Jesus had authority attributed to him; why?

Recently, in our Men’s Bible Study, the group leader announced, we are still talking about Jesus Christ, the Anointed One. Since we are talking about Jesus, then what are His major attributes?

Wow, for a brief moment I was overwhelmed with the variety of attributes that I could assign to Jesus, there are so many. Fortunately, he answered his question by saying, POWER.

The first scripture the leader referenced was Matthew 28:18, so let’s see what that says.

Matthew 28:18 NASB And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

In all honesty, I lost track of which direction the leader took the group over the next few minutes, as I wanted to understand the hows and whys of the statement, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Immediately my mind began to ask the question, what was the context of the statement? Well, I found that setting by perusing the verses before the announcement Jesus made.

Matthew 28 opens with,

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.” 28:1-8 NASB

The two women arrived at the tomb early and found the grave open; an improbable feat considering that temple guards that had been assigned to guard the tomb. They saw an angel sitting upon the stone that used to cover the opening, and he said, “He is not here, just as he said.” The two were told to go to Galilee where they would find Jesus, but before they could leave He appeared to them.

Matthew 28:9 NASB And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

It is at this point that Jesus said,

Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Matthew 28:10

Having done what they were told, the disciples responded and went to the mountain which He had spoken of before His death.

Matthew 28:16 NASB But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.

This appearance by Jesus to the eleven was not the only occurrence where Jesus appeared to people after He rose again; through reading, we learn that the number of people that witnessed Him alive, was more than 400. All that to say, Jesus was telling those disciples, who feared Him, because, as a rule, dead people don’t walk around the city. And, they still did not understand that what He said to them was true. He was God; the Messiah, and, just as He said, He would die and rise again; now watch how things change.

Jesus was put on the cross, died and rose again on the third day.

This event is something Jesus spoke of numerous times during His ministry, and you find supporting evidence in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John.

One example looks like this.

Matthew 16:21 NASB From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

Does merely dying give you power?

Many reputable people have died, but none, except for Jesus, have ever come back from the dead; lacking some form of resurrection, there is nothing to prove that they gained any authority in death, although devout followers assume otherwise. Here in America, in the late 1980’s, we had a fellow named David Koresh. He was a self-appointed religious leader. The saddest aspect of his fanatic cult was that his primary goal was to convince his followers to let him sleep with their wives. In time many followers died alongside Koresh in a fiery shootout with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms bureau. As controversial as the ATF’s actions might have been, the point is that David Koresh had no power aside from manipulation, and he never came back from the dead. While Matthew 16:21 may give some of us clues as to where this authority and power comes from, I assure you, that most religious folks don’t have a clue. That authority and power that was given to Him came out the immense sacrifice He made, and all most of us see, is that He died and rose again, three days later.

Matthew 28:18 NASB And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

If you look at the words that make up this sentence, you will find a treasure.

All seems simple enough; it is the Greek word pas and means the totality or whole.

While most translations use the word authority, it may not make it the most appropriate choice of words.

The word authority is the Greek word exousia, and means it is permissible, allowed, authority, right, liberty, and that you now have the power to do something. From the Word Study Dictionary

What connotations would the sentence have if other words were inserted instead of authority?

  • All liberty has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

  • All power to do something has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

  • Everything that is permissible has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

The words do not, in essence, change the theme, but they indeed expand the things His word can affect. First thing I understand is that nothing escapes the permissions and territory He covers; after all, He is God, isn’t He!

What can I take away from this? That there was nothing excluded from the permission, liberty to act, and influence of Jesus, because of what He did. To put this in perspective, Satan took Jesus, in the early days of His ministry, to a very high mountain and there offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world (the one we are living in.) Jesus never disputed Satan’s claim to the domains, but in return said, you shall not tempt the Lord your God. The interaction alone demonstrates that there had been a change in leadership and dominion; the man, Adam, had handed control of the earth over to Lucifer/Satan/the serpent/the devil by his self-willed actions.

Matthew 4:8-10 NASB Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain, and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

Unmistakably, at this point, there were things not under God’s power. That is, unless a man could, as a representative of the Father, give Him that permission once again.

Given is the Greek word didomi meaning to bestow as a gift.

So the power, liberty, and authority to act, were all bestowed upon Jesus as a gift for submitting himself to the cross, but there is more.

It is evident that He didn’t just die.

In Ephesians chapter one, we find Paul, doing what he always does, as he prays a blessing over the readers of this letter, to the Church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 1:18-23 NASB I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Jesus authority and power had everything to do with the death from which He was raised. Obviously, something happened down there in the holds of death.

King David, in the Psalms, gives us a look into one aspect of what Jesus was to endure.

Psalms 16:9-11 NASB Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. 10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.

Ponder these words, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol.”

Strong’s concordance explains sheôl, as a Hebrew word meaning hades or the world of the dead.

Because the concept of the sheôl in the Jewish world has much to do with punishment, then perhaps it would be necessary to have an understanding that there is a way to avoid that place; surprise, there is, and it has everything to do with righteousness.

An example of what I just said comes from the story that Jesus told about the beggar Lazarus and the rich man. Both characters in the story are Jews, and both died. The poor beggar Lazarus was found, comforted, in the bosom of Abraham; while, the nameless rich man is found in torment. In torment the rich man screams out, demanding that the beggar go and dip his finger in cold water and bring it to him. Our understanding of who obtains righteousness and who does not should be severely affected by this story, because it seems to run in opposition to what many believe. In case you did not notice, the rich man is still trying to push people around. Look the story up in Luke chapter 16.

If I were hoping or even trying to escape Hades, and I understood that righteousness played a role in that escape, then I would be wondering, how I could make that happen. That was Israel’s problem as well. Sacrifices were an answer but had no lasting effects. Since Jesus actions upon the cross, we have a way.

Romans 4:3-5 MKJV For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” 4 But to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. 5 But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

It is simply the act of believing in Him. The “Him,” of course, is Jesus.

A standout example of God’s heart about Hades comes from the prophet Hosea.

Hosea 13:14 NASB Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.

If the Father is capable of removing the thorns and the sting, then it is easy to see that Hades does not have the hold that we presume.

Jesus had to die.

If you watched the movie, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, then you would have seen a clear narrative that demonstrated why Jesus had to die; in the case of the movie, it was Aslan, a representation of Jesus as King. The book of Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 2:14 CJB Therefore, since the children share a common physical nature as human beings, he became like them and shared that same human nature; so that by his death he might render ineffective the one who had power over death (that is, the Adversary)

A leading reason for his death was to render Satan ineffective, and He did just that. Colossians chapter two tells us that God raised Him from the dead; forgave all our transgressions; canceled the debt we owed and made us alive together with Him by nailing it to the cross. Having done all that, He disarmed the rulers and authorities of darkness, triumphing over them. (Colossians 2:9-15)

You should understand by now that Jesus did not just lie in the tomb; He was active, alive, and conquering.

He led the captive free.

Does that mean all? I doubt it, for some, in the face of the King of all creation, would still deny His authority and refuse. That thought is ludicrous but feasible.

Ephesians 4:8-10 NASB Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)

Who were these captives and where were they held? We have already talked about one of them as we looked at the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31. Verse 23 tells us that the rich man was in Hades. In trying to gain an understanding of what the Jews of that day thought about Hades, I went to the Word Study Dictionary.

It corresponds to Sheol in the OT which occurs 59 times. In the NT, Hádēs occurs only 10 times. It is found nowhere in John’s gospel, the epistles of Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, or the General Epistles. Three of the occurrences are on Christ’s lips (Mat_11:23 [with Luk_10:15]; Luk_16:18; Luk_16:23). In two of these, the words are obviously used in a figurative sense: in the case of Capernaum to express an absolute overthrow, a humiliation as deep as the former loftiness and pride had been great; in the case of the Church, to express a security which shall be proof against death and destruction. The third occurrence, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luk_16:19-31), is of a different kind and has even been taken to put our Lord’s confirmation on the Jewish idea of two compartments in Hades, distinct from and yet near one another.”

Again, my mind goes back to the radio pastor, who ranted about Gehenna while making an analogy to hell/Hades. In his rant, he talked about a continually burning trash pile that existed outside of Jerusalem. In describing its smells and unsavory appearance, he equated this to Hades. Maybe that is true, but why try to saddle us all with horrific imagery and fear, especially when we come to find out that Jesus made it possible to overcame that fear?

Hebrews 2:14-15 KJV Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear
of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

In the book of the Revelation, we see Jesus with the keys. What keys?

Revelation 1:17-18 NASB 17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Colossians tells us that Jesus, through His death, made an open show of Satan and his team.

Colossians 2:15 NASB When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

Jesus abolished death.

2 Timothy 1:10 NASB but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

As I mentioned when I opened this post, to try exploring, in just a few seconds, the attributes that make Jesus powerful, is almost impossible. I do not think I adequately covered the topic and possibilities here, but, because of length, I must stop. If I were to get even remotely evangelistic I think this last verse might convey my thoughts.

Hebrews 12:2 NASB fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If I wondered how I might become righteous, then fixing my eyes on Jesus, sounds like a reasonable place to start.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, false teaching, Freedom from sin, God's character, Jews, Matthew's gospel, parables, The supremacy of Christ, The Word was God, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This opening line is one that gives me grief. Galatians 3:1-3

In many of my posts I show you a bit of me; in other words, I make it personal, and then hopefully applicable. I am going to try to integrate myself into this one as well, but I am going to jump back into commentary mode with Galatians chapter 3.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

This opening line is one that has caused me grief; not because I see myself as a foolish Galatian, but because of a local Calvary Chapel pastor, one who has a particular way of accentuating words, preached on this, and it seemed like these words, “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you?”, were condemning all of us, and putting us under some form of bondage once again. Since radio programs are just sermons, chopped into overlapping pieces, so that they can make it last for an entire week; it continued for what seemed like weeks. So let’s see what Paul was trying to say because I can assure you that Paul was not attempting to put people under bondage. We can do that quite well on our own.

If I reiterate the last three verses of Galatians 2, you can get a feel for the context, so let’s start there.

Galatians 2:19-21 NET. For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

In chapter one, Paul tells these Galatians that there is no other gospel; there are, however, those out there that wish to pervert the good news that Paul had preached. (Galatia is a reference to the Asia Minor region, we now call Turkey. Paul had made stops at a handful of cities, few of which are mentioned. This letter then was written from Rome around 68AD, almost 18 years after passing through the region.

As a believer, I can take this statement literally – Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.

What then, had Paul preached?

That the followers of Christ were free from the bondage that comes with the Law found in the Torah; a law that had been so expanded upon by the Jews, that it was deemed, the law of the Jews.

The Law, in its original state, given by God, was effectively the law of the universe, and Adam, as a representative of God, broke that Law. The transgression of that universal law brought a demand for payment of that wrongdoing, to us all. So, Christ not only paid the debt on our behalf, but, by His grace and faithfulness, freed the Jews and us, from the bondage of the Law, and the expanded Jewish portion as well.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if the effects of Adam’s sin did not linger upon us daily? The freedom begins to kick in, as you remind yourself “that’s not who I am.” Because, “Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.”

What is essential to our understanding of the phrase “free from the bondage of the law?”

That it meant nothing to a Gentile, and everything to a Jewish audience, which is whom Paul was preaching and writing to in the days before his captivity in Rome.

Let’s start breaking chapter 3 down.

Galatians 3:1 NASB You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Since we understand that there was no Church of Galatia as there was in Corinth or Ephesus, he is broadcasting this reprimand across an entire region. Are you serious? In relative quantity, after hearing about the grace and mercy found in Christ, and receiving that blessing, the converts in this region are submitting to the pressure of Jewish zealots and setting aside the grace of God. The implications are, they are setting aside their faith in Christ as the risen Messiah.

The words Paul uses are anything but politically correct; they are, however, quickly understood, to the point, and meant to get the readers attention.

Foolish – The Greek word anóētos means Lacking intelligence; one who does not govern his lusts; one without a mind, therefore lacking the organ by which divine things are comprehended and known or ignored. Word Study Dictionary. Other translations called them stupid and senseless Galatians.

Paul is asking them, WHO has done this too you? As though he, and they do not know. They know; it was the Jewish zealots from which these converts had emerged.

Here is something you should see and understand.
Paul never told them to stop being Jewish. To stop being Jewish would border on impossible; why? Because of heritage, birthright, and training. Paul of all people would have understood this. Accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah, was what the prophets of old called for and showed them through their words. Acceptance of Yeshua was the carrying out and completion of a lifelong dream every Jew has.

Passing on and invoking our prejudicial attitudes and ways is something we all do, some just not so intentionally; we do, however, display our prejudices rather openly when we feel threatened and wish to regain our support base. Here in America, we have a derogatory term, red neck. While it initially applied to farmers, and ranch hands, it came to imply a simple mind with an unyielding attitude; an attitude that does not work so well in the big city. Jews are not so different as they too take pride in their lifestyles and traditions.

That’s great, but, as we have learned from Paul, Christs insertion into the universal picture, changed everything. By the intentional spilling of His blood and giving of His life, He reinserted grace and mercy into the world. The Law of the universe was set aside, and freedom is available to every man through the actions of Christ. Whether you accept it or not, sins were forgiven. This forgiveness has a massive impact on the final judgment, where you will spend eternity, and it is all about who you are choosing to serve. You should know that you will not be judged for anything other than what you did with Christ, this risen King; the one who will gather those who are in Christ, to Himself, so that they can live with Him in the peaceful kingdom, forever.

Bewitched? – Is the Greek word baskaino; to malign, that is, (by extension) to fascinate (by false representations): – bewitch.

Sometimes it helps me if I can see a definition of a word, such as malign.
Malign – Having a very evil disposition towards others; harboring violent hatred or enmity; malicious; as malign spirits. Webster’s Dictionary

Think this through for a moment. The Jews already had an evil disposition toward all Gentiles. The assumption, and probably a safe one, would be that the hard-liners or zealots had regained members of their congregations by provoking the violent hatred and maliciousness that, sadly, is an aspect of the brokenness we all carry due to Adam’s transgression.

Note how Paul paints a word picture when he uses the phrase, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” If that seems a little challenging to wrap your mind around, then perhaps the Amplified version might be graspable.

Unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified.

What if Christ crucified (the Messiah), is the primary thing that Paul preached to them? And, if not, why not? Deeply entrenched in laws and traditions, the Jews needed something that jolted them into believing the what the Word of God.

Whether we use the word publicly, which conveys an image of standing on a street corner talking loudly to car passengers as they go by, or openly, which speaks of a person talking unashamedly, it is still the same Greek word prographo and can mean either. The word prographo means to write previously; to announce, or to set forth. [Strong’s Concordance]

Since we have nothing to tell us that Paul spoke to enough people directly to act as though he addressed all of Asia Minor in person, then we should assume that he wrote letters; letters, which were then transmitted through the mouths of other believers, Jewish converts. Since it was typical for Paul to acknowledge those with him and aligned with him, we should have expected the same in this letter. He would have used names that made a personal connection. So let’s see what he tells us.

Galatians 1:1-2 NASB Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

That’s odd, for he merely calls them, “all the brethren who are with me.”
Why that could be anyone. However, we can have confidence that Luke the physician was there; there is the possibility that Silas is with Paul, and, we might expect to find Timothy.

How would these men, make any more of an impact than Paul?

Excluding the effect of the Holy Spirit on men, I would say no way. Besides that, Paul is talking to Jews; Jews who are not the least bit interested, for the most part, in the Gentile Jesus.

Paul chastises the Galatians harshly, pointing out the message that he preached (Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, publicly portrayed as crucified.), and then asks them a question.

Galatians 3:2 NASB This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

This question is important to a Jew, and all of us as well? What is he asking them?

  • Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law?

    Considering that the primary thing a Jew had to do to obtain righteousness, was to sacrifice a lamb or a dove, for example, the problem is that this sacrificial process is not a lasting one. If you, five minutes later, after leaving the synagogue, have a brutal road rage incident as someone cuts in front your camel on the way home, you have lost your righteousness. Here then is the evidence that the works of the Law did not bring about lasting righteousness.

  • Or, by hearing with faith?

    Since Paul laid out what the Messiah, Jesus Christ, did for them, and how He, because of His faithfulness, secured our righteousness. Then the answer is, by hearing.

Galatians 3:3 NASB Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Paul, having asked his sarcasm-laced questions,  reiterates what we began with when we started chapter three.

  • Are you so foolish?

    We ran into this already. It is the Greek word anóētos meaning without a mind; unable to comprehend; lacking intelligence, foolish.

  • Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    The apostle is here dealing with Jews primarily, who, having embraced Christ as the risen Messiah, and yet, continued to seek for justification by the works of the law. The pressure to return to the law has come from zealots within the synagogues.

    But put another spin on this scenario, and you can easily see this also pointed at Gentile believers as well. Having begun in the Spirit, where else would we find them indulging in something that might perfect their flesh? The philosophies and idolatry of the world.
    There is no room for denial here, as Israel was pulled continuously into the idolatries of the world. This attraction to the gods of this world is one of the main reasons we have the story of the ‘prophet’ Balaam. 
    [You find this story in Numbers 22. In essence, Balaam gave their weakness away to Balak, the Moab king, and Israel was destroyed from the inside out as they brought in women from the nations to be their wives and whatever else they were.]

  • “Are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    Perfected is the Greek word epiteleo meaning to fulfill further (or completely), that is, execute; by implication to terminate, or undergo.

    Every Jew looked for fulfillment in the Messiah. Paul merely directed them to Him. So, the idea that they would have been completed would imply an integration, which is precisely what we do when accepting Jesus Christ; we become ONE with Him. At the point of conversion, we undergo an immediate change, one we rarely seem to be aware of from the outside. It is, however, a lasting and eternal change in God’s eyes. But, because we struggle with our beliefs due to inadequate teaching in Church, the promise that we are changed must be rehearsed in the mind of Christ followers far too frequently, as we seem to forget who we are.

We will move on through Galatians 3 if the Lord is willing, but I want to say something here. The men I sit with on Monday, are a microcosm of the unsound teaching you get in Church. Don’t get me wrong, God has given me a love for the guys, but I cannot stand the garbage that the leadership spews out of their mouths every week. The saddest part of this is that this false teaching has been going on for YEARS. The questions these elder gentlemen ask, and the twisted comments they make, prove my point, and, it demonstrates that they do not know the nature and character of this God we serve. A secondary point I want to make is the manipulative way we are evoked to win the lost constantly. Do you not realize that the lost sit beside you in Church; if what Jesus said when He spoke of the ten-virgins, is true (and it is,) then fifty percent are going to be left behind. Are these lost? According to the teachings, I hear on Mondays.

Look, I am not an evangelist, I am a teacher, and teaching is my gift. However, if you sat with me for coffee, you would get an earful of God’s truth. Fortunately, so do the people around me. So, maybe I am also an evangelist and don’t even know it.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, Cult teachings, false teaching, Freedom from sin, Galatians, gentiles, God's character, grace, Hope, hypocrisy, In Christ, Jews, Mercy, Prophetic, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why would a shy introvert have such a craving to teach?

Not that long ago I got set up for a trap by my pastor. I was taken to lunch under the premise of talking about a study I was to lead, but, his plan had everything to do with challenging me about teaching on the Revelation, and speaking about end times events. Strangely, he had never heard me talking on any of these subjects other than a couple of private conversations where I shared my heart with the man. He, operating on presumption, decided that this was all I knew or was capable of speaking about, and he was going to put me in my place. Just out of curiosity, where is my place? The obvious answer to me, is in the arms and safety of my Father, as I do His will. And, if it requires that speak on what I know and understand, then it is teaching, and that is precisely what my heart longs to do.

Why would a shy introvert have such a craving to teach? Because, the Church, in general, is like a bunch of witless sheep, willing to let someone else do their reading for them, and so they have no clue what God’s word says. The other problem is that these Bible teachers we are adorned with, have spewed distortion for so long that most of the Church think God is merely an ominous, angry, and untouchable God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This pastor I mentioned, during his ambush, asked me why I focus on the end times so much and speak about it. The answer to that question became clear recently as my father, within minutes of coming out of brain surgery, had to challenge me by saying, everyone that stands before the Great White Throne of judgment is sent to hell. Several weeks have passed since the pastor’s warning not to study or speak about the end times for five years, so it was befitting to tell him about my dad’s recovery from brain surgery, and the fact that he let me know he was all right by espousing a false teaching he had learned.

Here is what I have come to understand as my motivation for teaching and speaking about the Revelation and end times. That those, and I include myself, who have insight, … will lead many to righteousness.

Daniel 12:3 NASB “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Insight is the Hebrew word sakal and means to be prudent: – act wisely, behaved himself wisely, comprehend, consider, and discern. It also conveys the implications of “giving attention to.”

Lead is the Hebrew word āḏaq: A verb meaning to be right, to be righteous, to be just, to be innocent, to be put right.

So, if I do one of my rewrites, inserting the alternate understandings of the Hebrew, I get this:

Those who act wisely, giving attention to the Word, will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who cause others to be right, and to be put right, will shine like the stars forever and ever.

What if that is the case, where I might be included among those who cause others to understand, be right, and to be put right? I gave myself to pay attention to His Word. And then, there is the admonition from the Book of the Revelation itself, where it says,

Revelation 1:3 NET. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it because the time is near!

Do I read it aloud in the assembly? Occasionally and sometimes to myself; I find that hearing it causes the word pictures to develop in ways that mere reading does not provide. Most often, I sit quietly and let my head and heart busily stir within me, as they are doing now. Sitting with the men’s group on Thursday mornings, we take turns reading aloud out of the book of the moment. (Our next book, in case you are interested, will be Timothy Keller’s, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. Having recently slogged our way through one of his books, I am not looking forward to this.) And, whether the words themselves stir me, or the manner in which it is read does, I am not sure, but, I am always invited by the Holy Spirit to consider something that fits the theme or that God needs to convey. I say all this because I struggle with the possibility that I am merely envious of the pastor with the $1500 suit that used to stand before me; Or, perhaps, the notoriety that the television prophet gets draws in enough money to buy fancy jets and a private island. There are more than enough things going on around me to keep me in my place (whatever place that is,) and besides that, the doors that seem to open, have on several occasions recently, slammed shut in my face. It is only natural to ask why; I even examine myself and ask if there was some role I played in making the door close in the manner that it did. Trust me, our past stays with us, even if it is just in our heads, and those memories still flavor our lives, more than we know. I firmly believe that God can and does use those unsavory events to create the person we are now, therefore events we deem unsavory, have all been, in the end, to serve God’s purpose. Now, don’t get silly with this, thinking that you need to indulge in some stupidity so God can use you. Spend some serious time in His Word, and He will use you.

So, the bottom line for me is, that God gave me this desire and passion for His Word, and it is Him alone who grants rewards for work done. My reasons for getting into this prophetic end times game came out of a lifetime of unfulfilled yearning to understand, and a mother, who told us twisted tales of how she envisioned heaven.

I mentioned to one of the men I sit with on Wednesday mornings that I can thank Joel Richardson, the author of several books, one of which is The Islamic Antichrist. I have always had a desire to understand the book of Revelation, and even when someone like, the late Hilton Sutton came to church, which he did, I would have fifteen minutes of clarity. Sixteen minutes later it was all muddy water again. I can remember thinking, how can anyone understand this stuff, with its seven-headed beasts that die and rise over and over. And then, there were the loud mouths that still insist that we are looking for a Roman antichrist to rise to power. Richardson clarifies all this distorted teaching by showing you from scripture why a particularly distorted theory works or not. I walked away from his book, The Islamic Antichrist, and its scriptural references, with understanding, passion, and a burning desire for more. Those books within the Bible that seemed so incomprehensible, like the Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel, suddenly made sense, as did the other end times prophetic writers of the Bible. Do, I still have to study things out by looking at context, and analyzing words? Absolutely; I think its safe to say, that only a fool would ignore those factors, especially if you are trying to gain insights and prepare for a decent Bible study.

So, what does it mean when, for the past several weeks, I have been barraged with a variety of questions, and distorted misunderstandings about the Great White Throne judgment? These questions challenged me about my understanding and beliefs in God, about God’s right to show mercy and grace, and me, as the underlying question is why do you teach such things  – the same things Paul taught. One religious zealot ranted that the angry, ominous God, is coming and that I, along with those who believe that God is only mercy, will pay because we have made God weak. (Is that even possible?) There is also the brother in Christ who asks me a vague question, which I answered proficiently, only to have him respond back by blending three different doctrines to create another vague question about who it is that stands before God’s throne at the end. To top it all off, one of my closest friends, recently divulged that he was an adamant believer in hellish penalties for all who come to the Great White Throne.

What am I to make of all this?

We, as a church, do not know our Bibles, AT ALL, and because of that, I can safely say, WE, do not understand God’s nature and character.

Do you not realize, that

Jesus Christ is the express image of the Father and demonstrated His qualities and character in every way, shape, and form.

Posted in antichrist, Apostasy, Apostle Paul, bible study, Cult teachings, Deception, End times, false teaching, Galatians, God's character, grace, Hearing God, hypocrisy, In Christ, judgment, Mercy, Prophetic, Revelation, The supremacy of Christ, The Word was God, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I have made my understanding and beliefs known to many. Is God just mean?

Many years ago my life took a nasty turn, and I lost everything precious to me. It has taken years to recover from that chain of events, and yet, I have never fully recovered. You might think that something like this would be considered total devastation, but in spite of my decisions I have found many silver linings within this dark cloud, and one of those was a God I never honestly knew. As part of my recovery, I took a job at a large hardware store, where I was fortunate enough to get the opening shift with some frequency. Those early hours worked out well for me, as I would stop at McDonald’s for coffee and breakfast. While there, I began to read my Bible and write about what I found in it. I had already done my fair share of mouthing off to God previously, and He did not strike me dead, so I knew He could handle my thoughts and questions now. This one person Bible study went on for the seven years that I worked for the hardware store and has continued to this day, some four years later. One way to look at this is, I have spent the last fourteen years of my life intentionally invested, in God’s word.

Prior to this time with God, and after spending a majority of my life in the church, I knew little more than what others told me, and most of it was either not true, or such gross distortions that I could not believe what I had heard. By spending that time reading, I found a God that I did not know, and I found Him to be full of mercy and grace. You see, an aspect of what I challenged God with, was that He make himself real to me, and to do it from His word. Well, he did just that, and now, I cannot separate His nature and character from the mercy and grace that I found in Him. Once I learned these things, they became a focus of my conversations, as I tried to convince others, principally believers, that God, was the opposite of what most think of Him.

As you can imagine I have made my understanding and beliefs known to many, so, I am often the target of their challenges, rebuttals, and criticisms. I was not surprised when recently I got verbally attacked with a comment/question, which went something like this: “I think more people need to feel the wrath of the angry God. You know He is coming back with a vengeance, and those who think they can fall back on a message of mercy and grace are merely asking for hell’s fire.” Is that what I have been doing, merely asking for hell’s fire? How absurd can you be? I can tell you, that I decided long ago, that if I was going to make a mistake in describing God, I was going to err on the side of mercy. Since we should have the understanding, especially if we are the type that looks for God to come down on us, that “we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge.” Then we should be the fearful one because we might just get exactly what we called down on others. Matthew chapter 7 states this quite clearly.

Matthew 7:1-2 NASB “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Another version of the same theme comes from Luke’s gospel.

Luke 6:36-38 NASB “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

I included Luke 6:38 because it is one that gets used with frequency in the faith movement. Pay attention to the context, which has everything to do with a merciful God and not condemning people, no matter who they are, NOT money. The last phrase of the paragraph says, “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” He is talking about our judgmental attitudes, comments, and actions.

Since my last post spoke about the false teachings surrounding the Great White Throne, and how I believe that God scours those books we see in Revelation 20 because He is looking for a reason to show mercy to those before Him. Sadly, that is in opposition to what most people see when they read about the Great White Throne, and here is why. 1. Because it is “the” throne, then, of course, God has to be sitting on it. Well, they are half right, but only because Jesus is God. The entire book of Revelation is about Jesus, and no one else holds the focus. Therefore, it is Jesus on that great throne. 2. Because He calls all dead people to Himself, there is the presumption that these people have no hope, and that is not true. 3. And, in Revelation 20, unlike Matthew 25, we only see the outcomes of those He did not find in ALL those books, and in Revelation 20 their outcome is hell. However, there is a fourth reason people are in opposition to a merciful God; these religious zealots cannot handle a God who gives people entrance into the kingdom without having to resist the temptations and does the hard work of trying to win the lost, that these unmerciful ones have. The sheep we see in Matthew 25, at their the last opportunity, are given entrance into the kingdom (Matthew 20:1-16.) That hope of entrance into the kingdom is our only true anchor and a form of payment. And yet, the sheep gained that same entrance without the years, or time spent. And, though they won’t admit it, the religious mind is jealous and envious, thinking, I could have spent years in frivolity and still acquired God’s mercy and entrance into the kingdom. Or, perhaps not, because this life we live is about faith isn’t it, and where is yours?

A friend of mine, whom I respect much, wrote me back and said, they were judged for their deeds, which focused on their not receiving Jesus. I admonished the readers, at the end of my Great White Throne treatise, to submit to the truth, which is the Word of God, and adjust your beliefs to line up with what that Word says. Note the argument at the end of this parable.

Matthew 20:12-15 MSG ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’ 13 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? 14 So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. 15 CJB Haven’t I the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Ultimately, the decision is God’s and not ours.

So what does Revelation 20 tell about the deeds of those sent off to hell’s flames?

Revelation 20:12 NASB And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

They were judged according to their acts, with NO definition of what those deeds were. There is nothing in this passage or any passage near it, that tells us what got them excluded. We should all know by now, that people will be judged based on what they did with Jesus Christ, not their sins. (You either accept Him, or you reject Him. It’s that simple.) Since sin and deeds, even if they are remotely naughty, seem to be our constant religious focus and can condemn us to hell, as religion wants you to believe, then what was the purpose of the cross?

While there may be a passage that defines this more clearly, Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae spells out rather well the effects of the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14 NASB 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

All I can think about is the fact that, in Christ, the sins, transgressions, and decrees against me, are gone.

The fascinating thing about this letter is that the Apostle Paul walked this earth at the same time as Christ. Unaware that he walked about drowning in sins and transgressions, because, Saul, the Pharisee, was the finest of Jews. The thought that a Jew was unrighteous would have been entirely foreign to him, and because they were Jews righteousness and entrance into the kingdom, were practically a given. That day, when God knocked, Saul the Pharisee to the ground, while on the road to Damascus, Saul had the intent of harming those who followed the WAY; he learned that he had no righteousness and that Jesus was the one being hurt when he touched one of these followers… This sentiment gives a whole new spin to the concept of being dead in your transgressions, for Saul, before his conversion, was just that, a walking dead man.

So Jesus Christ died while Saul, the Pharisee’s apprentice, walked the earth. Because Jesus Christ did that, ALL sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven, and humankind was forgiven. Saul, the Pharisee, was forgiven. Did Christ on the cross change Saul’s life? NO, and if it did, he did not know it, nor did he receive the peace that is gained when you accept that sacrifice.

So who is this God we supposedly serve?

I can comprehend that He is the God who forgave, but is there more?

Without directly thinking about the question, who is this God I serve, I already stated a few paragraphs ago, one of the most significant aspects of who He is.

Luke 6:36 NASB “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

The presumption on my part would be that you had read this verse at some point in your life. If that is the case, then what did you do with that directive? Ah, but you say, we are not under the law and therefore cannot, and will not receive a “command,” even if it tells me to be merciful! But we do have a strong warning from the book of James; why you might also say, its law.

James 2:12 CEV Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free.

Does it say you will be judged, and therefore get excluded, even after Jesus said that no one will ever strip you out of His hands? No, it tells us to ACT as though we will.

If the Laws that brought death and condemnation are to be our guide for how we act, then we would be a sorry lot indeed. Our looks would probably be no different than they are now, as many of the teachings we sit under continually push us back under those laws of bondage. But note how the verse says, “by the law that sets us free.” This law of liberty is the very thing that Paul wrote about in most of his letters. And, he said, I can never go back to the bondage those Jewish laws put on me.

Galatians 2:16 CJB even so, we have come to realize that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua’s trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua and become faithful to him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah commands. For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, no one will be declared righteous.

No one is asking you to put yourself in bondage; however, God is asking you to submit to the grace and mercy that set you free and become faithful to Him. So, in acting like one who will be judged by grace and mercy, the law of liberty, you then speak and demonstrate this grace, mercy, and freedom consistently, to those who need it; that happens to be everyone.

He is our peace.

Romans 5:1 NASB Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 2:13-15 NASB But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,

He shows mercy to all.

Romans 11:32 NASB For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Paul, writing to Timothy, tells this young man why Saul, the Pharisee obtained mercy; as an illustration of God’s patience.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 Moffatt NT 15 It is a sure word, it deserves all praise, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”; and though I am the foremost of sinners, 16 I obtained mercy, for the purpose of furnishing Christ Jesus with the chief illustration of his utter patience; I was to be the typical instance of all who were to believe in him and gain eternal life.

He is the God of grace. Stop for a moment and remind yourself what grace is. It is God’s riches, at Christ’s expense. And, in John’s gospel, this stated as an observation.

John 1:16 ESV For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

John 1:16 portrays the Father heaping his grace upon us. While, Dr. Luke wrote, that we are saved because of the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 15:11 ESV But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The general impression you should have is the Father, and the Son, are exuding grace and mercy toward us, and in us.

How then, do we come up with the crazy idea that God is looking to destroy people?

John 10:27, 28 speaks of those who are His sheep. This life in Christ is not an exclusive club; He desires for everyone to jump in. For those who do, there is the guarantee of His word, which tells us that we will never perish in hell, nor will anyone ever take us out of the Son’s hand.

John 10:27-28 ESV My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

This answer seems so simple, and yet there are those who are capable of entertaining the idea that God does not love some people.

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

How can you feel comfortable decreeing the eternal punishment of so many, when God loved the world enough to allow His own Son to be murdered on a cross. All one has to do to receive this life is believe in Him who made this life possible; his name is Jesus.

The entire reason that we are still here on this earth is that God, in His patience, is waiting for that last one to come into the kingdom.

2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

If you think God is so ominous, then how do you explain the Shepherd, showing mercy to those, who apparently did not go through the proper religious ceremonies, missed the rapture of the church, and fell asleep in death, not knowing where they stood with the Father. You see all this portrayed in Matthew 25:31-46. I will let you look it up at your leisure. Suffice it to say, that given mercy, these sheep that gained entrance to the kingdom have an immediate understanding that they had missed the mark, and yet, Jesus, the one sitting upon the throne, is showing them mercy. The response given by the great shepherd shocked me to my core, as it challenges a multitude of things I have been taught to the contrary. It is because of the simple acts of kindness demonstrated by the people represented as sheep, such as: giving ME a drink when I was thirsty; coming to visit ME when I was in prison; clothing ME when I was naked, and feeding ME when I was hungry.

A part of that challenge to my treatise on the Great White Throne indicated that those before the throne received no mercy because they had rejected Jesus. Scripturally, do we see any evidence of God directly rejecting any for rejecting Jesus? No, but what do we see, in Matthew 25 are people who fed, visited, and clothed JESUS, without even knowing it. What they did was to act as though they had the nature and character of the Father in them. The logic of such a moment gets lost, because how do you have the Son’s life in you, making you theoretically a “Christian,” and not get caught up in the snatching away of the Church? I suppose the answer to that comes from the parable of the ten virgins. This story is an inference to the modern day church; the people who will experience Christ’s return for those who are His.

The parable demonstrates a problem.

Ten virgins (so far it sounds good as all are pure,) get the same invitation (we too have received that same message, and it seems very similar to what the future disciples heard – deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.) They all grab their lamps as though they all seem to understand that this will be a long wait (However, five of them have to good sense to bring extra oil for themselves – this is not a coordinated effort from what we can read, and that aspect makes the story even more enticing.) All of them fall asleep (this fact brings them no condemnation.) Awakened by the voice of the bridegroom, calling them to come, five refill their lamps, trim their wicks and light the oil lamps. Sadly, the others discover they are out of oil. What do they do? They clamor and demand that the others give of theirs (there is something preposterous about this component of the story, not because they ran out of oil, but because of their attitude.) Those without oil are sent by the others to go off and buy more. (I joke as if they had a convenience store where they can get a late night cup of coffee and some lamp oil. But this is Jerusalem, and ordinary people are asleep with their families nearby.) In the process of trying to buy more lamp oil, the bridegroom comes, opens the doors, lets those who have come because they were prepared and waiting for the bridegroom to call them, and they entered. The door was then shut.

What is the problem here? If this is speaking of the Church, then we are talking about a fifty percent ratio of people, who got the invitation and did not prepare themselves, and were, therefore, not ready when the bridegroom called. Now, if these are representations of the church, do they have the nature and character of the Father in them? Were they awaiting His return? In the story of the ten virgins, they all got the invite. But, what did they do with that information, especially since they had a pretty good time frame of when he would come. Besides that, they know where this guy lives and where he is building the home for his bride. All you have to do is casually walk down that street, and you would know that the time is almost here. That information might prompt you to buy more oil just in case, wouldn’t it? Fifty percent of the church is like this. One brother I know, a very genuine man, recently ranted to me, that we have been waiting for over two thousand years, so why are you getting worked up now? I see that as a man with no excess oil.

If you remember, there is a very dark detail from the story of Noah, in which:

God’s description of humanity demonstrates what happens to a world with free choice without the influence of a reborn spirit to restrain us.

People will choose to live outside of God’s control, and their decisions impacted the whole earth, for it was filled with violence, and every thought was only evil.

Acting like civilized people is not what we do, unless, something inside of us is changed.

There is just one thing that brings about that change,

it is our acceptance of Jesus Christ, in a restored relationship with the Father.

Is it possible that you might not have understood that this internal change had come over you?


Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, End times, false teaching, Freedom from sin, God's character, In Christ, Jews, judgment, Matthew's gospel, Our being caught up, parables, Prophetic, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is the Great White Throne only a death sentence?

My father recently went to the hospital for brain surgery; fortunately, it was successful, and he will regain, in time, motor skills that the tumor had taken from him. We went to visit him after the surgery while he was still in intensive care. Though groggy from the anesthesia and morphine they were giving him for pain, and still he had the awareness to fire off a statement/question at me about the end of time, specifically, the Great White Throne. He said something that is a common belief among those at the Monday morning Bible Study. He opened with, “I know you don’t agree with me, but, I believe that everyone who presents themselves before that throne is non-Christians and that they are all sent to the fires of hell.” Considering what he had just come through, it was good to have him back.

I, however, after reading my Bible, have concluded, that my understanding is in complete opposition to theirs. And, I believe I can prove my point through some logical reasoning amidst scriptural backing. With that being said, let’s tackle this false notion about the Great White Throne judgment from several directions.

First, he used the term belief.

So, what is a belief? Webster’s dictionary conveys a generalized explanation of belief that has more to do with a feeling; however, it also has more concise definitions, which I will address shortly.

Feelings do not buy you anything, and our relationship with Christ and the Father, are through faith alone.

Feelings are solely yours, and, though your beliefs may be based on truth, they are most often anchored upon how someone made you feel. In this case, the Bible study leader either, made the men feel good about sending everyone to hell, or, because he raises his voice unnecessarily and slams his hand down on the table he intimidated the men into thinking he was correct in his assumptions, or, they have become inculcated simply because of the repetition of his false teachings.

What I just described is precisely what false teachers do, and you can find this defined for you in 2 Peter chapter 2.

Continuing with Webster’s definitions. A belief is:

  1. A state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.

    There it is, the basis for the belief of many. Since many Church members won’t open their Bibles and read them for themselves, they are compelled to accept, as truth, anything the Pastor, or, in this case, Bible study leader, tells them. In doing so, they have placed their belief in a person, trusting that the teacher has their information correct, and their best interests at heart.

  2. Something believed; especially: a tenet or body of tenets held by a group.

    Sadly, most of the men at morning Bible Study, agree, (almost with a stupor,) with the convictions of the leader and the former elder, who is allegedly keeping false teachings restrained. Since the old elder rarely ever disagrees with what is being said, then he too must believe this garbage. So, what do I gather from this? That the group, in the majority, hold to false beliefs and refuse to accept the truth from the Word, when it is set out before them.

  3. Conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.

    To have a conviction of the truth of some declaration does not work for me, especially in our morning Bible study. The leader can speak with confidence, and yet because he does not apply the notion of context nor allow for similar passages to help define questionable matter, he rarely has a shred of evidence to back his statements. The men sitting there may feel some sort of conviction of the truth (typically some misplaced sense of justice.) But again, he has no evidence for his brash statements.

I won’t burden you with any more examples, but suffice it to say that most of these men fall under all these categories in some way. Sadly, this is the way far too many people acquire their belief systems. Once it became possible for me to attend on a regular basis, I did, and it is because of that involvement, that I can speak from first-hand experience about what is said there.

The leader(s) declare that everyone going before the Great White Throne is sent to hell. Note that I wrote leader(s) and not the leader. That is because one man, (the former church elder,) has been involved with the church in a teaching role, for over 50 years, and never challenges false teachings.

What is their basis for thinking that God would send all before the Great White Throne, to hell?
I can tell you from experience that this comes uniquely from Revelation chapter 20. So, what do we see in this chapter?

Revelation 20:11-15 NASB 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Verse 11 refers to “Him who sat upon it” (“it,”is the Great White Throne.)

So, who is the Him being referred to? Since we have conclusive evidence, let’s look at that.

Revelation 1:1 tells us that the entire book of Revelation is The Revelation of Jesus Christ,

The whole book of Revelation is about Jesus, even if we perceive Him to be God, for that is who He is. So, the person sitting on the throne, doing the judging, is Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 20:12 we are told that John saw, “the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.” As a student of scripture, you have seen the dead popping up at every turn. It becomes necessary to sort this all out, and we will attempt to do that.

Revelation 20:4-5 NASB Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.

All this takes us to the next point.

While God’s wrath will be more than enough to get people’s attention, there will be a secondary reason for the deaths of people on the earth, and that would be the wrath of Satan, as displayed through those who still choose to serve him. Currently, Islam and your neighborhood bully sufficiently fit those descriptions. Revelation 20:4 portrays an innumerable amount of people, who stand their ground, refuse all three aspects of worshiping the beast, and are beheaded because of their refusal. All these components feed into the dead.

But there is one catch. All those beheaded for their testimony, are deemed to be the martyred, saints and are raised to life again upon the return of Jesus to the earth, this is spelled out for us and called the first resurrection. These martyred saints are not reckoned among the numbers brought before the Great White Throne but sit in judgment over the planet during the thousand-year reign.

So, who then is left to be judged when the Great White Throne gets set up?

There is no good way of approaching this without scripture, so here goes. There has already been a game-changing event, and it happened when Jesus voluntarily put himself on that cross and died as the price necessary for the redemption of the entire world. Paul, in Ephesians 4, gives us a small glimpse into what happened during those three days we “thought” Jesus was dead.

Ephesians 4:8 KJV Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

What does Paul mean when he says, “When he ascended up on high.”? He is talking about Jesus dying. Hung on the cross until dead, and then speared by a Roman soldier to make sure, he was declared dead and put in the grave. Then the amazing happened, for He went into hell, stripped the keys to death, hell and the grave from Satan, set the captives free, and apparently took them into heaven with Him when He rose from the dead.

Captives? I can look at this two ways:

First, no one, including Israel, received Jesus as their savior, as we can. Israel only had the option of making sacrifices for their sins. Lacking this personal relationship, is it possible that these old testament saints may have been included among captives? Most religious zealots would consider this idea preposterous, so let’s ignore that feasibility for a moment, and assume that God somehow included the Old Testament saints among the church, and caught them up in the rapture.

If the possibility of catching the Old Testament saints up in the rapture is valid, then they would not have been included among those captives that Christ set free. The captives then were those that died from the beginning of time, as we know it. But then this logic also creates problems, for Christ, as we saw in Ephesians 4:8, preached to the captives. If the old testament saints, and anyone else there were capable of hearing His voice, you would think that they would have accepted Him as the Messiah, and therefore received Him. So, by this logic, they too would no longer be included among the dead, but be in heaven already.

As you ponder the logic of a situation, what do you do with the person who, when confronted by the slain Messiah, God himself who now lives, and yet still chooses to ignore His voice, perhaps thinking that there will be another opportunity? This is unimaginable, and yet a possibility. And, what of Judas Iscariot, a man who most send off to a fiery hell for his betrayal. Wouldn’t he too have heard the voice of the Messiah?

This only leaves us with the second option, and that is the dead who have died out of a relationship with the Father since His resurrection. Since we have had over two-thousand years to supply that number, it could be quite significant.

So, an aspect of this belief that everyone called to the throne of judgment is sent to a fiery hell lies in the terminology “dead.”

In 1Thessalonians 4:13, Paul, in trying to bring some comfort about the dead and our being caught up to heaven, explains by calling those that have died, asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

Just to make sure that you associate asleep with death Paul uses the Greek word nekros for dead instead of koimáō meaning asleep. It is just a few sentences later, in verse 16, that he conveys that those are the “asleep in Christ” he just spoke of, are simply dead. Dead or asleep, it is all the same, and at the catching away of the Church, those “dead” will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 NASB 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Revelation 20:5 Tells us,

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.

The word dead, used here in Revelation 20:5 is nekros. The Prophet Daniel conveys an alternate view,

Daniel 12:1-2 NASB “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

Sleep, as used in verse 2, is the Hebrew word yāšēn: An adjective designating someone as sleeping. It refers to persons in a sleeping state or condition of seemingly sleeping, being inactive. When I apply this understanding to Daniel 12:2, where many are sleeping in the dust of the ground, then it lends itself to the idea of involuntary inactivity.

In a state of inactivity, the dead, we are told, have no thought.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 CJB For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing;…

Psalms 6:5 NASB For there is no mention of You in death;…

Whether they be dead from the origin of time, or merely those since Christ’s ascension into heaven, does it really matter? Many will not go up in the rapture as those who have died in Christ. Therefore, our immediate assumption would be that they will only go to hell. Others will come later, in the form of those who choose to fight against God at the end of the seven-year period. While more will die during the thousand-year reign, there is the uncountable number of deceived, who attempt to kill Christ in the last battle at the end of the thousand-year reign. Once again, the assumption is that they all go straight to hell, as those who have died without Christ. But then you now have another problem as Matthew 25 verses 31-46 describe an entirely different scenario; one in which, Christ, seems like a gracious shepherd who still cares about the flock, and judges the crowd,  gathered here, the nations. While we don’t have the process explained to us, He is showing mercy to some because of their small acts of kindness. In a sense, those He calls sheep have acted as Jesus would have, and in so doing, displayed the nature and character of the Father, God. A benefit, we the religious community apparently cannot give them, because they did not jump through all the religious hoops that most of us have. In acting this way, we have set ourselves up as harsh judges, in opposition to the Father’s wishes and character, which we are supposed to display.

A contrast and comparison between the Great White Throne of Revelation 20 (the judgment of the dead,) and the Final Judgment of Matthew 25, (the Judgment of the Nations.)

Revelation 20 – The Great White Throne – The gathering of the dead.

Matthew 25 – The Glorious Throne – The judgment of the nations.

Great White Throne – Great is the Greek word mega meaning large, or physical magnitude. White means white, and Throne is the Greek word thrónos; A seat, usually high and having a footstool, a throne as the emblem of royal authority.

Glorious Throne – Greek, the word is doxa; glory (as very apparent), in a wide application (literally or figuratively, objectively or subjectively): – dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.

Since we have learned that the dead are merely asleep and know nothing, that does not exclude them from the nations. The nations are merely those outside of a relationship with God. John, in Revelation 20, unlike the strictly Jewish crowd that Jesus was speaking to, John was writing to Jewish believers. We now have a third people group to consider, the church. Anyone out of the original two groups who accepts Christ into their life moves into the group called the Church. Setting aside such prejudices continued to be difficult for the early church, which for many years was a Jewish one.

Matthew 25:32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him

The understanding we apply to Matthew 25 comes from the idea that Jesus was speaking to a strictly Jewish audience. His audience only concerned itself with two people groups, the Jews, and the nations, for at this time there was no church. Since the Jew deemed those among the nations to be idolaters, those from the nations were utterly lost as far they were concerned. The Law and the prophets considered the dead as knowing nothing, while the righteous were understood to have a reward. So, for Jesus to describe the nations before this throne was a given. And the Jews saw no difference between a live gentile and a dead one.

In Revelation 20, although it appears to be God, it is Jesus. Revelation 1:1 tells us that the entire book is a revealing of Jesus. Therefore it is Jesus on that throne.

In Matthew 25 the judge is presented a gentle shepherd. In John 10:11 Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. Do we believe that? Many do not, and anxiously look for an ominous, wrath-filled God, which they seem to find in Revelation 20, as they choose to ignore that this is Jesus alone.

In Revelation 20 we see books opened. Among those books is the book of life. From all these books the dead were judged.

In Matthew 25 there is no mention of books from which to judge. There is, however, this: Matthew 25:32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. What does he use as the basis for separation? I think it is rather apparent even if the passages do not speak of them. These are not indistinguishable cattle, they are people; people of every race and color. In reality, no real distinction, and yet He, finds a difference and separates them, calling some sheep and the others goats.

People from this group were judged according to their deeds, nothing more.

People from this group were judged according to their deeds, nothing more.

Revelation 20 focuses on those not found in the books

Matthew 25 focuses primarily on those who were found in the books. We know this because their deeds were recorded.

In Revelation 20, those not found in the books were sent to a fiery hell. While it makes no mention of anyone that might have been found in the books. Does that lack of mention exclude some from not being found in the books, like we see in Matthew’s account? No, and it points out the preposterous attitude we convey when we speak of a God that opens such “useless” books, if He, the one who knows the beginning from the end, knows full well whose names are written and where. It merely promotes the idea of a mockery on God’s part, and that is not an aspect of His nature.

In Matthew 25, the sheep were given entrance into the kingdom of heaven because of their acts of kindness (works.) While the goats were sent off to eternal punishment.

Something to consider: Both of these groups were judged according to their deeds (we could probably use the words, works, or acts of kindness, instead of deeds.) And, there is entirely NO mention of judgment for sins. Why would that be? Because all sins were forgiven on the cross; and, as much as we might say it from a pulpit, we do not believe it. I know this because we employ the word sin perpetually in religious gatherings, and the terminology is always used as a motive and method of control. Not even God needed to do that. Whether you believe that these two events are the same matters not to me, but what does matter is our flagrant regurgitation of distorted and false teachings that misrepresent the nature and character of God. This is the garbage drives people away from the one thing our hope is based in, the God of grace and mercy. If we are going to make nervy statements, then keep them based in truth. And by the way, the only basis we have for truth is the Word of God, not what you feel or believe simply because your companions believe someone’s garbage.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, Daniel, End times, false teaching, gentiles, God's character, grace, Jews, judgment, Matthew's gospel, Millennium, Revelation, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An extremely ludicrous example. Gal 2:19-21

Although I might have used other translations as I wrote about Paul’s transition out of legalism into the grace of God we find in Christ; the CJB seems to convey what I perceive Paul is saying, the best.

Galatians 2:18-19 CJB Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor. 19 For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.

Operating as Saul the Pharisee, he enforced the legalistic bondage. Although the transition to freedom in Christ began while he was stilled called Saul, his references to the time in which he started destroying the legalistic bondage, started about three years after his conversion to being a follower of the Way, on the road to Damascus.

The idea that he could or would make himself a transgressor by teaching legalism once again is an intentionally ludicrous example; one which would never happen.

Previously I wrote about Paul’s statement, “For it was through letting the Torah (Mosaic law) speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation.” While this may sound appropriate to me, it might not seem right to you, because it is foreign to your ear. The NASB translates the same sentence like this.

Galatians 2:19 NASB “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

Allow me to point out the obvious. There is a huge and drastic difference between the two translations. I am assuming that, as a student of the Bible, you would, of course, want to dig enough to find out what the original Greek is, for the phrase “legalistic misinterpretation.” Here is where our problem lies; there is no direct wording for the phrase “legalistic misinterpretation.”

If I show you the NASB with the Strong’s numbers, perhaps you will understand better.

Galatians 2:19 NASB+ “For throughG1223 N1the LawG3551 I R1diedG599 to N1the LawG3551, soG2443 that I might liveG2198 to GodG2316.

  • For through” – The word “for” is presumed, however, it makes grammatical sense; but, it is not included in the Greek. The word through, on-the-other-hand, is a straightforward word in the Greek meaning “through, on account of, or because of.”

  • the Law” – Strong’s gives us this: nomos; from nemō (to parcel out); that which is assigned, hence usage, law.

    So, what was assigned to Israel? You have to think back to Moses receiving the law (the ten commandments) on Mount Moriah. When you read through Exodus and Leviticus, you find it was not just ten simple commandments, but somewhat detailed laws about cleanliness and sacrifices for sins.

    Why would God need these people to hold fast to rules? Because they had been, with few exceptions, entirely assimilated into Egypt’s idolatrous ways and culture. Proof of this shows up when Moses descends from the mountain with the tablets, and Joshua says to him, it sounds like war. Have you ever thought to yourself, what does a battle sound like? It sounds like screaming, horn blowing, crying, and perhaps, dancing; all of these things may well be what they were doing. In the New Testament, it was Stephen, that gives us, and the Jewish council before him, a history lesson as he describes the idolatrous images they had made.

    Sadly, one of those “images” was Moloch, half man – half bull, that was hollow so that fire could be placed inside of it. With the upright hands of a man, babies were roasted on it to some Egyptian god. And, Aaron, the brother of Moses, made this ghastly thing for the children of Israel.

  • I died” apothnēskō to die off (literally or figuratively): The NASB with Strong’s numbers, has an added dimension, as it references three scriptures indicated by R1. (I R1diedG599)

    Saul, on the road to Damascus, died that day. How is that possible? Having read the story myself, I know that he became blind and had to have someone lead him to the home of Ananias. Ananias prayed with Saul; baptized him; taught him a little, and introduced him to other followers of Christ.

    Nowhere in this process did Saul quit breathing. So, the act of dying has to take on another role in our life, one which we cannot immediately see.

    Romans 6:2 NASB May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

    I am not clear how this applies to the theme, however, there the concept of dying to sin, something which we, as believers, have done.

    Ponder this. The statement conveys that in Christ, we have died to sin. And yet, we are highly capable of rolling around in this “sin.” How does that work?

    Romans 7:4 NASB Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

    1 Corinthians 9:20 NASB 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

    Consider what verse 20 is saying. To the Jews, I became as a Jew. Since Paul was born to Jews – Pharisees, his becoming a Jew was not a question. I would imagine it was more of demand and an aspect of his heritage. However, he is telling us that he enacted these roles with one purpose, to win those who are under the Law. That goal, it seems, was to win those under the Law. Time for some questions:

    – Wasn’t Saul initially under the Law?

    – Who won him over, freeing him from that Law, and how did that happen?

    – Seeing as Paul verbally accosted Peter for his hypocrisy, why does it seem that Paul is now doing the same?

    – Considering how dramatic God was with Saul on the road to Damascus, what would it take to win over the Jew, one under the Law?

  • the Law” – Here it is again, and nothing has changed. Strong’s gives us this: nomos; from nemō (to parcel out); that which is assigned, hence usage, law.
  • so that I might live to God.”

    so” is merely a conjunction.

    that I might live,” Live is the Greek word, zao meaning to spend one’s existence. The additional words are merely presumed.

    to God.” God – Theós; Originally used by the heathen, but in the NT as the name of the true God. The heathen thought the gods were makers and disposers (thetḗres, placers) of all things. [Word Study Dictionary]

    Strong’s concordance merely tells us that theos means of uncertain affinity; simply, a diety.

I like to plug in the other possible words and see what it looks like, so here goes.

Galatians 2:19 in its original condition – “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.”

And here it is rewritten – On account of that which is assigned, the Law. I have had to die off, in a sense, to the law – that thing which I used and it used me. This dying off all happened so that I might spend my existence living a life before the maker of the universe instead of living because of rules.

Eugene Peterson’s message conveys the same verse in this manner,

Galatians 2:19 MSG What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man.

Moving on slowly, let’s look at verse 20.

Galatians 2:20 NASB “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

In contrast, the Message states,

Galatians 2:20 MSG Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

How simple Eugene Peterson’s version makes this whole idea of being crucified with Christ seem, and it is; what makes life in Christ difficult is that the enemy is continually attacking through the primary point of entry, your thoughts.

If you, like Paul, chose to step away from religious legalism, then you can anticipate family attacking you. In some communities, you are disowned or treated as dead. What if your choice to follow the grace and life found in Christ, causes you to suffer verbal abuse at work and you lose your job or social position in life over your commitment?

Peterson’s version emphasizes, “My ego is no longer central.” Is that because somehow, in this process of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, you understood that you were now placing your life in the hands of God, and taking on a new identity, His identity? With our standard pleas for salvation, most of which include an escape plan from hell’s flames, there is little talk of this crucifixion of self, and the taking on of a new identity. I do not think most of us understand this process at all. If you can’t accept that statement, go to a recovery group and listen, as people will verbalize their struggle to figure out who they are. Most still identify with that aspect of their person, that lived on the streets; or, they had a high paying job and could afford a constant stream of drugs and alcohol. Their minds, which have yet to be changed, still think there is nothing more than the quietly tortured life they led.

Don’t think for a second that Paul did not understand this concept, for most Pharisees were married. Ask yourself, do you see much in the way of details about Paul’s life, before the Damascus event? Not unless he tells us. It is possible that the impact Jesus had on him, and the trauma associated with Paul’s expulsion from the Jewish, Law bound, religious council, may have played a role in Paul’s rarely speaking of his past? Maybe. Lacking definitive documentation we have to go on presumption and what others have written about the Jewish social life.

Presumption itself is not that bad, especially when it makes sense and somehow associates itself tightly with God’s design and plans. In our case, His plan of action was to redeem the world, and He prearranged to do it through His own Son, Jesus. Well, that happened, and the only demand placed upon us was to accept His mercy and grace, by recognizing that Jesus, the Son, is the Messiah. The Jewish community calls Jesus the Gentile Jesus, and will have nothing to do with him; however, the day will come when the blinding veil will be lifted, and Jew and Gentile will be able to see. The problem with that is that it happens immediately after the catching away of the Church, during the seven-year period that far too many like to call the Tribulation period. This period I speak of is the time of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth, the Jews, and the nations (Gentiles.)

In church, I find a multitude of opinions, false teaching, and an exhausting lack of grace and mercy. The general theme of the messages has more to do with works than anything else. These “works,” it seems, are done to maintain your standing in God’s grace, or, they are some presumed requirement that proves you are a follower of Christ. Is this what Paul was trying to get across to us? Hardly. Eugene Peterson explains it like this:

It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.”

Why would Paul have this kind of determined purpose and freedom? Because he knew without a doubt that Christ lived in him.

What was the consistent pattern that we see, as Paul came into villages and looked for their synagogue? Almost immediately he began to inform them, from the Law, about, not only the Messiah who lives, but the grace found in Him.

Let’s finish chapter two by continuing with the Message version.

Galatians 2:21 MSG I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Paul says, “I am not going to go back on that.” People make statements like this right after making some definitive assertion about what they believe, or, what they will do, primarily with their life. If you look at verse 20 and compare translations, the life statements are there. A change had come, and it has allowed me to bring change to others; what did that, was the obtaining of Christ’s life inside himself and taking on that identity; it is this knowledge that seems to motivate Paul’s statement, “I am not going to go back on that.”

I am going, to be honest with you. I have moments when I find myself asking, is this heaven thing is for real, because if it is not, and I am merely trying to find some way through this land of the walking dead, then I won’t play by the restraints of decency (scripture calls these restraints of decency, the perfect law of liberty, and it includes loving people.) I think Paul may well have had these moments; but then, there was that vision, or let’s just call it an event, Paul had on the road to Damascus, the one where he saw Jesus. That extraordinary vision changed him and how he looked at the things he had learned from the Law, and about God.

The voice in my head that confronts the decency in me (perhaps that is an inferior way of saying that there is someone out there, called Satan,) incessantly tries to persuade me that I am wasting my time and that none of this is real. It also says, “beside that, there is no hope of an eternal life with the Father, and you will merely become worm fodder when you die.” In moments like this, I cherish the words found in a worship song we used to sing a couple of years ago, which says, I remind myself of all that He’s done, and the life I live, I live in the Son.

I mentioned this song and how it had integrated its way into my life, to someone close to me. Surprisingly, they became adversarial and asked why I would feel that way since I have Jesus in my life. If I, for whatever reason, am being attacked with doubts, does that mean I do not have a firm grasp on what God has done for me and why? Not at all, but ignoring that we have an enemy certainly does not make your life better; it just makes you ignorant. Jesus told us that in this life we would have tribulations. If those trials come in the form of haranguing doubts, they still have to be dealt with, and not through the Law.

As Eugene Peterson’s Message put it, “If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” This entire second chapter of Galatians has been an effort on Paul’s part to demonstrate this concept. The Law, we are told, never brought anyone to Christ. However, mercy and grace have.

If you have ever read about the dreams and visions that many Muslims are having, you never hear them say, Jesus came and condemned me; Jesus, merely told me to follow him, and why. Since many of you live in areas where a flood of Islamic refugees has entered, then you know how violent many of them have been. The legalistic, judgmental side of our nature, demands justice and punishment. Sadly, many of us, expect God to be the same way (this is why many religious zealots will falsely tell you that everyone brought to the Great White Throne is sent to hell.) These zealots want judgment. The problem is that God has forgiven all sin, and will judge no one at that throne based on sin (something we all do, every day.) But, he will judge them according to what they did with His Son, Jesus. And that is why Paul’s final comments are important and vital to this life we lead as followers of Christ.

The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

It is all through faith in the Son; nothing else.

Posted in bible study, false teaching, Freedom from sin, Galatians, gentiles, God's character, grace, hypocrisy, Islam, Jews, judgment, recovery, The Word was God, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s not because we followed the law. Galatians 2:16-19

Yes, I am aware, I already covered 2 Galatians 2:16, but there is always that one last thing, and I am trying to keep the posts relatively short. Read this verse from one of the standards like the NIV, and you get a very impersonal feel. I feel as though I have to read it several times to understand the meaning.

Galatians 2:16 NIV know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

So I opted to try the Easy to Read Version and found that it makes the point without all the religious doublespeak.

So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God. And we are right with him because we trusted in Christ—not because we followed the law. I can say this because no one can be made right with God by following the law.”

Why would anyone want to put their faith in another?

Perhaps out of necessity; possibly their words were convincing; or maybe, they were charismatic and dressed nice. Short of some miraculous vision, one in which you see Jesus (It happens daily,) few of us have seen Him. No one could describe him as a well dressed, handsome man.

Isaiah 53:2 NASB For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

There is a method of approaching others about the gospel in which you, in a sense, defend the message of Jesus with good, solid arguments. This approach is referred to as Apologetics. While I find it interesting that someone can stand toe to toe with some argumentative blowhard, it is not my cup of tea, that and I see my memory to be borderline useless anymore.

As I have read the Bible I never really saw God finding a need to play the Apologetics card. Instead, He merely said, “As for me”; after making that statement He just went on to fulfill the promises made, regardless of what the person He made the covenant with would do. (And yes, I get it, that many of those promises took hundreds of years in some cases.) If you were to ask me, why do you trust God, or, how could you put your faith in Him? I would have to say because He has consistently stayed faithful to His Word. Simply put, He is believable. Take Jesus, for example; He told the disciples what He was going to go through and why. It’s evident that most of those who traveled with Him did not understand what He was telling them, but it did not slow Him down. He still rose from the dead, and many witnessed to the fact that He appeared to them, alive.

All these things give me reasons to believe Him, and I have.

Paul says,

So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God.”

I think, in some way, I wanted to be right with Him. Growing up in church, we went down front to pray, and there repented every week, as though the power of God never took root in us. See, this is what I am talking about when I tell you that religion is filled with false teachings. Sure, the pastor may stand in front of and say you are forgiven, but then you wait for next week because they will tell you what a sinner you are. Understand something. When you put your faith in Christ Jesus, it is a permanent gesture on your part. The Father engraves you on his hand, and you are ever before Him.

I contend that this book we carry around, (at least some of us do,) is a profoundly Jewish book. The subject matter carries a Jewish style at every turn. Galatians 2:17 is one of those places we can see this.

Galatians 2:17 NASB “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!

if, while seeking to be justified in Christ,”

The Jews considered the Gentiles to be wholly idolatrous and lost causes to God. Why then would a phrase like this be associated with a Gentile? It wouldn’t. It would most definitely be attributable to the Jew, as their lives were little more than efforts to be justified, but not in Christ. If you take the phrase on step farther, and consider how the early church was primarily Jewish, up to the point that they balked at the possibility of Gentiles joining in without enduring Jewish rituals found under the law of Moses, such as circumcision.

So, Paul writes as a Jewish believer, that had experienced the concept of trying to be justified in Christ, while performing what constitutes works for redemption religion/faith.

we ourselves have also been found sinners,”

Keep in mind that the sentence effectively starts with the word “if.” This phrase continues to play a huge role in our understanding of what Paul is saying.

  • we ourselves” – The Jewish community of believers.

  • have also been found sinners,”

    Wait a minute. Since we like to read this letter as though it was written to Gentiles, people who as new believers, only have an understanding and background in the newly appreciated grace of Christ, then this idea of having been found sinners, doesn’t make sense. It does, however, make sense when applied to a Jewish community that thought their righteous acts (acts mandated by law, and tradition) made them holy and acceptable to God. It did not.

    I told you that the Jewish community deemed outsiders to be godless pagans. There must have been a realization in some of the Jews that without a relationship with Christ Jesus, there was no acceptance, and therefore no righteousness.

  • is Christ then a minister of sin?”

    This statement could only apply if one had accepted the extraordinary sacrifice offered by the Father, and performed by the Son. The implication then would be that the acceptance of Yahshua as the Messiah sent by the Father, as the prophets foretold, caused many Jews to see precisely how unrighteous they indeed were.

    If acceptance causes this kind of effect, then the presumption is that Christ is the administrator of sin. Is that true? Hardly, as He merely shines a light into your soul through the Holy Spirit; that light shows you the sin.

    Stop here for a moment. Focus on the truth that “sin” is simply your missing the mark of the target at which you are shooting. We have these opportunities to hit the mark multiple times on any given day.

The Greek word for minister is diakonos and means an attendant or waiter. Christ then, would be thought of as being God’s waiter? Sin is the Greek word hamartia, meaning offense or sin. So, Christ would be the waiter that brings you a variety of infractions to use? Don’t be ridiculous.

Galatians 2:18 is a continuance of Paul’s thought and theme, so pay attention. I am going to give you three versions, starting with one of the most difficult.

Galatians 2:18 KJV For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

If I was not paying attention, nor reading with purpose, I could readily be asking what buildings did Paul destroy? The obvious extension of such thought is that committing a crime, such as the destruction of property, makes you a transgressor; a criminal. The problem, however, is that what Paul destroyed was people; in particular, Jewish believers and their desire to trust and cling to things such as tradition and bad religion. (Stop. Am I saying that Judaism is a bad religion? Only if it tries to circumvent acceptance of the Messiah, through a multitude of added on rules and laws, which is exactly what they did.)

Galatians 2:18 CJB Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor.

The Complete Jewish Bible states the case rather bluntly when it says, “if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed.”

Question? Did Paul destroy Judaism? No! But, he did have a considerable influence on many Jews; and, this impact included the Gentiles toward the end of his life. So, when he refers to something which he destroyed, he is speaking then of changes in individual lives.

One more version, the Easy To Read version.

Galatians 2:18 ERV But I would be wrong to begin teaching again those things that I gave up.

The ERV translation makes it personal and prompts us to consider that the legalistic bondage Paul felt was primarily internal. The destruction, on the other hand, was more about what he gave up. If I were to try and figure out what Paul/Saul gave up that day, on the road to Damascus, it is all wrapped up in personal history, Jewish traditions, community status, acceptance on an intellectual level with the Pharisees, and entirely possible that monetary and family issues were impacted.

Vincent’s Word Studies declares,

Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down.”

I also like what Finis Jennings Dake tells us.

If I act like a Jew, and enjoin the observance of the law upon Gentiles, which I have repeatedly asserted and proved to be abolished by the death of Christ (Eph_2:14-15; Col_2:14-17; 2Co_3:6-15; Hebrews 7:11-10:18), then I build again the things I destroyed and thus make myself a transgressor, undoing my justification by faith in Christ.”

Moving forward into more muddy water; we look at Galatians 2:19.

Galatians 2:19 NASB “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.

How did that come about? I am not sure, using this translation that I even understand. So, again, I indulge in alternate translations.

Galatians 2:19 CJB For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.

In the CJB I get the sense of something I had suspected for a long time. The Torah contained the freedoms that Paul taught. Paul, who was well trained in the Torah, expounded this new freedom from example and a fresh understanding, that he obtained directly from Jesus (in a vision.) It was this understanding alone, for over ten years, that has opened my eyes to what I see in the Old Testament, a knowledge of where, Jesus, as a human, obtained the truths and freedoms He taught.

Our Monday morning study leader invited a lady to give a brief testimony. Raised a Catholic, she somehow meets a Pentecostal young man, and attempts to date him. That young man, whom I know personally, got her to come to our Holy Spirit and fire inspired church; at least it was back then. She said that during the prayer time, at the end of the service, that her now-husband said, I am going down front for prayer. Someone nearby told her, you should go down also; and, she did. That night she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues. Apparently, she was sixteen at this point and wanted to please her parents. So when she went home and told them that she was now filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, they exploded on her. She was taken to the priests to bring her back to some form of normalcy for their family. She said, the priest talked with for a time and then stepped out to tell the parents that in time she would be back to normal. When the priest returned she began to describe to him about the love of God, and how he too should be teaching this (at which point she showed him out of Corinthians. As she spoke, she could feel the presence of God fill the room, and she began speaking to the priest in tongues. He again excused himself so that he could talk with her parents. He told them that she just spoke to me in perfect Latin. It would be important to note that she did not know Latin. Well, you might think that everything went great for her, but it did not. The parents restricted her from seeing this young man for two years; however, at the end of that time, the two got married.

What’s the point of this information?

Somehow, this young lady stepped out of God’s way, without realizing what she was doing, and let the “Torah” speak for itself. When it did, several lives were, in time, dramatically changed. That priest and a nun from the school she went to went on to become Holy Spirit filled Catholics (These are known as Charismatics.) As this dear lady finished her “testimony,” one of the men in our group asked a legitimate question; he said, “as a Catholic, did you read the Bible? To which, she answered rather emphatically, NO. We were taught not to, as we would misinterpret what it said.
Interesting, I have heard far too many teach a version of that very thing, in spite of sound bible teachers instructing us to let the scriptures interpret scripture. Sadly, most Christians seem to think no one can understand the Bible and therefore must have someone to teach them. This kind of thought is in opposition to what Paul tells us here in Galatians 2:19.

For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself.”

I perceive from this statement that Paul was able to gain access to the scrolls that were so few and costly that they were only maintained at the Synagogues. There is an alternative possibility, and that would be that Paul relied upon the training and memory of what he learned as an up and coming Pharisee. In reading these scrolls, he was this time, given new and fresh insight. These words were no longer laws to govern, but guides to freedom. As I write these words, images of Jephthah crossed my mind. I have I ever seen him, no, but my mind, as I read the story in Judges 11, paints a vivid picture of someone who would fit the imagery of a motorcycle gang member. Short tempered and harsh as they could come, thanks to childhood abuse at the hands of half-brothers, he frees Israel from its oppressors and goes on to become listed as a hall-of-famer. When you read the story, you see a man guided more by grace and muscles than law (the Torah.) Even in God’s story (if I may call it that,) grace and mercy shine like the sun at every turn.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, Galatians, gentiles, Jews, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With the purpose of getting his family back. Galatians 2:15,16

In Galatians 2:14 we see Paul, recapping his aggressive challenge of Peter’s actions; over an event that may have happened 18 years prior.

But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 NET.

It may be a translation issue, but the manner in which this is stated is an aspect of what I saw as directed confusion.

Let me explain. “But when I saw that (those gathered with Peter) were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all,” The allusion is that Paul had been there with Peter and witnessed the hypocrisy. We have nothing to substantiate that assertion; therefore it is an unprovable conclusion. I could also infer from this, that Paul is seeing the affects of Peter’s hypocrisy show up in Antioch.

Biblically, we are only shown two interactions between Paul and Peter. One at the end of the first three years of Paul’s preaching. You can find this in Galatians 1:18 where it says, I stayed with Peter for fifteen days to become acquainted with him.

The second interaction comes years later after Paul has endured much at the hands of Jews who believed much like Saul did, and at the hands of Gentiles, the Jews were able to rally against Paul. Take a moment of your time to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, where these abuses are detailed by Paul.

With that in mind, where can we find Paul, having enough contact with Peter to witness such hypocrisy?

One of the things to consider, is that we are not given the time frame surrounding his visit to Antioch, and, it may have been that he was there long enough to enjoy the freedoms of grace before others, of the Jerusalem community that still held to Mosaic law, came to visit the Antioch church and Peter as well. This would explain many things. It could easily have worked this way. But we do have some solid evidence in Acts 11: 1-3. What we see here is directly related to Peter’s interactions with Cornelius and his family. Perhaps we will have to ask God for an answer to this question when we see Him in the eternal kingdom.

A commentary or two, tells us that this may not be the Peter we understand to be the Apostle. “When Peter was come to Antioch – There has been a controversy whether Πετρος, Peter, here should not be read Κηφας, Kephas; and whether this Kephas was not a different person from Peter the apostle. This controversy has lasted more than 1500 years, and is not yet settled.” [Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible; Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832); Published in 1810-1826; public domain.]

Since I am not a grammarian, and the things we read are not so black and white, I then have to fight my way through the language and context to sort out what has happened. And, good or bad, you have been a part of that process over the last few years. I feel very confident that all this came out of Peter’s interaction with Cornelius, many years before this letter was written, and I shared that with you previously.

What Paul said to Peter also impacts me, as occasionally someone shares something with me, that causes my religious hairs to stand up. In moments like this, I am reminded, that I have done those very things and I need to back off the judgmental attitude. Knowing that I too operate in an ever-present outpouring of mercy and grace how can I try to force somebody to live like a religious zealot when I could not do it myself! (I changed the wording a bit, so it applied more effectively to me.)

You cannot just attack someone, as Paul did, without giving them some definition of how we are supposed to act and who we are. Without a doubt, a statement like this evokes an excess of questions.

Who then are we, as followers of Christ, and how are we supposed to act?

Ultimately, we look to Jesus as our example, but then he was not provoked by internal brokenness as we are; so living like Jesus doesn’t often seem like an achievable goal.

What then is the definitive pattern for us?

It all boils down to the letters we find in the New Testament; letters that describe who we are and how we should act, such as walking in love – something that I failed at recently.

If, or since, we are in Him, then these attributes are who the Father considers us to be, even when we don’t look or feel like it. In this example, I am pulling excerpts from Ephesians 1:3-15.

  • Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.
  • Chosen in Him.

  • Holy and unblemished in His sight.

  • We have redemption through His blood.

  • Through that same blood, we have forgiveness of our trespasses (sins = merely missing the bulls-eye on the target of life.)

  • We are God’s possession.

  • All this was done so that we would be to the praise of His glory.

    Many, will find this a very self-serving statement. And yet, for me, it is filled with joy and freedom. Freedom because I don’t just feel trapped by this life, I am trapped; trapped in a world of stress and destruction. In Christ, I find acceptance, mental peace, and a hope no one has ever been able to give me.

In the process of believing, we were set aside and protected in our spirit by the Father, until He could redeem His own – (This is the theme of the Revelation and a recurring theme throughout many books of the Bible.)

Why would I say, you are protected in your spirit, and not mention your flesh?
Because Jesus himself told us, that in this world we would have tribulation. Tribulation includes stress, pain, beheadings, and other common and daily events. Sorry, there is no escaping those things; and, there is no denying that most of them will come at the hands of others; many under the guise of “religion.”

As I read those attributes that scripture assigns to me, I get a sense of nobility, as though I had been knighted at some royal gathering of the Kings court.

Lacking all the pretense of nobility, then how am I to act?

As one set aside for the conveyance of the Kings needs, with the understanding that this King loves and cares for those under His charge. If my scenario was real, then what would become of one who refused the orders of the king?

In the natural world you would, at the minimum, be demoted; at worst, killed. Fortunately, for those who are His own, God does not operate that way.  First, we seem to forget daily, that our sins are forgiven and as scripture puts it, cast as far as the East is from the West. That by the way, is an unlikely and infinite number.

Are you then punished for disobedience?

His patience with us never runs out. Here again, the religious, natural mind cannot think of anything but punishment. I suppose they do that out of some twisted sense of justice.

What happens then to the person who refuses to listen to God?

Their mind becomes clouded. Thinking that God is now humiliated by the mention of their name, they create a separation in their mind and turn their backs on God, not the other way around; and that is what most of us do.

An obvious factor, and hopefully you picked up on it, is that while God so loved the world; becoming one of His own through adoption, requires that you accept that He is a benevolent Father. And, that He gave His only Son to die a bloody and violent death for the specific purpose of redeeming us back to the Father (In case you find this a cruel choice, then remember that the Son, willingly gave His life for us.) Don’t believe that? Then read it from Jesus’ lips.

Paul, having gained Peter’s attention, says, to Peter and those listening,

We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16 NET.

But this statement, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ,” indicates that Paul had caught on to something that would change everything, including the narrow, prejudiced world in which he had been raised. This message of grace, was, without a doubt, for all. It was no longer just another Jewish thing or religion; this was God exploding upon the world with the life of Christ. And it was all done with the purpose of getting His entire family back; a family, which now happened to include adopted Gentiles.

What did Paul say?

  • we have come to believe in Christ Jesus,”

    And so have I. If you consider yourself a follower of the risen Christ; the Son of the living God, then so have you.

    They were taught to do anything but accept and believe in the “son of Mary” as the Messiah. What we do not have clear is that the hatred, name-calling, and bigotry ran deep and was present throughout Jesus life. A possible example could come from –

    John 8:39 NASB They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus *said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.

    There would be only one reason to make a retort like this, and that’s because Jesus, according to them, could not prove who His Father was. This takes us back to Mary. A woman with a backbone of steel, who operated under the endorsement of an angelic messenger. And when Jesus was about to be born. Joseph, who has come to his hometown, where all the relatives are, is not given the grace of a place to stay. He finally has to beg for the use of a small stable area. Prejudice, rejection, and bitter feelings? You bet there were, and Jesus dealt with it all His life.

  • so that we may be justified”

    Justified is the Greek word dikaioō and means to render, show, or regard as innocent.

    This idea of making things right is precisely what Jesus did on the cross for us. Think about this; Christ dies all those years ago, with the express purpose of giving salvation to all. Nothing or no one was is being held back from that salvation, as all the benefits involved in this redemption are freely given to all who accept this grace and freedom.

    Ah, but then I was born, and I have done everything wrong.

    Sure, I received His grace; but sinning, I do that every day. The catch is, that forgiveness was granted to me, without regret, over two thousand years ago. I, nor you, will ever be judged for sin, and yes, this is contrary to what many teach; and, I will be condemned for saying it. But, like Paul, I don’t answer to the critics, as they speak in opposition to the Word of God. Besides that, they are not the judges, no matter what they say. What people will be judged for is, what did you do with Jesus the risen Messiah. That’s it. In my case, I accepted Him. What did you do with Him?

Posted in bible study, false teaching, Freedom from sin, Galatians, gentiles, God's character, grace, Hope, hypocrisy, In Christ, Jerusalem, Jews, judgment, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Peter came to Antioch. Galatians 2:11

When those of us who did not go Seminary, read the Bible, we tend to glaze over passages like the one we see here in Galatians 2:11. I think we do that because there are aspects of it that make little sense to us, and, it is difficult at times to find the events that explain why Paul is so angry with Peter, and when this all happened.

As a visual learner, I have become quite obsessive when it comes to studying the Word of God. I have to be able to visualize the event or chronology for things to make sense to me, and this passage is one that frustrates me. Thank God for perseverance and the freedom of time to keep digging, because I have been looking as intently as one might hunt for gold.

So allow me to point out some approximations. The letter written to those in the region of Galatia was written from Rome about 68 A.D., about the same time as the letter written to the Hebrews (Jews in general.) The book of Acts is the second part of a two-part set beginning with the publication of Luke’s gospel. It is understood that these two books were written about two years after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, around 62 A.D. At this point and with this information you cannot make any assessment as to the timing of Peter’s actions that caused Paul to become so hostile toward Peter.

Other events that may give us clues about Peter’s infraction(s).

  • In Acts 9:10 we find Ananias baptizing Saul, and Saul, then stays for some days in Damascus with the disciples (Jewish followers of the way) there. Acts 9:31 demonstrates that with Saul now a changed man, the church began, once again, to have peace and be built up.

  • The interaction with Cornelius comes about in chapter 10 of the book of Acts.

In my Chronological Bible, the authors show us a “time capsule.” In this time capsule, they indicate that Peter’s meeting with Cornelius (Acts 10:25,) happened in 35 A.D. It was this same year that Saul begins preaching Christ as the risen Messiah in Damascus.

  • Herod, on the other hand, becomes prominent in our story in chapter 12 of the book of Acts.

Josephus places Herod in the time range of 37 A.D. – 44 A.D. During which time he has James killed, and Peter arrested, with the intent of killing him also.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains Acts 12:20 in this manner, “On the appointed day when Herod was delivering a speech, the people honored him as a god, and the Lord God judged him with death, in A.D. 44. This account parallels that given by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (19. 8. 2).”

Why would this information be important to us? With Herod gone, those who want Peter killed are effectively gone. Peter then could return to Jerusalem, if he so chose to. That information alone still does not answer the question as to when Peter acted so hypocritical.

It was Paul who told us that he did not interact with others, with the exceptions of spending some time with the local disciples; three years in Damascus, and, after finally going to Jerusalem he spent 15 days with Cephas (Peter), and some brief interaction with James. All of this provided ample time for Peter to tell Paul of his indiscretion, and yet, that apparently did not happen.

Galatians chapter 2 opens with,

Galatians 2:1-2 NASB Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2) It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

If Paul is holding to a chronological timeline, then up to this point he does not indicate that Peter acted hypocritically. When I think about how information transferred from person to person, then I can’t exclude Barnabas as one of the messengers. Regardless of how Paul learned of what Peter did, he was not going to let it go, and hence we see Paul confronting Peter about something which Peter probably has to be reminded.

Galatians 2:11 NET. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong.

This passage makes me uncomfortable on several levels.

  • First, there is Paul’s aggressive and point-blank approach with someone we assume should be given respect.

Peter might deserve respect only because he seems to be part of the Jerusalem council; if not for that reason, one might think he commands a bit of respect simply because he walked so closely with Jesus; apparently, this means very little to Paul.

  • The other aspect that makes this difficult is that I was not raised to be disrespectful to people in authority. Lying in bed, not sleeping, I was thinking about this scenario. The Holy Spirit reminded me to consider the Jewish culture; a culture that still pervades their communities today. They, love to debate. To me, this looks like people on the edge of a fist fight, but to them, it is just another day. I have to force myself to set aside assumption frequently, and one of those assumptions has to do with, how long has it been since Peter has done this wrong? With what I perceive as fury on Paul’s part, I assumed this event just happened yesterday. The reality is that it may have been 14+ years ago.

Because life takes you on unexpected paths, you can develop a gruff persona as a defense mechanism. Sadly, that persona impacts the way you react to people in your life. I have described my persona as being bear-like. Add to this rough imagery the peculiar gift of being a prophet (I say peculiar because after all these years I have no real definition of what a prophet does; I just know that I admired the Prophet Samuel and he hacked up king Agag.) The combination can be rather explosive at times, as I frequently find myself fighting the desire to call fire down from heaven on people. NO, that has never happened, it’s just how I feel, and it comes on especially strong when my pastor unjustly attacks me and then demonstrates how human he is through some false teaching. While you may not be able to relate to what I am saying here, I can see this type of behavior in Paul. Keep in mind that Paul told us that he had this continuing thorn in the flesh, a person or thing that continued to keep him humble. Do you think a man that went around zealously trying to kill those who chose to set aside the traditional ways of Judaism, could have anger issues and hence a thorn in his flesh? I think we can see this in his interaction with Peter.

Try to find any other allusions to Peter/Cephas coming to Antioch; you won’t.

There is only one reference, and it is Paul that gives it to us. In my pursuit of answers, I searched for significant words such as Peter; believer; Gentiles, and finally, Antioch. As a side note, the word Antioch, using the NET translation, located only 18 references to the name in the New Testament (This is where our focus is centered.) The first occurrence is in Acts 6:5.

Since I already pointed out, from the Chronological Bible, that there were established timelines, and how that in some cases they paralleled Saul/Paul’s life with Peter’s. And, I have given you that information above.

Lacking someone else to do a timeline for us, all we have is scripture.

Where is the scriptural proof of this happening? The only place in scripture where this possibility arises is in Acts chapter 10, where Peter goes to the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (A Gentile; but an oddity appears in the description of the man, for it calls him devout. Devout could imply he had quietly become a Jewish convert. Practicality says no, but then how would one be able to make an assessment of a man like this, a man said to be devout?)

Scriptural evidence, or proof, is the one thing we should always have when trying to present an informative, intelligent study or Apologetic (A defense.) And, we have a mandate that nothing should be judged without two or more witnesses. In our case, the witnesses are scripture. Well, the answers are out there (as Mulder and Scully used to say on the X-Files television show,) and I thought for a moment that I had found some evidence of Peter in Antioch, but alas, the majority of translations and commentators indicate that Acts 12:17 is speaking of Herod going to Caesarea, not Peter.

Acts 12:17 NASB But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place.

Although many have commented on this verse, it still brings some confusion because of what Peter says in his instructions to those gathered at the house of Mary. Mary is John Mark’s mother, and, according to commentator John Gill, John Mark is the nephew of Barnabas (That makes sense as Barnabas is a significant promoter of John Mark to be on the missionary trips.) Peter tells those gathered at the home that night, that they were to report these things to James and the brethren. Why, because Peter was getting out of town quickly.

Acts 12:17, as I noted above, tells us that, “he left and went to another place.” The obvious question is, where did he go? We are not told that he shared this location with any of the others, quite probably because it could cost them their lives. I would think that in time it would become apparent that Peter had left town.

I thought for a moment that I had found Peter going North as I followed verses 18, 19. However, this is where grammar comes into play, as Herod, not Peter, is the focus of attention.

Acts 12:18-19 NASB Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19) When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

Note how it says, “When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution.” Those Roman soldiers had clues as to where Peter might be found, and I imagine they brutishly questioned and challenged all they spoke with. If Peter was still there, they would have found him. Not obtaining Peter would surely mean their deaths. So the guards had a strong motivation to do a thorough search, and yet, not a trace of Peter was found. What do I make of that? Peter was no longer in Jerusalem.

Still, presuming I have no timeline, then I have only circumstantial evidence. Since the book of Acts is somewhat chronological, then it makes sense to have Peter moving quickly North toward Damascus, where we are about to find a young man named Saul. But, if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that this Herod episode and Peter fleeing, happened in chapter 12, and here I am in Acts chapter 11, where Jewish followers are verbally accosting Peter for eating with Gentiles. This verbal attack has some similar properties to Paul’s criticism of Peter, which we see in Galatians 2.

Acts 11:1-3 CEV The apostles and the followers in Judea heard that Gentiles had accepted God’s message. 2) So when Peter came to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish followers started arguing with him. They wanted Gentile followers to be circumcised, and 3) they said, “You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!

From the viewpoint of a former Gentile; now grafted into the vine. I desire to understand these relatively new Jewish roots of mine. Maybe that is why I find the conversation the Jewish followers are having with Peter so offensive.

Peter explained his actions and this attack against him in Acts 11:4-17.

Acts 11:4-17 CEV Then Peter told them exactly what had happened: 5) I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision. I saw heaven open, and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down to me. 6) When I looked in it, I saw animals, wild beasts, snakes, and birds. 7) I heard a voice saying to me, “Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them.” 8) But I said, “Lord, I can’t do that! I’ve never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat.” 9) The voice from heaven spoke to me again, “When God says that something can be used for food, don’t say it isn’t fit to eat.” 10) This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven. 11) Suddenly three men from Caesarea stood in front of the house where I was staying. 12) The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry. Then six of the Lord’s followers went with me to the home of a man 13) who told us that an angel had appeared to him. The angel had ordered him to send to Joppa for someone named Simon Peter. 14) Then Peter would tell him how he and everyone in his house could be saved. 15) After I started speaking, the Holy Spirit was given to them, just as the Spirit had been given to us at the beginning. 16) I remembered that the Lord had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 17) God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?

This vision was a green light to freedom in God’s grace, and Peter’s call to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Having had this rather enlightening experience Peter passed on the opportunity. Why? Because of peer pressure? 

In summary, Peter’s hypocrisy may well have happened at the home of Cornelius where for several days Peter enjoyed the freedoms of grace. How and when Paul found out about it is unknown. But, even with the improbabilities of Paul maintaining an intense anger over Peter’s actions for as much as 18 years, it is clear that Paul still dealt with his thorn, which may well be anger.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, false teaching, Galatians, gentiles, hypocrisy, Jerusalem, Jews, Revelation, Things I have never noticed before, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entrusted with the gospel to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:6-10

We pick up Paul’s oration in Galatians 2:6 having described, in the previous five verses, three years in Damascus with only momentary influences from Peter and James. Paul then tells us that after fourteen years of preaching he is now making a second trip to Jerusalem, to visit the church council of the believing world, which primarily consist of the Apostles.

All the while Paul, who had been a Pharisee, engrossed in the law, and a strict holder of Jewish tradition, has been made aware that the Torah and Tenach (the law and the prophets,) held the freedoms we now understand through Jesus Christ. This insight came strictly from conversations with Yeshua himself. What that conversation looked like is unknown; for example, was it a vision, or a very realistic dream, such as Abram had.

You will find God appearing to Abram several times, once in Genesis 12, and here in Genesis 15. Take the time to study this, and you will see a fascinating detail that most seem to miss. Abram is asleep!

Genesis 15:12-21 NASB Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13) God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14) “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15) “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16) “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” 17) It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants, I have given this land, …

Pay attention to the title Amorite. The ISBE tells us the name Amorites is always in the singular like the Babylonian Amurrū from which it is taken. Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians, who had ties with the Assyrians.

Let’s take a quick side trip in the book of Acts so that we can see the specifics of what Paul was doing for fourteen years. Without it we only have assumption to fill in the details behind it all. Some might think Paul just sat on his behind and did nothing? Hardly!

  • In Acts 9 Saul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus.

  • Acts 9:8-18 introduces us to Ananias who prays for Saul and asks that he be filled with Holy Spirit.

  • When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. Acts 9:23-25 NASB

  • When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.” Acts 9:26-30 NASB

With Saul now a changed man, there was peace. The church began to grow and be built up. Moving forward in the fear of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. And everyone said, Amen.

Galatians 2:6 NASB But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me.)” Paul knew well that elders deserved respect, but the knee will bow to no one but the Messiah.
The Message translation puts it a bit differently.

Besides, the so-called ‘authorities’ (it makes no difference to me what their status used to be — God pays no regard to the externals of men), these ‘authorities’ had no additions to make to my gospel. Galatians 2:6 Moffatt NT)

these ‘authorities’ had no additions to make to my gospel.” Whether this means they had no knowledge of what Paul was saying, or they could say nothing different, is not clear. Paul was not a man to shirk, nor did he waste words being derogatory. It would be safe to assume that he continued to preach and teach the message he had received from the Holy Spirit.

On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa (Peter) had been for the Circumcised; Galatians 2:7 CJB

The Easy to Read Version puts it like this,

God gave Peter the work of telling the Good News to the Jews. But God gave me the work of telling the Good News to the non-Jewish people.”

Isn’t it odd how this worked out? Peter was the one shown the vision of the animals being let down, unclean with clean, and he was told to eat. (Acts 10.) This offering of unclean animals and the push to eat them, was, of course, intentional on God’s part and explained to Peter. Only moments later he is called to the house of an unclean (as far as a Jew was concerned,) Roman centurion. God brazenly demonstrated His acceptance of this man’s entire family, by baptizing them all in the Holy Spirit. And, it happened right in the middle of Peter’s sermon. Most would tell you that Peter had been the one initially called to the Gentiles, but this was about as far as it gets. Here in Galatians 2:7 Paul acknowledges that God has now given him the work of telling the good news to the Gentiles.

Some translations leave the next verse out. Apparently, it is an interpretive thought and adds little to the context. None-the-less, I give it to you.

Galatians 2:8 LITV (for He working in Peter to an apostleship of the circumcision, also worked in me to the nations),

And recognizing the grace that had been given to me.”

Galatians 2:9-10 NASB and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10) They only asked us to remember the poor–the very thing I also was eager to do.

The words we see here in verses nine and ten have been so important to me lately, as I have recently been mocked by a pastor about the possibility of having a prophetic gift (This was not something I advertised but came out of private conversations with that Pastor.) I wondered how that pastor could not or would not recognize the grace that God had possibly given to me. Instead of having someone we deem more skillful or mature in this walk we are on berating us; how about they acknowledge that God may have given us some tremendous gift, even if it works outside their parameters?

Question; How would someone recognize the grace that God had given to you?

  • Convincing words.

    I have seen this happen more than once, where fast, smooth talking, people come into to church, and within weeks they are teaching a class. Sadly, only a few weeks later they are gone, offended or bored. Ah, but you might say I am not a smooth talker. If what you are doing is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you might be shocked to know that the power invested in you exhibits itself in daily conversations; especially to leadership. (I am not condoning rudeness. However, the same people you need to talk to, are often those who consistently dominate conversations. They find assertiveness uncomfortable when directed toward them.)

  • Corroborating evidence. The primary source of this is testimony from others.

    Sometimes, in your simplicity, you will speak the most profound things, and think, why did I say that? Watch the responses you get; those people can be your most valuable witness. As I write this, I am thinking of the blind man Jesus healed, on the Sabbath. That man, a few minutes later, went into the temple (well, that makes sense for he was a Jew.) The priests, knowing that it was the man who sat outside and begged, chose not to believe and ridiculed him, even though he could now see. The point being, some will never perceive the grace in you.

  • A significant validation may come from someone who is recognized in the body as being prophetic.

    (I use the word prophetic as it is on my mind; but, I am assuredly not limiting the conversation to the prophetic. In Paul’s case, we are talking about evangelism, something I am not gifted in.)

James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” The right hand of fellowship leans itself towards acceptance. Acceptance allows for freedom. Paul did not start with a mission to the Gentiles but had it forced upon him after repeated attacks from Jews who felt the same way as Paul had.

I spoke of this once before, but because Saul was a well-trained Pharisee, then we know Saul understood the law and the prophets. Gaining insight into the mercy and grace embedded into those texts through revelation may have been an easy task in comparison to teaching Gentiles who knew nothing. Paul, as he was now known, would have had to teach them basics. This new direction would have been quite the task.

Finally, the last obligation given to Paul was to remember the poor. No, we are not under the law, but we do live under the perfect law of liberty, and this should compel us to remember the poor as well.

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