Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first seven verses of the fourth chapter. When you come to the fourth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia you will notice continued language concerning the fundamental difference between the law of Moses which could neither justify us before a living and holy God, nor produce life within us. In fact, when writing to the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul writes that when the law entered sin revived and he began to die. When we read the words which the apostle John wrote to the church in Ephesus within his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus he clearly emphasizes and sets forth the tremendous reality that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. As you continue reading the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches in Galatia you will find a powerful contrast between the hearing of faith and the works of the law, for the apostle Paul sets forth to display the fundamental difference between the two. It’s also worth noting in this particular epistle the powerful contrast between that which is born of the Spirit and that which is born of the flesh. We would be incredibly wise to examine as carefully as we can the vast difference between that which proceeds from the flesh and that which proceeds from the Spirit. In all reality, within this epistle the apostle Paul seeks to set forth the inferiority of the law of Moses—delisted the fact that it came forth from the mouth of God in great glory atop Horeb the mountain of God in the wilderness. What we must recognize and understand concerning the law which came through Moses is that it was essentially a tutor and a school master until the appointed time came when grace and truth could come through Jesus Christ. The law was ordained and appointed under the old covenant and under the Old Testament but there would come a point in time and history when the law of Moses would give way to the law of Christ.
The more I read the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia the more I am completely and utterly gripped at how twisted and perverted the gospel of Jesus Christ could become by those who would seek to ensnare us, enslave is and Brit us into bondage. When the epistle unto the churches which were in Galatia opens it does so with the apostle marveling that the churches present within this region could so quickly turn away from the true gospel which is in Jesus the Christ and to another gospel which was different then that which was preached unto them. The more I read and study the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia the more I am completely and totally consumed with the overwhelming reality that the gospel which had infiltrated these churches is and was a gospel of religion. THE GOSOEL OF RELIGION! The epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia is a powerful treatise that describes how various churches could not only be infiltrated by false brethren who preached and propagated a gospel of religion which did not, could not and would not promote liberty and freedom but could only promote bondage and slavery. The more I read the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches of Galatia the more I am absolutely taken by the reality of how I absolutely love that this epistle was written unto churches rather than an individual congregation or group of saints within a specific city. If you study and examine the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Philippians, the Corinthians, the Thessalonians, and even the Romans you will notice that such epistles were written to individual and specific churches within their respected cities. The epistle of Galatians, however, was that one epistle which is vastly and fundamentally different from each of the other epistles, foe it appears to be an epistle written unto the churches. AN EPISTLE BY YHE APOSTLE FOR THE CHURCHES!
I absolutely love the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia, for for the first time we don’t merely see the apostle Paul addressing a specific church and body of believers and saints. Within the epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the churches which were in Galatia we find the apostle Paul speaking and writing to a specific set of churches which were found in a region which today is a part of modern day Turkey. What makes the epistle of Galatians so unique is that it wasn’t merely a single church or a single congregation that was in error or swept away with erroneous teaching and doctrine, but it was multiple churches. I find this to be absolutely and incredibly enlightening, for just as there were a number of churches which were in Galatia who were swept away with and by this gospel of religion, so also there have been countless churches within and throughout history that have been swept away with and by this gospel of religion. What’s more, is that there are countless churches among us within this generation which are, which have been and which continue to be swept away by and with this gospel of religion. There have been religious apostles, religious prophets, religious teachers, religious pastors, and even religious evangelists which have crept in among the flock as wolves in sheep clothing and have brought into bondage and slavery countless churches. There have been countless churches which have been infiltrated by this false brethren who are very much aware of the liberty and freedom which is enjoyed and displayed in churches, and that liberty and freedom completely and totally disgusts them. I am firmly convinced there are false ministers who would seek to infiltrate churches—perhaps unaware—in an attempt to not only spy out their liberty, but also to completely destroy it. In all reality, I am convinced that one of the single greatest dangers to the church today is the gospel of religion—a gospel that is centered within and upon the law of Moses and uses this gospel to ensnare and enslave men and women in bondage.
In order to fully and completely understand the language of the epistle of the apostle Paul unto the churches which were in Galatia, it is absolutely necessary that we examine Jesus’ words unto and concerning the scribes and Pharisees of His day. You see, this gospel of religion didn’t begin to arise during the days of the apostles and the early church, but rather was found to be present during the days of Jesus who is the Christ and Lord. If you read, study and examine the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as displayed and set forth in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you will find that there was perhaps nothing He directly combatted and confronted more than this gospel of religion which was found to be present within and throughout the religious system and establishment of that day. If you read and study the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry you will quickly discover multiple instances when Jesus grew indignant toward the legalism, the religion and the hypocrisy that is found at the very heart of the gospel of religion which the religions system promoted and propagated. What’s worth noting and pointing out is that during the days of Jesus this gospel of religion was exhibited by the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders, the Sadducees, and the like; however, it was not preached to the degree and measure it was during the days of the apostle. What began with the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders and Sadducees during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus would take on an entirely new level during the days of the early church for Jesus completely turned religion on its head through each and every encounter he had with the religious system and establishment of His day. You cannot read the gospel accounts of His life and ministry without encountering an indignant Jesus toward religion, toward hypocrisy, and toward legalism—all three which were promoted by the religious system and establishment. IT is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this reality and concept of religion which was displayed during the days of Jesus the Christ, for it seemed to have taken on an entirely new level during the days of the early Church, for there would actually be false ministers of religion which would preach and promoted a gospel of religion among the churches in an attempt to destroy the liberty they have in Jesus the Christ, and bring them once more into bondage.
As I am sitting here writing these words right now, there is a part of me that is completely gripped and captivated by the fact that the adversary may very well allow us to experience deliverance and freedom from the bondage of sin, but he will quickly seek to replace the bondage of sin with the bondage of religion. There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest tactics and strategies of the serpent is to deceive and beguile us through, with and by a gospel of religion once we have heard and received the gospel of truth concerning Jesus the Christ. It is and it was the gospel of Jesus Christ which brought grace, and truth, and freedom, and liberty, and salvation into and within our lives, but it is this gospel of religion which is centered upon the law of Moses and seeks only to bring bondage, slavery and even fear. Oh dear brother, dear sister—we must recognize the tremendous difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel of religion, for one of the greatest baits and switches which can be found within many of our churches is baiting men and women with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but once men and women have heard and received the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, they are immediately confronted with a gospel which is completely different and completely contrary to the original gospel they heard and received. It is true that you might very well have heard the true gospel concerning Jesus Christ at first, but that gospel was quickly replaced by a false gospel of religion which seeks to completely undo everything you thought and believed within and concerning the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ. In all reality, I would dare say that the serpent has absolutely no angst or qualms with you hearing the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ, and even responding to that gospel through faith; however, it can and will only be a matter of time before the bondage of sin can be replaced by and with a bondage of religion. TRADING ONE BONDAGE FOR ANOTHER! TRADING ONE FORM OF SLAVERY FOR ANOTHER! TRADING THE BONDAGE OF SIN FOR THE BONDAGE OF RELIGION!
This reality is perhaps best displayed in the Old Testament account of the children of Israel for they initially found themselves enslaved and oppressed by and with the bondage of Egypt for a period of four-hundred and thirty years before they were eventually ransomed and redeemed from that slavery. They would experience forty years of wandering in the wilderness before and until an entire generation died in that wilderness before they would ultimately and inevitably enter into the land of Canaan and under the leadership of Joshua begin to conquer the land. During the days of the judges and the days of the kings the children of Israel would experience a powerful transition from merely being a nation and people within the earth to actually becoming a kingdom within the earth under the reigns of David and Solomon. Eventually, however, Israel would begin to transgress and rebel against the Holy One of Israel, and would find themselves carried away in captivity into strange and foreign lands which weren’t their own. If you study the Old Testament of Scripture you will notice that the northern kingdom of Israel was carried away by the Assyrians and removed from their land, while the southern kingdom of Judah was carried away by the Babylonians and were brought into a strange and foreign land. Though there was a considerable amount of time that had elapsed between the slavery of Egypt and the bondage and captivities of Assyria and Babylon it nonetheless holds true that they essentially traded the bondage of Egypt for the captivity of Babylon. I choose to include and mention this Old Testament example, for just as Israel was delivered and set free from the slavery, bondage and oppression of Egypt, there would come a point in time when the freedom they enjoyed in their own land would be compromised when they found themselves in captivity in Assyria and Babylon. Essentially Israel went from bondage and slavery to freedom and liberty to captivity and exile. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this reality and concept, for the same reality takes place within the hearts and lives of countless men and women, as the serpent may very well allow you to hear the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and even respond to the hearing of that gospel, and may even allow you to experience freedom and liberty for a short while before he will attempt to beguile and deceive you with a gospel of religion. I am utterly and completely convinced that we must recognize and understand this subtile tactic of the enemy and adversary, for it is this tactic and strategy that has caused countless men and women to become ensnared and enslaved all over again—this despite the fact that they once enjoyed and experience tremendous freedom and liberty in Christ.
With this being said, it is necessary that we recognize just what this gospel of religion looks like, in order that we might be able to discern its presence in our churches and in our midst. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus speaking unto the multitude, as well as His disciples and indicting both the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, their legalism, and their hypocrisy. Beginning with the second verse of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s gospel we find the following words:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phlacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feats, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbie, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a presences make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, the make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but showoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar than sanctifieth the gift? Whosoever therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within hey are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but ware within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that use are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:2-33).
There is perhaps no greater discourse and treatise on the religion and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees than that which is found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel of Matthew. When you read this particular passage of Scripture you will immediately be confronted with the tremendous danger of this gospel of religion—almost from the very beginning of the chapter. When indicting the scribes and Pharisees Jesus declare of them that they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and they lay those burdens on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. This alone is necessary to recognize and pay close attention to, for within this verse alone we encounter the very heart of this gospel of religion—namely, to bind heavy burdens which are grievous to be borne, and laying them upon the shoulders of men and women who are unable to shoulder and bear them. What’s more, is those who preach and promote this gospel of religion can and will bind these heavy burdens and lay them upon your shoulders, yet they themselves cannot and will not move them with one of their fingers. It’s worth noting the fundamental difference between the gospel of religion and the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, for there is a vast difference between the two. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Himself proclaimed and declared toward the end of the eleventh chapter of this same New Testament gospel: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). In the sixteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel Jesus goes on to declare unto His disciples, saying, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Oh dear brother, dear sister—pay close attention to the words we find in the eleventh and sixteenth chapters of the gospel of Matthew as set against and compared to the words we find in the twenty-third chapter of the same gospel, for the scribes and Pharisees bind heavy burdens and lay them upon the shoulders of men while offering them no assistance in carrying and shouldering those burdens. That which Jesus offers, however, is a release for all those who labour and are heavy laden, and the promise of rest. Jesus instructs us to take His yoke upon us, and to learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart. What’s more, is that it is only in Jesus where we shall find rest for our souls, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Instead of offering the burdens which the scribes and Pharisees place upon the shoulders of men and women, Jesus offers a yoke which is easy, a burden which is light, and a cross to carry as we deny ourselves and follow Him.
When writing to the churches which were in Galatia, the apostle Paul writes unto them concerning this gospel of religion which was preached unto them—a gospel which sought to bring them once more into bondage, slavery and oppression. There was a gospel that was preached unto the churches which were in Galatia—a gospel of religion that was essentially designed to shut up the kingdom of heaven unto these churches and completely undo and destroy that which came as a direct result of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul marveled that they had so quickly turned away from the gospel of Christ and had turned aside to a gospel of religion—one which may very well have allowed them to experience and enjoy release and freedom from the bondage of sin, but introduced an entirely different form of bondage. The gospel which had infiltrated the churches within Galatia was one that led them to believe they could enjoy freedom from sin while simultaneously experiencing bondage to religion. FREEDOM FROM SIN, BONDAGE TO RELIGION! FREE FROM SIN, YET BOUND BY RELIGION! Oh, I am firmly convinced there are a number of men and women among us within our churches who have been set free and delivered from the bondage of sin, and have even been set free from the bondage of death that is produced thereof, yet that bondage was replaced by a completely different bondage—a bondage of religion which produces within us an entirely different form of death. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Rome in the seventh chapter of that particular epistle: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscense. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:4-13).
With the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome we encounter the tremendous reality that we are and we have become dead to the law by the body of Christ in order that we should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. It’s absolutely incredible how the apostle Paul directly links and connects this reality of being delivered from and dead unto the law to being joined together in union with Jesus Christ, for the apostle Paul speaks of the law as a previous member we were once joined together in unity. The apostle Paul suggests that it is absolutely necessary that we become dead to the law in order that we might be married to another. So long as we are bound to the law we cannot and will not be free to be bound together in union to Jesus who is the Christ. This is perhaps one of the most enlightening realities concerning the concept of the law versus Christ, for so long as we remain bound to the law we cannot and will not be able to be free to be bound in union to Jesus who is the Christ. There are a number of men and women among us within our churches who are completely unable to be married to Jesus simply because they are committing themselves to being married to the law. It’s almost as if there are men and women who are carrying on two distinct and two different relationships in their life, for on the one hand they are seeking to enjoy fellowship and relationships with Jesus, but on the other hand, they cannot remove or set themselves free from the law of Moses. THE ADULTEROUS GOSPEL OF RELIGION! As I consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints in Rome concerning the law of Moses, I can’t help but be completely and totally gripped by the fact that this gospel of religion is so incredibly dangerous for it is an adulterous gospel that seeks to completely destroy our union and relationship and fellowship with Christ. This gospel of religion is so dangerous and deadly, for it attempts to engage us in an adulterous affair with the law as we seek to be justified by the law according to works of the flesh. Those false ministers of religion who promote this false and adulterous gospel of religion will seek to completely destroy—not only the freedom and liberty we have in Christ, but also the union we have been called to enjoy and experience with Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the tremendous danger that lies within this adulterous gospel of religion, for it is this gospel of religion that seeks to destroy our union and unity with Christ by bringing us into a different form of bondage, slavery and oppression.
When I first read the first seven verses of the fourth chapter of the apostle Paul’s epistle to the churches which were in Galatia I was automatically and immediately gripped by the vast difference between sons and servants. If you read the words of the apostle Paul in this fourth chapter you will notice and discover that the heir so long as he is a child is no different from a servant—even though he be lord of all. The heir—so long as he is a child—is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.When you come to the third verse of this passage of Scripture you will find the same language which has already been expressed in this writing, for the apostle Paul declares that “even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world,” thus signifying that when we were children we were in fact servants, and even slaves to sin and to the elements of the world. When the fulness of time came, however, God sent forth His son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those which were under the law, in order that we might receive the adoption of sons. Because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, Abba, Father. Oh, please pay close attention to the words which we read in this passage, for there is a powerful transition between our living as servants and our living as sons, and this gospel of religion is both deadly and dangerous, for it completely seeks to destroy this adoption we have as sons of God. The apostle Paul was very clear—both in the epistle written unto the Romans, as well as the epistle which was written unto the churches of Galatia that we have experienced this wonderful and powerful transition from servants who were kept in subjection and bondage to the law to heirs and sons and daughters who have been given the right and privilege of adoption. The apostle Paul emphatically declares that it is only when we come out from under and are delivered from the law that we are truly able to enjoy and experience freedom as sons and daughters of God. You will recall that when the apostle John was writing his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus he declared that “as many as received Him [Christ], to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
There are two distinct passages found within Scripture which further confirm this reality of our adoption of sons, which must be carefully considered and presented at this time. The first is found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel which John wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus. IF you begin reading with and from the eleventh verse of the fifteenth chapter you will find the following words: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do Whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you” (John 15:11-16). The second is found in the eighth chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome, and is found beginning with the twelfth verse of this particular chapter: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffere with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaned and travailest in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:15-24).