In one sense, verses 1-21 are a continuation from Chapter Four, emphasizing the differences between the old man and the new man. This section, however, deals almost exclusively with “old person” actions, sins that must be repented of and stopped. He encourages them to avoid immorality and specifies several sins and areas of the world to forsake.
The New International Version says that there should not even be a “hint” of immorality in our lives. He especially reminds them that “because of these things the wrath of God come upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not be partakers with them.”
He refers to the old man and the new man briefly in verse 8 where he uses the common Biblical analogy of darkness and light. As children of the light, we are to possess certain qualities (what he calls the “fruit of the Spirit,” remember that phrase from Galatians?). And at the same time, we must not only have no fellowship with evil, but it is our responsibility to expose those things that are shameful to even speak of.
Verse 15 begins a short discussion of walking wisely in the world. To do that, we must make the most of every opportunity to do good (that’s what he means by redeeming the time, using it wisely) In verse 17, he states again that we not only can understand the will of God, but we must.
All of this is what he opens the chapter by reminding us that he are to “walk in love,” as the Lord desires.
In verses 22-33, he changes the subject, by getting more specific about how spouses are to treat each other.
The church is the bride of Christ. And no bride ever had a more loving husband. The relationship between Christ and His church is so perfect in its design that the Lord uses it as an illustration and model for the roles of all husbands and wives.
Christ is head of the church and the husband is head of the wife. The wife is to be subject to her husband as the church submits to Christ. Christ sacrificed Himself for the church and the husband must be willing to do the same for his wife.
There is mutual respect and love between Christ and the church and the same love and respect should exist between every husband and wife.
Jesus wants His church to be united and at peace. He desires that we live, love, work and worship in harmony. Paul speaks here of two vital components of unity – attitudes and doctrines. We must not only believe the same things (verses 4-6), but we must also maintain the proper internal attitudes (verses 1-3).
There is a certain behavior that is appropriate for the Christian. We are children of God and ought to act like it. If we would all behave as disciples of Christ should behave, there would be far fewer problems in local churches. He especially points out the importance of humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another. Sometimes we just need to try harder to get along. Paul describes this as walking or living “worthy of the calling with which you were called.”
And doctrinally, too many religious people just ignore the significance of the seven “ones” that the Holy Spirit lists here, one body (the church), one Spirit (the Holy Spirit Himself), one hope (of eternity in heaven with the Savior), one Lord (Jesus the Christ), one faith (the singular body of truth revealed one time for all time), one baptism (in water for the remission of sins), and one God (our loving and all powerful heavenly Father).
The various teaching functions in the church were appointed by God to help us all grow to spiritual maturity. The first two (verse 11) were miraculous; there are no longer any apostles or prophets. But the others are simply gifted Christians who challenge us to live up to our spiritual potential and grow the one body, both numerically and in spiritual strength.
Notice that he uses such phrases as “till we all come to the unity of the faith,” and “of the knowledge of the Son of God.” He wants us to be “perfect” (complete and mature in the Lord) and to seek to measure up to “the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
In verse14-16, he warns us about being deceived by false teachings, the trickery of deceitful men and the cunning craftiness of the wicked. The solution to those things is “the truth in love.” And we must not forget that, as the spiritual body of Christ, each of us has a function to perform in His service so that the church will be edified.
Beginning in verse 17 and continuing through the end of chapter four, Paul deals with the appropriate conduct of all believers.
What does it mean to walk as a Christian? What is proper behavior and what is not? How should we conduct our lives in front of an unbelieving world? In this section, Paul deals with all these questions and more. He contrasts the old man and the new man. This passage shows the difference in what we used to be and do and what we now are and do. This admits the fact that, in our past, we all have done things we shouldn’t do. That’s why we needed a Savior in the first place. But he also discusses how we should live now in Christ Jesus. He gave us a second chance. We should walk in godliness and true holiness.
Verses 1-13 serve to show us how the Bible, the revealed will of God, fits into the big picture we have referred to as God’s scheme of redemption.
Previously a mystery (that which is unknown, but knowable), it was revealed piece by piece through God’s Holy Spirit. In some ways, it is like a jigsaw puzzle that comes together one puzzle piece at a time until eventually you can make out the entire picture.
Paul says that as he and other inspired writers received the message from God, they wrote it down and when we read it, we have the ability to understand it. He makes the same point in Ephesians 5:17 where he plainly says that we can understand the will of God. It was written for the common person, just like you and me. He calls this process, revelation, which means to uncover or explain something that had not been known up to that time.
So in the Bible, we have the mind of God made known to mankind. The Scriptures are inspired, breathed out by God for our eternal salvation.
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:11-13, NASV, updated).
In verses 14-21, Paul begins to remind these first century disciples of the love of Christ for the world. Those who are His can comprehend its “width and length and depth and height.”
Being a Christian means being more like Christ. The real qualities of personal, spiritual strength are inner, not outer. Having Christ to live in us helps us to be more patient, gentle, kind, humble, pure and loving. People around us should be able to see the difference that Jesus makes in our lives. He makes us better, stronger, more faithful. God is able to use us to accomplish great things in His kingdom, more than we ask or can even imagine. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
The chapter concludes with a forceful statement about God’s power working in His people to accomplish more than we can ask or even imagine. This power, He says, is released when His church does all things to His glory.
Man was lost and unable to save himself. God loved us and didn’t want us to go to hell for eternity. So, in His love and because of His mercy, He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins so we could not have to pay our own price (“the wages of sin is death”). We were dead and God made us alive in Christ. This is the key point of Ephesians 2:1-10.
“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).
When Paul refers to salvation by grace through faith, he lets us know that we cannot and do not earn a home in heaven for ourselves by our good works. This does not negate the reality of God separating the righteous from the unrighteous by setting conditions of obedience for mankind.
It is not by mere mental assent to a set of facts that we are forgiven, for James makes it clear that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).
But it is also important for us to understand that our obedience to God does not mean that He owes us an eternal reward. It is a gift of His grace (Romans 6:23).
The following verses (Ephesians 2:11-22) discuss another aspect of God’s scheme of redemption, the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s plan. His plan brings everyone into an equal basis before God.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heir according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Christianity is a universal religion. There is no partiality with God. People from every race, language, country and cultural background are all equal in the Lord’s kingdom.
This chapter really expands upon the idea from last week that showed us how wayward we can be when we don’t truly seek to do the will of God.
The Danites seek a home for themselves and find Micah, ultimately usurping his “priest” and his idols for their own use. Micah learns the lesson of “easy come, easy go” but this was not the true lesson that needed learning.
What Micah and the Danites are actually in need of is a desire to seek and serve God the way that He would have it. Instead they are wayward and confused, fighting over things that ultimately have zero import in the Lord’s Kingdom.
We can learn from their poor examples to deny what we want and to seek the true will of the Lord. We should read our Bible daily to seek His true will.
— Cory Byrd
This post originally appeared on Monday Night Bible Study.
God had a plan in His mind before the world began, a grand scheme to redeem mankind from sin. This scheme of redemption is the theme of the Bible, the single thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation and ties the entire Bible together. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), God had three alternatives – to abandon man, to destroy man or to redeem man. He chose to save us.
More than any other book in the Bible, Ephesians summarizes the eternal plan of God for human redemption.
The first few verses (verses 1-14) emphasize the spiritual blessings that are only available in Christ Jesus our Lord. He speaks of our adoption by God, of our redemption through His blood, of our forgiveness of sins because of the grace of God. And he promises us that we are sealed with “the Holy Spirit of promise.”
In verses 15-23, we read of Paul’s sincere prayer on the behalf of the Ephesians.
One of the most impressive things that really stands out when you read Paul’s letters to both churches and individuals is how much he speaks of praying for others. Called prayers of intercession, they refer to Christians who spend much time helping others by praying for them. Paul’s relationships with other disciples were so strong that he constantly thanked God for them and continued to ask the Lord to bless them in many ways in their future.
Here, he prays for these first century disciples that they will be given “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” and that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened to understand the exceeding greatness of God’s power.
In this section of Chapter One, Paul also emphasizes the preeminence of Christ in God’s plan. All things have been placed under His authority. And the same power that raised Jesus from the dead can also work in those of us who believe.
Paul concludes the Galatians letter with some practical applications of their faith.
He speaks first of their relationships with each other. The chapter opens with words about helping those who struggle spiritually to overcome and defeat sin in their lives. He particularly addresses “you who are spiritual,” referring to those who remain faithful to God. He point their attention and concern to those Christians who have been “overtaken in any trespass.” We all know of our fellow disciples who at times have found it difficult to overcome temptations and have, therefore, surrendered to them. Paul wants the strong to help the weak, which is a common theme of his writings.
His advice (inspired, by the way) is to bear each other’s burdens, that is, to help others where we are strong and they are weak. In turn, in areas where they are strong and we are the weaker, they can assist us in remaining true to the Lord. It is rarely a one way activity. You may be stronger today and I may be stronger tomorrow. Or it may be that I struggle with a sin that you have conquered and you can help me to do better. We are a family of faith and instructed by our Master to exhort and encourage one another as we have the opportunity to do so.
In verses 3-5, he reminds us that we will be judged personally. As individuals, we can help each other to live better, but ultimately, I am responsible for me and you are accountable for you, so we need to make certain that we are doing the best we can. If I need help in an area of my life, I may need to go to someone who can provide the strength I need to make it through the struggle and ask for their aid.
Verses 6-10 are filled with individual responsibilities to carry out with loyalty to God and His cause. We should share physical blessings with each other, especially with those who help us to learn, know and obey the truth.
He speaks of the importance of remembering that we will reap what we sow in life, whether good or bad. Sometimes we act as though we forget that there will be consequences to our actions. And we should not grow weary or discouraged in doing the right thing in every circumstance of life.
Verse 10 reminds us again that Christians are to be benevolent, thoughtful people toward those who are less fortunate and less blessed materially. And that includes both fellow believers and non-Christians, as well.
Verse 11 begins the concluding section of the text and Paul spends a little more time reminding them that we should do all that we do to the glory of God. If we have any basis for boasting, it is only in those things that God accomplishes in us through the sacrificial cross of Jesus. Without we are and can do nothing.
He ends this great letter with a prayer that the grace of Jesus Christ might with them. What a blessing to know that this is so.
Paul returns to his previously used illustration to drive home his major point that we are not under the Old Testament, but are living under the teachings of the New Testament. He speaks of the Old Law as being a form of bondage and the New Testament as liberty. (Remember that James also refers to the gospel as “the perfect law of liberty” in James 1:25.)
The apostle specifically mentions the first century issue of whether Christians from a Gentile background had to be circumcised and he lists two consequences of answering in the affirmative. First he says that Christ will profit you nothing and second, you will be required to keep the entire Old Law. (Do you recall that the Judaizing teachers wanted to bind a hybrid law, combining their favorite parts of both testaments?)
Our freedom from the Law of Moses is never to be interpreted as liberty (or license) to sin. The Judaizers were turning people back to the law with its detailed instructions and codified nature. Some thought they needed such detail to remain faithful. Paul wanted them to see that such a move led people away from Christ.
Paul warns them in verse 15 that if they continued to argue and debate and quarrel over this matter, they would consume one another and Satan would be the only winner.
In verses 19-21, Paul lists an impressive number of sins that he refers to as “the works of the flesh.” It is vital that we realize what each of these sins includes. Although some of them are words or phrases with which we are not familiar, they involve attitudes or actions that can keep us out of heaven. If you do not recognize any of these words or sins, it is important that you learn what they include so you will not lose your soul over them.
Then, in verses 22-23, he names what he calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” These are nine positive qualities that we should strive to possess.
The fruit of the Spirit comes from the seed of the word of God (Luke 8:11). If we are led by the Spirit, as He leads us through the word, we will produce these characteristics in our lives (Colossians 1:5‑6). All men have the choice of bearing good or bad fruit (Matthew 7:15‑20; John 15:1‑6).
It is important to realize that these qualities are not miraculous. Each of these characteristics can be learned and developed in the life of a Christian who desires to serve God.
This chapter concludes with a reminder to walk in the Spirit’s teaching and to put to death the sinful desires of the flesh.
In this chapter, Paul uses three word pictures to show the difference between the old law and the gospel.
In verses 1‑7, he compares it to childhood and adulthood. Childhood, for both slave and heir, is a time of being under “guardians and stewards.” Paul refers to the Old Law as a time when the Jews were “in bondage under the elements of the world.”
But, in “the fullness of the time,” according to God’s divine timetable, He sent His Son into the world. Jesus was “born of a woman,” a reference to the virgin birth of the Messiah, with no earthly father. Christ came into the world to redeem those who were under the Law of Moses from that bondage. He says, in verse 7, “therefore you are no longer a slave but a son,” an heir of God through Christ. The old has been replaced by the new.
In verses 8‑20, he contrasts bondage to freedom.
There are several Old Testament practices that Paul was concerned that the Galatians might be involved in, even after the Law of Moses had been replaced. He specifies his concern about their religious observance of “days and months and season and years.” This is speaking of the various feast days, sacrificial days, including the weekly Sabbath. It also reminds us that under the New Testament system, the only special day is the first day of every week. There are no annual, quarterly, monthly or other special days in Christianity. There is no New Testament teaching to observe popular “Christian” holidays, such as Easter or Christmas, including lent and other common man-made practices. This is the type of practice that Paul refers to as “bondage.”
Paul reminds them that his work among them was designed to make certain that “Christ is formed in you.” He wanted all disciples to be like their Master (Luke 6:40).
In verses 21‑31, he refers back to the Old Testament story of Hagar, Sarah and their children. Many Bible translations call this comparison an allegory. He reminds us of the relationship between Hagar and her son Ishmael and the God approved family of Sarah and Isaac. Hagar was a bondwoman (household servant) while Sarah was Abraham’s wife. Hagar and Ishmael are compared to the Old Testament (bondage) and Sarah and Isaac are compared to the New Testament (freedom from the Old Law). Paul also uses the familiar language of the flesh (OT) and the spirit (NT).
Chapter 3 is a clear explanation of the subject of salvation and the law. It divides into three major sections:
- Verses 1‑14 ‑ Salvation is not through the law of Moses
- Verses 15‑18 ‑ The law of Moses did not annul the promise
- Verses 19‑29 ‑ Why then was the law necessary?
In verses 1-14, Paul discusses again the reality that the Old Law was done away with and replaced by the gospel of Christ. He refers to their having begun their walk with God “by the hearing of faith,” but now they are trying to maintain their relationship with God through “the works of the law.”
One of the primary lessons from the book of Galatians is that we cannot earn ourselves a home in heaven by our good works. We are expected to obey God and do those things He reveals in the New Testament, but never with the thought that we will so perfectly carry out the will of God that He will owe us an eternal reward. The only way anyone will be saved is through God’s grace.
This idea of earning our salvation is sometimes called “works salvation” and sometimes it is called “legalism.” So many different ideas are thrown into that word, legalism, that I hesitate to use it at all. To me, legalism is not law keeping, but law depending, that is, believing we will do it well enough to justify our salvation. We are always going to need the mercy and lovingkindness of God.
As we look at verses 15-18, the apostle deals with the relationship between the Law of Moses and the promise of God to Abraham. The promise to Abraham (verse 16; see Genesis 12:1-3) of salvation through Christ was given long before the law was given through Moses. The question in the minds of many seems to have been, did the Law of Moses make the promise void? The answer, of course, was no. He says, in very clear terms, that the Law, given hundreds of years after the promise, did not annul, or make void, the covenant with Abraham. Salvation through Christ was not nullified by the giving of the Law of Moses.
But, if that was the case, why was the law necessary (verses 19-29)? This section answers that question and shows how the Promise and the Law fit together.
First, the law did not replace the promise, but rather was “added” to it. That means that during the Mosaic Period, there were two laws of God existing at the same time, one for Israel and one for everyone else.
Second, the law was added “because of transgressions.” Something needed to be done to help the bloodline of the Messiah remain pure. God’s solution was the Law of Moses, for the Hebrews alone (the descendants of Abraham). The Law of Moses served as a tutor, to bring people to faith in Jesus.