Bible in a Year, Week 8: Galatians, Ephesians

This is the eighth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is Galatians and Ephesians. It should only take about 5 minutes a day, or about 1-2 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Galatians and Ephesians:

Background: There is no doubt that the apostle Paul wrote Galatians. To whom and when, however, are debatable. The problem is in whom you classify as Galatians. There were the Galatian people who lived in the northern part of Asia Minor. But the whole area was called the Province of Galatia by the Romans. Whomever the recipients were affects the date that Paul wrote the letter. Paul did not travel to the northern part of Asia Minor until later on. But he visit the Roman province of Galatia right away. We will go with the theory that he was writing to people in the south, which would put the date of the letter around 52 A.D. The purpose of the letter was to abruptly confront these people who seemed to be abandoning the truth of the gospel and instead returning to the laws of Moses as the way of salvation. God grant that as we read this we clearly hear and understand the truth of our Savior who has set us free!

Galatians 1: Paul begins this letter in standard fashion.  The typical patter was: 1) Identify the author, 2) Identify the audience, 3) Share a greeting/blessing. However, after that Paul gets right down to business. Often he begins his letters with some words of thanks or praise for the congregation. Here he immediately reprimands the Galatians for deserting the truth of the gospel–the good news that Jesus is Savior from sin freely and fully. It astonished Paul that they so quickly turned away from this good news which he had preached.

Thus Paul reminds the Galatians that he didn’t make up the message he shared with them. God called him to share this message. Paul had been living a zealous Jewish life, a life that was filled with sinful hate and persecution. But the Lord turned his life around by revealing himself as Savior.

Galatians 2: Paul further establishes his apostolic calling in chapter 2. He reports that when he was ready to begin his mission work he was fully accepted by the other apostles. In fact, Paul even had to reprimand Peter from veering from the truth. Righteousness does not come to the Jews alone or by following Jewish laws or by doing any good works. If so, Christ’s work would have been foolish and futile. But rather, righteousness comes alone through his perfect life and innocent suffering and death.

Galatians 3: These thoughts are expounded in chapter 3. Again, salvation does not come by observance of the law. That is impossible. Gods’ law–his holy demands and decrees–only point out the fact that we are sinners and cannot keep his commands at all! Just as with Abraham, righteousness comes to us through our faith. (It is important to note that it comes to us through our faith in Christ and not because of our faith in Christ!)

Galatians 4: Therefore, race, culture, gender, and age do not matter! All of us our sons and daughters of God through our faith in Jesus. God sent his Son to this world at just the right time so that he could redeem us of our sins and make us God’s own children and heirs of eternal life!

Because of this great, free gift of the Lord Paul earnestly pleads with the Galatians not to leave the truth. Why would they want to be enslaved by the laws of the Lord again? If they want to live by the law then they have to save themselves by the law. But that is impossible to do! Which would they rather be like? The slave-woman Hagar or the woman of the promise, Sarah?

Galatians 5: Thus, Paul encourages them to stand firm in the freedom that Christ has won. They should not veer off course in the race they are running. Instead, they should continue to live in the freedom of Christ and live according to their new life in the Holy Spirit. He helps all believers to produce fruits of faith are in step with what God wants!

Galatians 6: In conclusion Paul urges the Galatians to be on their guard not to become conceited. God cannot be fooled or mocked. They can’t slip anything by him. Thus, they should continue to live by faith and not according to the laws of the Lord. Only in Jesus Christ, our gracious Savior from sin, could they boast and be proud. God grant us the joy and confidence to boast in our Savior as well!

Background: Paul founded the congregation at Ephesus on his second missionary journey. Over the years he spent a significant amount of time there. The leaders of the church became very dear to him. The city of Ephesus itself was a larger city of influence in Asia Minor. Later it became a center for Christianity where perhaps John the Apostle became bishop of the church. It appears that Paul wrote this letter around 61 A.D. while he was under house arrest in Rome. Its content parallels Colossians in many ways as it stresses the divinity of Christ and the salvation that is ours by his grace and through faith. May God bless our reading of Ephesians so that we continue to live by faith, through which God has graciously saved us!

Ephesians 1: Just like Galatians, Paul begins this letter with author, audience, and greeting. This letter though begins with a much more loving and joyous tone. Paul gives all praise to God who revealed to believers the mystery of salvation. This mystery is that forgiveness is given to all through Jesus Christ who was crucified for sins. Now, Christ sits at God’s right hand as he rules and reigns over all things. To him be all glory!

Ephesians 2: Indeed, to God alone belongs all glory! For previously, we were dead in our transgressions and sins. We were born with a sinfulness and a sinful nature. Since our birth we have only sinned all the more as we have grown older. There is nothing we have done or could do to save ourselves from such sinfulness.

But God in his graced saved us through Jesus Christ. Not only that, but he also gave to us the gift of faith to believe in Jesus. It is all by grace and through faith so that no one can boast. Now, we do good works not to earn salvation but out of thanks to the Lord. In fact, he even prepares these good works in advance for us to do!

This forgiveness in Christ unites us as one in Christ. We are of the same family. We are citizens of the same heavenly city. We are joined together as if we are one building. Through Jesus we are one!

Ephesians 3: God then called Paul specifically to preach this message to the Gentiles. Salvation was not just for the Jews. It was for all people of all nations. Paul had the incredible privilege of being one to preach this good news to those Gentiles. Thus Paul concludes the chapter with a prayer for the Ephesians that they may be filled with knowledge and remain strong in the faith.

Ephesians 4: Since we have new lives in the Lord, we are to live according to these new lives. That means living lives of love that result in characteristics like humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. We are to treat one another this way because we have been united with one another in Christ. We should make every effort to keep and preserve that unity.

Ephesians 5: Living by faith and in love completely changes us. We let our lives shine. We imitate the Lord by loving one another. We submit to one another. (Note, the word submit is not a bad word here. It means to show humble love and respect).

In the same way, this life of love changes our relationships. In particular, the relationship between husband and wife is patterned after the relationship of Jesus and the church. Just as Jesus is the leader and head of believers, so the husband is the head of the wife. In response, believers show humble love and respect to Jesus and wives to their husbands.

This section has nothing to do with husbands dominating or domineering their wives. Rather, they lead like Jesus. Jesus was humble, self-sacrificing, compassionate, and loving without fail. That is how husbands are supposed to lead and treat their wives. When they fulfill their role in this God-pleasing way, how easy it is for the wife to show humble love and respect back! When husbands and wives do not follow this pattern and their roles for marriage, problems immediately ensue!

Ephesians 6: Living lives of love also changes the relationship of parents and children. Parents will treat their children with love and respect. Children will obey their parents. Also, slaves and masters–or today, workers and employees–will treat one another with mutual love and respect.

Finally, Paul encourages all believers to arm themselves with the armor of God. These spiritual weapons–such as the Word of God, truth, righteousness, and so on–will help us to overcome our great enemies. These enemies warring against our souls are the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. God grant us the power to do so and the joy-filled hearts to live a life of love by faith!

Next Week’s Readings (starting 2/27/11):  Philippians, Colossians

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

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Posted on February 23, 2011, in Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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