Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 2. Paul continues his tirade against the “gospel” of the Judaizers which has been fully embraced by the church at Galatia.
The key to understanding Chapter Two — and the key to the entire book of Galatians, and even the very message of the gospel — is the last half of Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”
Think about that: If we can do anything to add to our salvation, then Jesus didn’t have to die. Every time that we think we can add to Jesus’ once-for-all, sufficient sacrifice, we are telling Jesus that He wasted his death and we think our efforts mean more to God than Jesus’ accomplishment on the cross.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can make God happier with you than He already is by doing — or not doing — something. In dying for you, Jesus met every requirement for you to be fully justified as you stand before God on judgment day.
That’s good news! That’s the gospel!
Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 1. Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to counter a dangerous theology that added to Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.
A group of Judaizers (not just “Jews”) said that Jesus’ death was sufficient for our forgiveness, but in order to be a good Christian, you have to be a good Jew, obeying the Old Testament Law, including the rite of circumcision. Paul was quite vocal in his response.
I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling 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 what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! Galatians 1:6–8 (CSB)
I’m glad that the Christian Standard Bible brings out the differences in Paul’s word choices that some other translations gloss over. By using the words different and another, the CSB points out that the gospel preached by these Judaizers is not just a little different from the gospel that Paul (and the other apostles) preached. The gospel they preached isn’t just an additional gospel than what Paul and the apostles preached. The Judaizers’ gospel is an entirely different gospel. It has
If you are a believer, a true child of God, you don’t have to add to your salvation (as if you really could!). Jesus accomplished everything necessary to make you righteous in God’s eyes. Because of what Jesus did, your salvation has been fully secured. You don’t have to — and you cannot — add to what He has done to make God any happier with you than He already is!
Sure, with being a child of God, there are commands in Scripture that still apply, but you can obey with a completely clear conscience and obey since you already have a relationship with your Father — as opposed to obey in order to have or maintain a relationship with Him.
That’s good news! That’s the gospel!
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for,
the proof of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 CSB)
I have often said that as we read the Bible, we should pay attention to repeated words and phrases because they show common themes in a sentence, paragraph, and book. In today’s Bible reading, “by faith” occurs 22 times in the 40 verses of Hebrews 11. I think it’s safe to say that “by faith” is the big idea of that chapter.
The writer cites examples of Old Testament saints who lived by faith in something they never got to see. They had no proof of what they believed. But they believed anyway.
You may be familiar with “Doubting Thomas”, a disciple who said that he wouldn’t believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead unless he saw Jesus and could put his finger in Jesus’ pierced hands, feet, and side. We could paraphrase his statement as, “Seeing is believing.”
But when he encountered his risen Savior, all he could say was, “My Lord and God.” (John 20:28) Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)
Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke Thomas for his unbelief without seeing; instead, He praised him for his belief. And He added that those who don’t require visual evidence are blessed.
Someone said that there is more evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus than for most other events in not-recent human history. I like the fact that in the New Testament, we have corroborating eyewitness accounts. The Bible story actually happened in real time and in real space. The Resurrection really happened. Paul even says that after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Imagine how long that would take to hear from five hundred witnesses in a court trial!
The Old Testament saints believed without seeing. We get to believe with seeing evidence. For Thomas, “seeing is believing.” But for those who lived by faith, “believing is seeing.”
Sometimes today, we can be so shortsighted. Even with the evidence for the Resurrection, we must remember Paul’s comment, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)
Walking by faith isn’t always easy. Jesus never promised it would be. But living by faith is the life we live.
In yesterday’s devotional based on our Bible reading, I talked about how the High Priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Today’s Bible reading continues that idea.
The writer says that,
“Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to
come,and not the reality itself of those things, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, purified once and for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in the sacrificesthere is a reminder of sins year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1–4 CSB)
Every day, the priests offered sacrifices in addition to the annual sacrifice. The writer adds,
“Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11–12 CSB)
The old covenant sacrificial system only a shadow of the real spiritual reality. Therefore, it is inferior to the once-for-all sacrifice under the new covenant. Every day, priests would stand up to offer sacrifices, but Jesus stood up once, offered His own blood and then He sat down.
Today, we might say that this was a “mic drop” moment. Or we could say that when Jesus offered His blood, He said emphatically, “Game Over”!
Under the new covenant, you don’t need to go to a priest to have your sins forgiven. You don’t need to bring a spotless, perfect lamb to someone else who is authorized to make the sacrifice. The sacrifice has already been made by the perfect High Priest, Who also happens to be the perfect Lamb, Who offered His own blood in the Most Holy Place in the presence of God the Father.
His sacrifice was sufficient. Forgiveness is complete. The perfect High Priest sat down, never again to stand up to sacrifice anything else.
In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 9, the writer says that the ministry under the new covenant ministry is better than the ministry under the old covenant.
Under the old covenant in the Tabernacle — and later in the Temple — the ordinary priests could enter the Holy Place to do their ministry, but ordinary men couldn’t go there. The High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place (the “Holy of Holies”), but ordinary priests couldn’t go there. And the High Priest could only enter the Most Holy Place once a year, on the Day of atonement. He had to do this every year. The writer says that Jesus’ blood was so much more effective than the blood of goats and bulls in cleansing the conscience of God’s people. (Hebrews 9:13–14). (More on this tomorrow)
Imagine feeling the guilt of committing a sin, knowing that it couldn’t be covered by a sacrifice for 364 days. Imagine carrying the conviction for that sin and every other sin you commit multiple times each day for an entire year. That’s a lot of guilt.
Next, imagine the feeling on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest emerges from the Most Holy Place. All that guilt from all those sins you committed for the past 365 days was covered… in an instant!
Ministry under the new covenant is so much better! No longer do God’s people have to look forward to a day when their sins could be dealt with. Now, we can look back, knowing that our sins have been covered — all of our sins, once for all time — by Jesus’ blood. What a relief!
If you are a believer, you don’t even have to worry if a sin you committed a moment ago is covered. It was already covered almost 2000 years ago, long before the Holy Spirit even convicted you of that sin and you asked for forgiveness!