Galatians Reminds Us We’re Accepted and Free: An Interview with Jada Edwards
When was the last time you thoroughly studied the book of Galatians? Do you know who wrote it, why he did, and how it should impact your life? How should the words of this book, written centuries ago, help you today when you have an overwhelming sense of feeling unaccepted?
Bible Gateway interviewed Jada Edwards (@JadaEdwards1721) about her video Bible study, Galatians Study Guide with DVD: Accepted and Free—Beautiful Word Bible Studies (Zondervan, 2020).
What is the Beautiful Word Bible Study Series?
Jada Edwards: It’s a series that’s connected to the Beautiful Word Bible, which is a version of the Bible that uses illustrated pages and graphics that just make the text more visually appealing. It doesn’t change any content. It’s the NIV. The Beautiful Word Bible Study Series is going to be a compatible series that will go through various books of the Bible. This first one is Galatians. The audience is for anybody that loves the Bible. Clearly, it has a bias toward women because it has a lot of feminine graphics and coloring pages, which is a big thing now among women.
The Beautiful Word Bible Study Series is, from a content standpoint, a walk through the book of Galatians or walk through whatever book is being discussed, being taught. This one is Galatians, and it has supplemental graphics and visually appealing content that make it part of this Beautiful Word brand. But from a content perspective, it’s a deep dive into the book. It talks about theology and practical application; it’s a thorough study of the book of Galatians. While the presentation may be visually appealing and beautiful, the content is not compromised, not sacrificed at all.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Zondervan Releases NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Bible]
Briefly explain the background to the book of Galatians.
Jada Edwards: The book of Galatians is a letter written by Paul to the relatively young church of Galatia. He converts the churches at Galatia to Christianity and establishes a Gentile Christian church there. However, not long after he leaves to continue on his journey, Judaizers creep in. The Christian Jews are telling the Christian Gentiles they need to be circumcised and follow other Jewish laws and traditions to be fully saved. Paul is having to address this first major conflict between the Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles. Paul warns them that this is false teaching and if they try to mix or dilute his teachings, there’s no gospel at all. It’s not the-gospel-plus-what-they-are-saying. All you need is the cross and the finished work of Jesus Christ.
It’s a great book for every believer. Paul covers, emphasizes, and re-explains the gospel so many times to deal with their false teaching. It’s a thorough, but brief explanation of the gospel, how it looks lived out, and how we need to be careful of not diluting it or distorting it with our own ideas.
Why do you say Paul was passionate when he wrote Galatians?
Jada Edwards: Paul was clearly a passionate person. His personality was direct. He was a zealot. He had zeal for all things Jewish and traditional, according to Jewish law, which made him a zeal against the church, against the church of God. Zeal is a part of who he is and so the passion is there.
He uses words like bewitched and he calls them foolish. He uses really passionate phrasing as to try to understand what in the world could have crept into their thinking so quickly that it would undo the truth he had shared with them.
It’s passionate because it’s not long; it’s not a long letter. He cuts right to the chase. He opens up by saying who he is: “I’m Paul, I’m not sent from man nor an agency of man. In case you’re questioning my apostleship, let me explain that to you. How I don’t depend on men for who I am. By the way, how in the world did you get here? You’ve been bewitched, you’ve been charmed, you’ve been deceived.”
Unlike every other letter he writes, he doesn’t say, “I give thanks to you, I’m grateful for you, I pray for you.” He goes straight in and cuts to the chase. The passion is really there in how he presents this message because he’s reminding us as he’s reminding them that this is urgent. When you start to distort or dilute the gospel, there’s no time for niceties; this is life or death.
What is the gospel and how do people tend to alter it?
Jada Edwards: It’s the fact that God had this planned beforehand, and he knew what man would get himself into; Romans 1 tells us this. It was the death and the resurrection of Jesus because in that death and the conquering of that death, the resurrection of him being fully man and fully God atoned for our sins and imputed, or gave us a righteousness all at once, so that the atonement would not have to happen again. So it was also an empowering; the power of the Holy Spirit being made available to those who believe. It’s an invitation to faith through grace, and not to be forgotten in that it’s also a new life lived in light of all of this.
It’s not just what God did. It finishes with what we do in light of this when we believe it, when we, by faith, receive this good news. I think people can alter it because grace is overwhelming and it seems to be immeasurable. People want something they can measure, so they tend to lean toward good works versus grace. People want a checklist that shows how good they are. They tend to lean toward merit rather than the favor and goodness of God. They tend to lean toward heritage and legacy, for those who were Orthodox Jews at the time of Paul’s writing and even today.
The gospel can get altered in a lot of different ways. Mostly we tend to mix in our good works or additional preferences that have nothing to do with the principle of the gospel. Anything from what the church building needs to look like to what we wear, to the kinds of songs that we sing. We may not say, “Oh, this is the gospel,” but we so closely marry traditions and preferences with what it means to live a Christian life that the world has no choice but to wonder how much is actually the gospel? How much is our preference? So I think it gets diluted pretty often and the purity of the gospel gets lost.
How can a person’s desire to be accepted and approved by others create spiritual amnesia?
Jada Edwards: Well, our desires to be accepted and approved can create spiritual amnesia because we forget that we already have the greatest acceptance in God. That Christ, through the obedience of the Father, chose to accept us. The created, broken, sinful beings that we are, and the acceptance that says, “I will make peace with you. I will reconcile with you. I will defer the consequences of my wrath to my son.” That acceptance that says you’re adopted, you’re at the table forever, you’re in the family forever, is the greatest acceptance.
And so when we trump that with the acceptance of men or their approval of the people in our world, then it seems as if we’re forgetting that we’ve already gotten the most important acceptance. It’s like getting accepted into an Ivy League school that you’ve always dreamed of being accepted into, knowing you didn’t have the grades or the legacy for, and somehow you got into the school. Yet, as soon as you get accepted, all you’re worried about is being accepted into some particular social club or a sports team.
It’s like forgetting the years that it took, or the grace that was given to me to be accepted into this amazing institution, tuition free. Now I’m miserable and not making the most of my time here because I’m worried about being accepted into some other, particular social club, or I’m worried about being accepted onto the basketball team. Those things are smaller factors when it comes to the greater thing you’ve been accepted into, and I think the same is true for Christians.
How do some Christians rely on their own authority and why is that wrong?
Jada Edwards: Christians rely on our own authority all the time. We use our life experiences, opinions, and feelings, to inform us of what we believe is right or wrong and we pass that on. Every time we do it, we negate the final authority of the Bible.
If God says to forgive without condition, we say, “Yeah, I know we should forgive, but this person really, really hurt me and I don’t think God would want that.”
God says he hates divorce. We say, “Oh wait, there’s that one verse in the Bible that says if there’s been adultery I can get out. And so really, if there’s been adultery, I must get divorced.”
And that’s not true. God still hates divorce. He said, “If there’s been adultery and you’re not mature enough to look past it, then I will allow you to get divorced.”
But we know how to twist things up. And we’re no different than Eve listening to the serpent twist the words of God and believing in her heart so she could get what she wanted. It happens all the time.
How should a follower of Jesus be “rooted in God’s Word”?
Jada Edwards: A follower of Jesus should be rooted in God’s word with daily discipline. I think daily discipline, just like the food we take in or maybe some of the TV shows we shouldn’t watch. There’s things we do every day just because we know we need to: they’re good for us. Brushing our teeth; hopefully showering. But those things are not just disciplines, they actually benefit us. Along with the daily discipline, when you’ve got that constant input of God’s Word, then you give the Holy Spirit truth to bring back to your remembrance, which is really his role.
The Holy Spirit knows everything, but it’s when we take it in that you continue to empower or stir up the Spirit in you rather than grieve him or quench him. He can bring those truths back to you so you stay connected. Being in God’s Word is wonderful and great, and there are many times we’re going to want to do it. There’s going to be times we don’t want to do it. We have to realize it’s the vegetables for our soul. It’s the good thing we need even when we don’t feel like it. So I think discipline is one of the big keys to believe we’re staying rooted in God’s Word.
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What is the fruit of the Spirit and why does Paul call it out in Galatians?
Jada Edwards: So the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of God’s Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God working in you and displaying this beautiful character in nature that God wants us to display, to represent him well. Paul talks about this in Galatians, because he’s telling the church in chapter five, “Walk in the Spirit, and then you won’t carry out these desires of the flesh.” He doesn’t tell them don’t carry out the desires of the flesh, which I think is encouraging to all of us because the wrong approach is trying to not do all the wrong things. Let me not do this, let me not do that. That’s not the right thing to do. You’ll always set yourself up for failure. But what he does tell us to do is to walk in the Spirit. Then guess what? When you walk in the spirit, you’ll start to act like the Spirit. You’ll listen to the Spirit. You’ll look like the Spirit.
He doesn’t even tell us to try to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. He doesn’t say try to be joyful, try to be loving, try to be peaceful. He says, “Walk in the Spirit.” And when you do that, the byproduct is that you won’t carry out the desires of the flesh and you’ll demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. They’re not different fruits. It’s one fruit. It’s one Holy Spirit, and these are all the various attributes of that Spirit that we demonstrate when we walk closer with him.
What message do you want participants in this study to make their highest priority?
Jada Edwards: I want the participants in this study to understand that they’re accepted in Christ. They’re approved by him, adopted by God permanently in the family. There’s freedom when you’re not trying to fight for that acceptance or when you don’t allow doubt to creep in. Knowing you’re accepted in Christ leads to this freedom to focus our energies on walking in the Spirit, what it looks like to live for God, to love like God. Walking in the Spirit, not the checklist of beating ourselves up on what we did and didn’t do well today; walking in the Spirit and letting him be the guide, letting us be as yielded and submitted to him as possible. I think that’s where freedom is.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Jada Edwards: I have a lot of favorite Bible passages. One that I’ve been leaning on lately is Psalm 139. I love how David talks about how intimately acquainted God is with who we are, that he knows everything about us, when we sit down, when we rise up; he says, “God, you’ve searched me and you’ve known me.” And then he ends that passage by saying, “But God search me and know me. If there’s any grievous thoughts or anxious ways in me.” He says, “I want you to see what’s in my heart and then lead me in the way everlasting.”
I love it because he’s clearly not telling God to search him for God’s knowledge. He’s saying, search me and show me the things I need to fix. And so there’s this comfort with knowing that God knows us and loves us and is still gracious enough to help us grow in the knowledge of who he is and who we are and how important it is to know our story.
All of that is wrapped up in Psalm 139, one of my favorite passages.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Jada Edwards: The only other thing I’d say is to encourage people that the Bible is not just a crisis management resource. It’s not your last effort. It’s your daily bread. There’s truth in it. Even when what you’re reading doesn’t seem to apply to what you’re feeling or experiencing in that moment, it never returns void. It’ll always reap good benefits. It’ll always nourish your soul. Never doubt that anything you’re experiencing or seeing in this world has not already been addressed and answered by God.
I love Bible Gateway. I love it. I go to this App and to the website all of the time in my study. I use it as one of my study tools, because one of the things I actually share in a video talks about how I like to literally copy and paste the entire passage I’m reading into a Word document and print it out, so I can read through that passage without the chapter subheadings and those various separations that are in particular translations of the Bible.
Then I can write on it and mark it up and then reprint it. I can go through those printed pages and look for different things. Verbs, conflicts, various phrasings, and I love Bible Gateway. It gives me all the flexibility to be able to read online and search. Those searching capabilities are great for phrases, for ideas, for thoughts, when you’re trying to find it and to be able to print, copy, and paste and use that. I love it. I love everything about Bible Gateway. I’ve been using it for forever. It’s a privilege to get to contribute to a little bit of content.
Galatians Study Guide with DVD: Accepted and Free—Beautiful Word Bible Studies is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Jada Edwards is an experienced Bible teacher, author, and speaker who has committed her life to equipping women of all ages with practical, biblical truth. Alongside her husband, Conway Edwards, the senior pastor, she serves as the women’s pastor and director of creative services at One Community Church in Plano, Texas. Jada teaches a midweek women’s Bible study and is the author of the book Captive Mind and a contributing teacher in the Known by Name Bible study series. She and her husband have a son, Joah, and a daughter, Chloe.
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