Saturday, May 31, 2008

Justification by Faith

Today, we pick up our study through the New Testament book of Galatians beginning in 2:15, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,” The Jews looked upon Gentiles as sinners. They didn’t think very highly of them at all. They saw them as pagans and heathens, and for the most part they were. By the way, a Gentile is anyone that is not a Jew by birth. Actually, the word Gentile can be translated, heathen, dog or pig. That’s not very complimentary at all!

Notice, v.16, “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.” This is a clear cut presentation of justification (in this case, it means to be made right in the eyes of God) by faith. Paul’s question here is very simple: “If the Jew had to leave the Law behind in order to justified by faith, Why should the Gentile be brought under the Law as well.” After all, if it didn’t and couldn’t save the Jew, it was also unable to save the Gentile (Gal. 3:11; 21-25).

Notice vv.17-21, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” The bottom line is that righteousness does not come through keeping the Law of Moses. As a matter of fact, it is impossible to keep the Law of Moses. You and I simply can not do it.

Now, you may be sitting there right now wagging your self-righteous head and thinking to yourself, “I can keep the Law of God.” The only reason you think that way is that you are thinking in the physical and not the spiritual. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day made the same mistake. They thought that as long as they physically kept the Law that they were okay. In other words, if the Law says, “Thou shalt no commit adultery,” to them, and maybe you, that means that as long as they didn’t physically commit adultery they were okay. In other words, “window shopping” was considered to be okay. However, Jesus comes along, blows that out of the water, and says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Wow – that changed things considerably because who hasn’t looked with lustful eyes at another person?

Jesus even went on to say that in Matthew 5:22, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” In other words, when you and I hate another person, we have “spiritually” murdered them in our hearts and have broken the Law of God!

That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” What Jesus was saying is that the righteousness of the Pharisees was just external while what they really needed was an internal righteousness. In other words, just keeping the Law externally (not physically committing adultery) while breaking the Law internally (looking and lusting after others) was still breaking the Law and thus, Heaven was not an option!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Legalism is no Fun!

We left off last week in Galatians 2:4-5 talking about legalism and how it binds us. Jesus told the Pharisees in Matt 23:25 you are “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” This illustration reminded me of what it is like trying to live under bondage. “Professional golfer Tommy Bolt was playing in Los Angeles and had a caddy with a reputation of constant chatter. Before they teed off, Bolt told him, "Don't say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no." During the round, Bolt found the ball next to a tree, where he had to hit under a branch, over a lake and onto the green. He got down on his knees and looked through the trees and sized up the shot. What do you think?" he asked the caddy. "Five-iron?" "No, Mr. Bolt," the caddy said. "What do you mean, not a five-iron?" Bolt snorted. "Watch this shot." The caddy rolled his eyes. "No-o-o, Mr. Bolt." But Bolt hit it and the ball stopped about two feet from the hole. He turned to his caddy, handed him the five-iron and said, "Now what do you think about that? You can talk now." "Mr. Bolt," the caddy said, "that wasn't your ball." Yes, in the end, legalism takes all of the fun out of being a child of the King.

Let’s continue our study in Galatians 2:6, “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:” Most believe that the literal translation is a little harsher than Paul really meant for it to be. He is just stating that they agreed with him and acknowledged that all men are the same before God.

Notice vv.7-8, “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)” Peter was called to the Jews and Paul was called to the Gentiles with the same gospel.

Notice v.9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” An agreement or acknowledgement was made about who was to go to whom.

Notice v.10, “Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” Jesus had a very special place in his heart for the poor. He said in Mark 14:7, “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.”

Notice vv.11-14, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 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? Peter was playing the hypocrite. He would withdraw from the Gentiles when his Jewish buddies would show up.

I think that we can all be just a little hypocritical in some areas of life. It reminds me of a story about King Louis XIV. Francois Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. One Sunday when the king and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, no one else was there but the preacher. King Louis demanded, "What does this mean?" Fenelon replied, "I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king." Let me ask you this, “Where would you have been that Sunday?”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Desert Theological Seminary

Chapter Two of Galatians is very interesting in that we find Paul comparing the gospel that he had been preaching with the gospel that the apostles had been preaching to see if they were the same. Remember that Paul had not sat under anyone, but had received his training at Desert Theological Seminary. Let’s look at Galatians 2:1, “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.” “Then after fourteen years” means that Paul had not been there since his last visit in 2:18. We do know that Paul did return to Jerusalem with the collection for the saints in Acts 11:27-30, but because he did not meet with the apostles at that time; he did not refer to it here.

Many feel that this occasion was the same occasion as recorded in Acts 15 with the Jerusalem Council. That being the case, Titus was exhibit A at the council meeting that the Gentiles were being saved. He was an uncircumcised Gentile that had been saved by the grace of God without having been circumcised or come under the Mosaic Law.

Notice v.2, “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” Again, Paul wanted to make sure that the revelation that he had received while at DTS (Desert Theological Seminary) about grace was the same as that of the apostles. If circumcision and law were required for salvation, Paul had been preaching the wrong gospel.

Notice v.3, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:” Of course the end result of the council in Jerusalem was that circumcision and coming under the Mosaic Law were not required for conversion. Cf. Timothy in Acts 16:3. His mother was a Jew, while Titus was all Gentile.

Notice vv.4-5, “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: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” The false brethren spoken of here are those who had questioned the “liberty” of the believers at Antioch. In other words, Paul didn’t give these guys the time of day.

In Paul’s ministry, he had met a lot of these guys. He spoke of them in 2 Corinthians 11:26 when he said, “in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;”

Make no mistake about it. They are still around today. Peter spoke of them in 2 Peter 2:1-3 when he said, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

What is our liberty? No more bondage to the Law (3:25, 5:1, 4:9)! In contrast to the two commands of Christ, (love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself), the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws...By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws. (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. (3) It reduces a person's ability to personally discern. (4) It creates a judgmental spirit. (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. (6) It produces inconsistencies. (7) It created a false standard of righteousness. (8) It became a burden to the Jews. (9) It was strictly external. (10) It was rejected by Christ.

Desert Places

Let’s look at Galatians 1:13-14, “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.” Now Paul begins to share his testimony. It is estimated that Paul hand a consenting hand in the killing of at least 10,000 Christians before his conversion. He was the crem-de-la-crem of his class. He said in Philippians 3:5-6, “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” He also had a hand in the stoning of Stephan according to Acts 7:54-60 through Acts 8:1-3.

Notice v.15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,” That calling came on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:1-6. Have you ever felt that God couldn’t love you because of the person you’ve been? Saul did far more evil than most and yet God still loved him.

Notice v.16a, “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen;” Jesus called Saul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Something very interesting is that Saul and Paul are the same. One is Hebrew while the other is Gentile. It would be the equivalent of John and Juan today. The Lord simply wanted him to identify with his mission field.

Notice vv.16b-17, “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” Notice that God called Paul and not man. We are not sure how long Paul was in the Arabian Desert. The only thing that we do know was that it took three years from his conversion experience to make it to Jerusalem to visit with the other apostles.

There is a recurring theme in the Bible. God takes those whom he wants to use into the desert. I.e. Moses in Ex 3:1-6 to lead the people out of Egypt. Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1-7 to show a widow how to trust the Lord. Jesus in Matt.4:1-11 to prepare him for the cross (Matt.26:36-46). Are you in the desert? What is God preparing you for? We must learn to look at desert places as preparation places.

Notice v.18, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” After three years Paul visits with Peter in Jerusalem.

Notice vv.19-20, “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.” Paul also sees an apostle that he refers to as "James, the Lord's brother." One of the most contradictory doctrines in the Catholic Church is the teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The Bible clearly teaches that Mary had more children after Jesus. Of course, they were half brothers and sisters because they had different fathers. As a matter of fact, Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters (Mark 6:3; Jude 1). We are told that they were married in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and that they had a hard time believing in Him in John 7:1-9.

This also exposes another false teaching within the Church of Rome; celibacy. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” This verse also exposes the false teaching of Ash Wednesday within the Catholic Church as well.

Notice vv.21-24, “Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.” God received the glory for Paul’s life.

Pleasing God

Let’s look at Galatians 1:8-9 where it says, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” It doesn’t matter who preaches it. If it is contrary to the Bible and the gospel it contains, it’s wrong. And the messenger of that wrong gospel will be judged. It sad, but so many of the ignorant can be deceived today just because the person who says it looks religious.

We see examples of this in the Bible. One such example is in the book of Job when he was speaking with Eliphez where it says, “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? (Job 4:12-17). The spirit supposedly revealed to Eliphaz that Job was not just before God. It sounded very spiritual, but it was completely off base (Job 1:1).

Another example is found in the story of the old and young prophet in 1 Kings 13:1-26. Take a look at it and see how the old prophet misled the young prophets claiming to hear from the Lord.

Yet another example happened in 1823 when an angel appeared to a guy named Joe who lived in New York. While Joe lay in bed, this angel revealed to him where he would find a new revelation. The new revelation was inscribed on golden plates, called the plates of Mormon. And Joseph whose full name was Joseph Smith, Jr. became the founder of one of the largest cults today - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He claimed to have a supernatural message - but it wasn't from God.

We have seen a spirit, a prophet and an angel. All of them bearers of different gospels; deceiving those who heard their messages. All cursed, “set aside for destruction” or “a detested thing.” There is no greater doctrine that we must maintain the purity of than salvation by grace.

Notice, v.10, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” The word “persuade” means to “make a friend of” or to “seek the favor of”. An example of this is found in I Thessalonians 2:4 where Paul says, “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” Pleasing God should be the top priority in our lives. Pleasing Him comes before pleasing others and even ourselves. We must come to grips with the fact that the preaching of the gospel is not pleasing to lost man and it never will be.

Notice “the servant of Christ.” A bond-servant was no ordinary servant. The Old Testament Law stated that all Hebrew slaves where to be set free after six years of service. However, there were times when the slave decided to stay with his master for one reason or another (Ex. 21:2, 5-6). Thus the slave/servant would become a bondslave/servant. In Romans 6:22 Paul said, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” He realized that the “freedom” that he had in the world was nothing to be compared with the “slavery” he had in Christ.

Notice vv.11-12, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul is telling them that the true gospel did not come from men but God.