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Archive for May, 2010

Galatians 1:15-17

Posted by heyrandy on May 31, 2010

15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

17Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Paul begins the autobiographical section of the letter. This bit of biography is to attest to his apostolic credentials. To the modern reader it fills in some of the details of this fascinating man’s life.

Verse 15 is similar to the calling of Jeremiah. In Jer. 1:5 we read, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Both the calling of Paul and Jeremiah aver God’s decree of predestination. . We do not know how God calls men to Himself, but He does it. To God be the glory in all His works.

Paul attributes not only his calling, but his very existence to the will of God. God is the God of the details. Paul would write to the Ephesian church that God “works all things after the counsel of His own will.” Without this divine calling, Paul would have spent the rest of his life fighting the church. He would have lost, but one can only guess at the intensity of the battle.

Paul writes that he was called “when it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me….” The preposition used is important. Paul does not say “to” but “in” me. Prepositions are very weak words, but they carry a huge load. Prepositions often are the pivot points of a sentence. The meaning of a sentence can turn on the preposition used. Here is just such a case. “In” signifies an internal change. “To would signal an external change. Because Christ was revealed in Paul, there was an internal change that effected an external change. Paul’s orientation altered, and his actions followed. When you change the orientation of a car’s steering wheel, the direction of the car changes.

This is often call regeneration, the new birth. It can only come from God. Men do not–can not– do this by themselves. Men are wholly passive in the new birth process. It is ineffable. It is beyond human comprehension. It is a mystery only God understands. Paul alludes to this by saying that God called him “by His grace.” Men do not control the grace of God.

Paul tells us that he was called for a specific purpose: to preach the Gospel among the heathen. This is how the Galatians heard the Gospel. Their hearing and believing the Gospel is one of the effects of Paul’s conversion. Paul’s conversion and subsequent missionary journeys was the method God used to fulfill His eternal plan to call the Galatians to Himself. God’s plan is settled in eternity, but He uses means to bring it about in time. Paul was one such means.

Paul reiterates where he received the Gospel. In vs. 11-12 he tells us that he did not receive the Gospel from man but from Jesus Christ. In vs. 16b-17 he tells us the details of what he did do and did not do. He did not confer with “flesh and blood.” This is an odd way of saying that he did not speak with men about the meaning of the Gospel. We know that the Lord’s resurrected body is one of flesh and blood, glorified as it is; but Paul is not excluding Christ by using this odd expression. What he means is that he did not confer with any earthly man but received the essence of the Gospel directly from the divine source.

Paul also precludes the critics objection that he went to the apostles to be taught the Gospel. Verse 17 tells us that he did not go to Jerusalem to the apostles but to Arabia then to Damascus. Why Arabia? What was in Arabia? Where in Arabia? How long did he stay in Arabia? These are interesting questions, but there are no answers. There is no further information about them.

Paul tells us that he left Arabia and returned to Damascus. This is the city to which he was going when the Lord intervened into his life. Damascus was not a safe place for Paul. His former allies are now his enemies. They do not overlook betrayal. Damascus would become too hot for him. He would flee, taking the Gospel with him.

Homework: read the account of Paul’s conversion and his two retelling of it in the book of Acts. Put all the pieces together to come up with a more full biography of the apostle.


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Galatians 1:13-14

Posted by heyrandy on May 23, 2010

For ye have heard of my conversation in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. Gal. 1:13-14 AV

Paul begins the autobiographical section of this letter. This is to support his claim to be a legitimate apostle who received the gospel directly from the Lord. In this section Paul gives us some details that are not given in the book of Acts. The Bible does not give us full knowledge of its characters’ lives, but it does give us the knowledge necessary to lead us into live and godliness.

This is not new information to the Galatians. Paul starts by reminding them that they already know all this. So why restate it? Paul must reestablish his authority as an apostle. His calling and conversion story is how he will do it. Paul is fighting Judaizers. By reminding the Galatians that he was a very serious Jew, Paul is telling the churches that he knows from experience and training that what the false teachers are saying is wrong. Paul is not a light weight.

We have only to look at Acts 9 to see just how serious was Paul’s Judaism. Even though he appears to be a young man, he manages to get letters from the high priest to introduce him to the Jews in Damascus. Paul had proven himself in Judea. This would not have gone unnoticed by the authorities. Since the authorities of both the major camps were eager to suppress Christianity, and Paul was willing to do the job, they sent him. He claims to have been effective, “that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.”

The original attack on the church was from without. The newest assault is from within. While the external threats never really go away, the real threat has always been the more subtle danger of perverted teaching. Paul confronting head-on this new threat.

Paul had the background to understand the danger. Paul “profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation.” From the word “profited” we can infer that Paul was well-educated in the scriptures. From this we can deduce that merely knowing the Word is not enough. The Jews Jesus confronted had no shortage of biblical knowledge. They misunderstood most of it, but they knew it. So Paul.

We can also infer that he was well schooled in the traditions of the Jews. John Calvin thinks that this refers to knowing the scriptures. I hate to disagree with the great reformer, but I interpret this as the knowledge of the extra-biblical, rabbinical teachings that encrusted the scriptures like barnacles fouling the hull of a ship. You had to do a lot of scraping to get down to the original metal.

Paul uses the singular “church” to refer to the church as a whole. It was not just a local congregation that suffered the wrath of Paul, it was the entire church. If he could reach it, he would strike. He was not going to Damascus to take of the local waters. It was all business.

Stephen uses the word church to refer to the Hebrews when they were wandering in the wilderness. (Acts 7:38) They were God’s assembly, God’s people. The apostle admits to destroying it. But just a God preserved His people from the dangers of the Sinaitic wandering, so He preserved His people from zealots like Paul. Only here He made the zealot one of His own!

Homework assignment: open the Bible and scrape away some barnacles.

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Galatians 1:10-12

Posted by heyrandy on May 22, 2010

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the a gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 1:10-12 AV

The only thing that does not have an origin is God, and we normally do not speak of God as a “thing.” Since God is the only eternal entity, we are lead to ask What is the origin of everything else? We know from Genesis that the universe was created by divine fiat. Once created, the lesser orders were fashioned from that material.

But what of the gospel? Is it created or eternal? What is its source? From where does it originate?

We know that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, so this gives us some indication of the gospel’s origin. This enters into the difficult world of lapsarian controversy.

However, the theoretical order of the divine decree is not what Paul is discussing. Paul is here attesting that the gospel he preached to the Galatians is the authentic Truth. It is essential that the Galatians be reminded of this. They have drifted away from the gospel to “another gospel: which is not another [i.e., not of the same essence]” 1:6-7. Paul implies the question “Where did I get that which I preached to you?” Paul then answers his question: I got it from God! Paul avers that the gospel he preached was not of man. v. 11

It is important to deal with original sources. This is why genuine Christianity is so concerned with the Bible. It is the original source document. Paul returns to his source: the gospel man Jesus Christ. The chain of conveyance is short. The gospel came from Christ to Paul to the Galatians. This is  where the chain ends. No additional links are needed to complete the gospel. The Galatians received the total amount, the full dose, when Paul was with them.

Paul gives us two negatives in his statement of how he received the gospel. He states  that he neither received it nor was taught it by man. v. 12. This is in keeping with his statement that he is not a man pleaser. If his message had been anthropogenic, Paul would have had to be loyal to the author. But since Paul’s gospel was of divine origin, Paul is not required to be faithful to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul (and every Christian) is faced with a dilemma: to whom does one owe one’s loyalty? To Paul it was clear. He could not be a servant of Christ if he were trying to please men. It is a case of trying to serve two masters. Jesus said that this was impossible. Everyone who has tried knows that the Lord  was correct. (Surprise!)

Paul does not qualify the word servant. He does not say that if he pleased men he would be an unfaithful or unworthy or inferior servant of Christ. If Paul pleased men, he would be unemployed. Paul was certainly an unworthy servant of the Lord. Who is not? This is the amazing thing about grace.

Paul is establishing a contrast between him and the false teachers. We can infer from the things Paul is saying that the source of the false doctrine is of man, that the false teachers seek to please men, and that there is no room for compromise.

It is important to know your source of information. When it a matter of Christianity, the source is the Bible. Everything else is secondary. The most secondary sources do is to make you aware of things in your primary source you have missed. Good secondary sources make you think about what you are doing. The secondary sources in Galatia were not good. They did not cause people there to delve deeper into the Bible to gain a greater understanding of Truth. These were corrupting influences that were leading the churches away from the Truth into a man-centered gospel. This was not true service to Christ.

Homework: List the major beneficial and deleterious secondary sources affecting modern day Christianity. How have the influenced your view of the gospel?

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Galatians 1:6-9

Posted by heyrandy on May 20, 2010

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him  be accursed. Gal. 1:6-9 AV.

Paul is a man of great passion for the Gospel. You can tell from this pericope from Galatians. How much more intense can he be? When it is about the gospel, for Paul it is all or nothing. He sure puts me to shame. (Okay, he puts everyone to shame, but I am writing this.)

Paul is amazed. The Galatian Christians have abandoned “him who called you into the grace of Christ.” They did not merely abandon the Gospel; Paul says they abandoned God. The significance of this statement should not be ignored. People talk a lot about God. What do they mean? Is it the same as what Paul means?

No. When people speak of God, they are usually referring to the deist version. This is the God (god?) who created the world and then abandoned it to be governed by natural forces. A kind of cosmic wind it up and let it go. This is not the God (sic!) of whom Paul speaks. The God of the gospel is the God very much involved in providence. The universe is not abandoned to its own devices.

We can see God’s action in the first sentence. He called the Galatians. They did not happen upon Him; they were called by Him for His purpose, for His end. Paul gives us that end in v. 5: His glory. God glorifies Himself by redeeming His people by Christ’s vicarious death. This is what makes the situation in Galatia so serious.

Calling is part of the order of salvation. The order begins with His love and ends with glorification. You can see a fairly comprehensive sequence in Rom. 8:29-30. Count the number of times Paul uses the pronoun “(H)e” in these verses. God is active in the salvation of sinners.

The matter desertion of the gospel becomes serious when we remember that the gospel is a covenant. The Bible views covenants with great seriousness. Covenants are not lightly made. To break a covenant is an egregious sin. To despise the covenant is to despise the covenant giver. We can see this in Ex. 4:24-26. To break a covenant is to bring upon yourself the curses of the covenant.

Paul says that they were going after “another gospel which is not another.” The Christians were being deceived into believing a “gospel” that was entirely different from the one that Paul brought to them. It is like changing methods of transportation. They were not giving up their car for the bus. They were forgoing the car for a bullfrog. There was no way this was going to work. In 5:4 he would tell them that they had “fallen from [i.e., stopped relying upon] grace.” They had abandoned the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in Christ for the Mosaic covenant. They did not realize the proper place of the Mosaic covenant. Paul will address the proper role of the Mosaic covenant later on.

Paul’s passion for the gospel is revealed in another area. The pronounces a curse upon anyone, including himself, who preaches a gospel that is different from what he preaches. Paul is so intense in this passion that he pronounces the curse twice! He even includes the angels of heaven. Paul’s language is even stronger later in the letter when he speaks about the false teacher who demand that the Galatian believers be circumcised.

Paul brooks no modification of the truth. He call the false teachers who are troubling the Galatians those who “pervert the gospel.” This is not a case of difference of opinion about a nuance of Christianity. This is an occurrence of gospel corruption. This is about basic, fundamental truth. Of course Paul is passionate. He should be. This falsehood attacks the foundation upon which all else is built.

Homework assignment: Decide where in the order of salvation you place regeneration. Paul does not mention the new birth in Romans 8, so think through the matter and post a comment. Did you do the assignment from my last post?

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Loose Thoughts on Galatians 1:2b-5

Posted by heyrandy on May 18, 2010

Paul begins his salutation. The first thing I see is Paul uses the plural “churches.” This is unique in his letters. The reason is that Galatia is not a city like Rome or Philippi but a region. There were many cities in Galatia. Which ones had churches is not known.

There is a debate over whether the area called Galatia is the northern or southern region. I cannot see how it matters. This is merely an academic dispute.

Paul doesn’t just say, “Hi, how are you all doing?” He adds theological content to his greeting. It is instructive to recognize the significance of the words he chose.  “Grace…and peace” are common in Paul’s greetings. He mentions the source, “God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” The joint source of a Christian’s blessing is always the Father and the Son. I do not know why Paul does not mention the Holy Spirit in his greetings. He does use the trinitarian formulation in other places (e.g. 2Cor. 13:14, note the order of the persons). The Holy Spirit does figure prominently in this letter, just not in the opening.

Paul uses the word God to mean the Father even when he does not explicitly say so. In the same manner he uses the word Lord to refer to Jesus. By mentioning both titles, Paul re-enforces the source of authority. God is the Father of our Lord. Let us remember that. We are not of ourselves. We are under the authority of God as the Father of Christ and as King of the universe. We are under the authority of Christ as Lord and as redeemer.

Verse 4 is the theological content. Here Paul reminds the Galatians of the heart of the Gospel: the death of Christ for the sins of his people to effect their deliverance from “this evil world.” This was done by the “will of God and our Father.” The Galatians would know this, so why is Paul restating it?

The answer is the problem that Paul is addressing with this letter: the Galatians are being seduced in to another type of Gospel, a gospel not based upon the gracious redemption from sin that God has provided but a gospel based upon the keeping of the Mosaic law. This is not a mere shift in nuance; this is a reconstruction of the very message of Christianity.

The mention  of “the present evil world” reminds his readers of the reality they are in. This is not a joy ride in the park. The world is evil. It is antithetically opposed to God and all the things of God. This is the basis of the trouble in the Galatian churches. This conflict is not new. The source of the conflict is in Eden. There the battle began. It has been raging continuously. There will be no respite until the end. The Bible does not use military metaphors for no reason (see Eph. 6:11ff).  We are in a war.

Paul does not leave us hanging. He ends his greeting with a doxology. God is to be praised. His is the “glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

Homework assignment: compare the greeting of all of Paul’s letters.

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Galatians 1:1-2

Posted by heyrandy on May 12, 2010

In the first two verses, Paul calls himself an apostle, so ordained by God the Father and Jesus Christ. This calling is distinct from that of men. Why does Paul need to vindicate his apostleship? Why does Paul twice in the same sentence state that his calling is not of men?

We know from the rest of the letter that the churches in Galatia were being troubled by teachers of false doctrine. Paul had previous experience with false teachers, 2:4ff. We also know that it was Paul who first preached the Gospel to them, 4:13. It seems the situation is so bad that Paul must restate his credentials. The false teachers have been so effective that the churches have forgotten the true gospel and the bona fides of the one who introduced them to it.

Paul also makes mention to the resurrection of Christ. This is the core of the Gospel. Given the problems in the Galatian churches, does this mean that the resurrection is being questioned? The resurrection is not mentioned again. The mention of the resurrection is to remind the Galatians that the message of the Gospel is not anything but the resurrection. The resurrection affects everything, including Paul’s office.

Paul states that he is an apostle by Jesus Christ and God the Father. The order in which the persons are mentioned is reversed from what we usually expect (see v. 3). I think that this is to reinforce the idea that as the Christian message is centered in Christ so is Paul’s apostleship. The mention of the resurrection is to further strengthen Paul’s asseveration.

Verse two begins by telling us that Paul is not writing alone. Other “brethren” are with him. Paul’s concern for the Galatians in not only his, but it is also the concern of the those with whom Paul is working. How much did these brethren contribute to the letter? This is an impossible question to answer. No one knows the exact process by which the Biblical writers composed their works. We know all the Scripture is inspired by God, but the means used are a mystery. I think that the mention of the brothers is to indicate widespread concern, not to signify joint authorship. The matter is so serious that it is unlikely that Paul would not mention it in prayers with the believers in his fellowship.

The addressee is really part of v. 3. “Churches,” plural meaning that the problem is pervasive in the area’s fellowships. Action is required. We do not know how many churches were there or where they were. This is all lost, but it does not matter. We have preserved for us the material we need. We need today this letter. The danger of legalism is ever present. Time has not weakened threat to our freedom in Christ. Read Galatians.

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A Summary Outline of Galatians

Posted by heyrandy on May 8, 2010

Ch. 1:1-5 Greeting

1:6-9 Paul’s wonder at the Galatians’ apostacy

1:10-2:10 Paul vindicates his credentials

2:11-21 Paul’s confrontation with Peter

3:1-5 Rhetorical questions about their initial gospel reception

3:6-9 Abraham’s faith and ours

3:10-14 The curse the law brings. The redemption from the curse of the law through Christ. The blessing of Abraham comes to the Gentiles.

3:15-18 The Mosaic law cannot change the covenant or its promise.

3:23-29 The law was to lead us to Christ. Now that Christ has come, we do no need to be lead. We in Christ are heirs of the covenant promise.

4:12-20 The transition from slave to son.

4:8-11 The is called weak and worthless. It is enslavement; why go back?

4:21-31 Allegory of Sarah and Hagar

5:1 Exhortation to stand firm in the freedom of Christ

5:2-12 The uselessness of and contrariness to the gospel of circumcision.

5:13-15 Beginning of the application of doctrinal part of the letter. Use freedom in Christ to love one another

5:16-26 Works of the flesh contrasted with fruit of the Spirit

6:1-5 Restoring the sinning

6:6-10 Do good to those who teach

6:11-16 Boast on in the flesh but in the cross of Christ

6:17 Let no one any longer cause Paul trouble

6:18 Concluding blessing

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Loose Thoughts on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Posted by heyrandy on May 1, 2010

I have been studying the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I am finding some interesting things in this writing. I will post some here as a means to stimulate others in the study of Galatians and the other writings of Paul.

  • Verse 2:4 is an incomplete thought. This an anacoluthon, a rhetorical device. I am not sure why Paul uses it.
  • Paul uses the plural “promises” in 3:16 but the singular “promise” everywhere else. Does the plural word comprise the promise of the land as well as that of a son, that is Christ, the singular “seed” Paul deliberately call attention to?
  • Paul uses an allegory in 4:21-31. What is the relation of this allegory to Abraham’s third wife, Keturah? Her six sons are not part of the inheritance. Gen. 25:1-11.
  • The idea of covenant is pervasive in the letter.
  • Paul’s statement of 430 years in 3:17 does not account for the lives of Issac and Jacob. Paul would know this, so why did he use this number?
  • The presenting problem is the mark of the Abrahamic covenant, circumcision. Why did the Judaizers chose this rather than a more Mosaic sign such as the Sabbath?

I will be posting more items as I find them as well as any answers I have to these items.

Let your comments begin.

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