Saturday, May 30, 2009

Legalism’s Goal

Galatians 6:11-18

Paul usually had some one else do the actual writing while he dictated what he wanted. He personally wrote this letter, and because of an eye problem, believed to be the thorn in the flesh he talked about in II Corinthians 12:11, he had used very large writing, and comments on it. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.” (Galatians 6:11)

In Matthew Jesus described the Pharisees as hypocrites whose only interest was in promoting themselves.

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: Mt 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:1-7

They loved recognition and titles that set them apart from others. They were quick to set standards for others to follow, although they frequently did not worry about following them themselves. They took pleasure in people obeying them, and impressing others with their power and contacts. People come into the church with the same philosophy.

“As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.” (Galatians 6:12-13)

The reason for imposing our own standards on people is for our own glory. The greater influence we wield, the greater our prestige and sense of importance. Legalism is about feeding our own ego that make us appear more important or popular..

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:14-16)

As Christians, that pride has no place. The world’s adulation is of no value, and those physical actions have no relevance to the Christian life. God’s blessings are to be on those who live by faith, rather than buy rules. Paul instructed Timothy that these things were not of God, but rather disobeying him, and that, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.” (I Timothy 4:6)

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to identify us as God’s children. We should not allow others to upset us with other demands, when he says that there is no condemnation for us. “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.“ (Galatians 6:17-18) Just allow the Grace of God to work in you.

Demonstrating Spirituality

Galatians 6:1-10

The night before they were to ship overseas during World War II, my dad and the rest of his platoon went out to a bar. A big guy in a marine uniform stood up and shouted “I’m a Marine, and I can whip any two soldiers here.”

A rather small soldier from Dad’s platoon, known as Junior, stood up and said he didn’t think so. The two of them went outside, and shortly the big marine came back in with a black eye and a bloody nose. “There’s a soldier out there that can whip any two marines here,“ he yelled.

The big marine wanted to be known as a big tough man, so he deliberately provoked a fight to get the attention. Many people in churches are trying to promote themselves. Several years ago, a pastor told a group of missionaries, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will.” Down through the years, many Pastors and missionaries have spent a great deal of time promoting themselves and disparaging others. Some people accept their statements, but II Corinthians 10:18 tells us, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” The marine thought he was tough until he met a tougher man.

The pride that wants recognition leads to competition and conflicts, and jealousy among Christians. In one case, a pastor was having a mission conference, and took the missionaries out to eat. As they were returning to the church in two cars, one of the missionaries in the second car said, “That missionary up there is going to talk to that pastor and get all the money. Honk your horn and distract them.” When the driver refused, he lunged up over the seat and began pressing the horn himself.

III John 1:9-10 describes a similar problem. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”

That self serving attitude is evidence of an unspiritual man. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26) Walking in the spirit, we will not judge others in an attempt to make our own position appear better, and we will forgive more easily. Church discipline will follow the standard in Matthew 18:15-17 completely. Restoration is the goal of scriptural discipline. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) We are not better, and are subject to the same temptations. How can we blame others for doing what we’ve done?

“Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” (Galatians 6:2-5)

The big marine I mentioned earlier was convinced that he didn’t need anyone, that he could do it alone. He wasn’t as tough as he thought. We ought to help each other where we can, and accept help when it is needed, not in pride rejecting it. Love is demonstrated by our concern for others, but we can never take away individual responsibility. Everyone needs to rejoice in their own efforts, rather than taking credit for those of others, as Paul instructs in II Corinthians 10:16. “To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.”

Sharing blessings with those who teach you, whether in a physical way or verbally, is a way of encouraging them. It is really discouraging when no seems to benefit from the teaching. A Spiritual attitude is concerned about the needs of others, including those in charge. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Galatians 6:6)

While works cannot accurately identify spirituality, they can be used to predict results. God will cause the results to fit the actions taken. He will not be fooled by pretense.

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8) There is no way of concealing things from God. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)

Sometimes our efforts seem fruitless. Sometimes, others do not express appreciation as they should. It is easy to get discouraged by things, but we are not to give up. Faith tells us that there will be a reward one day. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

Keep on serving God regardless of what happens. Paul experienced that tendency to discouragement himself, but recognized God’s faithful keeping of the record. “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (II Timothy 1:12)

We can expect him to remember our efforts in the same way because he is a righteous God. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10)

Contrast of Works and Fruit

Galatians 5:19-26

Trees produce shade. Some trees produce far more than others. They cool the air as a result of evaporation from their leaves. By breaking the fall of raindrops, putting roots into the ground and leaves on top of it, and by diverting the wind, trees prevent erosion. These are some of the things trees do for us. They are their works. Every tree can do these things these things to some degree.

Many trees also produce fruit. Only certain kinds of trees can produce a specific fruit. For example, only an apple tree can produce apples and only a banana tree can produce bananas. The fruit is a characteristic of the tree. It cannot be produced by any other means. Imitations and substitutes may be attempted, but they are not fruit, and will not have the same nutrients, or taste. By examining the fruit, one can clearly see what kind of tree one is looking at. Jesus said this principle can be used to identify false prophets.

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus did not say you could identify them by their works. A yew tree provides shade, cooling, and erosion resistance in similar measure to an apple. You can eat and enjoy the fruit of the apple tree, but the Yew’s fruit is very deadly. You better check the fruit, rather than the shade. A false prophet can do good things, but be spiritually deadly. An unsaved man can do many of the things a Christian can. Looking at their works will never give a conclusive identification, although certain works should be conspicuously absent from a Christian’s life.

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

These are actions that should not be present in a Christians life. Before we were saved, we did those things, but after Salvation we should not I Corinthians 6:9-12 tells us that we have been cleand of these things and set apart from them, and made right. While we can still do them., they are not beneficial, and we should not let them control us.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”

By contrast, the Spirit filled man will identified by a specific set of characteristics, the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

A Spirit filled man will be characterized by a love like that described in I Corinthians 13:4-8, demonstrated as described in I John 2-5. Joy and peace will be his normal state. Patience and lack of anger are his response when things go badly. He goes out of his way to avoid hurting others, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. He is good. He acts in faith, not trying to force things to happen. He allows others to have their way, rather than insisting on his own, and he exercises self control. He has reckoned himself dead to sin, and doesn’t allow it to take over his life, so sin is not a factor. He has a whole different attitude than other people.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26) If Christ has made us alive, we should be living each day accordingly. Our actions portray what our heart is filled with. If we appreciate what Christ has done, we ought to focus on him, rather than ourselves. That will change our relationships with one another. It is up to the tree to produce the fruit, but the soil affects the quantity and quality. We affect the results the Holy Spirit produces.

Walking In The Spirit

Galatians 5:16-18

In the collegiate Basketball championships, in the final four, there was one player who just seemed to not make mistakes. Baskets were made almost as if he couldn’t miss. He made steals and for a long period of the game, he made almost all the scores for his team, even though he was double teamed. What was amazing was that he had not been a spectacular player during the season, but during the playoffs, had two such games.

The announcers referred to him as being in the zone. Many professional players seem to almost live in the zone, piling up huge scores game after game. Their play seems almost effortless. Other players seldom or never experience that sensation and work much harder with little or no results.

When in the zone, one is even more focused, but he is relaxed about the details, trusting his muscles to do their job so he can concentrate on making good decisions. As long as one is focused on dribbling, he will never be successful in getting around a defender. As long as he is focused on details of making a shot he will not be able to consistently elude his guards.

Walking in the Spirit is very much the same as being in the zone. The focus changes from not making a mistake to attaining the goal. You learn to trust the Holy Spirit to guide in doing what is right rather than worrying about sin. As a result sin becomes much less of a problem, and Christian living is much easier. Far too often all the energy is spent not sinning, rather than accomplishing the work of God. More teaching is devoted to not sinning than to serving God.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16-18)

The focus of many teachers on not committing sin demonstrated their lack of spiritual walk. Paul says that when we walk in the Spirit we will not be going into sin. Speaking from personal experience, I can vouch for this. When I am not walking in the Spirit, I am tempted by things that I never even noticed when I was walking in the Spirit. Just as focusing on the things you might do wrong will destroy your effectiveness at basketball, focusing on possible temptations will prevent spiritual success.

In Romans 6-8, Paul talks of how easily sin can get control, and describes why victory is available in Romans 8:2-4. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Victory over sin is not attaine by my not sinning, but by trusting God to make me Righteous. My flesh can never gain victory by not doing sin. Alcoholics Anonymous tells their people that they will always be alcoholics and at risk of going back. I Corinthians tells us that we used to be like that, but Christ has made us different and we are not any longer.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

We’re not just a sinner who stopped sinning, we’re a new creation. II Corinthians 5:17-18 describes this. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” Romans 6: 11 tells us to recognize that those things really mean nothing to us, and focus on the things of God. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is explained further in Romans 8.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:5-9)

Walking in the Spirit is a matter of having a mental attitude in which Christ is the center of our thoughts . When this is true, our actions will automatically be what they should be. Jesus said it is what is in the heart that defiles a man. “And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23)

When the mental attitude, the heart, is right, these things won’t be there to come out, and won’t cause a problem. Like staying in the zone, walking in the Spirit is easier to talk about than to do. It is possible to attain however, and we can learn to spend most of our time there.

Making Christ of No Effect

Galatians 5:2-15

I’ve known a man, we’ll call him Ted for many years, and his family even longer. His dad was a hard worker, and became a pastor and later a missionary. One of Ted’s grandfathers managed to save enough to begin investing and made a fairly good living at it. His parents, on the other hand, while living well, rarely had much extra.

Ted got a good job shortly after graduating from high school, with a good retirement program. He married and stayed with the job until he had a sizeable amount in his retirement fund. Deciding to emulate his grandfather, he quit his job and withdrew his fund, with the idea of investing it in the belief he could do far better with less effort.

Buying a new truck and investing in various things that others were recommending, for several years he appeared to be doing well. His wife continued working, asupporting him in his endeavors, and unfortunately, allowing him not to see that he was losing money steadily. He quit church so he could devote his time to time to his own goals. Because his wife was so busy working, he began to spend time with women who were not working, although there does not appear to have been sexual sin. This led to resentment on both his and his wife’s side, and eventually to divorce.

Finally, he began to see that he was losing everything, and went back to work, but he is ashamed to go back to church, and has made no apparent effort to reconcile with his wife. He does admit that it was his own decisions that has led him to that point, but his pride still holds him back.

Just as his pride in his own efforts and power led to Ted’s losing the most valuable things and wrecking his life, appealing to our pride in being better than others because of our standards can destroy what we already had. We give up what Christ has done for us to try to make ourselves appear righteous.

“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing: For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:2-6)

Paul describes having to give up his pride in the things he had done so well in order to receive and his blessings. The righteousness he attained by his efforts prevented him from receiving the righteousness of Christ. He recognized it as having no more value to him than manure, and threw away all his goodness and obedience to the law

“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:5-9)

The Galatians had started in, but like the Corinthians, had been distracted by other teachings that were4 hindering their spiritual lives, actually causing them to disobey God to meet man’s standards. I Corinthians 8:1-11:17 warns against the danger of setting these types of standards, teaching that they are contrary to true spirituality.

“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.” (Galatians 5:7-10)

Such teachings do not come from God, but as I Timothy 4:1-3 tell us, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” They are taught by those who have forsaken the truth, accepting false doctrines, and setting false standards.

If we really believe the same thing, there is no reason for argument, because there is no real difference. The fact that an issue is made is proof that we do not believe the same. Paul wishes that they were cut off or separated that were causing the conflict.

“And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” (Galatians 5:11-12)

Romans 16:17-18 warns us to avoid fellowshipping with those who teach contrary doctrine. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” I Corinthians 11:19 tells us that such controversies are necessary to show who is actually serving God. “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

As Christians, we have liberty in these areas. That does not mean that we should do as we please, but rather that we should consider the impact our actions will have on others. The Law is fulfilled by love, and we are told not to judge one another, but to encourage each other. Constantly attacking each other may well result in destruction of both parties. The old story of two toys, a Calico Cat, and a Gingham Dog getting into fight pictures this idea. The two toys fought all night, and the next day their owner couldn’t find his toys. All that was ever found were bits of material and stuffing. Fighting over such matters demonstrates a lack of love, and may destroy the churches.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

Illegitimate Kids

Galatians 4:21-5:1

Abraham was seventy five years old when God promised to give the land of Canaan to his children. About ten years later, Sarah became convinced that she would never be able to conceive a baby naturally. Because there were no fertility clinics and artificial insemination was not available, She gave Abraham her maid, Hagar to be a surrogate mother, and Ishmael was born when Abraham was eighty six. Sarah was content to call Ishmael her son, although there were conflicts between her and Hagar for several years.

About fifteen years after Sarah and Abraham decided The it was up to them to cause what God had promised by having a child using Hagar, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, just as God had promised. God does not need the flesh to accomplish his plan, and as Romans 14:23 says, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Ishmael was the result of the flesh trying to accomplish a spiritual goal. He was an illegitimate son, and as such, could not claim the right of the firstborn, since Abraham never married Hagar.

Paul says this story is an allegory or illustration of the relationship of Law and grace through faith. The Law covenant with Israel was different than the Faith covenant with Abraham. As he described earlier, the Law was instituted as a result of sin, and is in effect the illegitimate substitute for the promise.

“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” (Galatians 4:21-25)

Because he was an illegitimate child, and his mother was a servant, Ishmael was a servant as well. He would legally always be subservient to Isaac, who had legal standing as the legitimate son. Ishmael represents the Law, and Isaac represents faith..

“But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” (Galatians 4:26-29)

Ishmael apparently resented Isaac’s favored status, and began to tease and make fun of Isaac. That made Sarah angry, and she demanded that Ishmael be sent away because he had no right to inherit. Those who have not been born in faith still hate and attack those who are living by faith, because they do not have the same freedom and privilege.

The very law the Jews lived under specified that illegitimate children could not have an equal part,. They could not even claim full membership as Jews according to Deuteronomy 23:2. “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” They were in the same position as the Ammonites and Moabites who tried to destroy and curse Israel.

“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee. Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.” (Deuteronomy 23:3-6)

Those who are saved by grace through faith are kept by the power of God. They are the children of Abraham by faith, according to Romans 4, but as legitimate children. They are not under that curse of never being acceptable. They have been made free.

“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 4:30-5:1)

Why would anyone want to go back into that state of slavery, giving up what Christ has done for them? Galatians 5:4 says “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” They have thrown away his gift, to live by fleshly standards. Colossians 2:20-22 asks the same question.

“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ruining Good Horses

Galatians 4:7-20

My brother Terry has always been involved in breaking and training horses. He trains them as working horses, and is continuously looking for a better way to help the horse understand what he wants. He has a lot of people who bring their horses to him as a result.

We were driving one day and saw a sign naming one of the nationally known team ropers. Terry said he’d never sell that man a horse, or train one for him. When I asked why Terry explained that it would take at least a year to train a horse to do what the guy wanted, and within six months, the roper would have him so upset that no one would be able to rope of the horse again, and retraining would be required before most people could even ride the horse.

The guy is so focused on winning that he ruins two or three horses every year. When he misses a throw, or fails to win a round, he gets so angry he begins to abuse the horse. Before long, the horse begins to try to do something to prevent the abuse, usually making the problem worse. Soon it reaches the point where he is punished every time he is ridden, and he decides it’s better just not to allow anyone to ride him. Terry would have too much invested in training the horse to have it ruined so casually.

Paul is expressing a similar feeling about the Galatians. He had taught them how to be saved and serve God by faith. Before he went to Galatia, they had no understanding of who God was or what he required. While they haven’t gone back to the old idols, they are trying to worship God in the same way, enslaving themselves to various rules.

“Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.” (Galatians 4:7-10)

They had gone back to things that they had been delivered from , so that it is like they had not really ever been taught. They are actually almost worse off than if they had not received the word. They may be like the spoiled horse, needing more retraining than was required the first time just to get back to a minimal spiritual level.

“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

Like Terry, Paul was concerned that the effort he had expended teaching them how to live as Christians would turn out to have been wasted, although he was not the one who would suffer for it.

“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:11-16)

Just as the team roper would punish the horse for his own mistakes, and cause the horse to treat every one as an enemy, teachers who teach a necessity of following their rules can convince their pupils that everyone who doesn’t follow their rules is evil, creating strife and division in the church. They are often very zealous, but misplaced is very harmful. The teachers are not seeking the benefit of the people, but a sense of their own superiority.

“They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” (Galatians 4:17-18)

Jesus warned of judgment on those who made all the rules in Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” By their emphasis on the physical, they have taken away any spiritual basis. They have rejected Christ themselves and are trying to prevent others following him. Paul warned the Colossians not to allow themselves to be influenced by such guidelines, nor to be tricked out of their rewards in giving in to such things and allowing other things to take Christ’s place.

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (Colossians 2:16-19)

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” )Galatians 4:19-20) For Paul, it is almost like giving birth, fearing the baby won’t survive.

The Graduate

Galatians 3:24-4:7

Children are sent to school from a young age. They are expected to attend school for at least twelve years in the United States. The school is supposed to prepare them for living a useful and prosperous life when they grow up. In order to accomplish that goal, kids are expected to do a great many things that they would not naturally sit down and do, such as learning to read, write, and do arithmetic. They are expected to teachers and school personnel, even when they would prefer not. They are expected to be present and in the proper place every day, and to complete their assignments on time. Literally, getting their education is their job for their school years. I agree with those who believe that it is unfair to expect kids to spend their time away from school doing homework when we don’t expect it of the adults.

The school occupies the children’s day for the time they are students, keeping them under control and safe, while preparing them for the next part of their life. Though it takes several years, everyone knows that at some point in time it will end. The student will graduate, and no longer be required to attend school. He will no longer have to obey those teachers, nor do his lessons. He is free to act in the way that he pleases, recognizing that he will have to take the consequences of his actions. While he will use things he learned in school. He will almost never do exactly what he did in school.

Paul describes the law as a school preparing us for Christian life. It is not Christianity, and once we become Christians, we have graduated and are no longer under the authority of the law. We are no longer in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school or high school. We are now adults.

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Ga 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:24-29)

The student is no different than an employee of some large company. His hours of attendance are prescribed by some one else. He is required to conduct himself in a certain manner. He has bosses who he must obey, and certain things that must be accomplished. It is his job, and state law imposes it upon the student. He is bound by the school attendance laws. He does not have freedom to refuse to go to school, and is very limited in his choices as to which school, and classes and teachers he attends, regardless of his parent’s position in the community.

“Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:1-7)

At the proper time, the student receives his diploma, certifying that he has completed his school requirements. At that point he is no longer bound by the school’s authority. He no longer has to do the things the school requires. He is now considered an adult, with adult freedoms and responsibilities. He really isn’t welcome to go back and act as a student any longer.

Christ has in effect, given us our diploma. We’re now alumni, not students. To continue to act as students will hinder our progression to the life the school was intended to prepare us for. To go back under the Law will have the same effect on our Christian life. In effect, it denies our salvation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Binding Contract

Galatians 3:15-29

Most people who want a new building contract out the construction. They hire an architect to design a building that will meet their needs. The plans specify what materials will be used, what sizes the rooms will be, and where things will be located. Once the plans are finalized, they are submitted to contractors. The contractors calculate what materials and labor costs will be to build a house meeting those specifications, and determine how much they will build the house for. Once the price is agreed upon, and a contract is signed, it is binding. Neither side can change the contract.

The idea of a fixed contract is the basis of Paul’s teaching in the next few verses. God had made a covenant with Abraham, which did not include the law, nor other requirements many wish to impose.

“Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:5-18)

God established his covenant or contract with Abraham on faith, not actions. The law was not given till four hundred thirty years after Israel went into Egypt, during the Exodus. It was a completely separate agreement, having no effect on the original covenant. The new agreement could not replace the original, which was based on God’s promise, rather than on man’s efforts. To switch would require God to break his word, and we know that God cannot lie according to Titus 1:2.

Frequently, in the process of completing an agreement, it is discovered that other things are needed, and an additional contract is signed to take care of the additional needs. The new contract is not part of the original, event though it may involve the same project and principals. The Law was such an additional covenant.

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” (Galatians 3:19-21)

The law was like a secondary contract providing for temporary restrooms such as portable toilets until the sewer system is complete. They don’t take care of the problem, but they enable one to get by until the real system is useable. They are needed for the interim, but they will never be allowed as a substitute for the restrooms that are specified in the original contract.

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:22-26)

Every person on the construction site’s body produces waste, requiring a way of dealing with that waste. In the same way, every person sins, requiring that a way of dealing with that sin be provided, as Romans 3:10-20 tells us. The portable toilets provides a temporary solution to body waste, but every time you are forced to use it, you are reminded how bad a permanent solution is needed. The law provided a temporary solution to the sin problem, but emphasized the need for a permanent solution. Keeping the law, for a Christian, is somewhat like insisting on using the portable toilets when the house is done.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29)

Most contractors will not allow their employees to use the new restrooms they are responsible for it.. When the building is approved for occupancy, and the owners move in, everyone who has a right to be in the building is free to use the facilities freely. A secretary, or a mechanic, white or black, all are equally free to use the new restrooms. They belong there. Being in Christ has given us access to the permanent solution for our sin, by faith in Christ. Why would we insist on keeping the contract for portable toilets

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Curse of the Law

Galatians 3:10-14

Just a few months into our marriage, I asked my wife to go for a walk with me and she said she would go later as she was busy. Late that evening I asked her again, and she became very angry, telling me that if I interrupted her again she’d leave me. For the next sixteen years, from time to time she threatened to leave me if certain things happened, or didn‘t happen.

I spent sixteen years trying to make sure nothing happened to give her an excuse to leave. I reached a point where I was afraid to even state an opinion until I found out what she thought. If my opinion was not the same as hers, it might well bring out the same threat again. Year by year I became more convinced that some day I would slip up and she would leave me. After a while, even the good times in our marriage were overshadowed by the threat, so when she finally told me she was definitely leaving, I no longer had hope of pleasing her, and didn’t fight any more. Living under the constant pressure to always do what she wanted had destroyed most of the pleasure in our marriage.

Those who believe that works are essential for salvation, and for keeping salvation live with the same daily pressure never to make a mistake for fear of losing their salvation. Like me, nearly all of them reach a point from time to time where it is just too much, and quit for a while. Their love does not die however, and after a while they will try again, as long as they have some hope. Some eventually lose all hope of ever being good enough and quit completely. The pressure is a curse that eventually destroys their relationship with Christ, just as it destroyed my relationship with my wife. The love never dies, but it doesn’t seem to matter any more.

Performance anxiety affects everyone when they are exposed to it. Initially it results in superior performance, but for most, it eventually results in depression. Many teenagers commit suicide. Employees become depressed and frustrated with their jobs. Marriages fail. People give up on serving the Lord. Athletes become alcoholics, and executives burn out. Having to always be at your best is a curse.

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” (Galatians 3:10-12)

Under Law, there is the constant threat of failure. One can never relax and enjoy God’s blessings. Any failure can negate all past success. Faith is impossible. As James 2:10 says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” It is a curse and as Peter said in Acts 15:10, “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Failure is inevitable, and the sacrifices could never take away the judgment, merely postponing it, according to Hebrews 10.

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)

Christ has set us free from performance anxiety. He took the curse on himself, when he had not sinned so he could deliver us. We can by faith receive the blessing God promised to Abraham, not just of blessings on earth, but for eternity.

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14)

Romans 4 describes Abraham’s faith in God to do what was totally impossible for him to do himself, and how that God imputed or credited him as righteous, despite later sins, because of his faith. It continues by stating that believing in God’s action through Jesus will be credited to us in the same way.

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 4:23-5:2)

He has justified us, making us right before God by his sacrifice. Hebrews 10:14 tells us. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” There is no longer reason for performance anxiety. I can fully relax and enjoy life, knowing I am right with him and that I am kept by his power. We can share Peter’s enthusiasm in I Peter 1:3-5.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

We have nothing to worry about. Our salvation is permanent and complete. We can rest in God’s promise.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frustrating The Grace Of God

Galatians 2:11-17

Chiquita, the donkey my family had when I was in high school, loved to be around people. She would nearly always run to us when we went near her pen, and could be ridden or led nearly anywhere with no halter or rope. If someone left her gate open, she would follow us around, including into the house if we weren’t paying attention. Keeping the gate closed was more for keeping her from getting into things she shouldn’t than for preventing running away.

In spite of her love for people, and enjoyment of climbing around the hills, periodically, her natural instincts as a donkey would surface. She would baulk, and refuse to move, or run away to keep you from catching her. We figured out that it was just donkey instinct when we discovered that if you just walked away, she’d instantly come to you with a very apologetic attitude.

Spirit filled Christians, who love the Lord, still have that old sin nature in them and from time to time yield to it, Peter and Paul were in full agreement that keeping the Jewish Law had nothing to do with being a Christian, according to the preceding verses. In spite of that, Peter yielded to human nature at Antioch, because of peer pressure. His actions caused others to fall into the deceitfulness or hypocrisy. The word translated ‘dissimulation’ is the root word for ‘hypocrisy‘.

“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

To impose the Jewish Law on the Christian gentiles to satisfy unbelieving Jews was wrong, and Paul found it necessary to confront Peter with what he was doing. James 2:9-10 makes it clear that his actions were a violation of the very law they were purporting to uphold. “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

The Jews knew that Genesis 15:6, speaking of Abraham, said “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This was written more than five hundred years before the Law was given. They also knew that the Law did not promise justification, only a good life on earth. As Jews, they knew that justification could only come through the Messiah.

“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16)

Because they knew the Law could not save them, Peter and the other Jews at Antioch had believed in Christ for salvation. They had believed themselves free of sin in keeping the law, but receiving Christ required acknowledging their sin. This did not make Christ a participant in or enabler of their sin. To go back and declare that obedience to the law is required after deciding that justification is through Christ alone is to imply that we were wrong in accepting Christ.

Christ has taken the law and nailed it to the cross according to Colossians 2:13-14. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” Going back to practicing the law amounts to taking it down from the cross and rejecting what Christ did. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:17-21)

As Christians, Christ has provided everything, and our life is to be completely through his leadership and power. To try to live under the law, or depend on it, implies that His sacrifice had no value. That is a serious error, and we can expect judgment.

“He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paul’s Qualifications to Speak of Law and of Grace

Galatians 1:11-2:10

“But I certify you, brethren, that the 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 1:11-12)

Paul is very careful to make the Galatians, and us, aware that what he taught was not what he had been taught by other men. Like the other apostles, he had been taught by Jesus Christ himself. As an apostle born out of due season, God had to use a special method of teaching Paul, revealing himself to him after the crucifixion. Paul’s teaching was not based on collaboration between himself and the other apostles. The fact that he learned and taught the same things is proof of the truth of his, and the other’s claims of having gotten the message from God. He starts by describing his early life and training in Jewish law.

“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past 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.” (Galatians 1:13-14)

He gives more detail in Philippians 3:4-6. “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Paul had been one of the most dedicated Jews, of the strictest group, and totally opposed to Christianity. As far as the law was concerned, he fulfilled the requirements. Unlike many of the others, he had apparently never followed Jesus before his crucifixion. His acceptance of Christ was the result of a miraculous action by God, and surprised everyone.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.” (Galatians 1:15-20)

Before ever meeting the apostles, Paul went into Arabia where he was taught by Christ. He did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his salvation, and only stayed a short time then. He went from there to his home in Tarsus, then to Antioch, and he and Barnabas went as missionaries without further contact with the apostles. The Churches in Judea only knew that he was no longer killing Christians, but preaching instead.

“Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.” (Galatians 1:21-24)

A group of men came from Judea, teaching that salvation required partial adherence to the Jewish law or salvation was not possible. It led to serious conflict, resulting in Paul, Barnabas, Titus, and others were led to go to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles, about this and verify that he was teaching the truth.

“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Galatians 2:1-5)

Acts 15 describes the meeting and conclusions that were arrived at. The claims of these false brethren, who were actually Pharisees instead, are lgiven in Acts 15:5. “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Their claims were firmly rejected, with Peter accusing them of tempting God by their sin. “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:9-11)

To have yielded on this point would have been to forsake and give up the truth of the Gospel and what Christ has done for us. We would no longer be living by faith in his work. His work is not sufficient if we have to keep the law as well.

The meeting in Jerusalem reassured Paul that he was in fact teaching the truth properly. The other apostles found no deficiencies in his teaching. He was already doing what they recommended as far as other things,. It was an encouragement to both the church at Jerusalem, and to the churches among the gentiles.

“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” (Galatians 2:6-10)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Galatians: Grace and the Law

Another Gospel?
Galatians 1:1-10

Paul writes the letter to the churches of Galatia on behalf of himself and his associates. His opening clearly contradicts the concept of a universal church. He also makes it clear that he was not selected by the other apostles like Matthias in Acts 1:16-26, nor by the church like the deacons (Acts 6:1-6). His selection was by Jesus Christ, and by God, the Father.

“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:1-5)

How many times have you heard grace defined as “God’s unmerited favor”? What Paul is saying is he wants them to experience God’s gifts and blessings and his peace in their lives. Christ paid for our sins so he could free us from this world and allow us to experience those things. We were rescued by his efforts, at Gods insistence, and all the glory and thanks go to him.

Several years ago, one of our friends had a cow get stuck in some quicksand. Denny came to my dad for help getting her out. Dad placed a rope around her and tied it to our 4-wheel drive pickup. He made us all get into the truck before pulling her out.

The cow was not at all appreciative of the work it took to save her life, repeatedly charging Dad and Denny. I was glad Dad made us get in the truck before he pulled her out. It took longer to let her loose than the rescue took. I couldn’t believe she was so angry over being rescued. Paul was amazed that the Galatians could be so unappreciative of what Christ had done for them.

"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.“ (Galatians 1:6-9)

By accepting the teachings of others that they must keep these other standards, they have turned their backs on Christ and what he has done. As we progress through Galatians, it will become more clear what type of teaching Paul is referring to in this case. I Timothy 4:1-5 tells us that those who are teaching certain things have departed from the faith. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” They have actually bought into Satanic teachings.

Paul questioned the Colossians why they would allow themselves to be robbed of their rewards by those who taught that Christians ought not celebrate holidays or eat certain foods, claiming to have a higher calling or authority, or greater knowledge, when in fact, the things they were demanding only presented an illusion of spirituality, with no substance.

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:16-23)

All these commands are about earthly things, and ultimately will be destroyed. They’ve already been destroyed in Christ, having been nailed to the cross. While they may impress people, our job is to please God, not people. If we are impressing people, we are not serving God. “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.“ (Galatians 1:10)

As Paul told the Galatians, if anyone comes teaching something else as required for salvation, we are to consider him as cursed by God, no matter who he is. An angel or even one of the apostles is still wrong if they demand such things. As Paul tells us in II Corinthians 11:12-15, Satan’s messengers appear as angels of light and pretend to be apostles of the truth. I John 4:1-8 instructs us to test whether the spirit behind these things is of God or not. False doctrine about Christ, focus on things of the world, rejection of God’s word, and lack of scriptural love all imply that the spirit behind the teaching is not of God, and we should avoid it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

As A Spiritual Parent

As A Spiritual Parent
II Corinthians 13:1-13

It is so easy as a parent to not follow through an what you tell your kids. So often we tell them to do something, and later do it ourselves or forget what we told them. By doing so we teach them that it is not very important. They learn their standard of importance from our attitude, and push a little to see how important it really is. Paul had started the church, then sent a letter with Timothy when problems arose. Titus has recently reported that while some were acting on what Paul had written, there were others who were not.

Just as a parent may find it necessary to punish a child to drive home the importance of what they are telling him, Paul is warning that if they do not listen, the things he has instructed the church are so critical to its spiritual growth that he will be forced to take more vigorous action if they continue to ignore his instructions. He does not look forward to having to do this.

“This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you.“ (II Corinthians 13:1-3)

It is necessary that the parents act as parents for the children’s sake. Children do not always understand what is good for them, and need someone to take that responsibility until they are mature enough to make their own decisions. As an Apostle, and their father in the Lord, Paul had a similar responsibility to the Corinthians. Continuing in their present path left questions as to whether they were truly Christians.

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. “ (II Corinthians 13:4-6)

The Holy Spirit working in our lives is the proof of our salvation. When his working is not evident, others have reason for questioning our salvation, and we better check to be sure he is there. A life filled with the Holy Spirit will not be characterized by sin, but by obedience to God. It is only possible by the Spirit’s power.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the SpiritFor to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:5-17)

Victory over sin, assurance of salvation, and the fruit of the Spirit are dependent on allowing the Holy Spirit to control our lives. It is critical that the church, as individuals come to the point of walking in the spirit. Without doing so, we will never attain what God has for us in this life, nor will we be effective witnesses to him. The goal is to bring every Christian to that walk.

“Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.” (II Corinthians 13:7-10)

Paul concludes the letter with encouragement to allow the Holy spirit to work in us, producing fruit, which we are to demonstrate to each other, including those outside our church.

“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:11-14)

Like a Lioness with Cubs

II Corinthians 12:11-21

I watched part of a documentary about Lions. When the cubs are small, they are blind and unable to do much, but before long their eyes open and they begin to gain strength. Their curiosity grows and they want to explore. The mother lion must eat in order to survive and produce food for the cubs. This requires leaving them alone for long periods of time, To prevent their straying and being killed by other predators, she has to convince them to control their curiosity. Sometimes it is necessary to physically punish a cub who does not want to stay where he is told. Out of love, that lioness will inflict painful swats when needed to convince them that they must stray in the den.

Sometimes caring for the cubs requires that she do without herself. Other times she may risk her life to protect the cubs from a male lion. Out of love for the cubs, she willing sacrifices her own comfort and even her life for the cubs. It is what normal parents do. Leaders in a church ought to have a similar attitude toward their people. Paul is willing to do whatever is required to bring the Corinthians to maturity.

“I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (II Corinthians 12:11-13)

In an effort to convince them not to just follow everyone who comes with an impressive story, Paul has compared his physical experiences with the supposed experiences of some of those who are seeking to lead them. He has also performed all the signs given for the Apostles as proof of his apostleship. In every spiritual area, they are as strong and equipped as any one else. as he told them in I Corinthians 1:5-7. “That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The only area Paul had left untouched was in their responsibility to support those who taught them. He asks that they forgive him for this omission, because he had done it with the intention of helping them to establish their faith before taking on the responsibility. He wanted them to know that he was not just there to get some money from them, but because he loved them.

“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.” (II Corinthians 12:14-16)

He had not asked for money when he was there to start the church. He did not ask for money in his first letter, and he is not asking for money in this letter. When Paul could not come and sent others, they had not asked for anything either, for the same reasons.

“Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps? Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.” (II Corinthians 12:17-19)

Paul had written this letter in hopes of correcting some problems so that they would be living up to their exalted position as children of God. His Fear was that if he should happen to come, he’d find that they were living according to the flesh, rather than in the Spirit.

For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” (II Corinthians 12:20-21)

Like the lioness, Paul had the fear that even after giving so much for the church, they might well expose themselves to predators who would destroy them, leading them into various types of sin.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I'm Strongest When I Can't Do It

II Corinthians 11:32-12-11

We had a half beagle when I was about 10. He saw a half grown kitten and gave chase. Panicked, the kitten fled under son machinery and the dog turned away with such a proud demeanor, as if he’d really accomplished a major victory. Just as he turned, the old mother cat hit him broadside and knocked him rolling, clawing and biting viciously the whole time. He fled the scene even more precipitously than the kitten had.

It was hilarious to watch him try to chase cats from that time on. He would bark and run a few steps toward the cat, then stop to check that the mother wasn’t watching before going further. After a few more steps, he’d stop and check again. He never got where he could joyously give chase again, because he had to keep looking over his shoulder.

Sometimes, we get proud of what we’ve done, like the dog, then discover we were not nearly so great as we thought we were. What we thought was a great accomplishment turns out to be a source of shame rather than pride. Paul had many experiences, but they were not something to take pride in. He describes one.

“In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 11:32-12:1)

Paul could rejoice and take pleasure in what God did in other peoples lives. Talking about what he’d done himself, on the other hand might lead others to set him on a pedestal and focus on what he said, rather than on Christ. Again, Paul gives an example.

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.” (II Corinthians 12:2-6)

Even though the things he said were true, human accomplishments and experiences are not demonstrations of God’s power. It is foolish to focus on them. By focusing on the things he was unable to do himself, his infirmities, people would see God’s power, rather than Paul’s. God caused Paul to have physical problems in order to prevent people admiring him too much because of all the things God showed him.

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

God refused to heal Paul of his affliction, because it was for the purpose of showing God’s power. The infirmity was essential for experiencing, and demonstrating the power of God. When we can cause a result, God is not seen.

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.” (II Corinthians 12:10-11)

Paul rejoiced in the problems because they gave opportunity to see God’s power, fo himself, and for others. The only reason for Paul to bring up what had happened to him was for them to understand that the experiences others were claiming not special to them. As I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The experiences do not set one above another. Everyone who serves God has similar experiences, and victory is obtained the same way.

Since we cannot see Paul’s physical problem and be repelled by it, God has given us glimpses of his sin in a few areas to keep us from exalting Paul too highly as well. Acts 21:3-4 describes an instance where Paul was told by the Holy Spirit not to go to Jerusalem. “Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.” Paul went any way, even though others also warned him.

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:1-3 that conflict between Christians proves an unspiritual state, and later emphasizes the need to forgive and encourage others. yet in Acts 15, he fights with Barnabas over whether to give Mark a second chance. The conflict becomes so severe that He and Barnabas split up over it. Paul was only a human, like the rest of us. Neither he, nor any other is to be considered greater than others. This was one of the areas where the Corinthians had not followed Paul’s directions and it is still a problem in our day.

Claims to Fame

II Corinthians 11:16-33

My folks came to the Navajo Reservation in 1961. After starting several churches on the Reservation, the need for a Bible college to train Navajos was recognized, and a college started in Kirtland, New Mexico because land was obtainable, and jobs were available in the nearby Farmington for students.

When visiting one of their supporting churches, they were told of wonderful missionary living in Farmington and what struggles he was having on the Navajo field. Reading the letter he had written, they were amazed to learn that the Navajo culture was so wild in Farmington that it was not safe for their daughter to attend the public school, and when his wife went shopping, he had to carry a gun to accompany her. They also had a church going on the reservation, and so many lives were being so drastically changed. In 20 years of shopping in Farmington, and my brothers and sisters working there, we’d never had such experiences, and it takes a minimum of one year to get approval to build a church on the reservation.

As it turned out Mom and Dad knew the man, since he’d once asked them to get some one to go with him on visitation in a particular area. Larry. A member of their church had gone with him twice, and refused to go again because the man was so rude. As Larry said, I have to live with these people and can’t afford to offend them that way. Eight years later, the mission board fired the man because, so far as they could determine, he’d never even visited the reservation except for those two trips with Larry.

The church which received the letter had been greatly impressed by a couple of lies, never realizing that some of the things the real missionaries experienced were even more spectacular than the lies, but the missionaries seldom mentioned them because they were just a part of the job. They were not really important in themselves. As we were told about getting pictures, “You need to get as many as possible when you first go, because after a while, what is exciting to others is just normal to you.”

The church at Corinth had had people come in telling such wonderful stories and were convincing people that what Paul had done was not enough. The Corinthians did not realize how meaningless these things actually were, so Paul describes some of the things he had gone through to demonstrate that these were not the only ones who had experienced things. Nevertheless, Paul recognizes that dwelling on these things is foolish, because they really aren’t important. It only emphasizes the lack of spirituality.

“I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.” (II Corinthians 11:16-20)

I visited one of the churches my Dad had started when they had a missionary speaker. The man showed slides of his field and of a vast congregation of over a thousand, explaining that he was needing money to build a new building, since
The one thy had wouldn’t seat the crowd. Several of the Navajos spoke, really concerned as to why they couldn’t get such a large crowd since he’d only been there four years. The Navajos were discouraged at their inability to reach as many.

Later my wife asked the missionary how they got so many. He told her that they’d had a special day, and the other churches in the area had come to help out. Barb then pressed the issue, asking how many were actually his own people. He finally admitted that only about twenty actually attended his church. The story was a lie, and had hurt some dedicated Christians by convincing them that they were not doing as much as they should, when, in fact they were doing more than the one who told the lie. It also resulted in money being given to him that should probably have been given elsewhere.

The Corinthians were being hurt in a similar way by those who were making such claims, taking money, and seizing power over them, setting themselves as so much greater Christians. Paul describes the things he has gone through, that can be checked for accuracy, and compares them to the claims of the others.

“I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. ” (II Corinthians 11:21-31)

Paul had been through as much or more than any of those who were making these claims, and he had done it while simultaneously taking responsibility for the various churches that these guys were trying to take over. The only things that really mattered were when Paul was weak and God produced results anyway.

Appearance is Not Everything

II Corinthians 11: 5-15

Old Jake didn’t seem like much of a horse. With the huge body inherited from his Perchon father and the stubby legs and stubborn nature from his Shetland mother, he looked kind of like the equine version of a Dachshund, When Bill traded for him, he figured he’d make a good strong workhorse. Every evening Bill’s sons would ride Jake and another horse out to bring the cows home.

One day, one some of the cows decided to run the other direction. Cliff, the smaller boy was riding Jake, and couldn’t even get close to the cow, leaving all the work for Chet. Thinking he could get Jake to run faster, the boys traded horses. Chet couldn’t get any more speed than Cliff did. Those short legs made Jake’s gait very choppy and running quickly became unpleasant, so Chet decided to pull Jake down to a walk, but Jake refused to stop running. In fact, the harder Chet pulled the reins to stop him, the faster Jake went. They passed Cliff on the other horse and caught the cows with no trouble.

The boys discovered that if you pulled hard enough, Jake could pass any horse Bill owned, including one former race horse. After beating several other horses in races, They challenged a fellow with a well known racing horse to a race. The man agreed, but almost refused after he saw Jake, convinced that it was a waste of time. People who’d never seen Jake run bet heavily against Jake. Chet was a very large boy, and when he climbed on, the odds increased even more.

Although he was slower getting started, Jake won the race easily. The owner of the other horse challenged them to a race with another horse he owned in an effort to win his money back, and Jake won the second race as well. It didn’t seem possible that such an awkward looking horse could possibly out run the other horses, but he did.

Paul described himself as an Apostle born out of due season. He was not nearly as eloquent as Apollos, nor as physically imposing as Peter or John. He was not a member of the church at Jerusalem, nor a student of one of the other apostles. He was not considered one of the Pillars of the Church like Peter, James and John. He didn’t appear much as a very likely apostle, any more than Jake did as a race horse, yet when it came right down to doing the job, he did as well as any. What he had done was clearly visible to the Corinthians.

“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.” (II Corinthians 11:5-6)

Paul had not demanded that the Corinthian church support him, although he believed that that was God’s plan for the church. Instead, he had worked himself, and received some support from other churches. Some questioned his right to do this, since it was degrading for a pastor to work with his hands.

“Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.” (II Corinthians 11:7-9)

Paul considered it robbery to take wages from other churches, but he did so in an effort to eliminate money matters as a stumbling block that would hinder people’s salvation. In I Corinthians 9:1-14, he makes it clear that God intended the workers to share in the rewards of their work. Those who benefit from the teaching have an obligation to support those who teach. It is a shame to a church and disobedience for the church not to support their pastor.

When Paul went to Corinth there was no church. There was no one there to support him. As a missionary, he had accepted support from other churches. Some people feel that the church is just about getting money, and there are many out there who have no other interest. Paul wanted it clearly established that that was not his motivation, so he didn’t take support from the local people at that time, although they supported him when he went elsewhere according to I Corinthians 16:17. Notice Paul’s reasoning.

“As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.“ (II Corinthians 11:10-12)

Those who were attacking Paul for his actions were trying to make themselves to appear as spiritually sound as Paul by implying he didn’t know everything he should. They are in fact ministers of Satan rather than of God.

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

Artificial flowers sometimes look better than the real thing because they don’t have frosted petals, or places where the bugs have chewed them. False teachers sometimes appear better than the real thing because they don’t exhibit any damage from Satan’s attacks. Judging a horse, or flowers, or a pastor on appearance may result in serious mistakes. We need to remember what the Lord told Samuel. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)