It’s My Body!

“It’s my body; I can do with it what I want!”

How many times have we heard this justification for the right of a woman to abort her baby?

But it’s not just pregnant women who justify themselves this way.

In the context of sex within marriage, Paul bluntly writes, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor. 7.4). At this level we understand the husband owns his wife and the wife owns her husband. We don’t have a right to do whatever we want with our own bodies.

But even single men and women don’t own their bodies, because we all have an owner. Backing up just a couple of verses to the previous chapter of 1 Corinthians, we read:

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin  a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6.18-20)

Brothers and sisters, God owns us–all of us–including our bodies. We do not have a right to do whatever we want with our bodies.

Think about this in context of fornication. Do we have a right to do whatever we want with our bodies?

Think about this in context of masturbation. “But it’s my body!” we insist.

Think about this in context of eating and drinking to excess. God labeled those gluttony and drunkenness, both of which He strongly condemns.

Think about this in context of looking upon a woman to lust after her. “But these are my eyes, and I’m not harming anyone!” Jesus thinks differently, and He commanded, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away…” (Matt. 7.27-30).

If you think about each of these sins (and many others), they hold in common a desire to please ourselves, to indulge our bodies, to cater to our fleshly appetites. Selfishness and sensuality rule. But what if we understand we are not our own–God owns us, and He has the authority to tell us what to do with our bodies because He purchased them with the blood of Jesus? Doesn’t that change our perspective?

Whenever we justify ourselves by claiming, “It’s my body!” we stand in rebellion against our Creator who made our bodies and who explains how we should use them. Instead, as the bride of Christ, we should present ourselves to Him pure and holy, keeping ourselves from defilements of the flesh. The world reminds us of all the things we’re missing, all the fun passing us by. But when we stand back and look at all the world’s broken relationships, STDs, and drug addictions, we realize how lovely God’s ways really are!

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7.1)

Can You Really Control Yourself?

With God, all things are possible.

Can you control yourself? God commanded self-control, and what God commands He also enables His children to accomplish. If you are a Christian, walking with Christ, walking according to the Spirit, God has already given you the power to overcome the flesh!

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6.4-7)

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6.12-14)

We can excuse ourselves: “I just cannot conquer this sin.” We allow it to fester and hang around in our lives without challenge.

Notice God did not say, “Let me control you,” but “Control yourself.” We reign over our own bodies, hearts, and minds. He certainly helps and empowers us in our self-control, as we see from the the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To Titus Paul wrote that older men should be “temperate,” that older women should not be “enslaved to much wine,” that younger women be “subject to their own husbands,” and that Titus himself should “be an example of good deeds.” All of those traits have self-control in their base. Paul uses another term with the older men, younger women, and younger women: they should be “sensible.” Many translations express this word as “self-controlled.” Thus, God expects self-control at all stages of a Christian’s life from the aged down to the youth.

Remember teenage Joseph, handsome in form and appearance, solidly refused Potiphar’s wife’s advances, saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39.9). She pressed him hard, one day grabbing him and trying to drag him into her bed, but “he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Gen. 39.12). What a courageous young man, who saw sin so clearly, and who refused to cross a line God had drawn!

With God’s help we can all have this kind of self-control!

I do not say that a worldly-minded, fleshly-thinking person can have this control–for he allows his flesh to control him. But God bestows great grace upon us, His children, that we might flee youthful lusts and get out of the house!

Let us bring our children up in the Lord in such a way that they might know Him and the freedom from sin He grants through Jesus Christ. And let us also take hold of His grace, knowing that God’s grace brings salvation for all people and trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. God’s grace empowers us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2.11-12).

Walk in the light, dear brothers and sisters!

God Revealed to Me…

I cannot tell  how many times I have heard religious folks say,

  • “The Lord spoke to me…”
  • “God revealed to me…”
  • “I felt led by God to…”
  • “The Holy Spirit guided me…”

And many other such phrases, indicating that God somehow directly communicates with them and does so on a regular basis.

Honestly, my first thought is usually “God has never spoken to me like that–am I not His child, too?”

But then I take it to Scripture, and I want to ask, “Exactly how has God spoken to you, and in what way is He leading you?” If they define what they mean in a biblical way, perhaps we are no so far apart.

For instance, if they mean they searched Scripture diligently and discovered what God wanted them to do, I totally understand walking in God’s wisdom and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in that way. Or if they mean they sought godly counsel from wise Christians who gave them biblical advice, I understand that, too. But if they mean that God actually spoke words and sentences to them, communicating through a dream or a vision, that is outside my realm of Christian experience. I will not insist they didn’t hear those words or see those visions, but I will remind them that God Himself instructs us:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4.1)

One major test (perhaps THE major test) is to check what you hear against what God has already revealed in Scripture. In that way, God’s revealed and tested word continues to stand as the basis for every other word or message we receive in life. No external message (from someone claiming to speak for God) or internal message (from a feeling, a heart-tug, or a word coming into our mind) can stand above and supersede God’s already revealed word.

Ezekiel 13 powerfully exposes the rampant false teaching among the Jews just before Nebuchadnezzar leveled the city in 586 BC. God describes those false prophets as those who…

  • “prophecy from their own hearts” (13.2)
  • “follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!” (13.2)
  • “have seen false visions and lying divinations” (13.6)
  • “say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them” (13.6)
  • “have mislead My people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace” (13.10)

Our deceptive hearts can fool even ourselves, and we can think that a certain strong feeling to do something is the word of the Lord. Let us be careful not to blindly trust in our feelings one way or the other. God has certainly planted a conscience within each of us which either condemns us when we do something wrong or commends us when we do something right, but that’s not the same thing as God speaking to us directly.

Examine the Scriptures and find how God spoke to prophets. He did not leave them with feelings; He always spoke clearly, directly, to the point. That’s how God communicates. If you tell me that God told you to do something, please don’t be offended when I ask how you received that word. I’m testing the spirits, and maybe I can help teach you how to test the spirits, as well.

How tragic to lean on our own hearts and our own spirits for guidance! How terrible it will be for those who follow their feelings to stand before Jesus and say, “But it felt so real!” and to have Jesus respond, “But I never said that. That wasn’t Me speaking.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3.5)

Galatians: What Is the Law of Christ?

Fruit of the SpiritAs we have seen, Paul explicitly declares the Law to have no power over the Christian. One who is in Christ, being led by the Spirit, is not under law:

  • “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse…” (Gal. 3.10)
  • “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law…” (Gal. 3.23)
  • “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?” (Gal. 4.21)
  • “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5.18)

Yet Paul still speaks of us fulfilling the Law:

  • “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Gal. 5.13-14)
  • After giving the fruit of the Spirit, Paul concludes, “Against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5.23)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6.2)
  • “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8.2-4)

What is the law of Christ, the law of the Spirit of life? It is not circumcision, that’s for sure, since Paul spends most of Galatians condemning those who preach and practice circumcision! It’s also not “the whole law” of Moses (Gal. 5.3). Is it part of the law of Moses, then? Doesn’t the verse Paul quotes in Gal. 5.14 (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) come from the Old Testament (Lev. 19.18)? Is he instructing his readers to observe that commandment but not to observe circumcision? How do we know, then, what Old Testament passages we should still keep and apply today and which ones we should understand as having already been fulfilled?

BlessedHere is where the simplicity of God’s “law” in Christ comes in. We should recognize the difference in type of law–the Law of Moses was a law of commandments written on stone; the Law of Christ is a law of faith written on hearts.

Moses went up on the mountain and brought down Ten Commandments and a host of other moral, civil, and ceremonial laws.

Jesus went up on the mountain and spoke. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus identified the two core laws upon which all the law and the prophets hung: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you strength, and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the law of Christ.

No longer do we have lists of commandments which are against us; now we have core principles about how our hearts should be towards God and towards men. The New Testament avoids lists of laws, as a matter of fact. Jesus and the apostles mainly taught by example, by narrative, by principle. They gave plenty of applications to help readers discern and refine our understanding of principles given.

Returning to Galatians 5, we are to walk by the Spirit, and by so doing we will avoid gratifying the desires of the flesh. The fruit the Holy Spirit bears in us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As we walk in these things, we literally walk outside of law. There is no law against these things. The law of Christ truly is a law of liberty in which mercy triumphs over judgment. We are set free from sin, from the works of the flesh (Gal. 5.17-21), in order to walk by the Spirit with Christ our Lord!

Galatians: Because You Are Sons

AdoptLet’s try to absorb the reality of our adoption by God.

Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4.1-7)

First, the Father is not forced to adopt. Parents adopted who they will. Adoption is a process of choice completely on the part of the parent. In the time of Paul, Roman law dictated that an adopted son received all the rights and privileges of a natural-born son. Bob Utley writes the following in his commentary on Galatians:

In Roman law, adoption was very difficult. A long, involved and expensive legal procedure, once enacted adoption afforded several special rights and privileges: (1) all debts were cancelled; (2) all criminal charges were dropped; (3) they could not be legally put to death by their new father; and (4) they could not be disinherited by their new father. In legal terms, they were a completely new person. Paul was alluding to the believers’ security in Christ by using this Roman legal procedure (cf. Rom. 8:15, 23). When a father publicly adopted a son, he officially and permanently became his heir. *

Second, the “we” in Galatians 4 I believe refers to both Jews and Gentiles (see Gal. 3.27-29) who were redeemed (bought back) by Christ. Both Jews and Gentiles used to be “under the law” (they both stood accountable before God), but Christ extracted and released them. Though they used to be slaves, now they were sons! How did they become sons? God adopted them into His family.

Third, God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts because we are sons. The Holy Spirit in us, by Whom we cry out “Abba, Father!”, proves the fact of our adoption. See also Romans 8.9-17: the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are sons of God. If we have the Holy Spirit, we are sons–guaranteed! If we are sons, we have the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, if we are sons we are heirs of God, selected to receive an inheritance.

Doesn’t all that make you want to jump for absolute joy?!


* Utley, Robert James. Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians. Vol. Volume 11. Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1997.

When and How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit?

We noted Paul’s thesis for Galatians is Galatians 2.15-16:

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Then we asserted that God has never saved man through law.

In Galatians 3 and 4, Paul offers proofs as to why the law is powerless to save and, in fact, condemns those under it. Paul’s first point has to do with the process by which the Galatian Christians received the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3.1-9).

Sharing the GospelWhen and How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit?

Understanding when and how we receive the Holy Spirit is vital! Is getting theology right really so important? To Paul, getting this gospel right was of utmost importance! Those who got it wrong were (and are) damned, severed from Christ, fallen from grace (Gal. 5.4), and Paul wished those who taught this perverted gospel would emasculate themselves (Gal. 5.12).

So then, how did the early Christians receive the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3.1-9?

Twice Paul contrasts working the “works of the law” against “hearing with faith.”

  1. Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (3.2)
  2. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith–just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (3.5-6)

Notably, Paul never distinguishes between working works of the Old Law and working works of a New Law. No, he only contrasts works with faith, for the two are at odds, contrary to one another. One has to do with our own power and ability; the other has to do with trusting in God’s power and ability.

In Christ AlonePaul says the GOSPEL was preached to Abraham centuries before Christ ever came, and it’s encapsulated in the promise: “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Gal. 3.8). We who are of faith (in Christ) are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith! Just as Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3.6), it’s exactly the same with us–we believe God and He counts it to us as righteousness today. Paul connects the giving of the Holy Spirit to this counting as righteousness, the Holy Spirit being an evidence of our justification.

No obedience to law is necessary to receive the Holy Spirit–only hearing with faith. But doesn’t faith obey, work, and submit?! Yes, but biblical, saving faith is born in the heart of man, while works of obedience and submission flow from faith. The Galatians received the Holy Spirit by hearing the gospel and believing in the gospel. They were baptized, it says in Galatians 3.27, into Christ, surrendering only to Him. Baptism is not a commitment to a law system; it’s a commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior!

Am I saying you don’t have to follow laws any more? Not hardly! Am I saying God doesn’t want us to do any works? No! God created us to walk in good works (Eph. 2.10). Jesus and His apostles taught that we should be obedient to the laws of the land, to our parents, ultimately to God. We must understand the place of law in a Christian’s life, which is Paul’s point of contention here.

Law cannot not justify or save, so what was it / is it for? We shall continue…