Based on Galatians 5:16-6:5
Having talked recently about living, not as slaves of the law, but in Gospel freedom, we now hear Paul speaking about what it looks like to live in this Gospel freedom. Contrary to what many believe (and how many live!) it does not mean, “Do whatever you want.” We spoke before of the first use of the law, now we come to what is called by some, the “third use of the law” — the “call to obedience.” The second use of the law shows us our sin and our need for the Savior, Jesus Christ. In new-found freedom in Christ, we now ask, “How are we to live, freed by the Gospel?” The passage above describes the new life in Christ.
Simply put, St. Paul states that we are to walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. He describes the works of the flesh in an exhaustive list, including, but not limited to: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions. Sadly, we stand convicted by Paul and Holy Scripture — as we are still sinful human beings. This list of works of the flesh drive us to our Savior, praying the common Orthodox “Jesus Prayer,” “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
More positively, Paul describes the works of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Paul goes on, however, exhorting us, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another…Keep watch on yourselves…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” — which is, “love one another: just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Our Lenten journey might very well focus on “walking by the Spirit” more fully and more care-fully!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! Amen.
Lenten response: Choose one “work of the flesh” and one “work of the Spirit” on which to focus during Lent.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
66:1 This is what the Lord says:
“The heavens are my throne
and the earth is my footstool.
Where then is the house you will build for me?
Where is the place where I will rest?
2My hand made them;
that is how they came to be,” says the Lord.
“I show special favor to the humble and contrite,
who respect what I have to say.
3The one who slaughters a bull also strikes down a man;
the one who sacrifices a lamb also breaks a dog’s neck;
the one who presents an offering includes pig’s blood with it;
the one who offers incense also praises an idol.
They have decided to behave this way;
they enjoy these disgusting practices.
4So I will choose severe punishment for them;
I will bring on them what they dread
because I called, and no one responded.
I spoke and they did not listen.
They did evil before me;
they chose to do what displeases me.”
5Listen to the Lord’s message,
you who respect his word!
“Your countrymen, who hate you
and exclude you, supposedly for the sake of my name,
say, ‘May the Lord be glorified,
then we will witness your joy.’
But they will be put to shame.
6The sound of battle comes from the city;
the sound comes from the temple!
It is the sound of the Lord paying back his enemies.(NET Bible)
55:1 For the music director, to be accompanied by stringed instruments; a well-written song by David.
Listen, O God, to my prayer.
Do not ignore my appeal for mercy.
2Pay attention to me and answer me.
I am so upset and distressed, I am beside myself,
3because of what the enemy says,
and because of how the wicked pressure me,
for they hurl trouble down upon me
and angrily attack me.
4My heart beats violently within me;
the horrors of death overcome me.
5Fear and panic overpower me;
terror overwhelms me.
6I say, “I wish I had wings like a dove.
I would fly away and settle in a safe place.
7Look, I will escape to a distant place;
I will stay in the wilderness. (Selah)
8I will hurry off to a place that is safe
from the strong wind and the gale.”
9Confuse them, O Lord.
Frustrate their plans.
For I see violence and conflict in the city.
10Day and night they walk around on its walls,
while wickedness and destruction are within it.
11Disaster is within it;
violence and deceit do not depart from its public square.
12Indeed, it is not an enemy who insults me,
or else I could bear it;
it is not one who hates me who arrogantly taunts me,
or else I could hide from him.
13But it is you, a man like me,
my close friend in whom I confided.
14We would share personal thoughts with each other;
in God’s temple we would walk together among the crowd.
15May death destroy them.
May they go down alive into Sheol.
For evil is in their dwelling place and in their midst.
16As for me, I will call out to God,
and the Lord will deliver me.
17During the evening, morning, and noontime
I will lament and moan,
and he will hear me.
18He will rescue me and protect me from those who attack me,
even though they greatly outnumber me.
19God, the one who has reigned as king from long ago,
will hear and humiliate them. (Selah)
They refuse to change,
and do not fear God.
20He attacks his friends;
he breaks his solemn promises to them.
21His words are as smooth as butter,
but he harbors animosity in his heart.
His words seem softer than oil,
but they are really like sharp swords.
22Throw your burden upon the Lord,
and he will sustain you.
He will never allow the godly to be shaken.
23But you, O God, will bring them down to the deep Pit.
Violent and deceitful people will not live even half a normal life-span.
But as for me, I trust in you.(NET Bible)
5:16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.
6:1 Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. 2Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. 5For each one will carry his own load.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
The disputation with Eck, 1519, especially led Luther even farther on this course. Now he also divorced himself from the authority of the Councils. When he denied their infallibility he advanced from their fallibility to the infallible Scripture as the sole decisive norm for everything that wanted to be accepted as divine truth, and thereby without more ado he identified Scripture and the Word of God. Thus in his Disputatio J. Eckii et Mart. Lutheri he applied the admonition of Paul, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” to the decrees of Popes and Councils and expressly said of them that they have erred, but that Holy Scripture is the inerrant Word of God (verbum Dei infallibile). (16)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.