Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

The Importance of Context To Application April 25, 2011

Filed under: applications,Galatians — womenembracingfaith @ 2:19 pm
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READING GALATIANS
Please read Galatians 5-6

It’s hard to take a fresh look at familar passages that have been misused and misinterpreted. This is certainly one of those. I’m writing this blog chiefly for women who want to think as they read the Bible. Not to toss out feelings, behavior, life and heart issues but to figure out the doctrine first and then apply it to all those areas. Doctrine first; then experience.

Doctrine simply means “teachings.” This includes looking for what the Bible says about its major themes of redemption and God’s gracious sovereignty. Over the last thirty years, I’ve heard a lot of things taught from these chapters that violate looking at the theme of Galatians and that of the Bible as a whole. This omission has resulted in jumping into subjects that are not covered in this letter. It has been said that John Calvin had the ability to go as far as a passage allowed, and remain quiet on what was not clear. To be silent where the scripture was silent. Failure to do that has led many into applying “stretches of the truth,” leading to mistakes in application to the heart and life. It is hard to put those teachings out of our mind when we study a passage for ourselves.

This is our eighth lesson on Galatians. By now, saying that Justification by Faith Alone is the theme of this book is redundant. It’s clear, isn’t it? So any application made here must relate to this theme. In chapter 5, Paul does get into application. He is telling them to be careful how they stand up to false teachers. To watch their own attitudes and words and actions. He wanted them to be led by the Holy Spirit and to note the difference between Christian behavior and that of the person who doesn’t have the hope and promise of the Spirit’s presence (Galatians 5:15-26). The promise of the Holy Spirit’s work in their life has been a sub-topic all along, and he gets into the Spirit’s work in our lives toward the end of chapter five. But, this is not a treatise on sanctification or how we are made more holy in this life. It is in the context of how to act and be while standing firmly on the doctrine of justification.

Taking verses out of context, isolating them so to speak, can lead to major error. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). This is a classic one to take out of this context on justification. It has been used over the years by those who sever the Old Testament from the New. “You’re not under the law,” they say. “You are freed from all that. We live in a different time, a new dispensation. Just listen to the Spirit; he will lead you to do what is right.” Now you know this passage is about not adding one little thing to what Christ Jesus has done on the cross for us, not about whether the Old Testament is useful for today or not. In fact, Paul uses the Old Testament examples to prove his points about Justification by Faith. To tell us to belittle the Old Testament into just a historical book of the Jews violates even using it like Paul did here. But, to say you can do what you feel like is also way out of context.

Another frequently mis-used verse is, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18). His point is to encourage us not to gratify our own desires while standing firm on the gospel. He is not counseling us to toss out the Old and do what we wish in a new era. But, if you take that verse out of the chapter and quote it, you could conclude that all you need now for life and Godliness is the Spirit’s leading disregarding the Old Testament or even the Ten Commandments.

Paul tried to make the point here that in standing up to false teachings we need to be very careful and watchful of ourselves. Not to seek gratification of our own desires (such as a desire to look smart), but to think of others and to remain kind, gracious, providing for gospel teachers, doing what is good. Christians have the hope of being gradually renewed by the Spirit, but these warnings about sin are very real. The Bible’s themes of Renewal and Redemption are a backdrop to Galatians’ theme of justification through faith alone. One day the universe would be renewed back to how He created it in the first place. But, in the meantime, we need to be carefui how we act, think, and what we desire–even when opposing wrong teaching. He acknowledged how the need for grace remains even though we have the promise and hope of the Spirit. Paul ended this letter on that note: “Grace …be with your spirit..”

My reason for bringing all this up is I want you to think as you read the Bible. To reconnect with historical Christianity and the faith of the Apostles. Don’t take a verse out of its context, memorize it, and then use it as a sword against others or yourself. Instead, do your best to grasp the meaning of the writer before you apply the passage to how you feel, think, act, worship, live. Spiritual experience follows right thinking, not the other way around.

Paul wrote Galatians five to seven years before he wrote to the Romans. His theme in Romans is the same as Galatians, and just as clear. That is why Martin Luther was so struck by the contrast between his works-oriented Catholicism and Justification by Faith Alone as he read Romans. There is more detail in Romans, and a careful study of it would benefit you now after this Galatian study. May I recommend Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ multi-volume set or one book from it?

I hope these lessons on Galatians profited you. Perhaps a reading of Matthew Henry’s commentary on Galatians would help you with your applications. He died before getting to Galatians, but a group of like-minded men followed his technique and finished the New Testament for him. It has been widely used since the early 1700’s.

My belief is that we, as Christians, do best when we study a specfic book while we are reading other portions of Scripture. That is why I like the system of Bible reading put out by Banner of Truth. You have to adapt it to your current lifestyle and pressures and do what you can. But, this system works to help you think and feel and apply as you read.

 

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?

 

Halloween and Reformation Sunday October 31, 2010

Filed under: Family Life — womenembracingfaith @ 11:11 am
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We had so much fun with halloween when our girls were growing up.  I wasn’t much on sewing or spending much money on costumes, but we tried to be creative with sheets, of course, and masks and hats.  It was a day for everyone to pretend. In elementary school, we moved on to the school carnival–running auctions, games, etc., but all involving the whole family. Oh, how I hated making those pumpkin cookies for kindergarten class!! I’m so thankful for the memories now.

I’m also thankful for the day Martin Luther nailed his 23 ideas on the Catholic Church door in Germany in 1513.  Now, you know, I’m really a historian at heart.  History is what my education and school teaching was all about.  But, this is even more about spiritual things and Christian history.  I’ve been so blessed by what came out of the Reformation he started that day.  Even more blessed than by our fun on halloween.

  Luther started a “discussion” of ideas that resulted in the good newsl being made more clear to everyone–that salvation was by faith alone. Faith is our steadfast belief that Jesus’s perfect life–His righteousness–was the only thing that could ever erase the condemnation due us because of our sin.  The key words are alone and only.  Luther had read the first five chapters of Romans!  Sadly, the Catholic Church would not accept this, and has not changed any of their views about it since, so we have a great split in the Christian traditions.  Reformation Sunday celebrates his courage and this good news that Jesus is the One promised from the beginning.

I’m blessed because God has given me this faith, and I don’t need to add anything else to it–no ceremony I can attend, no good deeds for my community, no amount of church work, no amount of sacrifice….just faith in the work of Christ Jesus–his perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection— to be enough to cover all my sins. 

Blessings and fun memories to think about……

 

Chewing on Truth (For Teens) August 13, 2009

Filed under: Teen Tips — womenembracingfaith @ 2:21 am
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Oh, my gosh. School is about to start. All that humanism, secularism, paganism being shoved down your throat. Can you identify the difference between h/s/p and biblical Christianity? Are you able to think like a Christian in the midst of all this?

The most important thing is for you to learn to read, write, think, and do your math.

Look for someone you can help. Like sit with them at lunch so they don’t feel so bad.

Find someone who can help you during the day. Someone who loves Jesus Christ and reads their Bible. Read yours….try reading the Psalms, Proverbs, the gospels. Do you know what the gospel is?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).

Tonight think about these two basic truths of Christianity. Dwell on them; Chew them over. I will do it too.

 

True Comfort and Hope March 31, 2009

Filed under: applications,introductions,Isaiah,Romans — womenembracingfaith @ 3:35 am
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The following is March 31, 2009 “Daily Reading” from http://www.mlj-usa.org.
It is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaking in 1942 about the power of the gospel in contrast to any other idea about life and its problems. He was living in London, preaching at Westminster Chapel. His wife and daughters had left the city for refuge and safety. The war with the Germans did not end until 1945.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17).

“The Gospel – still our only hope

We say [that the only hope for men is to believe the gospel of Christ] knowing full well all the talk about science and learning and culture. We say so knowing that, at the end of this war* the world, in exactly the same way as at the end of the last war, will announce with confidence its plans and schemes for a new world, without taking any account of what the gospel has to say. Why do we say so? For precisely the same reasons adduced by St Paul [Romans 1:16] … he is proud of the gospel because it is God’s way of salvation … At once we see that it possesses an authority which is quite unique. For all other ideas with respect to life and its problems are man-made. At their best and highest, they never get beyond the realm of speculation and supposition … The great minds and the profoundest thinkers … end by admitting that the ultimate problems of life are shrouded in mystery … The very fact that there are so many different and differing schools of thought bears eloquent testimony to this uncertainty and inability … But there was another fact … which proved how inadequate all the schools were finally. And that was the endless number of religions that were to be found … We see a perfect picture of this in Acts 17 as regards Athens. The same was true of Rome and all other great cities … Paul had something essentially different to offer and to preach. He knew of the other systems. But he also knew their limits and their inability to solve the problems. He could not make his boast in men and their systems. Before he could boast of a system it must have authority; it must have certainty. The gospel Paul preached was not speculation; it was a revelation from God Himself [Gal. 1: 11, 12]. There was no need to be ashamed of such a message. And it is precisely the same today.”

*Written in 1942.

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians : 11-12).

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him:
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles..
.” (Isaiah 42:1).

How is true comfort and hope experienced spiritually?

We look at our circumstances anxiously,and want some kind of relief immediately. That’s why chocolate, coffee, wine are so popular.

Of course, that’s not spiritual experience at all. Instead, we need to think about ourselves in relation to the good news of Christ Jesus. Do I see Him as Isaiah did 730 years before He lived? The Promised One. The Savior. Am I in the realm of Christ or living under the control of Satan, sin, and the law? (See Romans 6). Which is it? You are either under Jesus’s governing power or you are not. That is the first step. Where am I? Who am I? Think of yourself as having died to Adam and his consequences and having risen to a new life loving and serving God. Comfort and hope start with right thinking.

Instead of seeking immediate relief from your raw circumstances, remember who you are. “God has set his love upon me. The Lord is my shepherd. He creates and orders and controls the cosmos for my good and His glory. He has forgiven me. “(Psalm 23, Romans 8, Isaiah 44:21-22)

Ask for the Spirit to give you understanding. To see things from God’s perspective. And to give you comfort and hope. (See John 16 )

You cannot produce comfort or hope on your own. But, you can think like a Christian and wait on the Lord to mysteriously come along beside you, giving you comfort, hope, and even joy. All in the midst of your pain.