Monday, February 28, 2011

Galatians - Freedom series – “Paul comes out of hiding - briefly” Gal. 1:18-24

Introduction to today’s teaching:
Paul is laying down a lot of foundation before he blasts them with the message of GRACE.
Remember that a good foundation is ALWAYS a necessity to build upon.

Verse 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see [Gk. Historesai - to get aquainted, visit with - This is the ONLY time it is used in the New Testament] Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.

Verse 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother.

“Then after three years…”

span >– Paul was prepared by the Lord for what was ahead of him, and it wasn’t an easy road! Finally, three years after his conversion, Paul goes to Jerusalem for the first time since his conversion and met with only one of the original Apostles (Peter) for 15 days (that was a short visit after 3 years in the desert). Somewhere along the way he met James (not one of the original 12 Apostles), the actual flesh and blood brother of Jesus . In the gospel, we see that Jesus’ family thought he was crazy and did NOT believe in him (Mark 3:19-21, 31 and John 7:5). This James is not one of the original Apostles, but the actual brother of Jesus named James the Just (as he was called). He also became a leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15) AND also the writer of James.

Again, Paul is showing he was not influenced by anyone in the Christian circles – three years in the desert, then just 15 days with Peter and a brief encounter with James the Just. Otherwise, he met with none of the “big names” of the early church.
As Kenneth Wuest says of this passage, “The strength of Paul’s language is explained by the insidious falsehoods of the Judaizers regarding his supposed dependence upon the twelve. .. He denies this charge most vehemently.”

It comes down to this ---> Paul + God (as his teacher) = Gospel of Grace!!!

Verse 20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)

As he has already stated, so he states again “…BEFORE GOD, I do not LIE.”
In this case, I like how the Amplified Bible reads: 20 Now [note carefully what I am telling you, for it is the truth], I write this as if I were standing before the bar of God; I do not lie.

In this case, I like how the Kenneth Wuest translates this verse as: “But the things which I am writing to you, behold, before the face of God, I am not lying.We can deem that being called a liar (by the Judaizers) was not something Paul wanted the Galatians falling for.

Note: It is quite an interesting experience to be trying to tell people the true gospel when they are being swayed to believe a lie by deceivers who are saying you are lying!

APPLICATION FOR YOU: How important is our integrity in what we say?

Verse 21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

From Jerusalem, you would go through Syria first to get to Cilicia.

Interesting facts about Cilicia:
Paul, known as Saul prior to conversion, was from Cilicia.

"But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia (modern day Turkey) …" - Acts 21:39 (Also see Acts 22:3)

Among the men of Cilicia who martyred Stephen was Saul (later called Paul), a man with a murderous hatred toward Christians (Acts 7:58) and yet a man who, after his conversion, became one of the greatest Christians that the world will ever know.

Verse 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.

Still at this point Paul was “unknown by face” to the Christians in Judea.

Verse 23 But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith [refers to the Message of Christ] which he once tried to destroy."

Can you even imagine them getting this report! People coming to Judea and saying, “Hey, guys, you’re not going to believe this, but Saul who we all know was adamant about destroying Christians, who then just disappeared for a few years, well he’s back and he’s now preaching Christ!!!” Can you imagine getting that report!

APPLICATION FOR YOU: Picture the biggest Christ hater you know, and then you don’t hear anything of him, and all the sudden he resurfaces and he’s a preacher now. Do have an acquaintance like that? Don’t give up on that person - he is still reachable!!!

Verse 24 And they glorified God in [because of] me.

Our lives can so reflect Christ that people will not see the bigness of YOU or me, but the truth that your salvation and mine is a miracle that rightfully GLORIFIES GOD! AMEN!

This is a good stopping point. We’ll pick up with Chapter 2 next week as we continue our series on FREEDOM.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

“Paul shares his background...” Galatians 1:13-17

We ended last week with verse 12, I will cover verses 13-17 this week. I will try not to go over 1000 words per devotion, in the hope that they will be short enough for you to read and comment.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct [behavior, way of life] in Judaism, how I persecuted [and violently at that] the church of God [Gk. Ecclesia] beyond measure and tried to destroy it.

When Paul thought of Christians he did not think, “I wonder if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah?” No, rather he thought he was doing right by God by destroying the Christians (I Tim. 1:13) . He violently attacked the Christians and was himself responsible for many Christian deaths (Acts 9:1, 24:4-5, 26:9-11). He was even there when Stephen was martyred (See Acts 7:58,8:1 ).

14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation,being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Studying under the well-respected Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), Saul (later called Paul) mastered the Torah and the entire Jewish law, taking his place as a Pharisee. Paul, like many today, was zealous in his religious Jewish ways.

To relate this to us, Paul was religious but not right with God. We have many religious people around us today who are bound by their man-made traditions, laws, and legalism, but they don’t personally know JESUS!!! This was Paul’s state.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me [set me apart] from my mother's womb [before I was born] and called me through [by] His grace,

The Bible comes back to this, we are for God’s pleasure “…when it pleased God…”

Then it goes on “…who separated me from my mother’s womb…” Paul was set apart – his life as a follower of God was predestined even before he was born (from my mother’s womb), and called Paul (as He does all of us) THROUGH HIS GRACE. Paul didn’t merit (work for) his salvation and neither do we!!! Note: For Paul’s conversion see Acts: 9:1-19

Side Note: This, among many other passages, gives us an understanding that life begins before we come out of the womb, and that abortion is killing a life. Paul was separated by God while in the womb. I believe when we are born (come out of our mother) we are really 9 months old. Life begins at CONCEPTION!

16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood [meaning no person],

What was God’s purpose for Paul? To reveal HIS SON, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in me (Paul).

God has the same purpose for you and me. We were chosen by God to reveal His Son to a lost and dying world.

Paul was chosen NOT for HONOR, but for SERVICE, NOT for EASE, but for BATTLES.
So it is with us today, we are not chosen for HONOR, though so many seek it, but for SERVICE. Yes service!
Also, we were not chosen for EASE. Our easy believism gospel of today is, “come to Jesus and He will take all your problems away and bless you with good things.” But in truth He has saved us to BATTLE. When is the last time you heard someone say, “come to Jesus and get ready for the battles!!!” Why not tell the whole truth to one coming to Christ! It won’t scare them off if the call has come from God to start with.
To Whom was Paul called? To PREACH JESUS among the GENTILES. How ironic!

Sometimes our calling includes a certain people group. It could be a country, a race, a certain group of people (homeless, prisons, drug addicts, the sick, shut-ins, etc.).

Paul ends this verse by again reminding them that he did not get his message from any human (flesh and blood).

17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

He didn’t go running off to the Apostles and ask them to get him grounded. God sent him off in the desert (Arabia). Paul had a lot of unlearning to do, and in his case the Lord did it. No one had claims on Paul but God.

Note: God did a special work with Paul that resulted in 1/3 of the New Testament being written by him. We do well to heed his words as they are part of our Holy Canon of scriptures and are really written by the Holy Spirit through the instrument of a man called Paul.

The Biblical manner by which God teaches us His will is by other mature believers, by studying the Bible ourselves, and by the Holy Spirit . ALL methods will be in line with the scriptures and never go contrary to scripture.

Don’t be like the Judaizers trying to discredit Paul’s ministry (and failed miserably) or like some who almost deify him. He was a man just like you and me except chosen in a different way. But even with that in mind remember whatever the Lord has called you to do, it is the most wonderful path for you to follow no matter where it leads. May the Lord bless you all in your journey!

Next week we will finish chapter 1, and spend March in Chapter 2. Don’t get in a hurry, but ask the Lord to make Galatians real to you.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

“A Message NOT of Man!!!” Galatians 1:11 & 12

This is a short lesson this week, partly because of my week and partly because I don’t want to get into the next few verses quite yet. Paul is still laying a foundation for the message of FREEDOM he is going to deliver strongly to these believers. So, it will get quite interesting in the coming weeks and months.

We’re just going to briefly look at some more spiritual food from verse 11 & 12 this week. Also, this would be a good week for you to back track over previous lessons and please ask questions and add comments.

Let’s look at verse 11: But I make known to you, brethren [Gk. Adelphos], that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man [man’s gospel]. v.12: For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul wants to make known, or as we might say today, “I want this to be crystal clear to you.”

Who do we see this verse was written to? Brethren!

This is Paul, a Jewish believer, calling these Gentile believers BRETHREN!!! To make this connection even more clear, the word for “brethren” in the Greek is adelphos, with the "A" meaning 'same' and "delph" meaning 'womb'. Paul referred to the Galatian believers as his brothers in Christ by this strong terminology. They both had the same heavenly Father (we are born again from above – John 3:3). WOW!!!

Then, Paul makes it clear that no man had any part in what he had learned and was speaking. This message was not something learned in educational schools, seminary, or any man-made institute. It came directly from the LORD Himself.

Paul ends verse 12 by saying the gospel message he was sharing with the Galatians came
“through the revelation of Jesus Christ". Paul is saying he was not indebted to people for his knowledge of the gospel, but had derived it entirely from Jesus Christ.

No pushing around or accusing Paul when he was bringing this liberating truth direct from the Lord!

As we close, let me ask, are we being sucked into a MAN-MADE gospel today?

Sadly, I think so many are! And as I’ve said before, since the closing of the canon of the scriptures (66 books – Our Bible), there is no revelation that will EVER come from God that contradicts the Bible. Anyone can say, “Thus saith the Lord” and then say words that are “supposed” to be direct from heaven (and thus, don’t need to be tested by the Bible). HOGWASH!!! The very early church only had the Old Testament, and then over time what we call the New Testament. What a privilege that we don’t have to wonder what God is saying to us, it’s ALL in the Bible.

Next week we’ll get a little bit into Paul’s testimony as we pick up at verse 13.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Galatians "Men Pleaser or God Pleaser" Galatians 1:10-12

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In our last study Paul made it clear that you better not alter the message of Christ (to a works salvation) or you'll be cursed!!! Pretty serious stuff!

Now that brings us to Paul's next dealing with the people in this letter. Paul says in verse 10, ”For do I now persuade men [seeking the approval, obey], or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”

Why would Paul now feel it necessary to say this?

It's believed that the false teachers (Judaizers) were questioning his Apostleship AND likely accusing Paul of acting like a Jew when among the Jews, but acting another way when around the Gentiles (i.e., Galatians). Paul makes it clear that he does not care about "pleasing men."

We see this problem also in Colossians 3:22-23 "...not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men."

Personally, I don't like people getting upset with me, but I must be willing to say whatever God's word says even if those who are lost (unsaved) don't like it, they think the message of the cross to be foolishness! (see I Cor. 1:18)

We must stay true to the scriptures, which means we cannot please men and God. We can't be both!!! Remember the gospel message is NOT what a non-repentant sinner wants to hear. And it is clear here that Paul admits he was ONCE a man pleaser "...IF I still pleased men..." then he would NOT be a bondservant of Christ.

Verse 11: "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man."

Paul was not preaching a man’s gospel, but that which came directly from God. Today, many preach a man-centered gospel and draw 1000's. I say stick to the Bible (God's message) even if it means not being the most popular church in town, maybe being a lot smaller, too. God will reward your faithfulness to Him. It's not about numbers. Oh, that we would get that out of our heads! Praise God for us who have learned that big isn't necessarily better (often the opposite).

Example: I once had a friend visiting with me who wanted to go check out a mega-church (7,000 seat auditorium). On the way there he noticed he was wearing two different sneakers. He was somewhat embarrassed about it and was wondering if he should go to the service like that. I told him, "Brother, they will run us in there like cattle and run us out of there like cattle." No one noticed!!!

Verse 12: "For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Paul got his understanding of Jesus Christ and the gospel message directly from the Lord, and ended up being an instrument of the Holy Spirit to write approximately 1/3 of the New Testament. MAIN POINT: This was not man inspired, but God inspired!

NOTE: For almost 2000 years the canon of the scriptures is closed comprising 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. So don't go saying God spoke (revealed) something to you that is beyond the scriptures. He won't EVER reveal ANYTHING that goes against His Holy Scriptures (the Bible).

As we close, let me ask you, "Are you a men pleaser or a God pleaser?"

We must live to please an audience of ONE - Please the LORD!!!
That's all that matters.

We conclude this week’s lesson on Galatians.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Must read: The Need for Illumination by A.W. Tozer

This has nothing to do with our recent Galatians study (directly) but it was just too good to not share with you. This devotion for today (Feb. 4) and everyday by A.W. Tozer (who I love and respect).

Special Devotion: "The Need for Illumination"

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. - I Corinthians 2:14

The doctrine of the inability of the human mind and the need for divine illumination is so fully developed in the New Testament that it is nothing short of astonishing that we should have gone so far astray about the whole thing...everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceived truth to be something that they can grasp with the mind. If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit. The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original of act which inspired the text...

Conservative Christians in this day are stumbling over this truth. We need to reexamine the whole thing. We need to learn that truth consists not in correct doctrine but in correct doctrine plus the inward enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We must declare again the mystery of wisdom from above. A re-preachment of this vital truth could result in a fresh breath from God upon a stale and suffocating orthodoxy.
- By A. W. Tozer The Pursuit of Man, 76-77,84.