Take Your Stand

Ephesians 6

Friday, August 19, 2022

On several occasions, I have had the opportunity to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The precision with which this exercise takes place is practically mesmerizing. But what I find even more fascinating are the tales that are told of when those on duty face extraordinary weather events and refuse to take shelter. They hold their ground. 

Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians with more words of wisdom and encouragement. He reminds his readers that they will face the devil’s schemes and that they better be prepared. 

Preparation for battle takes many forms: from the physical training to acquiring the best equipment. But the most important thing is to have the mindset of a warrior. What Paul is telling the Ephesian church and you and I is that we HAVE to believe that God is who He says He is. We MUST take heart and have faith that He will do what He says He will do. We CANNOT have ‘Plan B’. We NEED to remain strong and determined regardless of the circumstances. 

The enemy will do whatever it takes to try to take us off course. We’ll be faced with trials and temptations; things that challenge our fortitude and things that might distract us from our purpose. Our reputations may be questioned; our relationships threatened; our resources depleted – but we can put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We can pick up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and choose to stand and face whatever comes our way. 

You are a mighty warrior of the Most High. It’s time to hold your ground and take a stand.

-Bethany Ligon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What is the purpose of each piece of armor described in Ephesians 6?
  2. What do the devil’s attacks and schemes look like for you right now? What attacks have you already faced victoriously?
  3. Which piece do you more often forget to put on? What is the danger of going into battle without this piece of armor?

Not as Unwise but as Wise

Ephesians 5

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A few years ago the term YOLO became popular and used as a reason to partake in some very reckless behavior. If you’re not familiar with the acronym, it is an abbreviation for You Only Live Once. It drives me bananas when I observe others taking unnecessary risks because of this attitude.

I admit that I tend to be cautious. I’m not a huge risk-taker. I prefer to know possible outcomes before making a decision. I have the mindset that it’s because I only live once (this side of God’s Kingdom) that I want to be prudicious with my choices. 

As I approach the half-way mark of life, I am even more aware of how precious my time, energy, resources and relationships really are. Knowing and respecting my priorities helps me make decisions that align with the kind of life that I believe God is calling me to live. 

As we continue through the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is instructing the new believers in the local church to evaluate their life choices. The way that they used to live is no longer in alignment with a holy lifestyle. To live carelessly and without regard to the purpose for which they were saved is a waste of time. 

We too need to be self-controlled and alert. We need to know who we are in Christ and make decisions accordingly. Living in these times requires us to use our resources of time and energy wisely so that we can make an impact and a difference for the Kingdom of God. 

Sometimes, this way of living does mean that we will take risks and might look foolish to the world’s way of thinking. But if we are obedient to God, those risks will pay huge dividends because others will have an eternal benefit. 

So as you go about your day, your week, your month, and even the rest of this year, be strategic; be careful; be wise about how you live your life in Christ.

Once again, I’ll ask:

What should you continue doing?

What should you stop doing?

What should you start doing?

-Bethany Ligon


Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you consider yourself to be living life wisely? What adjustments might Paul suggest to you?
  2. What should you continue doing? What should you stop doing? What should you start doing?

All New!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Ephesians 4

One of the most important things a teacher does at the beginning of the school year is establish and practice procedures and routines. From how to enter and exit a classroom, to how to hand in paperwork, to technology expectations, and even knowing how to interact with partners and small groups – these procedures, when done with consistency and proficiency, will create a positive and inclusive classroom environment. 

One would think that a high school teacher wouldn’t have to spend time on such things, but even sixteen year olds need a reminder every now and then about when it is and when it is not an appropriate time to ask to use the restroom. 

But when these kinds of procedures are practiced throughout a school, it builds a culture of excellence. The standards for behavior and academic performance are raised and students find themselves meeting those expectations. 

As I read through Ephesians chapter four, I recognize Paul explaining to the Ephesian believers what a holy lifestyle should look like; what kind of behaviors are acceptable and the kinds of behaviors that are not – especially when it comes to their attitudes and speech. 

Being a believer in Christ should be reflected in how we think about and present ourselves. We no longer engage in unholy behaviors – that’s the old self. The new self is transformed to be righteous and holy. And this should be evident in our day-to-day interactions with others. 

Paul also explains that as a member of God’s family, we each play an important role. When we collaborate with one another amazing things take place for the sake of the Gospel. 

It is important to note that living a holy lifestyle takes intentional effort – it doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it. Much like a classroom teacher spends significant time at the beginning of the school year establishing procedures, regular reminders are key to maintaining a smooth-running classroom. Likewise, if we intend on continuing to grow up spiritually, we also need regular reminders of what a mature believer says and does. This is why the study of scripture and community fellowship is so valuable. As we associate with like-minded believers we are encouraged to continue putting on the new self and working towards becoming the person God has designed us to be, righteous and holy.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. Looking at Ephesians 4 again, what “old self” attitudes, actions, or mindsets does Paul tell the believers to get rid of. In your own “old self”, what have you been (or are currently, or ought to be) working on removing?
  2. Describe the “new self”.
  3. Looking at your own life, what percentage are you “New Self” – are you still walking around in “old self” socks? What will it take to boost that “new self” percentage higher?

A Super Power Story

Ephesians 3

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Ephesians 3:16 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…

As a fan of superhero movies, I really like understanding the origins of how regular people acquired their superpowers. Whether it was from a spider bite or from the released energy of a crashed light-speed engine, it’s fun to see how their skills develop over time.

In the book of Ephesians, the author, the apostle Paul, is writing to a church of new Gentile believers. The origin story of these Christians most likely includes a history of idol worship and pagan rituals. Learning to believe in one true God was a new concept for them. Not only that, they were being introduced to a Messiah who made it possible to be in a personal relationship with the God of all heaven and Earth. They were learning that this personal relationship with God meant that they had a job to do: to participate in the sharing of the Gospel. And this participation would require them to rely on the power of God to accomplish all that He was calling them to do.

In my imagination, I think that the experiences of these new believers learning to lean into the power of God is a little similar to superheroes learning to use their powers. New discoveries of what might be possible; determining how and when to use these gifts and for whom; and probably failing every now and again. 

For some superheroes, the more that they use their power, the stronger they become. 

As believers in Christ, our faith also grows more powerful the more we exercise it. I sometimes wonder what might be possible if I could get out of my own way, completely, and totally rely on the power of God. I wonder if this happened if I might be more like the original disciples who healed, ministered, and preached to hundreds and thousands. 

I know that with each passing year my faith in God grows as new and different circumstances require me to lean into the power He offers. I think that is why this particular prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. In Ephesians chapter 3, verses 16 through 21, I read one of the most encouraging prayers that is offered up to believers. When I read this portion, I am strengthened in my faith and my desire to serve God grows. I want to see what God can do in and through me. I want to put on my super suit and get to work.

So how about it? Will you join me in the adventure of a lifetime?

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. How would you tell the story of how you got your power? Where does it come from? How did you get it? What do you do with it? What could you do with it?
  2. Re-read Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Does this sound like your prayer list for your church, your family and yourself? What do you like best about Paul’s prayer? What could you add to your prayers?

A Gift We Don’t Deserve

Ephesians 2

Monday, August 15, 2022

Every time I study the word “grace”, I am led to two other words that are not used in everyday language: unmerited favor. My brain is naggled when I look up the definition of one word, only to be more confused by ‘fancier’ vocabulary. I want it simple. 

Another reason, I believe, that the concepts of grace and unmerited favor is sometimes a challenge to wrap my mind around is that it’s not frequently extended in practice – from others to us or even from us to others. There is so often a string attached, an expectation to meet or a limit set. But that’s not how the grace of God works.

God knows every bit of our lives: our thoughts, words, actions; the good, the bad, and the ugly – and decides to freely offer His grace – a gift that we really don’t deserve – to us so that we can be in right standing with Him.

Teachers often have “back to school” dreams where something inevitably goes very wrong. Last night I had a dream that my supervising principal kept finding mistakes in my work. And in my dream, she was getting frustrated and I developed a growing concern for my job. Thankfully, that’s not my reality. My principal is great and trusts me to do my job well. 

God isn’t a supervisor who is tracking all of your mistakes and missteps, evaluating your every move, just waiting to see if you’re good enough to keep, or if He needs to remove you from His team.

Yes, He sees our every move and He rejoices in our successes. He also continues to love us and support us as we stumble, fall, and fail. He’s the one who lifts us up, brushes the dust off our knees, wipes away our tears, and tells us that we can do hard things because we can draw our strength from Him. 

This is grace: God’s unmerited favor.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. How would you describe God’s grace to someone who has never heard of it before?
  2. What do you love best about God’s grace? How has He picked you up after you have stumbled.
  3. How well do you give grace to others?

A Deposit

Ephesians 1

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Living in Arizona, there is no shortage of Mexican restaurants. One of the best parts of eating at one is the delivery of warm crispy tortilla chips and moderately spicy salsa within minutes of being seated. Each restaurant’s chips and salsa are different and wonderfully delicious. You can get a hint of the caliber of your main entree by the quality of this appetizer. If the chips and salsa are especially tasty, I will fill up on that by the time my chicken chimichanga is brought to the table. 

As I read the first half of this first chapter in Ephesians, I am struck by this phrase in verse 14, “who (the Holy Spirit) is a deposit”. Wait…a DEPOSIT?!?! You mean there’s more to be expected? It’s a very crude comparison, but it’s almost like the chips and salsa…it’s so good all by itself. But I know that something even more wonderful is coming.  

I guess somewhere in my understanding, I have KNOWN that when the Kingdom is established on the earth, that it will be more than whatever it is that I can possibly imagine. But I hadn’t ever made the connection that the Holy Spirit is the deposit to my FULL inheritance in Christ.

Usually, a deposit is a fraction of the full amount in order to hold an item on your behalf. So if the Holy Spirit is a deposit to hold my spot in the Kingdom…how much more will the full experience of the Kingdom really be? 

Back in Acts 1, Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower them to be witnesses. Likewise, as believers, we also are given the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can do great and mighty things for the coming Kingdom of God. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:20). 

Unlike eating chips and salsa, which I tend to not want to share, we are meant to do something for others with this deposit. We are meant to minister and serve. We are meant to teach and show hospitality. We are meant to impart compassion and discern wisdom. We are meant to pray for and encourage others. We are meant to give and sacrifice our time, energies, and resources. 

I recently wrote in my journal three questions. I’ll conclude by asking you the same as you consider this deposit of the Holy Spirit.

What should I continue doing?

What should I stop doing?

What should I start doing?

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

See above. 🙂

Your Own Load

Saturday, August 13, 2022

 Galatians 6

“A young boy came across a butterfly cocoon and brought it into his house. He watched, over the course of hours, as the butterfly struggled to break free from its confinement. It managed to create a small hole in the cocoon, but its body was too large to emerge. It was tired and became still.

“Wanting to help the butterfly, the boy snipped a slit in the cocoon with a pair of scissors. But the butterfly was small, weak, and its wings crumpled. The boy expected the insect to take flight, but instead, it could only drag its undeveloped body along the ground. It was incapable of flying.

“The boy, in his eagerness to help the butterfly, stunted its development. What he did not know was that the butterfly needed to go through the process of struggling against the cocoon to gain strength and fill its wings with blood. It was the struggle that made it stronger.” https://www.lifeandwhim.com/first-moments-blog/2018/the-struggle-makes-you-stronger

The point of that story is that sometimes “helping” someone doesn’t really help them.  The first few times you try to do something new and different it’s quite probable that you won’t be very good at it.  Sometimes you need some extra help to get you going.  When a child is learning how to ride a bike they usually start with training wheels or a parent walking alongside them to keep them from falling.  They have to get used to the feel of peddling and how to get up to speed.  But eventually, the training wheels need to come off or the parent needs to let go.  Often, that may result in a wobbly ride or the child might even fall.  They might even skin their knee and that hurts.  But still, even at the risk of falling and skinning a knee, the training wheels need to come off if the child ever wants to learn how to ride the bike.  Sometimes, the loving thing to do is give the person the freedom to struggle, to fall down, to make a mistake.

This is true of children learning to ride a bike, and it’s true of Christians learning to live by the Spirit.  As we live as spirit-filled believers in the spirit filled-community, the Church, we will live fruitful lives. We will love, be at peace, be patient, kind, good, and gentle among other things (see Galatians 5).  We will live by the spirit, not by the flesh, except when we don’t.  Unfortunately, there are times when love gives way to hate, we become impatient, we aren’t kind, we do bad instead of good and we are harsh instead of gentle.  There are times when we fall down in our faith and we need a hand to get back up again.  When a member of the community falls beneath the weight of a burden, Paul says that others in the community should gently lend a hand and help them back up again.  We should not be harsh with the one who has fallen and remind ourselves that we too could also fall and need a hand up.

Sometimes Christians do dumb things that are completely against what we believe.  Sometimes the best of us let temptation get the worst of us.  Think of King David, the man after God’s own heart, who committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife and then arranged to have her husband killed in an attempt to cover up the sin.  Certainly not the finest moment for an otherwise godly man. 

 Paul doesn’t want us to be morally lax and intentionally sin against God.  He just finished telling the Galatians to walk by the spirit and not by the flesh.  But when we do fall, we need others to help us back up again.  And the rest of us need to be ready to help the one who has fallen to get back up and on their feet.    Paul here balances burdens and loads.  We are to help others with burdens, but we are to manage our own loads.  Sometimes people get handed something overwhelmingly heavy that they can’t carry on their own, we should help them. At the same time, we each have normal daily loads which we are expected to carry.  We have jobs to do, and responsibilities at home to do.  We have ministry responsibilities to carry out.  We each need to keep up with our daily loads.  I should not expect you to do my regular responsibilities.  If I’m the pastor and it’s my job to preach, then most Sundays I need to be preaching.  Once in a while, I take a Sunday away from preaching- vacation or other ministry responsibilities may take me away for a week here and there and I’ll need someone else to do the preaching for me that week, but most Sundays I carry my preaching load.  The only exception to this for me was after I had surgery for cancer a few years ago. I took off about 4 Sundays in a row while I was recovering.  That was an unusual burden.  I was not able to carry that burden for a few weeks and others helped.

We shouldn’t do other people’s daily loads for them because it keeps them from flourishing and getting stronger.  It would be like cutting a hole in the cocoon.  Our “helping” is actually hurting when we don’t allow someone to carry their own daily load.  But when a load becomes a burden, then the loving thing to do is help carry the burden.  Sometimes, we need to practice “tough love”.  Do what is your responsibility to do and give others space to do what is their responsibility to do, and when special circumstances arise and extra burdens need to be born, we help each other.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for discussion:

  1.  When was a time that you had a burden you could not carry yourself? Did someone help you and how did they do it?
  2. Was there ever a time when you just didn’t feel like carrying your daily load?  Did someone hold you accountable and tell you to carry your own load?  How did that feel?
  3. Have you ever thought you were “helping” like the little boy with the cacoon?  Is it sometimes harder to watch someone else struggle with their daily load than to step in and carry it for them?  Why is it important to resist doing that?

FREEDOM. Not Legalism. Not Lawlessness. FREEDOM

Friday, August 12, 2022

 Galatians 5

            Every year on the 4th of July people in the United States come together to celebrate our freedom.  If you are living in another country you might have different ways of celebrating freedom or you may not be particularly focused on freedom.  Freedom means different things to different people.  For the person who has been in prison, freedom means being able to go where you want to go and do what you want to do.  For a student who is on vacation, freedom means not having to go to class and turn in homework.  For a person who is single, freedom means being able to date.  For the people who originally established the United States freedom meant being able to choose whatever religion or church that your conscience told you was the way to know God.  It was also about the freedom to self-govern rather than be governed by a dictator.

            Freedom can be a very good thing when it is rightly understood and practiced, but wrongly understood and practiced, freedom can be very dangerous.  America is about freedom in some ways, but not every way.  I’m not free to drive as fast as I want or in whatever direction I want on the highway.  I have to obey traffic laws or else I could cause injury or death to myself and others, or I can be criminally punished and lose the privilege of driving.  Freedom has to be rightly understood.  What am I free from and what am I free to do?

            When Paul talks about freedom here he has a couple of things in mind.  We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are not saved by following some law or other legalistic ritual practice.  In the Church of Galatia, those who heard Paul preach the Gospel and were baptized into Jesus Christ were set free from the power of sin and death.  They were free to allow the spirit of God to transform their lives so that they could do what is most important, love. 

            Paul is obviously very angry in chapter 5 because he sees that they have chosen to reject the freedom given by the Gospel and have chosen to place themselves under the yoke of slavery to the Jewish Law.  Circumcision was the physical act of mutilating part of your body as a way of marking you as different.  Jewish boys were circumcised to distinguish them as children of Abraham and followers of the Mosaic Law.  One under the Law was required to obey all 611 laws ranging from what foods to eat, to how and where and when to worship, how to properly dispose of human waste, and ceremonially clean mildew.  Paul had been raised under that Law and it didn’t make him any closer to God.  It made him an enemy of Jesus Christ, and it certainly didn’t make him a more loving person.  He found faith in Christ and receiving the Spirit of God to be truly freeing and life-transforming.  He could not imagine going back to the slavery of the law.  So he cannot understand why the Galatian Christians were choosing to trade their freedom in Christ for enslavement to the law.

            Paul’s main emphasis is the Spirit and Love.  “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:14) “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (5:22).  This is what’s most important for Paul, not the practices that separate Jews from Gentiles (circumcision, food, and observing The Law.)

            But Paul also doesn’t want followers of Christ to get the wrong idea about their freedom in Christ.  It is the Freedom from the power of sin, not the freedom to do whatever your flesh desires.  Some believers take grace and freedom to a place where Paul and God never intended for it to go.  The acts of the flesh that Paul lists: “sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”  He is clear that a life that is given over to the flesh is not the life that results in life in the kingdom of God in the age to come.  It’s a freedom from the power of sin, not the freedom to do whatever you want that opposes the life of God.

            Receive God’s spirit through faith in Jesus Christ and live a life of love, that is what a life of fruitful and flourishing discipleship to Jesus Christ looks like.  Legalism is one extreme to avoid, lawlessness is the opposite extreme to avoid.  The goal is faith expressing itself through love.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion: 

  1.  Which extreme do you find more challenging in your discipleship- legalism or lawlessness?
  2. Why is our freedom in Christ so easily misunderstood?

No Longer a Slave

Thursday, August 11, 2022

 Galatians 4

            Parts of the Bible have been around for nearly 4,000 years.  Some parts are very clear and transcend time, place, language, and culture.  Instructions to not steal or to not murder generally don’t need a lot of contextual background to be understood.

            Other parts of the Bible come from contexts that are very different from our context and certain points can be confusing or easily lost in translation.  Galatians 4 uses words like slaves, heirs, and sons.  Paul wrote this against the backdrop of the Roman Empire so it is helpful to have a background understanding of civic and family life in ancient Rome to more easily understand Paul’s points in this part of his letter to the Christians in Galatia.

            Rome had different categories of persons.  To be a citizen of Rome was to be a person of privilege.  You had a lot of rights as a citizen: to vote, to run for public office, to get married, to make use of the legal system, to not be tortured or whipped.  This citizenship status and the accompanying rights were given to certain men.  Women had a lesser status as citizens and fewer rights- they could not vote nor run for public office.  Children had no rights, but they came under the protection of their fathers until the time when their fathers released them to become full citizens.

            There were other categories in the Roman Empire including Freedmen (former slaves, now free) who had some rights but were not automatically granted citizenship.  There were also Client States or allies who had some limited rights as citizens but not full citizenship.  Slaves had no rights and were not considered to be persons under Roman law.

            Because Paul was a Roman citizen and was writing to Christians who were in the Roman Empire, they would have had a basic understanding of these facts.  In addition to being a Roman Citizen, Paul was also a Jew and there were elements of the Jewish faith that would also have been well understood by these Galatian Christians, particularly those who themselves were Jews.  Paul also utilizes what is known as an allegorical interpretation of the Bible as he argues his case here.  An allegorical reading sees beyond the literal meaning of the story to the deeper symbolism found therein.

            With this as a background, Paul is showing these Christians that life in Christ is far superior to life under the Jewish Law.  Becoming a Christian is like going from being a slave to becoming a son.  To be a son is vastly better in terms of the rights given compared to being a slave.   Paul uses this to show the stark contrast between living under the law of Judaism vs. being redeemed by God and granted the spirit and the gift of sonship whereby we are now heirs of God’s coming Kingdom.  This should be a no-brainer.  And yet, Paul has been facing opposition from those who are teaching that Gentile converts to Christianity must live under the Jewish Law.  That is like telling an adopted son that he has to live under the rules of the slave.  It’s crazy.

            Today, it’s not terribly likely that you as a Christian are going to be bombarded by people trying to convince you to live under the Jewish law.  When was the last time someone insisted that you get circumcised (if you are an uncircumcised male), eat kosher foods, strictly observe the Jewish Sabbath, make pilgrimages 3 times a year to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices at the temple (when there is no temple anyway)?  We’re not likely to be enticed to enter into the “slavery” of law-keeping.  However, we very likely are being invited to enter into the slavery of lawlessness or sin.  Far more commonly, Paul talks about being a slave to sin and death.  As sons of God, we don’t have to become Jews and follow Jewish dietary and ceremonial laws, but we do have to follow Christ and live godly lives.  In Galatians 5 Paul will contrast living by the flesh vs. living by the spirit.  Paul wants Christians here to understand that in Christ we are not slaves but free.  We are not slaves we are sons (and daughters).  We should use that freedom wisely and not misuse it to be enslaved again whether it be to the law or to sin/the flesh.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  How does seeing yourself as a son or daughter rather than as a slave change how you live?

2.  How have you misused your freedom?  What parts of slavery do you find most tempting?

The End of Division

Galatians 3

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

            I don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like the world is really divided right now.  More divided than we’ve been in a long time.  Liberal vs. Conservative.  The liberals call the conservatives Fascists or Nazis, the conservatives call the liberals Communists.  We are divided between theists and anti-theists, or some would divide us as racist or anti-racist.  Still, others would divide us as binary or non-binary, pro-live or pro-choice.  Living in perpetual states of division is stressful, painful, and exhausting.  In the words of Rodney King during the L.A. racial riots of the early 1990’s “Can we…can we all get along?”

            That’s kind of what Paul was saying to the Galatian Christians.  There was division going on in their Church.  Paul taught them that we are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God who died for our sins and whom God raised from the dead.  This salvation is open to everyone who believes, young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile (non-Jew).  As Paul was traveling on his mission to other places in Asia and Europe to share the message of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with as many as he could, he received reports that people had come into the Churches in Galatia insisting that Gentile believers must begin practicing Jewish law in order to be saved.

            Paul was pretty angry with the Christians there who were being led astray by the teaching of these “Judaizers”  (people who insisted that Gentile Christians must practice Jewish Law in order to be saved).  Paul calls them fools and victims of witchcraft for allowing themselves to be taught something so clearly contrary to the gospel that he preached to them previously.

            Paul goes back and shows from the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament) that even back in the time of Abraham God made his plan very clear.  God always planned to bring salvation not only to the Jews who were descendants of Abraham but also to Gentiles who were not biological descendants of Abraham.  Paul shows that God called Abraham long before the Ten Commandments and Ceremonial Laws were given to the Jewish people.  As Jews, they were always recipients of God’s grace.  The Law was never a precondition to them being chosen as God’s covenant people.  Paul wants it to be clearly understood that for the Gentiles they are brought into God’s chosen family not on the basis of observing Jewish ceremonial law or even moral law, but on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

            In Christ, old barriers and divisions come falling down.  We all become a part of the one family of God through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter our nationality, our age, our sex, our citizenship status or our righteousness according to the law.  What matters is that we come to Jesus Christ and have been clothed in Jesus Christ.

            Later in Galatians Paul will talk about what it means to crucify the flesh and to live according to the spirit and produce virtuous actions by the spirit, but the fruit is a result of salvation, not the precondition to being saved.

            The only true way to end division in the world is by becoming one with Jesus Christ through faith.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What are the kinds of things that divide Christians and Churches today?  What action will you take to help remove divisions where you worship and serve?

2.  Why is it important to understand virtue as a result of salvation rather than as a precondition to salvation?

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