Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Blooming Spiritually April 5, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 12:22 pm
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READING GALATIANS
3:1-18

Paul urgently appealed to his Galatian church members to carefully think through his argument. His main point is that anyone’s relationship with God is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not by the keeping of any law or doing something–whether a ritual or keeping a certain day or religious event or calendar. “Wasn’t it by faith, not through being a slave to anything?” he asks. Knowing God, or being known by Him, is a matter of faith, not doing. It is being; relating.

He told them of his own experiences in chapter 2. Of how he, the formerly strict Pharisee, now focused on God instead of keeping rules and regulations. He had the Holy Spirit within him, and he lived “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Now he made the same appeal to their experience. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (3:2) He wanted them to examine their own spiritual experience in light of the false teaching contrasted with his experience. What about us? Have you ever thought through your own relationship with God? How did it begin? What has happened since? How is it now? It makes one stop and think….or should.

Paul never separated doctrine from experience nor encouraged experience without doctrine. The first leads to a dry, thirsty land; the second to a fast fading flower without roots or long life. I like to think of the balance of the two as being like an orchid. In the right light, the bloom lasts for days and days. Historic Christianity calls us to bloom spiritually. The Spirit gives us hope in spite of the sin principle’s pulling upon us. Paul appealed to that hope in chapter three. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:3). In other words, are you depending on doing “it right” or surrendering that one thing for your own righteousness rather than, like Abraham, believing God and trusting in his promises? (3:6).

Now he turned their thinking back to the Bible.(Putting your eyes on experiences won’t be very helpful without relating them to biblical principles.) These non-Jews read the Old Testament in Greek. They knew Abraham’s story. How he was called out from Babylon and told he would be blessed and be a blessing, “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). How he had “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). How the promises were made to him and to his offspring (Genesis 12:7). “Think about it,” Paul said. “This all relates to you; it’s not just a history of the Jews. You are children of Abraham, Gentiles, yes, but people of faith. The promises are yours!! You will be blessed. You will be a blessing to others. When God sees your faith, He will count it as if you were perfect! And so you have an everlasting relationship with Him and have hope and strength from the Holy Spirit.” “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (3:7).

Paul reminded them that this all happened to Abraham hundreds of years before Moses was given the law. So these blessings do not come from keeping anything; they come from faith in the “offspring” of Abraham. That would be Jesus, the Promised One, the Savior, the Christ. Offspring; not offsprings. Children are heirs, not slaves or servants. They are free and rich. So why would a rich adult volunteerily become a slave? Why would anyone think a contract would be legal if a paragraph was added or something taken out? (Read Galatians 3:7-18). God’s promises to Abraham of righteousness, eternal life, blessings in this life were fulfilled in Christ Jesus. His promises through Moses did not cancel out or amend the Abrahamic Covenant.

Are we living by faith in Christ Jesus or are we slaves to something we have dreamed up? Do we just want to acknowledge our feelings, or are we willing to think about the Bible as well? Are you or/and your church or friends and family accepting ideas that are contrary to the scriptures? Are you an orchid or a hibicus? (For those of you not in the tropics, hibicus flowers last only one day.)

Doctrine: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).</blockquote

Experience: “‘Tis mercy all! Immense and free! for, O my God it found out me.
My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown thro’ Christ my own.”
(“How Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley).

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Reading Galatians March 31, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 8:38 am

I hope you will take the time to open your Bible and read these verses in their context. Context is everything. It determines both meaning and application. You also might want to review the definitions from my last blog on Galatians.

For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2: 18-21).

Paul was saying that God’s gift of righteousness to us is based entirely on the work of Jesus our Savior—his perfect life, his suffering and death in our place, and his resurrection. The ground we stand on for hope for eternal life is based on Jesus’s blood and righteousness. That is Paul’s whole argument here: nothing we do can be added to what Jesus has done for us. To depart from this is to leave the gospel.

Now the question is: What about the Old Testament? Do we just toss it out? Is it merely biography or a history of the nation of Israel? Paul answers by sharing his own experience. The law has shown him to be a sinner (2:18). It “killed” him–showing him his own unrighteousness and destroying any hope of becoming righteous. When he came to understand the Tenth Commandment, he discovered even his thoughts and desires could be unacceptable. But now he could live with his relationship with God as his life focus instead being burdened down by his efforts (and failures) to keep the law. The law had no more power over him; he had died to the idea that if he kept the law he could live forever. Now he had the Holy Spirit and lived by faith and believed his righteousness did not come from anything he did, but was imputed to him through the grace of God.

Here Paul is using his own experience as his argument against false teaching. In his later letter to the Romans, he develops his thought into more detail (See Romans 1-8). But, you see the simplicity of what he is saying? The Old Testament remained useful to him to show him his sin and his need of a Savior’s death and perfect life. Now he was free to enjoy and pursue his personal relationship with God. Even these Gentile believers were heirs to God’s promises, and everyone was on equal footing—all were Abraham’s children. (See Galatians 3:21-29).

Our Application

The children don’t toss out their father’s riches; we don’t toss out the Old Testament, but use its promises and examples for our encouragement and its precepts to show us how to live wisely, keeping our focus on our relationship with God. Since our righteousness is a gift from God, we don’t have to improve on it–or add to it by imposing a ritual or a diet or any other rule. The traditional Catholic teaching has been to add things to do so we can be more holy. But, Paul refuted this by making Jesus’s blood and righteousness our only ground of hope for acceptance by God. The Jehovah Witnesses reject the diety of Christ Jesus, and so their ground of hope is shaky. If Jesus is not truly God, then is his sacrifice perfect and sufficient? Don’t we have to do more? Add to it? These are the very teachings that Paul was confronting in Galatians except there it was coming from people of Jewish background.

Those who have faith are free to enjoy a walk with God–to get to know Him. …” if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal.: 2:21).

 

READING GALATIANS March 18, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 2:33 am
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As we have seen, Paul is utterly astonished at how quickly the church has been sucked into wrong teaching. Perhaps these men from Jerusalem were very charismatic teachers. Here are some definitions that might help you avoid being deceived someday:

justification: To be declared or counted as righteous.
righteous:To be perfect.
righteousness:To live in a state of perfection.

Look at how Paul uses these terms to refute the wrong teaching of the people from Jerusalem. Remember, they are saying that one can live forever if one believes that Jesus is the Savior and Lord AND just keeps the Jewish traditions of diet and circumcision. Paul , a Jew himself, is horrified:

…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

To insert the above definitions:
“We know that a person is not declared perfect by keeping the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be declared perfect by faith in Christ and not by works of the law,….because by works of the law no one will be declared perfect.”

In other words, since no one can keep the law perfectly, no one can earn eternal life. This is the reason Paul is so adamantly opposed to adding anything to faith. Anything added, like diet or circumcision, would have to be kept perfectly. It is obvious to each of us that will not work! When was the last time you even kept to your weightloss program? If perfection is required by the very nature of God, then it has to be given us.

Israel’s history certainly shows us an example of failure to obtain perfection through eating certain foods, going through prescribed rituals. The Ten Commandments showed them the same thing; no matter how hard they tried, there would also be some way they failed. Jesus said that even to look at another woman with desire was to commit adultry in the heart. “Why restore a system like this again?” he asks. It was designed to show all of us our need for a Savior since no one could keep the law perfectly. Don’t tack on anything to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Paul was saying. It was God’s plan all along to provide a Savior who would sacrifice himself so we could, through faith, be declared perfect enough to be set apart by God, to live for Him here, and know Him eternally.

And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:20-2l).

Once this doctrine becomes clear to us, our hearts sing with Charles Wesley,

Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Tis mercy all! Immense and free! for, O my God it found out me. (And Can It Be by Charles Wesley)

Ask God to stir up your heart toward him so that you can believe him and love him and serve him more fervently, depending on him to declare you acceptable in the Day of Judgment.

 

READING GALATIANS March 8, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 11:30 am
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“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 2:1).

Paul did not mince words here. He equated any changing of the gospel to deserting Jesus personally. He tied the doctrine to the Person. Christianity is, above all, a personal relationship. And he goes on to curse the one who was adding works to faith as a means to be right before God. He is astonished they would listen….He warned of the repercussions of turning away from right doctrine. It would affect their strength to live for Christ and their assurance of His love for them.

Remember that Paul is writing to a church in Turkey that he started. He is reminding them of why they should listen to him. Apparently, someone had come to Turkey from Jerusalem and told these new believers that salvation was really by faith plus other things they could DO. If only these non-Jews could take on a little “Jewishness” they could be guaranteed that God would accept them! It is like an Anglo-American telling a Latin immigrant, “If you could just learn to shake hands and speak English, God will declare you righteous and accept you.” Paul didn’t agree with that at all; that wasn’t why he had started this church. It wasn’t to just pass on Jewish traditions.

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).

They were being taught to eat like a Jew, be circumcised as a sign of their Jewishness, to just become a Jew and THEN God could accept their faith in Jesus. Paul was more Jewish than anyone else; he was educated a Pharisee and worked hard to keep all the Jewish traditions. He had rejected Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, the promised Savior, the Messiah. He had even sought to destroy Christianity. But, after he saw the risen Christ, he spent some time alone in the Arabian desert sorting out his ethnicity and his new faith, came back to Damascus, Syria for awhile, then spent time with Peter and Jesus’s brother, James. Then he returned to his hometown where he preached justification by faith in Christ Jesus for fourteen years. His ministry was well known and approved by the Jerusalem leaders even before he went to the Galatians.

Paul had concluded that the message of the whole Bible was that salvation and eternal life could be obtained only through faith in the promised Messiah. Jesus was that Savior. To add anything to faith alone was fatal. Jesus suffered, died, rose again, then went up to heaven where He sits in the favored spot beside the Father. He will come again to judge those living at that time, and those who have already died. Abraham, the father of the Jews, was saved in exactly this same way. His faith in the promised Savior was counted to him as if he were perfect (Galatians 3:6). No special diet, no ritual, no religious ceremony, no national origin, no tradition could be added to that to commend anyone to God. These teachers from Jerusalem were missing the mark.

You aren’t listening to someone who has missed out on the true gospel message, are you? The Jehovah Witness misses the Trinity so Christ Jesus is not really God. The Mormon doesn’t believe that the books in the Bible are the complete revelation of God. The Church of Christ adds baptism to faith. The Jehovah Witnesses teach that Jesus is the son of God, but not in essence, truly God. Some liberal Christians in Lutheran and Anglican and Presbyterian heritages teach baptism as a salvation experience. And on and on….Paul believed those teaching things like this was a serious error! (Galatians 1:9).

Of course, salvation through faith alone doesn’t mean you can just live anyway you want to! Peter used the phrase “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue..”.(2 Peter 1:5). He was talking about self-discipline and moral courage and steadfastness so one could grow and be fruitful in “the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ..” This passage is often quoted by those who add one or two things to faith. Don’t be deceived by that. Interpret every verse within the big picture of the whole Bible which is a message about salvation provided through the promised Savior.

OUR APPLICATION

You aren’t so hung up on your own traditions that you add them to faith, are you? Christianity is about knowing God not about ethnic or religious tradition or social customs. You wouldn’t let these preferences come between good Christians, would you? You wouldn’t let them interfere with the spread of the gospel, would you? Would we?

 

READING GALATIANS February 21, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 10:54 am
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I hope you will read along with me and think a little as we apply GALATIANS to life today. Run get your Bible and put it by your computer so you can read along. Remember the purpose of this blog is to think through the Bible together. Facebook me with any questions you have.

Many do not know what the Bible says….but many more miss out on what it means. I hope this Spring study will help us all get the meaning of what Paul was saying in this letter to several churches in what is today Turkey.

It is really amazing this letter has been preserved and passed down to us. It was written about fifteen years after Jesus ascended back into heaven. In his greeting, Paul reminds these friends of his authority to lay the foundations of Christianity because he was set apart for this task by an appearance of Jesus. His friend, Luke, recorded the details of this event in ACTS 9.

“But, the Lord said to him,”Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:14).

Paul always focused on the gospel. His greeting in verse 3 was the gospel in a nutshell.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever” (1:1).

The claim here, of course, is that the death and suffering of Jesus was for our sins and was the plan of the Father’s all along. It was God’s will and for His glory to deliver a people from the sinful stain and pull of an earth gone badly. Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior promised after Adam and Eve broke that one rule about the fruit tree. He goes into a lot more detail about this deliverance in the first chapter of EPHESIANS, “..so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (1:12).

He also pointedly calls Jesus LORD to show his diety as a person of the Trinity. It is not like the Jehovah Witnesses teach: that to believe Jesus is God is to worship a separate God. Instead, Paul is agreeing with the theme in all of scriptures that the provision of a Savior was an agreement between the three persons of the Godhead; the three-in-one mystery; that God is indeed one, as the Moslems believe, but He exists in three distinct persons, for the salvation of a people who will be for the praising of His wonderful power and mercy and grace. It is like in Revelation 6:9,

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”

Make sure you are clear about these two doctrinal points: that Paul’s face to face encounter with Jesus set him apart to clarify what the Bible had said all along about salvation; and that the Trinity is necessary to that salvation message. If Jesus was not a part of the Godhead, then His death and suffering would not be enough. He could never have lived a sinless life if He was just another prophet or teacher. Instead of being clothed in pure, white linen, we would be in dingy old rags of our own sin and unable to approach God’s throne. So check your beliefs. Do you believe in the Trinity? Does your church teach it? If so, rejoice in it and seek to give the truth to those who have been taken in by a false gospel. Why not invite a friend to church with you?

Paul is really upset that the Galatians listened to wrong teaching and turned away from the true gospel. We will look at what that means in the next blog. In the meantime, read what your church believes about the Trinity. It is for your comfort and the security of your soul that you are clear about this. What if Jesus were just another charismatic rebel? Then, we aren’t left with much, are we? There goes our hope…..Don’t fall into into this trap.

Teach your children “Holy, Holy Holy.” My grandsons, Sunday School class, and Children’s Church love it. Could it be that it gives them hope somehow?