “a church”.

1. A church is an assembly of believers, not an institution. [Contrast Murray, Collected Writings, Vol. 1, p. 238.] We create serious problems when we change something that is personal into what is impersonal.

2. The local church is an assembly of believers in a particular location.

Comment: Unfortunately, we cannot have the New Testament ideal of “an assembly of all believers in a particular location”. We have the enduring problem of denominationalism. For reasons why this must be so, see Lutzer, All One Body – Why Don’t We Agree?
B. There has been great debate about the kind of detail that God has given to us for the administration and worship of the church.

1. Normative principle: You are free to do whatever the Lord does not directly forbid. This promotes a lot of ritualism in worship.

2. Regulative principle: You must only do what the Bible commands.

Comment: Both of these have been partially responsible for the creation of an institutionalized and ritualistic church.

3. Reflective principle: We must not do what the Bible forbids, and we must do what it commands, but in other areas, what we do must reflect what we are by the grace of God in the new covenant.

Comment: This would include such truths as adoption and the priesthood of the believer, and the providence of God in our lives (our education, location, culture). God is glorified by the variety in his creation and new creation. Within the boundaries of the word, we must glorify him by our unity and diversity.
C. The New Testament Scriptures establish the right of a minister of the gospel to financial support.

1. The Lord has ordered that certain men—those who preach and teach the gospel—are to earn their living by their ministry. He tells us that the worker deserves his wages principle (Lk 10:7; 1 Cor 9:7-10; 1 Tm 5:17-18). This is reinforced by the spiritual benefit, material supply principle (1 Cor 9:11; cf. Rm 15:26-27). If someone supplies your greater need, shouldn’t you supply his lesser need? And we ought to remember the reward in heaven principle (Ph 4:17; cf. Lk 12:32-34).

2. This financial support is to come from those who benefit from his ministry. His service is instruction in the word. And so those who make use of his service, “anyone who receives instruction”, are to be his main financial supporters.

Comment: In missionary situations, like Paul at Corinth, this may not be possible for various reasons. But it is a worthy goal to be pursued.
D. The New Testament Scriptures establish a principle for the amount of pay to be provided for Christ’s minister.

1. It is built on the principle of sharing or participating in the gospel ministry. We are partners together in a good work—the salvation of the lost and the spiritual growth of believers into Christ’s likeness. What better thing can we aspire to do? To most efficiently pursue this goal, some have the calling of ministry, others various other callings.

Apply: Whatever you do is important to Christ. He has called you to do that very thing for him.

2. The Lord sets forth in the Bible sets forth an ideal of material equality among the saints. Those who have more should help those who have less (2 Cor 8:13-15). Applied to the minister, this means: He should share in what his people have. As I see it, this means he should live on the average level of the people to whom he usually ministers. Some will have more and some less, according as God has blessed each. The pastor should not seek to have more than others, nor should the people provide him with the least among them. There is to be a sharing. This extends to “all good things”. If it is good for the person who listens to have something, then it is good for the pastor to have it as well. (This does not exclude his own responsibility. See 1 Cor 10:23; etc.)

Apply: Are we involved in helping others?

Completed by the Spirit Part 7: Paul, the Unconverted Jew

Ed Trefzger
Ed Trefzger
This is the sev­enth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
 
 
 
In the pre­vi­ous install­ment in this series, we saw that the­olo­gian Dou­glas Moo describes three dif­fer­ent ways in which the man Paul describes in Romans 7 can be identified:

1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law.

2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law.

3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Chris­t­ian.[1]

Moo advo­cates for the first position:
As Paul has taught at some length in Romans 6, every believer, united with Christ in death and res­ur­rec­tion, has been “set free from sin” (see 6:6, 14, 18, 22). And Romans 8:2 makes it clear that the Spirit sets every believer free from the law of sin and death. For me, then, the deci­sive point is sim­ply put: the asser­tions made in verses 14–25 can­not be true of a believer, and thus can­not be refer­ring to Paul. That is why I think that Paul is describ­ing what it was like to live as an unre­gen­er­ate Jew under the law.[2] Sys­tem­atic the­olo­gian Robert L. Rey­mond con­curs with Moo:
It is both this last point – the “utter sin­ful­ness” of his sin­ful nature – and the impo­tency of the law in the strug­gle against sin – that Paul devel­ops in 7:14–25, argu­ing that even when as the con­victed Phar­isee he wanted to do the good and obey God, his sin­ful nature would not let him and the law did not help him; to the con­trary, the sin­ful nature “waged war against the law of his mind [the desire to do good] and made him a pris­oner of the law of sin at work within his mem­bers.” His con­clu­sion: his unre­gen­er­ate state had been a “wretched” exis­tence, so wretched, in fact, that he cried for deliv­er­ance from it! Not know­ing where to turn (for he still did not believe Jesus was the Mes­siah or that Jesus could help him), how­ever, he con­tin­ued in his impo­tency to strug­gle against sin’s potency until his Dam­as­cus road con­ver­sion finally brought him deliv­er­ance from his slav­ery to sin (8:1–4)![3] Next time, we’ll look at argu­ments for the sec­ond and third views: that Paul is describ­ing the expe­ri­ence of either a mature or a newly-converted Christian.
Next: Com­pleted by the Spirit Part 8: Paul, Redeemed but Struggling
________________
[1] Dou­glas J. Moo, Encoun­ter­ing the Book of Romans: A The­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey (Grand Rapids: Baker Aca­d­e­mic, 2002). Moo pro­vides fur­ther depth in his Romans commentary.
[2] Ibid., 126.
[3] Robert L. Rey­mond, A New Sys­tem­atic The­ol­ogy of the Chris­t­ian Faith (Sec­ond Edi­tion) (Nashville: Thomas Nel­son Inc., 1998), 1132.

Helping One Another: Galatians 6:1-2

David Frampton
Dave Frampton

Exposition: This world is a place of continually needed repair. Oh, that everything would stay in a “brand new” condition! But cars, clothes, furniture, appliances and homes all require ongoing repair work. People, yes, Christian people, need restoration, too. And as a faithful servant of God, the apostle sought to mend the broken church of Galatia. John Flavel said the following well;

And indeed it is not so much the expense of our labors, as the loss of them, that kills us. It is not with us, as with other laborers: they find their work as they leave it, so do not we [sic]. Sin and Satan unravel almost all we do, the impressions we make on our people’s souls in one sermon, vanish before the next. How many truths have we to study! How many wiles of Satan, and mysteries of corruption, to detect! How many cases of conscience to resolve! Yea, we must fight in defence [sic] of the truths we preach, as well as study them to paleness, and preach them unto faintness: but welcome all, if we can but approve ourselves Christ’s faithful servants.

In pursuit of this goal, Paul gives some positive, practical steps that every congregation of believers must take, as it seeks to keep in step with the Spirit. Let us remember before we consider these verses that all is based on Christ and the gospel.
Exposition: Three features of a Christian who mends other Christians
I.            The gentle restorer (6:1a) – The atmosphere in the Galatian church had been that of “law keeping for acceptance by God and one another”. This mood produces a harsh and judgmental attitude among people. However, we are not under law, but under grace (Rm 6:14). Praise God! When we realize what sin is—rejecting God, refusing to love God totally, and rebelling against God and his ways—we would all be condemned already for our ongoing sinfulness. For example, who here loved everyone this week with the love that Jesus loved us? Who perfectly lived a life of humility in God’s presence? Who was always thankful? Who kept away from every kind of evil? Who was patient with everyone? I point this out, not to lay a guilt trip on you, but to keep all of us within a scriptural way of looking at life.
Quote: “It is easy for certain types of religious people to sit in judgment on one who has suddenly yielded to some moral temptation, to make their disapproval manifest, but this is not the way of Christ” (Bruce). This easily happens when we forget the biblical teaching of sin and grace! However, we would consider, how can people be helped properly (and therefore best) in such situations?
A.            The gentle restorer recognizes that other believers struggle with sin. His own struggles with sin sharply remind him that other saints also stumble (cf. Mt 7:2-5).

1.            “Sin” is a trespass, a stepping aside out of the way, rather than keeping in step with the Spirit.

2.            The Lord’s followers can find themselves “caught” in a trespass. It is too easy to wander off the right way.

B.            The gentle restorer knows who can help and how to help.

1.            All Christians (“you who are spiritual”) can help. Consider what Paul says in other places (Rm 15:14; 1 Th 5:14).

2.            Mending is a work for gentle and humble hands. It is not for those who would push their own agenda on others. It is not for the proud who would look down on the spiritually afflicted.

Quote: “To gain this object he explains the purpose of godly reproofs, which is, to restore the fallen and make him sound again. This will never be accomplished by violence or through a spirit of accusation, or by fierceness of countenance and words. It remains that we must show a calm and kind spirit if we want to heal our brother.” [Calvin] Illustration: It has been said that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. Needless to say, this ought not to be! In this work, we must first of all have the mind of the Lord Jesus (Is 40:11; 42:3). [Recommend The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes.] II.            The cautious restorer (6:1b) – I used to work as an estimator for a general construction company. I quickly learned that you must be very careful in estimating any job. Sometimes I would joke with my boss that if we won the bid, then either he or I missed something. For some reason, he wasn’t amused! Usually we focused on new construction, but once in a while we would pick up restoration or remodeling jobs. Those were much more difficult to estimate, because you never knew what you might get into! On these we had to be especially cautious.
A.            The cautious restorer realizes that vigilance over one’s own soul is a crucial part of helping someone else.

1.            If you are not cautious about seeking to help someone up, you might fall.

Illustration: Consider the lifeguard’s method of rescuing a drowning swimmer.

2.            If you are not cautious about seeking to help someone you complicate that person’s problem.

Illustration: How many physicians in older times that didn’t know about bacteria would treat wounds with unclean hands!
B.            The cautious restorer considers the danger of temptation. When you counsel someone else, and you are always counseling others, you must consider how another person’s sin might affect you.

1.            An immature believer has poor spiritual vision. He sees the evil of sin, but fails to perceive the dangers of occasions to sin. He thinks restoration is an easy matter, grows careless in spiritual duties like private prayer and self-examination, and is suddenly entangled in the sin himself.

2.            The mature believer clearly sees where temptation can lead, and so he strives to avoid it (Mt 26:41).

Illustration: As medical people in our day face great danger from disease in helping the sick, so spiritual doctors in our day face all the evils of contamination from the new paganism, other false religions of our day, and certainly from worldly wisdom, which ignores God and the gospel.
III.            The burdened restorer (6:2) – Restoration is difficult work. It is not a job for those who confuse Christianity with a life of ease and pleasure that is free from pain and suffering. One of Satan’s great lies to the church has been that salvation is a vacation from service to God and others. No, we all are Christ’s ambassadors during a very bloody war.
A.            The burdened restorer accepts the burdens that must come on him or her when he or she helps someone.

1.            Frankly, the task can be wearisome, because you find out that when you lift the load off your brother or sister’s back, you must carry it on your own.

2.            Some of these burdens, besides being heavy, are also distasteful. Nurses must take care of bed pans, catheter bags, and do other unpleasant tasks. But aren’t you thankful they are willing to care for others. Let’s thank our nurses now. Helping someone who needs spiritual restoration leads you into the swamps and sewers of sin. You will hear and see evil that will affect you.

3.            Note very well: We don’t overlook or minimize the burdens of the fallen, but we try to unburden them, so that they can stand again.

B.            The burdened restorer finds that in doing this, he is fulfilling the law of Christ.
1.            The believer is a law keeper. He obeys the new Lawgiver.
2.            Christ’s law emphasizes love for one another (Jn 13:34; 15:12).
Quote: This verse “shows that to love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing (Stott).
Conclusion: It is time for the church to stop wishing things were better and to begin to follow the Holy Spirit’s plan for change. This is one clear way that we keep in step with the Spirit! This requires us to be gentle, cautious, burdened restorers of our fallen brothers and sisters. Life in the gospel community gets messy, but the Lord Jesus Christ has already secured our ongoing cleansing by his blood. So then, let’s be helpers and let the Lord be our Helper.

Keep In Step With The Spirit: Galatians 5:24-26

Introduction: Paul has had to write the Galatians to correct them because of the false teaching that had arisen among them. The false doctrine dishonored God, led people away from Christ and grace, and put the salvation of many in danger. The false teaching had also helped problems connected with remaining sin gain strength in them and disrupted their fellowship. If we do not know how to live godly in Christ Jesus, doing so becomes very difficult.  So then, the apostle needed to reestablish the way of true Christian living among the Galatians. People do not just drift into the right way of doing things. They must be taught. Illustration: A person needs to be taught how to cast with a fishing rod.
Exposition:
I. Life under the Spirit’s leadership begins with a decisive break with sin. (5:24)
A. This radical separation is true of all who belong to Christ

1. The statement is indicative; it is a fact, not a command or a possibility. It is basic to new life in Christ. Paul is writing about what is true of all who believe and are saved.

2. This break with the ruling power of sin has happened to all Christians— “those of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 15:23; cf. 1 Pt 2:9-10). It is part of the initial event of salvation, and does not occur through some supposed later second blessing or transforming experience (Rm 6:1-7; 8:9-10; Col 2:11-12). You do not have to learn some supposed “secret”; you do not have to walk an aisle to pray through or to re/dedicate yourself to God. This has happened to all who belong to Christ—to those who are in Christ.

B. The nature of this break is crucifixion. When did you crucify the flesh? You did it when you believed in Christ crucified for salvation. You may not and probably did not comprehend what was happening when you changed your mind and trusted in Jesus to save you. I know I didn’t understand all this! Thank God that we are saved by grace and not by our understanding of it! We don’t need a Doctor of Theology degree to be a Christian and to receive the free gift of salvation.

1. The Holy Spirit is explaining through the apostle what happened. We understood that our sins were wrong, offensive to God, and made us liable for hell. So we went to Jesus Christ, the crucified one, and trusted in him for forgiveness of what we did in the flesh and for his better righteousness. When we trusted in Christ, we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. “Paul is reminding the Galatians of the moment in their experience when they made a definitive break with the flesh and its sinful desires. The flesh was crucified when they first trusted for salvation. In their conversion they made a radical break with sin by identifying themselves with the Christ who was crucified to secure their release from the dominion of the flesh.” [Wilson]

2. Again, the verse is not speaking of something that we ought to do, but of what has already happened through faith in Jesus Christ. This crucifixion of the flesh does not mean that it can no longer have any influence on us. But it does mean that we are no longer under its dominion or rule. When we first trusted in Jesus Christ, we trusted that his death would be the death of sin in us.

Illustration: Imagine someone who had been in debt for a long time. He has mailed payments to his creditors for years. But now he is free from debt, for a rich friend has paid all for him. If that happened he would be quite foolish to continue making payments, for his debt no longer has any authority over him.
Point: The starting point of the Christian way of life is the gospel and faith in the Lord Jesus.
II. Life under the Spirit’s leadership requires responsible activity on our part. Let us keep in step with the Spirit (5:25).
A. The reasoning behind what the Lord wants us to do.

1. Our condition (the way we live) should be in conformity with our position (what we are in Christ). Sometimes we call this truth “Therefore Christianity”. Here is what you are in Jesus Christ; therefore, live in conformity with what you really are in him.

2. Life is necessary to live. So the apostle Paul reminds us that we live by the Spirit. He caused us to be born again from above. He made us alive in Christ. This is our position. We are alive by the Spirit’s power.

3. Proper thinking about what we are in Christ is used by the Holy Spirit to lead us to proper feeling and proper doing. We must clearly understand that the commands or imperatives that we read in the New Testament Scriptures are not some kind of new law we obey in order to gain holiness or sanctification. Instead, “the imperative is based on the indicative, and is intended to bring about in the lives of believers the practical outworking of the reality expressed by the indicative. Its relation to the indicative is therefore basically that of consequence. Precisely because the Spirit is the source of their life, they are to keep in step continuously with the Spirit in their conduct” (Fung, p. 276).

Problem: Most people don’t like to think. “Why do I have to learn all this?” You have to learn it, so that you can live like adult sons and daughters of God. The Lord wants you and me to grow up and glorify him by loving him with all our minds.
B. The path marked out for us.

1. The NIV states it simply keep in step with the Spirit. Think of soldiers being drilled, or a band practicing for a half-time show. It is important for each one to follow the Spirit’s leadership.

Illustration: This example might not resonate with everyone, though I hope you will benefit from it. Have you ever seen Ohio State’s marching band perform “Script Ohio”? That shows the need to keep in step.

2. “Living by the Spirit is the root; walking by the Spirit is the fruit, and that fruit is nothing less than the practical reproduction of the character (and therefore the conduct) of Christ in the lives of his people.” [Bruce] Please observe very intently that this text does not say “let us keep in step with the law”! In some Reformed circles, people say “Moses takes you to Christ to be justified, and then Christ takes you back to Moses to be sanctified.” Such teaching is horribly wrong! When we are justified or right with God through faith in Christ, the Lord Christ then gives the Holy Spirit, who leads Christ’s adult sons and daughters into an increasing conformity to Christ. With unveiled faces we view Christ’s glory by the Spirit, and we reflect the ever-increasing glory of Christ as we follow him (cf. 2 Cor 3:12-18).

Apply: How is the Spirit developing an increasing conformity to Jesus in you now?
III. Life under the Spirit’s leadership involves avoiding pitfalls. (5:26)
A. The pitfall of arrogance.

1. To be conceited is to boast when there is nothing to boast about. When a believer is thinking properly, he knows that all that he has is a gift of grace (1 Cor 4:7).

2. Yet pride has produced countless problems in churches. Few sins can compare to the destructive qualities of pride. One is proud of the position he is in, and another boasts of a spiritual gift she has. Everyone it seems is too proud to allow others to rebuke, correct and train him or her in righteousness. Pride makes us wear masks and resistant to help that others are able to give. Pride makes us supposed self-sufficient hermits, while we assume we are sharing life with one another in Christ’s body, the church.

B. The pitfall of provocation.

1. This verb is used only here in the NTS. It is used in other places of challenges to combat or to an athletic contest.

Illustration: Challenges to 4 on 4 basketball in college.

2. Perhaps the problem in Galatia was the challenge to theological debate. This still happens when we are more concerned about defending our doctrinal positions than arriving at the truth.

Comment: It is refreshing when the saints want to grow in Christ instead of wanting to win.
C. The pitfall of envy.

1. This is the attitude that can’t stand it when someone else prospers. Next our attitude toward the one who prospers starts to change, and then we begin to make cutting comments about that person (Mt 12:34). Why should it matter to you if God the Father blesses a brother or sister in Christ with something that he doesn’t give to you? Can’t you rejoice in their happiness?

2. The Galatians needed the right attitude, for some were in spiritual need among them. All must have a desire to help the church grow without thinking about who was on what side and who deserved what.

Apply: No one can be living right who is not seeking to live in harmony with other people. You are not as sanctified as you assume, if you lack or fail to show Christ’s sacrificial love to others who are in Christ—and to a watching world in desperate need of his love.

The Law of Christ: 1 Corinthians 9:21

Todd Braye
Todd Braye
Opening Remarks: ‘In the wake of Galatians’ is how I would describe where we are as a church. And that’s an awesome place to be. We’ve learned so much in the past two or so years. We’ve learned that Christ has set us free from the law. Believers are released from the Mosaic Covenant ‘in toto.’ Believers do not need the guardianship of the law because Christ, the very substance of the law, the one to whom the law pointed, dwells in them by His Spirit.  We’ve seen that the law was a temporary covenant; it was put in force some 400 years after the Abrahamic. And it ended with the work of Christ on the cross.  For freedom Christ has set us free. For freedom Christ lived on the earth and died upon the tree. Christians are free from the Law of Moses; they are not under it; it does not hover over them as some weighty, unattainable standard. It doesn’t command us with its commands. It doesn’t taunt or burden us with its curses. The apostle has made it abundantly clear: believers in Christ are not under the law. Believers live in a new age. Believers live post-cross.  Believers are completely unshackled from the chains of that covenant summarily defined as the ten commandments.
To live otherwise is to do so dangerously. Remember what Paul says in Galatians 5:3. He says that anyone who subjects himself to part of the law is obligated to keep all of it. “I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” It’s an all or nothing deal. You can’t just pick and choose. You can’t just slice and dice the law according to your preference and keep part of it (as if you could). Do that and Paul says Christ is of no benefit to you. You have fallen from grace. This is why this ought to make us sit up and pay close attention. This is why the subject before us ought to deeply stir our hearts. This is why we need to be vigilant about this. Get this wrong and we’re doomed. Get this wrong and we’re in big trouble; the benefits of Christ to us are at stake. Submission to the law equals severance from Christ.
This is why Paul wrote Galatians in such a bombastic tone. This is why he was so dogmatic. This is why he pulled no punches; he was fighting for Galatian souls. And he was fighting for us! Do not think for a second this has no relevance for us. The Galatians were duped by those zealous for the law covenant. They were bewitched, seduced, entranced by those who insisted that covenant remained in force. And Paul calls them fools! “O foolish Galatians,” He says. “Who has bewitched you!” Who has so influenced you that you are spell-bound! The Judaizers were the old guard. Zealous for the law, they were the established guardians of orthodoxy, the theological oaks of the faith. But they did not esteem Christ and his work as they should have. Christ wasn’t enough in their eyes. The cross, and all its implications for redemptive, salvation history, in the grand scheme of promise-fulfillment, eluded them. They did not grasp the full weight of the cross and its consequences. Which is to say, at best, they misinterpreted the Scriptures. Do these guys still exist? They do! You know they do. Whether or not they know what they do is a matter of another sort.
In any case, the apostle makes it very clear to us: To not be under law is to be led by the Spirit. Nowhere in all of Scripture does Paul say ‘Walk by the law.’ ‘Let the law lead you.’ ‘Be led by the law.’ ‘Be conformed to the Law.’ ‘Make sure the Law is your guide in sanctification.’ You won’t find him saying these things. Neither does he, or any other New Testament writer, provide a bullet point list for us to help us on our way. If we think of the NT in such terms, I think we grossly misunderstand the NT. The NT isn’t that. The NT is, rather, an exposition of the New Covenant (which is an entirely different thing).   And within that exposition, Paul exhorts the Galatians, and believers everywhere in every century, to “Walk by the Spirit.” In Galatians 5:18 he writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” By this he means ‘walk by the power of the Spirit.’ A few verses later he writes, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” By this he means ‘walk according to the standard of, or keep in step with, the Spirit.’ Paul is not advocating a kind of subjective, ‘willy-nillyism’ here, where everyone gets to decide what the standard is, that is, what suits the individual. If you think that’s what Paul means, let me be as simple as I can be: you’re wrong.  Neither is Paul teaching God directly and immediately speaks to believers, and even allows certain behaviors, certain sinful behaviors in any given situation. If you think that let me be as clear as I can: you are wrong. Never forget the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit demands and produces holiness, not sinfulness, not charismatic nonsense.
The Law of Christ
There is yet another consideration in all this. As I aim to pull us together in these things, as I labor to ensure we together see Christ in ALL His glory and sufficiency, I draw your attention to the law of Christ. Paul speaks of it in Galatians 6:2. There he says

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill (or conform to, or obey) the law of Christ.

And in 1st Corinthians 9:20-21 he writes

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

The question is not “Is obedience required?” Paul is abundantly clear both here and elsewhere. Obedience is required. Take Romans 6:1 and 2 for example: “Are we to continue is sin that grace may abound? By no means! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  A few verses later, in verse 17, Paul speaks of the Romans, once slaves of sin, obeying its demands, as having become “obedient from the heart to that standard of teaching to which [they] were committed.” Back in the opening chapter of Romans, in the opening verses, Paul even says obedience is the very purpose of his apostleship. Romans 1:1-5 (Just listen for the Christ-centeredness, how everything points to & climaxes with Him here):

1 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”

Obedience is not at issue. Members of the New Covenant obey. They are obligated to obey. Freedom from Law does not negate the necessity for and even existence of obedience. In fact, New Covenant members are expressly identified in 1st Peter as those “in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.” Freedom from the Law ‘in toto’ does not equal freedom from obedience to Christ. What it actually means for the believer creates a theological necessity, an inner obligation, an undeniable impelling unto obedience. So, obedience is not at issue. The question, at issue, is “What is the law of Christ?”
We’ve been here before. We’ve addressed this to some degree. But before we press on in our studies together, I want to address this again and ‘press it home.’ I do so because in my estimation, it is crucial to understand. My first and governing concern is understanding what God has in fact said. Truth matters. Second, I make much of it because our happiness in God is at stake. Joy matters. Third, I make much of this because the glory of Christ is at stake. See this the way you should, and you behold the glory & sufficiency of Christ as never before. Finally, I press this because holiness is at stake. This is the will of God: your sanctification. He chose us in Christ before the dawn of time that we should be holy.
So, what is the law of Christ? In my studies, I came across an article that listed 8 answers. I won’t bore you with them. But know this: Common to all was an external-ness. Common to all was the notion that this law is written on the pages of Scripture somewhere. Some say Christ commands love. So, love, they say, is that law. Some say that law is the teaching found in the New Testament, the commands, imperatives, exhortations of Christ and His apostles. I say this is not the law of Christ. I say the Law of Christ is not external. I say the law of Christ is not written on the pages of Scripture. I’ll tell you what I am convinced the Law of Christ is. And then I’ll show you why I say what I say. So here it is: The law of Christ is the indwelling Christ.  By His Spirit, Christ indwells every believer. This is the Law of Christ! It’s not external; it’s internal.
Why I say this is rooted in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. But first, a close look at 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 sets us up. Paul writes (look at it with me):

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law [4x Paul uses the same preposition/word for ‘under.’ Remember that. ]. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Lots of stuff going on here; but what is crucial for us to understand is this: the 5th time Paul says ‘under,’ that is when he writes ‘under the law of Christ,’ he doesn’t say ‘under.’ The 5th time that preposition occurs the translators made a judgment call. And I’m convinced it’s the wrong one. What Paul actually wrote is not ‘under the law of Christ,’ but ‘in law of Christ,’ or, depending on which Greek manuscript is before you, ‘in-lawed to Christ.’   So, lost in the translation is the contrast between the ‘under-ness’ of the old, Mosaic Law, and the ‘in-ness’ of the new law of Christ, that is Christ Himself, or that law which comes from Christ, a law which is not outside or external, but internal. There is an ‘in-ness’ here, one that is often missed. “The freshness of the strawberry cannot be kept in any extract” (ATR). That is to say, there’s always something lost in translation.  The freshness of the Greek cannot be kept in any other language. But I hope you smell this!
Now we go to Jeremiah 31. There the prophet Jeremiah gives prophecy to the New Covenant. God promises to make a New Covenant with His people. He says this New Covenant will not be like the one He made before. It won’t be like the one He made at Sinai. It won’t be written on tablets of stone. It won’t have the same form. It won’t even contain the same demands, since a covenant cannot be divorced from its stipulations. And then He says in Jeremiah 31:33,

…this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.

New covenant. Not like the one made before. Not like the one at Sinai. Not external, written on tablets of stone. But within them, written on their hearts. In-ness!
Next is Ezekiel. He also prophesied the New Covenant. In chapter 36, verse 27 he promised this, that God would put His Spirit within His people, and cause them to walk in His statutes and be careful to obey His rules. New covenant. Not like the one made before. New form. Not external. Written not on tablets of stone, but on their hearts. In-ness.  In-ness!
Next is Isaiah. Isaiah 42, beginning with the vey first verse:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

This is incredible. God says to His servant, to His Son, that He will give Him as a covenant for the people!!! New covenant. New form. Not written on some document. Not on tablets of stone. Not with an alphabet. But a Person.  Christ is the New Law. Christ is the New Covenant. Paul is not under the Law of Moses; he’s not under anything. He’s actually ‘in the law of Christ,’ or ‘inlawed to Christ’ or ‘in the law which comes from Christ that is His Spirit.’ Galatians confirms this interpretation. In chapter 4, verse 6 Paul states that God has sent the Spirit of His Son into the hearts of believers. And where I would expect him to say, ‘Obey the law…walk by the law,’ the apostle says (in 5:25) walk, or keep in step with, or obey the Spirit. Therefore, I conclude, on the basis of these Scriptures, that the Law of Christ is the Spirit of Christ. It is not external, but internal, on the heart. It is not a list of imperatives inked on a page, but a Person etched on the soul by His Spirit. This is not to say the instruction given in the NT is to be ignored as a thing not needed. NT imperatives and commands do have a role to play. They are needed.  But they must be read and understood from these vantage points: The law of Christ is the Spirit of Christ indwelling every believer. This is the atmosphere the Christian enjoys. He is in Christ. But Christ is also in him. Christ indwells us by His Spirit. He who rose from the dead, who is the very agent of creation, indwells every believer.  This creates a necessity, a theological necessity. It’s a necessity in which one is impelled to action. The Spirit causes action. God is at work in the believer, both to will and to work his good pleasure (Phil.2:12).
The second vantage point is this: The NT is the exposition of the New Covenant. So when reading or hearing any NT imperative or command, hear it with New Covenant ears. Christ is in you. God is at work in you. The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells you. You can therefore obey. You will obey from the inside out, that is, of course, if you keep in step with the Spirit and not quench the Spirit.
Third, and this is crucial: The Spirit authored the NT. Therefore, the indwelling Spirit will not contradict what the NT says.  There is consistency and complete harmony between the Spirit and the NT Scripture.  The NT confirms the Spirit’s leading. So, if we’re not loving or patient or exercising self-control we’re not being led by the Spirit.  If we’re not pursuing holiness, if we’re not striving after righteousness, we’re not being led by the Spirit. The Spirit-filled husband loves his wife. The Spirit-filled wife respects and submits to her husband, you see. This is not charismatic nonsense. Neither is this legalism or moralism. It’s actually authentic Christian living by the power of the Spirit, by the law of Christ!
Do you know anything of this? Are you in-lawed to Christ? Do you know anything of the in-ness of this Law? Are you a member of the New Covenant? How does one become such a member? Jesus said, “You must be born again.” That’s a simple statement, not a command. You must be born again. Jesus is commanding anything here. He’s just stating a fact. You must be born again. What must one do to be born again? What must one do to be born? Answer: Nothing! We do not bear ourselves. We are never the ones working on our birthdays; our mothers however! They don’t call it labor for no reason. We did not bear ourselves; we were born! We were completely passive. We simply had a ride from darkness to light. And then we cried! That was how we were born the first time. That’s also how the second birth occurs. In other words, no one can give themselves the second birth. No sinner can will his own spiritual ride from darkness to light. That’s God’s work. God does that by His Spirit and His word. Believers “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
But this excuses no man! This excuses no one without exception. That no man can will his second birth does not exclude him from the demands God places upon him. If anyone is this room is not a member of the New Covenant, given birth a second time, a birth from above, a spiritual birth, then hear this: God demands of you that you turn from yourself and your sin and sins and trust in Christ.  The God who is declares to all men everywhere that they repent and be repentant. He has fixed a day of judgment. And Christ will be that Judge. You will meet Christ. That is without question.  The question is “Will He greet you as your worst enemy, or your loving Savior?”  Unbeliever, what keeps you from Christ? Is it your pride? And don’t confuse the issue here: I speak not of local church membership. I speak of New Covenant membership. We can be members of the first and not be of the second. Shame on us if we allow an unbeliever, one who is not joined to Christ by faith and in whom the Spirit resides, to be a church member. We do such one a disservice, encouraging self-deception.  If you are not joined to Christ, if you have no sense of the indwelling Christ, if there is no inner compulsion to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord, then turn and trust. Fix your eyes on Christ. Look at Christ. Gaze at the cross. He will not cast you out nor turn you away. What keeps you from Him? What keeps you from receiving Him with open arms?
To you believer, I say this: Do we spend far too much time musing over indwelling sin and not enough rejoicing in the reality of an indwelling Christ? This is for you to consider of yourself. Decide this for yourself with you on the ‘hot seat.’ And with you there, ask yourself this: “Do I make far too many allowances for my lack of growth on account of indwelling sin?  Should the indwelling Christ not guarantee a measure of growth in obedient, godly, righteous living?”  Don’t misunderstand. The Bible is clear. Perfectionism is a lie. But if a man drank ten energy drinks, say 10 Red Bulls, his day would look much different than if he hadn’t, right? I mean, he ‘d have the energy of a Malcolm Kuntz!  Should we not expect the same spiritually? If the Spirit of the living Christ resides in us, have we not been blessed with power for growth in the knowledge and grace of Christ? I have seen God at work in you. Please don’t misunderstand. God is good. We are growing. But we can grow more. You love. Love each other all the more. Outdo each other in love by the power of the indwelling Christ, the Law of Christ, the Holy Spirit.
There’s one more thing before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Flip over to Colossians 2. In verse 16, Paul begins with the word “Therefore.” “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you” and then he lists things representing the old, Mosaic Law, things he says are a shadow of Christ who is the very substance. So, let’s ask what the therefore is there for. Verses 16 and 17 are grounded upon what comes just prior to that. And what comes prior to that is nothing short of amazing.  What comes before that is this (verse 14): “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”  The work of God in Christ is in view here.  Paul says that nailed to the cross and thus set aside and canceled is ‘the record of debt that stood against us with it legal demands.’ In Christ, God nailed this record, this document to the cross. What is this document? It is a record of debt to be sure. O the bliss of that glorious thought. Our sin, not in part but the whole was nailed to the cross and we bear it no more…! But that’s not all this document is. This document “stands against us with legal demands!” This document condemns us! This document curses us! This document says “Do or die!” This document is, in other words the old, Mosaic Covenant! Which means beloved,– “Two covenants were nailed to the Cross.  But only one went to the grave!  Two covenants were nailed to the Cross, but only one walked out of the tomb!  Two covenants were nailed to the Cross, but only one ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory!  Two covenants were nailed to the Cross, but only one has indwelt the Body of Christ since Pentecost!” The ministry of death was crushed to death. Life is ours and ours to live by the Spirit!
______________
1.The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (Ga 5:3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
2. The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 9:20–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
3. The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (Ro 1:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
4. The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (Is 42:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
5. The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001 (Col 2:14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
6. J.T. Jeffrey, “The Silence of the New Covenant.”
 

The Other Great Exchange: Trading One Moral Code for Another

Mike Adams
Mike Adams
There’s good news and then there’s bad news.  First, the good news: Jesus bore the punishment due me for my sin.  He was crushed for my sin and His body nailed to a tree for my transgressions (Isaiah 53:5).  This isn’t just good news, this is GREAT news!  Jesus bore the punishment for my sin that I deserved so that I wouldn’t have to (Isaiah 53:6).  An exchange took  place on the cross that many call the great exchange.  In the great exchange, Jesus took my sin and the wrath of God that I deserve upon himself and in exchange, I get his perfect righteousness dumped freely into my account, so that when God sees me, he sees Jesus in me and Jesus’ perfect life and payment for my sin on the cross makes me unconditionally accepted by God forever and always.  Paul put it this way,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The great exchange is the good news of the gospel: what I couldn’t do, God did for me apart from anything I do (Romans 3:21-25).  That’s grace and that’s great news!
Now, the bad news.
Once we come to Christ in faith and repentance, we can start to forget our deep need for the ongoing power of the gospel to live our lives day be day.  We tend to think of the gospel as what gets us into the kingdom – that which starts us off in the Christian life – and then we move beyond it and immerse ourselves in the “deeper” things of God, as though there was something deeper than the gospel.   Elyse Fitzpatrick captures this perfectly in a blog entitled Grace for Regretful Parents Too:

Let me explain what I mean. When Phil and I were raising our children, sure, we told them the gospel but only until they assured us that they believed it and then we piled on the law…

Then the focus changed from Jesus and the gospel to their behavior and the rules.  Mixed into all this was my own idolatrous desire to be a successful parent and have successful, obedient children. In addition, we had absolutely no clue how the gospel intersected with daily life. To us the gospel was the door into Christianity and then Christianity was almost exclusively about obeying, getting on down the road of sanctification. I cringe now when I think of how I used our faith to demand obedience and punish them when they didn’t comply. Regrets? Yes, boatloads of them… if I let myself go there. (From The Biblical Counseling Coalition)
I think this is a common mistake not just in parenting, but in how we view the Christian life.  Grace starts us off in this new life and then once we’re “in” we start piling law and rules on ourselves and each other so that our focus changes from our ongoing desperate need for the gospel to our own personal obedience and performance (and the obedience and performance of others) as we “get on down the road to sanctification.”  Sometimes this is a subtle shift and because it can happen slowly over a period of years, we may not even notice it until the Holy Spirit reveals it to us.    When we leave grace and the gospel at the door of this Christian life, something has to fill the void that it creates.  If the gospel isn’t at the root and core of our sanctification, something else will be.  Count on it.  More often than not, that something will be our own performance.
For a number of years I was in the middle of an ongoing and at times, lively debate that attempted to define exactly what the “law of Christ” is (1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2). The issue arose in part because of a gnawing question that at that time was being asked repeatedly, “What commands are we obligated to obey under the New Covenant?”  That’s a good question to ask and answer, assuming we get the answer right.  But if we’re asking that question without any real regard for how the gospel of grace plays into our sanctification, the results can be devastating.  Devastating because without the gospel at our center, it becomes easy to simply exchange one moral code (Moses) for another (the Law of Christ) and then pile the laws and rules of the new code on ourselves and others as we “get on down the road to sanctification.”
If the gospel isn’t alive and vibrant at the root and core of our sanctification continually, we’re left thinking that God’s delight or pleasure in us is based on our own performance.  In other words, we start to think that God is more pleased with us when we are obeying better and we become clueless in the myriad of ways that the gospel, not law, intersects daily life.
Visit Michael W. Adams’ blog “Journey In Grace.”

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part Two): Galatians 5:22-23

Introduction
Recently, I began our study on these verses with the following words, which are worth repeating. “The Christian way of life is based on the good news of Jesus, and it develops through that same good news. Christ died and rose again to set us free, and by the Holy Spirit he continues to set us free. What Jesus Christ does for us is good; in fact when compared with the works of the flesh, it is tremendously, beautifully, overwhelmingly, surpassingly, stunningly good.” Verses like these show the excellence of what our Lord continues to do in us.
It is necessary to start with Christ and the gospel, because of two perspectives that form the true Christian way of life.
The perspective of grace – We do not live for Jesus Christ in the realm of the law or the flesh (human effort). The true Christian happens because we’re united to Christ by grace through faith, and not by works. Being joined to Christ means we are in his spiritual realm and are changed by his almighty power by the Holy Spirit.
The perspective of worship – We live for Jesus Christ in response to the grace we have received in him. Think of what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rm 12:1-2).
In the previous message we saw first that the Holy Spirit starts the production of his fruit in a Christian’s life at the time of regeneration. He unites us to the crucified, risen and ascended Christ, who powerfully produces change into his image. This is the fruit of the Spirit. Then we briefly considered each of the nine parts listed in this text of this manifold fruit. The first three are like basic defining traits, and the other six develop in our interactions in the gospel community. Now let us think more about the fruit of the Spirit.

       Galatians 5:22-23

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Exposition
III.            The Holy Spirit produces this way of life in all Christians to some degree.
A.            Two contrasts

1.            Contrast the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. The sin principle expresses itself differently in different people or in different groups of people. Some pursue one course of sin, and others another, due to family background, peer pressure, emotional trauma, personality, local culture, education, opportunity to commit a sin, etc, etc. But the Spirit’s fruit is unified. (Notice the singular.) He means to transform the believer’s way of life in every area.

2.            Contrast with the gifts of the Spirit. All believers do not have the same spiritual gift. There is diversity in the body of Christ in regard to gifts received (1 Cor 12:14-31). But the Spirit lives within all of us to produce Christ-likeness (Rm 8:29). This is the great goal.

B.            Paul plainly uses the singular, fruit, here rather than the plural.

1.            The aim is not to show separate spiritual graces but the various aspects of the one harvest. They are not like nine different jewels, but the various facets of one diamond.

2.            You can’t pursue “fractional Christianity”: 1/9, 2/9, 3/9, etc. The Spirit of God aims to produce Christ-like people, not those noted for a few select virtues. Don’t merely strive to be “a joyful Christian”, as if you could be that and not also be kind and faithful.

Apply: We ought to be looking for wholeness in our lives. Do you see all aspects of the Spirit’s fruit developing in your way of life?
 
IV.            The Holy Spirit produces his fruit through the use of spiritual means by his power.
A.            The Spirit powerfully uses our responsible activity in cultivating a new way of life in us.

1.            He uses the Bible, whether received through preaching, teaching, reading, music (Col 3:16) or individual study, to transform our thinking. For example, “Here is what you are in Christ by saving grace. Now make your condition (your way of life) agree with your position (what you are and have in Christ).” It can happen as we sing a song like “In Christ Alone” or “All I Have Is Christ”.

2.            He uses the prayer of faith. The Spirit of Christ burdens us to pray that we in believing may receive Christ’s help (cf. Eph 3:14-19).

3.            He uses the fellowship of believers (the gospel community). As we meet together in the Spirit, he uses us to serve one another in love, to encourage one another, to exhort one another and to spur one another on to love and to good works (Heb 3:12-13; 10:24-25). This means of the Spirit’s work has been sadly undervalued and unappreciated in our individualistic culture. We need our thinking radically transformed by the Word at this point.

a.            We tend to look at godliness as a personal matter, and so pick-up a “self-made” focus that leads us to boast in our achievements. This is contrary to the Scriptures, where these graces or virtues “are always brought under the viewpoint of brotherly communion and the upbuilding of the church, and not, as in the Greek ethic, under that of character formation…” (Ridderbos, quoted by Fung). Consider also Eph 4:15-16; Col 3:12-15.

b.            It takes all of us together to be the bride and body of Christ and the temple in which the Holy Spirit lives with glory. Through our life of love together we show together that we are Christ’s disciples. We are, as Francis Schaffer said in the 1970’s, “the final apologetic”—what demonstrates the reality of Jesus Christ before a watching world. But we must do this together.

Quote: “We all have a part to play in building a home for God. We need one another in order to be a healthy, growing church. This means that everyone else needs you, and you need everyone else. You need to help others change. And you need to let others help you change.
“Together we extol Christ to one another, and we each bring distinct harmonies to the song. We comfort one another with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Our different experiences of God’s grace become part of the rich counsel that we in the church have for one another. Moreover, in the Christian community there is a collective persistence that’s stronger than any individual can manage. When I grow weary of speaking truth to a particular situation, someone else will take up the baton. We’re like a choir singing the praises of Jesus. No one can sustain the song continually on his or her own, but together we can” (Chester, You Can Change, pp. 153-154).
B.            The Spirit also directly acts in us to produce his fruit.

1.            He strengthens us spiritually (Eph 3:16). He enables us to stand in the evil days when the spiritual forces of evil attack us.

2.            He fills us with the knowledge of God’s will (Col 1:9). He gives us a continual renewal to look at life in conformity with the truth that is in Jesus.

3.            He testifies that we are God’s children (Rm 8:16). He maintains our sense of our basic identity, so that we may live to please the Lord.

4.            He rests on us (1 Pt 4:14). He fills us with a sense of glory when we must walk through suffering. He comes to provide comfort and encouragement during life’s darkest and most difficult circumstances.

Hymn: “How Firm a Foundation”
C.            The Spirit produces his fruit over a period of time. There is no instant fruit bearing, no instant transformation. In our culture, we want or even demand instant everything. Yet the Spirit of God works slowly, thoroughly and deeply to produce Christ-likeness.

1.            As no fruit farmer plants a tree one day and looks to pick fruit from it the next, so the Holy Spirit patiently works to bring forth fruit in Christ’s followers. And the fruit, a godly way of life, inevitably appears.

2.            Different aspects may appear at different times, yet all eventually come. Think of how fruit grows. First, you pick the strawberries, then the cherries and raspberries, then the blueberries and blackberries, and finally the apples.

3.            Different types of fruit may appear more plentifully at various times. One year there are more cherries than apples. The next year the opposite may be true. So then, you and I may not always excel in the same areas. In a new test, he may develop other spiritual fruit that we have not yet strongly displayed.

4.            Different Christians, like different trees, will vary in their fruitfulness. But don’t say, “I’m just a lousy tree.” Each one is to become more fruitful (Jn 15:2). Since you are united to Christ, the Spirit will make you more fruitful.

Apply: What aspect of his fruit is the Spirit now developing in you? Look at the nine listed in our text. And then meditate on these from Colossians 3:12. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Where is the Holy Spirit transforming you? How is he doing it? Do you desire the change he is bringing in you?

The Fruit of the Spirit (Part One): Galatians 5:22-23

Introduction
The Christian way of life is based on the good news of Jesus, and it develops through that same good news. Christ died and rose again to set us free, and by the Holy Spirit he continues to set us free. What Jesus Christ does for us is good; in fact when compared with the works of the flesh, it is tremendously, beautifully, overwhelmingly, surpassingly, stunningly good. “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way.” Yes, it is glory begun to share in the Lord’s character now. What better thing can there be for us than to be like him? Savor the excellence of the excellent fruit spoken of here. Yet, why do we have so much trouble with what Christ is doing in us by the Spirit? We used the illustration last week that the Spirit is Christ’s resident remodeling contractor in his people. Why do we show such resistance when he starts to rip the moldy, cracked lath and plaster (remaining sin) out of our lives? Why are we so reluctant to see likeness to him as attractive, pleasant, and refreshing in our lives? I trust that this study will bring a new delight and desire for conformity to Jesus Christ in each one of us.
Exposition
I.            The Holy Spirit starts the production of his fruit in a Christian’s life at the time of regeneration.
A.            The Spirit brings new spiritual life in the inner person of the believer.

1.            A radical change occurs as the Spirit unites us with Christ. The old self is put off and the new self is put on (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10). We have new desires for holiness and righteousness.

2.            As the old inner self had a natural desire to express itself in the works of the flesh, so the new inner self has spiritual desires to express itself in the ways of Christ. In other words, the new self likes to wear new clothes (Col 3:12-17).

B.            The Spirit unites the called person to the living Christ, the Risen One, the Almighty, Sovereign Lord of glory. To such a person, changes begin to happen, even if the believer cannot explain what is happening.

1.            We have been joined to the Risen Christ in order that we might bear fruit for God (Rm 7:4-6). We are married to a Husband who is potent and able to produce godly fruit in us.

2.            Christ does this by the ministry of the Holy Spirit; in other words, this is the fruit of the Spirit.

Point: When we talk of the fruit of the Spirit, we are in the realm of the supernatural, the realm of God’s almighty power. We experience the power of the Creator anew. God is at work.
Apply: We must think according to who we now are in Christ (Rm 6:11). We can face hard tasks in life, because Christ’s power is active in us by the Holy Spirit. We can tell others about Christ. We can have a joyful marriage. We can be patient and kind. We can say no to overeating. We can live in confident anticipation of the Lord’s return. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rm 8:37).
II.            The Holy Spirit brings about a godly way of life in Christ’s followers.
The apostle lists nine character traits in these verses. There are more than these nine, but these were especially relevant to the situation in the Galatian congregations. There is no obvious grouping of these traits, but we will consider them in two general groups. This is a brief overview. If you study these on your own, beware of trite and timeworn assertions that a careful study of the Greek words and their usage in the NTS will not support.
A.            Basic traits

1.            Love is essential to the Christian way of life. Love means to set your affections on someone, so that you give yourself sacrificially for their good. So then, love fulfills the law and serves one another.

2.            Joy is a deep emotion of delight, pleasure, and satisfaction. It is a glad feeling or happiness. Joy is based on the finished work of Christ (Rm 5:11) and looks forward to the glory of God (Rm 5:2). One of the striking characteristics of this joy from Christ that the Spirit produces is that enables us even to rejoice in our sufferings (Rm 5:3-5). “Joy is an essential ingredient of all true Christianity” (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 354), and joy is “a consistent mark of both the individual believer and the believing community” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 588).

3.            Peace is more than the absence of war or strife. It is “the presence of the rich blessing of God” (Morris). Since we justified believers have peace with God, we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). This means the gatherings of God’s people are to be marked by blessing. We should experience encouragement, spiritual, refreshment, renewal, and restoration when we come together in our big group or our small groups. You might come in from the world feeling rather fatigued and perhaps downcast. When you leave, you ought to feel reinvigorated! But guess what? This won’t happen if you hold yourself away from others. You need to draw near in faith.

B.            Community traits

1.            Patience is waiting calmly. If we had the word “long-tempered”, as an antonym to “short-tempered”, it would help us grasp some more of its meaning. Life is filled with struggles and stress; so is life in a gospel community. We need to wait calmly for others to grow, to walk through the struggles of life together, and for each other to lay hold of and practice Biblical teaching.

2.            Kindness is a gracious attitude that seeks the well-being of others.

3.            Goodness is a synonym of kindness, but it communicates more of the outward expression of doing what is for the true benefit of others. It has the idea of generosity.

4.            Faithfulness is the quality of trustworthiness. The faithful person can be relied on by others.

5.            Gentleness is the quality of friendship. It does not mean “a lack of spirit, courage, vigor, and energy that its translation as ‘meekness’ (AV, RV) or even as ‘gentleness’ (RSV, NASB, NIV, NEB) might convey in modern English” (Fung, p. 269). The gentle person does not try to impose his/her will on a situation, but submits to God’s will. It is to show courtesy and to be non-self-assertive. Clearly, this quality is necessary to promote unity and true friendship in gatherings of Christ’s people.

6.            Self-control is closely related to gentleness. If the gentle person controls his/her anger, the person who is self-controlled controls his/her sensual passions. He or she is in control of one’s desires and appetites.

Completed by the Spirit Part 6: We Serve In The Spirit

This is the sixth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Ed Trefzger
Ed Trefzger
As we noted in the previous installment of this series, Paul draws no distinction in separating a New Covenant life in the Spirit from an Old Covenant life of the letter or written code (Romans 7:6).
But Paul does more than tell those who would look to the law that they are wrong; he calls them adulteresses. In his analogy, he says that a woman who lives with another man while he is alive commits adultery. We have died to the law; to live as under the law is to commit adultery against Christ, to whom the church is betrothed, and to whom He gave His Spirit as a guarantee until the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
Paul continues in chapter 7 in a pericope of which the subject is widely debated:

[7] What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” [8] But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. [9] I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. [10] The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. [11] For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. [12] So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
[13] Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. [14] For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. [15] For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. [17] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
[18] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
[21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:7–25)

Douglas Moo identifies three different ways in which this passage may be interpreted:

1. Paul describes his experience as an unconverted Jew under the law.
2. Paul describes his experience, perhaps shortly after his conversion, as he sought sanctification through the law.
3. Paul describes his experience as a mature Christian.[1]

In a later post, I will advocate that which of these three is proper is less important than what this passage tells us about the effect of sin on the flesh. Before we get there, we’ll look at how various theologians have advocated for each of these three positions.
Next: Completed by the Spirit Part 7: Paul, the Unconverted Jew
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[1] Douglas J. Moo, Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002). Moo provides further depth in his Romans commentary.

Who is the Blessed Man?

Psalm 1
Todd Braye

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

 
Opening Remarks
I am not sure. But I think Elton John penned these words in the 1990s:

Hey you, you’re a child in my head

You haven’t walked yet

Your first words have yet to be said

But I swear you’ll be blessed

I know you’re still just a dream

your eyes might be green

Or the bluest that I’ve ever seen

Anyway you’ll be blessed

 

And you, you’ll be blessed

You’ll have the best

I promise you that

I’ll pick a star from the sky

Pull your name from a hat

I promise you that…

You’ll be blessed

Todd Braye
Todd Braye
Do you think yourself to be blessed? If so, (if you think yourself to be blessed) then in what way, or in what ways are you? If your answer is yes, then why, why do you think you are? Can you point to solid reasons for your blessed state? On what grounds do you esteem yourself blessed? Of course, you may make many arguments. After all, who among us can rightfully say, “There is nothing for which I am thankful; God has not been good to me?” If we breathe and our hearts beat and we live, God has been good to us. Everything else is gravy. We are, in fact, blessed. Regardless of how we might feel, despite our circumstances, whatever our providence, whatever our lot in life…we are blessed, at least to some degree.
But is this all there is to blessedness? The bare minimal? The essentials? Is there nothing more, especially for the Christian? And so comes the opposite trap: In no way are we immune from picturing blessedness in ways our unbelieving neighbors do. The blessed one is therefore one who has the proverbial deep pocket; the blessed man is financially well off. Blessed is the man who has the dream house, the trophy wife, four children, and a BMW in the driveway. Blessed is the man who has brand new tractors and combines with air conditioning, GPS, and CD players. Blessed is the one in great health, with abs of steel, and locks to die for. Blessed is the one who lives without any kind of trouble, pain, affliction, or sorrow. The good life is the blessed life! Fame, fortune, success, good looks, prosperity, economic success: this is how the world defines blessedness! This is what happiness looks like! ‘Your eyes might be green or the bluest I’ve ever seen…You’ll have the best/ I promise you that you’ll be blessed!’ Isn’t that what we want for our children
But what saith the Lord? What does the Bible say about blessedness? What has God said about who the blessed are? Who IS the blessed man?
In the year 1660, John Trapp said this Psalm says more about being truly blessed “than any one of the philosophers, or all of them put together.” So, what does it say? To incite your interest, let me first submit this to you: In this Psalm, blessedness is conceived of in terms of prosperity. To be blessed is to prosper. Just look at it and track with me. Verse 1: “Blessed is the man…” Verse 3: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water…(skip to the last line of verse 3) in all that he does, he prospers.” Whatever else is said about the blessed man here, it does say that he prospers! The blessed man is therefore prosperous! Does this jar you? Does it unsettle you? We’re so accustomed to think blessedness does not depend on prosperity. Our theology may even dictate that the two be divorced! But what God has joined together, let no man separate. To this, we shall soon return.
The Blessed Man Described (1-3)
As a unit, verses 1-3 describe the blessed man. They describe the blessed man in terms both negative and positive. Negatively speaking, the blessed man does not adopt the posture of unrighteousness. He avoids evil. He shuns ungodliness. He does not ASSUME the posture of evil. (v.1). “Blessed is the man who walks not in he counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” There aren’t three kinds of men here; ‘the wicked,’ ‘sinners,’ and ‘scoffers’ describe the same group. These are evil men. These are wicked men. And lest we think of the wicked only in terms of the Hitlers and Husseins of the world, hear ye this: the Bible has a much broader, and even more inclusive definition. Psalm 145:20 states: “The Lord preserves all who love him, but the wicked he will destroy.” There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love the Lord, and those who don’t. And those who don’t, scripture calls wicked. It should don upon us therefore: the wicked man may not appear to be so. He may look anything but. The wicked wear shirts and ties, have nice shoes, and drive BMWs (or Hondas). They might adorn themselves with fine looking Stetsons and the biggest belt buckles you ever did see. They may even attend church with Bible in hand. Do not forget the best of men, even the most religious of the religious in the Bible, did not love Christ! O that we not forget this! Every Sunday men wake up, put on their Sunday best, grab their bibles, and go to church. They look like the real deal! They appear pristine. But they do not love Christ. They have no affections for Him. They may even spew Scripture from their lips, and quote Spurgeon or Calvin with ease, but they have no real heart for the glory of God in the face of Jesus! In the eyes of all, they even pass for nice guys/gals. How many of our churches are filled with nice guys who do not love Christ? How many church members are there who do not love Christ? How many church elders are there who have no love for the Lord of the church? Scripture calls them wicked! Strong language? Absolutely! Over the top? Not if you tremble before the Word of the Almighty!
There are two kinds of people in the world – no, strike that. There are two kinds of people in the church, that is, professing church! Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked (wherever they might be). Blessed is the one who doesn’t listen to their advice, adopt their views, act on their counsel, and allow their influence to determine his course of life.
In a previous pastorate, I placed a sticker on my desk. The sticker had three simple words: “Do not bend.” Blessed is the man who does not bend to the counsel of the wicked. Life will be difficult for that man, especially since he will find himself swimming against the school. But this man, whoever he is, is blessed. So says the Psalmist.
That such a man does not stand in the path of sinners does not mean he so stands as to hinder them, as if to prevent their schemes. It simply means he doesn’t pattern his life after sinners. Sinners do not entice him. He doesn’t follow sinners, even when their way prospers, even when their lives flourish. Is it not the case that the unrighteous seem to always do well? Just look at Bill Gates! What about Oprah? What about the fella down the highway who seems to have ‘it all together?’ And what of these young NHLers signing multi-million dollar contracts? Is it not tempting sometimes to covet them because of their ‘success?’ You younger girls: Is it not a real struggle not to admire, even envy the popular “chicks” you know? You know the ones I’m talking about. They dress a certain way, talk a certain way, walk a certain way, look a certain way, and they always get their way. ‘What Lola wants, Lola gets,’ whether it’s a Pepsi or David Beckham! Have you seen that TV commercial? If so, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Blessed is the man who does not stand in the way of sinners. He is not envious of them. He is not enticed by them. He does not pattern his life after them.
Nor does he sit in the seat of scoffers. Who are the scoffers? In the book of Proverbs, the scoffer is the quintessential fool. He is the arrogant, haughty man, unwilling to receive instruction and correction. And here, in the context of Psalm one, the scoffer is the unteachable one, unwilling to receive instruction from God’s Word. He is the one who vaunts himself above the Bible. There’s no talking to a scoffer! “A fool,” says the Proverb, “does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.” He has it all figured out, you see. Do you know anyone like that? Have you known anyone like that? God calls them arrogant fools.
How is the blessed man described here? Who is the blessed man of Psalm one? Blessed is the man who does not act on the counsel of the wicked, who does not pattern his life after sinners, and doesn’t vaunt himself above God’s Word. In other words, blessed is the man who does not assume the posture of evil.
Positively speaking, and in contrast to that, is what follows. He does not ASSUME the posture of evil, but he CONSUMES the Scripture given by God. Verse 2- “but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” To delight, first of all, is to take pleasure in. Blessed is the man who takes pleasure in the Scriptures. For him, the law is like a sunny afternoon ride across the lake in a sailboat. It’s like a drive through Banff National Park. It’s like eating ice cream with cherished friends after dinner at the Keg. It’s even like the joys of married love expressed. These are pleasures, not pains. These are things we want to do. These are heart things, things of the soul and the affections. Blessed is the man who does not assume the posture of evil, but consumes the Scripture God gave.
I speak of law in terms of “Scripture” because that’s what law is. The word for law here is ‘torah.’ It’s rendered into English various ways. It might refer, and often does so, to the Ten Commandments and Mosaic Law. It may also speak of a body of priestly or legal direction. In Isaiah 1:10, it’s used to refer to ‘the word of the Lord’ and the ‘teaching’ of God. In Isaiah 8:16, it tells of prophetic injunction, or testimony. But its most basic meaning is ‘instruction,’ either human or divine. I’m convinced that here ‘torah’ refers, most specifically to the instruction given in the Hebrew Scriptures. This does, therefore, refer to the Law of Moses. And it may very well include the Prophets and the Psalms, God’s special, written instruction. This is, however, not to exclude the rest, that is, the revelation of God in its fullness, i.e. the entire Bible. Now, did I just contradict myself? Did I just erase two years of study in the book of Galatians? No, I did not. It may sound that way to you. But just because the blessed man of Psalm One delights in the Law does not mean New Covenant realities are undermined. I’ll explain in just a few minutes. Hang in there with me.
For now, notice two things about the blessed man’s pleasure in the Law, in this divine instruction. First, it is intellectual. He meditates upon it. He meditates upon it. He engages the mind. He muses upon the Scripture. He mulls it over in his mind. He thinks deeply and carefully upon it. This meditation is not that of the mystics where the goal is an empty mind. The action here involves a full mind, filled with scripture, deeply considering what it says.
Second, this man so delights in the law that he meditates upon it day and night, that is, continually. His relationship to Scripture is marked by delight and pleasure. It is an intellectual relationship. And it is also continual. There’s no issue with attention span here. This man has no ADHD or whatever it’s called. TV is no distraction for him. It’s not that he doesn’t do other things. But his life is such that he weighs everything in light of Scripture. He reads the newspaper, watches the news, watches a movie (maybe), observes the culture; whatever he does, whatever he sees he sees and appraises and responds to in light of the Scriptures. In fact his entire life is devoted to mastering and being mastered by the Word of God. Remember what God said to Joshua after Moses died, before he led the people over the Jordan to Canaan? “…be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you…This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it both day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Translation: Master the Law, Joshua. And be mastered by the Law. Then you shall prosper!
Blessed is the man who does not assume the posture of evil, but consumes the Scripture of God. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Assume not evil. Consume Scripture, even Law, and this is the result: Prosperity! Success in all that you do! Blessed is this man; Let no one put asunder what God has joined, namely the blessed man and prosperity! Curious? Intrigued? Frightened? All the above?
What the “health and wealth” folks do not understand is what I will now explain. The Hebrew word rendered ‘prospers’ at the end of verse three basically means “to bring to successful issue/result.” It is used of the will of God, the word of God, a weapon, and a tree. In Isaiah 53:10, we read “the will of the Lord will prosper in his (that is, Christ’s) hand.” In Isaiah 54:17 it says “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed” (or, prosper). And here in Psalm 1:3, a tree is that which prospers. What does a tree have in common with God’s will, a weapon that works, a tree that yields it fruit, and God’s Word? Isaiah 55 beginning with the 10th verse: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, (11) so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed (PROSPER!) in the thing for which I sent it.” In other words, prosperity as defined not by culture but by Scripture, is the fulfillment of intended purpose. To prosper is to succeed in the very design or end of a thing. The Lord’s sovereign will prospers without fail. The Word prospers in that for which it is sent. A weapon prospers when it executes justice. A tree prospers when it bears fruit in its season. And the blessed man prospers in all that he does. He completely fulfills the purpose of his existence. In ALL that he does (like avoid evil and absorb God’s Law), he prospers.
A Parenthetical Thought: Good News for The Faithful, but Small Church
Before we press on, I want to apply this to the church, to our church. I ask myself the question: “What does a blessed, and thus prosperous, successful church, look like? Is it big with hundreds, even thousands? Does it have a growing leadership team with an abundance of eldership experience? Is there live music with songs led by the likes of Keith and Krysten? Maybe, but not necessarily. Actually, those things might be indicative of an unsuccessful church, not in the eyes of men, but certainly in the view of Christ. What’s the church for, anyway? Ever give much thought to that? When writing to Timothy, this is what the apostle said: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.” A church is as prosperous as it is both the support and mainstay of truth. There’s nothing about numbers here. Nowhere in Scripture are prosperous ministries defined in terms of numbers. Jeremiah’s ministry was just as prosperous as that of the apostles in the book of Acts, why? Because both prophet and apostle accomplished their God-given purpose, that’s why. The church is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession for the purpose of publishing the excellencies of God (1Peter 2:9). The church that does this is a prosperous, successful church. Are we that church? I’ll let you decide.
But the blessed man prospers in all that he does. He succeeds in his God-ordained purpose.
The End of the Wicked (4-6)
Not so the wicked. Concerning the wicked, their end is made abundantly clear in the final three verses. But first, notice the contrast between the blessed man and the wicked. “The wicked are not so,” says the Psalmist, “but are like chaff that the wind blows away.” The wicked are not like that prosperous, fruitful tree, bearing leaves that do not wither. Chaff is what this Psalm calls them. You know what chaff is. I need not tell you. Is it not the stuff leftover after threshing, the useless, worthless by-product, the refuse of the harvest? Is it not the stuff the wind cradles and makes airborne once the combine makes its pass? Such are the wicked: Chaff the wind drives away. They are chaff the wind blows away. They may be prosperous in the eyes of men. Countless millions may even admire them. They may ooze style and dazzle the eyes, but they lack substance. There’s no gravity to them. There’s nothing of eternal value with them. And if they do not love the Lord, they are but chaff. They will not stand in the judgment, nor in the assembly of the righteous, but will perish. They are chaff that the wind drives away. Next time you see a sinner prosper and be successful in the eyes of the world, who walks in the counsel of the wicked, who stands in the path of sinners and sits in the seat of scoffers, just think to yourself: Chaff that the wind drives away! Blessed is the man who does not assume the posture of evil, who consumes the law of the Lord, and thirdly, who keeps himself from the doom of the wicked.
Who is the Blessed Man?
So, who is the blessed man of Psalm 1? Who is the one who assumes not evil, consumes the Law of the Lord, is prosperous in all that he does, fulfilling his God-ordained purpose, keeping himself from the doom of the wicked? Two Scriptures tell us. Just listen carefully. “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled’” (Lk. 24:44). It’s no wonder the blessed man of Psalm one delighted in the law of the Lord! Did you think the blessed man was you? Psalm one is not about us, not ultimately! We’re not irrelevant; there is application to be made here. But that application is to be made in light of the fact Christ is the blessed man, not you or me! To read this any other way is to misread it and thus invite self-righteousness, or despair! John Fry, in 1842, wrote:

I have been induced to embrace the opinion of some among the ancient interpreters (Augustine, Jerome, etc.), who conceive that the first Psalm is intended to be descriptive of the character and reward of the JUST ONE, i.e. the Lord Jesus.

But Scripture, not history, must determine these things. So, the second Scripture text is the second Psalm. There is a reason Psalm 2 comes after Psalm 1, even as Galatians 2 follows Galatians 1. Let’s quickly compare Psalm 1 with Psalm 2. Psalm 1:1 speaks of the counsel of the wicked. Psalm 2:1 and 2 speak of the counsel of the wicked. In Psalm 1:1 those who sit in the seat of scoffers scoff at God’s Word. In Psalm 2:4, He who sits in the heavens laughs at the words of the wicked. Psalm 1:4-6 speaks of judgment upon the wicked. Psalm 2:5-12 speaks of wrath. Psalm 1:6 speaks says “the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 2:12 says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way.” The two Psalms, like two pieces of art, are meant to be viewed together, side by side. And here’s the kicker: Psalm 1;1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor suits in the seat of scoffers; his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 2:12: “Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.” Jesus Christ is the blessed man. He is the man who did not assume the posture of evil. And He did so for God, and for us. He is the man who was consumed with the law; He was so for God, and for us. He prospered in all that He did, even in the death upon a cross! Jesus Christ fulfilled the purpose God had for Him; and He did so for God and for us. And Jesus kept himself from the doom of the wicked that He might be a refuge from the wrath of God for us. So, run to him! Run to Christ! He is a safe place; all who by faith are in him will never know the end of the wicked. The blessed are those in Christ.


True Christianity: Galatians 5:5-6

Introduction
What is true Christianity? I suppose many will rush to give an answer. But let us read a few verses that will lead our minds into the right answer (Col 1:3-5; 1 Th 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13). Yes, we must think of faith, hope, and love: a firm faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, confident expectation of sharing glory with Christ, and love for God, his people, and all people.
Our text for this outline consists of two of the key verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Many verses in the letter are better known, but these provide an essential part of the true Christian way of life, about which the Galatians had been seriously misled. These verses are a complete contrast to the principles that Paul had to oppose in verses two through four. As we said previously, Paul begins this section of the letter with an emphasis upon correct thinking. This involves a proper understanding of justification by grace.
Exposition
I.            Think correctly about the faith of true Christianity.
A.            The focus is on Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When something else is made central, Christianity is distorted. To illustrate, the tire is out of round.
1.            Any distinctions among people lack value before God. This is what circumcision was during the law covenant. It distinguished the people of Israel from other peoples. But now, either condition is meaningless and non-beneficial. We must understand that connection with Christ does not depend on any external factors, like ritual or religious actions, ethnic heritage, economic levels, educational attainments, power, or prestige.
2.            The crucial personal issue is this: Are you in Christ Jesus? Salvation is not a matter of knowing and or agreeing with some facts about Jesus. Instead, it is when a person trusts or fully commits himself or herself to Jesus Christ, relying on his righteousness as the way of salvation.
Apply: Perhaps someone is thinking, “This really doesn’t matter! My life seems to be going okay without all this stuff about Jesus. If it turns you on, that’s your business.” My friend, you are not alone in your thinking. But think of this. You may not theoretically need to wear a life preserver while your “duck” is safely navigating the Delaware River. But if it’s struck by a barge, you will need it suddenly. And that’s what your life is like. Everything seems pleasant and easy, but the living God will bump into you one day and you will need the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
B.            God’s way is the way of true spirituality.
1.            In true Christianity, “justification has nothing to do with anything ‘fleshly’ or ‘natural’; all is of God; all is ‘the work of the Spirit’” (Cole). Our hope or confident expectation is kept alive and nurtured by the Spirit of God (Rm 15:13). The Spirit of God presently makes known to us what we will fully possess someday. He keeps us longing for the final fulfillment of redemption.
2.            Our access to Christ and his justifying righteousness is “by faith”. Notice that Paul does not direct us to baptism as some kind of replacement for circumcision. That is not the idea of believer’s baptism at all. What matters is faith in Christ. We depend on the Lord to be true to his word of promise.
C.            This righteousness is certain. We are talking about past and present experience and confident expectation.
1.            Consider the tenses of salvation: I have been declared right with God (Rm 5:1), I am now right with God (Rm 3:24), and I will be declared right with God (this text; cf. Rm 2:5-16). When Christ saves us, we immediately enter into all the benefits of salvation. He doesn’t let us thrash around in the water, desperately trying to swim into a state of righteousness. No, he immediately lifts us out of the waters of wrath, because we are in saving union with him.
2.            The Spirit develops an attitude of eagerly awaiting the fullness of salvation. Notice that we do not work for it, but we wait for it. We enjoy being in Christ now, but we know that what is coming is so much better than what we have now (cf. Rm 8:18-19, 23, 25). The believer looks forward to having his righteousness with God, which comes from faith in Christ, openly declared (2 Tm 4:8; Col 1:5; 1 Pt 1:3).
II.            Think correctly about the life of true Christianity.
A.            The Christian way of life begins from the principle of faith.
1.            Without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity. A person might be religious or moral, but if he or she has not trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, he or she cannot live as a Christian. True Christianity requires following Christ, and that simply is not possible without the strength he provides by the Holy Spirit to those who trust him. How can you even think you can keep the Two Greatest Commands apart from his power? How can imagine that you can obey the Great Commission without his presence? How can you dream of showing his surpassing character (Col 3:12-17), unless he is with you?
2.            This excludes the religious liberal or cultural Christian from the realm of true Christianity. They might do a lot of “nice” things, but they are done apart from Christ.
B.            The Christian way of life involves positive activity for God.
1.            A true Christian has repented and trusted in Jesus Christ. He or she has a new world and life view that is built on and seeks to express the reality and supremacy of Christ. He or she depends on Christ to follow what he calls us to do. These two conversion graces are productive of new attitudes and actions (cf. Rm 1:25 and 1 Th 1:9).
2.            This excludes what is called “easy believism”, in which salvation becomes some kind of “fire insurance policy”. It excludes all who would claim to be Christians, but who fail to walk like Jesus Christ (2 Tm 2:19; 1 Pt 1:15-16; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 3:14-15).
C.            The Christian way of life is clearly displayed in love.
1.            Repentance toward and faith in the One who is love produces love for other people. “How can a heart embrace him who is supreme love without glowing with love and love’s energy?” (Lenski)
2.            This excludes legalists and hypercalvinists, or anticalvinists as R.C. Sproul calls them. People who lack love have nothing at all (1 Cor 13:1-7).
Lessons
1.            Paul and James agree on the subject of justifying faith. The faith that saves is a faith that works, to use Paul’s words. It is a faith that loves. Paul praises the true faith that works; James condemns the false faith that doesn’t work.
2.            The Holy Spirit is not something that the Christian waits for; instead, by the Spirit the Christian waits for the fullness of blessing. It is rather meaningless to talk about being filled with the Spirit and not to have one’s eyes fixed on what we have in Christ in heavenly glory.
3.            The end of all legal ceremonies is in Christ. What matters now is life and worship by the Spirit of God.
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Pastor David Frampton: The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit First Baptist Church

Sparrows, Souls, & Sovereignty: When The Towers Fell

Opening Remarks
 

Todd Braye
Todd Braye
There aren’t many Sundays marking the tenth anniversary of a life-altering event. So, I think it would be remiss of me if I overlooked the occasion. On this day exactly ten years ago, life as we knew it changed forever. We saw some unspeakably horrific images. I for one will not forget seeing people jump some 100 stories to their deaths. As I watched, all I could think was ‘What kind of fiery hell inside the towers made them choose the window?’ How hopelessly terrifying must it have been to make the pavement below more desirable? I cannot even begin to imagine the fear. It must have been overwhelming times a billion.
In the wake of such an event, when evil seems to have the upper hand, people say stuff. Men wish to make sense of what happens around them. We have this desire to understand what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Sadly, if not dreadfully, horrible events such as 9/11 are the sparks for bad theology. With hopes to soothe suffering, tranquilize the pain, and protect God’s reputation and character, even Christians and their pastors fall prey to all sorts of doctrinal confusion and nonsense. With a desire to uphold God’s name and keep it from false accusation and even slander, they are quick to assert God’s non-involvement with any type of ‘ground zero’. “If it results in human suffering,” they say, “God has nothing to do with it.” They’re quick to point out the fact that God is love. God is a merciful, compassionate, good God, and so they conclude He has nothing to do with hate and evil. It is conceivable that such a god, if he were God, would be so aloof. A god who is merely loving and compassionate may in fact be completely removed from every horrific event in the history of mankind. But the God who is compassionate, merciful, loving, just, and holy is not so removed. God is involved with death and destruction.
The Biblical evidence for this leaves no room for any doubt whatsoever. Ezekiel is but one example. Through that prophet, the Lord says to Sidon, the nation:

Behold, I am against you…and I will manifest my glory in your midst. And they shall know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her; for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets… (Ezek. 28:22-23).

God is love. But God is also, and essentially, holy. The cross itself makes that known. At Calvary, God displayed His holiness in wrath and judgment. This is not new to you. You have all been established in this. God’s holiness is a pillar here; it is a foundational plank in our theology. And so is this: God is sovereign. He is sovereign over all and in all. God rules over all creation and even in salvation. That is why we call ourselves Sovereign Grace Baptist. God is sovereign in saving grace. The God we serve and worship and exalt is a sovereign God. But it’s been said that what was once fought for then believed all too often becomes assumed. And what becomes assumed all too often is abandoned. To the end that doesn’t happen here on my watch, I declare to you what you have learned and become convinced of.
God is absolutely sovereign
God is absolutely sovereign. To say God is absolutely sovereign is to assert what the Bible says about God. It isn’t to say what mere men might argue. Nor is it to declare what many believers and even some scholars believe about divine sovereignty. To say God is sovereign is to proclaim what God says about Himself. It’s to affirm God’s absolute supremacy and authority and power over all. It’s to say God does as God pleases, that He governs all things according to His good pleasure. It is to declare God is the Most High, the Almighty, the Possessor of all power and authority in heaven and earth, that none can thwart His counsels, deny His purpose, or resist His will. It’s the declaration that none can stay God’s hand or say to Him, “What are you doing?” It’s to proclaim that there’s no such thing as a maverick molecule. It’s to affirm with the Bible, and thus agree with God Himself, that God sets up kingdoms, determines presidencies, and overthrows empires. It’s to say that God is the King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s to say that God alone is the author, orchestrator, and conductor of the symphony of history with all its harmonies and discords. In short, to say God is sovereign is to say God is God. He’s either sovereign over all or He isn’t sovereign at all.
The Bible is very clear on this. God’s absolute sovereignty is the warp and woof of Scripture.

Psalm 103:19 states that “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all.”

In Ephesians 1:11, Paul asserts that God “works all things after the counsel of His will.”

In Psalm 119:91, we find this statement: “all things are your servants.”

Which means everything bows to the King of kings. God bows His knee to no one and no thing.

Proverbs 16:33- “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Even dice are divinely ruled.

Proverbs 21:1 teaches God is sovereign over the most sovereign of men. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand if the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Psalm 44:11 reveals that God governs the slaughter and scatter of His people. It says “You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations.”

“O Lord of hosts…You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them” (Ps. 89:9).

“Who enclosed the sea with doors, when bursting forth, it went out of the womb…and I placed boundaries on it, and I set a bolt on its doors, and I said, ‘Thus you shall come, but no farther, and here your proud waves shall stop?”

And it so happened that they found themselves in a boat with their Master, asleep. And the wind began to below and the sea became fierce. The waves came crashing in upon them. Fearing for their lives they woke him. And Jesus rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they obeyed.

Amos 3:6. “If a calamity occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?”

Isaiah 45:7. “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord who does all these things.”

And in Matthew 10:29-30, Jesus weighs in on the matter. Look at it with me again:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Stop there. What’s Jesus saying? He’s saying that even a sparrow, even that which holds next to no value, when it falls to the ground, it does not do so apart from God. God is somehow involved when a sparrow dies. He is associated even with the smallest, unnoticed, and seemingly inconsequential event. A sparrow dies and falls. An apple falls out of a tree, then a leaf. A lone raindrop lands on your head. If it happens, it happens ‘not apart from your Father.’ In other words, every occurrence in the universe, seen or unseen, felt or unfelt, is not independent of, but dependent upon, God.
But what does that mean exactly, that every event is dependent upon God? The ISV renders the phrase in question ‘without your Father’s permission.’ Sparrows don’t fall ‘apart from God,’ or ‘without God’s permission.’ The NIV translates it ‘apart from the will of your Father.’ Sparrows don’t fall apart from God’s will. The Lexham English Bible says “without the knowledge and consent of your Father.” It goes without saying: there’s a few ways to understand this phrase. Some even interpret this in terms of God knowing what happens. God knows all that happens they say, because nothing happens apart from the Father. This is of course true. God does know all that happens.
But the best and correct way to see that nothing happens apart from God is to do so in light of what Jesus says in the next verse. Let the Bible define its terms. We always must come to that position. So,

are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Verse 30: “But even the hairs on your head are all numbered.”

I submit to you that the ‘numbering’ of verse 30 defines the Father’s involvement of verse 29. God numbers the hairs on our heads. The number of hairs we have is not apart from the Father. How would a Jew understand that? Matthew was written to Jews. So, it makes good sense to ask this question. And I suggest to you he would understand it this way: He would see it in terms of God’s absolute sovereignty. Psalm 147 is very helpful here. In the 4th verse of that Psalm, we read that God counts (NASB), or determines (ESV) the number of stars. Matthew uses the exact same word as the LXX uses in this Psalm (ἀριθμέω). The word means ‘to use numbers in determining how much.’ The key word is ‘determining.’ It’s essential we understand what Jesus is not saying here. He isn’t saying God counts or numbers hairs to discover how many. We count jelly- beans to learn how many. We count our pennies to find out if we have enough to buy something. But when Scripture says God numbers something, like the hairs on our heads, or the days of our lives, it’s not saying God counts so as to learn and discover. What it’s saying is God determines, or wills, whatever He counts. He counts so as to determine the quantity of. In other words, He NUMBERS them by sovereign decree! He sovereignly determines the number of stars. He determines the number of hairs. And He determines when, and how, a sparrow falls to the ground. And if that is the case, what shall we say of 9/11, when the towers fell to the ground, and 3000 souls perished? How much is one soul worth? If God determines the death of a sparrow, then surely He determines the end of that which is far more costly. It is wrong to say 9/11 occurred independent of God; all things are dependent upon God. And it’s not enough to say God permitted 9/11. God did more than permit the evil carried out that day. God determined that sparrows fall when they do. And He determined when and by what means the twin towers fell.

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” These are words from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Listen again: “Who is there who speaks (like Osama Bin Laden) and it comes to pass (like 9/11), unless the Lord has commanded it?
Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick” (2 Samuel 12:15). “Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him (Job 42:11).

So, when someone, some religious leader or pastor or whatever, stands up and says “The Christian is not … to assume that whatever happens is the will of God, especially not when something is so at odds with … God as a God of love,” he doesn’t know God. It’s that simple. He doesn’t know God; and he doesn’t know the Scriptures (let alone tremble before them). In the final analysis, this is the issue. The authority of God’s Word is the issue. Did God actually say what He said in the pages of Holy Writ? Or did He deceive? Is God’s Word true? Or is it false? If true, then God is absolutely sovereign. He works all things after the counsel of His will. If false, then we might as well go home, eat, drink, and be merry. God is not God.
God Willed the Cross
There’s yet another thing to consider, something monumental: God willed the cross. God ordained Calvary. Calvary answers the question: “How can God will evil and not be responsible for evil?” Make no mistake: God wills evil to happen. But God remains pure and sinless. Luke records the apostle Peter’s words. He says that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” By that plan, by that sovereign, predetermined before the dawn of time plan, Jesus was crucified and killed “by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). God planned it. Men performed it. God determined it. Men, both Jews and Gentiles (i.e. Romans) carried it out. And so the believers prayed what they prayed, together saying

Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit: Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against His Anointed- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your plan had predestined to take place (Acts 4:24-27).

How strange is it therefore, to hear those who claim to believe in the authority of Scripture, and who profess the name of Christ, to reject the God-exalting, divine attribute of absolute sovereignty! Besides, if God willed the death of His one and only Son, if He predestined the death of the only truly innocent One, who was not deserving of death, then what’s so hard about the predestined death of 3000 sinners, deserving of death, even death by fire and fall? God is a God of love; a thousand times yes! But love and willing evil are not at odds; not if you’re a holy God. Look at every brutality that ever occurred in the history of mankind. See it in light of the cross, and you see it as you ought. God willed it. He was very much involved. Even though men crashed the planes, God was working His plan.
When the Towers Fell: A Call to Reverence & Humility
In response to this, much can be said. God is God. We are not God. God is the Maker. We have been made. He is the Potter. We are but clay. He therefore has the right to ordain and bring to pass whatsoever comes to pass, no matter if it’s the death of a swallow, the destruction of a tsunami, or the pain of a gut-wrenching September day. Men, unregenerate men, balk at this. The proud believer shrinks and recoils at this. What would God say to any and all who object? We do not have to guess. God Himself has furnished us with the answer. He would say what the apostle has written in the 9th chapter of the book of Romans: “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this, will it?” Or, “What on earth are you doing?’” Job’s words were right, weren’t they? You recall what he said after God put him in his place. “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40.4). A.W. Pink hit the nail on the head. He said that God’s sovereignty argues that no one has the right to speak against God. The only fitting attitude for the creature is one of reverent submission. When the towers fell is therefore, a call to reverence and humility before God. It’s the only posture.
A Check Against Idolatry
But that’s not all 9/11 is. When the towers fell is also a check against idolatry. Do you embrace the God who determined the death of 3000 souls by means unimaginable? If you don’t, you embrace a god of your own imagination. Sparrows do not fall independent of God. Neither do 110 story towers or the 767 jets that fly into them.
A Reason for Confidence & Security
When the towers fell is a call for reverence and humility. It’s a check against idolatry. And as strange as it might sound, it’s also reason for confidence and safety. When Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10 to not be afraid, he did so because God is absolutely sovereign. The road ahead would be dangerous; suffering and persecution were waiting. So, Jesus assured them. He told them, in effect: ‘Fear not, you are of more worth than sparrows. And no sparrow falls apart from your Father. Neither will any of you.’

Death and plagues around me fly,
till he bid, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Til the God of love sees fit.

There is no hope in the position that says, “God was on vacation on 9/11.” If God had nothing to do with what happened at the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania or Manhattan that would mean this: Evil was in control, Al-Qaeda was in charge, and Satan called the shots. And I say there is no hope in that. None whatsoever. With Satan there is no righteousness, no mercy, no justice, no love. So don’t get sucked in to the “God doesn’t will bad things” trap.
A Motivation for Repentance & Sobriety
When the Towers Fell: A Call to Reverence & Humility, A Check Against Idolatry, A Reason for Confidence & Security; and finally, a motivation for repentance and sobriety. On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when 3000 people woke up and got ready for work, not one soul thought “I’m going to die today. This is the day. My time is up. I’m going to meet my Maker.” I do not know how many among the dead were believers. Todd Beamer is the only one of which I am aware. The rest for all we know are in hell. But if Jesus were a guest speaker at ground zero today, what would he say? Would he say things aimed to console and comfort? Maybe. Would he proclaim with abounding authority how unjust the tragedy was? I somehow doubt it. Would he decry the monstrosity of the thing? What would Jesus say? Luke tells us:

13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The most important issue when towers fall is not that thousands die. The horrific event is not what concerns Jesus. What concerns Jesus is your soul. God now commands men everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness. This is not the same as “inviting Jesus into one’s heart.” No one receives the saving benefits of Christ that way. We must turn from our sins and trust in Christ. We must embrace his death, his atoning, wrath appeasing, justice satisfying, eternal redemption securing, forgiveness purchasing, righteousness ensuring death. He made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. It’s the greatest of all exchanges. And it was ‘not apart from the Father.’ As sure as God willed the day when the towers fell, he willed the hour when the Son of Man was lifted up.
The Ground of Doxology
A cause for reverence and humility; a check against idolatry; a reason for confidence and security; a motivation for repentance and sobriety; finally, when the towers fell is ground for doxology. When Job lost everything, he fell to the ground, and worshiping he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Tuesday, September 11, 2001, 8:46 am flight 11 crashes into the north tower. At 9:03 flight 175 crashes into the south tower. At 9:38 flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. At 9:59 the south tower falls. At about this time somewhere over Pennsylvania, Todd Beamer says, “Let’s roll.” Flight 93 crashes in a field at 10:10. Then, the north tower collapses at 10:28. Thousands die unspeakable, unimaginable, fiery, gut-wrenching deaths. The Lord gave. And He took away.
The apostle Paul makes this sweeping statement at the end of his doctrinal section in Romans: “…from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” How is it possible that the events of 9/11, and events like them, be the ground for praise and doxology?[1] How ON EARTH is that possible? There’s only one way. It’s only when the glory of God itself is treasured above everything else does a ground zero event become the ground for worship. If life, or unsaved family, or convenience, or pain-free living, or anything else is cherished above God Himself, then ground zero events will be … meaningless. Not until God is seen as the end for which God created the world will life be seen as God sees it. September 11/01 was a day God made for God. It was His to do with as He pleased. “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Todd Braye is solo pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blackie, Alberta 
(some 30 miles south of Calgary). After graduating from Canadian Theological Seminary in 1997 (M.Div.) he served a small Baptist church in rural Ontario for six years. Happy to be back home in Alberta, entering his 12th year of pastoral ministry, Todd’s eyes were opened to gospel freedom when preaching through Galatians (a task yet unfinished). Check out his blog @ “GraceNotes“.


[1] We do not rejoice in evil or sorrow, but only that God is sovereign over it. “Although the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”