Tags: Bible study on Galatians, Biblical freedom, bondage, commentary on Galatians, Cross of Christ, Galatians 6, lessons on Galatians, liberty, Sunday School lessons on Galatians, true freedom
In the Book of Galatians we learn about the liberty that comes from grace, as opposed to the bondage found in works, but we also see that grace emanates from a source: the Cross of Jesus Christ.
In the Cross there is:
Freedom from self-worship
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Freedom from the flesh and our own desires
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Freedom from the world
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
There is also the freedom from having to keep a list of religious rules, such as whether to be circumcised or not. Rules become a secondary consideration next to the real issue: Are you a new creature?
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
The Apostle Paul was “marked,” but he was not referring to the mark of circumcision. He was referring to the scars of persecution, and he was telling his critics that those marks marked him as being on God’s side more than their marks of circumcision. Beware of any outward show of piety that keeps you from persecution.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
True freedom comes by paying a price, but it is not the price of self-inflicted wounds. It was the price that Christ paid on the Cross, so that He may freely offer His freedom to us.
Here are links to the previous lessons in Galatians:
1. Grace vs. Works
2. That Man Was Certifiable!
3. Confronting the Issue of Law and Gospel to Its Face
4. It All Depends on What Your Definition of “OF” Is
5. Our Part with God
6. The Doctor Who Never Fails
7. From Cursing to Blessing
8. The Freestyle
9. Going to Extrem(iti)es
10. Don’t Love Yourself
11. Dependent Freedom
12. Is it Animal, Mineral, or Tomato?
13. How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage
14. Getting Full (Part 1)
15. Making the Proper Comparisons
16. Different Types of Burdens *
17. The Warning to the Weary
18. The Family of Faith (Galatians 6:10)
19. Especially the Family (Galatians 6:10)
* most-read post in category
Tags: Biblical freedom, commentary on Galatians, encouragement, encouragement for Christians, encouragement for church members, encouragement for pastors, Galatians 6, pastors, Sunday School lessons on Galatians
After the Holy Ghost had spent most of the first five chapters of Galatians driving home the point that Christians are saved, and set free from the law of sin and death and destructive fruitless rule-keeping, by God’s grace through faith in His Son, Jesus, He wanted there to be no confusion about the outworking of this great doctrine in our lives. Therefore, He plainly and passionately tells us in Chapter 6 that God’s grace is a motivation to work hard, not a license to lapse into sin.
If you are involved in active ministry at your local church, or anywhere else ordained by God, you will be tempted to get weary in well doing, because doing is hard work. Our encouragement is in the reminder that “doing” something in response to God’s calling is doing something that is “well,” something that is “good.” And that, eventually, if we faint not – if we don’t quit – we will reap from the good that God has allowed us to sow.
When my wife and I were first married, our pastor used to quote Galatians 6:9 all the time. Back in those days, when I was doing more pew-sitting than faith-walking, I could not understand why a preacher, of all people, would need encouragement not to get weary. Many years later, I can tell you from experience, and, more importantly, from the Truth of God’s Word, that fatigue brought on by doing well for God is more refreshing to my spirit than a seven-day vacation at the beach is to my flesh.
Tags: Amos 5, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Amos, consuming fire, forest fires, God's wrath, idolatry, Sunday School lessons on Amos, syncretism
The people of the “House of Israel” thought they had worked out a viable system. Historically, they had been called the people of Jehovah, the One True God, the God of holiness Who hated sin. But they also really liked to indulge in the practices of their pagan neighbors and their many “gods.” So, they took sort of a “best of both worlds” approach, and attempted to worship idols and the true God at the same time.
God’s prophet, Amos, tried to warn them that the real God was coming to deal with them concerning their abominable syncretism.
For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were places where the people could find altars set up to golden bulls and other false idols representing little fake gods. The Lord was giving them one last chance. They could turn to Him and repent… or they could behave irrationally. What does an irrational person do when he’s confronted with the threat of judgment from a powerful God? He seeks refuge in other, kinder, gentler gods. In those days, the fake gods were images or statues that were built, graven, carried around, and spoken to (although the images themselves were silent and couldn’t talk back). This still goes on today. A person mired in sin gets confronted with the Truth, and, instead of repenting and trusting the mercy of the Savior, he looks for relief in the form of alcohol, drugs, sinful sexual behavior, hobbies, entertainment, luxury purchases, or fine dining. These are just a few of the Gilgals, Bethels, and Beershebas of our day.
Amos was very clear about the consequences of this:
Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.
Trying to escape the consuming wrath of the Creator by hiding in or among His creation is like trying to dodge a forest fire by crawling into a papier-mâché tent.
If you have fallen into the sin of idolatry, seek refuge from the wrath of the Savior in the Savior Himself. He is merciful to the repentant.
Tags: boasting, bragging, burdens, commentary on Galatians, comparisons, Galatians 6, legalism, legalists, Sunday School lessons on Galatians
Galatians Chapter 6 deals with the troubles that the legalists were causing. Obviously, they were trying to corrupt the Gospel, but they also interfered with, and hurt, the spiritual life of the church.
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.
Legalists are interested in adding to burdens instead of alleviating burdens. People in church will fall into sin. We can use that as on opportunity to pick them up, or to step on them and try to make ourselves look higher. Meekness preserves love and causes God to help us resist sin. Pride alienates others and provokes God. A good indicator of my spirituality is not how I measure up to others (Can I carry a heavier load than him?), but “Am I bearing my own burden when it used to be too heavy for me?” In other words, the test is how I measure up to what I used to be.
There are burdens which are not meant to be carried alone, and then there is the soldier’s pack, which it is his responsibility to bear on his own as he serves a greater cause.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
In giving help to others, we are also helping ourselves, but the secret is to give in love: not giving to get.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Sowing to the flesh reaps corruption.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Near the end of Galatians we are reminded that freedom brings responsibility.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
We have a responsibility not to brag about our freedom, or what it allows us to do.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Tags: Christ the Way, close-minded, exclusivity of Christ, exclusivity of Jesus, intolerance, Jesus the Way, John 14, open-minded, The Way, tolerance
Do You Know the Way? (John 14)
I. The Prepared Place (John 14:1-3)
II. The Particular Path (John 14:4-11)
Previously, I argued that there are not degrees of exclusivity in Heaven. However, it is important to know that Heaven itself is an extremely exclusive place. By this I mean that there is only one particular path that leads all the way into it. Jesus is the only “Door” – the only entryway – by which to get into Heaven.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
In our modern Western society there are very few things that are truly offensive any more. Flagrant, egregious sin used to be criminalized. Eventually, it came to be frowned upon, although no longer aggressively attacked. Later, it starting actually becoming accepted. To say that it is tolerated now is a vast understatement. All manner of wickedness and perversion is no longer just tolerated. It is celebrated and praised and glorified. The day is coming soon when it will be mandatory. The only thing that a wicked society truly condemns is “intolerance,” but “tolerance” has taken on a very specialized meaning. It now means openly affirming and accepting everything except that Jesus is God and that what He said is true.
The Bible pronounces a curse of “woe” to those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20), and that prophetic day of woe is upon us. If you put on a silver suit and black Nikes and drink the poisoned kool-aid while you wait for the comet to take you away, we can’t say that’s “crazy” because such a comment would be insensitive and offensive, and we must tolerate your beliefs. If you want to murder an innocent baby in the mother’s womb, I might be able to meekly mumble that such a thing would not be my personal preference, but I need to tolerate and support and celebrate your right to do so. If you are a man burning with lust for another man, I might feel disgusted on the inside, but I need to be understanding about the parade we’re going to have to honor you for doing it. The highest ranking officials in our nation don’t have time to speak out on behalf of American citizens (who also happen to be Christian pastors) illegally locked up abroad, or about Muslims torturing women in the Middle East, because they’re too busy celebrating professional athletes and calling them “heroes” because these athletes have decided that they want everyone to know that they like to fornicate with others of their own gender.
What Jesus said in John 14:6 does not, under these false premises, seem very tolerant, but it is nevertheless true. Jesus is the exclusive way to Heaven. The exclusivity of Jesus, is, in fact, one of the key elements of the Gospel (Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5). So, when we announce this soul-saving fact, we are going to hear objections:
–I’m tolerant and you’re intolerant.
–I’m progressive and open-minded, and you are a narrow-minded bigot.
–You think your way – only Jesus – is the only right way, but I think there are many different ways for all the diverse people that I celebrate.
–You think only one road leads to God, but I think all roads lead to God. (Actually, there is some truth to this statement. All roads do lead to God – in the sense of going to see God one day – but all roads except for Jesus are going to require a U-turn when you get there.)
Regardless of the objections, Jesus is the one and only particular path that leads to acceptance with God.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
After Jesus had attempted to soothe the hearts of the Disciples by giving them His Word about Heaven, the prepared place, Thomas still had questions.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Thomas was concerned about logistics. He wanted a map or at least directions, but Jesus had a bigger concept of “The Way.” We use the word “way” to refer to a path, but we also use it to refer to a manner of conduct.
“What is the way to your house?”
“Turn right at the oak tree, go half a mile and look for the three legged dog.”
“Why do you guys say ‘y’all’ and eat crawfish and carry shotguns in the back windshield of your pickup trucks?”
“That’s just the way it is in Louisiana. That’s just the way we are.”
Now, Jesus had an amazing way of communicating a vast amount of truth in a few simple words. He was the greatest teacher of all time, so all His statements are worthy of being studied, examined, looked at from all possible angles, explored for all eternity.
John 14:6 is an excellent example. It starts off with the statement “I am,” which in itself is a claim to deity. When Jesus said “I am,” He was claiming to be God. “I AM” is the Old Testament name for Yahweh – Jehovah – I AM THAT I AM. It was the name by which God set Himself apart from all the false gods. It is the name which says, “I AM the eternal, self-existent, immutable, all-powerful, exclusively true God.” Any respectably religious person Jesus encountered would have gasped to hear Him say it in Aramaic or Greek – Ego Eimi – because it was an unmistakable claim to be God.
He said I AM “the.” “The” in John 14:6 is what we call the “definite article.” It is an important word. For example, I wouldn’t say, “My wife is A girl for me,” because that would imply she could be one of many. Instead, I say, “My wife THE girl for me,” because we have an exclusive relationship. I don’t say that, “Open Door Baptist Church is A church I belong to.” I say, “It is THE church I belong to,” because it’s the only local church fellowship of which I’m an official member. It is a claim of exclusivity.
In John 14:6 Jesus was saying that He is something truly unique. He is the only real way, the only right way, the only possible way to be accepted with God. Let’s say you read that and you think, “How intolerant, how bigoted, how arrogant!” My response is, “So what?” Let’s assume for moment you’re right – that Jesus doesn’t meet your definition of open-mindedness and tolerance. Still, the fact remains, if it’s true, it’s true. I don’t necessarily like being called narrow-minded, but I have no choice if I am a Christian. I must be exactly as narrow-minded as Jesus when it comes to the truth claims of Christianity.
Now, let’s consider an even deeper element of Jesus’s statement. He is THE Way, but, that means, logically, He must also be A way. So, Jesus is eloquently expressing two great truths in four short words: “I am the Way.” The first one we’ve already discussed. Exclusively He is the ONLY way to acceptance with God. “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” No one will be acceptable to God apart from Jesus. No one could be forgiven, adopted by, justified by, allowed in the presence of, or even allowed to live before God – except for those who come to Him “in” Christ Jesus alone. There are – in this sense – no other ways, no shortcuts, no backdoors, no other sincere forms of faith that “just haven’t heard He’s called Jesus,” no alternative means to escape God’s wrath, nor to be accepted as His child. That is a great truth, and that is the truth that every lost person in this world needs to hear and believe.
But there is another great truth that Christians need to hear and understand, and that is that Jesus is also A way. He is the only Way to God, but He calls himself a “way” because He cares about our conduct. Because He won our freedom, and because our freedom is to be used to serve Him. If I claim that I am in the Way, but I am living nothing like the Way Himself, we must question whether I am really in the Way. Those who confess Jesus as the Way are supposed to be passionately interested in His “ways” – How He lived, How He led, and how He loved. And we are supposed to be emulating His ways.
The way of Jesus is honesty and purity and holiness and temperance and kindness and graciousness and forgiveness – and love. If I know the way, it means I need to go the way. Jesus is a Person. When He said follow ME He was not just espousing an an ideal or a concept. He was also advocating a path: FOLLOW Me. Jesus is the Way, but He is also a way. He is both a Person and a Path. He wants us to walk how He walked – to observe His ways and learn of Him. He is a Particular Path, and His path is likewise particular.
Next time, we will learn about the power of prayer (John 14:12-14).
Tags: 1 Corinthians 2, 2 Peter 1, Bible catechism, dictation, inerrancy, infallibility of the Bible, inspiration, Luke 24, Sufficiency of Scripture, superintendence
Question 11: How did the Holy Spirit write the Bible?
Answer: He wrote the Bible by using people.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
II Peter 1:21
The view of inspiration that is considered most orthodox is called the “superintending method theory,” which holds that the Holy Spirit spoke through the human instruments that He used to write the Bible without violating their distinctive viewpoints, personalities, writing styles, etc. I would not disagree with this, to a point, but neither would I overrule what is sometimes called the “dictation method theory.” I do not mean that the human instruments which the Holy Spirit used typically went into a trance-like state of “automatic writing,” such as the kind of thing that sometimes can attend various states of hypnosis or catatonia. But I do think there may have been times when a human instrument was aware that He was spelling out Holy Scripture, and other times when he might have thought he was writing down his own personal thoughts, unaware of just how closely he was being “superintended” by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the “superintendence vs. dictation” distinction is a distinction without much difference as long as we understand that no human error made its way into the pages of God’s Word, and that the Holy Spirit perfectly guarded, guided, and controlled the absolute inerrancy, infallibility, sufficiency, and inspiration of the Bible. All liberal theories that make the Bible a combination of holy revelation and human opinion, along with those that skeptically pronounce, “the Bible was written by men,” without proper clarification, must be rejected.
Other verses to consider:
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
I Corinthians 2:13
Tags: assurance, Biblical assurance, exclusive communities, Heaven, Jesus Christ, John 13, John 14, mansions, The Way, troubled hearts
At the end of John Chapter 13 three very disturbing things have happened. One, Jesus told His Disciples that one of them would betray Him. Two, He told them that He would be leaving them to go to a place where they could not go. Three, He said that even Peter would deny Him.
This was upsetting, to say the least, and it was the backdrop against which He told them what we see in Chapter 14:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Jesus let them know that He knew their hearts were troubled, but He gave them the assurance that He gives all throughout the Book of John. “If you believe in God (and I know you do), then it is safe to believe in Me, too, for I and the Father are one: I am God.”
Then He told them something about Heaven: Heaven is a real place. We know this is true because Jesus spoke of it as a real place. It is not a state of mind. It is not the accomplishment of inner peace. It is not a psychological bromide for those who can’t face the reality of death or the loss of their loved ones. It is “the Father’s house,” meaning it is the eternal home of Jesus, and it is Jesus – not streets of gold or the absence of pain and sickness or the reunion of loved ones or even mansions of glory – Who is its main attraction. That’s right, Heaven’s main attraction will be Jesus. If you do not love Jesus, you would not love Heaven.
Jesus spoke solemnly and reassuringly (“if it were not so, I would have told you”) when He told the Disciples that He was going there to prepare a place, and that they would eventually – not immediately – be brought there by Him (“I will come again to receive You unto Myself”) – to be with Him (“that where I am there you may be also”).
The word translated “mansions” has more of a connotation of permanence than opulence. It is from the Greek word mone: an abode, a permanent dwelling place, not a temporary stopover. Again, Heaven is the place where true Christians will be with Jesus, not a place where “lesser” saints will envy “great” saints who have better “stuff” than us. In other words, there will be no “exclusive” communities in Heaven. However, because it is a place that Jesus is “preparing” (and has been for over 2000 years), it will surely be far more magnificent than what we can imagine. The God Who spoke the unfathomable universe into existence in six short days has been preparing our eternal home for 2000 years! I don’t know if you’re ready “to go,” but surely we are all excited about seeing it
This was Jesus’s first assurance to soothe the troubled hearts of His Disciples. We don’t know everything (or even very much) about Heaven, but we do know “the Way.” Jesus Christ is the only Way to Heaven.
Next time, we will see that the way to the prepared place is the particular path.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 1, called by God, foolishness, glory of God, Jeremiah 9, mighty, the Gospel, world conquest
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
I Corinthians 1:26
We are called to recognize our weakness, our foolishness, and our lack of nobility, and to still believe and act as though this message from our King and Redeemer will confound the mighty.
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
I Corinthians 1:27
We are called to believe and act as though the message will conquer the world. We are called to admit that we do not deserve to be loved and helped by this King. God calls the weak and the foolish, not because He has a weak spot for the helpless, not because it’s His fault that we are like that, not because He has to take what He can get. No, the primary reason He uses the weak and the foolish is to show off His glory.
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
I Corinthians 1:29
Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
We are called to preach and live the Gospel, and – when it works – to point straight upward.