Confronting the Issue of Law and Gospel to Its Face

May 21, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Posted in Galatians | 3 Comments
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Galatians Chapter 2 references the Jerusalem Council that was documented in Acts 15. The main issue there was whether Christians had to be circumcised in adherence to Judaism before they could truly be considered Christians. Paul was very agitated about this because he had been going all around the country preaching salvation by grace through faith. That is the true Gospel, but the Jews had a hard time with this because of the emphasis which Judaism placed on separation from the gentiles. Furthermore, Peter had eaten with gentiles at Antioch, and then had withdrawn from their company when Jewish elders arrived.

The Judaizers who were trying to dilute the Gospel were “false brethren” motivated by Satan. They wanted to add works to faith. At the Council, Peter, John, and James all came squarely down on the “right side:” Christianity is one Spirit, one Salvation, one Savior, one Body. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

After Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, several years later some of the Reformers would use these “solas” to describe what they believed: “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone); “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone); “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone); “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone); and “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory). These doctrines refuted the Roman Catholic tradition of faith-plus-works which was an error similar to that of the Judaizers in Paul’s day.

Paul’s argument used his ministry partner Titus as Exhibit 1. Titus was a gentile, he was uncircumcised, and he was a true Christian

But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Galatians 2:3-4

Galatians 2:6-10 are very uncharacteristic of the Holy Spirit’s writing through Paul. It is a passage which may be contrasted against Ephesians 1 where Paul goes on for 14 verses without a period, because he can’t stop praising God for how great salvation is. In Galatians 2:6-10 his frustration and anger made it so that the translators had to use parentheses because he can hardly stop interrupting himself! And much of this anger and frustration was caused by Peter.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

Galatians 2:11

Peter should have known better.

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Galatians 2:14

He seems to be saying, “You, Peter, are a Jew, and you know better than anyone that the Law can’t be kept in your own strength. How are you going to say we have to make the gentiles keep the Law?”

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

Galatians 2:15

Paul and Peter had been born into families that had trained them since infancy to avoid sin.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 2:16

Those who understand the Gospel have the Truth – freedom in Christ Jesus – which is the only real freedom and the only salvation. No one was ever saved by doing works of the Law. Going all the way back to Abel, who was declared righteous by faith, on to those who participated in the sacrifices of the Old Covenant given through Moses, only those who reached into the future by faith and touched the Cross were saved. It is as if Paul were saying, “We must not now, even if it offends all our sensibilities, lead men to believe that the keeping of the Law is the means of salvation.” Note the “instrumental dative” in the Greek for the word “of” in Galatians 2:16. Even “our” faith (which should be demonstrated by works) is not sufficient. We would fall from grace if not for the faith of Christ.

Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 2

April 27, 2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Marriage | 9 Comments
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Last time I showed that Christians are supposed to love their spouses the same way that Christ loves His bride, the Church. The Greek word for the type of love wherewith Christ loves the Church is agape. Agape love is Christian love because it operates in truth and not just in feelings.

Where will the right kind of marital love come from if God is not central to the marriage? Agape is the giving of self.

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 [agape] me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20, emphasis and parenthetical agape added

“But,” some have replied, “my spouse is just not worthy of that kind of love.” What better way to show agape love? We should seize opportunities to love the unworthy.

Will agape love always be reciprocated? Not always, but more often than not, it will.

We love him, because he first loved us.

I John 4:19

If it is not reciprocated, Christ is still glorified when we love selflessly.

Agape love is antithetical to cruelty. Cruelty is caused by bad feelings. But will there ever be a time in marriage when we don’t have some type of bad feelings? Cruelty is bad feelings untempered by love.

In marriage will there get to be a time when there is never a lack of affection? Lack of affection is not the result of bad feelings as much as the result of an absence of feelings. Lack of feelings means an absence of motivating love. Resentment; selfishness; an unjust sense of entitlement: these things are inescapable in a marriage. But they are not really a major problem unless they outrun love. True Christian love – agape – is just that: actively loving the one who does not deserve love.

For the person who is married, here is a good working definition of “love” to always keep in mind: True love is a giving of oneself for someone else with two main goals in view:

1. That the person being loved receives grace and mercy.
2. That the person being loved is directed more toward righteousness (toward conformity to Christ).

Remember what Jesus told the woman who had been caught in adultery after all her accusers had left because none of them had been willing to throw the first stone at her. Jesus told her to “go” (grace and mercy) and to “sin no more” (directing her toward righteousness). This definition makes sure that our understanding of the 4 “S”s of marriage does not lead us to the conclusion that we should be hard to live with on purpose in order to help the other person be more like Jesus.

Agape is not getting. Agape is giving. We must be willing to give up things for our spouses, even if they won’t give up things for us. We must make sure we are giving to meet our spouses’ needs, but not in order to get our selfish desires met as trade-offs for what we are sacrificing. Loving someone who does not want to be loved is hard. Crying babies hate it when Mom scrubs their face with a washcloth, but we would not think that a mother who never wiped food, snot, and dirt off her child’s face really loved that child.

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Discipleship Lesson 2: Everlasting Security

October 29, 2010 at 9:25 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, Eternity, John | 16 Comments
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I. Will God or someone else take away the salvation He has given me?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13

We must never base our beliefs on this subject on our experience or the experience of another person. We must let the Bible speak for itself. Consider the testimony of Jesus Himself:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37 (Emphasis added.)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29 (Emphasis added.)

II. Can I lose it on my own?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

If we had to do anything to keep it, we would lose it easily.

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Galatians 3:10

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

James 2:10

But we do not “keep” the salvation that God gives us. Christ keeps it.

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

II Timothy 1:12 (Emphasis added.)

If we could get it – or keep it – ourselves, then Christ died in vain.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 2:21

III. Can some other power or condition take away from me the salvation given by the Lord?

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

According to John 1:12-13, when God saved you, He became your Father, and you became His child. Your biological father can never not be your biological father. Likewise, once you are made a child of God, your Heavenly Father can never not be your Father.

There is almost always a record made of physical birth, but there is always a record made of Spiritual birth.

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:11-13 (Emphasis added.)

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 1:13 (Emphasis added.)

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 (Emphasis added.)

Ephesians 4:30 would have been a perfect place to say that if you grieve the Holy Spirit, He will leave you, but instead it says right there that He seals you unto the day of redemption.

We are not saved by feelings, and feelings do not affect the objective truth of the Word of God.

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

I John 3:20

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Titus 1:2

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

I John 2:25

IV. Questions

A. Does I John 5:13 teach us that God wants us to be secure or insecure about salvation? Secure.

B. Does I John 3:20 teach that we can trust our own hearts and feelings about whether we are saved? No.

C. Find three Bible Verses that promise that God cannot lie.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Titus 1:2

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Hebrews 6:18

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

V. Memory Verses

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

I John 2:25

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

I John 5:13

Next time: Discipleship Lesson Three – Baptism

It All Depends on What Your Definition of “OF” Is

October 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Eternity, Galatians | 10 Comments
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The words “faith” and “faithful” are used in a combined 309 Bible verses. To say that, with God, faith is a “big deal,” would be an overwhelming understatement. In fact, one of the clearest passages in the Bible on God’s salvation of man is Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is clear that no one is going to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ without faith.

But what about those who had faith once, but whose lives, words, or deeds make it seem to mortal men as though they have lost their faith? Did they lose their salvation, too? Not according to the Scriptures. For it is not the faith of man that saves man; it is the faith of Christ Himself. I will highlight a very small, but very important, word in a few verses, to show just Whose faith we are talking about.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 2:16

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.

Galatians 2:20

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Galatians 3:22

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Revelation 14:12

The word “of” lets us know exactly Whose faith we are dependent upon for salvation. Many people vainly seek strength in their own faith, and are discouraged when they are lacking. Others point to once-faithful Christians and pronounce them rejected of God due to a perceived lack of faithfulness in their lives. Jesus Christ is the only One Who is truly 100% faithful, and because of His unchanging, unwavering, unyielding faithfulness, those whom He graciously saves are kept eternally secure.

The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough Choice, and Singing in Jail

August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts | 7 Comments
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The events recorded in Acts Chapter 15 took place about 20 years after the day of Pentecost. The meeting that is described is often called the Jerusalem Council. Some Jewish “Christian” theologians had come to the Church – possibly sent by Satan – and they had taught a false gospel: Christianity constrained by Judaism.

The result of the Jerusalem Council was a sort of a compromise. There were two commands: avoid idolatry and fornication. And there were two concessions: don’t eat blood, and don’t eat meat from animals killed by strangulation. This result preserved unity in the Church.

Most local churches that wind up destroyed do not get destroyed by outside forces. Most of them split from within.

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

Acts 15:36-39

Paul and Barnabas got into a fight about Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark. The Greek word for “contention” in Acts 15:39 is a funny word – paroxysmos – meaning a paroxysm or a “fit.” Paul ended up taking Silas with him, and Barnabas took Mark. Paul cared for people in the sense of what they could do for the Lord. Barnabas cared for people in the sense of what God could do for them, or what God’s work could do for them. Of course, it could just be that God wanted two missionary teams instead of one.

Acts Chapter 16 describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. At Lystra they picked up Timothy to replace Mark on Paul’s team. Timothy and Titus, Paul’s two main proteges, were both gentiles. Timothy was circumcised, but Titus was not. The reason is that Timothy was going to be working with Jews and gentiles, but Titus’s circumcision would have helped Paul’s enemies (Galatians 2:1-5).

Paul’s personal preference was to go east to Asia, but God wanted him to go west to Europe. He went to Troas, then to Macedonia, then to Neapolis, then to Philippi.

On this missionary journey, Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple dye, was saved.

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 16:14-15

Paul cast a demon out of a girl who was following them, even though she was proclaiming salvation.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Acts 16:16-18

This young lady’s conversion cost her masters much income, and they had Paul and Silas beaten. Notice how sneaky Satan is! He tried to trap Paul and his team: They could let this girl keep it up and corrupt the message and their separated walk; or, they could oppose her, stir up trouble, get beaten, thrown out, and lose the opportunity to witness. We must wonder if Satan thought he had baited the perfect trap. If Paul and his team let the girl continue, then Satan could use her to start lying. If they silenced her, they would make her masters angry. However, God always makes a way of escape for His people when they are tempted of Satan. So, Paul and Silas were beaten, and then instead of getting thrown out of town, God allowed them to get thrown into prison. Paul and Silas were in prison, singing songs of praise to God!

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:25

God shook open the prison doors, but Paul stayed to witness to the Philippian jailor.

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 16:30-31

Here, it is important to note that they are not telling one man to believe by himself, such that his belief would be a substitute for the belief of everyone else in his household. They are telling him that each person of the household must believe on his/her own.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 16:34

Paul and Silas were prisoners, but they were treated differently once they claimed their rights as Roman citizens.

But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

Acts 16:37-40


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