Study Guide

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon Community

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In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28, NRSV)

Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28, KJV)

This is Paul's vision for one big happy Christian community. Everyone is on equal footing, no matter who they are. It's a nice thought, but things didn't really work out this way. Hey, Paul can dream, can't he?

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" (Galatians 4:4-6, NRSV)

When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:4-6, KJV)

Jesus came to save God's children—the Jews—but this time, God didn't want to leave anyone else out. So he adopted the Gentiles into the fold. Now they get to be part of God's little community of believers.

The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:14-15, NRSV)

All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Galatians 5:14-15, KJV)

There Paul goes, quoting Jesus (Matthew 19:19, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27). But as it turns out, Jesus is in turn quoting Leviticus 19:18. The idea is a good one: everyone get along and things will be a-okay. The alternative? We're all gonna eat each other up with hatred.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control […] If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-23, 25-26, NRSV)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law […] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-23, 25-26, KJV)

Some more good advice for being in a community: Paul wants his fellow Christians to always think about good things so that they'll live good lives. That, in turn, will make life a whole lot better for everyone else, too.

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. (Galatians 6:1-6, NRSV)

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (Galatians 6:1-6, KJV)

When other Christians fall short, it's the job of those who aren't sinning like crazy to help them back on the straight and narrow. Of course, we've all got to pull our own weight. This advice is sort of a middle ground: help others, but don't walk around always looking for help yourself.

You hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God's grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:7-11, NRSV)

I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:7-11, KJV)

This is pretty much Paul's vision for the perfect Christian community: people who are concerned for each other and always becoming more and more loving every day. But being good isn't its just own reward in this case. Jesus also sees what you're doing and, when he comes again, Paul says, Christians will be able to board that one-way train to Heaven.

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15, NRSV)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14-15, KJV)

Paul's point here? Christians are awesome. The rest of the world…not so much. And Paul wants the Christians to keep their little lights shining in a world-wide blackout of badness. Good luck.

No church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:15-18, NRSV)

No church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. (Philippians 4:15-18, KJV)

Hmmm…looks like Paul's playing favorites here a little. Obviously, the Philippian community is pretty good, but Paul clearly calls out their willingness to always help him as especially praise-worthy. Other churches, take note.

When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. (Philemon 1:4-7, NRSV)

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. (Philemon 1:4-7, KJV)

Flattery will get you pretty far with some people, and hopefully Philemon is one of them. Right before Paul asks his friend to free his runaway slave, he lays it on thick. Paul plays up Philemon's love for others and willingness to share and help. Now, help a slave out, will you?

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. (Philemon 1:17-21, NRSV)

If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides. Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord. Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say. (Philemon 1:17-21, KJV)

Not only does Paul hint that Philemon should free Onesimus; he also asks that he welcome him as part of the community. As an equal to Paul. Paul even goes on record to let Philemon know that he'll pay all Onesimus' debts if needs be. Keep in mind this letter is addressed to the whole community, so Paul is also using good old-fashioned peer pressure to his advantage.

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