PUTTING ON CHRIST; ONE IN HIM.
November 10, I900.
(Gal. 3:24-29, R. V.)
“THE law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.”
We now come to the close of this most remarkable chapter, and with the six weeks’ study that we put upon it, each student should have a firm grasp of all its statements. Of course no one can expect fully to understand the chapter in that time, but we ought at least to have made so much of its acquaintance that it is no longer a stranger to us. As usual, review thoroughly from the beginning before taking up the new lesson, and then study the verses of the lesson until you could no more forget them than you could forget your own name.
- The law has shut us up in prison as transgressors, yet not without hope. The door of mercy was open, and as soon as we believed, we were free; no longer slaves of sin, but sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
- Belief in Christ includes baptism into Christ. when the eunuch asked, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip replied, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest;'' and the eunuch said,” I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” whereupon Philip baptized him. Acts 8:36-38. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark 16:16. It is thus that he put on Christ.
- Bear in mind that it is only by being baptized into Christ that we put on Christ. It is not the repetition of a formula, nor the mere application of a water--being buried in it--that constitutes the true baptism--baptism into Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” Rom. 6:3. Baptism into Christ means the giving up of our lives, being crucified with Him, that we may live a new life. So it is” no longer I, but Christ liveth in me.” This is a new life, the putting on of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Eph. 4:24.
- “One in Christ Jesus.” “One man in Christ Jesus.” There is but one Man, and that is Christ. God created man in His own image in the beginning, male and female, “and called their name Adam,”--man. Gen. 5:2. But they fell, and so became less than men, yes, less than dumb brutes in the knowledge of God's ways; for, says God, “the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.” Isa 1:3. “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but My people know not the judgment of the Lord.” Jer. 8:7. By faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, we come “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Eph. 4:13. Christ makes “in Himself of twain one new man,” so making peace, Eph. 2:15. Just as it takes the whole of creation to reveal the whole of the glory of God, so it takes all the believers in all the world to reveal the perfect Christ.
- “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Compare verse 29 with verse 16. There is but one Seed, and that is Christ. But in Christ all things consist. In Him we are not many, but one, and He is the One. Therefore we also form a part of “the seed to whom the promise was made.” The promise is as sure to us as to Christ, and will be ours as soon as it is His, if we abide in Him. So here again we see that the coming of the seed to whom the promise was made, embraces the gathering of all the faithful in the kingdom of God.
November I7, 1900.
HAVING studied the whole of the third chapter of Galatians, it will be well to pause and take a comprehensive view of it. As a preliminary step, however, read carefully through the first two chapters, so as to have clearly in mind the foundation of the third. If you can read and think through those chapters without the book in your hand, so much the better. Then read the third chapter through as a whole several times, noting carefully the connection of all the various parts as you pass along. The following questions may serve as a guide to the study, and may be suggestive of many more. Be careful, however, not to wander off into speculation. It is not by wandering, not by dreaming, or fancying, or guessing, that we arrive at an understanding of the Sacred Word, but by meditating upon it. Consider what it says, and the Lord will give you understanding.
THE ADOPTION OF SONS.
November 24, I900.
(Gal. 4:1-5, R. V.)
“BUT I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the term appointed of the father. So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world; but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them which were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
The thoughtful student can not fail to see that there is no real division between these verses and the closing verses of the third chapter. That closes with the thought that, having put on Christ by baptism, we are one in Him, and sons of God, even as He is, and so Abraham's seed, and heirs. The chapter proceeds with the same thought, showing our condition before we thus become veritable heirs of God through Christ, and contrasting it with our present state in Christ. It is, therefore, self-evident that the pre ceding chapter must be very fresh in our minds before we can understandingly begin the study of this. Read it through several times with the Bible before you, if you can not do it in your mind without the Bible, and then read the words of this lesson many times and weigh them carefully before going further.
- If these verses are somewhat difficult to comprehend at first, the comfort which they contain is so much the greater. Wherever there is difficulty there is treasure; and in these verses there is a glorious message of mercy for all mankind.
- There is no difference between the heir, so long as he is under age, and a bond-servant. That means, just as the apostle says in verse 3, that the child is in bondage until he comes into the possession of his inheritance.
- We were, as children, “held in bondage under the rudiments of the world.” Do not for a moment entertain so dishonoring a thought toward God as that these “rudiments of the world” have anything to do with Him. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” 1 John 2:16. “Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Col. 2:8, R. V. The “rudiments of the world” are totally opposed to both the Father and the Son.
- Christ redeems us from that to which we were in bondage. We were in bondage under the rudiments, the principles, of the world; then Christ was manifested “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Thus we see that to be in bondage” under the rudiments of the world,'' is the same as being “under the law.'' “Aforetime ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath.” Eph. 2:2, 3. But it is the law that worketh wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression. Sin is bondage, and the law holds us in that bondage (compare Gal. 3:22), because it will not compromise with sin.
- Christ was “born of a woman, born under the law.” Therefore every person born of a woman is redeemed by Christ. Whether every person will accept the redemption or not, it is for him to say for himself. Christ has purchased the freedom of every person. This constitutes the good news of the Gospel.
- Note from the text that God considers every person in the world as an heir, no matter how much he may be the slave of the world of sin. The heir, while he is a child, differeth nothing from a bond-servant. Even so with us; while we were children, we were in bondage under the rudiments of the world, yet we were heirs of all God's possession--of God Himself. This is true of every man on earth. Everything is for him, if he will but accept it. Yet there must be a coming back, a change so great that it is a new birth. Since we differed nothing from bond-servants, we were bond-servants; in Christ we receive the adoption of sons. Recall the parable of the prodigal son. During his absence from his father's house, he was a bond-servant, yet he was his father's son. So God regards all sinners as wandering prodigal sons. But, not with standing this, unless, like the one in the Scripture, they come back to the Father, they will die as slaves.
- See how the apostle Paul classes himself with the Galatians. We were in bondage; those under the law are redeemed, that we might receive the adoption of sons. We may also class ourselves with them, not only as having been, or even now being, in bondage, but also in the adoption.
- Remember that the Galatians were heathen before they beard the Gospel at the mouth of Paul. All unbelievers are of course heathen; but the Galatians were what is generally known as such. They were among the class that were ready to worship even Paul and Barnabas, holding them as gods because of the miracles that they saw. Acts 14:8-13. Therefore, it is again evident that the things to which they were aforetime in bondage could not possibly be any precepts given by God; for they knew nothing of God.
- The question will arise, Is there not reference to a fixed time in the history of the world, when the work here spoken of took place? and can it then be an individual experience? To this it may be answered both Yes and No. Christ died once for all, but His crucifixion covers the whole time of the fall. All the manifestation of Jesus in the flesh was but the making visible of that which has been going on ever since the fall of man. Verses 4 and 5 are parallel with Rom. 5:6. “When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” It was when we were without strength that Christ died. At the time of our greatest weakness, in our lowest state, we come to the cross, to find the crucified One, and being crucified with Him, enjoy the strength of His life.
- In this chapter we have simply an extension of the thought presented in chapter 3. Both speak of the bondage of sin, in which the law bolds us fast, and of the deliverance. We were, as all unbelievers are, in bondage under the rudiments of the world; but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son to deliver us. Even so in the preceding chapter we read that the Scripture hath shut up all under sin, the law being our jailer; but now that faith is come, we are no longer in prison. But there is no fixed time for faith to come. It is an individual matter, and comes to each one as he is ready to exercise it.
- “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” But we do not all become the children of God at the same time; for all do not believe at once. Faith is an individual matter. As soon as faith comes to any man, so that be takes hold of it, he is free from his bondage; he is no longer under a pedagogue; he is then of age, and ruler instead of servant. It will be seen that the time “when we were children” (verse 3) is entirely different from “the adoption of sons” (verse 5). Of course when we receive the adoption of sons we are the children of God; but the apostle here carries out the figure that he has adopted, and considers the unbelieving sinner as a child yet under age. When we come of age, when we believe, we become sons indeed; but the change is wholly in us, not at all in God. The change in us is a radical one--from slavery to sonship, from death to life--but God remains the same; His love toward us is the same first as last. The Lord loves sinners, and “will not cast off forever.” Lam. 3:31. No one can be lost unless he runs away from the Father's house, and stubbornly stays away, resisting the drawing power of God's everlasting love and mercy. Jer. 31:3.
GOING BACK INTO BONDAGE.
December 1, I900.
(Gal. 4:6-11, R.V.)
“AND because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them which by nature are no gods; but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, where-unto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.”
Be sure that you have the preceding verses clearly fixed in your mind, before you proceed with these, and then note the connection. If those have been well learned, it will be no task, but a pleasure, to include them in the present lesson.
- The Holy Spirit is the seal of sonship. The Spirit is the agent of the new birth; and is continually sent forth into our hearts, abiding there as the necessary consequence of our adoption as sons. This is the infallible sign. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Rom. 8:9.
- Christ is the Son of God; both have one Spirit, one mind. It is by the Spirit that Christ abides in us. In promising to send the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, He said, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” John I4:16-18. Therefore when the Spirit comes into our hearts, He cries, “Father, Father,” for it is Christ Himself speaking to the Father. Thus we see that our relation to God, when we receive the adoption of sons, is the same as Christ's. It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us.
- The Hebrew word for Father is Ab, as we have· it in Abraham, father of many people. The word “Abba” is a strengthened, emphatic form of this word. “Abba, Father” is, therefore, the same as “Father, Father,” with emphasis.
- There is a difference between a bond-servant and a son. Read John 8:31-36. The slave can not be an heir; he can not own anything, not even himself. He has no control of himself, much less of anything else. But the sons of God must be as free as He is, for they are heirs, not only of all that God has, but of all that He is; they are heirs of God Himself. They are rulers with Him, set “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.” Compare Eph. 1:17-21 and 2:1-6. As sons of God we are masters, not slaves. No enemy can have power over the soul whose life is hid with Christ in God. Luke 10:19.
- Compare verse 8 with Eph. 2:11, 12. That is all the comment that need be made upon the state from which the Galatians were delivered on accepting Christ. Compare also verse 9 with verses 6 and 7 of chapter 1. The same wonder is expressed in both places, and for the same reason. What a strange thing it is that people after having a glimpse of heaven will turn back to the world; after having known freedom in God will deliberately put themselves under the burdensome bondage of sin.
- Do not fail to note that the ''rudiments” spoken of in verse 9 are the same as those mentioned in verse 3--the rudiments of the world. We have already learned what they are. What are they, and where do we find the statement? What is friendship with this world?
- Compare verse 10 with Deut. 18:9-12. The observation of times, that is, the practise of augury, a common thing among the heathen, was expressly forbidden by the Lord. Note in Isa. 47:10-14, with margin, the vanity and wickedness of observing months.
- Some will ask, “How could it be that the Galatians were going back into heathenism, when the ‘false brethren' who were perverting them were Jews?” The answer is easy. That they were relapsing into heathenism is evident from the fact that they were turning back to the things to which they had formerly been in bondage; and they had formerly been heathen. They never were Jews. Remember that they were being led by false brethren into “another gospel,” which was not a gospel at all. They were being led away from Christ. The real Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” The false gospel,--the substitution of one's own works for faith in Christ,--is the power of man, not to salvation, but to destruction; for there is no help in man. Now when men lose their faith in Christ, they have no power to hold them to God, and they invariably drift back into their former habits of life, no matter who their teachers may be. So the Galatians, being taught by Jews to put their trust in their own works, were naturally taking up the works to which they had previously been accustomed.
- Observe that Paul expresses no concern for himself, but only for the Galatians. His fear was for them lest his labors had been in vain for them. He did not mourn lest he had wasted his time upon them; he did not regret the time and strength he had spent, but only feared lest they should lose the benefit of it.
THE BLESSEDNESS LOST.
December 8, I900.
(Gal. 4:8-18, R. V.)
“AT that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them which by nature are no gods; but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.
“I beseech you, brethren, be as I am; for I am as ye are. Ye did me no wrong; but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you the first time; and that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where, then, is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. So then am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them. But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you.”
There are in this lesson a few expressions rather hard to be understood, but we need not be bothered over them. Do not waste time in conjectures as to what they mean, but extract the nourishment from that which yields it the most readily. In studying the Bible, always work in the line of least resistance. Let what you know be the revealer of that which you do not know. You may hold the difficult passages in mind, scrutinizing them carefully to see what connection they have with what precedes and follows, but never indulge in speculation concerning them. The speculative opinions of the best man that ever lived are of no value whatever in studying the Bible, and are not to be considered for a moment. It is what the Bible says to us, and not what somebody thinks about it, that is of value. It may be that some in studying this lesson will find no difficulty whatever; their minds will be in such condition that every expression can be received and understood at once. If so, it will be a cause of thanksgiving to God. But if we do not see the force of everything, that does not prevent us from grasping the general thought.
- The apostle did not feel personally affronted because the Galatian brethren had turned away from that which he had taught them. It was wholly a matter between them and God, and he was solicitous only for their welfare. They were departing from God, not from Paul. They were injuring only themselves. The true servant of God will not feel elated when men accept the Gospel at his mouth, nor cast down when they reject it. Truth does not belong to any man, and therefore no man has any business to have personal feelings over the way in which people regard it. The failure to recognize this fact has led to untold persecution. Men have felt as though they were personally insulted if people did not believe what they taught; and the most of the persecution that has existed in the world has been the resentment of offended dignity.
- All the best translations have “because,” or its equivalent, in verse 13, instead of “through,” as in our ordinary version. What a flood of light upon Paul's labor among the Galatians we get from these few sentences! He was in great bodily affliction and physical pain when he first preached the Gospel in Galatia. Not only so, but that infirmity was the cause of his preaching the Gospel at that place. It is evident from his statement that he was obliged to stop in Galatia on account of physical infirmity, but instead of spending the time looking after his own comfort, he took advantage of the circumstance to preach the Gospel; and he evidently did it with the more vigor because of his infirmity. See 2 Cor. 11:23-30; 12:7-10. What a marvel of the power of Christ in man that can use even his times of greatest physical weakness as an occasion for accomplishing the greatest work! Here, also, we see another proof that the Gospel does not depend upon man, but on God. It is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.
- Comparing these verses with Gal. 3:1-5, we shall see that the Galatians had had no ordinary experience. Paul's preaching was “in demonstration of the Spirit and power” (1 Cor. 2:2-4), just because he had no power of his own. Christ was set before them so vividly that they could see Him crucified; the Spirit was administered to them, and received, miracles were wrought among them, expressions of rejoicing in God were heard from all, and they had suffered persecution for their faith. All these things are distinctly stated in this epistle; see if you can recall them.
- While the Galatians received the truth directly from Christ crucified, they did not despise the humble instrument that the Lord used. They received him as an angel of God, even as they would have received the Lord. Christ said: “He that receiveth you, receiveth Me.” Paul's affliction was evidently such that it made him personally very unattractive. Compare verse 14 with 2 Cor. 10:10. That the seat of the difficulty was the eyes, is apparent. But this made no difference with the Galatians. The blessed Gospel he brought to them transfigured him in their eyes, and so it did in reality; for real beauty is of the soul, not of the body. “The beauty of the Lord” was in Paul. The gracious words that he spoke more than made up for his unsightly appearance. No sacrifice was too great for the Galatians to make, and this they would do as unto the Lord.
- By the memory of all the blessedness and joy of their first faith, Paul appeals to the Galatians. He contrasts their former experience with the present. Where is now the blessedness? Where are their joyful testimonies of praise? Ah, the new teaching has changed all that! They could tell by their own experience that there was a vast difference between the Gospel which they received through Paul and the false gospel which they were now receiving.
- The kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom. 14:17. Persons who have been truly converted know what joy and peace filled him at that time. But most people seem to have the idea that that joy can not last; that it must necessarily pass away, as they take up the monotonous round of daily duties, and these stretch out into years. Their Christian life becomes a sort of treadmill experience. That is a great mistake. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” John 15:11. The path of the just shines more and more until the perfect day. Christ never leaves us nor forsakes us; He abides with us to the end, and in His presence there are rest and fulness of joy. Ex. 33:14; Ps. 16:11. The giving of the Holy Spirit is the anointing with “the oil of gladness.” God gives “the oil of joy” in place of mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Isa. 61:1-3, 10. The fountain of life, from God never runs low. If, therefore, you find that your joy in God is growing less in your experience, do not rest content in any such condition. Know that any teaching, any doctrine, that does not bring gladness into your heart, and give you strength and courage for daily life, is not the good news of Jesus.
BONDAGE AND FREEDOM.
December I5, I900.
(Gal. 4:19-26, R. V.)
“MY little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you, yea, I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. Howbeit the son of the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son of the free woman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory; for these women are two covenants; one from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem that now is; for she is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.”
This much-discussed portion of Scripture is really the simplest and most direct of any part of this epistle. There is no possibility of misunderstanding it, if we but give heed to what is said, and hold ourselves to it. Of course it is necessary to be familiar with the incident in Abraham's life, to which the apostle refers; so we should refresh our minds by reading Gen. 16; 17:15-21; Heb. 11:11. We have this week only a part of the lesson that the apostle draws from the life of Abraham, and so must wait until next week to get the complete view; but if the verses that we have before us are thoroughly mastered, we shall find no trouble. See that not a thought escapes you.
- “My little children.” Very affectionately does the apostle deal with the erring Galatians, not as a matter of policy, but because he loves them as a mother loves the children whom she has brought forth, in pain. In his labor in the Gospel, the apostle Paul gave himself, his own life, for souls, even as Christ did. Whoever labors in that way, will never deal harshly with any wanderer.
- The Galatians were in a doubtful position. They wanted salvation, yet they were choosing destruction. They were deliberately putting themselves under the law, in a state of condemnation, and that because they were ignorant of the law. Compare Gal. 3:10. The man who sets himself to get righteousness by the law, places himself under the curse, just as surely as the man who deliberately rejects it and tramples upon it.
- “Do you not hear the law?” The law certainly speaks loud enough. Read Ex. 19:16-24. It spoke only death. By itself, outside of Christ, it is only the ministration of death. Every feature of the giving of the law from Sinai, every word, every lightning flash, and every thunder bolt, together with the fire and the earthquake, said most plainly, “There is no righteousness, but only condemnation and death, to be obtained by the works of the law.” The inheritance of righteousness is not by the law, but by promise. Compare Gal. 3:18.
- This was demonstrated in the case of Abraham. He made a great mistake and attempted to fulfil God's promise. A son had been promised him,--a true free-born son who could be his heir. It had been expressly stated that a servant could not be his heir. Gen. 15:2-4. Nevertheless, he harkened to the voice of Sarai, instead of to the Lord, and took Hagar, Sarai's Egyptian bondmaid, by whom he had Ishmael. But since Hagar was a bondservant, a slave, Ishmael could be nothing else. So Abraham had gained nothing. Afterwards Isaac, the child of promise, was horn. He was free, and could inherit all that Abraham had. The history is so plain that no one can misunderstand it. The application is equally plain.
- These two women, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants, known respectively as the first and the second, the old and the new. One originates at Mount Sinai, the other in the New Jerusalem above. In the first one the people promise to keep the law; in the second one God promised to write the law in their hearts by His Spirit. The first one can give nothing but bondage, condemnation, and death. The other gives pardon, justification, and life. The old Jerusalem is in bondage, together with all that look to it for help. Mount Sinai itself--the law for which it stood as the emblem--could never give freedom. It only with thunder tones warns people not to depend on works for righteousness, and drives them back to the promise and the oath of God.
- Jerusalem above is free, and is the mother of all who are of the faith of Abraham; “for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:10. Here we may come and be adopted as free-born citizens. “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more (for they could not endure that which was commanded, and if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart; and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake). But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” Heb. 12:18-24.