August 16 — 2 Corinthians 13 — Examine Yourselves. Paul challenged those in the Corinthian church, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (v. 5). There are several kinds of people attached to churches even today. Some attend only because of a believing mate. (Those are probably not reading through the New Testament with us this year.) Many people attend because God has changed their lives and they love Him and love to be with His people to worship and learn. Others, somewhere in the middle, believe in God and that Jesus died for their sins; they think they are Christians but their lives have not been changed by God and they are still involved in sinful living. All of us should examine ourselves to see how much evidence of God’s change is in our lives. John the Baptist challenged people coming for baptism, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8) and Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16). We don’t become followers of Christ by doing what is right but if Christ has come into our lives, we will bear “fruit” in evidence of a changed life.
August 17 — Galatians 1 — God’s Gospel. The churches of Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, and perhaps Antioch of Pisidia, were part of the Roman province of Galatia, now in central Turkey. They were founded by Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey and visited by Paul and Silas on the second journey. Probably between these two trips, Paul wrote this letter to be circulated among those churches. This is Paul’s harshest letter, as he rebukes them for “turning to a different gospel” (v. 6) and for being swayed by visiting preachers who distorted the gospel message. The gospel Paul had preached to them was from God, “received … through a revelation” (v. 12). It is the one, good-for-all-times gospel that we still trust today. Paul emphasized that it could not be altered by himself, “an angel from heaven” (v. 8), or “anyone” (v. 9). It is ancient but not outmoded because it is God’s gospel, given by God who never changes.
August 18 — Galatians 2 — Influenced. Peter was a natural leader and the recognized leader among Jesus’ twelve disciples. He even rebuked Jesus (Matt. 16:22) when He spoke of His approaching crucifixion. From the Gospels, we would conclude that Peter was absolutely fearless. Yet, in our chapter today, we read that Peter was “fearing the circumcision party” (v. 12). That says a lot about the commanding strength of those Jews who were apparently Christians but demanded that even believing Gentiles should also adhere to Jewish laws. Peter was suckered into supporting a faulty belief, being influenced by powerful men. Paul, on the other hand, showed almost-disrespectful independence from the recognized leaders of Christianity in Jerusalem: “James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who seemed to be pillars” (v. 9) and “seemed influential” (v. 6). He was not being disrespectful, however, but was just acting in accordance with the divine standard that “God shows no partiality” (v. 6). Paul asked the Thessalonian Christians “to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12). We are to follow our leaders but make sure that we are not influenced by teaching contrary to the truths of the Bible.
August 19 — Galatians 3 — Children of Our Father. Most of us are Gentile believers, yet Paul said that we are “sons of Abraham” (v. 7) because of our faith in Christ. Abraham was mankind’s model of faith. Whatever God told him, he believed and acted on it. Because of his faith, “it was counted to him as righteousness” (v. 6), i.e., God declared him to be righteous because he believed. We are also declared to be righteous by putting our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ, the One promised to Abraham. Now, not only is Abraham our father through faith but also God is our Father through faith: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (v. 26).
August 20 — Galatians 4 — Relapse. Most of these people Paul was writing to were brought to Christ through his personal ministry. He felt like their caring father, but his position and relationship were being challenged by outsiders who were trying to draw his “children” back into the bondage of having to obey the Old Testament ceremonial and civil laws. It was heart-breaking for him, as those of you who have had wayward children know. He begged them to get back on track with the Good News of freedom in Christ. He not only felt like a caring father but also a mother who was “in the anguish of childbirth” (v. 19), feeling the pain of their spiritual incompleteness. Do you “labor” in prayer regularly for the spiritual well-being and growth of your physical children or those you led to Christ? It may seem fruitless but keep at it. I am one of those wayward sons prayed for by my mother for many years before surrendering my life to Christ.