Paul tells the Galatians that through faith in Jesus Christ we are all equal – “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.” Paul goes on to say that we are no longer slaves to the law but adopted as sons and daughters; heirs of God through Christ.
Paul warns the Galatians of the fake religious crowds who form their own little clicks to manipulate the people. Paul says not to cave into that immature nonsense but to stay focused on the Lord at all times – “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always.”
Paul goes on to explain the freedom that is found in Christ by saying that Abraham had two sons; Ishmael, born through flesh by Abraham’s bondservant, Hagar, and Isaac, born through the promise by the freewoman, Abraham’s wife, Sarah. These two sons are symbolic of the two covenants; one (Ishmael), born out of unbelief by Sarah scheming and having Abraham sleep with her servant Hagar, represents the covenant of the law, which those of unbelief are still operating under the bondage of the law. The other son (Isaac), who was born out of faith by Abraham and Sarah, represents the freedom found in the new covenant through the promised Son, Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts the Christians to walk in the freedom of the new covenant- “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Paul addresses circumcision, the symbolic act of the old covenant God made with Abraham. He tells the Galatians that they are no longer bound to circumcision under the new covenant – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails to anything, but faith working through love… For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Through Christ we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul instructs the Galatians to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh which is opposed to the Spirit. He continues by comparing the works of the flesh to the works of the Spirit – “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Paul encourages the Christians not to grow weary doing good “for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
However, as the dispute about circumcision grows, Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem, where they stand before the council in 49 AD reporting all that the Lord has done with them.“But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’”
After much debate, Peter stands up and says that God knows the hearts and He saved the Gentiles who had faith in His Son and gave them the Holy Spirit the same as He did with the believing Jews. He questions why they are testing God by putting a yoke on the Gentiles with the law that even the forefathers nor they could bear. Peter explains that all are saved through grace by faith in Christ.
Then Paul and Barnabas declare how many miracles and wonders God has worked through them among the Gentiles. James, Jesus’ brother, also comes to the defense of the Gentiles saying even the prophets wrote about their salvation. Then James proposes a solution – “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” James is agreeing that they should not be under Mosaic Law, but they also shouldn’t be offensive to the Jewish community out of love for the church. So James suggests the Gentiles follow three rules related to the Jewish dietary traditions and one rule related to sexual sin, which is prevalent among the pagans.
Tomorrow we hear the ruling of the council and tension arises between Paul and Barnabas. Keep reading.
(Galatians 3:24-6:18, Acts 15:1-21)