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Lesson 2: Grace That Sanctifies

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

– Galatians 5:6 (NRSV)

Devotion: Read Galatians 5:13-26. Although the world “sanctification” is not used frequently in the Bible, God often calls for his people to live as righteous people. In this passage, Paul uses several powerful images to encourage readers toward godly choices: freedom to love, desires of the “flesh” (all within us in opposition to God), and fruits of the Spirit. Our choices matter. Fate does not determine our path; God does not force obedience on us. We must choose to avoid indulgent “works of the flesh” which lead to destruction. When we live according to the Spirit’s desires, positive attributes emerge and slowly grow in our lives like fruit on a tree. Which of the “works of the flesh” are most common in our culture? Should Church representatives inspect individual’s lives, look for these acts, and correct them? Is it possible to grow “fruit of the Spirit” without a community around us? How does this call to produce fruit affect our approach to worship, programs, and goal setting in local congregations?  

Personal Worship Option: Reread Galatians 5:22-23. Which of these spiritual fruits is the most difficult for you to embody? Which of them come easily, naturally to you? Hold these thoughts in mind as you pray today. Ask God to show you how to be more fruitful.

Dig A Little Deeper:

Read Galatians 5:2-12 to gain a perspective of the context in which Paul writes. How do his words strike you, given his call to spiritual fruits (5:22-23)? Is he always gentle?

5:13 Paul speaks of being free from the legalism of the Hebrew Covenant, but he is concerned readers will think he is granting them a license to indulge in sinful activity. All freedom most be exercised in loving service to others. Why might 5:14 be frightening to church leaders?

5:15 How do modern Christians “bite and devour one another?”

5:16 Paul often uses the phrase “live by the Spirit” (Rom 6:4, 13:13; 2 Cor 5:7; 1 Thess 2:12). What does this metaphor communicate about sanctification? How might the idea of walking with God on a journey shape how we understand prayer, worship, and spiritual growth?

5:17 Our sinful desires are in competition with the Spirit’s desires. This leads Paul to list various pagan practices early church Christians face (5:19-21). What would be included on a list for modern Christians to avoid? Does sin change over time or the ways we perform the same sin in new ways?

5:18 Christians are led by the indwelling presence of God which counteracts the temptations offered by the world as well as the temptation to become legalistic. In other words, our spiritual practices (awareness of and response to the presence of God) in large measure determines our response to temptation. Are Christians “under attack” by temptation or simply more aware of the ongoing temptations of life?  

5:22 Given 5:13-14, it is not surprising that “love” is first on the list of spiritual fruit. Rather than seeing these as independent and separate virtues that we work on one at a time, we are invited to view these as the natural responses emerging in a transformed life. There may be ten virtues listed, but they are interconnected and build upon one another. That said, which of these interconnected spiritual fruits seems to come more naturally to you? Which is the most difficult for you to incorporate into your life?

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