More Gifts: Letters to the Galatians – Timothy
This will have to a whirlwind tour of the middle group of epistles – not for any lack of great content there, but for the sake of not overflowing my archive page in May later on! I’ll keep it as brief as I can.
Galatians 3:14 | He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
What was the blessing given to Abraham, if it wasn’t that his descendants should be as numerous as the stars of the heavens? That makes us who are Gentiles into sons of Abraham. (Hey, no big deal to God; Jesus said He could raise up stones into sons of Abraham.) But here’s the other part of the blessing, and it’s for believers: by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
4:6 | Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Obviously written by the same Paul who wrote Romans! For whom does the Spirit call out “Da-da!”? For Himself, who is – in some sense – God? No; of course not. For us! Because we are His children. Where is the Spirit of His Son that He sent into us? In our hearts … so that He would never be far away.
5:5 | But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
We have the Spirit now; the full measure of righteousness is yet to come. Aren’t we forgiven? Sure. There must, then, be more to righteousness than mere forgiveness. There must be more for which we hope.
6:8 | The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Sinful nature/man opposes the Spirit. You can’t “sow” to please both. You can only reap one harvest: fruit or weeds; grain or tares. From whom do we reap endless life?
Ephesians 1:13 | And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
There’s that language of promise again; that term describing the Spirit as a “deposit” or down payment on redemption.
1:17 | I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Can you pray for others to receive the Spirit? Paul did … consistently! And He is described as a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Should we pray for those gifts today? Will they be given? Are there still passages of scripture that are a mystery to us? Still challenges of life that perplex us? Didn’t Jesus recommend asking, as a child asks for fish and bread from a father?
3:4-6 | In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
I love mysteries! I love the denouement! – And here it is, a stunning summary of all 66 books of the Old and New covenants and the very purpose God intends for mankind: One body of Jews and Gentiles sharing in the promise of Jesus.
All revealed by the Spirit.
(In case you were still wondering.)
3:16 | I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Paul doesn’t just pray for the Spirit to come to others; he prays for the power that comes with it – because through that power and through faith Christ may dwell in our hearts.
Say, it would be getting crowded in our hearts if Christ and the Spirit weren’t somehow one and the same.
But I’m sure they leave no room for our demons when they move in.
4:3-6 | Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
It’s really hard to describe God and His intentions for us in mathematical terms. Except for the word “one.” That covers it.
4:30 | And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Not only is the Spirit our down payment on redemption, He is our seal in God’s eyes of our relationship. Unless, of course, we make Him so unwelcome; keep such a filthy house that He would want to leave. He left King Saul.
5:18 | Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Ah, the refreshing liquid metaphor again! Hmm … if being drunk on wine leads to debauchery, what does being filled with the Spirit lead to?
6:17-18 | Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Warfare? Being filled with the Spirit leads to warfare? Suiting up with spiritual armor? Arming with scripture and prayer? I keep forgetting about these downsides!
What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”? Jesus told the Samaritan woman we must worship “in spirit and in truth” – the same thing? Can we pray apart from the Spirit? Will God hear us if we try?
Philippians 1:18b-19 | Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Paul was really grateful for the church at Philippi; they were supportive – and so was the Spirit.
3:2-3 | Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.
Plain as day, Paul says “we … worship by the Spirit of God.” Could it be that the worship that we leave feeling as if no worship has taken place is one where the Spirit has been absent … at least from our hearts? I’m not fully advocating the “trust-your-feelings-Luke” approach to worship, but isn’t there something telling about the lack of feeling in worship? Aren’t we supposed to feel reverence, awe, respect, gratitude, remorse, love, fellowship, joy – all or at least some of those each and every time we gather in His name? After all, we are the “circumcision”; the ones from whom the unnecessary fleshly excess has been removed in a covenant with God!
Could that be the problem with our worship sometimes? Still having confidence in the flesh, rather than the Spirit?
Colossians 1:7 | You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
So many of the things Paul says could have just as easily been said – in fewer words – if he had left off the phrase “in the Spirit.” Is he trying to communicate some fundamental truth in tacking it on? Is it possible this truth is that everything we as believers think, say, touch, do, attempt, enjoy, achieve, feel, and ponder should be “in the Spirit”?
I Thessalonians 1:6 | You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
More than another confirmation that joy is given by the Spirit – even when suffering – this simple sentence implies that it’s all right to see Christian mentors as worthy of imitation, as well as the Lord Himself.
4:7-8 | For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
This – and the previous verse above – are fine examples of scripture where the Spirit is mentioned in close proximity to “message” or “instruction” or “word.” Many will quote these as proving that the Spirit does not operate in the lives of Christians apart from the word. But you can go through just this study and see as many or more verses where no reference is made to the word. Wouldn’t it be wiser to conclude that the Spirit operates in concert with the word when God chooses – but in no way contradicting the word?
Because rejecting even one instruction is rejecting God who has given us the Spirit to help us discern what is good.
5:19-20 | Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.
I think of this when I remember times when I said or thought “The Spirit doesn’t do this any more” or “The Spirit’s work is done in this regard.” It’s frightening to think I could be so arrogant as to define what God could or couldn’t or can’t or won’t do; to think that I believed that I had such “perfect” understanding of scripture and the world around me. I’ve had to repent of that. I treated prophecies with contempt. I failed to see inspiration in messages preached and taught to me. I failed to see God’s hand in events that took place around me. I tried to turn a fire hose on the Spirit’s fire.
Is that fire inextinguishable? In the large sense, I don’t think it’s possible. But I think it happens all the time individual hearts. I think there are still folks who try to limit the Spirit to the confines of a very good book; to exclude Him from their lives apart from it; to refuse the gift and even deny the power.
It is dangerous business to do so. Do I need to repeat what Jesus said about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Or the fate of Ananias and Sapphira?
I Timothy 3:16 | Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
This is one of my favorite hymns, and may have been one of the first century church’s favorites, too. It is full of mystery and praise and testimony and witness. How was Jesus vindicated by the Spirit? Was it that every prophecy He made was proven true? Was it that every gift He promised was given? Was it even more – perhaps even things I can’t perceive?
4:1 | The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
How or where the Spirit clearly predicts this isn’t revealed here. But abandon the faith many did – even while Jesus was alive – and it didn’t stop there. False teachers and false prophets and preachers-for-rent seemed to multiply in century one.
Do we believe that Satan’s minions still whisper lies and teach new “revelations” to mislead even, if possible, the elect? Or do we just credit man’s innate creativity for all of them?
II Timothy 1:7 | For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
“Spirit” is not capitalized here in the NIV. Is Paul speaking of our own spirits? Or a metaphorical spirit (like the “Spirit of St. Louis” or “school spirit”)? Personally, I think the NIV publishers missed this one. As many times as the Holy Spirit was connected with boldness, I have to think Paul was pointing right to Him here.
1:14 | Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
I’m counting three times now – at least – that the Spirit is mentioned in connection with a deposit. But here He is not equated with it. He is to help Timothy guard it. Could that deposit be righteousness, joy, peace – any or all of those things the Spirit has in His luggage when He moves into our hearts?
Titus 3:4-7 | But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Another one of those verses that puts the Spirit in close proximity to what is termed here “the washing of rebirth.” Here, the Spirit has agency in our renewal – poured out on us generously.
I don’t want to try to make baptism sound more important than it is in God’s scheme and hopes for us. At the same time, I sure don’t want to make it sound any LESS important than it is. It is so much. It is spoken of in the New Testament so often, and with such depth, that it cannot be ignored. It occurs so very frequently in close proximity to God’s giving of the Holy Spirit that its significance is clear.
And yet …
Baptism in water has been preached and taught almost to the exclusion of any mention of God’s own Spirit (except as a perfunctory-sounding phrase to be recited at a baptism). Yes, its focus is demonstrating the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is more to it; more that does not diminish the sacrifice and renewal of Christ; more that actually enhances it.
If we can take what Peter said literally on Pentecost (and we Christians are often really good at taking things literally!), if we believe and are baptized we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – He’s promised to “all who are afar off”. Peter doesn’t say when; or if it’s immediately; or if it’s before (to help the listener understand and be convicted by the truth).
Peter, full of the Spirit himself, does say it will happen.
We can’t keep ignoring it as if it won’t.