Going to Extrem(iti)es

June 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Galatians | 7 Comments
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I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

Galatians 5:12

This is extreme language (about as extreme as it gets, at least in the New Testament). It shows how serious the Lord is about this circumcision issue. It’s as if the Apostle Paul told the Judaizers, “If you are so fixated on circumcision – if you enjoy circumcision so much – you should just go all the way. Stop “cutting around,” and, well, just “cut off.” The King James translation preserves the pun – the play on words. Paul is indicating that if the Judaizers would just go ahead and completely mutilate themselves, they wouldn’t be in any condition to bother him and preachers of the true Gospel any more.

There is a deeper issue here, though. People who are so zealous for rule-keeping are often trying to divert attention from their own fixation. They are not only teaching falsely – that keeping rules means greater spirituality – but they know their own lack of spirituality and their own perversion, and they believe that, by pointing at everyone else, the guilt and suspicion they feel will be deflected away from them. The wicked flee when no man pursueth, and the hypocritical accuse others even when no one suspects them.

Now, we go into a section of Galatians where it’s as if Paul knows that the Judaizers are going to argue (and surely they had been already) that, if people walk in liberty, if they are set free from God’s law, then what’s going to stop them from sinning freely?

In a sense, it’s the same old argument: “Grace? Grace? What’s going to keep us in line after we’ve been forgiven for all our sins?” The proponents of this argument act as though they have forgotten that we are called by God unto salvation. They sound like they think that God was just annoyed that there were some people who had to be judged, so He waved His hand, and said, “Fine, I’ll let you off the hook. I’ll stop being God for a minute. There, you’re free. Now go do whatever you want and leave Me alone.” Such a doctrine would be heresy.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

Liberty frees us from the bondage of the flesh – not the existence of the flesh. The “calling” of salvation is a calling to liberty. It’s a “setting-free” from the unconquerable power that sin has over an unbeliever. Christians are set free from the position of sinners: those that must answer for their own guilt.

Christians are also set free from the eternal pain of sin, as well as the judicial guilt of sin. They are set free from the penalty of sin, which is the punishment for sin: the specific retribution of God against sinners for sinning against Him!

Here is freedom: Jesus came and fulfilled (not destroyed in the natural sense) the Law for us. Now He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, comes to live in us, and He causes us, too, to obey the Law. This is not the bondage of the Law, not the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law – the Truth of the Law.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galatians 5:14

Grace vs. Works

May 5, 2014 at 9:29 am | Posted in Galatians | 3 Comments
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Galatians is a book which addresses the issue of grace versus works.

Grace = Liberty
Works = Bondage

Grace = Cooperation
Works = Competition

Grace = God gets the glory
Works = Man gets the glory

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:1-5

This is an exceptionally terse greeting for Paul, in the form of a short doxology, but it is very important – especially Verse 5: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” That is not a “throwaway line,” because God’s glory is key to the true Gospel.

Of all the major world religions, Christianity stands alone as the only one that acknowledges the truth that sinners can not merit God’s favor through good works. True Christians are going to Heaven, but not on their own own merit. They are going to Heaven on the merits of another: Jesus Christ the Righteous.

The enemies of the Gospel in Galatia were the Judaizers. They opposed the Gospel and Paul by: perverting, reverting, and deserting. They were trying to pervert the true Gospel by mixing in works-based requirements along with grace and faith. They were trying to revert back to what they believed was the Old Covenant system. They were deserting Christ Himself in favor of false teachers. Judaism and Christianity can’t be mixed. Grace and works can’t be mixed. Liberty and legalism can’t be mixed.

The Apostle Paul distinguished himself from the false teachers as he sought to please Christ, not men.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Galatians 1:13-14

Paul’s conversion teaches us these truths:

1. God saves egregious sinners.
2. Salvation happens instantly.
3. Salvation results in a real change.
4. There will be an outward change, but it is always the result of an inward change.
5. Salvation is for a purpose:
a. The purpose of glorifying God
b. The purpose of helping others

And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…

Jeremiah 45:5

What motivates you to serve God? Your own good? Or God’s glory?

Conscious of the Conscience

November 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Acts | 18 Comments
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Acts Chapter 20 is the beginning of the farewell section of Acts. The Apostle Paul had a genuine love for the churches the Lord had used him to start, and he wanted to visit them one last time. It was while he was in Corinth that the Holy Ghost gave him the Book of Romans.

When Paul, Luke, Timothy, and Titus meet at Troas, we get a picture of their church services: they met on the Lord’s Day, at night, at someone’s house. They shared a meal. Then they observed the Lord’s Supper, and they declared the Word of God. The Holy Spirit gives us the account of Eutychus – the man who fell out of church (literally!)

Paul went to report to the Ephesian elders. His report is written as more of an address than a sermon. It is not what we would consider “evangelistic.”

In this report Paul describes the past (Acts 20:18-21), and he highlights his faithfulness. He describes the present (Acts 20:22-27), and explains how he had no interest in doing anything other than serving the Lord. He describes the future (Acts 20:28-35) as being a time of coming dangers.

In Acts 21 we find that a large part of Paul’s third missionary journey was spent collecting a love offering from the gentile churches to send to the Jerusalem church. He was also occupied battling the Judaizers, who were very determined.

It was Paul’s desire not to see Christianity defiled with a mixture of Judaism. This desire for the purity of the Gospel message drove him to Jerusalem despite of all the warnings not to go there. When Paul reported about his trip, the Judaizers were ready right away with their rumors. Paul tried to cooperate by not giving offense, but he could not compromise the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and he could not compromise in the area of undivided fellowship with the gentiles.

Paul was arrested wrongfully when a riot broke out. The riot was caused by Jews who claimed he had brought his gentile friends into the temple. The Roman authorities kept him from being killed. They thought he was someone else at first, but he spoke Greek to them, so they let him speak to the Jews, and he then spoke Aramaic.

Paul declared what he had personally seen and been involved in:

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

Acts 21:19

He was impressing the Jews with this testimony until he mentioned the word “gentiles.” That word almost started another riot.

Claudius was going to have Paul scourged, but then Paul revealed that he was a Roman citizen. Roman citizens were not to be bound or scourged. Claudius had obtained his Roman citizenship by bribery. Paul had inherited his Roman citizenship from his father – he was “born free.”

It had been preordained that Paul was going to Rome – it’s just that God was making it so that Rome would foot the bill for the journey: Paul was going as a prisoner.

There is no Acts 12:5 in Acts Chapter 22.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Acts 12:5

Paul was in prison. The Judaizers were probably influencing the church in Jerusalem. And Satan was probably influencing the Judaizers. We must never let Satan stop our prayers.

In Acts Chapter 23 Paul is taken by the Roman captain before the Sanhedrin. He testified as a defendant, but his testimony was really preaching.

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts 23:1

When the Bible uses the Word “conscience” in this verse, the Holy Ghost is telling us that our conscience applies the standard for our behavior, not that it sets the standard. You may have seen the stereotypical movie tough guy who lives by a “code.” He will rob, kill, and extort, but he won’t allow a lady to be insulted, or maybe he won’t shoot somebody in the back. That is the world’s idea of “conscience,” in which each person determines his own behavior by whatever happens to offend him or her. It is not the Bible’s idea of conscience.

We do not know if the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know that one reason it was written was to explain the difference between being a Jewish Christian and a Jew who wants to be called a Christian. Hebrews explains the seared and the evil conscience. The Apostle Paul used the word “conscience” 21 times in his letters.

Paul didn’t particularly enjoy being slapped in the face as a petty raging insult by Ananias the high priest, and he called him a “whited wall.” Then he brought up the Resurrection – which he knew would divide the council. The Sanhedrin had now officially rejected Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

Paul’s sister and nephew warned Claudius of a plot to kill Paul, so Claudius knew he had to get him out of Jerusalem. He had Paul taken to Caesarea and turned over to Felix the Roman governor and imprisoned in the palace.


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