Knowing God.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV

Paul was grateful to God for the believers in Ephesus. He was thankful to God that they had heard the word of truth, the gospel, and had believed. As a result, they had received the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee of their future inheritance of eternal salvation. And Paul gave God all the glory. But he also gave God his thanks. He thanked God for the news he had received about the believers in Ephesus regarding their faith in Christ and their love for one another. They were growing. Their relationship with Christ was maturing and the presence of the Spirit within them was bearing visible fruit. And Paul knew that it was all due to the gracious work of God in their lives. He had made it possible. He was the one who had called them and He was the one who was sanctifying them. And one day, He would be the one who would glorify them, “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14 ESV).

But Paul didn’t just express gratitude to God for all that He had done. He let his readers know that he regularly petitioned God for their ongoing spiritual well-being. And he was very specific as to what he asked God for. This was not so much a prayer as it was an outline of his how he prayed for them. It seems that Paul wanted them to know just exactly what he viewed as necessary and of highest priority for their spiritual health. The first thing He asked God to do for them is quite revealing.

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him… – Ephesians 1:17 ESV

Here Paul is asking God to give the believers in Ephesus the capacity to know Him better. God, the transcendent, holy, unapproachable God of the universe has chosen to make Himself known to men. Had God not chosen to reveal Himself, no man or woman would ever be able to comprehend Him or hope to have a relationship with Him. In his letter to the Romans, Paul expressed the “otherness” of God.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?” – Romans 11:33-35 ESV

Yet he told the believers in Corinth…

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. – 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 ESV

Because we have the Spirit of God living within us, we have the capacity to know the mind of God. We have been given the privilege of understanding the things of God. And it is primarily through the Word of God that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. Paul was not praying for a mere intellectual knowledge of God, but an experiential, personal and intimate understanding of who He was and all that He was doing in their lives and in the world around them.

But Paul’s prayer for a growing knowledge of God had an ulterior motive. He wanted to see their hearts enlightened. For Paul, the heart was representative of the individual’s entire inner being. He knew that as they grew to know God better, they would be radically and totally transformed from the inside out. It is as we come to know God, that we truly come to know ourselves and the world around us. A clearer and more concise understanding of God gives allows us to comprehend truth and of view the world as it really is. It is as we have our understanding enlightened that we begin to see that this world is not all there is. There is more. Much more.

that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints – Ephesians 1:18 ESV

…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe… – Ephesians 1:19 ESV

Paul wanted them to know the hope to which God had called them. He knew that they were going to experience difficulties in this life. He knew that their faith journey was going to be rough at times. So he wanted them to fully understand that God’s divine plan for them included their future glorification. He wanted them to know that God’s power was great enough and His promise reliable enough to see them through any circumstance they may encounter in this life. God’s “immeasurable greatness” was working on their behalf at all times. And just so they would know how immeasurable that greatness really way, Paul described it for them.

…according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… – Ephesians 1:19-20 ESV

The very power that raised Jesus from the dead and allowed Him to return to His rightful place at His Father’s side, is the power working on behalf of every believer. It is the power that will one day make possible our own glorification and the redemption of our bodies. What God did for Jesus, He will do for us. And He is already sanctifying us, transforming us into the likeness of His Son, day by day, through the power of His Spirit and according to His divine redemptive plan. Paul wanted his readers to know that God was in complete control. His Son was at His side and interceding on behalf of His body, the church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV

As we come to know God better, we come to trust Him more fully. We grow in our understanding of His sovereignty and His Son’s work on our behalf. We are His people. We are the temple of His Spirit. And as Peter reminds us, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV). God is at work in us. He is doing great work through us. He has great plans for us. And the better we know Him, the more we will trust Him to do what He has promised.

 

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In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV

In these verses, it is essential that we pay close attention to the personal pronouns that Paul uses. For the first time, he begins to use the references, “we” and “you.” He is referring to believers, but to two different groups of believers. This will be important to understanding the text. His use of “we” indicates that he is speaking to the converted Jews in Ephesus. He is one of them. When he refers to “you”, he is speaking to the Gentile believers in the church, the non-Jews. So when Paul writes, “In him we have obtained an inheritance,” he is talking about the Jewish people. Jesus was born a Jew. He brought His message of the Kingdom to the Jewish people first and the initial converts to Christianity were Jews. In a sermon Peter gave right after the events of Pentecost, he said to the Jewish crowd, “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:20 ESV). The Jewish disciples chosen by Jesus would be the very first converts. According to Paul, this was all predestined by God according to the counsel of His divine will. God had intended all along for the message of salvation to go to the Jews first, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12 ESV). But God had not left out the Gentiles.

He continues his letter by saying, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13 ESV). God had planned all along for the good news of Jesus Christ to begin with the Jews and then spread to the who world (the Gentiles). Jesus’ commission to His disciples, given just prior to His ascension into heaven, made it clear.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

Just prior to that occasion, Jesus had appeared to the disciples in His resurrected form and had told them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49 ESV).

Luke records in the book of Acts that Jesus gave His disciples one last command before He left them. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). And that is exactly what happened. They went to Jerusalem and they waited. And on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came, just as Jesus had promised. One of the end results of that amazing event was that the disciples were suddenly endowed with the miraculous ability to speak in languages they did not know. As a result, they were able to witness to the tens of thousands of people from all over the world who had gathered for the feast. Luke records for us exactly what happened:

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” – Acts 2:5-12 ESV

Peter preached a sermon and 3,000 individuals came to Christ that day. The church age had begun. And the message of Jesus Christ would spread all throughout the known world as these new converts returned to their home towns at the end of the celebration of Pentecost.

Luke records that after Peter had finished his sermon that day, the people “were cut to the heart” and asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 ESV). Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39 ESV). By accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, they would receive forgiveness of their sins and be made right with God. They would also receive the Holy Spirit, just as the disciples had. This was not tied to their baptism. Baptism was simply a part of their commitment to express to the world that they were aligning themselves with the cause of Christ. It was to be an outward expression of their internal transformation. But the key was that they would receive the same Holy Spirit the disciples had just received.

And Paul told the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they had been sealed by the very same Holy Spirit when they had believed. And, as a result, they could be assured of their future inheritance, just like Paul and the believing Jews in their congregation. Because the Holy Spirit “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:14 ESV). The Holy Spirit is literally a “down payment” made by God to remind us that the promises He has made to us regarding our eternity are real and reliable. God’s Spirit never leaves us. He will also never let us go. His presence within us assures us of our eternal security. He will reside within us until the day that Christ comes to get us or God calls us home. Our inheritance is assured.

Saved by God.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:4-10 ESV

These verses contain one of the most difficult and hotly debated doctrines found in the Bible. Even before the time of the Reformation in 1516, discussions concerning predestination had been typically heated and divided. There was little to no consensus on the topic because of the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the topics of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. It was Augustine of Hippo who posited the idea that the doctrine of election taught that “all saved must be predestined to salvation … before they have committed any deed of any sort” (Diarmaid MacCullough, The Reformation: A History). Men who were on the same side of the Reformation rift, like John Calvin, Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, openly discussed and debated the doctrine of predestination. But even clerics on the Catholic side had strong opinions on the topic.

In the verses above, Paul somewhat casually introduces this issue without much fanfare and with little explanation. He simply writes, “In love he [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). The Greek word translated “predestined” is προορίζω (proorizō) which means “to predetermine, decide beforehand; to foreordain, appoint beforehand” (“G4309 – proorizō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It speaks of God’s sovereign role in man’s salvation. John Stott writes, “Now everybody finds the doctrine of election difficult. ‘Didn’t I choose God?’ somebody asks indignantly; to which we must answer ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first chosen you.’ ‘Didn’t I decide for Christ?’ asks somebody else; to which we must reply ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first decided for you’” (John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 26). In Paul’s redemptive theology, mankind is in a terrible, irreconcilable state: dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), imprisoned under sin (Galatians 3:22), incapable of understanding God or seeking Him (Romans 3:11), incapable of doing anything good (Romans 3:11), and devoid of any righteousness (Romans 3:10).

The blind are incapable of seeing the light. The dead are unable to choose life. The deaf cannot hear the good news. Just as Jesus had to call Lazarus from the grave and give him the life he needed to obey Jesus’ command, so must the sinner be given new life (regeneration) by God in order that he might see the beauty of the gift being offered to him and accept it. Yes, as Dr. Stott so aptly put it, we do decide for Christ, but only after the Spirit of God has awakened us from death and given us the capacity to hear the good news and receive it.

Earlier in verse four, Paul had written, “he [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” The word, “chose” is the Greek word ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai), which means “to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self” (“G1586 – eklegomai – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). God, in His divine will, has chosen to redeem some out of all those who have been condemned to eternal separation from Him because of their sin and rebellion against Him. Had God, in His grace and mercy, intervened and promised the coming Messiah as the answer to mankind’s sin problem, no one would have been saved. Adam’s sin condemned all mankind and left them in a helpless, hopeless state, unable to save themselves from the inevitability of their future condemnation. All were condemned because of their sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Men don’t suddenly wake up, see their sin and understand that they need a Savior. They must have their eyes opened by God. It is God who gives the spiritually dead life, the spiritually blind sight, and the spiritually deaf the capacity to hear for the first time in their life. Salvation is the work of God, from start to finish. Jesus claimed, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). Later on in that same chapter, John records Jesus as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV).

Paul’s point is not to negate the role of man in his own salvation. We must believe. We must accept. We must turn from our own sin and to the saving work of Jesus Christ. But every aspect of that process is made possible by God Himself. He “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 4:4 ESV). And He chose us to “be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 4:4 ESV). He “predestined us for adoption as Sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” – not ours. (Ephesians 4:5 ESV). It is all due to the “praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 4:6 ESV). It is in Christ that we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of our sins. He is the one who has made known the mystery of His will. God is the one who has lavished His grace on us.

Salvation is a wonderful gift, provided by God for sinful men. There is not a man or woman who has ever lived who has deserved to be saved or who has ever had the capacity to save themselves. Paul paints a very bleak picture when he writes, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV). And yet, Paul reminds us of the good news: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). God’s sovereignty and man’s free will continues to be a paradox that is difficult for us to comprehend. ““It [election] involves a paradox that the New Testament does not seek to resolve, and that our finite minds cannot fathom. Paul emphasizes both the sovereign purpose of God and man’s free will” (Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, p. 46).

 

Chosen by God.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. – Ephesians 1:1-4 ESV

It is thought that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written between A.D. 60-62 while he was under house arrest in Rome. The book of Acts records that Paul had been to Ephesus and had spent at least three years there ministering and spreading the gospel throughout Asia Minor. It was while Paul was in Ephesus, that his presence caused a great deal of concern among the silversmiths who made their living by fashioning idols for the worship of Artemis, their god. It seems that Paul’s success in sharing the gospel had caused a dip in sales and had put a dent in the income of the local silversmiths. Demetrius, a silversmith, decided to do something about Paul and his message. He gathered all the tradesmen together and made an inflammatory speech designed to turn them all against Paul.

Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship” – Acts 19:25-27 ESV

Demetrius’ words whipped the crowd into a frenzy and almost resulted in a riot. But the authorities were able to calm the crowd and Paul managed to leave the town safely. But he never lost his love for the people of Ephesus or his concern for the local congregation there. So while under house arrest in Rome, he composed this letter as a means of encouraging them to continue in their love for God and one another. He seemed most concerned about the unity of the church. Like most of the newly formed congregations during that day, there was a unique blend of converted Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen, wealthy and poor, and educated and uneducated. This strange amalgam of individuals from all walks of life put a tremendous strain on the unity of the church. Paul was writing to call them to live in unity and to display holiness through their individual, as well as their corporate lives.

Paul describes himself as an apostle, a “sent one.” He had been sent by Jesus Himself to share the good news of salvation to the Gentiles. What he had done in Ephesus had been based on his commission from Jesus and according to the will of God. He was simply the messenger.

He addressed his audience as saints. He wanted them to remember that they had been consecrated or set apart by God for His service. By placing their faith in Jesus as their Savior, they had become the possession of God. They belonged to Him and were to live their lives in submission to His will and according to His Spirit whom He had placed within them. Paul reminds them that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3 ESV). Paul’s emphasis in this verse is extremely important to understand. He states that God has already blessed us. He refers to it in the past tense. God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing, and the important thing to note is that those blessings find their source “in the heavenly places.” Paul is going to expand on that thought in the following verses, but it would appear that he is attempting to get his audience to understand that they have already been blessed beyond measure and the greatest aspect of their blessing from God is the salvation and justification they had received as a result of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul reminds them that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). Their salvation was not happenstance or blind luck. It was not even their decision. Paul tells them that God chose them, elected them for salvation, long before He even created the world. And Paul will expand on that thought in the verses to come. Salvation was God’s idea, not man’s. The idea that fallen man would choose to have a relationship with a holy God goes against all that we read in the Scriptures. Ever since the fall, mankind has been on a trajectory away from God, not toward Him. The farther man got from the garden, the more hazy his memory of God became. Men stopped seeking the one true God and began replacing Him with gods of their own making. Paul describes this downward trajectory quite well in his letter to the Romans: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23 ESV). Paul goes on to quote from the Old Testament to drive home his point: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV).

Paul wants his readers to comprehend the incredible significance of the fact that God chose them. He made their salvation possible. He is the one who justified them through His Son’s death on the cross. And His choosing of them was not just so that they might escape death and eternal condemnation, but that they might live holy lives. Paul drives home the point that “he chose us in him … that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). God has an unwavering expectation for every believer to live holy and blameless because He has equipped them to be able to do so. Our holiness and blamelessness doesn’t start when we get to heaven. It begins here and now as we live as followers of Christ in this fallen world. We are saints, set apart ones, who belong to God and who are empowered by the Spirit of God to live as lights in a very dark world. We have been chosen by God to reflect His glory and to share His message of grace to all those we meet. As Paul told the Philippian believers: “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:15 NLT).

An Unpopular, Yet Unwavering Message.

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. – Galatians 6:11-18 ESV

The fear of man. It has always been a real-life, everyday problem for believers and non-believers alike. Everyone fears being rejected, disliked, misunderstood or mistreated for their views. Our deep-seated desire for attention and affection sometimes drives us to do and say things that go against what we believe. We don’t want to be the odd man out. Peer pressure is a powerful force in every person’s life, and Paul knew that. He was fully aware that following Christ put a target on the back of every believer. Bearing the cross of Christ was a costly endeavor that often brings His followers rejection and ridicule. Paul had experienced this first-hand. But as he closed out his letter to the Galatian believers, he pointed out that the party of the circumcision, those individual who were demanding that all Gentile converts undergo the Jewish rite of circumcision in order to validate their salvation, were doing so out of fear of man. These Judaizers, Jews who confessed to be followers of Christ, were preaching their message out of fear of rejection by their fellow Jews. They also feared being persecuted and ridiculed for putting all their hope and faith in the cross of Christ alone. To do so would require them to reject their dependence upon the law and their reliance upon their own self-effort to justify themselves before God.

But Paul pointed out the absurdity of their logic. “Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.” (Galatians 6:12-13 NLT). They cared more about what others thought of them than they did what God would think about their actions. This was man-pleasing at its ugliest. Paul knew that their message had a deadly side-effect to it that would lead people away from the saving knowledge of faith in Christ alone. For Paul, the message of salvation was found in Christ alone by faith alone. It had nothing to do with works or human effort. It could not be earned. It was a grace gift provided by God Almighty Himself. Which is why Paul appended to the end of his letter, in his own weak and scrawling hand, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14 ESV). Paul wasn’t going to boast about his Hebrew heritage; his resume as a Pharisee; his education under Gamaliel, the great Hebrew rabbi; or even his missionary exploits. At one point he confessed, “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me – and not without results” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NLT).  Paul had been transformed by the saving work of Jesus Christ. His efforts on behalf of the gospel were the result of the Spirit within him, not himself.

The primary issue threatening the Galatians believers was that of circumcision. But Paul said, “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation by faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:15 NLT). This rule or principle, regarding the efficacy of the gospel, was one that would bring peace and mercy to all who lived by it. Giving in to the false message of the Judaizers would result in guilt, shame, and a never-ending attempt to win favor with God through self-effort. Paul found that choice appalling. He also wanted his readers to know that he was anything but a man-pleaser. He had suffered greatly in his effort to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. He had the physical and emotional scars to prove it. He closed his letter with the words, “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus” (Galatians 6:17 NLT).

The message of faith in Christ is a difficult one for people to understand and even harder to accept. It sounds absurd. The story of God taking on human flesh, dying on a cross and being raised from the dead sound crazy to most who hear it. Yet for Paul, it was the truth because he had seen it transform his life and the lives of thousands of others. The gospel was not just a message, but a powerful force for change in the world in which he lived. He believed in it wholeheartedly and preached it unapologetically. As he told the believers in Rome, living under the persecution of the Roman government, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16 ESV). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he believed in the power of the gospel. He was willing to suffer ridicule and rejection at the hands of men because he had placed his hope and trust in the promises of God. And he wanted every believer in Christ to know the joy of living with their faith placed firmly in the saving work of Jesus Christ and the future redemption promised to them by God. Their hope was never to waver from the simple message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

 

The Season For Fruit.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Galatians 6:6-10 ESV

For the apostle Paul, the body of Christ was to operate in a spirit of mutual love and reciprocity. There was no place for selfishness or a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. The model Christ had left us was one of selfless sacrifice and love for others. Paul has already talked about coming alongside a fellow believer who has been caught up in sin. He has encouraged they pursue restoration, rather than practice exclusion. No one was to see themselves as somehow better than anyone else. The Christian life was to be marked by a sense of interdependence and a desire to put the needs of others ahead of your own.

God has equipped the body of Christ to care for itself. In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul wrote, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV). There are roles and responsibilities within the church that are designed to provide for the well-being of those who make up that local fellowship. Paul says that those who received the word of God should be willing to share what they have with those have taught them. In that day and age, those who served as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, often did so without any form of financial remuneration. Some even became itinerant teachers, traveling from city to city, in order to minister the word of God to the local congregations located in those places. Paul, as one such individual, encouraged believers to provide for the needs of these people.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul elaborated on the common expectation among believers to care for those who taught them:

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? – 1 Corinthians 9:4-7 ESV

Paul went on to ask them the question, “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:11 ESV). Even though Paul claimed to have never demanded this God-given right to provision from the churches he ministered to, he said, “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14 ESV).

For Paul, this all seemed to boil down to unique, God-ordained nature of the body of Christ. There was to be no lack, no need unmet. God would provide teachers to proclaim the Word, and bless the listeners so they could meet the needs of the teachers. But Paul also knew there was always the temptation to sow to the flesh, or to give in to the natural inclinations of our sin natures. It would have been easy for some to see the prophets, evangelists and teachers as lazy, because they “refused” to work. Others could have taken the approach of what is mine, is mine. In some of these communities, people had a hard enough time just making ends meet. The thought of having to give away your money or food to someone else went against the grain. But Paul encouraged them to “not grow weary of doing good” (Galatians 6:9 ESV). Man’s sin nature will always encourage selfishness and self-centeredness. Isolation and independence are normal human inclinations. But Paul knew that the success of the church was dependent upon its members sowing to the Spirit. In other words, they were to invest their time, energy and talents into those things the Spirit was directing them to do. If they did, they would reap the kind of fruit only the Spirit can produce: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Living according to the Spirit is unnatural. It is a supernatural, divine enablement that is in direct conflict with our old natures. There is a part of us that will not want to obey what the Spirit tells us to do. We won’t want to give. We won’t want to share with others. Our natural inclination is not to share or to the needs of others ahead of our own. But Paul tells us, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV). As long as we live on this planet, we will have opportunities to do good. It is in the here and now that our generosity, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control are needed. There will be no need for patience in heaven. There will be no one who has unmet needs. There will be no sin, so it will be unnecessary for us to respond to hatred with love, harsh words with words of kindness, anger with gentleness, or temptation with self-control. But as long as the Lord delays His return and we remain in this life, we will have untold opportunities to live out our faith and display the fruit of the Spirit for the benefit of all those around us. Now is the season for fruit. Now is the time to live in the power of the Spirit. Today is the day to make a difference in the lives of others as we live in dependence upon God and in mutual reliance upon one another.

We Don’t Grow Alone.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. – Galatians 6:1-5 ESV

The two extremes of legalism and license both tend to encourage lifestyles of self-centeredness and selfishness. Law-keeping becomes a competition, where we compare our “spirituality” with others. The measure of our worthiness becomes a somewhat subjective determination based on our success compared to that of others. A lifestyle of license is inherently self-absorbed, where the individual’s wants and desires come first and others become tools or pawns to get what you want. Legalism and license are both flesh-based and produce harmful and hateful outcomes.

Yet Paul wants his readers to know that a life based on the power of the indwelling Spirit of God is something different altogether. It produces fruit that is beneficial to all those around us. It is anything but self-centered and self-absorbed. An apple tree does not produce fruit for itself. It is for the benefit of others. And in the same way, the Christian’s life is to be lived selflessly, focused on meeting the needs of those around them, including other believers as well as the lost. And Paul provides a practical, everyday life example. He describes a situation where a fellow believer is overcome by some sin. The word Paul used to describe this individual’s situation refers to someone being overtaken or surprised by sin. It would be like a slower runner suddenly being overtaken or caught by a much faster runner. The idea is of a believer’s sin suddenly catching up with him. He didn’t see it coming. Rather than being premeditated and planned, it caught him completely by surprise. This is not describing someone dealing with an ongoing, unrepentant sin issue, but an individual who suddenly and unexpectedly sins. In a case like that, we are to “restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” There is a humility and tenderness that must accompany our confrontation. Pride has no place in a situation like this. Exposing the other believer’s failure should produce no joy or create any sense of self-satisfaction in us. We are not the holier Christian confronting the less-spiritual brother in Christ. When Paul says, “you who are spiritual,” he is simply referring to someone who has the Spirit living within them. The Greek word he uses is πνευματικός (pneumatikos) and it refers to “one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God” (“G4152 – pneumatikos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible).

Those who are living according to the Holy Spirit within them will naturally care about those around them. They will have a supernatural sensitivity to the spiritual condition of their fellow believers and a Spirit-led desire to get involved in their lives. If we see a fellow believer suddenly caught up in sin, we are to loving lead them back on to the right path. The confrontation is to be done lovingly and constructively. The goal is repentance and restoration. But Paul warns us to be cautious and careful, “lest you too be tempted.” This is a reminder to not forget our own sin natures and susceptibility to falling into the same trap. It was John Bradford who said, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” That needs to be our approach when coming alongside a struggling brother or sister in Christ.

Paul tells us that if we share one another’s burdens, we are fulfilling the law of Christ. Paul most likely is referring to the words of Jesus when He described the greatest commandment as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV). Christianity is not about a lengthy list of dos and dont’s. It is also not about a lifestyle of self-absorbed freedom to do what you want. It is about loving God and loving others. It is about living in the grace of God and extending that same grace to all those around you. We are fools if we think we are somehow better than someone else. Our right standing before God is due to His Son’s work on our behalf, not our own self-effort. We have no right to think ourselves better than another human being. If we do, we are self-deceived. Christianity is not about comparison or competition. It is not about how spiritual I am compared with another believer. I am not to compare my sin with anyone else. As a believer, I am called to examine my own life, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to show me my sin. If I do so, I will find I have no reason to boast or be prideful. But if I look for others to compare myself with, I can always find someone who appears to be a worse sinner than I am, and that ultimately leads to pride. Each of us is responsible for our own sin. It is not a competition. But we have a God-given responsibility to come alongside one another and encourage godliness. Christianity is a community activity. It is a team sport. We don’t grow alone. Which is why Paul told the believers in Thessalonica, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).

Good Fruit.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. – Galatians 5:22-26 ESV

When we live according to or under the control of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to worry about producing the works of the flesh. His power can only produce good fruit, those characteristics and manifestations that align with God’s will and reflect godliness. Living dependent upon and in obedience to the Holy Spirit never results in legalism and license, the two dangers facing the believers in Galatia.  And yet, like them, we can find it so easy to live according to our own sinful nature and end up trying to work our way into God’s good graces or taking advantage of His grace by living in sin and expecting Him to simply forgive and forget.

When we live according to our sinful nature, the outcome is always destructive, not constructive. Driven by selfishness and pride, we make ourselves the highest priority and end up using and at times, abusing others. We tend view others as competition. We struggle with envy and jealousy, anger and distrust. People become tools to get what we want and to satisfy our own self-centered agendas. Our sinful flesh has no love for God or others. It only loves self. Unknowingly, we become our own god, expecting the world to revolve around our wants, needs and desires.

But when we live in willful submission to the Spirit of God, we find ourselves with a supernatural capacity to live in love with God and in harmony with others. We suddenly want what He wants. We see others as more important than ourselves. We look for opportunities to extend grace and express love. The fruit produced in our lives becomes other-oriented instead of self-centered. It becomes uplifting and edifying, meeting the needs of others rather than feeding the insatiable appetite of self. What the Holy Spirit produces in us and through us is fully pleasing to God and there is no law prohibiting its presence in our lives. Yet the works of the flesh, the bad fruit our sin nature produces, are all in contradiction to the will of God and are specifically prohibited by the law of God. When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are free from the law, because our lives produce fruit that is free from condemnation. Paul elaborated on this very thought in his letter to the Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4 ESV

Paul encouraged the Galatians to live by the Spirit – to live under His control. They could either live according to, under the influence of, their old sin nature or the Spirit. And he wanted them to remember that those “who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there” (Galatians 5:24 ESV). Those sinful passions and desires, while not gone, no longer have to control us. We have an alternative resource – the Holy Spirit. Again, Paul told the Romans, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6 ESV). If we try to live according to the law, we are depending upon the flesh again. If we assume that we can practice license, doing whatever we want, because we are guaranteed eternal life, then we are allowing the flesh to control our lives. And the end result of both legalism and license is death. Our lives will be characterized by rotten fruit that does no one any good. But if we set our mind on the Spirit and His will for us, our lives will be characterized by life and peace, fruitfulness and selflessness, and a love for God that finds expression in our love for others.

Paul gives the Galatians an important insight into living according to the Spirit. “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:25 ESV). No compartmentalization. No hidden areas. The Holy Spirit wants to influence and infiltrate every area of our lives. He wants to control every aspect of our character, eliminating the vestiges of our old nature and replacing it with the nature of Christ. And it will show up in the form of fruit that is God-produced and edifying to everyone around us: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do – He has provided a way for sinful men and women to live lives characterized the fruit of righteousness. His Spirit within us is the key to seeing His righteousness flow out of us. The Spirit of God is the means by which we live as children of God.

Bad Fruit.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.– Galatians 5:13-21 ESV

One of the accusations the party of the circumcision leveled against Paul and his message of grace and freedom from the law was that it produced license. They most certainly used the teachings of Paul against him at this point. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20 ESV). And yet, Paul went on to say, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 ESV). Grace was not a license to sin. The freedom it provided from the Mosaic law was not ticket to live as we pleased. It freed us from having to keep the law in order to earn favor with God. The law held us captive to our sin and in bondage to our own weakness to do anything about it. But the salvation offered in Christ set us free. It was William Barclay who wrote, “the Christian is not the man who has become free to sin, but the man, who, by the grace of God, has become free not to sin.”

That is why Paul warned his readers to not use their freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Their new-found freedom from having to keep the law did not mean they were free from having to live in keeping with the law. At one point in His ministry, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of God was. He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV). Paul used these very words of Jesus to admonish his readers. Loving God meant living according to His holy will. Loving others required loving them selflessly and sacrificially, which is why Paul said, “through love serve one another.”

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul provided an entire chapter on the subject of love. In it he wrote, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG).

But this kind of love is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Without His help and our reliance upon His power, we will tend to live in the power of our own sinful flesh. We will become selfish and self-centered. We will tend to gratify the desires of our old nature, which Paul describes with painful accuracy. These fleshly desires are the exact opposite of what the Spirit wants to produce in us. They are counter to the will of God and reflect a love for self more than a love for Him. They most certainly don’t model a love for others. Look at Paul’s list: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, and wild parties. Each of these “works of the flesh” reveal a disdain for God and a dislike for those around us.

The moral, ceremonial and civil sections of the Mosaic law were designed to regulate the lives of the people of Israel regarding their relationships with God and with one another. But as Jesus said, all of the commandments could be summed up by two simple commands: Love God and love others. Loving God meant not loving other gods. Loving others meant not becoming jealous of them, getting angry with them, lusting after them, or taking advantage of them. Notice that his list has more to do with our relationships with one another than our relationship with God. There is a reason for this. The apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20 ESV). The greatest expression of our love for God is to be found in our love for those whom He has made. When we love one another, we are loving God. When we live selflessly and sacrificially, we are exemplifying the very character of God. When our lives are marked by self-control and a focus on the needs of others, we reflect the nature of God. But all of these things are only possible when we live according to the power of God’s indwelling Spirit.

A life continually characterized by the works of the flesh is a life devoid of the Spirit of God. Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have received the Spirit of God. They are no longer slaves to sin, incapable of living righteous lives. They have been given the Holy Spirit and have the power to love God and love others. That’s why Paul told the Romans, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all)” (Romans 8:9 NLT). The presence of the Spirit within us does not guarantee that we will live sinless lives, but it does mean that we don’t have to live sin-dominated lives. Living according to our own sinful flesh will always produce bad fruit. But living according to the Spirit of God produces good fruit that pleases God and blesses others.

 

No Other Gospel.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! – Galatians 5:7-12 ESV

Paul took this issue very seriously. As far as he was concerned, it had little to do with the rite of circumcision itself, but it had everything to do with the integrity of the gospel. God had sent His Son as the one and only means for mankind’s salvation. His sacrificial death on the cross was God’s sole solution to man’s sin problem. The law was never intended by God to save men, but to condemn them of their sins. The law revealed the holiness and righteousness that God demanded in a non-negotiable, hand-written form. It left no grey areas or anything up to man’s imagination. But man, in his sinful condition, was totally incapable of keeping the law. And this was no surprise to God. He had intended all along to send His Son in human form, in order that He might keep the law and become the sinless substitute and unblemished sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died on behalf of sinful men, and His death provided the only means by which men might be restored to a right relationship with God. Paul wrote to the Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:23-25 ESV).

Anything and anyone that interfered with that message was considered an enemy by Paul. He didn’t suffer false teachers lightly. He would not tolerate those who preached a different version of God’s gospel. That is why he started out this letter to the Galatians with very strong words concerning those who were amending the gospel of God.

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—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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. 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. – Galatians 1:6-9 ESV

In today’s passage, Paul commends his readers for running the race well, but then accuses them of allowing others to knock them off course. They had accepted Christ by faith and were living the Christian life in faith, but then had run into an obstacle along the way. The Greek word Paul used was ἀνακόπτω (anakoptō) and it refers to something having its progress hindered, held back or checked in some way. The Judaizers, who were demanding that the Gentile converts in Galatia be circumcised, were actually hindering them from obeying the truth as found in the gospel. They were adding unnecessary requirements. And Paul made it clear that his new rules were not from God. “This persuasion is not from him who calls you” (Galatians 5:8 ESV). And the real danger of this kind of teaching was that it would soon permeate every aspect of their faith, causing them to walk away from the grace offered by God and back into the legalism of the law. Which is what Paul seems to be saying when he writes, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” This kind of false teaching would become like an uncontrolled cancer spreading through the church in Galatia and robbing them of the freedom they had found in Christ.

But Paul expressed his confidence that the Galatian believers would reject this false teaching and remain faithful to the life of faith.And he assured them that, regardless of what others might have said, he was not a proponent of circumcision. Yes, he had encouraged Timothy to be circumcised, but that was a different case altogether. Timothy, a young disciple of Paul’s, had a Jewish mother who had become a believer, but his father was Greek. In the book of Acts we read, “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3 ESV). It had nothing to do with Timothy’s salvation, but with his ministry to the Jews. Paul knew that they would never listen to an uncircumcised Gentile, so he encouraged Timothy to undergo circumcision to make him acceptable to the Jews and provide him a platform to share the gospel with them.

Evidently, the false teachers in Galatia had been saying that Paul was also a proponent of circumcision, most likely using the story of Timothy as evidence. But Paul denies that charge and asks why he is still being persecuted by the Judaizers if they are all on the same page. No, Paul was adamantly opposed to these men and he made his position clear. For Paul, the very nature of the cross was an offense to the legalists. Jesus’ death had removed any vestige of self-righteousness or the possibility of justification by works. The cross symbolized Jesus’ once-for-all-time payment for the sins of mankind. Nothing more was necessary. But for the legalists, this party of the circumcision, the cross was not enough. So Paul had some harsh words for them. He compared them the pagan priests who practiced ritual castration as part of their worship, and he wished that they would do the same to themselves. Paul was not necessarily wishing physical harm on these individuals, but was really expressing his desire that they be cut off from the local fellowship of believers. He saw them as a real danger to the spiritual health of the church. In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul had similarly harsh words regarding these men”

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. – Philippians 3:2-3 ESV

In our desire to be tolerant, we sometimes run the risk of allowing dangerously false doctrines to infiltrate the church. But when it came to the doctrine of salvation, Paul was anything but tolerant. He would not accept alternative views. He would not abide by those who offered a different gospel. For Paul, there was only one means of salvation and it was by faith alone in Christ alone. And if anyone preached a different gospel, Paul called them out. And we should do the same. It is NOT true that all roads lead to the top of the mountain. It is false to believe that there are other ways for men to be made right with God. Jesus Himself said,  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV).