Archive for the ‘Galatians’ Tag

Once “Works FOR God”, Now “Fruit FROM God!” (And by ‘God’ we mean The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – God)

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Bible Verses: Galatians 3: 27-29, Galatians 5: 16-26


It’s possible to coerce or even force someone to do something, but for an action to be meaningful and fulfilling, it must be done because the person wanted to. This is the key difference between behavior modification and heart change, changing our actions versus changing our motivations underneath our actions. In the letter to the Galatians, especially concerning the fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5, Paul taught on GRACE, WORKS, and PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION in the light of the gospel. What we do certainly matters, but WHY we do what we do matters even more.

If you’re a Christian, you will obey because you want to obey, not because you have to. The Spirit of God living inside of us ensures it. We will bear good fruit. This doesn’t make us sinless, but it does make us sure of spiritual growth and it does make us more conscious and convicted of our sin. This Gospel-driven way of living means that we ourselves are a Gospel project, always being developed and shaped by the Gospel – Jesus! And it means that we are always acknowledging that the changes in us have not come primarily through our own efforts but through the Spirit of Christ working in us. We don’t get the glory. The Father does.

Theological Theme:

The fact that the gospel begins and ends with Jesus Christ, means that the gospel is PRIMARILY about the Father’s commitment to YOU! The Father receiving/ including YOU (our human nature) PERSONALLY into His love and life through Jesus and by the Spirit. The Father’s Faith and repentance on YOUR behalf in Christ. Secondarily it is about you being committed to Him and your faith and repentance towards Him.

Christians crucify the flesh and walk by the Spirit who, too, is God of GOD [ Father -Son and Holy Spirit]. The Spirit is the one poured out on Jesus Christ without limit, and the one who Jesus pours out on us human beings so that we might participate with Him in who He is and what He is doing. By the Spirit we participate with Jesus in His worship of The Father and in His witness to this world that His Kingdom is already in our midst, and that his rule and reign are yet coming in full!

Christ Connection:

In contrasting the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, Paul showed the Galatian church what it looks like to belong to Christ Jesus. To be crucified with Christ means to put away our fleshly passions and desires and to follow the Spirit.

Walking after Christ – with Christ, by the Spirit, means Christ leads and by the Spirit we follow Him and move in that same direction that He indicates. When we walk by The Spirit we go where He goes, we live how He lives and how He directs us to live. Walking by the Spirit can be frustrating but it doesn’t have to be that way because we have been gifted by God through Jesus and in the Spirit, to be able to see through the eyes of FAITH. If you are to walk by the Spirit you will need to spend more time with the Spirit, reading and studying and meditating on Jesus Christ through scripture by the Spirit. The Spirit mediates Jesus and Jesus will meet you in and through scripture by His grace.

“We are not to challenge and envy one another. We are to get down from our high chairs and start walking in the Spirit. The Christian life is not a balloon ascension with some great overpowering experience of soaring to the heights. Rather it is a daily walk; it is a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.” –J. Vernon McGee

Missional Application:

God calls us to follow the Spirit in humility as we develop Christian character that sets us apart from the world.

As the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control within us, we will also see that our external actions will change too. A person who is loving will act in love with others. A person who is joyful will act joyfully before others. Being leads to doing. And in this case, when we are changed to be more like God on the inside, we will live more like Him on the outside.

“It is in the midst of difficulties and hardships that we especially need the fruit of the Spirit, and it is in such times that God may especially work through us to touch other people for Christ. As we bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, others will see in us ‘the family likeness of his Son’ (Rom. 8:29, Phillips) and be attracted to the Saviour.” –Billy Graham


The power of our obedience and the source of our holiness is not our own efforts but the effort of the Holy Spirit applying to our lives the finished work of Jesus Christ. It’s God who works in you to will and to work for His good pleasure! Your participation with Christ in his good works were ordained beforehand. The same gospel that empowers our conversion empowers our sanctification. It is Jesus who both authors and perfects our faith. It is God alone who is faithful both to start the work in us and to complete it. Jesus Himself is our Sanctification!

Of course, it’s not that we don’t expend any energy. We have to remember that “grace is not opposed to effort, but is opposed to earning.”  Instead, it is simply that the energy we use to obey from our hearts for the pleasure of God comes from God’s Spirit. Here is how Paul explained the source of righteousness in Galatians 5:22-26: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

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We are All One In Christ Jesus!

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Bible Verse: Galatians 3


Jesus is the Anointed One, referring to the fact that He is the One Man Who has the Holy Spirit of God poured out on Him without measure, and is the One Who pours out the Holy Spirit on all flesh in Himself and upon all people outside Himself (possessing and assuming the human nature of all persons) that we might share in His union and communion with His Father!

Theological Theme:

The Father-Son-and-Holy-Spirit-God is the ground of ALL PEOPLE AND THINGS and the renewal of ALL THINGS IN JESUS CHRIST! As the Cosmic Christ He is fulfilling his promise to draw EVERYONE to himself through In the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father!

Christ Connection:

Jesus Christ is not only the anointed ONE, HE is also the ONE who pours out the SAME Holy Spirit on us, in flesh, as the Representative of ALL PEOPLE, and as the Substitute for ALL PEOPLE so that we can discover and become ourselves by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. Jesus sends the Person of the Holy Spirit Who mediates Jesus to us so we can TRUST and relate with him, sharing in his union and communion with the Father;

Missional Application:

Because Jesus is alive as the Resurrection and continuing in his ongoing ministry to the Father, the Church enthusiastically remains on Mission with Him that all people would come to know, honor, glorify and enjoy his relationship with his Father forever and ever in the Spirit!!As Lesslie Newbigin has written: “Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

The Church continues to call all people to repent and believe the Good News of Jesus because, realistically, the degree to which people are not found trusting Christ in a worship relationship and do not have him as their fundamental and primary vision is the degree to which something else, an idol and a false vision does have a grip on their minds, hearts and actions! The real problem is not that people don’t love their neighbors – the deeper problem is that people do not see or love God, the Father, Son and Spirit, with all their heart soul mind and strength! Nor do they trust or believe as primary that Jesus does stand in with and for them to make this so, on their behalf, and even if it doesn’t look like it! And the reason for that is that they have not yet received or need to receive even more deeply the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends!

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Wang Surgery No Substitute for Jesus

A Trinitarian, Christ-centered reading of Galatians 5.1-12

(5.1) Why did Master Jesus smash the walls that divide us?  To set us free from isolation, free for community!  So grow yourself a spine, and don’t back down to those that want to stick you back in your cell! (2) PLEASE listen to me: Wang surgery is no substitute for Jesus.  If you’re expecting to receive his gift by submitting to a scalpel, you will be SORELY disappointed.

(3) I’ll say it one more time: This surgical procedure is JUST ONE PART of the whole Torah arrangement.  If you wanted to live by the rules of Torah, you’d have to keep ALL of them flawlessly.  And we all know you can’t and you don’t.  (4) If you rely on Torah observance to make you right with Papa, you have stopped relying on Jesus.  You have judged his grace unnecessary, and you are sorely mistaken!

(5) For it is by grace that we have been included in Jesus’ right relationship with Papa. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can believe this, and live in the secure hope that this gift will find full expression in our life together in the world. (6) In this context, the context of Master Jesus and what he has done for us, wang surgery isn’t even an issue; the topic is utterly irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is loving God and loving others, which happens ONLY as we become willing to see reality accurately.

(7) You guys were doing GREAT; you were seeing reality accurately and living in accordance with it.  Who talked you into shutting your eyes? (8) Whoever it was, it was not the One you Know in your soul. (9) One bad apple ruins the whole bunch. (10) It’s true, and you know it. But whoever the bad apple is, there are consequences for fogging the brains of Papa’s children.

(11) Come ON, guys, THINK! Why in the world would I ever start preaching the “circumcision gospel”?  And if I did, do you think I would still be getting attacked every day by the wang-obsessed religion-Nazis?  If I preached their ‘gospel,’ they would have no reason to be scandalized by the cross. (12) If they’re so obsessed with genitalia, I wish they would just chop off their own and leave you guys the hell alone!

~ John Stonecypher

Who is on Team Jesus?

A Trinitarian Christ-centered paraphrase of Galatians 3

(3.1) I cannot BELIEVE the way you have so quickly forgotten all of this.  Please tell me some wizard has put a “dumb-ass” spell on you, because then all this would start to make a little sense!  Have you forgotten that you saw the crucified Jesus with your own eyes? (2) Answer me this:  How is it that the Holy Spirit’s peace and confidence started to fill your life?  Did it happen as a result of jumping through religious hoops, or as a result of believing the truth about Papa and about yourself? (3) Are you so deluded that you think your religious accomplishments can improve on what the Spirit has already done? (4) Have you forgotten all that we experienced together? (5) Does the strength of the risen Jesus flow through your body because you’ve earned it, or because you’ve opened your mind to Reality?

(6) You know the answer as well as I do:  “By trusting Papa, Abraham entered into what he had been given – a right relationship with Papa and the world.” (7) Abraham’s true descendants are those who take Papa at his word. (8) And his word says that by faith, ALL peoples will be put right with Papa and with the world. This word was spoken plainly to Abraham: “As you are blessed, all people will be blessed through you.” (9) All people who (like Abraham) open their minds to Papa will (like Abraham) be filled with what Papa has given.

(10) If you are hoping to get a good life by obeying the rules in Torah, then I have bad news for you, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not obey every single rule perfectly.”  (11) So imperfect rule-keeping (the only kind of rule-keeping you and I are capable of) isn’t going to do you any good.  “The good life results from faithfully knowing reality.” (12) If good life were to come from rule-keeping, then none of us would qualify for a good life anyway. (13) Because of our inability to do good, Torah has become just a curse to us.  But Master Jesus rescued us by taking that curse upon himself, “the curse of hanging on a cross.” (14) By enduring the curse, he destroyed it, so that ALL peoples could (through faith) receive the inheritance promised to Abraham – the honor of carrying the Spirit’s blessings into the world.

(15) Okay guys, here’s an example from everyday life:  Let’s say you get together with your lawyer so you can write a will.  Once you die, your descendants cannot re-write your will if they don’t like what it says.  Your will says what it says, and that’s that. (16) Well, Papa was sort of writing a will when he made the promise to Abraham and his heir (a.k.a., Jesus). (17) Now listen to this: The will that was written and signed that day never got changed or replaced!  The promise still stands today, regardless of what Torah said 430 years later.  Torah had its purpose, and it did its job perfectly.  But it had nothing to do with changing or nullifying the promise already made to Abraham. (18) Think about it!  If our inheritance is conditional on our rule-keeping, then it’s no longer a promise.  But as we all know, it IS a promise, promised to Abraham without condition.

(19) So if Torah doesn’t save us, then what was it good for?  Simple: Papa gave us the clear boundaries of Torah to restrain our behavior just enough to keep us from destroying ourselves before the Heir arrives.  With Torah (which came to us through Papa’s own messengers), Moses mediated the relationship between Papa and us. (20) As humanity’s ambassador to Papa, Moses did a pretty okay job.  He was, after all, human.  But because he was not also divine, Moses could not be a very effective ambassador from Papa to humanity.  After all, a real ambassador ought to be a citizen of the country he represents.  But as we all know, “God is one,” and that One’s name is definitely not “Moses.”

(21) Please understand, I’m not bashing Torah.  Torah is the servant of the promise, not its enemy.  If Papa had given us rules that could have healed the world, then the rules certainly would have accomplished exactly that.  (22) But that was never Papa’s intent for Torah.  He gave us Torah to break us of this idea that by our own efforts we can make a good life for ourselves.  Our utter failure to follow Torah has made it painfully obvious to us that we are STUCK, imprisoned by our inability to live a fully good life on our own.  When we come to this realization, when we acknowledge and accept our own powerlessness, we become able to receive the gift of Jesus’ life.  When Papa gave us his Son, he was fulfilling his promise to Abraham.  When the Son of Papa united himself with humanity, he united humanity forever with the Triune Life of blessing and being blessed!

(23) Torah’s rules protected us by restraining our most destructive behaviors. But Torah also gave us the bad news that Death is the result of violating those boundaries.  Torah protected us but also imprisoned us.  THAT WAS ITS JOB.  Torah did its job UNTIL the time came for us to take the next step – To experience the transformation that comes from the renewing of our minds through FAITH.

(24) Think of it this way:  We’re Papa’s kids.  When we were little, he gave us a nanny/tutor called Torah.  And we had this nanny/tutor until Master Jesus came to turn us into grown-ups whose lives are being put right by faith. (25)  But now that we are grown-ups who live by faith, we no longer need our nanny/tutor to run our lives. (26) For as we learn to believe and rely upon what Master Jesus has done to unite us with our Papa, we are beginning to experience abundant life for the first time as kids who know their Papa adores them.

(27) Think back to when you were baptized. On that day you experienced how completely immersed you are in Jesus’ relationship with Papa in the Spirit.  Your life is forever surrounded and supported by His glorious risen alive-ness.  His life fits you perfectly, like a tailor-made set of clothes.  Jesus himself is the uniform that signifies that we are on his team. (28) The old team rosters have zero significance for us now.  The game is not about the rivalry between the Jewish team and the Greek team.  Nor is it about Slave versus Free, or Boys versus Girls.  I don’t care what team you used to play for.  Because today, ALL of us are Team Jesus.  Period.  Deal with it.  Together we belong to Jesus, and together with him we are the heirs of the promise — the promise that we would be blessed to be a blessing.

~ John Stonecypher


When Pete Stopped Hanging With Nerds

A Trinitarian  Christ-centered paraphrase of Galatians 2

(2.1) Then, 14 years after that, I took another trip up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. The Holy Spirit told me to go, so I went.  In a private meeting with the elders there, I told them about my message to the non-Jewish ‘outsiders.’  We just wanted to verify that we were all on the same team. (3) Anyway, Titus and his non-surgically-altered wang were right there with me the whole time, and of course nobody had the slightest problem with it. (4) But some religion-nazi spies had snuck into the meeting to scope out the wide-open life we live with Master Jesus, so that they could find some way to make us join them in their tedious religion (Yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen). (5) Anyway, I didn’t give in to them one bit, so that our message would not get tainted with a single drop of their poison. (6) They didn’t influence my message AT ALL. For that matter, NO ONE at that meeting did.

(7) It was clear to the Jerusalem elders that Papa had sent me to the non-Jews, just like he sent Peter to the Jews. (8) The One Triune God has embraced the insiders AND the outsiders.  And it is this God who has sent me and Peter with the One gospel to these two different groups of people. (9) When James and Peter and John recognized the Triune Life at work in me, they welcomed Barnabas and me as valued members of Team Jesus.  They agreed completely that we should go to the non-religious while they go to the religious. (10) They asked only that I continue taking care of the poor, which of course I was going to do anyway.

(11) But when Peter came to Antioch and slipped into hypocrisy, I immediately got all up in his face about it. (12) See, he had been hanging out with the whole gang in Antioch, having a great time with everyone, regardless of whether or not they had undergone ritual wang surgery.  But that stopped when the respectable religious-types dropped in to visit.  In junior high terms, you can say Peter stopped hanging with the nerds, because he was afraid of what the cool kids might think of him. (13) The others – even Barnabas! – followed his lead. (14) When I saw them acting in this reality-contradicting way, I confronted Peter in front of everybody:

“Look, Peter…You’re not a religion-snob anymore. You know you’re no better than anybody else.  You’re just a regular guy now.  So how come, all of a sudden, people have to pass your ‘religion-test’ before they’re good enough to hang out with you?  Who the hell do you think you are?!?”

(15) So that’s how it happened.  I hope my story helps you see where I’m coming from.  Yes, I’m proud to be Jewish.  Being a Jew is a very special thing, (16) but we all know that following our religion is NOT what sets right our relationship with God and with each other.  That happens only as we rely on Master Jesus to put all things right as the gospel changes us from the inside-out.  NO religious act can do that. (17) As we seek to live out the good life Jesus has given to us, it quickly becomes obvious that we haven’t become perfect yet.  Does that mean Jesus is to blame for our brokenness?  Of course not. (18) But when I seek reconciliation for relationships that I myself destroyed, I’m putting myself on public display as the flawed and struggling human being I am.

(19) And I’m totally okay with that.  Pious Paul died so that Real Paul could authentically live life in the fellowship of the Triune God. Think of it this way: Jesus is the One in whom we live and move and have our being, right?  Therefore, in some mysterious way, whatever happens to him happens to ALL of us.  So when Jesus died, I DIED. (20) I’m not living my own life anymore!  It is Jesus’ life, and he’s living it IN me and THROUGH me, and it is a life beyond anything I have ever dared to dream. The Son is faithful to his Papa, always and in every way.  It is through reliance on HIS faithfulness that I now live this life of adventure.  My unsteady faith is upheld by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (21) THAT is the power of grace; it is the only thing that can put things right in us and in the world.  If religion could have accomplished that, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.

~ John Stonecypher


Paul Mad! Paul Smash!

A Trinitarian Christ-centered paraphrase of Galatians 1

(NOTE:  My pastors are preparing to preach through Galatians, and they’ve asked me to write a paraphrase for them to use.  But I’ll get back to Romans soon, I promise! – JS)

From: BroPaul [, SMTP:jesus.trinity.div/resurrected=TRUE;  father.trinity.div=TRUE;];

To: All Users (Galatia) [mailto:AllUsers@galatia.trinity.div]

Subject: RE: Eating lunch next to people with non-surgically-altered wangs

(3) Hey guys, I hope this message finds you feeling secure and relaxed in our Papa’s warm embrace.  I hope you are feeling the soul-peace of Master Jesus, (4) who has set the human race free by injecting his own glorious self into our darkness, pain, and death.  This was the mission given to him by his Papa, (5) OUR Papa of boundless joy and strength forever.

(6) Okay, enough of pleasantries.  On to business…

I am SO pissed-off about what I am hearing about you — that you are abandoning reality, that you’ve given up on the gospel.  WTF!?!  You’ve turned your back on THE STORY of how Jesus has included us in his life with Papa in the Spirit.  Instead you have cast yourself as a character in another story altogether, (7) a story that ends in tragedy, a story that’s not even true!  Some Used-Religion salesmen have come to sell you lemon-gospels about who you are and who God is, and YOU BOUGHT IT!!!

(8) How could you let this happen?!? It’s wonderful to have an open mind, but that doesn’t mean letting any old schmuck fill your brain with toxic waste!  You know better than to ever let ANYONE do that.  You know the gospel; you know it in your SOUL.  Don’t you let anyone take that away from you, EVER.  Even if I myself come to you and tell you things that contradict the gospel, do NOT listen to me! If a freakin’ ANGEL materializes in your midst and starts telling you lies while fanning you with his wings, don’t listen to him either!  (9) The gospel is the gospel, and that’s that.  If someone tries to convince you that you have to earn Papa’s embrace, do NOT let their delusion become yours.  SCREW THAT.

(10) I know these are harsher words than you are used to hearing from me, but right now I don’t care whether you like what I say or not.  I’m not going to just tell you whatever you want to hear.  If I cared what people thought of me, I’d have to serve someone other than Jesus.

(11) Guys, I want you to understand where I’m coming from, so I’m going to tell you the story of my journey with the gospel, (12) the good news I received not from any mere human storyteller, but from Master Jesus himself.

(13) Of course you already know of my earlier life of militant religiosity.  Back then, my whole life was my jihad against the Jesus freaks. (14) I was a religious Superman, head and shoulders above everyone.  I was an on-fire spirit-filled Bible-thumping prayer warrior:  “Gimme dat old-time re-lig-ion, it’s good e-nuff for me!

(15) But my Papa had different plans for me.  Out of the sheer kindness of his great heart, he invited me onto a new journey with him. (16) He revealed his Son to me, so that I could tell the whole world about him.

But notice what I did at that point:  Contrary to what you may have heard, I did NOT go ask somebody to confirm what Papa had revealed to me. (17) I didn’t go up to Jerusalem to see if the “super-apostles” agreed with me.  Instead, I headed straight into the Arabian desert, and then after my time there, I returned to my home in Damascus.  (18) And only then, after three years did I take a trip to Jerusalem for a chat with Peter.  I stayed with him for 2 weeks, (19) and in that time I didn’t see anybody else except for Jesus’ brother James. (20) I swear to God, this is the truth. (21) Then I went to Syria and Cilicia, (22) but the churches in Judea still had no idea who I was. (23) All they knew was the rumor: “That guy who was trying to destroy the faith is now preaching it!” (24) People were grateful and amazed at what Papa had done with me.

~ John Stonecypher

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