Friday, June 23, 2017

Blogging Bible Study: Galatians Week 4 - 3:15 - 25

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Paul turns to some practical examples to illustrate his line of reasoning. His first example is that of a contract or covenant established legally between two people, pointing out that no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established (v.15).  He states it is the same for God's covenant: once established, it can't be altered.

Then he points out something that is so obvious that most folks don't even stop to consider it:  God's covenant to bless the world through Abraham  preceded the Law by 430 years! (v.17).  The promise  to Abraham and his offspring (singular, meaning Jesus...v. 16) could NOT be set aside by the law that was given 430 years later.  Therefore, Paul asserts, the inheritance does not depend on the law, but on God's promise. (v. 18).

So, that begs the question...what is the purpose of the law?  Paul states:

It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. (v.19)

There was a need for a way to deal with sin until Jesus came.  Hence the law. But the law had limits.  Paul restates one of his main themes:  if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly come by the law.  (vs. 21...compare 2:21). But, despite the centuries of the existence of the law, the whole world is still captive to sin (v. 22).  The law has not brought righteousness.  Instead, Paul says, it has created bondage.  But bondage with a purpose...to lead us to Christ (v.24) so that we could be justified...made righteous...by faith.

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.  (v. 25)

He's building his argument...specifically, there is no need to become Jewish to follow Jesus, but by extension...rule-following in general does not make one righteous.

While modern Christianity does not generally require folks to follow Jewish law, many, many people have the perception that they can't come to Jesus until they [fill in the blank with the behavior they either need to stop or start].  What do true believers in Christ do or say that fosters that perception?  Or are they listening to people who, like the false teachers in Galatia, have an agenda?  Is there anything in my life that would prevent someone from coming to Jesus or growing in Jesus?  How can I  live my life to counter false teaching?  How easy is it for someone seeking to know God to tell the difference between legalistic works-base doctrine and the freedom of true faith and recognize that true faith produces fruit of righteousness and godly living...not that following rules and regulations produces true faith?  Is it easier for the flesh to follow rules than to give up control and follow Jesus?



Friday, June 16, 2017

Blogging Bible Study: Galatians 3:1 - 14

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
YOU FOOLISH GALATIANS!!!

Nope, Paul does not beat around the bush at all. The first five verses of chapter three are plain exasperation, one rhetorical question after another:

Did you receive the the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?
After beginning in the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 

All which follows hard on the culmination of chapter two:  If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Any answer to Paul's questions HAD to recognize that it was through belief and the Spirit that God's work is done in them, not by following a ritual or code.

Paul emphasized that with the example of Abraham, quoting  Genesis:  He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)   Furthermore, Paul uses the Abrahamic covenant as evidence that people who were not Jews would come to faith in God, declaring that the Gospel was foretold in the promise to Abraham that "All nations will be blessed through you." It is faith, Paul says, that makes someone a child of Abraham and a partaker of the promise.

Then he moves his argument to the futility of following the law, because the law does not impute righteousness...it only identifies transgression.  In fact, it puts everyone who does NOT follow the law under a curse. But, Paul states, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by taking the curse upon himself at crucifixion, quoting Deut. 21:23. He is going to expound on these principles in more detail later, but  he basically sums up his argument in verse 14:

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

This was the teaching that got Paul into trouble over and over again with Jewish leaders... that God would include the Gentiles in the promise with the Jews.  But Paul's point is that the blessing comes by faith, not by actions and certainly not by bloodline.  Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. (v. 7)

He actually follows the logic Jesus laid down in an argument he had with Jewish leaders in John chapter 8.  'If you were Abraham's children,'  said Jesus, 'then you would do the things Abraham did.'
and, as Paul pointed out, Abraham believed God.

Our Christian culture doesn't necessarily adhere to Jewish laws, but we do have rituals and regulations.  Church attendance itself is frequently referred to as if it imparts righteousness.  While valuable for many reasons, merely attending church does not make us righteous.  What other rituals or religious actions does our culture want to substitute for actual faith in God?  Are there times when  the enemy uses a failure to observe some ritual to convince me I am unworthy of God's attention?  Where am I tempted to consider myself right with God just because I did something religious? 

Here's a discussion question...does the religious activity (ie, a daily quiet time) lose its actual value if we try to make that our mark of personal devotion, substituting the action for the actual belief that God will meet me and teach me as I study?  Or is there any benefit from doing something for the wrong motives?

 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 2: Gal. 2:11 - 21

Paul is still laying the foundations for the argument he is building against a legalistic form of doctrine that required the Gentiles who were coming to faith in Christ to observe the requirements of the Jewish law...ie, become Jews before they could be recognized as followers of Christ.

Last week, we saw that Paul presented his testimony and the validation his message received from the council in Jerusalem, today, we're going to see him apply the argument to someone who might have been considered a higher authority than Paul...the Apostle Peter.

And if Paul would oppose Peter 'to his face,' how much more would he oppose those folks who were confusing the Galatian believers by mixing grace with the law?

The situation, as Paul describes it in 2: 11 - 14, was that Peter had come to Antioch and made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles until some rather influential, unnamed men came up from Jerusalem.  Then, Peter suddenly pulled back and began observing the requirements of the law by not eating with the Gentile believers, so as not to offend the new arrivals.  This set a bad example, and the other Jewish believers in Antioch, including Barnabas, Paul's co-worker, began to behave in the same manner.

Paul, who  tolerated no such nonsense,  called Peter out publicly for his, in Paul's words, 'hypocrisy'(v. 13).

According to the quotation marks in my Scofield NIV, the entire rest of chapter 2, from verse 15 through verse 21, is Paul's quotation of the argument he gave to Peter...which is the basis for the argument he will make to the Galatian churches.

Here are the main points of his argument to the Jews who would insist on observing the law:

1) We, the Jews who have had the revelation of God for generations and have followed Christ,  have put our trust in Christ for our salvation, knowing that no one is justified by observing the law. (vs. 14-16)
2)  The law makes it evident that we are sinners; we can't keep it; our efforts only prove that we can't keep it. ( 17 -19)
3) Belief in Christ means that we have accepted Him and His sacrifice...we died in Him, He lives in us.  (v.20)
 And, his final, mic drop point -- If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (v. 21b).

The logic of that last point is irrefutable.  If humans, by observing rules and regulations and traditions, could become righteous and cleansed from the sin that separates us from God, there would be no need for sacrifice.  But Jesus came and sacrificed himself on our behalf,  proving that behavior modification is totally inadequate for redemption.

Paul says Peter's error came about because 'he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.'    When have I given into the temptation to compromise my beliefs just so I won't give someone the occasion to find fault with me?  When have I valued the opinion of a person more than I valued  living out the truth of the Gospel?  How can I recognize similar situations in the future and prepare to stand my ground, even if that results in someone misjudging, misunderstanding, or just plain rejecting me?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Blogging Bible Study Galatians Week 1: Gal. 1:1 - 2:10

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
According to the Scofield notes in my study Bible, Galatians is one of the earliest epistles Paul wrote.  The date is listed as either 49 AD or 52 AD...if it's 49, then it is the first one, predating 1 Thessalonians by about 2 years.  But it appears that most scholars favor the 52 date, which would make it one year younger than both 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but still just the third letter.

Paul visited several cities in Galatia on his first missionary journey...among them Iconium, Lystra (where he was stoned and left for dead) and Derbe.  The pagan people of the area were completely amazed by the power of the Spirit in Paul's ministry and many believed, but Jewish leaders in those and surrounding towns were extremely provoked by Paul's ministry to the Gentiles and stirred up riots nearly everywhere he went.  After he moved on in his travels, other teachers came and began teaching the folks in those cities that, to be true followers of Jesus, they had to submit to circumcision and follow the Law of Moses as Jews.  Apparently a number of the Galatian believers were convinced that it was what they should do and began to incorporate the Jewish rituals into their worship and lifestyle.

Paul got word of this development and was so distraught that he sat down at once and began writing a letter to them himself, apparently having no one handy to act as his secretary.  It's difficult for Paul to write (evidenced in 6:11, when he describes his handwriting) but he feels he needs to correct the error immediately.

Indeed, he begins his letter with a flat statement of the authority given to him to teach...(All quotes today taken from the NIV 84).

Paul, an apostle -- sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father... (1:1)

Right off the bat, he wants them to realize that what he's about to tell them isn't just his own opinion or the opinion of other leaders, but something he received from Jesus. That immediately sets him apart from the folks who are touting tradition as their authority.

Then, he reminds the Galatians of the work Jesus did:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (1:3 - 4).

He's already setting up his argument:  1) he has authority to teach from Jesus and 2) Jesus gave himself for our salvation...which is shortly going to be contrasted with the works-based theology they've been hearing.

Paul doesn't beat around the bush.  He's angry, and it comes through.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--which is really no gospel at all. (1: 6-7a).

Any person who has taught the Word to people who subsequently walk away from what they were taught can identify with Paul.  This anguish will come through again and again as we go through Galatians. These converted pagans were people who had a radical paradigm shift in their view of faith and life,  babies without much training. Now they were being taught error but they didn't know enough themselves to realize it.   Hey, those folks that came after Paul seemed authoritative.  They certainly sounded like they knew what they were talking about.  The Galatians didn't know any better.

Paul has some choice words for those folks who were teaching error:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1: 9b)

Strong language.  It's actually repeated twice in verses 8 and 9... no one should misunderstand Paul's opinion of someone who is perverting the gospel they originally heard.

Then, by way of reminder, he reviews the history of what they heard and how they came to hear it and why they can trust that Paul is really telling them the true gospel.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. (1: 11)

He reminds them of his personal testimony...how he --a zealous, Christian-persecuting Pharisee-- had a personal revelation of Jesus and a call to preach the gospel.  He reviews his early history...his time in Arabia, his introduction to Peter and James, and the impact his testimony had on the churches in Judea.

They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy."  And they praised God because of me.  (1:23-24)

Then he cites the Acts 15 conference at Jerusalem, the one in which all the leaders in the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and elsewhere met together to discuss the very issue that was currently troubling the churches in Galatia.

This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.   (2:4)

Paul states that he shared the message he was preaching to the Gentiles with the leaders there, and
those men added nothing to my message. (2:6)

In fact, he said, they did not require Titus, a Greek who was with him, to be circumcised (2:3), and they recognized that

God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. (2:8).

The only thing they asked Paul to do, he reports, was to remember the poor, which was something that was already on his heart.

Nowhere was there any indication that the Gentiles to whom Paul was sent should observe any Jewish requirements.

But he's still laying the foundation for his argument.

Have you been on either side of this situation?  Have you found yourself wandering from the Gospel you first believed, because someone who seemed to have authority told you something that didn't line up but made sense to your human nature?  How did you realize  and deal with the error?
Or, have you poured into new believers and then watched them turn and listen to worldly or religious-based reasoning and walk away from the truth you had given them?  Did you have an opportunity to correct them?  Or, like me, are you still praying for them to wake up and see how far they had drifted?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Forgotten Standards?

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi


This began as a Facebook status...then I thought, no, it should be a Note...nah, let's do a blog post...
 
The 3 + 1 reading had me beginning James today. Chapter 1. I'll be honest, reading along, I began to wonder if modern American Christianity has forgotten that this book is in the canon...

... each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. ( v. 14b)

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and accept the word planted in you, which can save you.  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (v. 21-22) 

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (v. 26)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  (v. 27)

I've taught James a number of times...at least three different class years of Christian Women's Job Corps,  in a ladies' small group at church, and I linked up the notes in the blog a few years back (see sidebar, 'Previous Bible Studies'). But this time, James' use of the word 'religion' caught my eye...what did he mean by 'religion'?  

They are variants of  the word threskia - Strong's 2356 - which means 'Religious worship, especially outward ceremonies; religious discipline, religion'.  It's only used two other times in the entire New Testament...in Acts 26:5, Paul, giving his testimony, states '...according to the the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee,' and  in Col. 2:18, where Paul warns against being influenced by folks who 'delight in...the worship of angels'.

'Religion', then, is not a hot topic in the New Testament.  James' use of it here really doesn't involve the  concept of  'accepting the word planted in you, which can save you'.  In fact, it's really not talking about salvation at all, but of just going through the motions of religious activity for personal gratification.   I could paraphrase it this way...

'If anyone considers himself successful in his adherence to the rituals of worship, but doesn't watch his mouth....gives in to the temptation to put people down, curse, gossip,  break confidence, lie, etc... he's just fooling himself and the rituals are meaningless. The disciplines that God considers pure are to take care of widows and orphans and to refuse to be influenced by the culture that dishonors Him.'

 Worship, then, is best expressed by caring for others and by resisting the influence of those who do not fear God.

Where, then, does the current philosophy that insists that Christianity must change to suit the culture fit?  Christianity cannot be separated from Christian morality.  It just doesn't work.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Study: Galatians

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I have an itch to do another study and decided to dive into Galatians, one of my favorite books, for the summer.

Paul writes an alarmed epistle to the believers in Galatia;  other teachers had followed him and were confusing the new believers with doctrines based on human achievement and religious activity.  The churches in Iconium, Lystra, Pisidian Antioch and Derbe were in the region of Galatia, cities Paul had visited on his first missionary journey and the believers there were dear to him.

Paul wants to settle the issue for them regarding the doctrine that was being propagated by a loose group of folks Bible scholars frequently refer to as 'Judaizers'.  The essence of their teaching was that Gentiles who wanted to follow Christ must be circumcised as Jews and follow the Law of Moses as the Jews did.  Paul had been present at the discussions in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15, and knew that those requirements went against the prayerful decisions made there.   His argument is historical, logical, and passionate, using some strong language.

It's a good study to consider today; a reminder to believe what was approved and taught from old.. we are saved by grace into freedom to serve in love.

Here's the syllabus:

6/2 - Gal 1:1 - 2:10
6/9 - Gal 2:11 - 21
6/16 - Gal. 3:1 - 14
6/23 - Gal. 3:15 -25
6/30 - Gal. 3:26 - 4:7
7/7 - Gal. 4:8 - 18
7/14 - Gal. 4:19 - 5:1
7/21 - Gal. 5:2 - 15
7/28  - Gal. 6:1 - 18

That's just my first breakdown into what appears to be reasonable sections; if I'd planned ahead a little better I'd have a blurb statement for each but, since the inspiration just hit, I'm going to leave the blurb for the discussion.

So, if you're interested, grab a 4-color pen and join me in a study of Galatians this summer!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I posted this as a Facebook Note last year and thought it might be worth a repeat...

For every woman who has ever...

Rocked a baby that refused to sleep...and then kept rocking when sleep finally came, just because the moment was too sweet to end.

Bandaged bloody knees and fingers, or put ice on bumps and bruises, or rigged steam tents in the bedroom to ease that non-stop cough, or sat in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms when the home remedies were insufficient...and held the child for the shot, with tears in her own eyes, or gritted her teeth and kept trying until the medicine went down.

Found an exuberant mess where no mess had been just minutes before, often at the most inconvenient moment.

Made pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

Taught a child to whistle, to cut snowflakes from a folded piece of paper, to bake cookies, to feed a pet or to blow bubbles.

Sat in car pickup lines...day after day after day....

Helped with the school Christmas party.

Sewed costumes for a school play

Gone through the stack of flash cards. Again.

Gone to Wal-Mart at ten pm for poster board for the project due tomorrow.

Taken the forgotten lunch to school. Again.

Explained the facts of life.

Read aloud to a kid. Or a group of kids.

Stayed up making goodies for the bake sale.

Manned the class booth at the PTA fall festival.

Sat through two hour award ceremonies to see one little second grader get a certificate for maintaining a B average.

Stood firm on a principle in the face of teen angst.

Watched that new driver back out of the driveway and head down the road alone for the first time.

Cleaned up after a sleepover.

Walked into a newly empty bedroom and turned off the fan that the fledgling left on after packing up and heading to the dorm or the new apartment.

Prayed for a kid, hugged a kid, was kind to a kid, taught a kid or gave up something to make a kid’s life a little better.

God bless you all on Mother’s Day.

And an especially Happy Mother's Day to my mom...who did so much for me!  Love you!