August 23 — Galatians 5 — Freedom. The freedom Paul emphasized in this chapter is being free from the non-moral laws of the Old Testament. Some teachers were claiming that in order to be saved, Gentiles needed to be circumcised, which is symbolic of submitting to all the Old Covenant law system. Rather than that, the only thing that God “counts” for our salvation is “faith working through love” (v. 6). However, Paul emphasized that being free from keeping the Law does not mean we are free to do anything we want (“opportunity for the flesh”—v. 13). We still must live in obedience to Christ, which means that we “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16), “live by the Spirit … and also keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). We are most free when we are living in constant fellowship with God.
August 24 — Galatians 6 — Sow to Reap. Paul closed this letter with a verse that I often heard my mother quote to me: “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (v. 7). If we plant seeds by giving in to sinful impulses, what would we expect to grow from those seeds? Paul said that in consequence, we will “reap corruption” (v. 8), which could take many forms. On the other hand, if we want good things to develop in our lives, we should plant seeds of godliness so that we will “reap eternal life” (v. 8). This is not working to gain salvation but to gain godliness. Although eternal life culminates in heaven, Jesus said that on earth, eternal life is to “know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). What good things should we do? Paul mentions several: restoring believers who have fallen into sin (v. 1), bearing other’s burdens (v. 2), sharing good things (including words of encouragement) with those who teach you (v. 6), and responding to opportunities that come to you (v. 10). Make a plan to do at least one of those today!
August 25 — Ephesians 1 — The Plan. Paul established the church at Ephesus on his third missionary journey and spent about three years ministering there. Completing his journey, he was arrested in Jerusalem and imprisoned for two years in Caesarea and another two years in Rome. It was from Rome that he wrote this letter to the Ephesian church, along with the other Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). In this first chapter, Paul frequently mentions God’s will, purpose, or plan. God’s eternal and universal plan included our being adopted into His family (v. 5), being “let in” on the mystery of His plan (v. 9), and eventually obtaining our heavenly inheritance (v. 11). That plan also included Paul’s own calling to be an apostle (v. 1), along with all the things he had to suffer for Christ’s sake. God also has a purpose and plan for you and me. He has called us not only to be His children but also to be a part of His plan to reach the lost and strengthen the saved.
August 26 — Ephesians 2 — The Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is so unnatural. Only a supernatural God could make this happen. He has collected its members together from those who were serving another master, the devil, “the prince of the power of the air” (v. 2). They were people focused on themselves, “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (v. 3). God also showed that He could miraculously dissolve racial prejudice by having “broken down … the dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14) between Jews and Gentiles. This collection of selfish and prejudiced people has been brought together by God to “create … one new man” (v. 15), people who are “fellow citizens … members of the household of God” (v. 19). That is the unnatural but glorious Church. Harmony between these believers is sometimes challenged, however, when we take our eyes off “Jesus … the cornerstone” (v. 20) of this supernatural “structure.” Think of your relationship with other members of the Body of Christ today. Do you need to confess and turn from selfishness or prejudice that is harming your relationship with another believer?
August 27 — Ephesians 3 — The Mystery. As a young Christian, I was on a cross-country road trip with some Christian guys. For many miles, I remember discussing the question: What is God’s “mystery” that He has made known to the church. Remembering Col. 1:27, I insisted that the mystery was “Christ in you.” My older friend said, no, it was “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs” (Eph. 3:6) with the Jews. It turns out that we were both right. There are a few other mysteries mentioned in the New Testament: the partial, temporary hardening of Israel (Rom. 11:25), the rapture of the Church (1 Cor. 15:51), and how human marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32). Much about God and His ways is a mystery to us because He is so far above us. Let’s praise Him for His “unsearchable riches” (3:8).