Galatians 2-6

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Monday, August 18, Chapter 2

Paul continues his biography as a Christian.  He preached first in Damascus, then Arabia, Damascus again, then Syria and Cilicia.  No solid time frame has been given in the Bible for all this, but is was years.  Chapter 2 opens with Fourteen years later.  That would be fourteen years after his first visit to Jerusalem, occurring after preaching for three years in Damascus the second time.

On his first trip to the city, he remained hidden, visiting only Peter and James.  On this visit, Paul no longer has to hide and brings Barnabas and Titus with him.  Acts 15 records the visit.  Titus was a Greek who had never been circumcised, so Paul may have brought him to test the Jerusalem church leaders.

Here Paul says his trip was the result of a revelation.  In Acts it is said that he went as the head of an appointed group to settle the question of circumcision.  In Acts we have some of the debate and the resolution.  We also note that Titus was never mentioned.  In Galatians Paul points out that the Jerusalem leaders did not suggest Titus be circumcised.

Verse 4 tells us that the Judaizers were trying to force the Christians to follow all the rules of the Pharisees; that it was the only way to salvation.  They also argued that the Jerusalem church opposed Paul’s preaching.  Paul was able to counter that argument easily because the church sent a letter explaining their position along with Judas and Silas to bear witness to the leader’s decision on the matter.  As we know, that did not end the efforts of the Judaizers.

With verse 11 we see an occasion when Peter fell into the grip of the Judaizers.  He was in Antioch, the second most important church at that time and the leading church after the fall of Jerusalem.  At first Peter had no trouble in fellowship with the gentile Christians, but when some influential Judiazers came into town, he pulled away, even getting Barnabas to join him.

Paul had a fit.  His speech to Peter in front of the whole church puts Peter in his place.  We are not saved by what we do, only by the Mercy of God through His Son.

Tuesday, August 19, Chapter 3

The NIV has the first sentence, You foolish Galatians!  Four other translators use: crazy, senseless, stupid, and idiots.  The Greek word is anoetoi, meaning unintelligent, so take your pick.  In fairness, Paul also called them brothers 9 times.

This opening picks up from 1:6-7.  Paul cannot believe that they were so easily duped.  He thought he had done a better job of preparing them.

Paul uses a common Hebrewism by saying he has one question and ends up with five.  How were you saved?  Are you so foolish?  Do you think you can earn your way into Heaven?  Have you suffered for nothing?  Did God give you the Spirit because you kept the Law?

Abraham had faith, he did not keep the Law.  Yet God said in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” NIV  The phrase, great nation, means that all nations will make up the descendants of Abraham.  It is likely that the Judaizers used Abraham as an important part of their case.  One common teaching of the rabbis of Jesus’ day was that the Law existed before creation and Abraham came to know the Law by his faith and kept the Law.

However, in Genesis 18:8 Abraham is seen serving butter and milk with a calf which is strictly forbidden based on Exodus 34:26, “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” NIV

The curse in verse 10 is found in Deuteronomy 27:26.  Habakkuk 2:4 reads,  but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness. NIV  Paul’s point is that when we fail to keep the Teachings of the Law, we can depend on Christ to clean us up and present us to God whole and pure.  Paul in other writings (see chapter 5:19-21) strongly urges his readers to avoid doing most of the things we all agree are in the Law; do not kill, etc.  But as Jesus taught us we all murder in our hearts.

In verses 16-20 Paul gives a great presentation of Abraham being the forerunner of Jesus.  Jesus was the true seed of Abraham and through Jesus, the Messiah, all the nations join in the promise.

God always asked his people to put complete trust in Him.  He gave his people the Teachings of the Law to guide them in their daily lives, but it has always been faith He expects.

We cannot take Paul’s statement in verse 25 to extreme.  What he is saying is that our faith is directed to God through the Messiah.  By focusing on God we will live the kind of life the Law directed us to live.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. CJB

Wednesday, August 20, Chapter 4

Verse 4 is as close as Paul comes to the virgin birth.  Jesus was born of woman, but not man.  At the end of verse 6 we see the Holy Spirit does the praying for us.  We can trust the Spirit to speak when we do not know the words or even what we want to say.

Paul says that when you were pagans you had to follow the rules of the pagan gods, why do you want to replace that with following the rules of the only God?

Paul reminds the Galatians that he stopped to preach because he was sick.  There is no record of the illness, but it made it difficult to travel, so he stayed in one area until he could travel again.  The reference to eyes in verse 15 may have nothing to do with the specific illness.

Verse 17 shows us the Judaziers only want to puff themselves up.

Starting with verse 21 Paul refers to a common rabbinical allegory of the time.  Sarah represented Israel and Hagar represented Rome.  Isaac was from God while Ishmael was merely a man.  In any case, Isaac came as a fulfillment of a promise of God.  Paul twists the teaching a bit to make Hagar the descendent of legalism, of the Pharisees.

In verses 25-26 Paul writes of the two Jerusalems, the one in Heaven and the one on earth.  When Paul writes the name of the city in Heaven he uses the Hebrew spelled out in Greek.  In English it would be Yerushalayim.  When Paul writes the earthly city name he uses the Greek translation.

All of this is to remind his readers that to be born into the Heavenly Yerushalayim should be their goal, not to be born into the earthly Jerusalem of the legalism of the Pharisees.

We are children of the free woman.

Thursday, August 21, Chapter 5

Paul’s stand for freedom resonates with Americans, but we must not fall into the trap of thinking that our political system makes us superior in any way.  Paul is not talking about human freedoms as we think of them.  Paul was waving the flag of Yerushalayim.  Only when we become citizens of Yerushalayim do we gain true freedom.

Along those lines, our American expression that our freedoms are the result our heroic soldiers is the exact opposite of what Jesus and Paul are teaching us.  In Yerushalayim freedom is gained by becoming a slave.  A Godly paradox.

The Pharisees counted 623 laws, commandments, and prohibitions.  Over the last 2500 years they have been busy deciding how each applies in everyday life.  You cannot flip a light switch on Saturday because that is the same as building a fire which is prohibited on the Sabbath.

Paul says, do you really want to live that way?  Go ahead and eat shrimp even though God pronounced it an abomination.  Leviticus 11:10:  But everything in the seas and rivers without both fins and scales, of all the small water-creatures and of all the living creatures in the water, is a detestable thing for you. CJB  Where do we draw the line?  Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law, not a jot or tittle will be removed.  How do we reconcile?

The Law in Yerushalayim is to love God and to love our neighbors.  If we do that we fulfill the jot and tittles of the law.   to ai

In verse 13 Paul reminds us there are limits to our freedom in Christ.  We must be led by the Holy Spirit, we cannot depend on our own judgment.  Paul makes the list in verses 19-21 to show his readers that those who do these things are not listening to the Holy Spirit.  God does not want us to do those things.  It is not about memorizing the list of don’ts, it is about listening to the Spirit.

Study verses 22-23.

Friday, August 22, Chapter 6

This chapter is a list of practical ways to live as a Christian.

The whole letter up to verse 11 was written by a scribe as Paul dictated.  That was his usual method of writing letters.  His reference to large letters may indicate bad eyesight, but it may indicate his emphasis.  In 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Paul writes,  I, Paul, bid you good-bye in my own handwriting. I do this in all my letters, so examine my signature as proof that the letter is genuine. MSG

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Being Righteous

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Psalm 105, 1-6, 16-22, 45b

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Romans 10:5-15

Matthew 14:22-33

 

Employees of a south Kansas City auto repair shop ducked for cover Thursday afternoon when a gunfight erupted outside a nearby convenience store.

Multiple shots were fired in the incident in the 10600 block of Blue Ridge Boulevard, but no one was injured, according to Kansas City police.

Police arrested a suspect a short time later.

The shootout occurred when two men got into an altercation about 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven.

Both pulled out guns and began shooting at each other, witnesses told police. Bullets struck the front window of the store and the nearby business, where two mechanics took shelter behind a car.

A bullet pierced the car’s hood and just missed striking one of the men in the head, police said.  Kansas City Star

It is easy to say these two men did not act in a God-like fashion.  Most Christians would be quick to say they will not enter Heaven unless they repent.  But the story of Joseph gives us another picture.  Look at his older brothers who put him in a pit after deciding not to kill him.  They instead sold him into slavery.

It is difficult to tell the difference between those ten brothers and the two men in Kansas City.  Murder was in their hearts; the mark of Cain was upon them.

Yet if we follow the story, in the end all twelve brothers become fathers of tribes of the Hebrews; all are equally rewarded with Joseph.  Why?

The difficult passage in Paul’s letter gives us this:   I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. MSG

That one statement goes contrary to our way of thinking.  We live in a country where anything seems possible if we do this or do that.  It works for many of us, but only on this earth.  In matters of Heaven, it is useless.

God alone will save us.

Reading Matthew 14:22-33 we are easily impressed that Jesus walked on water, but that misses more important lessons.  The disciples in the boat were facing the dangerous realities of life.  Like the men in the auto repair shop in KC, they were looking for protection.  The sudden storm threatened to swamp their lifeboat.

Jesus was talking with God, but left at once to aid his followers.  They could not calm the storm, but God could.  Jesus went to them and kept them safe while God extended His Grace upon them.

Regarding Jesus in prayer, Karl Barth, the great German theologian of the early 20th Century, included this in a sermon in 1934:  And this praying, this seeking and finding, this glorifying of God is what none of us can do.  In order that it should happen, God sent his Son to become human.  Jesus is the one who travels this road, who forges the way from humankind to God.  We could not do this.  He has done it.

God alone can save me.  I cannot do anything to save myself.  I can freely accept His gift, but that is all.  God makes the same offer of Grace to the two shooters in KC.  He makes the offer to every human who lives or has ever lived.  God’s Grace is free; it cannot be earned or bought.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

2 Corinthians 10-Galatians 1

Image courtesy of Stockimages
Image courtesy of Stockimages

Monday, August 11, Chapter 10

No doubt Titus reported details of how Paul’s opponents attacked him in Corinth.  Paul feels compelled to respond to those attacks once again.  He was accused of talking tough in his letter to the church, but actually being a weakling in person.

Paul points out that he tries to be as easy to be with as Jesus was, not because he craves affection, but because that is the way of the Gospel.  His opponents are attacking him behind his back, being mean for no good reason.  They need to face him and openly discuss their disagreements or at least openly discuss them with Paul’s representatives or in letters.  They prefer to work in the dark.

There is a great deal of that kind of attacking of people being done on the internet today and some of it is done by Christians.  The internet has become an extension of gossip, something we are warned against in the Bible.

In verse 8 Paul points out that he always tries to build people up, not tear them down.  There is a place for constructive criticism and it is generally in private with the person whose behavior we are questioning.  Such a session must include give and take.  We may discover that we are the one who are wrong.

Paul is upset with the men who came into Corinth and told the church that Paul did not know what he was talking about, that he gave them a false gospel.  He is upset first that they would even enter the church and invade his mission field without his permission.  He is also upset with the gospel they preached.  We do not know what they said, but Paul did and if he was upset, we probably would be too.

Remember in the First Letter that Paul spoke of Apollos several times.  He is not the one who came in to create trouble.  Paul was not concerned with Apollos who seemed to be preaching the true Gospel, even if he needed some additional guidance.

It may be helpful to remember that Paul had been preaching the Gospel for about 20 years by this time and he understands the Good News message of Jesus as well as anyone alive.  Apollos was a newcomer, but he knew much more than the ones causing trouble.

Bottom line: get the facts before you criticize.

Tuesday, August 12, Chapter 11

Paul opens with:

Will you put up with a little foolish aside from me? Please, just for a moment. The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much—this is the passion of God burning inside me! I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband. And now I’m afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth patter, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ. Message

This gives us a strong hint that what the troublemakers were saying is similar to those who preached circumcision discussed in First Corinthians.  It is even possible that they are the same people.  They seem to be saying that the Corinthians need to follow a nice long list of rules; don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t go with girls that do.

Paul will not give up on them, he loves them too much.  He will not allow the false apostles, those followers of Satan, to tear them down.

How can you and I tell the difference between true and false prophets?  Paul gives us several things to look for.  Do they tear down or build up?  Do they preach love or discord?  Do they allow people to speak and share in the discussion and listen to others, or do they cut off all opposition?  Can they explain their credentials, that is, how did they come to know what they preach?  Who influenced them?  Best of all, how do they act; do they help all kinds of people?

Now with verses 21-22 we know for sure that the trouble makers are Jews, but this time they are Messianic Jews who say they follow Jesus.  They clearly do not understand the Good News of Jesus.  They seem to be preaching the same theme of living the Law.

Starting in verse 23 Paul details the long list of beatings and other troubles he has faced to give them the Good News.  How does that compare to the troublemakers?  Only criminals could put together such a long list, but Paul received all that because he followed Jesus.

If I must boast to save you from the troublemakers, I will boast.

Wednesday, August 13, Chapter 12

Paul must have considered long and hard about whether to tell the tale of his visit to Heaven.  He had been sworn to secrecy so he no doubt asked God for permission to write what little he did write.

The term “third heaven” simply means above the atmosphere (1st) and the space of the stars (2nd).  In the First Century the idea of seven levels of heaven was widely accepted, including by Jews and early Christians.  The belief is much more ancient and spread widely in the world before the time of Paul.  It is still an essential belief within Hinduism, Islam, and others.

Paul uses the third person, I know a man, but no one doubts he is talking about himself.  The troublemakers used visions as part of their proof of superiority over Paul.  Paul basically says that if you have to describe your visions of Heaven, you were not there, you are a fraud.  A vision from God is personal.

Paul stresses weakness.  He lists all his beatings to show his weakness.  He wants us to know that to follow the Jesus is to follow a man who became strong by being weak.  The paradox of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preaching in London, in English for a change, in 1934 preached a whole sermon on verse 9.  Let us be truthful and not unrealistic; let us ask the question:  What is the meaning of weakness in this world?…Christianity stands or falls by its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power, and by its apologia for the weak.—I feed that Christianity is doing too little in making these points rather than doing too much.  Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power.

My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely. Phillips

When Paul leaves Macedonia he expects to return to Corinth.  He wants them to have weeded out the false teachings before then so that they can have a joyous reunion.  Titus and the others will be there before then to help them recover.

Thursday, August 14, Chapter 13

Paul repeats the idea of power through weakness by stressing that the Power of God is involved.  Paul may be weak, but God is not.  The final step is to look inside myself to understand if Paul is true or the others are true.  Each of us must do that.  Is this Paul’s gospel or the Gospel of Jesus as proclaimed by Paul?

Paul’s threats to them that he will be stern is softened in verse 10, The authority the Master gave me is for putting people together, not taking them apart. I want to get on with it, and not have to spend time on reprimands. Message

Friday, August 15, Galatians Chapter 1

Galatia was not a city but a Roman province in what is now Turkey.  The letter was intended for several churches Paul had worked with on one of his journeys.  Details are sketchy and conflicting.  Most likely, the letter was written close to the time of the two Corinthian letters.  Some of the same problems appear in all three letters, especially the problem of Judaizers.

Paul opens with his “creds,” being an Apostle like Peter chosen by both the Messiah and God.  All the brothers with me refers to those who travel with him, Luke, Timothy, Titus, etc.  Paul referred to several men he never named.

Grace and shalom to you from God our Father and from the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. CJB  Martin Luther wrote that this passage is the sum of Christianity.  God has given us Grace to relieve us of the burden of sin and He has given us Peace to live our lives in a sin filled world without submitting to it.  In fact, Luther wrote 18 pages on the first 4 verses.

Paul in verse 6 seems to be saying the same thing we have just read about the Corinthians.  Some people have come to the churches saying that they are apostles and that Paul’s preaching is all wrong.  No surprise to us that Paul answers them just as he did to those in Corinth.

Again, it is likely that the Judaizers were claiming that Christians must follow the Law.  Jews often argued that Moses actually received the Law from Angels, God had more important things to do that day.  It is possible the troublemakers were saying that if God sent Angels to deliver the Law, then we must follow it.  That makes sense.

Not to Paul.  He says, if an angel preaches anything different than what I have told you, he is wrong.  Very bold words.  But Paul was sure no angel would disagree with his preaching since Paul got it from Jesus and those around Jesus.

Verse 10 suggests that the troublemakers said Paul only said those things to get them to like him.  Paul now reminds the churches of his days as a destroyer of Christianity.  I was proud to follow the Law.  Now I tell you we do not have to be slaves to that Law because of the Grace we have received from God through the Son of God.

Paul gives us a quick history of his life, of going into the desert of Arabia to preach (and we know nothing else about that time), preaching in and around Damascus, of going to Jerusalem to become friends of both Peter and James, the head of the Jerusalem Church.  He then went to Syria and Cilicia (south-eastern coast of modern Turkey).  All this was before his major missionary journeys and Paul lists them to remind the churches that he has been preaching the Gospel for many years.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence