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Galatians 1:18-19

Posted by heyrandy on June 19, 2010

18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Gal. 1:18-19 AV

The mention of three years intrigues me. I always thought that it referred exclusively to the time in Damascus (v. 17). I have come to the conclusion that it refers to the total time in Damascus and Arabia. This raises the question of how much time was spent in each place. We don’t know, and there is no way of finding out.

The next question is how long is three years. It is unlikely that the three years is measured to the exact day. It was also a practice in those times  to account a part of a year as a full year. They were not so concerned with minute graduations of time measurement. They would not be able to measure a second, much less a nanosecond. So we are left with some interesting but unanswerable questions. It will give us something to talk about when we meet Paul in Heaven.

Paul begins to give us details of how he meet the other apostles. He meets and stays fifteen days with Peter. What did they talk about? No information is given, but there must have been some great talk about the Lord and the theology of Christianity! Given Paul’s brilliant mind, these conversations must have been very profound. We may be rewarded if we read Paul with in mind.

Paul gives this account of staying with Peter because he is establishing that there is no conflict between the existing apostles and him. This is essential to help establish Paul’s credentials as an apostle. Paul is dealing with a major doctrinal problem in Galatians. He has to establish with certainty that his gospel is the exact gospel. Paul will soon criticize Peter for compromising the Gospel. Paul is showing that while he stayed with Peter, he did not get the Gospel from Peter. He already had the Gospel before he went to see Peter.

Paul says that he saw James. He tells us which James: the Lord’s brother. This eliminates the confusion with James the brother of John and James the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:2-3). James was a common name in those days. It is a form of Jacob. [If you want to confuse someone, you could speak of the Authorized Jacobean (not Jacobin) Translation of 1611.]

There is a difference in the way Paul speaks of the two visits. With Peter he stayed, with James he saw. It is another of those unanswerable questions as to why the distinction.

Paul saw no other apostles. Why not? Did he snub them? Not likely. It is speculation, but it may be that they were not there. Remember, Jerusalem had become a hot place because of Paul, but Acts 8:1 says the apostles stayed, but it does not tell us for how long. Three (more or less) years had elapsed. We just don’t know.

The events in Paul’s life are difficult to assemble. It is very likely that large parts of his story are not recorded by the New Testament. What we do have is what we need. We need to remember that the word of God is complete. Let us make use of what we do have of Paul’s life story.

Homework assignment: Study all the Jameses in the New Testament.

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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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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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Grace is Irresistibly Good

Posted by heyrandy on October 8, 2008

Irresistible Grace is the fourth letter in the TULIP acrostic.  It means that those on whom God has bestowed his eternal love will respond to that love by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The elect cannot do otherwise.  They do not want to do otherwise.

It may seem that this doctrine is a violation of man’s freedom of choice.  It is not.  Man is free to chose according to his nature.  In the natural, unregenerate state, man always chooses to not believe.  It is man’s natural desire to flee from God.  Man, until changed by divine grace, cannot do otherwise.  It is as if one jumped from an airplane: falling is an inevitable effect.

This why there must be a heart of flesh place into man before man can believe the gospel.  The heart of stone can do nothing other than reject the truth.  The heart of flesh can do nothing other than believe the truth.  It is the nature of the hearts that determines their action.

Irresistible grace is sometimes called effectual calling.  This is a good synonym because it emphasizes the effectiveness of the divine command upon the new heart.  The purposes of God are not thwarted by unregenerate man.  The new heart of man is designed to obey the divine command to believe.  The new heart always does what it is designed to do.

It is this calling, this application of grace, that enables man to respond.  Without such grace, man will give his natural response: rejection.  We see this in the account of the encounter of Nicodemus with Jesus in John 3.  Jesus explains how the new birth is necessary.

The effects of the new heart are given to us in Ezekiel 11:19-21:  “And I will give then one heart, and put a new spirit within them.  And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them.  Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.  But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads,” declares the Lord God.

Here the effects of the new birth are evident: walking after the ways of God.  Also evident are the effects of not having a new birth: their “hearts go after their detestable things and abominations.”  It is a matter of will; it is just that nature determines will.  It can be no other way.  Will is not neutral.  It is determined by one’s nature.  This is why grace must be applied to the heart before the proper response to the gospel can be made.  With out this calling, this irresistible application of grace,  we would always go after “detestable things and abominations.”

The doctrine of irresistible grace follows from the doctrine of total depravity.  Since man is in a state of total helplessness, man cannot extricate himself.  Man requires what only God can give.  Let us be thankful that God does give it to those He loves!

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God is Sovereign in Human Salvation

Posted by heyrandy on January 1, 2008

When some of my Christian friends and I discuss the matter of divine sovereignty, they usually object when I assert the biblical teaching on God’s electing grace. My friends object that it is “unfair” for God to chose some to eternal life and not to choose others. Since we all are agreed that the Bible is the word of God and is authoritative in all matters, I have developed a list of question about those biblical texts that I think most clearly address divine sovereignty is salvation.

 

a) What is the relationship of evangelical obedience (faith and repentance) to regeneration? b) Does faith cause regeneration, or does regeneration cause faith and repentance? c) From where does evangelical obedience come? d)Is it self-generated or is it a gift from God? e) What is the meaning of Jn. 1:12-13? f) Is not human will excluded?

    a)What is the state of natural man with regard to spiritual things? b) Is fallen man just injured, or is he in a worse state? c)What state? d) How is this state changed? e)What is the meaning of Jn. 3: 19-21? f) Relate this passage to Rom. 8:7-8. g) How can natural man do anything to please God? h) What is the meaning of 1 Cor. 2:14? i)Why is it that he “cannot (not “will not”) know them”? j) What process is it that enables the natural man to regard the the preaching of the gospel as other than foolishness?

 

    a) Is it fair for God to give to some what He does not give to others? b) How does the gospel apply to the devil and his angels? c) What choice do they have? e) What choice did Lazarus have? (Jn. 11) f) What does this resurrection show? g) Why was only one man healed in Jn. 5? h) Why do only some of the dead hear the voice? h) Are any more dead than others?

 

    a) Where in scripture are the terms “world”, “all”, etc., used in a sense other than a universal? b) Why did he hate Esau? c) What is meaning of Prov. 16:14?

     

    a) If God will draw all men to himself, why do they not come? b) It does not say I will make it possible for all men to be drawn, but I will draw. d) Why were not many of the high and noble called? 1 Cor. 1:26 e) What are the implications for Jn. 12: 32?

 

    a) What is the meaning of Mt. 11:20-24? b) If they would have repented, why were the miracles not preformed there? c) How does Rom. 9:14-23 apply? d) Does this show that prescience is as determinative as predestination? e) If the Sodom residents had repented they would have been there; so why was the appointed method, foreknown to be successful, not used? f) Were they “vessels of wrath appointed for destruction”?

     

    a) What is the meaning of Jn. 10:26? b) If unbelievers are children of the devil who want to do the works of their father, how do they become sheep who can believe? c) Note: it does not say believe to become a sheep. d) Why? e) What is the meaning of Acts 13:48?

     

    a) Why was Isaiah sent to preach to people who were unable to believe? b) How is this text used in Jn. 12:40?

     

    a) What is the meaning of passages such as Prov. 21:1? b) Does God only direct the hearts of kings? c) One must believe from the heart, but how can one believe until the stony heart is changed to one of flesh (Ezk. 11:19, 36:26; Jer. 24:7)

     

    a) What is the relationship of 2 Cor. 4:4 to creation? b) What is it that produces light? c)How is it that light is produced in one person and not in another? d )What do natural men do to and with the light? What did Adam and Eve do once they sinned? Why?

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