Today’s readings are from Exodus 30, John 9, Proverbs 6 and Galatians 5.
Exodus 30 gives specifications for the altar of incense and the laver. The construction of the altar of incense occurs in vv. 1-10. Jesus ever intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:24-25). The atonement money is described in vv. 11-16.
The specifications for the laver is given in vv. 17-21. Christ washes us through his blood (1 John 1:7, 9) and his word (Ephesians 5:26).
Moses also describes the anointing oil (30:22-33) and the incense (30:34-38).
John 9 is Jesus’ encounter with a man born blind. The exact time of this miracle and Jesus’ resultant discourse is unclear. Evidently these events transpired sometime between the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2, 10; September 10-17, A.D. 32.) and the Feast of Dedication (10:22-39; December 18, A.D. 32.). It is the sixth of seven signs.
His disciples wanted to know whom to blame his blindness upon–himself or his parents. That is one possible answer to tragedy in this world–that we do it to ourselves or someone else is responsible. But Jesus answered…
3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Sometimes our tragedies are simply opportunities for God to display His glory, in this case by healing the man. Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with saliva and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
The water for the pool of Siloam came through Hezekiah’s tunnel, a remarkable engineering feat built in Old Testament times. “It was called Siloam, which, it was said, meant sent, because the water in it had been sent through the conduit into the city.” (Barclay)
“It was from the Siloam stream that was drawn the water which was poured over the great altar at the Feast of Tabernacles just past, which pouring out was regarded by the Rabbis (and is still) as typical of the pouring out of The Spirit in the ‘latter days’.” (Trench)
Not many people would appreciate having mud made with spit rubbed in their eyes! Some would look at how Jesus did this miracle and object, saying that it was offensive, inadequate, or even harmful to rub mud made with spit in a man’s eyes.
In the same way, some feel that the gospel is offensive. It is true that it offends man’s pride and human wisdom, but it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
In the same way, some feel that the gospel is inadequate. But have all the psychiatric and political and social programs in the world done more good than the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ?
In the same way, some feel that the gospel is harmful, that the free offer of grace in Jesus will cause people to sin that grace may abound. But the gospel changes our life for the good and the pure, not unto wickedness.
Of course, the Pharisees object to this because–guess what–Jesus did it on the Sabbath. Some of them struggled with the deeper issue–that Jesus could heal this man born blind, but others shrugged it off because he had violated the Sabbath. The begin to investigate. This man kept testifying that Jesus had completely healed him. But ultimately, they would not “see” (believe the truth).
Opening the eyes of the blind was prophesied to be a work of the Messiah: The eyes of the blind shall be opened. (Isaiah 35:5)
Jesus revealed Himself to the former blind man and he believed. He concluded…
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
This chapter advances the revelation of Jesus’ true identity, which was one of John’s primary objectives in this Gospel. It also shows that as the light of this revelation became clearer, so did the darkness—because some people prefer the darkness to the light (3:19).
One may say that this entire chapter paints a picture of how Jesus heals blind souls.
· We are all spiritually blind from birth.
· Jesus takes the initiative in healing us from blindness.
· Jesus does a work of creation in us, not reformation.
· In this work, we must be obedient to what Jesus commands.
· Jesus commands us to be washed in the water of baptism.
· We become a mystery to our former associates, not even seeming to be the same person.
· We display loyalty to Jesus when we are persecuted, boldly and plainly testifying of His work in our lives and confounding others.
· We pass from little knowledge to greater knowledge, and this brings us to greater worship and adoration.
Proverbs 6 starts by warning against signing surety for someone else’s loan. Just don’t do it (6:1-5). Then Solomon warns against laziness, observing the ant (6:6-11). There are six things, no seven, that God hates (6:12-19). Once again, there is a call to listen to instruction, in order to gain wisdom (6:20-23), especially protecting you from the charms of the adulterous woman (6:24-35).
In verses 27-29 we have a series of physical analogies designed to illustrate spiritual cause and effect. Adultery brings inescapable punishment. One may contain the fire (v. 27) at first, but others will discover it if it continues to burn. “His clothes” (v. 27) may imply outward reputation, namely, what others see, as often in Scripture.
Men and women who decide to flirt with adultery just once can become enmeshed in misery and unhappiness for themselves and their precious families. (Joseph B. Wirthlin)
In Galatians 5 Paul moves from doctrinal teaching to practical application. Having ruled out the Mosaic Law as a regulatory standard for Christian behavior, Paul proceeded to explain how God does lead us. He did this by first discussing two opposite extremes (legalism and license), and then the proper middle (or higher) road. The indwelling Holy Spirit now leads us, but we must be careful to follow His leading.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
James Montgomery Boice has said:
“Before plunging into this third section of his letter, Paul interjects a verse that is at once a summary of all that has gone before and a transition to what follows. It is, in fact, the key verse of the entire Epistle. Because of the nature of the true gospel and of the work of Christ on his behalf, the believer is now to turn away from anything that smacks of legalism and instead rest in Christ’s triumphant work for him and live in the power of Christ’s Spirit. . . . The appeal is for an obstinate perseverance in freedom as the only proper response to an attempt to bring Christians once more under legalism.”
Likewise, John Piper has written:
This is the will of God for you: your freedom. Uncompromising, unrelenting, indomitable freedom. For this Christ died. For this he rose. For this he sent his Spirit. There is nothing he wills with more intensity under the glory of his own name than this: your freedom.
David Guzik shares this clarifying story:
The great evangelist D. L. Moody illustrated this point by quoting an old former slave woman in the South following the Civil War. Being a former slave, she was confused about her status and asked: Now is I free, or been I not? When I go to my old master he says I ain’t free, and when I go to my own people they say I is, and I don’t know whether I’m free or not. Some people told me that Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation, but master says he didn’t; he didn’t have any right to.
Many Christians are confused on the same point. Jesus Christ has given them an “Emancipation Proclamation,” but their “old master” tells them they are still slaves to a legal relationship with God. They live in bondage because their “old master” has deceived them.
God did away with the Mosaic Law completely: the civil, the ceremonial, and the moral parts. He terminated it as a code and has replaced it with a new code: “the Law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Some commandments in the Law of Christ are the same as those in the Law of Moses (e.g., nine of the Ten Commandments, excluding the command to observe the Sabbath day).
Paul then began to attack the Judaizer’s promotion of circumcision (v. 2) and tells the Galatians that if they submitted to circumcision, then they would be obligated to keep the whole law.
When Paul says, in v. 4…
you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
He is not saying that a believer in Jesus Christ has lost their salvation, but rather, if you depend upon the law to save you (in even the least bit) then you are not saved at all and you have removed yourself from the working of grace.
This is the exact opposite of what Paul says in Romans 5:1-2…
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
When justified by faith (not “by the law,” Gal. 5:4), we have (1) peace with God and (2) access into grace “in which we stand.” When we try to be justified by the law, we remove ourselves from grace, by definition.
As Tom Constable says…
The Galatians’ confidence in circumcision would reveal a confidence in their own ability to earn salvation by obeying the Law. This legal approach to salvation would separate them from Christ, since what He did was provide salvation as a gift. They would fall away from the grace method of salvation if they chose the law method.
What really matters is not circumcision, but “faith working through love” (5:6). Real faith will result in love.
“We must guard against the misunderstanding current especially in Catholic theology (though Protestantism is far from exempt) that only faith made perfect in love leads to justification. This represents a serious distortion of the relationship between faith, love, and justification. In speaking of justification Paul never talks of faith and love, but only of faith as receiving. Love is not therefore an additional prerequisite for receiving salvation, nor is it properly an essential trait of faith; on the contrary, faith animates the love in which it works.”
False teachers were hindering the Galatian believers in their “race.”
Zola Budd and Mary Decker ran close together in the pack of 1,000-meter runners in the 1984 Los Angeles, California, Olympic Games. Unexpectedly, Zola Budd bumped into Mary Decker, and Mary went sprawling into the infield. She was out of the race. Just so, the false teachers in Galatia had interrupted the Galatian believers’ good progress toward their goal.
Some implied (v. 11) that Paul supported circumcision. Paul’s point here was that if he was teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation, the Judaizers would not have “persecuted” him. If people need circumcision, they do not need the cross of Christ. The legalists opposed Paul’s preaching of the Cross, because it pointed out that people are unable to please God themselves.
John Stott comments:
“‘Circumcision’ stands for a religion of human achievement, of what man can do by his own good works; ‘Christ’ stands for a religion of divine achievement, of what God has done through the finished work of Christ. ‘Circumcision” means law, works, and bondage; ‘Christ’ means grace, faith and freedom. Every person must choose.”
David Guzik notes:
Legalism can’t handle the offense of the cross. The whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to say, “You can’t save yourself. I must die in your place or you have absolutely no hope at all.” When we trust in legalism, we believe that we can, at least in part, save ourselves. This takes away the offense of the cross, which should always offend the nature of fallen man. In this sense, the offense of the cross is really the glory of the cross, and legalism takes this glory away.
Paul then argues against license in vv. 13-25. Instead of using our liberty to fulfill our own selfish desires, we should use it to love others (vv. 13-15), which fulfills the law–it grows out of the command to love God with all that we are, and expresses what the law means in the second table.
We should walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of our flesh (vv. 16-18). Realize that the flesh, whether doing good or doing bad, is opposed to the Spirit. Even righteousness done in the flesh is not what God desires. There is a constant battle between flesh and spirit. We can win only by being filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
Paul gives examples of what it means to walk in the flesh (doing bad) in vv. 19-21 and then examples of what it looks like to walk in the Spirit (vv. 22-23). Thus, the way to live between the poles of legalism and license is to walk by the Spirit (vv. 24-26).