Posts Tagged ‘works’


Paul continues the Lord’s instructions for human relationships in teaching on how to be a good servant.  The application is for anyone who is a subordinate of another in the context of labor or service.  Any employment given to men by men stands to benefit in regards to these commands.

The Biblical prescription for employees, servants, and subordinates in the work place?

“…obey in everything those who are your earthly masters…”

“…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Paul teaches that all requests of earthly bosses and masters are to be taken seriously.  We are to serve men in a genuine and whole-hearted way, not in a for show, pretend, lazy behind their backs way.  The reason Christians are to work in this way is because of our fear and respect for the Lord.  That way, the attitude and advocacy of the boss makes no difference regarding our job performance.  We are not working to appease unruly bosses, we are working to please the Lord.  Even when we are treated unjustly and harshly, we remember that the Lord will give us our due.

Paul reminds us that God is impartial to men and that he favors no one based on status, position, race, or ethnicity.  God is completely just and will repay each of us for the work we have done as well as the way we have done it.

Paul also tells masters, aka, leaders, bosses, CEOs, etc., that God is watching.  He warns those in authority over others that they must treat their subordinates well lest they be judged by the true Master in heaven.

If you are a servant, employee, or subordinate of someone else, work hard and obey them as if they Lord were the one commanding you.  If you are a boss, leader, master, or person with any authority over others, be fair and just dealing with your subordinates as you would have the Lord deal with you.

If the instructions on work ethics found here in Colossians were taken seriously, the vast majority of the problems seen in the work place would be eliminated.


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Philippians chapter 3 begins with the word “finally.”  Finally, to sum up all he has just instructed his beloved church from his jail cell, Paul risks redundancy for the sake of emphasis.  His uniform plea is this, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Rejoice in the Lord, not the religious works and ways others are so violently demanding from you.

Paul goes on with some repeated warnings and exhortations meant to deter false confidences gained by submission to false teachers who were infiltrating the church.  He magnifies the sole source of true confidence as Christ alone.  He insists that this is the only real reason to rejoice.  The life we live here on earth is shifting, unsafe, unjust, and unpredictable.  Though it may temporarily boost our assurance in self, mere religious piety and adherence to strict, overbearing teachers only hinders our assurance of faith.  Why?  Because we fail.

 It seems that the best way he knows to convey these truths is by telling them what does not offer confidence in the eternal – the stumbling blocks for many a pious person, if you will.

His warning begins with a call to vigilance concerning false teachers who were demanding physical acts as rites of passage into the faith.  Apparently the church in Philippi was oppressed by Judaizers and the like who would insist upon circumcision and other obediences to the Old Testament law before recognizing one into the faith.

Paul debunks these heresies by referring to “the circumcision” as those who simply “worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ, and put no confidence in the flesh.”  He taught that membership within the body of Christ was not related to fleshly acts of religious show in the least.  He cites his own weighty past profile and refers to his prestigious religious resume, in its entirety, as dung.

All he’d worked for to be recognized as a leader in the religious community.  Dung.  All he’d sacrificed to obtain power and position among the most learned Jews of his day.  Dung.  Everything he had fought with blood, sweat, tears, and study to prove that he was a pedigree person of piety.  Dung.  His point?  A righteousness that a man can obtain in self-reliance and self-sufficiency – a righteousness that he, if anyone at all, would most certainly be worthy of receiving, is not a righteousness that God accepts.  We need a righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith.  We need a righteousness that comes from God and depends on faith.  (Philippians 3:9)  With that, any other “righteousness” is not only useless and unnecessary, but contemptible to those who have been graciously given the former.  These things compete with Christ for our obedience and service which makes them repulsive.  It’s like inheriting a fortune and then being told by the bankrupt what you must do to get rich.  Absurd.

Why did Paul renounce his debonair distinctions?  Verses 9-11 tell us.

To gain Christ.  The only thing saved by works of the law is pride.  God opposes the proud.  We must throw off pride’s vices if we are sincere about obtaining a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

To be found in Him.  We cannot be found in Christ when we are lost in self-promoting works.

To have a real righteousness.  Works righteousness blocks the gate to real righteousness because it demands impossible human perfection.  Because only Christ was perfectly righteous, to project any righteousness apart from him requires pretense and falsifying our identity in place of confessing our sin and trusting in God.

To depend on faith.  Depending on self is the foolish, godless product of works righteousness.  If we cannot depend on self, we must depend on our faith in Jesus Christ.

To know Him and the power of His resurrection.  We do not feel a need to know Christ or rely on his salvation if we believe we are self-sufficient.  Therefore, we cannot know Him if we are self-reliant.

To share his sufferings and become like him in his death.  Esteemed law keepers of the world do not look, act, or get treated like Christ.  His children, on the other hand, look, act, and are treated just like he was.

To attain resurrection from the dead.  Because this is only possible when we recognize our desperate need of Christ alone – not religion alone.  Not religion plus Christ.  Christ alone.

Paul makes it crystal clear for the Philippians and for us.  Joy in all circumstances is only possible when Christ is the only card we’re playing.  When we bank on him, our righteousness and salvation is secure.  Therefore, rejoice in the Lord.  Again I say, rejoice!

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Paul has made his deep concern for the Galatians very clear.  He now goes on to offer an allegory for these men which was unmistakable, given their knowledge and background.

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.” ~Galatians 4:21-27

 In an effort to reason and help them see what they are doing, Paul questions them.  He’s like, “Hey you guys who think you want to be under the law – do ya remember what it says?  Let’s review…Remember Abraham?  Which one of his sons was from God and which one was from man?  These guys were very different weren’t they?  Hagar represents slavery.  Ishmael was a result of man’s faithless attempt to accomplish God’s will by his own effort.  Trying to keep the law to earn God’s favor is a result of the very same unbelief which brought about Ishmael.  This error results in exile, slavery, and never receives an inheritance from God.

Sarah, however, represents the promise of God.  She had no entitlement.  She had no faith.  She laughed at the very notion of God’s ability to save her from her desolation.  She neither trusted God nor obeyed him in this situation – even after the promise was made to her.  Still, God’s will prevailed despite her.  God’s will prevails to save his children despite them – not because of their own works!”

Now, Paul does something that makes theology geeks get up at 3 a.m. and worship God.  Paul applies the Old Covenant Promise to the New Covenant believers.  He takes God’s Word and he interprets it for us.  He leaves no room for error.  He says:

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. ~Galatians 4:28-31

Now, you, brothers.  You are not slaves!  You did not come by way of Hagar!  You are Issac’s brothers and sisters.  Stop regarding men who are trying to tell you otherwise and enslave you by your never-going-to-be-good-enough works.  These men are persecuting you because they are slaves; they are jealous; they are excluded by mere virtue of their lack of spiritual birth.  Cast out their ideologies!  Do not let them oppress you any longer!  Spiritual birth does not come from man’s efforts!  Spiritual birth comes from God’s promise!  We are not slaves!  We are free!

Oh! The glory of the truth!  Let no man confine God’s children to a mere game of merit and measuring up!  Let no teacher, no matter how influential, or prominent, or persuasive imprison the people of God!  We cannot be dismissed on account of our failures!!!  Brothers and sisters!  We cannot be dismissed on account of our failures!!!  Hallelujah!  We are saved on account of our faith!  This, not from ourselves, but the very gift of God alone!  We are not slaves, and even if we were, it would not save us!  No amount of morality or law keeping would ever make us righteous!  No amount!  It is our freedom that gives us a heart to obey rightly; to be godly; to love truth; to cease from rebellion.  And that freedom is found in the love bestowed upon us by Christ and his promise.  Therefore, use love to lead.  Use love to lead!  Not the wretched law!  Be like Christ and bestow love and grace in the face of failure.  And when you do, you will find that there is no need to lunge at others with the law.  They will love it, too, because of you.

This is glorious!  Glorious truth!  This is truth that makes a miserable sinner like me want to worship.  This is holy ground.  How beautiful!  How glorious!  How absolutely amazing!  Praise God!  We are not slaves.  We are children of a promise which cannot be broken!  That is what makes us obedient.  That is what gives us the confidence to go hard after God.  That is what we pour our very lives out believing.  The law is nothing more than our accuser.  It is the promise which serves as our motivator.   Amen!


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Paul expresses his deep concern for the Galatians even more plainly in chapter 4:8-20.  Note his method: he is pleading with them as a loving father and friend who is beside himself about their condition.  His opponents, on the other hand, were dealing with them as strict superiors who were ready to reject them for any fault they could find.  

Paul confronts their error by appealing again to their knowledge and inclusion in God’s kingdom.  He asks them to recall their former state.  A former state is indicative of a new, present state.  Apparently there had been a change in them.  He is telling them not to forget where they came from.  They once lived in bondage.  He questions them and makes plain the absurdity of their consideration of going back into it.  He challenges the foolishness of observing special days and certain feasts as a means of making themselves righteous.  Now, every day is holy unto the Lord because he has made them righteous already, not vise-versa.  He is clearly upset that they have forgotten the most important doctrine he had ever taught them: salvation is of the Lord.  He struggles wondering whether his ministry to them had all been in vain.  Paul is severely perturbed.  

Nevertheless, his method of dealing with this difficulty distinguishes him as a true shepherd of the church who was seeking to win souls as opposed to the hired hands who were seeking only to gain personal power and position in this situation.  Consider his choice of words:

 Brothers, I entreat you…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! ~Galatians 4:12, 19

Paul calls them his brothers and his very own children!  As his opponents were disowning them and separating themselves as superior, Paul is adhering to them and embracing them as his very own.  He makes a case built upon their former love and service toward him.  He reminds them of the bond they had in hardship and the generosity they had showed to him in his need.  How then, he asks, after all Christ had done between them, could they turn away as enemies?  Had the very truth he’d labored so diligently for become a division between them?

He warns them about the ambition of those who flatter them.  He wants them to understand that these gospel opponents only flatter to later use them for personal gain, abuse them for imperfections, and, ultimately, exclude them as inferiors.  He concludes by professing his genuine love for and pain over their condition.  Paul is as sincere as the day is long and his love is evident in his letter.  

The freedom of Christ and the preservation of the truth of the gospel is worth every awkward conversation, every uncomfortable situation, and every necessary confrontation.  Let us always remind one another of our love, their faith, and the Truth’s concern for the details.  



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After laying a foundation for justification by faith, Paul jumps into full swing regarding the errors his counterparts had made in believing otherwise.  I call this Paul’s “Don’t Be Stupid” speech.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? ~Galatians 3:1-6

In a day wherein Jesus was calling men to lay down their lives as he so willingly, humbly, and publicly did, some self-indulgent leaders were propagating just the opposite.

“Be like us!” they demanded with a heavy hand and a hard heart.  But what, truly, were they like?

Remember Paul when he was Saul?  Yeah.  They were men who loved violence.  They loved to stand by watching and approving of explicit brutality between men.  Think Jesus; Stephen.  They also loved position and authority coupled with blatant unconcern and disinterest in those they sought only to use, abuse, dominate, and rule over.  Simply put, you wouldn’t catch these guys visiting the sick or calling the downtrodden, unless, of course, it somehow benefited them.

 Little wonder why Paul indicts those who would fall for their manipulative schemes as “foolish” and “bewitched.”  One would have to be under a kind of evil delusion or deadly deception to exalt the very men whose skewed views sought to shame them with petty power plays and unaccepted principles.  Their system was nothing but a sepulcher full of godless religion; a ghetto of gangster glorification; a graveyard of worldly gain built upon greed.

Therefore, Paul was not name-calling the Galatians in his reproof.  He did, however have a serious need to draw their attention to what he was about to say.  He was merely raising his voice via parchment and pen in an effort to convey the extreme severity of the message to follow.

That message was this: Religious works are not the prerequisite of salvation – faith is.  He asks the Galatians a few no-brainers to get them there.  Notice, while his opponents were questioning and casting doubt upon these peoples’ faith and calling, Paul does just the opposite.  He appeals to their consciences by reminding them of the many evidences they had of the gift of true faith in their hearts.

Paul’s like, “Hey guys!  Aren’t you the ones who saw Jesus die on the cross?  Didn’t you receive his Holy Spirit when you believed in his resurrection?  Haven’t you suffered and endured much hardship for his sake – because you believed for better?  Were these things a result of your own law-keeping?  Do you really think you can add to what God has so completely done for you?  Do you know how absurd that is?  You’d have to be an utter fool to let some unspiritual guru come along and tell you it’s not about faith; that you do not belong to God.  You are righteous because you believe, not because you worked well enough to earn his love.  You are his.  You are justified.  You are my brothers and sisters.  Don’t you ever doubt it because of what some guys with britches too big for their own bad theology say.  In fact, you are the very sons of Abraham if you possess faith.”

Paul takes an Old Testament promise and prophesy written exclusively to the Jews and applies it directly to the New Testament Gentile believers.  Now that’s some serious inclusion if I’ve ever seen it.   When it comes to biblical interpretation, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.  So much for the Jewish pride parade.  Surprise, guys!  God has a vast people in mind for election.  Contrary to popular belief, it ain’t just for the elite religious athletes who happen to be born with the better bloodline.  

Therefore, Paul exhorts the Gentiles to repent of their Jewish-rule-keeper-instilled doubt and deception.  He wants them to learn to rejoice in their freely-given faith.  He shows them that they are indeed qualified to be the blessed children of God himself.

That’s a far cry from forcing flawless performance and denying integrated inclusion to those with different associations and unorthodox backgrounds isn’t it?  I can admire a man who loves his learners enough to remind them who they really are.  I guess Jesus isn’t into elitism or exclusivity when it comes to his grace.  Everyone is equally welcome at his table.  


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Paul’s qualification and authenticity had been called into question right along with the very gospel he was teaching. Therefore, he has just made his argument proving he is not inferior to Peter or any of the other apostles. Now, he elaborates upon that which he has already laid the foundation for in Galatia: justification by faith alone.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. ~Galatians 2:15-21

Paul contends that he himself as well as several other apostles were born Jews, as any “holy” person of the time was. They had the right parents, the right families, the right religion, and the right background for this kind of gig. They obeyed the law like good Jews – especially Paul. But, he contends, it ain’t about that, guys, it’s about Christ. Because, let me tell ya, you can obey all the religious laws and be abusing Christ in the background. Those that don’t have our background are not in any way disqualified. There is one qualification and that is faith. It doesn’t mean we scrap the law and sin however we want to. Certainly not!!! Now, we live for Christ because of love for Christ, not because of our duty to the law.

Therefore, our actions do not become less holy and more crass and unlawful. Heaven forbid we abuse grace in that way! Our actions actually become more holy and upright as we understand grace more. We don’t try to see what we can get away with or teeter on the fence holding hands with sin. Christ’s love is a much, much, much better motivator than obligatory laws! We live for him, now, not check marks on a righteousness card. He lives in us and sustains us in purity. We cannot get to him through the law. The law merely points us towards him. He comes to us by grace. Otherwise, the gospel is useless. The cross was vain. If there’s any way to be right before God aside from Christ’s blood, he died for absolutely no reason. Oh, and by the way, associating with Gentiles is not what makes a man like me unholy anyway. My own inability to keep the law is what proves me a transgressor.

Paul, in considering himself dead to the law did never consider himself above the law or without the law. Isn’t that interesting? Why?

Justification, or, being made right before God, is not a human work. It comes not by any human effort or status. Justification comes only by the faith given by grace alone. However, the evidence of genuine faith rooted in grace is not lawlessness, despite what many teachers then and many teachers now would have unlearned Christians believe.

Works are not a ticket to heaven. Grace is not a license to sin. We do not trust works as the basis of merit or justification. We do not use grace as the basis of liberty to indulge in sin. On the contrary! We trust in grace as our basis of justification and the good works we do give credence that Christ is moving us away from self-indulgence and sin and toward living a holy life for his own glory.

Paul brings these truths out beautifully in Galatians 2. In preaching justification by grace alone, he never so much as suggests that grace weakened or negated any duty he had in obeying God’s righteous moral laws. Instead, he proves how grace strengthens those obligations, crucifies and deadens us to sin, and gives even more reason for men to live holy and upright lives in Christ. Jesus did as much in the Sermon on the Mount.

There was no shortage of crass, arrogant teachers who thought themselves superior in Galatia. There’s no less of that be-better-like-us-or-else brand today either. But let’s just consider Paul’s humility as the one veritably chosen of God. He indicted himself as the transgressor. He never justified sin by thinking himself above God’s laws. He understood his own utter need for grace. His preaching wasn’t hateful, discouraging, or condescending. Never once did he communicate how much his hearers reeked or how much he didn’t. No. He was loving, encouraging, and full of grace.

Hate deters; Love motivates. Discouragement depresses; Encouragement inspires. Law imprisons; Grace changes. Let us remember what makes our feet beautiful and how we are to share this message.


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Paul makes a third argument to prove his very important point to the Galatians.  He speaks of a dispute he had with Peter in Antioch.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” ~Galatians 2:11-14

Antioch was where one of the chief churches of the Gentiles was located.  Peter had been a Jew.  He had been sent to minister primarily to the Gentiles.  Some Jewish Christians had come to visit and Peter (Cephas) decided to throw off his true convictions to save his reputation with his old buddies.  He became intimidated and afraid around these guys.  Chances are, he didn’t want to look unspiritual…because…by golly he was as spiritual as they come.  He was the Rock, remember?  He didn’t want to be judged negatively by them.  He was worried about how his old culture might perceive him if he went against their mistaken rules and practices.  He cared a little…no a lot too much what these guys thought.  He was putting on a show, and, in so doing, he was denying the very ones to whom he was sent the very gospel for which he was sent.  

Paul confronts Peter on the basis of hypocrisy.  Note, their previous interaction had been pleasant and ended on good terms.  This was not a personal issue.  It was a gospel issue.  It was not about Peter or Paul.  It was about the purity of the truth.  Paul knows that this is a hill he has to die on.  

Also note that Paul is not in any way intimidated by Peter – the Rock whom many hold to be most superior on the hierarchical scale of the early church.  Peter wasn’t a pope.  He was a man and sometimes men make mistakes.  Only God is infallible.  In light of that, we can deduce that, when sin is public, brothers and sisters are indeed called to exhort, admonish, and correct one another without fearing that the other pull out a supremacy card.  God alone is supreme.

Not only was he guilty of blatant hypocrisy, being the influential leader that he was, he was influencing many others to act hypocritically as well – even the very best of men! (Galatians 2:13)

“The weakness and inconsistency of the best men, when left to themselves, and how apt they are to falter in their duty to God, out of an undue regard to the pleasing of men.  And, the great force of bad examples, especially the examples of great men and good men, such as are in reputation for wisdom and honor.” ~Matthew Henry

Paul sees the clear and severe danger of Peter’s sin.  This whole church could fall on the heels of his pride and cowardice.  Paul’s solution is to answer Peter’s very injurious public sin with a very public earnest correction.  The cure, it seems, for blatant hypocrisy stemming from pride and cowardice in good leaders is, at times, public confrontation.

Paul and Peter’s Jewish culture sought to exclude men from the gospel on the basis of improper food, drink, association, and religious rituals.  They called things dirty which God had made clean.  Our culture seeks to exclude men on the basis of a lack of tolerance, refusing universalism, and adherence to Biblical truth.  They call things clean which God has deemed dirty.  These are merely two sides of one coin.  That coin is man’s fully made up, fully false, religious systems.  Both stem from intense cultural pressure, heavy-handed false teachers, and fear of being found guilty in the eyes of men.  

We cannot get to God by submission to man-made systems of belief.  Let us hear Paul and oppose those who would have us to believe and practice otherwise.


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