Devotional # 206. 1 Timothy 6:1-5

Devotional # 206. 9/12/16. 1 Timothy 6:1-5.

Intro. Last week we talked about how to take care of pastors, being impartial, drinking wine for illness and wisdom when considering pastoral candidates. From the beginning of this book we’ve known that it was Paul’s heart to train up Timothy, a young pastor with a problematic church (1 Timothy 1:1-2, Devotional # 192). Today we see Paul talk about bondservants and false teachers. This is like a tailor made list for you! Everyone hates slavery but knows to submit to God, everyone needs to know how to distinguish between true Bible teachers and false ones.

vv. 1-2. Bondservants and Masters

We’ve talked a bit about slavery recently (1 Timothy 1:5-11, Devotional # 194) but here Paul is specifically talking about “bondservants.” We’ve talked about that many times also (see Philippians 1:1, Devotional # 121) but if you need a reminder, a “bondservant” was someone who had been a slave but when set free decided to stay with their master. Here, Paul reminds the person who has chosen to stay with their master to submit themselves and give the honor that they deserve. As we’ll see in a minute this applies to a Christian or non-Christian master. There are two very interesting reasons for this: 1. “so that the name of God…may not be blasphemed” and 2. so that God’s “doctrine may not be blasphemed.” What is blasphemy? In Colossians 3:8 we saw it means ‘slanderous speech towards the divine majesty’ (Devotional # 160). God’s name and His doctrine is very important business and all we have to do to help keep people from slandering His name and doctrine is to make sure our attitude is right when it comes to our servitude!

Next we’re told if the master is a Christian, not to hate them even though you know everyone is equal through Jesus (notice in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 slaves are part of the church). Instead take the opportunity to serve a godly believer because it will bless them (and you!)

You may be thinking, ‘this has nothing to do with me’, but you’re wrong. The first thought in your mind should be that you are a bondservant of Jesus (see Romans 1:1) but it can be hard to learn how to properly be a bondservant to a Savior who is not physically present. That’s why we can apply this to our work bosses or the government (see my most recent Election Devotional here. God is training us to submit to our bosses, whether Christian or non-Christian, so we can apply these things to our good and faithful Master Jesus Christ! If you want more info on this see Colossians 3:22 (Devotional # 162).

vv. 3-5. False Teachers

Notice that just prior to this, in verse 2, Paul told Timothy to “teach and exhort these things.” This is crucial to understanding why and how false teachers don’t teach and don’t exhort in the way God wants.

Here’s our list of what false teachers will do:

  1. They “teach otherwise” (to Paul’s, and the rest of the Bible’s, teachings),
  2. Does not consent to wholesome words”,
  3. Doesn’t consent to “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ”,
  4. Doesn’t consent “to the doctrine which accords with godliness.”

Everything points back to what Jesus said and put in place. A false teacher will contradict or skew Jesus’ words. If I play Devil’s Advocate here, what’s so bad about bending Jesus’ words? Maybe this person has studied a lot and have pieced together some of Jesus’ words and other religious figures words. What’s so bad about that? Or maybe their hearts are in the right place so its not really that big of a deal? Maybe Jesus’ words weren’t completely credible? Maybe we don’t have accurate copies of His words? Maybe what He said 2,000 years ago doesn’t really apply anymore?

The answer to all of these questions comes down to what kind of person would say the things on the above list? You may think I’m going to say that it’s a ‘bad person’ who would say this. Or maybe a ‘mean person’? But you’ve got it wrong…I don’t hate the false teacher, and I’m not on a witch hunt. I just see him for who he is and who is using him. And I want to apply Paul’s next words to every person who hears the false teacher. Paul tells us what kind of person the false teacher is:

  1. He is proud”,
  2. He doesn’t know anything (when it comes to real spirituality),
  3. He “is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words.”

These character traits are of a person not interested in learning lessons. There is no room here for humility or being guided by God. The outcome of these characteristics and roots of sin are:

  1. envy”,
  2. strife”,
  3. reviling”,
  4. evil suspicions”,
  5. useless wranglings” (or “constant friction”) from those lacking the truth.

 

My company has a problem solving technique that can be used for anything. The idea is that if you can properly state the results of the problem (“symptoms”), then you can properly state the problem which leads to properly identifying the root cause(s). But we don’t stop there, we propose solutions (or “countermeasures”) so that the problem doesn’t keep happening. Paul has done the same thing here. He stated the symptoms (teaching opposite to the words and doctrine of Jesus), the problem (envy, strife, reviling, etc.) which brought us to the root causes (the characteristics like pride, foolishness and disputing). What is the countermeasure? “From such withdraw yourself.” How do we “withdraw” from false teachers? Every situation is different but it can be as simple as no longer going to a church or confronting the teacher about your concerns. But if this continues the command is simple: to withdraw yourself. First, you must read the Bible to know if what the teacher is saying contrasts Scripture or is just different than what you’ve heard about the Bible. Second, if you do confront the teacher, or someone asks you about it, see how they react. As long as you’re not being rude, people should respond in humility and with Bible verses explaining what they meant. If it becomes about their experiences or accomplishments or education or feelings, that’s a good indicator that they’re not as interested in good exposition of the Scriptures as you are.

Conclusion. I love that Paul talked about bondservants and false teachers here. It’s such a contrast! I think the number 1 characteristic of a bondservant is humility, followed closely by servitude. Doesn’t that sound like the opposite of what we read about false teachers? Their driver is ego and their attitude is how everyone should listen unquestionably to them. Next week we’ll see “contentment” and how the opposite of that is greed and specifically a greed for wealth. This is another characteristic of a false teacher. I would rather be lead by a godly person who has been beaten down and learned to serve the Lord than an egotistical false teacher. I’m sure you would say the same. Now you’ve been equipped with how to recognize both types and how to properly react when in that situation.

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Devotional # 112. Ephesians 6:5-9

Devotional # 112. 11/24/14. Ephesians 6:5-9.

Intro. This week Americans are celebrating the United States holiday Thanksgiving. And regardless of whether you live in Hungary or anywhere else in the world we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we?! It bugs me when preachers try and force a holiday into the Scripture they are studying. But in reading over today’s Scripture I see a special correlation to the holiday of Thanksgiving. For most of us we don’t have a lot of experience being a slave, or owning slaves. It’s interesting how the Holy Spirit uses our current circumstances to bring a different perspective to help us understand His wisdom.

I also find it fascinating that Abraham Lincoln is known for his work with anti-slavery but did you know that he’s the President who made Thanksgiving a national holiday? It’s no coincidence that a man so impacted by the Bible would stand up for the helpless yet recognize the blessing that God has poured out on everyone.

v. 5. Paul points out that masters are only over slaves “according to the flesh” which means masters on earth are over slaves only while on earth. By inference he’s encouraging slaves to not worry about the material realm but focus on the spiritual.

Paul says “as to Christ” which was the same mindset that children were to have towards parents in last week’s study. Notice that just in this little section that we’re studying Paul says this 6 times*: that a slave is not working for his human master but instead to Jesus, working the will of God.

But if Paul is encouraging slaves to obey their masters because it will only last a little while (while on earth) why does he tell them to it with “fear and trembling”? It is the same as a couple weeks ago when we studied Ephesians 5:21 when we Christians were supposed to submit to each other “in the fear of God.” Remember this type of “fear” of God was to revere Him and be awed by Him (Devotional # 109)? So it made sense that if God had established other Christians for “all the duties of the respective places and stations that God has allotted to us in the world” (Source 1) than we would submit to each other, everyone equal under Christ. In Rome many Christians owned slaves (we’ll see reasons why it was “acceptable”) as well as non-Christians. So am I off base by relating this to the same type of “fear of God” we saw in Ephesians 5? No, I’m not off base (I bet you thought I’d say that!) But it’s because both go back to the exact same origin: that God is in control. So if all Christians submit to all other Christians recognizing that it is the Lord who has commanded this and that He will guide them, then in the same way a Christian slave can recognize that they should submit to someone God has commanded be over them and that God will guide that master (even if not a Christian). It goes back to the proper understanding of Romans 14 which many Christians don’t follow (at least not in word, if in deed).

*working for God.  v. 5 once: (“as to Christ”), v. 6 twice: (“as bondservants of Christ” and “doing the will of God”), v. 7 once: (“as to the Lord”), v. 8 once: (“he will receive the same from the Lord”), v. 9 once: (“knowing that your own Master also is in heaven”).

v. 6. I fail this verse pretty much every day. But I love this verse because it tells me how I SHOULD be living. Most of the time I work really hard when my boss is watching, I prepare something when I know one of the VP’s is going to ask about it, I pick up trash and set up chairs when our lead pastor is watching, I do the dishes when I want something from my wife. The list goes on and on.

But Paul’s exhortation is that Christians need to be known as honest, hard-working people regardless of whether their boss is around or not. I need constant reminders of this so I have it hanging on my work station so I see it every day. I also have another verse hanging there: Psalm 75:7 which says, “It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another” (NIV). These two verses put a nice little parameter around my work time. They tell me: ‘Don’t work to impress anyone because you won’t get the raise or the promotion or job unless God puts you there.’

Another part that gets me is to work “from the heart.” It’s not enough to work hard regardless of whether someone is watching – we need to have a good attitude. This makes sense since God is always interested in the heart. Interestingly when we do our work cheerfully regardless of who is watching (and regardless of how much we hate our job) we are modeling Jesus for the people who end up seeing us when we’re unaware.

We may be tempted to lump this in to our service to God (and there is nothing wrong with a good work ethic when it comes to the ministry) but that would be incorrect. By context this applies specifically to slave/master and since within the Mediterranean culture slavery was everywhere (just in the Roman Empire there were 60 million slaves) (Source 2) it makes sense to apply this to the employee/ boss, work relationship.

vv. 7-8. Notice that Paul doesn’t say, ‘standup for your rights!’ He doesn’t say, ‘take hold of your God-given freedom – rise up and don’t be a slave anymore.’ What he does say is as a “bondservant” of Jesus (v. 6) if you do the Lords will, if you bear fruit as the Spirit leads you (i.e. “good” things) then you will be rewarded for them. The idea isn’t to escape the difficulties that you go through but to make the best of them. God has made you capable of handling whatever situation you’re going through. Yes, one of the points is that you will have to rely on Him. We’ve discussed the idea of a “bondservant” before; it was a slave who realized that they had it so good with their master that when they were finally set free they decided to stay with the master and continued to serve. We, as Christians, have realized that it is good to stay with our Master! Even if we are a slave on earth our human master isn’t really our master…it is Jesus and as such we do His commands and who better at keeping His word and being faithful than Jesus? So when He says we will be rewarded and He will take care of us we know it to be true.

v. 9. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t tell masters to stop owning slaves. First, lets discuss what the 3 things slave owners are commanded to do: 1. To “do the same things to them”: treat your slaves as you want to be treated. 2. Stop “threatening” your slaves: just as parents aren’t to provoke their children, masters shouldn’t abuse their power. 3. Recognizing that they have a “Master” who is “in heaven” and He doesn’t show favoritism: although Romans masters were used to being flattered, Jesus isn’t partial to people (Source 3).

The next question is why doesn’t Paul (or any other NT writer) demand everyone to emancipate their slaves? For quite a few reasons: 1. Because the entire society functioned that way it would cause anarchy and everything would fall apart with many people dying. 2. Paul is speaking to a group of people (Christians) who were small and “insignificant” belonging to an illegal religion and “politically powerless.” 3. Even if they had immediately freed all their slaves, they would be sentencing their slaves to poverty and ultimately starvation, because… 4. Rome was set up where masters free’d a slave and then would establish them (often times the slave would become better off than the master!) 5. Laws were causing the treatment of slaves to  get better and better (Source 3). So although slavery was never OK and eventually it was Christians who often ended slavery in many places* what God was giving Paul here were instructions on how people were supposed to make the most of their circumstances. And understand that in God’s eyes everyone is equal.
*Christians who stood against slavery: I love the stories of John Newton and William Wilberforce. For more listen to my “Early Church History” part VI here (http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=5214036176 ).
Conclusion. Both the Christian slave and the Christian free person should be thankful. The free person has been blessed by having freedom and the slave is blessed because God is using them through trials. But both are blessed because they have spiritual freedom and a home in heaven!

Knowing the context that we read verses is almost as important as a verse itself. When I break up verses for these devotionals it is not because I am trying to take them out of context or make them say something that they aren’t saying but so that we can focus on a part at a time. The reason I say this here is because the next verses are about the armor of God. It will mean more when we study the armor of God if we understand that Paul has been talking about healthy submission. Specifically here, the slave, having read that when they work they are serving God, will move onto hearing that spiritually he is dressed as a warrior. What do you think that does for the neglected? Can you imagine being told your whole life that you were less than human and then finding out that you could chose a Master, one who loved you and died for your sins but beyond that, He would fit you with a spiritual sword, shield and breastplate? It would give you a spiritual confidence. What about each of us reading this? Are we slaves? Are we masters?

Certainly most of us are not in the way that Paul’s intended audience was, but all have to work for a human boss and many of us have influence over others in some way or another. I won’t make a sin correlation because that’s not what the context is saying. But I think we can take encouragement on how to act and the proper mindset to have when it comes to our bosses. I also think that if we are tutors or managers or teachers or any other leading role then we can learn how to correctly treat our subordinates.

 
References

Source 1: Matthew Henry, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Eph/Eph_005.cfm?a=1102001

Source 2: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 250, 1979.

Source 3: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, pp. 254-257, 1979.

Devotional # 100. Ephesians 3:1-7

Devotional # 100. 9/1/14. Ephesians 3:1-7.

Intro. Today marks 100 Devotionals!!! It’s been so cool to see God move through these 100 Devotionals over the last 2 years (almost exactly!) I pray for God to speak through another 100 Devotionals and that the Hungarian kids this was started for would come to know Jesus as their Savior.

We start chapter 3 this week. We’re going to split it into 3 parts over the next 3 weeks. In this week’s reading we see Paul change the focus from the church he is writing in Ephesus to looking at himself (Source 1). In doing so he explains why he has a passion for them…

v. 1. I have to admit trying to sort out Paul’s thoughts here even after reading through it over and over was difficult for me. Reading “Today’s English Version” was helpful. Verse 1 says “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God.”

Paul recognized that we must serve one master or the other, sin or God (Romans 6:16) as Jesus taught (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). Paul also made the commitment to being a bondservant* to Jesus (Romans 1:1). Here Paul explains he is happily a “prisoner of Jesus” and will do it again in the next chapter (4:1). In case we think he means something other than “prisoner” here let’s look at the original. “Prisoner” in Greek is desmios (G#1198) meaning “a captive” or being “in bonds” (Source 2). Stott makes a great point that physically Paul was the prisoner of Nero (which we read in Acts 25:11-12, Devotional # 68) but because Paul looked at his physical and spiritual life as given to Jesus he was speaking with dual meanings. Paul trusted that Jesus not only controlled his physical and spiritual lives but that Jesus was a good and fair master however He handled Paul’s life.

We can learn much from this verse. Paul recognized the fact that much of his suffering came from the fact that he taught that Gentiles had just as much a right to accept Jesus’ salvation as the Hebrew. When God puts us in a situation or gives us a life’s work, that makes us suffer, do we retract or do we accept it? When we accept it there is freedom and joy. If you fear whether you would be able to endure the pain, John reminds us in Revelation 14:12 “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” MacArthur states, “this is excellent scriptural support for the doctrine of perseverance, which assures all true believers in Christ that they will never lose their faith. The regenerate will continually endure, right to the end, in obedience to the truth, no matter what may come against them” (Source 3).
*bondservant– remember when we talked about how if a slave was at the end of their contract and realized that their life was pretty good they could become a bondservant? It meant they would choose to work for their good and fair master; we discussed it in Galatians 4:7, Devotional # 91.

vv. 2-7. Paul says that he has been given the answer to “the mystery” that other generations didn’t know. Was Paul bragging that he was more special than anyone else? No, he said that the other “apostles and prophets” of his generation had this revealed to them also. Was this something that Paul kept to himself? No, he shared it with all who would listen, explaining it in verse 6. Did he create a movement around it? Did he start “The First Church of Revealed Mystery”? No, he didn’t buy a stadium or charge people via a television ministry (which he then incidentally become a millionaire doing). He shared it openly, he didn’t start a secret organization or religion about it. He realized that it had been given to him so that he might share it with others. How? By developing relationships with other believers (discipling) who could share with other unbelievers (evangelism).

So what was the “mystery” that hadn’t clicked with other generations? “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (v. 6). Was this new doctrine? No, read Psalm 86:9, “all nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name“; Isaiah 42:6, (speaking to Israel) “I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles“; Isaiah 60:3, “The Gentiles to come to your light“; Zechariah 2:11, “many nations shall be joined to the LORD that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst“, to name a few. So why hadn’t other generations gotten it? Some had been hard-hearted, and for others it wasn’t in God’s timing yet. But now that He had revealed it what was Paul supposed to do with it? Share it and live his life accordingly. What is our discrimination? What people group don’t we like? If we’re honest with God, who are we prejudiced against? If we apply this Scripture then we must obey as Saul (the racist) did in becoming Paul (“the apostle to the Gentiles”).

Do we do this on our own power? Did Paul? No, it was “the effective working of His [God’s] power.” If we’re convinced that sharing the good news of Jesus’ salvation with others is the right thing to do, that’s not enough. Because if we rely on ourselves to share it, we’ll screw it up. We’ll be to heavy handed: we’ll preach that salvation is through legalism and that people have to obey the Commandments. Or we’ll be too easy going: we’ll tell people all they have to do is have Jesus come into their heart without explaining the cost. We’ll even go to the wrong people. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us to the individual, often forming a relationship with them, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the words and it is ONLY the Holy Spirit who can break through their hard heart. Often we view sharing the good news as a machine gun (“if I can spray enough people with some truth about Jesus then my job is done”). But the Holy Spirit is an expert marksman. Our God is about the individual (why else would He know, or tell us that He knows, the number of hair on our head? –Luke 12:7).
Conclusion. It is very apt that our 100th Devotional (a special occasion in my mind) would be celebrated by God in giving us encouragement that He is the salvation for both the Hebrew and the Gentile. That He reminded us last week to get over our petty differences in fellowshipping with our Christian sisters and brothers; and this week He reminds us to get over our petty differences and racist views in order to share hope with the hopeless. That He would remind us that He allows us to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit to share this hope with others. We are Christians because 11 guys obeyed Jesus. Have you ever thought about that? When Jesus told His followers “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) by being Christians now we are proof that they obeyed! You are a believer today because someone shared the Lord with you. What a privilege it is for us to carry on that most weighty and paramount tradition! To leave the Lord’s legacy with future generations. What is more important than that?

References

Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979, pp. 114.

Source 2: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1198&t=KJV

Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997, p. 2012.

Devotional # 91. Galatians 4:1-31

Devotional # 91.  6/16/14. Galatians 4:1-31.

Intro: Galatians has kept the theme of not adding anything to faith in Jesus. Paul starts this chapter “still contrasting the state of people under law and those under grace” (Source 1). But he will also talk about being “heirs”, calling God “Daddy” and the differences between the promises of God and persecutors.

vv. 1-5. Paul continues the analogy of an “heir.” Remember last week (Galatians 3, Devotional 90, specifically vv. 26-29) we talked about how an heir was a child that receives the father’s inheritance? At first I didn’t understand how here Paul could compare a child to a servant, but the more you think about it, it makes sense. Paul says that as long as the heir is a child he’s treated as a servant, being told what to do and having guardians over him. But Paul’s point is that we understand the spiritual layer to this. “This was the condition of the Jews under the law…they were little children, being ordered around by the law just has it they were servants” (Source 1). Since the “elements of the world” are the “elementary principles of the Jewish religion” (Source 1) it just backs up what Paul has been saying. In God’s perfect timing (“the fullness of time”) He sent Jesus under the law just like everyone else up to then so that He could fulfill the law and bring in freedom. This freedom gave us salvation and so much more since we are no longer servants but considered children who get an inheritance!

vv. 6-7. There is so much here! Paul states a fact that we are sons (and of course, daughters) and if we accept Jesus into our hearts then we can call God: “Daddy” (Abba). Some people say you don’t have to accept Jesus in your heart you just have to be good, or believe in him. But Paul specifies that to be a child of God you must accept Jesus into your heart. This means that you don’t want to sin anymore, that you recognize only He got rid of your sin on the cross, and that you are willing to be his bondservant*.
Some of you might want to know what “Abba” means. It is an Aramaic word basically meaning “Daddy”. The idea is that when we need comfort, when we want to please, when we want to appreciate God we can love him as a toddler who completely trusts their Daddy in everything. Paul also uses this in Romans 8:15.

*bondservant. We talked about the difference between a slave and a bondservant before, but in case you have forgotten: a slave is forced to do what the master wants (like under the law) but a bondservant realizes how good and wise the master is and chooses to stay with the master.

vv. 8-11. Here Paul asks why a child who has grown and matured and accepted their inheritance would want to go back to being a servant, being told what to do? We see Paul’s heart that he fears for the spiritual well-being of the Galatians, he’s afraid that all the time that he spent praying for them, thinking about them, and teaching them, has been worth nothing. He’s asking to be proven wrong that they would stand for their faith. When he says “you observed days and months and seasons in years“, he means they kept the “rituals, ceremonies, and festivals of the Jewish religious calendar.” But God gave these things to the Israelites, never requiring it of the Christian Church, so why are they still caught up in those old habits? (Source 2).

vv. 12-20. Paul gives us specifics about the Galatians and the time he was with them. This is applicable to us nowadays too, as we’ll see. When Paul urges them to be like him he means willing to do what God has required of Christians. Paul never broke the law of the Israelites but when he became a Christian he realize that he had the freedom of the Gentile to eat all kinds of food and that he didn’t have to participate in religious rituals. He is saying, ‘don’t you remember how my health was poor when I visited you and you loved me so much I think if I needed a new set of eyeballs you would’ve pulled yours out and given them to me. But now you act like the things that I taught you weren’t true. Are you going to get defensive because of the way that I’m talking to you, or are you going to recognize that what I’m saying is true and that you need to change your ways? I hope you do change and that I can change my tone so I don’t have to act like a disappointed parent to you.’

Paul doesn’t care about hurting their feelings, he cares about their eternal salvation. He wants them to have Christ formed in them. This is conforming to the character of Christ, being completely holy. This is something that each one of us should pray for ourselves every day, and our children and our friends! When we are thankful that God has made us heirs to the kingdom, then in gratitude we want to be bondservants, and God matures us slowly making us into the character of Christ. But we must understand the sacrifice and truly desire it.

vv. 21-31. This is absolutely the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul because it fits so well. Paul gives us an example from Genesis chapters 15, 16 and 21; please read these chapters to get the full effect. The condensed story is that God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many, many people with his wife Sarah but he was very old and couldn’t believe it. So Abraham thought he would help God out and at 87 years old have a baby with one of his slaves named Hagar. They did have a baby named Ishmael but this wasn’t the son that God promised him. Finally, at 100 years old Abraham had a baby with Sarah that they named Isaac. Paul compares Ishmael to bondage, to the law, to Mount Sinai. And compares Isaac to freedom, to Christ, to Jerusalem. After quoting from Isaiah 54:1, Paul explains that there are many more people under bondage and sin who persecute the free person. This helps us understand why we are persecuted, because Satan doesn’t like us being free and he throws everything that he’s got at us. So the Arabic people today who have descended from Ishmael are not God’s chosen people. The Israeli’s who descended from Isaac are God’s chosen people. The current wars in the Middle East are caused because of this: both groups claim Abraham as their father and that they have the right to the land. But time and again we see in the Bible that the land is for the children of Isaac. And there is great freedom in knowing that God keeps His promises.

Conclusion: Paul has given us a lot to think about. We can see what the Galatians were foolish enough to put themselves through and pray that we learn the lesson. We all know what it was like to live in horrible bondage to sin. Many of us know what kind of peace God gives us when we trust in Jesus with our future. So why would we go back to sin? The answer is that there is no good reason. The child who has matured into their inheritance will never want to go back to being a slave. And this child is allowed to call God, “Daddy” because He takes care of us and protects us. What blessings we have being a child of God!

 

References:

Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007.

Source 2: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1794.

Devotional # 88. Galatians 2

Devotional # 88.  5/26/14. Galatians 2.

Galatians: Last week we started the book of Galatians, which is a letter from Paul to the people in Galatia (pronounced “Guh-lay-sh-uh”) which wasn’t a town but more of an area. Remember that Galatia was one of the first places that Paul preached the gospel but false teachers came in and preached incorrect ideas about Jesus? It was mostly about freedom. The false teachers were saying that salvation was through believing in Jesus PLUS the Law of Moses. Today, as we read chapter 2, we’ll see that the principle of a Christian’s freedom is again the topic.

vv. 1-5. Paul goes to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Paul goes by the will of God (“by revelation”) and he shares the gospel” (Jesus’ good news) with the Jews there in the same way that he had shared it with the Gentiles he had ministered to. He went first to the Jewish leaders (“those…of reputation”) and told them “privately” what he had been sharing. He didn’t do this because he thought they were more important than the common people (as he’ll explain in verses 6-8). He didn’t do this because he wanted them to verify if what he had been saying was correct. He told them “privately” because it was “common courtesy to speak to the leaders first” and also so that if the leaders had any issues with what he said then Paul could explain to them right away. Then when he told the rest of the church he would already have “the full support of the other apostles” (Source 1).

The way Paul had shared the gospel with Gentiles was to explain that they didn’t have to be circumcised and wouldn’t be held to the eating laws of Israel if they decided to become Christians. So Paul argued with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem since their minds had been poisoned by “false brothers” that Old Testament rites were still necessary for salvation. The reason that Paul is telling the Galatians this is because it is directly applicable to what the Galatians have been doing.

vv. 6-10. Paul explains that he doesn’t view one person above another (as I mentioned above), that regardless of where you’re from or what religion you come from everyone is equal in being a sinner. Every person must accept Jesus’ gift of death on the cross in the same way and so no one is better than another. This is something we have to keep in mind. Each of us may treat our boss differently than our co-workers, or our friends differently than our siblings. That’s because we like being treated well (ultimately a selfish desire) and often don’t think of people as eternal souls. I’m not saying treat people badly or disrespectfully, I’m saying treat everyone equally in love. So it’s not a worldly mind-set of respect but a desire to lead every lost soul to Jesus. When you treat people with love (as Jesus commanded) then they hear about Christ and they might become a Christian. If they become a Christian then they have freedom which brings us back to how we are supposed to understand a believer’s freedom. A great place to read about our freedom is Romans 14. The quick version is that we’re no longer caught up in religious rituals so we should not trade that for other restrictions. If we aren’t convicted about something it doesn’t mean another brother or sister has that same liberty and since their walk with the Lord is more important than our freedom we willingly give up our freedom, in the love that Jesus commanded us to have.

vv. 11-13. Paul describes Peter’s hypocrisy, which Paul called him out on, in front of the Jews. Peter had been cool with the Gentiles in the church doing everything with them just like he did with the Jews. Since he had been given the vision from God of all the animals in the sheet (see Acts 10:9-16, Devotional 51) he knew it was OK to eat un-kosher meat. So he ate pork with the Gentiles because he had the freedom to do so. But when the religious Jews would visit Peter he would act like he didn’t eat pork with the Gentiles. Have you ever had a “friend” who was cool with you until another person came into the room and then they acted like they didn’t even know you or they would make fun of you? This was how Peter was acting towards his Christian friends who were Gentiles. He still wanted to be accepted by his ethnic group. Even Peter who Jesus called the “rock” that He would build the church on (Matthew 16:18) had difficulty taking a stand. But Jesus had said that this would happen. In order to follow Jesus every Christian will have to give things up.

Worse than just being hypocritical, Peter was leading others into hypocrisy (“the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him”). Not just others but Barnabas “was carried away with their hypocrisy”, remember when Paul and Barnabas had argued on whether to take Mark on their journey in Acts 15:36-41 (Devotional 55)? Now what Peter was doing was wrong but that isn’t Paul’s final point.

vv. 14-21. Paul’s point in telling the story of Peter is that Christians should know how salvation happens and how and why a Christian has freedom. Paul’s point is very clear and straightforward: going to heaven only comes from “faith in Jesus Christ” not from anything else. More than not being justified by the law, we have to die to the law and live for God. Then Paul says one of the most complete thoughts for Christians to try and apply to their lives: “I have been crucified with Christ.” We understand that Jesus was crucified on the cross. The terrific pain and torture that He went through while bearing our sins. In the same way we must go through a small fraction of pain while on earth if we accept Jesus. Paul continues “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Can you honestly say that Jesus is “first in everything” (Colossians 1:18)? Can you say that your needs are second? It is a difficult thing to do but the sooner you acknowledge that you are supposed to do it, the better. Paul says that as long as we live in our earthly, physical bodies we are to give our lives for Jesus since He gave His life for us.

Conclusion: As we’ve seen Paul uses a real life example to explains to the Galatians what hypocrisy over claiming to believe in Jesus’ complete sacrifice then still requiring old religious “works” looks like. Paul’s point of the Christians freedom is important to complete understand his concluding point. Jesus has given us freedom and our only appropriate response is to choose slavery! We come back to the idea that we are to be bondservants of Jesus (if you don’t remember see last week’s Devotional 87 for more.)

 

References:

Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007, p. 14.

Devotional # 87. Galatians 1

Devotional # 87. 5/19/14. Galatians 1.

Direction & Vision: We finished the book of Esther last week so we transition into the New Testament now. If you noticed when we finished studying the book of Acts we spent about a month in the Old Testament with Devotionals 74-77. We read short portions of Isaiah, Psalms, Daniel and also the section about “eating the word” from Jeremiah 15:16, Ezekiel 3:3 and Revelation 10:10. Then we spent the last 2 months in Esther. Now we’re going to start in Galatians and move through Philemon. I am excited about the coming studies because the books are relatively short so there will be changes of scenery but many of the books are written by Paul so there will be consistency. We will be able to build on the foundation of the gospels that we started with and see how the Church continued, weaved through the book of Acts.

Galatians Intro: That said, let’s start Galatians! The books like “Galatians” and “Philippians” are called by those names because they were letters written to the churches in those towns or areas. It would be like me writing a letter, inspired by God, to the church in Budapest and it would be called “Budapest.” So Galatia (pronounced “Guh-lay-sh-uh”) isn’t a town but an area like a county. The people in Galatia were descendants of the Gauls from what is now referred to as Western Europe. Galatia was one of the first places that Paul preached the gospel, so people became Christians and formed churches. But after Paul moved on to preach in other areas some false teachers came in and preached incorrect doctrine. They said that salvation came from accepting Christ PLUS the Law of Moses (Source 1, p. 5). Keep that in mind as Paul explains how salvation really works.

vv. 1-5. This is Paul’s greeting to the churches in Galatia. Notice when he gives his title of being an “apostle” he says that it wasn’t a man who gave him this role but it was Jesus and God the Father. Do you remember what an “apostle” is? We talked about it in the past, an apostle is someone verbally called by Jesus into the ministry. It is amazing that in his first sentence, Paul both gives us his authority (which is only by God) and a simple statement of Jesus’ death and resurrection!

vv. 6-7. Paul has been told that the Galatians have already drifted away from what they were taught when Paul first visited them. It surprises Paul that they would be so quickly led in another direction, and not just in a harmless direction but in teachings that “pervert” the purity and simplicity of the gospel. As mentioned above, the perverted teachings were adding the requirements of the Law to the salvation of Jesus Christ. How can something God gave be a bad thing? The Law isn’t bad but it was never meant to save. It was always meant to point towards the need of a Savior. It’s like having signs up that construction work is going to take place and leaving them up after the work has been done. In the same way the work is done, Jesus paid the price, why would people still need to sacrifice lambs?

The problem isn’t that the false teachers were adding the Law to the gospel, Jesus warned that would always happen. The problem was that the Christians in Galatia didn’t recognize and reject the false teaching. In the same way we believers nowadays allow things to come in and pervert the true message of the gospel.

vv. 8-9. Paul isn’t saying that what he says in the future isn’t true. He is saying that from the beginning he taught the Galatians the truth. And from the beginning he told them that if anyone, including himself, ever said anything contradicting that message than the new message wasn’t true. It doesn’t matter if it is an “angel from heaven” (notice not an “angel from God”, because an angel would speak the truth but a demon would lie) or any other teacher, Paul is intolerant of false teachers and we should be too (Source 1, p. 9). When it comes to the fate of people’s eternal souls we stand firm on the truth.

v. 10. Why does Paul do what he does? Is he trying to come up with an irrefutable argument to please men? No, he’s not. In fact it is incompatible to make worldly people happy and be a bondservant of Jesus. This reminds me of what we read in Acts 5 when John and Peter said they would obey God instead of men (Devotional 46, specifically “vv. 26-32”). Paul introduced himself as a “bondservant” at the beginning of Romans (1:1). What is a “bondservant”? A bond-servant was a person who chose to stay with their master although able to be free. They may have decided that they had room and board and/or a fair master and /or possibly a family, but whatever the reason they willfully promised to stay with that master. This would be marked usually with an earring to mark that you were a bond-servant and who you belonged to. It was Paul’s choice to serve God, and we have to make the same decision. When we accept that people will get mad at us when we care for them and treat them well, in some ways it makes it easier. You realize that they don’t have God’s love in their heart so they don’t know how to deal with someone who does.

vv. 11-14. Although Paul is giving his heritage (and therefore why he has a right to comment on the Law) there is something more to this. It goes back to when he said that even if he preached another message contrary to the gospel that it shouldn’t be believed. Do you remember when we studied in Acts that Paul had been a Pharisee? So after he converted and for the rest of his life he was made fun of for “changing his mind” or being “wishy-washy” or a hypocrite.

But he is willing to deal with abuses and beatings because he is giving God’s inspired words. He says it doesn’t come from men but from God, this is where the authority lies. This is why Paul can confidently say that if anyone teaches something opposed to the word of God then it should be rejected.

vv. 15-20. Paul tells us how his Christian ministry started. When he says that God “separated me from my mother’s womb” Paul realized “he had been set apart by God for a special work” (Source 1, p. 12). And when he had his conversion on the road to Damascus (remember Acts 9, Devotional 50) at that moment he was “called” by God’s “grace.” After that he didn’t have any training by men, not even the apostles tutored him. He was out in the Arabian desert for three years. I believe, and many scholars agree, that this was when Jesus personally ministered to Paul. It would make sense that all of what Paul knew from the Old Testament would be connected by Jesus in what prophesies He had fulfilled, etc. Eventually he stayed with Peter in Jerusalem and saw James but other than that he didn’t meet up with the other apostles. Paul’s point again is where he receives his message from – God not men.

vv. 21-24. Paul tells us that when he finally started being introduced to the believers in the churches they only knew what they had heard about him. Notice that they gave glory to God (not Paul) for this dramatic change.

Conclusion. Like Paul, the words that we speak are from the Lord. Maybe we don’t have the famous ministry that Paul had (or the abuse he endured) but God has us where we are in time and in location, for a reason.  We are encouraged knowing that although Paul endured being made fun of he never gave up. We are encouraged that the verses that we study, memorize and quote to friends, family and strangers are truly the words of God. What a blessing for us to speak God’s words and for us to be encouraged by God’s words when we read and are told God’s words by other believers!

References:

Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007.