"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Thursday, January 4, 2024

The G.E.P.C Study – GALATIANS 4: PART 2

Going Through Paul’s epistles to Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossi

INTRODUCTION: The pride of man insists in his own inherit goodness; that all he needs is a bit of “that ol’ time religion” to spruce things up. Say a prayer, perform a ritual, pay a tithe, attend service now and then, build up some ‘brownie points’ – enough so that one’s good deeds outweigh the bad and you’re in good with GOD.

Under the Old Testament, the Law of Moses brought condemnation for all who commit sin. If the justice of GOD was served among sinners, He would slay them. The heart of GOD while just, is also merciful. So the LORD arranged that animals would pay the price of His people when they committed sins. Animals that were innocent and never committed an offense towards anyone at all. Yet the blood of animals only covered sin up, it didn’t wash them away. More potent blood was needed for that…

These creatures were types, examples to demonstrate what would happen once the LAMB of GOD came upon the scene in the land of Israel. Prophecy “in the fullness of time” came to fruition and Christ was born (GAL 4:4).

He lived a sinless life, and as an innocent relative to mankind (the son of Abraham, the son of David, the Son of man Who is also the Son of GOD) A kinsman goel in fact) He paid the price for us sinners that we could never pay! We now have liberty in Christ and have no need to get entangled in the Law that condemns (GAL 5:1), but rather embrace the LORD of Life that commends those who are justified by faith!

This is what Paul the apostle desires to convey to the Galatians who have strayed from the Messiah and are reverting back to the Law. In this second half of our study in Chapter Four, we pick up in verse 12:

Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all

Paul here is admonishing the saints at Galatia to become like him, that is, one who has been freed from the Law of Moses as the means of righteousness and the perfection of holiness that it demands. GOD understood that the nation of Israel would in no way be able to walk in purity of holiness, and so provided the various animal sacrifices to cover their sins which were unable to take away their sins (HEB 10:1-4).

If anyone could rest confidently in the keeping of the Law, it would have been Saul of Tarsus, and in PHILIPPIANS 3, he lists all of his accomplishments: he was circumcised as a member of the tribe of Benjamin in the nation of Israel, and a Pharisee who lived with a clear conscience of his unwavering devotion to the Law (ACTS 23:1). There were none more fastidious than the Pharisees in the keeping of the Law (but also their own manmade traditions). Saul the Pharisee was so zealous that he persecuted the church of Christ, hauling away Jews who converted from the Hebrew religion to follow some ‘renegade rabbi’ who claimed He would rise again on the third day.

Concerning the Law, he was blameless; which is not to say he obeyed the Law without ever having had sinned, but that he adhered to the requirements of the Law which demanded a blood sacrifice for sin

Yet for all of his achievements, what was the apostle Paul’s attitude towards them?
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
This is not to say that Paul disparaged the Law in anyway; he did not! What he emphasized was that the Holy Law of GOD was ineffective in making anyone holy through their own efforts to obey it (See HEB 10:1-4; ROM 3:27-31; GAL 3:17-26)!

The apostle Paul lived his life in such a way that it was Christ in him that gave him spiritual life, something that the Law could never do (GAL 2:16-21). And this is what he urges the saints of Galatia to do – to follow his example even as he himself followed after Christ (1 COR 11:1).

Paul identified with the people he ministered to; he was tireless in his approach of others from every walk of life (1 COR 9:19-22). He would go to any lengths, short of violating the Gospel, to reach people!
13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.
Paul never mentions the specifics of this physical infirmity that he suffered, though he does mention it in a few places (1 COR 2:3; 2 COR 10:10; 12:7). Whatever affliction it was that hounded him, apparently it was severe enough that he had to postpone his travels to other cities, and rest there at Galatia, hence the first occasion on this mission for him to preach the Gospel.

Some believe that this infirmity was the result of the many beatings he suffered, which no doubt left their marks on his body (GAL 6:17). Some believe that he came down with a case of malaria, a common affliction in those days.

Others think that it was some ailment that affected his vision, perhaps a form of optic neuritis or similar disease. Tradition describe Paul as being short, bald, with crooked legs, with thick joining eyebrows and bulging eyes that constantly ran with pus (hence the affliction of the eyes).

He referred to “how large a letter” (that is, writing his letters large enough so he could see them) he wrote with his own hand (GAL 6:11). This could be why he typically used an amanuensis, rather than write his own epistles.

Whatever the affliction, he endured it until he no longer could and asked the LORD to remove this “thorn in [his] flesh” – from the Greek we get the idea that this was an excruciating pain (such as those who are crucified and have their legs broken to hasten death) that occurs in the eyes. The LORD’s response was “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. And Paul’s response:
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong”
I tend to favor the idea that this thorn (“a messenger from Satan”) was an eye condition, for Paul bears these saints witness, that if it was possible, they would have given their own eyes to him.

The reason for this affliction? To keep Paul humble, who might have otherwise exalted himself due to the abundance of the revelations that the LORD gave him (2 COR 12:7).

Paul reminds them of their initial love and devotion that they had for him and contrasts their conduct with how they viewed the apostle more recently. They despised him and favored others who took advantage of them, not considering how much Paul sacrificed and endured for their benefit and for all the churches he ministered to (vs. 17; 2 COR 11:16-31)!

He noticed, no doubt with a broken heart that the more he loved, the less he was loved (2 COR 12:15). It’s a strange and tragic phenomena when one pours into the life of another, showing them love and caring, that later on down the road, these are the same people who speak ill of the minister, take advantage of them, and often will gossip and betray their trust. This has led many a pastor to become reclusive, to withdraw from people, or even leave the ministry.

As with Paul, we must always endeavor to grow in Christlikeness, Who Himself always has and always does give out of a heart of love and compassion, though He is disparaged, and blasphemed.
All the while knowing that Judas Iscariot would betray Him, He still called him “friend” (MATT 26:50).

Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

Truth tellers are always hated by those who hate the truth. What is commonly called “hate speech” has validity only so much as when malice is evident. There are certainly instances of this, particularly among such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, other White or Black Supremacist groups, even churches that condemn with vitriol the homosexual community without offering them the hope of the Gospel.

Yet if we are truly loving other people, we don’t want them to be deceived, misled, abused or taken advantage of, to say nothing of perishing in perdition The often used example is that of a person walking passed a house that has caught on fire. The fire is real and life threatening, so the person calls out to those residing inside.

If the person witnessing the blaze showed no compassion at all, they would have continued on their way and never bothered to warn the occupants. The very fact that they witness the truth of the situation and did something to warn others to flee means that they operated out of a heart of love. A heart of malice would ensure that the doors and windows were blocked in order to prevent their escape.

The personification of the Spirit of Truth (that is, GOD) as “wisdom” in Proverbs says this:
PROVERBS 8:35-36
35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.
In a society that routinely rejects the truth of GOD’s Word, there should be evidence of spiritual ruin, devastation and death in all of its variations. And so it is! There is deterioration of morals, confusion about what’s right and what’s wrong, and a gradual but persistent gravitation towards debauchery and reprobation.

This is what we are witnessing in Western civilization that was born out of and prospered under the Judeo-Christian ethic, itself based upon the Holy Word of GOD!

In this case, the Galatians were convinced by false brethren and false teachers to return to the Law, and to refrain from salvation by grace alone through Christ Jesus. The truth of the matter is that Christ is the only way to the Father (JOHN 14:6), apart from the Law (ROM 7:4-6; 2 COR 3:6).

17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.

It was the intent of these false teachers to isolate the saints from the apostle, feed them their false doctrine, and enlist them as followers (for their own glory). These are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. The very nature of predators is to isolate their prey who are vulnerable, weak, separated from the flock.

This is why we must always endeavor to stay close to our Good Shepherd, and to attend a godly, biblical fellowship as often as we can. We all know of Christians who try to ‘go it alone’ and end up in trouble. Not only do we need fellowship with other saints (we aren’t called “the body of Christ” for nothing! Your own body is incredibly interconnected and every part is necessary for optimum efficiency), but we endeavor to encourage one another and help to keep each other accountable.

Now I understand how too, too many of GOD’s sheep have been wounded (and sometimes repeatedly) by a pastor or perhaps more than one and have become bitter as a result.
But there are times when a pastor must bring about correction that hurts but with the intent to help:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend…
And perhaps a professing believer leaves the church because they don’t want to leave their sin, but when asked about why they left, they pass the blame on to the pastor “who was abusive” when in fact, they were trying to bring biblical counsel and correction – which must always be done meekly and in love (GAL 6:1; 2 TIM 2:23-26).

Likewise the Christian must be discerning about who they submit to. There are some pastors who are not truly called of GOD, who see their position as more of a paying job rather than a sacred vocation and calling. There are many such so-called pastors (and those who are false teachers too) who routinely “fleece the flock and not feed the flock”, whose conduct indicates that they believe the flock is there to serve them, rather than the reverse.
2 PETER 2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
The balanced view is that we are all to serve one another (GAL 5:13), and whereas the minister provides spiritually for the saints, the saints are to provide materially for the minister (1 COR 9:11) – with such provisions that are modest, not extravagant. A good rule of thumb is that pastors should be provided finances that are equitable to and based upon the average income of his congregation (though some smaller fellowships that might require the pastor to seek gainful employment rather than become a financial burden to that small flock they shepherd).

Lastly, zeal with knowledge is the productive kind; zeal without knowledge is the destructive kind. There are scores of religious zealots who either don’t submit to the full counsel of GOD’s Truth or are unaware of the full counsel. They latch on to a verse or two out of context and run pell-mell, causing all sorts of ruin.
Saul was zealous in hauling away members of the body of Christ because he didn’t have knowledge of Christ according to truth.

Young believers, and new disciples can be among those who cause havoc because while they have some truth, it’s not balanced by the whole counsel of GOD. I know because I was once there myself! I cringe when I think about things I’ve declared and conduct that was unbecoming. It’s as we mature under the dutiful care of wise mentors who faithfully disciple us that we can avoid most if not all such improper zealotry.

Zeal with knowledge is what fires the hearts of all true saints that love the LORD and desire to please Him and serve others (MATT 22:37-40). These are unstoppable though the means of man and the powers of hell persistently seek to stop them. These saints will first seek the Kingdom of GOD and work tirelessly in His fields! Paul is such an example! People that protested his message stoned him until they believed he was dead, but the apostle was raised up – and proceeded to that same city to preach more (ACTS 14:19-20)!

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.

What is Paul saying here? That these Galatians have lost their salvation and need to be ‘born again, again’? In the next chapter he tells them that they have fallen from grace, all who seek justification by the Law.

I think that there were those who never quite devoted themselves to the grace of GOD, but who held back, coming short of salvation because they couldn’t divest themselves completely of their Jewish heritage and the Law of Moses.

“Fall[ing] from grace” doesn’t mean that one has lost salvation; in context, it means that the Jewish congregants in Galatia were not looking to the grace of GOD for salvation but adhering to the Law. This can mean either that they were born again, but faltering in their faith, and in such a state Christ is no longer relied upon for the efficacy of saving grace, no longer adhered to.

Then there are those seeds of GOD’s Word that are planted, but whose roots don’t go deep enough to produce spiritual fruit. The fact that Paul attests that some of these Galatians need to be spiritually born “until Christ is formed [in them]”, shows that they weren’t born again in the first place.

If we suppose a person can lose their salvation after they were born again, and they later repented, receive Christ and saved again, that would theoretically constitute being “re-born again” or “born again, again”: a phenomena that Scripture doesn’t identify in all of its pages.

Paul expresses his ministering in “laboring in birth” not in the sense that he can actually bring about the spiritual birth of another (no one can accomplish what only GOD can!), but that where he thought they were all true believers, he has concerns and “doubts about…” some of them and must labor and minister to them the truth of the Gospel until they finally “get it”.

But note the tone of affection and love he shows them when he calls them his “children”. His love for them is a constant, even while they reject the Gospel of grace and heed the teachings of these false teachers.

He hopes to bring understanding to them by the following allegory.

21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-- 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-- 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

On a side note, there are those who claim that the Bible in its entirety is nothing more than an allegory. An allegory is “a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one” And we can add to that, a spiritual meaning, as with Christ and His many parables as found in MATTHEW 13. Any allegory is symbolic for something. A symbol by itself is meaningless unless it can be attributed to something that it represents.

So for example, to escape the truth of hellfire, when the LORD Jesus spoke regarding Gehenna as eternal punishment they say, “There is no such thing as hell, all that talk about Gehenna is just an allegory.” OK, fine: what is it an allegory for? What does it symbolize? It must have a corollary, otherwise it’s meaningless. And one cannot attribute their own meanings to Scripture because inserting one’s own interpretation into any text of Scripture is eisegesis and thus invalid. Scripture must interpret Scripture: that is GOD interpreting His own Word!

If all that the LORD Jesus was referring to was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, it would be irrational to suppose that all who reject Him and His Gospel would forever live out their lives there.

And incidentally, while the Bible does contain allegory (a linguistic tool), it also contains other linguistic tools or figures of speech, which number in the dozens. Other figures of speech found in the Bible are similes, metaphors, oxymorons, parabola, synecdoche, hyperboles and others. These are means and methods to convey literal, biblical truth and not ambiguous, amorphous ideas that have no basis in reality (Check out this article that lists all of the literary devices the Bible employs).

Paul compares the Mosaic Covenant with the New Covenant; the former was inundated with all sorts of requirements and conditions and laws; the latter lacks all of these, but only requires faith in GOD’s Word (ROM 4:3).

The Mosaic Covenant given on Mount Sinai exemplifies the Holy Law of GOD which can only relate to us sinners apprehended by an arresting officer, cast into a prison cell, and judged and condemned as guilty by the Holy Judge.

The New Covenant here is referred to as Jerusalem or “the City of Peace” that brings freedom through the Prince of Peace, the LORD Jesus Christ Who Himself has become our peace as the propitiation for our sins (ACTS 10:36; ROM 5:1; also ROM 3:25; 1 JOHN 2:2; 4:10).

Scripture is silent about a Mount Sinai on the New Earth, but it does speak of the New Jerusalem (REV 21:9-10)! Even in this it’s demonstrated that the Mosaic Covenant was a temporary one, until the New Covenant was enacted and in force (HEB 8:10-13).

Essentially what the apostle is telling the Galatians is that they are opting for slavery over freedom. Having freedom in Christ has led some who are uncomfortable with that truth to come up with their own ‘rules and regulations’ – that if you want to really be righteous before GOD, then you must do x, y, and z. Even the etymology of the word “religion” as it comes through the Latin refers to “something that binds”!

But that kind of righteousness is false, and only leads a soul back into bondage – such bondage that religion inspires and relationship with Christ destroys.

If we are bound by anything, it isn’t religion, it’s the love of Jesus Christ (2 COR 5:14; ROM 8:35-39; EPH 3:17-19; 5:2)!
That being said, there are those who see godly conduct (that’s born of the Spirit) in ridding oneself of worldly ways and carnal living as “religious” and despise any who speak of living in holiness as being “under the law”.

The Law required holiness but didn’t provide the petitioner with the means to be empowered. This empowerment comes by the Spirit in the new birth, so we are actually able by the Spirit – not the Law – to live holy, without which no one will see the LORD (HEB 12:14). While we are imputed holiness by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, whereby all saints upon the point of salvation are made holy, there is an expectation that any child of GOD will grow in sanctification and holiness (EPH 1:4; 1 THESS 4:7; 2 TIM 1:9; TITUS 2:12; 1 PET 1:2)!

27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.

In the Old Testament Israel was judged for her forsaking the LORD, and the worship of false gods. She was indeed spiritually barren, as well as physically – desolate in both respects, and yet Israel has the promise of restoration nationally and of spiritual birth.
ROMANS 11:26-27
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."

(See also PSA 14:7; ISA 59:20; 27:9; JER 31:31; EZEK 36:26; HEB 8:8; 10:16)
This is the “seed more than the stars in the heavens and sand on the earth” – children of Abraham represented by both Israel and the church of Jesus Christ. All of which is according to the faithful promises of GOD declared in His Word!

But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.

This was written two thousand years ago; today it’s just the same as it ever was: the religious relentlessly persecutes GOD’s righteous ones. It was true with Cain and Abel, it was true of Esau and Jacob; it was true of the religious leadership in Jeremiah’s day and in Christ’s day who persecuted their Messiah as well as His apostles.

It was and is true of the Roman Catholic church (but not necessarily of Roman Catholic parishioners) where it’s in a position of unquestioned, limitless authority and the born again saints who know and love the LORD Jesus and His Word.

The religions of this world are based upon self-righteousness, accrediting one’s own efforts in prayers, rituals, ceremonies, alms, various works as being worthy of GOD or paradise however that’s perceived to be.

At the heart of vain religion is the conviction of self-worth, innate goodness and a total denial of the depraved condition of sin nature that afflicts us all. The pride of the religious is offended at such assertions of their evil hearts, and so those who testify of it are hated.
JOHN 7:7
The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil
(See also: JOHN 3:19; 15:19).
Pride is seen as leaven in the Scripture, as well as sin in general, and also false doctrine. What could be more prideful than exalting one’s own beliefs and doctrines over the very Word of Truth, the Holy Scriptures?

30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Note here what the apostle points out: he was addressing the free woman and the bond woman. Here he once again brings up the bondwoman, and her son (This would be Hagar and Ishmael, Isaac’s older brother, who many see as the progenitor of the Islamic faith). What does false religion spawn? – all of that which we mentioned previously.

Religious self-righteousness refuses to dwell under the shadow of the Cross, because the Altar of GOD at Golgotha testifies of the need of mankind concerning his hopelessly depraved and incurable heart (JER 17:9). It speaks of salvation that he cannot produce for himself (ISA 64:6). And salvation freely given by the grace of GOD that pride refuses to accept (they see such charity as a ‘hand-out’ given to a pauper – which we all are, but only the humble will admit to it; MATT 5:3-5).

Paul admonishes the Galatians to abide by the freedom that comes through Christ alone; should they adhere to the Law, there remains no more sacrifice for sin, as the Temple has been destroyed (by 70 AD at any rate). Those who seek to be justified by the Law will only be granted condemnation (ROM 3:20-28). Those children of promise will ever and always be eternally blessed!

Next time, GALATIANS 5!

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