GALATIANS [Here’s a study I did years ago- I will add it to the current videos/posts I will be doing on the book]
(1327) GALATIANS; INTRO- Okay, finally made it, been wanting to teach this letter for a while. Let me overview some church history that I feel would be helpful in understanding the book. During the 16th century Reformation you had an explosion take place within Christianity, though the official ‘schism’ dates back to the year 1054 between the western [Catholic] and eastern [Orthodox] expressions of the church, yet in reality it was the 16th century upheaval that really split the church. A few centuries before [14-15th century] you had rumblings within the church that had well taught Catholic men challenging many of the institutional concepts of the church; men like John Huss, Wycliffe and others. These men were extremely influential and had an effect on the church. Then in the 16th century you had Catholic writers who remained within the Catholic Church, but they too challenged the status quoi. Men like Erasmus of Rotterdam, these intellectuals would call for the idea of going back to the original sources of study [Greek New Testament and also other renaissance ideas] and this too would lead to the historic Reformation. But without a doubt Martin Luther [the Catholic monk out of Wittenberg, Germany] would be the firebrand of the movement. Martin was a well trained Augustinian monk who struggled with the guilt of sin for many years. Not normal guilt, but extreme. A fellow Catholic leader would encourage Luther to trust in the grace of God for his forgiveness. While reading the book of Romans [whose themes relate strongly to Galatians] he would come along the famous passage ‘the just shall live by faith’ and in Luther’s mind this was a total release from the bondage of trying to appease God thru all the religious works that he was going thru. In essence Luther discovered the historic gospel of grace thru the reading of Romans and was set free. Now Luther had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but as a very influential teacher/scholar out of the university city in Germany, he had lots of influence. The Catholic church at the time was worldwide and you had differing views of the church in various states. Many saw the state of the church in Rome as having given in to materialism and become too worldly. Rome was at the time trying to raise money for the restoring of the religious buildings at Rome and one of the priests going around selling indulgences was named Tetzel. The abuse of selling these ‘get out of purgatory early’ things was offensive to many Catholics, and Luther had ‘no small stir’ when Tetzel reached his area. These things would lead to the famous nailing of the 95 questions on the door of Catholic academia and would be the beginnings of the historic split. While it would take way too much time to go into all the theological differences between the Protestants and the Catholics, one of the main issues deals with how we as Christians view ‘being saved’. The historic Protestant position is called ‘justification by faith alone’ [Sola Fide] the Catholics counter with ‘the only time ‘faith alone’ is mentioned is in the book of James, where it says a man is not saved/justified by ‘faith alone’. Ouch! The main point I want to make is this letter deals with the early church’s belief that man is accepted with God based on the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Paul will challenge the ‘Judaisers’ [those who believed you needed to keep the law in order to be saved] and will argue that the law itself [Old Testament books] teaches that men are justified/accepted with God based on believing in the free gift of God thru Christ. Make no mistake about it, the New Testament clearly teaches this doctrine. Catholic and Protestant theologians BOTH agree that man is freely saved by the grace of God in Christ. But at the time of Luther’s day these glorious truths were lost in the morass of religious tradition and works. As we read thru this letter in the next few days, I want all of our readers to see the argument Paul is making from this basic theological view point. Is man saved by works [keeping Gods law] or grace? The bible teaches grace. Now I don’t have the time to also introduce the modern controversy between the ‘new view’ of Paul between Protestants [called new perspective]. There is an ongoing debate over whether or not the historic Reformation view of Paul is correct [men like N.T. Wright and John Piper are hashing it out] and I do think there are some merits to this discussion, but before we can delve into that aspect, we first need to see the historic question of works versus faith, and this letter is one of the best to deal with the issue.
(1328) GALATIANS 1- Mark Twain said ‘the classics are books that everyone loves to praise, but nobody wants to read’. As we begin this study I can’t emphasize enough the need for Christians to read the bible! Many of the current problems in Christianity would be solved if we simply got back to reading the bible in context. Okay, in chapter one Paul defends his authority as being one who was sent by God, not man. He explains how after his conversion he spent years receiving direct revelation from God; he was not taught the gospel of grace by consulting with man. Paul was in a unique situation compared to the other apostles, Paul was the first apostle to have had a strong intellectual background in both Judaism and philosophy; he knew his stuff. This ‘allowed’ God to reveal things to Paul FROM THE SCRIPTURES that revealed Gods grace and the reality of how men are justified by faith and not thru the law. In essence Paul wasn’t out in left field receiving Divine revelations about things that nobody ever heard about. They were new things in the sense that they were hidden in God until the time that God chose to reveal them [Ephesians 3]. Paul rebukes them for forsaking the true gospel and being drawn to another gospel ‘which is not another’. Okay, what’s the true gospel Paul is speaking about? It’s not only the definition given by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 [the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus] but it includes being justified by faith and not by the law. The Judaisers did believe in Jesus, but they were rejecting justification by faith alone. The false gospel that Paul is refuting is the gospel that said the Gentiles must ‘keep the law in order to be saved’ [see Acts 13 and 15]. In no uncertain terms Paul condemns this message; there was no compromising the reality of Gods free grace given to the elect. The actual faith itself that is deposited in the elect is a divine act of God [Ephesians 2] the unbeliever is dead in sins with no ability to ‘resurrect himself’ and the new birth is Gods sovereign act of raising a person from the dead [spiritually] and giving them faith. This is the gospel of grace. Paul was adamant about rejecting false gospels! In our day there are so many ‘gospels’ going around it’s not funny. I caught a few minutes of a TV evangelist the other day quoting verses from all over the bible in order to entice people to vow money to him; yes he used these words in no uncertain terms. He told the people they must quickly pick up the phone and dedicate the money to him, because it was this act of faith that would release the harvest. Now I don’t know how much longer God is going to allow stuff like this to go on, how much longer networks will continue to air this stuff, but we as believers/preachers need to condemn these false gospels in no uncertain terms. Paul will use strong language when defending the gospel; we need to get back to defending it too.
(1329) GALATIANS 2- Paul recounts his meeting with the apostles at Jerusalem; some feel he is talking about his first visit [Acts 11- before AD 50] others think he is discussing his Acts 15 meeting [right at around AD 50] I’m in the latter camp. Paul is basically telling the churches of Galatia that he already went thru this whole discussion with the main apostles at Jerusalem [Peter, James and John] and that they had already agreed that the Gentile believers did not need to get circumcised and come under the law in order to be saved. I do find it interesting that out of the 4 decrees that were made [read Acts 15] that the only one Paul recounts here is ‘to remember the poor’. The only decree worthy enough for Paul to recount is the one on charitable giving; those of you who have followed this blog for a while know how much I emphasize this point. If the early church was teaching tithing to the Gentile churches, surely it would have come up at the Jerusalem meeting, but it didn’t. This chapter has some important verses that all believers should commit to memory ‘if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain’ ‘the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’ etc. I really want all my Catholic/Protestant readers to pay attention to the verse’s that I just quoted; the bible clearly teaches that if men could ‘be saved’ by keeping Gods law, then Christ died in vain. Paul will go on to teach [chapter 3] that if there had been a law given that could have given men eternal life, then ‘being saved’ would come that way; but he then goes on to say that there never was a law given that men could keep in order to be saved. Paul always gives the caveat ‘does this mean we go out and break the 10 commandments’? And his answer is always a big NO! The point of this chapter is we as believers are saved because Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin; the proof that the penalty was completely paid is in the fact that Jesus rose again [Romans 5]. All who believe in this reality are now the children of God, indeed ‘we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ’.
(1330) GALATIANS 3- The main point of this chapter is God made a promise to Abraham that he would ‘bless’ all nations thru one of his kids someday [Genesis 12). This promise was given to Abraham 430 years before God gave the 10 commandments to Moses. Therefore the promise that men would be justified/saved by faith cannot be ‘undone’ by a later act of giving the law to Moses. The point being that Paul is arguing with the Galatians that their new view that they need to keep the law in order to ‘be saved’ [the blessing of Abraham IN CONTEXT!] is false because God already told Abraham it would be by faith in the coming Messiah. Paul then asks ‘is the law then against Gods promise’? No, it was given to man [Israel] until the time came for the promised child to be born [1st century], but now that the promised child is here we are no longer under the ‘schoolmaster’. The schoolmaster term can be confusing; the word in Greek means the person who walked the kids to school [truth] and then dropped them off AND LEFT. Paul is saying the law period served its purpose; it revealed mans sinful nature to him and then ‘dropped him off at the Cross’. Paul is saying the law fulfilled its purpose and we are now under grace. As new creatures in Christ we walk in love and fulfill the righteousness of the law by our new nature, it’s not a legalistic thing. There is some confusion today on this chapter; some were taught that ‘the blessing of Abraham’ was speaking of the promises in Deuteronomy on financial blessings. And that the curse is speaking about the curse of ‘poverty’. Though it is true that the bible does speak about this in the Old Testament, in context Paul is not saying this here. Paul explains what he means about the ‘curse of the law’. He says it’s the curse of never being able to do enough to appease God, the man that is under the law puts himself under this mindset of perfectionism and lives under this constant feeling of never being able to do enough. This was Paul's previous experience as a Pharisee. When Paul teaches that we are delivered from ‘the curse’ so the ‘blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles, that we might receive THE PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT BY FAITH’ he is not saying Jesus died to make us financially rich, he is saying Jesus delivered us from the old law mindset of legalism and we now have forgiveness and acceptance as a free gift- ‘being now justified by faith we have peace with God thru our Lord Jesus Christ’ [Romans 5].
This post deals with the faulty understanding expounded by many Evangelical/Protestant ministers [end times scenarios, Tim Lahaye type books] that exalt ethnic/racial elements into the gospel, and contribute to the many present tensions between Muslims/Jews/Christians.
(1331) GALATIANS 4- Paul says there was a time period before the promise would be fulfilled thru Christ; that time has come to an end [the law] and we are now in ‘the fullness of times’. When we were under the law we were no different than servants, but now in grace we are mature sons, people able to inherit the promise. Paul says why do you desire to go back under the ‘restraint’ phase, the time of discipline and legalism, we are now in a fullness stage thru the New Covenant and we don’t need the old mentality anymore. Once again Paul really ‘spiritualizes’ the Old Testament in his teaching, he says that the law [Old Testament] taught this difference between law and grace. He uses the story of Abraham having 2 sons [Ishmael, Isaac] and he says ‘cant you hear what the law is saying’? One son was born by promise [Isaac] the other thru the works of the flesh [law]. And just like it was back then, the one born after the flesh persecuted the one born after the Spirit, so today [1st century] those after the flesh/law are persecuting those born after the Spirit. It’s important to see that Paul DOES NOT use this analogy to describe Jewish/Muslim [Arab] relations; he actually refers to natural Israel as ‘Ishmael’! He says the Judaisers [Jews zealous of the law] were fulfilling the type/symbol by persecuting Gentile believers. We need to keep these distinctions in our minds, because when we don’t rightfully discern the truth we do damage to the non ethnic testimony of the gospel. Paul says the law relates to natural Israel/Jerusalem who is under bondage with her children, but the ‘New Jerusalem’ which is above is the mother of us all, and this Jerusalem relates to the church. The New Jerusalem is not referring to a physical city that will ‘hover over the earth during the millennium rule’ [EEK!] But it refers to the new community people of God, the church. I have written on this before and these references in the New Testament [Revelation, Hebrews- us being the new Zion, etc.] are speaking of the church, the people of God. Paul once again speaks of ‘natural Jerusalem’ in a negative light, in the sense that he teaches those who are under the law are not walking in the fullness of the promises of God as come in the Messiah. The New Testament spends no time engaging in the glorying of any ethnic group [whether it be Israel, Gentile, etc.] It’s not that the apostles were being anti Semitic, it’s just the emphasis is on the new kingdom of God and the new people of God [the church made up of both Jew and Gentile]. Its striking to compare the writings of the first Jewish believers to the current trends amongst many evangelical preachers, the two don’t mesh well.
(1335) GALATIANS 5- Paul’s main theme is if we possess the Spirit as believers [being indwelt by God’s Spirit] then let us also walk in/by the Spirit, as opposed to trying to please God by the law and being circumcised. Paul will use the somewhat controversial term ‘ye are fallen from grace’ which simply means that these Gentile believers started by faith and went back to the old Jewish system, much like the themes in the book of Hebrews. Paul says when you go back to the law you have left grace. Christ has ‘become of no effect to you, you who are justified by the law’. This is a good example of how words and certain phrases can develop over the centuries of church history and develop a different meaning over time. In essence the bible does teach that a person can ‘fall from grace’ but this does not describe what the modern reader might think. The first church father who attempted to formulate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was a man named Tertullian, he lived in the second century and was what theologians refer to as one of the Latin fathers [as opposed to the Greek ones- Origen, etc.] Tertullian was famous for the sayings ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’ and ‘I believe because it is absurd’ he was resisting the influence of Greek philosophy on the church, he felt that Greek wisdom was influencing the church too much. He was trained in law before becoming a theologian [like Luther and Calvin of 16th century Reformation fame] and he used the words ‘God is one substance/essence and also three persons’ later church councils would agree with this language. But the word ‘person’ at Tertullian’s time was the Latin word ‘personi’ which was taken from the theater and meant a person/actor who would put on different masks during the play; the word had a little different meaning then what we think of today as ‘person’. Later centuries would come to condemn certain Christian groups who seem to have formulated language on the Trinity that expresses the same thing as what the original developer of the doctrine meant to say, but because words and their meanings change over time we get ourselves into disputes that might be getting us off track. Paul also tells the Galatians that if they become circumcised that they are obligating themselves to keep all the law. Of course the medical procedure that many have done in our day is not what he is speaking about, but in Paul’s day getting circumcised was the religious rite that placed you into the religion of Judaism, and this is what Paul is refuting among the Galatians, he tells them not to go down that road. This chapter has lots of good ‘memory verses’, the famous lists of the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit are found here, and it seems pretty clear to me that Paul identified circumcision with the moral law of the 10 commandments, that is he saw being circumcised as an act that obligated you to ‘keep all the law’ some theologians are discussing whether or not Paul meant the law of Moses when speaking about going ‘back under the law’ some think Paul was speaking only of the ceremonial law and the system of animal sacrifices when he was telling the gentiles that they should not go under the law, I believe if you read Paul in context both in this letter and the book of Romans, that he is speaking of the moral law too, not just the ceremonial law. All in all Paul exhorts these believers to fight for their right to be free from the past restraints of religion and bondage, he tells them to not desire to go back under a system of bondage, that Christ has made us free from that legalistic way of life and he has liberated us by giving us the Holy Spirit- if we ‘walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would’ amen to that.
(1338) GALATIANS 6- Paul closes this short theological treatise with some practical stuff; help each other out with their burdens, if you see a brother struggling, restore him in the spirit of meekness. Those who are teaching you Gods word, ‘communicate’ to them in all good things [share with them financially and materially]. Good advice that Paul gives to all of the churches he writes to. As we close our study of this letter, I want to emphasize that the majority of what Paul is teaching [over 90%] is great theological truth, it would be silly for preachers/teachers to grasp hold of any single verse and to exalt that above the main body of truths that we have discussed. It isn't hard for any preacher/teacher to go thru this letter on a few Sundays and teach the main truths of the letter. We desperately need to get back to doing it this way in many Pentecostal/Protestant/Evangelical churches- and yes, the ‘organic church’ guys too! We all have a tendency to pick out pet doctrines out of the New Testament and then to make the side issues the main thing. I think the main thing [justification by faith, the blessing of Abraham in context, etc.] is good enough without us having to try and find some type of ‘Rhema word’ that is not the main word of God. Recently a good man died, Oral Roberts. A few weeks have passed and I think it is okay to mention a few things. The media reported how many preachers showed up to the funeral in Cadillac’s and expensive cars, there have been various articles written about the legacy he will leave behind. Some wrongly said he was the father of the ‘Word of Faith/prosperity movement’ [E.W. Kenyon was the real father, and Kenneth Hagin and others lay claim to the title]. The point I want to make is Brother Roberts was a good man who did good things, but his way of doing doctrine is not my cup of tea. He was famous for popularizing the ‘seed-faith’ teaching. It comes from Paul’s letters when he does tell believers that if they give in faith God will bless them, true enough. But when we read the New Testament there are many warnings against greed and materialism, and when we take a simple practical truth from Paul, even though it’s true, and when this truth becomes our main message, then we err. In this last chapter of Galatians Paul gives practical advice about giving financially to those who are teaching you, good. But this is one verse in a letter filled with other main teachings, the important stuff if you will. For believers in our day to have built ministries/churches and to have as the foundation of these ministries the few practical side verses, is wrong. We need to focus on the main thing, and keep the main thing the main thing! [Redemption thru Christ's Blood, eternal life to those who believe, etc.] I don’t want to speak bad about brother Roberts, he was a good man who went home to be with the Lord, it’s just the discussion that has happened after his passing shows us how easy it is for good men to get sidetracked with a verse or 2 and then to exalt it out of context. As I conclude this brief study on Galatians, I think I will go back over a few main verses in the next week or so and give you some ‘practical’ things that I have gleaned these last few weeks. In a sense I will show you how God can speak to us in a personal way thru these letters, yet at the same time not losing the original meaning of the letters. One of the distinctions of the early church fathers was this Christ centered approach to the scripture, they looked for Jesus on every page. I’ll end with an example form Saint Augustine; he shared a thought on the story of Jesus walking on the water to the land, and that the disciples needed a wooden boat to ‘cross over’ he then applied the wood of the boat to the wood of the Cross and said how the Cross allows us to cross over to God, just like the boat let them cross over to the land. Now this is a simple example of applying scripture in a sort of symbolic way that is not in context, but nevertheless it’s okay to do. So I will do a few things like this in the next few posts. But while doing this, we want to not forget the main meaning of the letter, a good ‘side example’ should never negate the main body of truth.
(1340) GALATIANS AFTER-THOUGHTS: As I said the other day I will try and go back over a few verses and share a few more things on Galatians. One of the things I wanted to mention was the fact that I purposefully chose to teach the letter in the classic Protestant way [mostly] I avoided getting into the ‘New Perspective’ ideas on Paul and ‘what he really meant’. So let’s talk a little on it; as of the date of this writing there is a theological debate going on [mostly in the ivory towers, but seeping somewhat into mainstream thought] that re-looks at Paul and what the context of his day was. For instance when the Reformers of the 16th century spoke about being Justified by Faith and not by works, many of them were speaking about the works of tradition and the things they felt were wrong in the Catholic faith. Were they wrong in applying Paul this way? No. In context was Paul talking about the works of ‘Catholic tradition’ when saying men are not justified by works? No. So it’s good to point stuff like this out. The problem I see with some of the New Perspective theologians is they can explain stuff and when you’re done listening [reading] it’s possible to miss the heart of the New Testament doctrine on Justification by faith, we don’t want to lose people in the weeds when trying to peel the layers of the onion. So I purposefully chose to teach this letter in the plain way that most Protestants would understand it, but I do think that N.T. Wright [Bishop of Durham, Church of England] has good things to add to the debate [as well as John Piper- the Reformed Baptist preacher who has taken the New Perspective group and rebuked them]. It’s good and profitable to engage in these types of theological discussions, but we need to once again ‘keep the main thing the main thing’. I also avoided getting into the debate on exactly what ‘works of the law’ meant. Some think Paul was only referring to the rite of circumcision. In some verses [both here and in Romans] this is true. But some [N.T. Wright] apply this in a way that says the act itself was simply an ‘identifying badge’ that brought you into the community of God, while this is true, they get a little off track by not fully seeing that in Paul’s writings these things go hand in hand. Paul mixes in the ‘work of circumcision’ with the idea of keeping the moral law/10 commandments. When saying ‘we are not under the law’ Paul includes all of it, not just the ceremonial law. How do we know this? Because whenever Paul makes this argument he always adds ‘does this mean we go out and sin’? And his answer is always no, but instead of saying ‘no, don’t sin because we are still constrained by the 10 commandments’ he says ‘no, how can we who died to sin still live in it’. To be frank about it, many of the Reformed guys have problems with this as well, they teach a kind of theology that says the N.T. believer is under the law, I disagree. So as you can see this debate can go on for a while, that’s why I chose to avoid it in this study. I want all of our readers to be grounded in the basic truths of the letter before launching into a deeper level. Okay enough for now, tune in the next week or so and I’ll try and do some practical stuff from Galatians.
(1342) WHEN THE SEED SHOULD COME TO WHOM THE PROMISE WAS MADE- As I was teaching thru Galatians this verse ‘spoke to me’ in a personal way [will explain it in a second]. I felt like the Lord was saying that there are long term promises/destinies that he has planted within us, both as individuals and communities, and that often times he is waiting for the ‘seed to come to whom the promise was made’. In the parables of Jesus the seed speaks of a few things. Most of us are familiar with 'the seed as the word’ imagery- ‘the sower sows the word’. But Jesus also speaks of ‘the seed’ as the children of the kingdom that his father has planted in the world. And of course in Galatians Paul is specifically referring to the singular seed, who is Christ. Every few years I go thru our radio messages and will adjust the programs I air. I often find that the messages that I marked as ‘o.k.’ are not o.k. anymore, it’s not that they are bad, it’s just I notice a tone/level of ‘seed’ [spoken word] that is not mature enough, it seems like as the years roll by the later messages just sound better. God has all of us in a maturing process; things that we thought were ‘deep revelation’ at one time, now sound quite silly. As I was marking off the programs that sounded too immature, I felt like the Lord was saying ‘the seed has come to whom the promise was made’ sort of like the lord was saying ‘son, I was waiting for your level of maturity to catch up to the promise’. Also in Romans it says ‘the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now’ I also felt like the Lord was saying the seed, as it pertains to all the people groups we relate to, were also in a ‘birthing process’ that too had to mature to a point where the promises could be inherited- ‘when the fullness of times was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law’ [Galatians] God has ‘fullness seasons’ times [Kairos] when he says ‘okay, the promises I made to you at the beginning of the journey are now ready to be experienced’ in essence the seed has come to whom the promise was made. Now, this sort of spiritual/symbolic way of hearing God, is it a good way to develop doctrine? No! Never, ever! Pope Benedict critiqued the ‘historical, critical’ method of liberal theology in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ the method developed out of the liberal universities in Germany in the 19th- 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultman would popularize it. It was a way of reading scripture thru an historical/archeological lens. Some of the ideas are good and profitable, but some are not. Many would reject the supernatural aspects of scripture and come to deny the resurrection. Not good. The Pope also warned against this way of ‘dissecting’ Jesus and Christianity to a point where you really don’t see the true Jesus anymore. The real Jesus of Christianity and history, the Jesus that we all have a relationship with by faith. The point being we want to go to scripture with an open heart and expectancy to ‘hear God’. While doing this, we also want to recognize that the scripture had the SAME MEANING to the first century church as to us today, the meaning never changes, the applications do. That’s the main point I want to make, so today the Lord might be speaking to you about certain ‘seeds’ coming to maturity in your own life, things that you have been waiting for and maybe the lord was saying he needed a maturing process to take place, both in you and the people you relate to. The ‘whole creation’ if you will.
(1343) One of the other themes that spoke to me from Galatians was the idea that Israel and the world were under a ‘schoolmaster phase’ until the fullness of times arrived. This phase was the whole economy of Old Testament law and rule. I felt like the Lord was saying that many of us have been led, and actually have arrived, at places and purposes the hard way; i.e. - the ‘tutor’ phase. That is God allowed the process of trial and error and discipline to work in us until we arrived at the purpose and goal. Isaiah says that ‘I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction’ yes, this way of ‘arriving’ is much more painful, but it still gets you there. Now the entire discipline phase for the world was the time period before the Cross. The law and the Old Covenant were the only way to ‘get there’ so to speak. If people wanted to have a relationship with God, they were either born Jews, or converted to Judaism. Today of course we have access thru the Cross. One of the earliest ‘cults’ of Christianity was a sect call ‘Gnosticism’ these early adherents mixed Greek dualism [material world bad, spirit world good type of a thing] in with Christianity, they taught that the God of the Old Testament was the evil God who created the material world, and that thru Jesus we can come to know the true God of the New Testament, the God who gives us salvation by delivering us from the material world. Though it seems like there are verses in the New Testament that teach that the ‘world’ is evil and that God wants to ‘deliver us from this present evil world’ [Galatians] yet in these contexts ‘the world’ is simply speaking of the lost system of man and the ‘way of the world’. In Christian theology matter is not inherently evil. The Apostle John would deal with the Gnostics in his first epistle by saying ‘whoever denies that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God- they are anti-Christ’. Because the Gnostics believed all matter to be evil they would reject the humanity of Jesus, John was targeting them in his letter. As I mentioned before the controversy over the Trinity was settled at the council of Nicaea [a.d.325] but the church still battled with the nature of Jesus. Nicaea said ‘God is one essence/substance and 3 persons’. But this did not fully deal with the nature of Jesus, various ideas rose up [Monarchianism, Dynamic Monarchianism] that challenged the nature of Christ. In 451 a.d. the church settled on the language that ‘Jesus is one person with 2 substances/essences [natures]’, though to some this looks like a contradiction to the earlier language of Nicaea, this council in 451 [Chalcedon] was simply saying Jesus was ‘fully God and fully man’ so anyway we were all under the discipline phase until the ‘fullness of times’. I am believing God to get us to the destination with less ‘tutoring’ if you will, less trial and error. Sure, we will never fully get to the point of not making a few mistakes and stumbling along the way, but as we get older hopefully we will ‘stumble less’.
(1345) BUT BEFORE FAITH CAME, WE WERE KEPT UNDER THE LAW,SHUT UP UNTO THE FAITH THAT WOULD AFTERWARDS BE REVEALED- Galatians 3:23 Over the years I have grown in my understanding of ‘church/ministry’ and have come to see that God requires of us to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly’- that is we often begin the Christian life [especially minister/pastor] with a bunch of noble goals and dreams and we become fixated on the finances and buildings and all the outward stuff that we think is needed to ‘reach the world’. All well meaning men with noble goals, but often times the whole thing devolves into ‘if these parishioners would be obedient and tithe 10 % of their income we could do great things’ and behind the scenes there begins to be an accusatory spirit by the leaders/pastors towards ‘these rebels’. As someone who does not receive offerings or money I have been freed from this whole scenario. Now, how does ‘faith come/ be revealed’? In contrast to the above picture, God will often speak to us and use us when we do not have the cart before the horse- when our time and efforts are not always consumed with building ‘our ministry’ or getting the funds needed for what we think is Gods purpose. In the parable of the great supper, Jesus says a man prepared this great meal/table and he sent his servant out at suppertime to call the guests, and out of the first 3 groups he goes to, 2 out of 3 couldn’t make it because they purchased stuff [land, livestock] then the master gets mad and sends him to the poor, blind and maimed [do justice] and there is still room so he is told to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. The point I want to make is those who were preoccupied with stuff missed the true riches, it’s not that they meant to be rebellious; it’s just the nature of the beast. I want to encourage all of our leaders to re-focus as the New Year begins, sure- you are going to have to deal with practical things [money, etc.] but don’t become so consumed with ‘the ministry’ that this becomes the driving factor of your life. I have had ‘minister friends’ who were always talking about, or trying to ‘build up the work’ some times when we would interact [run into each other] if I had a homeless guy they couldn’t wait until I would ‘lose’ the brother so we could talk ministry. I know they mean well, but they are so consumed with ‘the stuff’ they couldn’t see the true riches; they were missing the ‘great supper’ and didn’t even realize it. ‘In as much as you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me’.
(1353) THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE UNTIL JOHN, SINCE ‘THAT TIME’ THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS PREACHED- When teaching Galatians we got into the ‘Kairos’ season- that is a time period when God said ‘the old dispensation has fulfilled its purpose and the new time has come’. In the above heading Jesus says it’s a ‘kingdom time’. One of the good things about the New Perspective teaching is they bring out Gods greater world purpose for the whole creation [Romans 8]. It is easy for believers to see their entire Christian lives thru the lens of individual salvation, while this is certainly an important subject, if this becomes the main focus of the believer he can become myopic and miss the greater intention of God- the ‘since that time the kingdom of God’ intention. When Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana, what exactly was he trying to show us? Do you find it strange that there just happened to be all these water containers sitting around? The Jewish religion was very familiar with the idea of ‘washings/baptism’ the temple system was surrounded by these baths and pools and in the gospels we see people linking water with ceremonial cleansing. No one said of John ‘what in the heck is he doing baptizing people in the Jordan’ they were familiar with the rite. Now Jesus doesn’t pick any old water buckets lying around, he is using the symbol of ‘old law’ cleansing, he’s saying ‘look, I just turned your water [old way of getting clean] into wine [my Blood which will replace/fulfill the old system]’. The significance of what he did was heavy. The appearing of Jesus in the 1st century and his death, burial and resurrection [ascension too] enacted a major change from old testament economy into a new kingdom age, the water served its purpose, but the new wine has come- party on.