Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

Why Did God Give The Law? April 10, 2011

Filed under: Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 1:09 am
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READING GALATIANS
3:19-4:11

This letter was all about assuring these Gentiles that they are justified before God through faith in Christ Jesus. Their assurance comes from discovering they are looking at God as their Father in that kind of intimate, caring, expectant way we look at our Dad. This declaration of their acceptability hinges on the suffering of Jesus. Justification is tied directly to the cross endured Jesus who claimed to be the One promised to Abraham and to even Adam. Now they, pagan Gentiles, who have never lived according to the Old Testament law, are adopted into the family of God. They are sons with all the rights and privileges children have. They have inherited the blessings of the promises–to live in relationship with God as if they had never sinned and were not sinning now. And to cap it off, they have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord Jesus Christ promised would come (John 16:7-13). Paul said,” …so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).

All the law given to Moses does not cancel out this promise given to Abraham. “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise” (Gal. 3:18). The reason the law was given was that after 400 years surrounded by Egyptian worship of sun and other idolotry, the law was useful to reveal their sinfulness and cause them to fear and respect God (Exodus 20:18-21). They also needed visual images of the promised Christ’s blood being shed for them found in the sacrificial system. They would vividly see their own sin and need of a Savior through their failure to keep all the Ten Commandments. (We do too!) They would experience some of the majesty of God through the festivals and special days. They would come to know something of their own uncleaness through the dietary laws. The principle that some things were clean; some unclean became a part of their life. They would be, like children, protected from themselves by the limits set by their parents. Paul’s argument was that the law was like a Trustee or Guardian. The promise of Christ was kept in a legal Trust–riches reserved for them when they came of age. They could look forward to getting it. But, like children whose rich parents die leaving everything to them, they could not spend the money yet. They had to grow up first. Paul’s argument is that the promise of the blessings in Christ Jesus are like that–kept in trust until He came (4:1-7). Their responsibility was to accept this discipline and look forward to Christ’s coming. Moses, Joshua, and Caleb certainly did that.

The question Paul asked is: Why would you want to go back to those kind of restrictions now? You have been justified by faith. The promised One has come. He has died for you. You are no longer unclean! You have the Holy Spirit. You were not Jews, but you were living as slaves or children under guardian restrictions when you were pagans. He extends his argument to their Gentile experiences. You might have worshiped the Greek gods like Athena or participated in some other system seeking to pacify the gods. You were a slave to ceremony, rituals, diets, special religious days, astrology perhaps. Why return to that kind of system by adopting the rituals, circumcism, and diets of the Jews? You will be restricted again, enslaved. “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal: 4:9). By adding anything to your faith, you are returning to your pagan traditions or adopting Jewish laws which were meant to be object lessons so everyone could understand the gospel. God gave the law to show us all our sin and our need of a Savior and to give us visual images to learn more about Him.

Be very clear about one thing. Paul was not talking in this passage about how we might become more like Jesus and show the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, kindness, self-control. This passage is not about the process of growing more like Christ Jesus. Here he was attempting to stop teachers adding some law or ritual to justification by faith alone. What a joy to know we will live forever in relationship with God, being legally declared holy and acceptable to Him now and forever. Those of faith are sons, not slaves or children living under the restrictions of a legal document. They are in possession now of the inheritance–the promises of God made real to our heart by the Holy Spirit. We can live with those promises at our disposal. We can pray, knowing God hears us and is faithful to keep all His promises. We can intercede with God for others while “Standing on the promises of God my King; ….” as the old devotional hymn reminds us. We are free to stand on these promises–to spend our inheritance, so to speak. Paul’s application of this principle was, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Reject the teaching of those who urge you to add something to faith. Don’t become a child again, living under a system of rules. Don’t be a slave again to someone’s false view of salvation. Being right with God is through faith alone; nothing added. Baptism won’t cut it. You will never be good enough, no matter how hard you try. Stand firm; be a woman of faith.

May I recommend two books: The Law and the Gospel by Ernest Reisinger (P and R Publishing, Philipsburg, New Jersey, 1997). ( I helped him proofread it.) http://www.cvbbs.com

The Chequekbook of the Bank of Faith by Charles Spurgeon (there are many editions out; Banner of Truth Trust; Moody Press). He shows you how to make the promises your own and urges you to cash in on them.

 

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 Isaiah 30-39 February 4, 2009

Filed under: Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 2:30 am
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A FLAG WAVING ON TOP OF A HILL
Remember the battle of Iwo Jima (2/19/45) flag raising photo and statue? It became a symbol of the sacrifice, courage, and victory of the United States’ combatants in the Pacific.

Isaiah wanted us to remember Jerusalem’s protection from the Assyrians like that. A striped pole placed on Mt. Zion with a flag waving in triumph:

“….Til you are left as a pole on top of a mountain And as a banner on a hill. Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:17-18)

They didn’t deserve to be saved from this huge world power. Everyone else was overpowered by the Assyrians. Judah had not listened; they had not leaned on their LORD’s saving of them but on horses and alliances. God allowed them to suffer the consequences as a disciplinary action, (they were like a pole stripped bare of all bark) but, in the end, He showered them with unmerited favor. That grace and justice is what the waving banner is to remind us of today. It also put fear in the heart of the Assyrian leaders who scurried home to their own waiting destruction (Isaiah 31:8-9). Later, Babylon rose up out of nowhere and destroyed their power and world domination.

“By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD; For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake'” (Isaiah 37:34-5).

When you see a flag waving somewhere, let it be a reminder to you and to your children. You could say something like, “In 701 BC, God saved His people by His action alone. It was all of His sovereignty and grace. He protects His people now and works all things out for their good. At the same time, He has a collar of restraint on the nations and will One Day hold all evildoers to an exacting account.”

“If we trust in Jesus, our salvation will also be like a banner waving in the breeze to remind us of His unmerited favor.”

 

Reading Isaiah 25-29 February 2, 2009

Filed under: Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 9:28 pm
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LISTEN
Try to read these chapters at the same time if you can–or read a little each day for a week so you are immersed in its concepts. The theme is simple: Since God is wise and excellent in how He guides us, listen to Him!

In chapter 25, we are reminded that God will defend His people. Their enemies will be destroyed! Even that great veil of death covering everyone will be swallowed up forever (25:8). The reproaches, shames, rebukes from unbelievers will be taken away.

SIGNPOSTS
Think back to those historical signposts. In the late 600’s BC, the Assyrian Empire took over every nation around Judah. Only Jerusalem escaped their oppression. Raids and tribute demands were everyday occurrences. Things did not look good for Judah as Isaiah preached these messages! It would be like having our schools or malls threatened by terrorists year after year. The dramatic rescue came in 701 BC when 180,000 Assyrian men died overnight for no apparent reason. (This historical record is found in Isaiah 36-38 and II Kings 19-20.) It should remind us that God is sovereign and will defend His people. And so His people will praise Him and be happy for His defense and their salvation.

DEATH
Of course, death is our last enemy. It separates us from those we love. It causes tears and sorrow. In I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, Paul brings us hope and comfort with the idea we will all be with the Lord Jesus forever. So we should think right and protect our hearts and minds with faith, love and hope. The battle is for what we love and how we think. Who are your enemies? Busyness…fractured relationships…self-discipline…bad news….one problem after another?

“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10).

 

THINKING UPSIDE DOWN January 26, 2009

Filed under: Family Life,Teaching Tips — womenembracingfaith @ 7:55 pm
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caption id=”attachment_234″ align=”alignnone” width=”225″ caption=”John William “]John William [/caption]

Brandt and John

Brandt and John

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Grandchildren sure light up my life. They remind us of God’s infinite ability to create. Each child is, of course, entirely unique, but also a reminder of the families’ genes from which he comes.
He is our creator; we are the clay, not the potter who molds it. Remembering that principle makes all the difference in how we live. These three boys remind us all of that everyday!

Isaiah used this Creator principle to rebuke the citizens of Jerusalem 2700 years ago:

“Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?”
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’? (Isaiah 29:15-16)

Probably the most important thing to teach little children is a regard for God as their Creator. Do all you can to instill it early because that view of God leads to reverence and awe. All of our earth and what we can see of the universe screams it. And that screaming will be a reminder to them the rest of their lives not to turn things upside down
thinking they are in charge and God has nothing to do with their daily lives.
Of course, upside down thinking has lots of repercussions for you as well. Are you approaching God with reverence, respect, and a biblical fear? In that awesome day of His judgment (or your physical death), are you righteous enough or perfect enough to enter His holy and pure presence? Why should He let you into His courtyard? Upside down thinking has all kind of answers–even to believing there is no life after death.

“It (

righteousness, perfect life) will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4 :24-25).
We have to ask the right questions to think correctly about spiritual things. The question is not: Do I talk to God? Or to use a currently popular way of putting it: Do I have a personal relationship with God?
The real question is: Since God is just and perfectly holy, how can I even think about entering His presence? Who am I to claim to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe? The books of Isaiah and Romans have the answers. Read them, asking the right questions! I will come along beside you and help.

 

ISAIAH 1-24 REVIEW December 30, 2008

Filed under: Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 9:11 pm
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Reading through the Bible systematically could be one of the most rewarding new year’s resolutions you make.  It has certainly been helpful to me.  For one thing, it confirmed for me the reformed Doctrines of Grace.  They really became “true for me” as well as “true” as I saw them every where I read.  My advice:  find a system and try to adapt it to what you’re living through right now.  Don’t make it a RULE, but try to be disciplined.  For more than ten years, I used M’Cheyne’s Calendar  from

 

Do You See Yourself In This Picture? October 20, 2008

Filed under: Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 1:10 am
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We are seeking to apply Isaiah’s message to our lives today. He lived more than 2700 years ago, predicted several changes in world powers, specific events and people, and the coming of the Savior. Some of his predictions aren’t completely clear to us yet, and so these passages continue to stymie and divide Christians today. Read Isaiah 1-6 to get a fuller picture of the context. Then look for yourself in these snapshots.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, And reb uke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the LORD (Isaiah 2:1-5).

AVOID ASSUMPTIONS, BUT REMEMBER BIBLICAL THEMES
Often one’s end-times views are imposed on this passage’s interpretation. Assumptions are made about its meaning based on whether one is pre-mil or not. Notice it does not mention a 1000 year period at all, but it is speaking of things to come. Instead, this is a plea to Judah and Jerusalem (2:1;5) to think about the future. They could be a part of God’s peaceful and glorious kingdom–eternal and world encompassing. But, they must be willing to live in the light of the LORD–to trust in His redemption and obey His commandments. Do you see yourself in this snapshot–going up with many kinds of people to God’s house to hear His teachings and enjoy His peace.

They shall go into the holes of the rocks,
And into the caves of the earth,
From the terror of the LORD
And the glory of His majesty,
When He arises to shake the earth mightily (Isaiah 2:19)

Here is another glimpse of the future. Condemnation is horrible. God is majestic and just. Without the salvation found in Christ Jesus alone, we will be terrified IN THAT DAY. A specific time of judgment. You aren’t in this snapshot, are you?

APPLICATION TO JUDAH IN 730-586
For Jerusalem stumbled,
And Judah is fallen,
Because their tongue and their doings
Are against the Lord,
To provoke the eyes of His glory.
The look on their countenance witnesses against them,
And they declare their sin as Sodom; They do not hide it (Isaiah 3:8-9

Isaiah applies this specifically to Judah by predicting the siege of Jerusalem in the 500’s BC. Instead of walking in the light of their promise-keeping God, they provoke Him by the arrogant look on their faces. I hope you do not see yourself or your church in that picture.

See how to use the Bible’s themes to help you figure out what a passage means? And how to avoid letting your pre-conceived assumptions take you too far in your interpretation? We want to be women who handle the scripture carefully as we tell Bible stories to our children and grandchildren. Don’t leave your thinking caps off at the church or the children’s church door!