GALATIANS

An extended paraphrase

Chapter 1
I, Paul, am writing this letter to the churches in Galatia. I write with all the authority of an Apostle - not an apostle commissioned and sent out by a group of men, or through the authority of one man, but an Apostle called and chosen by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead. I and all the Christian brothers and sisters with me send you our greetings: we wish you the grace and peace which come only from God our Father and Jesus Christ, and only because he gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins, to rescue us from the oppression of this evil age and of the evil one who controls it. Jesus made this sacrifice in willing submission to the will of our God and Father: to him be glory throughout the endless ages to come. 6]I am amazed that you are so quickly turning your backs on the God who called you to be his children through the grace of Christ, and turning to a different gospel - which in fact is not 'good news' at all: there is no alternative to the gospel of grace in Christ. The only possible explanation for your backsliding must be that a certain group of people are throwing you into confusion. These trouble-makers want to put the clock back and reverse the gospel of salvation through free grace in Christ and turn it into a 'gospel of salvation' through keeping the law of Moses. But even if we ourselves or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel different from the one we preached when first we came to you, let him be under God's judgement. This may sound extreme, but I mean it: it is a matter of life and death. So I repeat what I have just said: if any one is preaching to you a gospel different from the one you received from us in the beginning, may he be under God's curse. 10]Do these strong words sound as though I am trying to ingratiate myself with men, or to be faithful to God ? Do you really think it is men I am trying to please ? If it were, I would not be a true and faithful servant of Christ. I want to make this absolutely clear to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ: the gospel I preached to you is not a human invention. I neither received it from any man, nor was I taught it by any human teacher. No: it was Jesus Christ himself who directly revealed it to me. 13]You have heard, I am sure, what kind of life I lived as a Jew before my conversion, how I continually persecuted the church of God with fanatical zeal and tried to destroy it. In fact, I was far ahead of many of my Jewish contemporaries in my extremist devotion to the traditions of our forefathers. But I can see now that, just like Isaiah and Jeremiah, God had "marked me out and called me to himself while I was still in my mother's womb", and, at the time of his choosing, in his goodness and grace he revealed his Son Jesus to me, and shone his light in my heart. And, like those prophets of old, he called me, too, for a purpose: to proclaim the good news of his gospel among the gentiles. Right from the start of my new life as a Christian, I did not become a disciple of any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles long before I was; but I went away on my own into Arabia, and after that returned to Damascus. It was only then, three years later, that I went up to Jerusalem to question Peter, staying with him for a fortnight. I saw none of the other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord Jesus. I declare solemnly, as in the presence of the Lord, that what I am telling you is the truth. After that, I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known personally to any one in the Christian churches in Judea; they had only heard the story that "the one who used to persecute the church is now preaching the gospel - the faith he once tried to destroy", and they praised God for my conversion.

Chapter 2
My next visit to Jerusalem was fourteen years later; I went up with Barnabas, and took Titus along with us. I went, not because I had been summoned by the leadership of the Jerusalem church, but because a prophecy had been given to our local church in Antioch, revealing that there was about to be a severe famine in Judea. We had, therefore, taken a collection to help our fellow Christians there, and Barnabas and I were commissioned to deliver this money to Jerusalem. While I was there, I had a private meeting with those who had the status of leaders in the church, and I set out for them the gospel I was preaching - and still am - among the gentiles. I wanted to make sure that the race I had been running - and still am - would not in any way be made ineffective by disunity among us. But we were all in agreement, and my companion, Titus, although he was a Greek and not a Jew, was not compelled to be circumcised. The disagreement that did arise was entirely due to some pseudo-christians, who had not "entered the sheepfold through Jesus the door, but had entered in some other way", in order to spy out and steal from us the freedom we enjoy in Christ Jesus, and enslave us all over again to the law of Moses. We did not yield to them an inch, nor submit to them for a second, because we wanted to safeguard the truth of the one-and-only gospel for you gentiles. And all those who had the status of leaders in the church - what sort of status this was makes no difference to me, for "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" - all those leaders added nothing to the gospel I had set out; on the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted by God with the task of preaching the gospel to the gentiles just as Peter had been entrusted with the same gospel for the Jews. For the God who had worked so powerfully through his Holy Spirit in Peter in his apostolic ministry to the Jews had also worked in me as I preached to the gentiles. So when they recognised the grace of God which had been given to me, James, Peter and John (no leaders had a higher status than they did - the 'pillars of the church') gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, and encouraged us to evangelise the gentiles while they evangelised the Jews. The only instruction they gave us was to remember the needs of the poor - which was exactly what I myself was eager to do. So then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, do not believe what these trouble-makers are telling you about the gospel I preach. Do they say that it is a second-hand gospel taught to me by the other apostles ? No: it was revealed to me by Christ himself. Do they say, on the other hand, that my gospel is different from that preached by the other apostles ? No: it is exactly the same. Do not let them drive a wedge between us: we are in perfect agreement. 11]There was, however, one occasion on which I confronted Peter face to face. He was on a visit to Antioch, and at first he was quite happy to eat his meals in the company of gentile Christians, contrary to Jewish custom. (This was the true Peter, who had been told by God in a vision not to regard as "unclean" those whom God had cleansed, and as a result had entered the house of the gentile, Cornelius.) Then some people arrived from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church - though not with his authority; they went round saying that gentiles had to be circumcised before they could be saved. Peter, seemingly afraid of offending these people, began to backtrack, and, contrary to what he had both preached and believed, was distancing himself from his gentile brothers and sisters in Christ. This led the other Jewish Christians, too, to join him in his hypocritical behaviour, so that even my dear brother Barnabas was led astray, and failed to practise what he had preached so powerfully. But when I saw that they were not walking in step with the truth of the gospel, I spoke to Peter in front of them all: "You, Peter, were born a Jew, but have been living as a gentile. How, then, can you compel gentiles to observe Jewish laws and customs which you are not observing yourself ?" 15] The fact is, as I said to Peter, that we who are Jews by birth, and not 'gentile sinners', have come to realise that a person is not, and cannot be, regarded as righteous by God because he does all that the law requires - except through faith in Christ Jesus, who did do all that the law requires, so that his righteousness might be credited by God to all who put their faith in him. So we, too, put our faith in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified in God's sight on the basis of that faith, and not by doing what the law requires. For, as scripture says, "not a single human being will be justified by doing what the law requires". Our aim, then, is to live as those who are justified not by keeping the law, but by believing in Christ; but if we Jews are found to be living just like the 'sinful gentiles', free from the law of Moses, does that mean that Christ died to promote sinfulness ? Absolutely not ! The truth is just the opposite: what really shows me to be a sinner is if, having torn down the dividing wall set up between Jew and gentile by the law of Moses, I start, like Peter, to build it up again. If I do this, I transgress not the law of Moses but the New Covenant of grace for all who put their trust in Christ. 19]In Christ, the division that matters is not that between Jew and gentile, but that between believer and unbeliever. The law of Moses no longer has any authority over me; it has already done its worst: it sentenced me to death as a transgressor. But that death Jesus died for me, and I died in him, so that I can now live, not to be a slave to the law, but to please God. The old Paul (or 'Saul' !) lives no more; the new Paul is alive only because Christ lives in me through his Spirit. My physical life in this world I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me so much that he gave his life as a sacrifice for me. God has saved me from my sin by this amazing act of grace - a free gift which I am not going to throw back in his face by subjecting myself to the law of Moses all over again. If it were possible for people to be saved by keeping the law, then Christ would have died for nothing.

Chapter 3
My dear Galatian brethren, are you out of your minds ? Who has brainwashed you ? When we preached the gospel to you, did we not make it absolutely clear that on the cross Jesus died to save us from the curse of the law in the past and from slavery to the law in the future ? Did we not paint you such a vivid picture of this truth that you saw Jesus Christ crucified before your very eyes ? Just answer for me this one question: when you received new life in Christ, and experienced the power of his Spirit living in you, was that because you had kept the law, or because you had heard the gospel and put your faith in Christ ? You set out on the Christian journey on the right road, the road of faith, walking in the strength of the Spirit of Christ; how can you now be so stupid as to change track and to try to finish the journey relying on your own human efforts ?Just think of the many times and the many ways in which you have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit since you began your new life in Christ: has all this been for nothing ? No, I cannot believe it. Think again: did God supply you so richly with his Spirit and work such great miracles among you because you had kept the law, or because you believed the gospel ? It is faith, not works, that wins God's favour - just as it did for Abraham. 7]Are these troublemakers telling you that only those who keep the Jewish law are children of Abraham, and inherit the promises God made to him ? Do not believe what they say; rather, study the scriptures: "Abraham believed God, and that was credited to his account as righteousness". You need to realise, then, that it is not those who struggle to keep the law who are the children of Abraham, but those who come to God in faith. All scripture is inspired by God's Holy Spirit; he, of course, knew from the beginning that God justifies the nations, both Jews and gentiles, on the basis of faith. That is why scripture records God's promise to Abraham, an advance proclamation of the gospel: "In you all the nations of the world will be blessed". To be blessed is to be justified - to be regarded as righteous by God. So this promise means that, just as Abraham put his faith in God and was justified, so will all those who put their faith in God be blessed, whether they are Abraham's physical descendants or not. 10]On the other hand, those who try to achieve righteousness by keeping the law are under a curse; for (to quote from scripture again) "Cursed is the person who does not abide by and observe everything that is written in the Book of the Law". Moreover, it is clear that no one is regarded as righteous in God's sight by observing the law, since scripture says: "The person who is righteous by faith shall live". The law, on the other hand, is not concerned with faith but with works: "The person who fulfils the law's demands shall live through them". But no one can live such a perfect life, fulfilling all the law's demands, so no one can find favour with God by his own works. So all are under the curse of the law, exiled from God's presence spiritually, just as the Jews were exiled physically for so long from Jerusalem and the temple because they could not keep the law. Only Jesus lived a perfect life, so only he could pay the price needed to buy us back from our exile. In the darkness of the cross he endured the curse on our behalf; as scripture says: "Every one who is hung up on a tree is under God's curse". Why did Jesus endure this agony - the agony of being forsaken by God ? It was to make available to all nations, Jews and gentiles alike, the blessing promised to Abraham - the blessing of justification, so that all those of us who belong to Jesus Christ might receive through faith the promise of the Holy Spirit. 15]What, then, is the relationship between the promise given to Abraham and the law given to Moses ? My brothers and sisters in Christ, let me give you an analogy from human behaviour. When a man's last will and testament has been duly ratified, no one else afterwards can change it or set it aside. If that is true of a merely human will, how much more is it true of the testament, or covenant, God made with Abraham ? Now let us look again at what scripture says: the promises of the covenant were made to Abraham "and to the family you will found" - not, notice, "families". God was referring to a single descendant of Abraham, namely Christ, and to the one family of all those who belong to Christ. My point is this: God's covenant with Abraham was ratified long before the law was given. The law came much later, after Israel had been in Egypt for 430 years, and so cannot cancel the covenant, and make its promises null and void. For if the inheritance God promised were conditional on keeping the law, it would no longer depend on trusting the promise. But God has given this inheritance as a free gift of his grace, to be received by claiming the promise in faith. 19]You may well ask, then, what is the purpose of the law. The law was added to God's covenant with the Jews not as an alternative to the promise given to Abraham, but to demonstrate how essential that promise was. It makes us realise that we are all guilty, and so under God's curse, because we all break the law; none of us can achieve righteousness by our own efforts, so we all have to accept God's promise by faith. So the law was a temporary measure, in force until the time when that descendant, Christ, should come to whom, together with Abraham, the promise had been made. The law was inscribed through the ministry of angels, and brought down Mount Sinai in the hands of a mediator, Moses. A mediator brings about an agreement between two separate parties, in this case, God and his people: "If you keep my law, I will be your God". But God is one, and the promise he made to Abraham was one-sided and unconditional - there were no 'ifs': "I will give you an inheritance". 21]So is the law opposed to the promises of God ? Absolutely not ! God is one, and both the promise and the law come from God. If God had given us a law which was able to give us life rather than bring us condemnation, then indeed, as these troublemakers are saying, it would have been possible to achieve righteousness by observing the law. But scripture makes it quite clear that all mankind, both Jews and gentiles, have broken the law and are locked in the prison of sin. But God's purpose is not to condemn us all to death, but rather to give the promise of eternal life - the "inheritance" promised to Abraham - to all who put their trust in Jesus Christ: not life through law, but life through faith. 23]Faith, of course, means faith in Christ. Before Christ came, the law was like a jailer, keeping us closely confined in the condemned-cell of sin until a free pardon should arrive - pardon through faith. Or think of it another way. Just as a boy in a rich Roman household, though free-born, is under the authority and discipline of a slave-guardian to escort him to and from school, so the law was given, like a stern disciplinarian, to lead us to Christ, so that we might be justified, not through discipline but through faith. Once the slave has brought the boy to school, he no longer has any authority over him; in the same way, once the law has brought us to the great Teacher, Christ, and to faith in him, we are no longer under its authority. 26]For through faith you belong to Jesus Christ, and if you belong to Jesus Christ, you are all sons of God; when you were baptised into Christ you became part of his body. In Christ's body there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, or between slave and free, or between male and female - yes, in God's family, if not in a Roman household, sons and daughters are equally heirs of the riches of his inheritance. You are all one single family in Christ Jesus, that "single family" of Abraham to which God made his covenant promise all those years ago. To sum up, then: if you belong to Christ, you are members of his single, world-wide family; and if you are members of his family, then you are children of Abraham; and if you are children of Abraham, you are heirs of the inheritance which God promised to him - eternal life.

Chapter 4
To illustrate this truth further, let us go back to the rich Roman family. The son and heir will one day be lord and master of the whole estate, but while he is still a minor his status is little better than a slave's, being subject to the authority of guardians and overseers until the time appointed by his father for his coming-of-age. It is the same with us. Once, we were like children who knew no better. Both Jews and gentiles (though in different ways) were subject to the authority of a religion which was in line with basic human instincts - a rule-book religion, all about rules and rituals, rewards and punishments. We were just like children, enslaved by this strict disciplinary regime - until the time appointed by our heavenly Father for our coming-of-age. This was the time when God fulfilled his promise to Abraham by sending his own Son into the world. He was born of a woman, so fully human, and born under the law of Moses, so fully a Jew, so that he could, at the price of his own death, buy the freedom of all who were imprisoned by rule-book religion, both Jews and gentiles, and so that we might all come of age as true sons - and daughters - of God. And because you are his children, God also sent into the world, and into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, crying out with all the spontaneous joy of children, "Father, my own dear Father". So each one of you individually needs to realise that, because of what God has done for you, you are each his son or daughter; and that means that each of you is an heir to all the riches of God's kingdom. 8]But before you came of age, being gentiles you did not know the one true God, but were enslaved to pagan 'gods', who in fact are not gods at all. But now you have come to know God - or rather, to be known by him and welcomed into his family as grown-up children enjoying all the riches of your heavenly Father. How on earth, then can you turn back to the poverty of the schoolroom, with its rule-book religion that can never have the power to give life ? Do you really want to be slaves all over again ? Yet you are slavishly observing the rituals and festivals of that religion - holy days, special seasons, months - years, even ! Yes, they were ordained by God for his people, but like the compulsory regimes of childhood they were only a temporary arrangement; they pointed forward to a time that has now come, and to promises that have now been fulfilled - in the Messiah, Christ. They have served their purpose, they are no longer compulsory; do you really want to be bound by them still ? Oh dear ! I am afraid that all the trouble I have taken in preaching and teaching the gospel among you has been in vain. 12]My brothers and sisters in Christ, I beg you to become just as I am: free in Christ from subjection to the law of Moses. After all, when I was with you, I lived just like you gentiles, not subject to the law. I cannot fault your treatment of me in any way. You remember that I first came and preached the gospel to you as the result of my illness and because of my weakened physical condition, yet, though this was a real trial to you, you never despised or rejected me; on the contrary, you received me as though I were an angel of God, or even Christ himself. Where now is that warm welcome and loving hospitality you gave me then ? Such was your love for me then that I do believe that, if you could, you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me. And have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth ? It is all the fault of these troublemakers. They claim to be 'deeply devoted' to you - but their devotion is not in a good cause: they want to rebuild the barriers between Jew and gentile, and so shut you out of the freedom we have in Christ. They hope that you will then feel that you have to devote yourselves to them and to their zeal for the law of Moses. It is always good to have people who are deeply devoted to you - as long as it really is for your good; I am truly devoted to you, my children in the Lord, and not just while I am with you, but all the time, even when I am away from you. And though you are already my children, I am like an expectant mother enduring the pains of pregnancy all over again until Christ is fully formed in you. For some time now I have been wishing I could be with you in person; then I could adopt a rather different tone from this letter, and show you how deeply devoted to you I am - because I really am in despair over you ! 21]Of course, although I may feel like it sometimes, I am not really your spiritual mother. But it is vitally important that you should understand who your spiritual mother actually is. So let us look at the scriptures again. You say that you want to be subject to the law; tell me, then, are you really willing to listen to what the law says ? For it is recorded in Genesis, the first Book of the Law, that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael's mother was a slave-woman, Hagar; Isaac's mother was a free woman, Sarah, Abraham's wife. Scripture records that Ishmael, the son of the slave, was born in the normal, natural way, the result of an entirely physical process. But Isaac, the son of the free woman, was born in supernatural, miraculous fulfilment of God's promise to his father Abraham; for his mother Sarah had been infertile all her life, and was long past the natural age of child-bearing. These two mothers are illustrations of the two covenants God has made with his people, the Old and the New. Hagar represents the Old Covenant made at Mount Sinai with the people of Israel, which gives birth to children destined to a life of slavery to the law of Moses. (An indication of this is that Ishmael became the father of the Arabian race, and Mount Sinai is in Arabia.) Hagar corresponds to present-day Jerusalem and the Jewish people, slaves, like their mother, to the law. But the New Covenant was made at the Hill of Calvary through the death of Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham by the free woman Sarah. She represents the heavenly Jerusalem, whose children, both Jews and gentiles, are free of the law, being members of God's family because they believed the promise, as Abraham did. This great new family of believers, to which you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, belong as children of Sarah's son Isaac, is a glorious fulfilment of a prophecy of Isaiah. Having foretold the death of Jesus, the Suffering Servant who would bear the sins of his people and free them from God's curse, he immediately goes on to give a message of hope and comfort to the Jews exiled (under God's curse) in Babylon: "Rejoice, infertile woman who has never borne a child; burst out into shouts of joy, you who have never known the pains of childbirth; for the woman who was under God's curse will have many more children than the woman who has normal sexual relations with her husband." 28]From all this, then, it is clear that it is Sarah, not Hagar, who is your spiritual mother. Sarah was rescued from the curse of barrenness by the grace of God and in fulfilment of his promise to Abraham, so that she was miraculously able to give birth to Isaac; he therefore is the ancestor of all who are born into God's family by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. Hagar, on the other hand, herself a slave, is the mother of those who are slaves to the law, and Ishmael, born of the natural physical process, is the ancestor of those who try to win God's favour by their natural human efforts to keep the law, and by the physical rite of circumcision - efforts which can only fail. 29]There is another parallel, too, between then and now. In Abraham's day, the naturally conceived Ishmael kept persecuting the miraculously conceived Isaac - the 'flesh', as it were, persecuting the Spirit. It is just the same today: the troublemakers, hell-bent on their ounce of flesh, are persecuting the true believers born again in the power of the Spirit. Let us look once again at the Book of the Law which you are so devoted to. It is recorded in scripture that Sarah said to Abraham: "Cast out the slave-woman and her son; for the son of the slave-woman shall never share God's inheritance with the son of the free woman." And God told Abraham to do what she asked, because it was through Isaac's line that his promise would be fulfilled. So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we who belong to God's family through faith in his promise are the children of Sarah the free woman, not of Hagar the slave; we are not slaves to the law but free in Christ.

Chapter 5
Trying to win God's acceptance by keeping the law is slavery: our lives are dominated by the need to observe its every detail, and our consciences condemn us whenever we fail. But Christ has freed us from the curse of the law so that we might live in freedom from the tyranny of the law. Stand upright, then, and enjoy this freedom; do not bend your necks and have the yoke of slavery once more imposed upon you. Listen carefully to what I am saying: it is I, Paul, who is speaking to you. If you are circumcised, the death of Jesus will be of no use to you: as far as you are concerned, he will have died in vain. There are only two ways to be righteous in God's eyes. Either we must observe every detail of the law all our lives without fail; but, apart from Jesus Christ, every one who has ever lived has failed, so that road to righteousness is a dead-end. Or we put our faith in Christ and accept the free grace of God. So to every one who is being circumcised I say this again, with all the authority of an apostle: you are trying to achieve righteousness by your own efforts, by observing the law. If you set out down this road - the dead-end - you are obliged to observe every detail of the law without fail; you have cut yourself off from the power of Christ to save you from the curse of the law which will come upon you when you fail - as you will; you have cut yourself off from the grace of God. But we who are on the other road are awaiting, with all the confident expectation that the Holy Spirit creates within us, that great day, the Day of Judgement, when God will declare us righteous, not because we have observed the law, but simply because we have put our faith in Christ. For in Christ, for those who belong to him, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything; all that matters is faith, faith that shows it is genuine by expressing itself in love. 7]Once you were with us on this road; you were running well; who has tripped you up, so that you no longer believe this great truth ? Who has persuaded you to change course ? It was certainly not the God who called you to himself through the preaching of the gospel of grace. So I have every confidence in you that you will come to agree with me that this teaching is false and not from God - and my confidence comes from Jesus Christ working in me by his Spirit. But just as it only takes a few grains of yeast to leaven a whole lump of dough, so one false teacher can infect a whole church with error. Whoever that false teacher is, he will have to bear God's judgement for all the trouble he is causing you. And if these troublemakers are saying that I myself am proclaiming the need for gentile Christians to be circumcised, just answer me this question, my brothers and sisters in Christ: why am I still being persecuted - as Isaac was by Ishmael ? I am persecuted because I preach the cross of Christ; this is a stumbling-block to human pride, and causes great offence, especially to the Jews, who think that they can achieve righteousness by their own efforts, by keeping the law. So if I really were proclaiming the need for circumcision, the offence of the cross would have disappeared, and I would no longer be persecuted. As we have seen, the family God promised to Abraham is a single family of Jews and gentiles together; these troublemakers want to divide it into different families. If they are so keen on circumcision, they ought to go one step further and castrate themselves; that would stop them starting families. 13]As for you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, God called you to live in freedom - freedom to stand before him with a clear conscience because Christ has freed us from the curse of the law. But do not use this glorious freedom as an excuse for giving free rein to you sinful human nature - your 'flesh'; you do not need to cut it off physically, but you must not become enslaved to it spiritually. Your freedom in Christ does involve slavery, not to selfish indulgence, but in willing and loving service to each other. Yes, you are free from the law as an impossible road to righteousness in God's eyes; but you are not free to ignore the law, since it expresses God's will for our lives. This law can be summed up in a single sentence: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." So serve one another in love, and you will observe the law. But if you use each other to satisfy you sinful appetite for backbiting and getting your teeth into one another, watch out that you are not completely destroyed by one another. 16]I tell you this, then: live your lives in the strength which the Holy Spirit of Jesus gives you, and you will certainly not give in to the sinful appetites of the flesh. For the Christian life is a lifelong tug-of-war between the Holy Spirit and our sinful nature. The Holy Spirit wants us to live lives of selfless beauty and sinless purity, just as Jesus did; our sinful nature pulls us in the opposite direction, so that although we really want to be like Jesus and to do what he would do, all too often we do the opposite. But if on our Christian walk we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit step by step, the law will take care of itself: our actions will be directed by the love of Jesus, not dictated by the law of Moses. If, however, we do what our sinful nature urges us to do, the results are all too clear. God's beautiful gift of sex is corrupted and perverted by having intercourse outside marriage, by indulging in impure thoughts, images and fantasies, and by complete disregard for modesty and propriety; true religion is debased by worshipping false gods and resorting to occult practices; social relationships and Christian fellowship are poisoned by vendettas and quarrelling, by envy and jealousy, by outbursts of anger and long-running feuds, and by divisions into warring sects and factions; drinking degenerates into drunkenness, and social gatherings into wild orgies of self-indulgence. All these, and other similar actions, show clearly that our sinful nature is winning the tug-of-war, and I tell you again, as I have plainly told you before, that those who persist in such behaviour will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22]If, on the other hand, we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, then, just as a fruit-tree produces fruit, so the Spirit of Jesus produces in us the character of Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If we live like this, we will not be breaking the law ! Those who belong to Christ share his death on the cross before they can share his resurrection life; that is what baptism symbolises: we declare and demonstrate publicly that we have crucified our old life, our 'flesh', with all its sinful desires and uncontrollable passions, and that we have turned our back on it and left it behind us. We have, as it were, cut off all of our flesh, not just a tiny piece of it. So the ceremony which initiates us as members of God's people and God's family is not circumcision but baptism. So as we emerged from baptism into new life in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us follow his leading every step of the way. Since this new life is God's gift to us, let us not be foolishly concerned with our own status and reputation; there should be neither rivalry nor jealousy in God's family.

Chapter 6
Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all one family - God's family. So if a fellow-member of that family is found to have stumbled on his, or her, walk with God, and fallen into sin, those of you who are still following the Holy Spirit's leading should set him on his feet again - but do so in a spirit of meekness, that meekness which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. And while you are ministering to others, be sure to examine your own life, so that you do not fall into the same temptation. This is how a family should behave: we should help to bear each others burdens and share the load. This is how we show our love for each other under the pressure of life's trials and temptations; and this is also how we fulfil the law, the law of Jesus Christ, who gave us a "new commandment", that we should love one another. If any one is too proud to serve his brothers and sisters in Christ like this, he has an utterly false idea of his own importance: of ourselves, each one of us is nothing; we only amount to anything by the grace of God. But while we are members of a family, we are each of us responsible for our own behaviour; so we should each continually examine ourselves, and if we pass the test, we should keep our joy to ourselves alone, and not boast about it to any one else. For each of us must bear our own responsibility for our actions before God alone. 6]So the Christian family should be a caring family and a sharing family. This applies to material things as well. Those who are being faithfully taught the word of God are receiving great spiritual blessings; they should share their material goods with their teachers and pastors. There is a universal principle at work here: you reap what you sow. This is true in the material world: if you sow barley you reap barley, and you only reap a big harvest if you sow a lot of seed. This is true spiritually as well, so do not be deceived into thinking that you can reap without sowing: God is utterly consistent; you cannot short-change him, or play fast and loose with the principles on which his world works. So those who plough all their money and energy into material pleasure and material security will indeed reap a harvest - a material harvest, which, like all material things, will quickly fade and decay. But those who devote their energies and resources to building God's kingdom in the world around them, and the life of the Holy Spirit within them, will reap from God and his Holy Spirit eternal life that will never fade or decay. So let us not grow weary of doing good Just as the farmer, after sowing his seed, must wait patiently for the harvest, so we, too, if we do not lose our enthusiasm but persevere patiently, will reap our reward, each at the time God has appointed for us. In the meantime - the time that God has given us - let us continue doing good to all those around us, and in particular to those who belong to our own family of believers. 11]I am writing this final section in my own handwriting - look, you can see it is my writing by the size of the letters ! 12]Those who want to force circumcision upon you do so because their religion is external and man-made. They are trying to look good in God's eyes, and the world's, by their own efforts. But the cross of Jesus tells us that those efforts are useless: Christ would not have died to save us if we could have saved ourselves. To preach the cross invites persecution because it is a blow to human pride; these troublemakers preach circumcision to avoid being persecuted for preaching the cross. What is more, those who are circumcised in accordance with the law are quite incapable of keeping it; so they are trying to get you circumcised so that they can boast that they have kept the law - at your expense. But as for me, may God save me from ever boasting of what I have done, but only of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for me on the cross. The death of Jesus was the death of the world of man-made religion; I have died with Christ, so that world is dead to me, and I to it. God accepts us not because of what we do - circumcision and uncircumcision are equally irrelevant - but because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, giving us new life through his Holy Spirit. To be a new creation in Christ is all that matters ! This is the key principle of the Christian faith, and all who walk by this guideline are the true descendants of Abraham and the true people of God; may God's peace and mercy rest upon them ! 17]In future, then, let no troublemakers question my authority as an apostle. My body is marked with the scars of the beatings I have received and the stonings I have suffered; they testify that I have indeed taken up my cross daily and followed in the footsteps of my crucified Lord. 18]I pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may strengthen and encourage you, my brothers and sisters in God's one true family. Amen