Friday, June 27, 2008

The Promises of God

Today, we pick up our study in Galatians 3:20 where it says, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” The very idea of a mediator implies that there are two parties involved. In the given of the Law, it was God and the People with Moses playing the mediator. By the way, mediator is king of like a middleman. However, when God made the covenant with Abraham, there was only one party; Himself. We see this in Genesis 15 in that God actually placed Abraham asleep and made the covenant with Himself and Abraham had nothing to do with it.

The same can be said of the promise that Christ has given to us in salvation. It was between Christ and Christ, who is God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” It is not conditional upon us keeping the Law.

Notice v.21, “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” The Law could not give life in that it only pointed out the sinfulness of mankind.

Notice v.22, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Again, the Law could not save, only the promise that was given to Abraham that looked forward to the Seed could save and our faith in that promise. Those in the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus while those of us in the New Testament look back at Jesus. Enoch even looked past the first coming of Jesus and saw the second (Jude 14).

Notice vv.23-25, “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” The Law simply tutored us until Christ came and justified us by faith. The Law showed us that we needed a Savior!

Many times, if not most of the time, God does not give us things until we have learned to appreciate them. It reminds me of a little boy who came to his father one day and asked to borrow the car. The father replied that the boy could borrow the car only after he cut his long hair. The boy responded by saying that Jesus had long hair. The father responded by letting his son know that Jesus walked everywhere He went too! Things have changed. We are no longer bound by the law!

Notice v.26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” “Children” literally means “sons”.

Notice v.27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is not referring to water baptism but Spirit baptism. The act of baptism denotes dedication to the service of him in whose name we are baptized. We see an example of this in the Old Testament with Moses. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:2, “And all were baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” That means that they became consecrated, or dedicated, or bound to him as their leader and lawgiver. So, we see the same thing here. We see the same in 1 Corinthians 12:13 where it says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

Notice v.28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all simply followers of Christ and are all one in Him. It says in Romans 10:12 “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.” Fortunately, God is not bias like we are.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Purpose of the Law

Today, we pick up our study in Galatians 3:15, “Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” He compares the contracts that between man with the contract that He had with Abraham.

Notice v.16, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The promise referred to here is found in Genesis 22:16-18 where it says, “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” The Seed referred to here is the Messiah.

Notice v.17, “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” The promise to Abraham was given 430 years before the giving of the Law, so the Law has no bearing on the promise.

Notice v.18, “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” In other words, if the inheritance that was promised was conditional upon the Law than it was not a promise at all.

Notice v.19, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” So, the question now is, “If the Law did not set aside or even add to the promise that God made to Abraham what was the purpose of giving it at all?” It was added because of transgressions. Sin! Romans 4:15 says, “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” Also, Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” So, the Law was to point out our falleness until the Messiah would come and offer a way to fix it. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

Evangelist Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law. First he likened it to a dentist's little mirror, which he sticks into the patient's mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn't drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can't provide the solution.

Brown then drew another analogy. He said that the law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you've removed the bad fuse and inserted a new one, you turn off the flashlight as that it is no longer needed.

In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumb line. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it's true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn't use the plumb line to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw. The law points out the problem of sin; it doesn't provide a solution. Of course, the mediator spoke of in this verse is referring to Moses.

Notice v.20, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” The very idea of a mediator implies that there are two parties involved. Of course, in the given of the Law, it was God and the People with Moses playing the mediator. However, when God made the covenant with Abraham, there was only one party; Himself (Genesis 15).

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Salvation of Abraham

Let’s pick up our study this week in Galatians 3:6, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now Paul compares our faith and salvation to that of Abraham. Romans 4:1-12 tells us that Abraham’s salvation came as a result of grace and not works. It’s interesting to note that Abraham’s circumcision took place many years after he was actually accounted righteous by God; thus works were not involved in his righteousness but faith. What we see here is that salvation by grace is not new to the New Testament. Prior to the Law, Abraham was saved by his faith. Bottom line is that Abraham’s righteousness did not come by circumcision but by faith. The same can be said of you and me. We are not made righteous before God, maybe men, but not God, by our works. It’s only through our faith that we have obtained righteousness.

Notice v.7, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Have you ever heard the children’s song, “Father Abraham”? It says, “Father Abraham had many sons and I am one them and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.” Just as Abraham was saved by faith, so are we; thus we are children of Abraham.

Notice v.8, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” God had the Gentiles (if you are not a Jew, you are a Gentile) in view even then.

Notice v.9, “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Just as God blessed Abraham because of his faith, so he will bless us.

Notice vv.10-12, “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. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” You either live under the Law or you don’t. I’m humored by Seventh Day Adventism in their desire to keep one aspect of the Law for salvation while ignoring the rest. Paul is saying here that it is all or nothing.

Notice vv.13-14, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham was “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” We see this in Genesis 12:1-3 when God said to Abraham, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” And surely the nations of the earth have been blessed because of the Jew.

First and foremost, the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ was a Jew. Second, the world has been blessed even more by the Jews in that most of the breakthroughs in modern science and medicine have been because of the Jew. If you don’t believe that, go and search the web for how many Jews have won the Nobel Prize! It’s a whooping 176 recipients! They represent 23% of the total recipients since 1902 and yet they represent less than 1% of the Earth’s total population. That’s phenomenal by any count. The only way that you can explain that is the blessings of God.

I believe that one of the reasons God has blessed the United States of America is because of the way we have treated the Jew. While Europe, for the most part, turned their backs on the Jews when they needed them most, America did not. God blesses those who bless His people. It’s as simple as that!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

O Foolish Galatians!

Let’s pick up our study in the book of Galatians today in v.1, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” He calls them foolish because they gave in to the teaching of the false teachers. They had begun to believe that their salvation was conditioned upon faith plus something else. That’s fatal! Listen, my friend, if you think that you have to do something more than place your faith in the completed work of Christ upon the cross to gain salvation, you are no longer trusting in Christ to save you. You are trusting in yourself!

It reminds me of Jesus in the Garden just prior to his crucifixion when he prayed, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” What Jesus was saying in essence was, “If there is another way of salvation for these people, don’t make me do this.” The human side of Jesus did not want to go to the cross. Of course, there is no other way of salvation and he was promptly arrested, tried and crucified. That was His Father’s answer.

And yet, many run around today thinking that they have to be baptized, join some kind of a church, speak in tongues, pray a rosary, participate in a sacrament, etc…etc…. Listen to me… while some of those things are necessary for the obedient walk of a Christian, they are not necessary for salvation. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar and misrepresenting the Gospel of Christ either out of shear ignorance or manipulation. There’s no middle ground on this issue!

Notice v.2, “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” He asks how they were saved initially; by faith or the Law? The answer is obviously by faith. You can not be saved by keeping the Law my friend. It will always condemn you.

Notice v.3, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” If the flesh couldn’t save you, then how is it able to perfect you? It’s not!

Notice v.4, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.” Now, he is forced to doubt their salvation. Why? They were no longer accepting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross but their works of the flesh! We will also find Paul saying in 4:11, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” Paul had reached the point that had begun to doubt whether or not they were really saved.

I, as a pastor, have been forced to do the same. There are people in my church that say all of the right things when you ask them, but in reality, a close examination of their lives reveals quite the opposite. They think and act like heathens! It is obvious that their minds have not been truly transformed (Romans 12:2). Yes, I know that the Bible says that we are to judge no man, but it also says that we are inspect the “fruit” of every man who claims to be a Christian. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

Notice v.5, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The miracles and goodness of God; do they come from faithful keeping of the Law of Moses or by faith through the Spirit? By faith through the Spirit, of course! The Spirit was given to each of us when we heard and believed. Acts 10:44 says, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” So too, with each of us. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.