Galatians; An Overview

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To read the book of Galatians click here.  To read this week’s SS lesson click here.

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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. Galatians 1:6-7

In Paul’s day people were already perverting the gospel. How do you pervert the gospel? Put self in it.

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.  Galatians 2:20

Notice the pure gospel that Paul preaches has no self in it. He preaches a “Not I but Christ” gospel. So many people pervert the gospel by adding self. I have heard parents tell their kids, “Do the best you can do, and then when you have done your best Jesus will help you with the rest.” That is a me plus Christ gospel. The gospel is not me plus Christ, it is not I but Christ. Zero me. 100% Christ.

While at an Oklahoma Adventist Camp meeting, ,many moons ago, I heard a minister tell a story. Sorry I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the story. It went like this. A man was on his way to a breakfast diner. There was one parking space left open by the front door. The man started for the space when he saw a man coming the other way who wanted the same space. The first man’s first reaction was to give it the gas and take the closest spot before the other man got there. But he had yielded himself to Christ that morning, so he let off the gas, let the other guy take the spot while he drove farther down and parked. When he got inside, the second man thanked him for letting him have the closer spot. The first man said, “That was not me.” The second man said well then who was it? The first man said, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!” So you see, whenever we do something right, we can be sure of one thing, it was not me. It was Jesus. Not I but Christ.

We also pervert the gospel when we add self effort, which is legalism by the way, and we also add legalism when we replace God’s law with manmade laws. We also pervert the gospel when we add lies. For example, John 3:16 says the unbeliever will perish, but many tell the lie that they will be tormented for all eternity instead. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell.

We also pervert the gospel when we alter our preaching or worship services to please the ego of man. 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

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. Gal 2:16

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

These verses make it clear we are not saved by the works of the flesh but by the faith of Jesus. Notice it is not even our own faith that saves us. It is the faith of Jesus!

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

Faith does not do away with good works, faith works. It works by love. The legalistic motivation of hoping for a reward or avoiding punishment are gone. We work, but not to get to heaven or stay out of hell. We work because we love Jesus because He first loved us!

 [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.  Galatians 5:16-17

The spirit gives us victory over the flesh. The flesh is legalism. Some have the idea that legalism is where you keep God’s law. The law is a part of the gospel too. The difference is how it is achieved. With legalism we keep the law by our own power for our own glory. With the gospel we keep the law by God’s power for His glory.

Galatians 4 made this clear. 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.  Galatians 4:22-24

God promised Abraham a son. All Abraham had to do was believe and the son would be born. Some people have told me Abraham still had to do something  as this was not a virgin birth. Think about it. Sara’s womb was dead, so it might as well have been a virgin birth. All God needed was Abraham to trust His promise. This is God’s covenant, where we trust His promises. Abraham though set out to make his own covenant based on his own effort and too Hagar to wife. Abraham had to be circumcised so he could cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh. He trusted his own flesh to do that which God promised to do for and through him. ‘

Notice, the end result is still a child being born. The difference is Abraham’s way had self in it. When Abraham learned to trust God’s promise there was fruit and the fruit was real. So today, when we cast away the confidence in our own flesh, we will have fruit. Some think that when we get rid of legalism that we get rid of standards. The gospel does not get rid of standards. It helps us reach those standards, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 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 5:24-26

Again, with the gospel we put away the effort and pride of the flesh and we reap the fruit of the work of the Spirit for the glory of God.

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. Galatians 6:14

Colossians; Two Mysteries

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Paul continues illustrating the power of the gospel, in the book of Colossians. Remember in Romans how powerfully chapter 3 verses 23-24 brought out that we have already been justified? “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In Colossians we see that not only has Jesus justified us, all by Himself but is also sanctifying us all by Himself. Not only has he given us salvation from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin! “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14

In Revelation 10 John tells us that the cleansing of the sanctuary, which began in 1844 accomplishes the mystery of God. Paul tells us just what that mystery is. “[Even] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

The mystery of iniquity is, how did Lucifer, a perfect person in a perfect place become sinful? The mystery of God is, how can a sinful person, in a sinful world, become perfect? It can only be explained as the work of God as He becomes ‘Christ in you the hope if glory.”

I encourage you to study the book of Colossians and see what treasures you may find.

Acts 16-20; Get your Own Relationship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This morning, as I reading through Acts 16-20, I first noticed a trend, confirming that we each need to have our own relationship with Christ. In chapter 17 verse 11, it reads, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  I find so much in this one verse. 1. They did not take Pau’s word for anything, but checked out what the Scriptures said. 2. They did not casually read. They searched. 3. They did this every day. They were developing their own relationship with God.

Later, in chapter 19 verses 13-17 I read, “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.  And there were seven sons of [one] Sceva, a Jew, [and] chief of the priests, which did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

These vagabond Jews, were not sincere. They were trying to use the power of God for magic, to make money for themselves. This is something I feel a lot of Christians even have trouble understanding. The power of God is not magic. It is not mystical. Magic requires no relationship, or connection. It is quite legalistic actually. All the wonderful and even miraculous things accomplished by Christ and His followers were done, not through magic, but through a relationship and process. The first clue that these vagabond Jews had no relationship with Jesus is seen in the fact that they mention Paul’s name right along with Jesus. They had no connection to Jesus themselves, so they mention the name of someone who did. That did not work. They needed their own relationship with Jesus. If they had known Jesus for themselves, they would have had no need to mention Paul. So today, when sharing Jesus, if we have a real relationship with Him, we need not mention what others know about Him, or what He has done for other people. We need only mention what great things He has done for us personally. Our relationship with Him should stand on its own merit.

John 18-19; The Closing Scenes

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

   It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.  {Desire of Ages  83.4} 

John 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the [wife] of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 

 19:26    When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 

 19:27    Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home]. 

  As the eyes of Jesus wandered over the multitude about Him, one figure arrested His attention. At the foot of the cross stood His mother, supported by the disciple John. She could not endure to remain away from her Son; and John, knowing that the end was near, had brought her again to the cross. In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother. Looking into her grief-stricken face and then upon John, He said to her, “Woman, behold thy son!” then to John, “Behold thy mother!” John understood Christ’s words, and accepted the trust. He at once took Mary to his home, and from that hour cared for her tenderly. O pitiful, loving Saviour; amid all His physical pain and mental anguish, He had a thoughtful care for His mother! He had no money with which to provide for her comfort; but He was enshrined in the heart of John, and He gave His mother to him as a precious legacy. Thus He provided for her that which she most needed,–the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus. And in receiving her as a sacred trust, John was receiving a great blessing. She was a constant reminder of his beloved Master. 

     The perfect example of Christ’s filial love shines forth with undimmed luster from the mist of ages. For nearly thirty years Jesus by His daily toil had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He remembers to provide for His sorrowing, widowed mother. The same spirit will be seen in every disciple of our Lord. Those who follow Christ will feel that it is a part of their religion to respect and provide for their parents. From the heart where His love is cherished, father and mother will never fail of receiving thoughtful care and tender sympathy.  {Desire of Ages, p. 752}

John 9:Skeptics Come and go

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In John 9 I read about a blind man that Jesus heals so that he can see. The Pharisees, then want to accuse Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. At the same time though, they are insinuating that the man was never blind and therefore Jesus did not really heal him. A lot of people think  if Jesus were here today we would have all the evidence we need, but skepticism reigns in every age, even while Jesus walked the earth. So it is today. Years ago, in the church I was attending at the time, an older lady was diagnosed with breast cancer. The church prayed, and later the doctors said the cancer had disappeared! While many praised the Lord for healing the lady, a few others openly said she must have never had cancer in the first place, and must have been misdiagnosed. The same thing happened when Jesus healed the blind man. The Pharisees took it upon themselves to see if he was really the blind man or someone else, or if he was ever really blind in the first place.

Don’t let skeptics discourage you from believing the Word of God. There have been skeptics in every age. Skeptics come and go, but God’s Word endures from age to age.

John 3; God’s Cure for Unbelief

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

John  3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 

 3:15    That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 

 3:16    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

 3:17    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 

 Eve sinned when she stopped believing in God’s love, and started believing Satan’s lie, that the forbidden fruit would give her a better life than what God had offered her. The root of sin is doubting God’s love. When we sin, we are saying, “I do not believe God loves me.” When we sin, we reject God who is life and we choose death. See Proverbs 8:36

In the desert the children of Israel, complained about God, strongly hinting that He must not care for them. God left as He does not stay where He is not wanted. In leaving, God opened the way for snakes to come into the camp. He did not send them in so much as He was just no longer there to keep them out. This opened their eyes to God’s love and they said they were sorry. Sorry for doubting God’s love. Moses made a brass serpent so that anyone who had been bitten could look and live.

So today, when we have been bitten by the lie of that old serpent the devil, saying God does not really love us, we can look to the cross. There we see a God who loved us so much that He died for us. Satan’s lie is exposed. We no longer believe in Satan. We believe that God really does love us. We reject Satan’s lie and we reject death. Eternal life is restored the moment we believe God loves us.

When we choose to believe Satan’s lies about God’s character, we reject God and choose death as an escape from the presence of God. When Satan’s lies are all exposed at the cross, we believe in God’s love and eternal life is restored. As we continue to believe that God really loves us, we continue to obey Him.

Eve rejected eternal life the moment she stopped believing God really loved her. Eternal life is restored the moment we believe in His love. At the cross we see that love.

Luke 23; The Prayer That Embraced The World

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

I love how the prayer of Christ on the cross embraces the entire world!

The Saviour made no murmur of complaint. His face remained calm and serene, but great drops of sweat stood upon His brow. There was no pitying hand to wipe the death dew from His face, nor words of sympathy and unchanging fidelity to stay His human heart. While the soldiers were doing their fearful work, Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” His mind passed from His own suffering to the sin of His persecutors, and the terrible retribution that would be theirs. No curses were called down upon the soldiers who were handling Him so roughly. No vengeance was invoked upon the priests and rulers, who were gloating over the accomplishment of their purpose. Christ pitied them in their ignorance and guilt. He breathed only a plea for their forgiveness,–“for they know not what they do.”   

     Had they known that they were putting to torture One who had come to save the sinful race from eternal ruin, they would have been seized with remorse and horror. But their ignorance did not remove their guilt; for it was their privilege to know and accept Jesus as their Saviour. Some of them would yet see their sin, and repent, and be converted. Some by their impenitence would make it an impossibility for the prayer of Christ to be answered for them. Yet, just the same, God’s purpose was reaching its fulfillment. Jesus was earning the right to become the advocate of men in the Father’s presence. 

     That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. “Whosoever will” may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life.  {Desire of Ages, p. 745

Luke 22; Eternally Saved

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke  22:39          And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. 

 22:40    And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. 

 22:41    And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 

 22:42    Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 

 22:43    And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 

Many times over the years my heart has been comforted by the passage below from The Desire of Ages. When my heart is broken because it appears evil is winning, I remember the angel assuring Jesus and the rest of us, that Satan will be defeated and not just a few, but multitudes will be saved, and I love the emphasis on eternally saved.

The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love. He came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved.  {Desire of Ages, p. 693}

Luke 19; Jesus Does Not Overlook Anybody!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke 19:2 And, behold, [there was] a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 

 19:3    And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 

 19:4    And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that [way]. 

 19:5    And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 

 19:6    And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 

 19:7    And when they saw [it], they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 

 19:8    And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore [him] fourfold. 

 19:9    And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 

 19:10  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. 

What I love about this story is how it reminds us that Jesus does not overlook anyone, no matter how small, no matter how sinful. Contemplate for a moment the perception of Jesus. He saw the widow secretly putting in her two mites. He saw Nathaniel simply praying under a tree. In a huge crowd he felt a woman brush his shoulder. He saw Zacchaeus hiding in a tree.

  Jesus knows us individually, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows us all by name. He knows the very house in which we live, the name of each occupant. He has at times given directions to His servants to go to a certain street in a certain city, to such a house, to find one of His sheep. 

     Every soul is as fully known to Jesus as if he were the only one for whom the Saviour died. The distress of every one touches His heart. The cry for aid reaches His ear. He came to draw all men unto Himself. He bids them, “Follow Me,” and His Spirit moves upon their hearts to draw them to come to Him. Many refuse to be drawn. Jesus knows who they are. He also knows who gladly hear His call, and are ready to come under His pastoral care. He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” He cares for each one as if there were not another on the face of the earth.  {Desire of Ages, p. 480}

Luke 13; Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Luke 13:1There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 

 13:2       And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 

 13:3       I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

 13:4       Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 

 13:5       I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

The disciples, like many today, had a hard time rationalizing how such tragic events could happen. For some reason, to some people, it just makes it easier to deal with if we think the victims somehow deserved it. In John 9, the disciples ask if the blind man had sinned or his parents. They wanted to justify the man’s blindness by rationalizing that it was somehow deserved. Jesus said neither had sinned.

Many people can’t wait to get to heaven and ask God why all these things are allowed to happen. I think they are going to be quite surprised when God turns the table and asks us why it happened! Not everything that happens is God’s plan or His will. That is another myth. While people blame God for everything, they are going to be surprised to find out, that He is not the micro managing control freak they think He is. All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, but that does not mean God wanted all the things to happen that have happened.

 For example, I always hear people saying, that whoever is in leadership was put there by God. Really? In Hosea 8, God tells Israel that they set up kings and He knew it not and had nothing to do with it! Still, God is in control, true, but things still happen all the time that are not God’s idea.

A while back I was talking with a police officer friend of mine, who was very distressed over two of his fellow officers being shot and killed by a suspect. He said none of it makes sense to him now, but one day God will explain and it will all make sense. I told my friend that none of it makes sense to God either! It was not His idea. It was not God’s plan.

 Sin was never God’s plan but yet He has a plan to save us from sin. In the meantime while His plan is being worked out by His grace, let’s focus on His love and mercy and not try to pacify ourselves that people deserve all the bad that comes their way. Let’s remember too, that Jesus is a personal savior and allows different trials to different people. For example, I know some people who are very angry at God for allowing the WTC buildings to get hit by planes. At the same time, I have heard stories about some of the victims calling and leaving messages with their loved ones, telling them not worry because they would see them in heaven. So whether or not God should have allowed that to happen is between them and God, and I as a third party don’t need to be judging God, based on something that is between He and them and not me.

 I know I am not even scraping the surface of a very complex issue here, but all I am saying is, that if a terrorist victim can die at peace with God, then why would I, a person who was not even involved, be condemning God for it?

Many people ask, and books have been written on why bad things happen to good people. It’s all a waste of time. My Bible tells me in Psalms 14 and Romans 3 that there are none that are good. So it is impossible for bad things to happen to good people, seeing how there are no good people. I praise a God who makes good things happen to bad people! I deserve death, but Jesus has given me the gift of eternal life! Romans 6:23