The law fulfilled! – Galatians 3:13-22

The law fulfilled! – Galatians 3:13-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 24, 2016

There are those in our day and age who would have you do a lot of things in order to please God. Eat certain foods, read certain books, do an undetermined amount of penance or rituals in order to gain God’s grace. I have often stated that I believe it is often used to cement their own power or control over folks who allow their guilty conscious to dictate their faith instead of the facts of the gospel narrative. When we do this we begin to wonder if we have done enough in order for God to like us let alone love us.

Paul wanted his fellow Galatians to fully understand that their holding onto an old way of life simply because it assuaged their guilt was foolish. In fact they were placing themselves back under a curse instead of being free in their faith in Jesus alone! The no longer meant anything for those who had placed their faith and trust in the one who meant all the requirements of the contract of God. Let’s discover for ourselves this morning how the law was fulfilled.

READ: Galatians 3:13-22

I remember when I was younger there was an old grouchy man, who was probably the same age I am now, who used to come out of his house and yell at us for walking across his yard. He lived on the corner and I used to think he laid in wait to jump out and curse us for doing so. However, the curse Paul related to was the curse of the Law of Moses and he tells the Galatians that…

I. We are redeemed from the Law’s curse! (Vv. 13-14)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

1. Here we discover that Paul uses legal terms in talking about the Law of Moses. The reason was obvious for Paul and any of his fellow Hebrews; the Law of Moses was a contract between God and his people! And we discover Paul reminds us that “Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming a curse for us”! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse because of Jesus! The curse was the fact that no one could keep the law and would therefore be guilty all the time in breaking it! James, Jesus’ half brother would write, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”(James 2:10 NIV) Yet Jesus took the curse (guilt) upon himself “for it is written” Paul related that “cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree”; the “tree” here refers to the cross Jesus was nailed to. The Jews considered anyone who was crucified as “cursed” or guilty because of this and deserved what they got. Why then would God decide to come as Jesus and take this curse? Paul reasoned that Jesus did this “in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles (all of us) through Christ (Messiah) Jesus”! “The positive side of Paul’s argument emphasized that there is hope for all who have broken the Law and are therefore under its curse. That hope is not in man but in Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) What the Hebrews could only hope for and what David had longed for now came by faith “so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” The contract of God was paid for and the guilt taken away by the promise of Jesus. The Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe proves we are sealed in Jesus our Redeemer! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse!

EXAMPLE: Money is a necessary part of life. Without it, we couldn’t secure the necessities or luxuries of life. But there are things money can never buy. Money can buy things but it cannot buy the presence of God. Money can be used to bribe one’s way into political and preferential treatment but it will not buy the respect of God. Money can buy phony accolades and grease the palms of the corruptible but not one’s way into heaven. Money is used to redeem its worth for goods and services and is a promise of payment. The Law of Moses could make one feel better for a period of time but it could never redeem one from their sins. It could never make one holy before the Lord, but Jesus could and did pay the debt we could never pay through his redeeming death on the cross! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse!

My father hated it when one of us kids lied. For him lying was one of the worst things a person could do. In fact, when he said he would do something, he would try his hardest to get it done. That is what a promise is all about and when it comes to the promise of God, it truly means something. The law was simply a shadow of things to come and God had promised something far greater. Paul relates…

II. Jesus is the Promise we need! (Vv. 15-18)

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

1. Paul’s opponents might argue that Abraham was indeed justified by faith, however, the Judaizers would then argue that the Mosaic Law which was later entirely changed the basis for achieving salvation. So Paul related, “Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life: Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant (contract) that has been duly established, so it is in this case.” Just as a properly executed contract was legal and binding, so are the promises of God! God made a contract with Abraham and these “promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed”, Paul patently wrote them. He then explains what he means by using the term “seed”. “The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ”, meaning the Messiah. Was Paul using semantics in his argument? Yes he was because what he meant was that “The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant (contract) previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.” The Law of Moses was a contract which promised the Messiah would come through him; he would be Abraham’s “seed”, his inheritance, his future promise fulfilled! And like any seed that is planted (promised) it bears fruit. In this case, Jesus Christ! So Paul rightly argues that “if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but in his grace (God) gave it to Abraham through a promise”! And God’s promise is as good as and therefore even more binding than any legal contract because it was done by God’s grace! Jesus is the Promise we need!

EXAMPLE: It is that time of the year when politicians promise the moon and forget them as soon as the ballots are cast. I find it truly depressing that we hear the same tired promises and things never change. This is why so many have supported candidates who are outside of the mainstream. They are tired of hearing the same tired promises without seeing anything getting done. Instead of one proclaiming “I’m with her!” perhaps it would be better to hear, “I’m for you!” I do know one thing for certain; nothing will change until people change. Like Paul I believe Jesus is the Promise we need!

Some concepts are tough for people to understand and they just do not seem to get them. What happens if you break the law? You will be punished for it, unless you’re like some modern politicians, then you can run for President! Paul gives his readers a lesson in exactly why the law of God was given to Moses in the first place and he should know, he was a legal scholar! He relates that…

III. Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled! (Vv. 19-22)

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

1. Like a good school teacher Paul then asks his readers a question they would have to try and find the answer for, “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” For those who continually skirt the law or break the law they would tell you it was there to make their lives miserable. But Paul is speaking about the Law of Moses handed to him by God himself. He answers that “It was added because of transgressions (our sins) until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise referred had come.” We needed the law to show us just how horrible sin was and to show us how impossible it was for us to live holy lives! Add to his that the law was inferior because of the way it was given! “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” Angel here does not mean heavenly beings but rather God himself and the earthly messenger Moses! In continuing his legal lesson Paul reminds us that “the mediator (the contract), however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.” Contracts or covenants always represent several parties and here it was God and mankind! The Judaizers would argue that God gave Moses the law and that was all there was to it, but Paul knew what they knew. Namely no one could keep the entire law and that in fact God did not give it to us to save us! So Paul asks, “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” And the final answer for Paul was that “the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” Paul knew that “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

EXAMPLE: Recently we panted vegetables in our garden. Every day we go out to see if the seeds we planted are growing and producing a crop. The beans we planted were supposed to be bush beans but came up pole beans instead. So you cannot even trust the packets the seeds came in! The Law of Moses was merely a seed of what would come to fruition in Jesus. God’s Law was a contract that he would never break, but he would fulfill it and he did in Jesus! What the Law could never do Jesus did and the promise was completed in him through our faith. Therefore our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

Conclusion:

We are redeemed from the Law’s curse! Jesus is the Promise we need! Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Submerged! – Psalm 139

Submerged! – Psalm 139
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 17, 2016

How confident would you be to have someone follow you around for a month and write down everything you did and then publish it online for the entire world to read? Now I know some of you are thinking, “They would be really bored!” Some of you might say, “Who cares?” And then there are those of you who already do this, it is called Facebook and Twitter! Yet even these social media sites are not the same as having someone expose your every waking moment. And what if they included your private thoughts as well? Now that is a whole different matter, isn’t it?

Yet the Psalmist David was willing to have God do this very thing. How in the world could he be that confident with his life? I mean if we read what has been written about David you would think he would have been a bit more circumspect about wanting God to search him and know him. David was not always a nice person nor did he always honor God so how in the world could David ask God to know him in this way? I believe it has to do with how David viewed God, how God views us, and if we are truly willing to be submerged in God!

READ: Psalm 139

David understood that if one desires a life that is rich and full in the Lord it must starts with…

I. Knowing that God knows you! (Vv. 1-6)

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

1. David understood that God was omniscient that is all knowing. God knew David completely just as God knows each of us completely. David writes, “O Lord, you have searched me and know me.” Now this was not some kind of doddering old dude who kind of smiled at David and his mischievous ways, but rather a holy all knowing being who intrinsically knew David thoroughly. God had searched David! Could you say like David that God knows you this way? David says, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Wow! David is readily admitting God’s knowledge of him as if he had scoured every detail of David’s life and thus knew him intimately. In fact, before David spoke, God knew what he would say: “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” How could God know this much about David, because God hemmed David’s life completely! “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” Being known by God is not confining, rather it is freedom for those who love God! This is why David concludes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Being submerged in God begins in knowing that God knows you!

EXAMPLE: In the books by Tolkien we discover an evil presence in the country known as Mordor. Mordor was a black volcanic ash plain located in the southeast of Middle-earth to the East of Gondor surrounded by three mountain ranges. Supposedly there existed an all seeing eye of evil known as Sauron. Sadly, there are those in our day and age who actually see God in this vain; as some all seeing eye who looks for only the bad in people in order to punish them for their impudence. God is nothing like this because for David God was the Creator who knew him intimately and loved him in spite of his personal faults. For David being submerged in God began with knowing that God knows you!

There are those of us who fool ourselves into thinking that God is not aware of every area of our lives, this is simply not true. If one wants to be submerged in God David relates it begins with…

II. Knowing you cannot go where God is not! (Vv. 7-12)

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

1. After stating what he did about God searching him completely, David laments the same accusations those who are caught in sin often do, they begin to blame God! David asks, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Of course the answer is nowhere because God is everywhere: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” While we may want to escape God’s presence in our lives the truth is we cannot, ever. There are those who think that by running away into deeper sin, they can escape God; just like the prodigal son thought. Surprise, God is already there waiting for you! In his hypothetical assertions David knew that heaven is not too big for God nor is death, Sheol below. My mother used to quip, “You have to get up pretty early to fool God!” Of course she meant you could never get up that early and David understood this as well, he writes, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” No matter where we try to flee into sin or where we fall into sin, God is there. His calming, protecting, and strong “hand will hold” us “fast”. Trying to escape into further sin does not hide a person from God’s presence: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” David knew that we are already submerged in God! This understanding comes in knowing you cannot go where God is not!

EXAMPLE: Jesus would later tell his disciples that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for them! And that in fact if they believed this then no one could snatch them from the Father’s hand because he and the Father were one and the same. Jesus is God. Just as God understood the Israelite’s plight in Egypt, just as he understood David’s weaknesses, he understood ours and sent his Son to redeem us! David would rejoice and declare, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” This was a comfort to David in that knowing one cannot go where God is not!

In today’s world there are those who falsely think they are not accountable to anyone; so much so that their view of the sacredness of life has been lost. They do not care what they do with their lives and so they do not care what they do to others. David knew this was not true because being submerged in God begins in…

III. Knowing God created us! (Vv. 13-17)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

1. For David God was unknowable because he was God. He was always present, he was all knowing, and he had always existed. And as David looked at what Moses and others taught about God with his own experiences with the Lord, David could only say, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God knew all about David when he created him in his mother’s womb. As David pondered this he could readily say, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Every person has value and each of us is unique to God because he has made us so! David knew this “full well”, completely because of what he understood about God. David realized that his “frame”, his body, was not hidden from [God] when [he] was made in the secret place”. All life is sacred because God sees us as “wonderful” and each of us are “wonderfully made”! God has “woven” us all “together in the depths of the earth”; the idea is one of being embroidered or knit by God’s own hand. Of course this is metaphoric but David wanted to emphasize God’s creative nature and his individual love for us because when this occurred God “saw [David’s] unformed body”! Added to this that God knew “All the days ordained” for David and they “were written in [God’s] book before one of them came to be”! This therefore led David to conclude, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Knowing God created us!

EXAMPLE: As we study more and more about the world and creation around us we learn that there is great knowledge at work. From the chromosomes in our DNA, from the smallest cells to the largest animal ever existed we find the handiwork of a wonderful being at work. An all knowing God knows his creation. Just as an artist knows each work they lovingly sweated over, agonized through, and joyously presented. David understood that if we wanted to know God more and be submerged in him it begins with knowing God created us!

David was far from perfect but we know that David was a man after God’s own heart. If you want to be submerged in the Lord as David was…

IV. You must know God! (Vv. 18-24)

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1. Knowing God created him led David to conclude that the Lord’s plans for his people are most precious and in fact those plans are infinite so David concludes that “Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Just as Paul would one day understand that for him to “live is Christ or to die is gain”, David finally realized that “When I awake, I am still with you.” Whether he was alive or dead, God was there. Yet David incorrectly concludes that if God is there with him and knows him, then why doesn’t he destroy those who personally hate him? David laments, “If only you would slay the wicked, O God!” Rightly so David wanted nothing to do with evil people and he cries, “Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!” And if they were his enemies weren’t they also God’s enemies? David tells God, “They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.” While David understood God loved him, he misunderstood God’s nature. If the enemies of the Israelites enslaved them and tried to get them to worship pagan gods, God was jealous and would respond; but often God allowed his people to be punished for their own sin. This is why, like a petulant child David whines, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” Yes, David did, but David was just as guilty of his sin even though he declared, “I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” Like many of us David is tacitly bargaining with God. It does not work. I believe David knew this to be true and in the midst of his lamenting, he realizes his condition and openly confesses to God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” If one wants to be completely submerged in God, bargaining with him never works. Only open and honest confession does. David understood that you must know God!

EXAMPLE: I find it kind of humorous that there are those who call themselves atheist, meaning “no god”, yet they are so concerned that others would believe there is a God. Of course they will say they do not want others to live in the ignorance of believing a myth. Yet if this “myth” is true, what then? And hasn’t this “myth”, by their definition not mine, has in fact created a far better world? Of course they would try to tout the wars or evil done in the name of religion and would want you to forget all about the horrendous things done by mankind in the name of science or humanism. Where racial, political, or societal genocide was endorsed, millions slaughtered through abortion, and whole populations unknowingly experimented on in the name of science and knowledge. Only when one is honest about their nature can one understand the true nature of God. It begins with asking, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” To be submerged in God one must know God!

Conclusion:

To be fully submerged in God it begins in: Knowing that God knows you! Knowing you cannot go where God is not! Knowing God created us! You must know God!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Abraham our example! – Galatians 3:6-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 10, 2016

My Dad stood in the water of the pool and asked me to jump into his arms. I was scared to do so but I also knew that my father would catch me and nothing would harm me. So I took the leap and jumped into his waiting arms. Our faith walk is very similar in that we are asked to walk with Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We just have to take that first step and trust him to lift us up and carry us through life.

We marvel at another’s faith and wonder how in the world they can live so full throttle for God. What we fail to realize is the fact that these great men and women of faith were and are just like us. They have the same fears, the same doubts, and the same failures and yet have learned that the righteous will live by faith. Paul fully understood this and wanted the Galatians to understand it as well. Let’s discover what this means for all of us this morning…

READ: Galatians 3:6-12

Paul knew that if the Galatians had allowed themselves to fall back into their old way of life instead of their confidence in Christ they were in danger of losing what they had gained. Paul reminded them that…

I. Abraham gives us the example of faith! (Vv. 6-9)

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

1. Paul knew that the Galatians would need an example they could not only understand but that they could also see themselves in as well. Abraham fit the bill for Paul for several reasons: Abraham had faults like each of them, Abraham was respected by the Jews because he was the founding father of their religion, nation, and faith; and Abraham was before the Law of Moses yet he loved and followed God. Abraham was known for his faith! So Paul told them to “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” If they believed this then they were Abraham’s children! Being the founding Patriarch of the Hebrew nation Abraham was the father essentially of them all! They needed to understand then that their faith made them children of Abraham more than their history did! In fact, Paul relates, “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham”. Paul then reminds them exactly what the Scripture said about Abraham, that in fact “All nations will be blessed through” Abraham! But was it for their biological connection? Paul did not think so, and “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith!” Paul would eloquently write another church struggling with this, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:28-31 NIV) For Paul, Abraham gives us the example of faith!

EXAMPLE: Galatians and Hebrews are two of my favorite books of the Bible, why, because they go hand-in-hand together in teaching that one is to live by faith. Hebrews reminds us that, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV) Hebrews goes on to explain that Abraham left his home in Ur of the Chaldeans because God asked him to and by “faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10) And lest we forget it was “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:11-12 NIV) Abraham gives us the example of faith!

For Paul any retreat in one’s faith was an abomination especially after one had experienced the grace and mercy of God freely through Jesus. Those who had put so much trust in the Law of Moses had forgotten that in fact that…

II. Abraham gives us the example for life! (Vv. 10-12)

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”

1. For those who think they could massage their guilt away by doing more and more good works, they have forgotten the eternal truth that the grace of God through Jesus did away with all that. James, Jesus’ brother, would write “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10 NIV) Jesus came so that we were no longer held by the demands of following all the rules, regulations, and nuances of the Law! The Law of Moses was finished, completed in Jesus therefore “All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'” The curse was found in the fact that a person had to keep the Law in its entirety or they were guilty of breaking all of it! When we allow ourselves to fall back into record keeping we enslave ourselves to others who want to control our lives and to our emotions instead of the truth of Scripture. “Contrary to what the Judaizers taught, the Law could not justify; it could only condemn. Paul quoted Deuteronomy 27:26 to show that the Law demanded perfection and that a curse was attached to failure to keep any part of it.” – (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Therefore, clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, “The righteous will live by faith”, just as Abraham did! Yet there are those who think that if they combine the two, the grace of Jesus and following the Law of God then isn’t that better? The answer is absolutely not! You pervert what Jesus accomplished! Jesus came to show that the scheme that anyone can gain God’s acceptance by their human effort is bogus. Why? Paul explains, “The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.'” One would continually have to watch what they do, when they do it and why they did it in the first place! And then, make sure they were doing all the strict obligations required of them to momentarily do away with any sin until they sinned again! Either one lives by faith or they don’t. Paul knew that because of who Abraham was and the model he had given to all Hebrews and all believers that Abraham gives us the example for life!

EXAMPLE: There is the story told of an older man who accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and as he made his way forward to publicly proclaim his faith, he was overheard whispering over and over, “I am dead. I am dead. I am dead.” Afterwards as he made his way back to his seat he clearly and loudly proclaimed, “I am alive! I am alive! I am alive!” When he was facing his death for his faith in Jesus, Paul would write the Philippian church, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul was no longer under the curse of the Law but was found alive in his faith! (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) This is why for Paul; Abraham gives us the example for life!

Conclusion:

Abraham gives us the example of faith! Abraham gives us the example for life!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Foolish or wise! – Galatians 3:1-5

Foolish or wise! – Galatians 3:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 3, 2016

Did you know that at the beginning of the Revolutionary War less than 20% of the population was supportive of our being a free nation no longer ruled by a king? It sounded foolish to many who saw themselves as loyal monarchists and supportive of their king in England who could not have cared less for their security. Yet as those who saw this as a means to throw off the tyranny of a king were able to present their case and as the results of heavy taxation, suppression of free speech, and the confiscation of private property in the name of the king the populace began to see what it meant if they lost their inalienable rights to be free people. Was it foolish or wise?

There are those today who would use their political office to suppress the free speech of its citizens; perhaps we need another revolution? Not necessarily a violent one but a political one. There were those who were foolishly returning to the tyranny of spiritual slavery in trying to garner God’s grace after tasting the freedom Jesus brought by faith. Instead of being wise they were being very foolish. There are those today who would have you do the same thing and give up your freedom in Christ. What does this mean?

READ: Galatians 3:1-5

Why would anyone want to throw away freedom for slavery? Yet there were those who willingly do so every day. Whenever we try to appease God and give up our freedom in Jesus, we are foolish!

I. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! (Vv. 1-3)

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

1. It can be frustrating to try and talk with someone who thinks they know what is right for their lives and yet are making a huge mistake in taking the unwise course they are. Sometimes you want to yell at them, “How stupid can you be?!” Yet this often does not have the desired affect one wishes, however, Paul does not pull any punches in writing to the Galatian church that he had invested so much of his time and effort in. He was not going to let them go down without a fight. Paul bluntly confronts them, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” The only explanation to the Galatians spiritual culpability was that they had to have been “bewitched” somehow. The idea is one whereby they were distracted, kind of like the dog Doug from the Disney movie “Up” is when he thinks he sees a squirrel! Paul relates, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” They had heard and seen for themselves how Jesus had died on the cross to gain their freedom by faith, yet they were willing to return to their old spiritual slavery. Paul is incredulous and bluntly asks them, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Their blind obedience to following the law had lead them only to their own spiritual death and they had seen and learned for themselves what Jesus had freely done for them! They had once believed in Jesus! “Are you so foolish?” Paul continues. Evidently they were. “Squirrel!” See what I mean? “After beginning with the Spirit, [were they] now trying to attain [their] goal by human effort?” Yes they were! Wow! They readily threw off their freedom and willingly wanted to be chained back to the law of sin and death! Hebrews reminds us that ” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19 NIV) Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!

EXAMPLE: “The American Revolution was a civil war based on who would rule in the Thirteen Colonies. Families were often divided as war forced colonists to choose sides in a conflict that remained for many years uncertain. Colonists, especially recent arrivals, often felt themselves to be both American and British, subjects of the King, still owing a loyalty to the mother country.” At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King’s Men. “Historians have estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the 2.5 million whites in the colonies were Loyalists, or about 500,000 men, women and children.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_%28American_Revolution%29) Patrick Henry expressed the Patriot viewpoint when he stood and cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Henry knew returning to the fold of Great Britain was no answer. Why return to the slavery of tyranny when one had experienced personal freedom? Paul understood the spiritual concept and one’s freedom in Jesus. Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery!

Why do folks think they can do something better than God, yet there are those who do! Perhaps they think God will look the other way and excuse their foolishness? The Bible tells us otherwise and this is why…

II. Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ! (Vv. 4-5)

Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

1. We do not know what it means to truly suffer for our faith. Being rejected by our family, friends, or co-workers for our faith is not the same thing no matter what we think. Yet there are those who willingly give up on their new found spiritual freedom only to return to the spiritual enslavement of rules, regulations, and requirements. I always laugh when someone knocks on my door and wants to share with me about Jesus only to discover that what they want to share is spiritual enslavement. Either they want you to worship a con artist as a prophet, rewritten manmade Scripture, or their own convoluted addition of certain days of worship or the inclusion of not eating certain foods! The Galatians were going backwards in their faith practice. Peter would later come to his senses and call these people “false prophets” and “springs without water and mists driven by a storm”. (2 Peter 2) In fact, Peter would write that “They promise… freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,” and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'” (2 Peter 2:19-22 NIV) Paul asks the Galatians, “Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing?” because they had suffered from their own Jewish brethren. They had seen how believing Jesus had worked among them: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” These miracles were not the result of the works of the law of Moses but from their faith in Jesus! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” For those caught in the midst of the fighting between the Sons of Liberty and British Loyalists this might have brought them some kind of comfort but the reality was totally different. On October 1, 1774, in response to the deteriorating relationship between the American Colonies and Britain, the First Continental Congress decided to prepare a statement to King George III of Great Britain. The goal of the address was to persuade the King to revoke unpopular policies such as the Coercive Acts, which were imposed on the Colonies by the British Parliament. It became evident that the Crown had little interest in forming good policies that would benefit both sides. Why let go of a cash cow when the cow was so far away? Perhaps it would do us well to remember General John Stark’s motto, “Live free or die!” Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

Conclusion:

Paul wrote it was foolish to return to spiritual slavery! Paul related it was wise to stay free in Christ!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God’s love and our duty! – Galatians 2:11-21

God’s love and our duty! – Galatians 2:11-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 26, 2016

There are folks who confuse God’s love with carte blanche which does not exist anywhere within the pages of Scripture. The love of God for us is founded in the person of Jesus and he was not some quasi mushy-hearted let it go good time fella. God does not wink at our sin in any form nor is he accepting of our halfhearted excuses for deliberately trying to circumnavigate our way into his presence through our own convoluted view of who he is. The Bible makes it plain that the gospel is all about God’s love and our duty.

Paul knew this to be absolutely true. While God accepts anyone from any circumstance he does not accept their sin. In fact, God sees it as abhorrent and totally contrary to his holy nature. This is why Paul got so upset with those who were trying to lead the Galatian Christians astray and back into a works oriented faith practice. And Paul was not afraid to stand up to and toe-to-toe with anyone who thought otherwise. Let’s discover what Paul says about God’s love and our duty…

READ: Galatians 2:11-21

In standing up for the gospel message and that it is by faith alone in Jesus alone…

I. Paul was willing to stand up to anyone who would say otherwise! (Vv. 11-13)

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

1. For Paul the message of the cross and the empty tomb proved that we could never earn our way into heaven or God’s presence and so “When Peter came to Antioch” Paul related that he “opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” Peter proved his wrongness by his actions. This is just as true today with those who try to doublespeak their way into heaven by making allowances for their ungodly actions, but sometimes actions speak louder than words! Peter was guilty because “Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.” There it is, Peter’s past was catching up with him. In this Paul found it necessary to oppose Peter. Peter, through his actions threatened to compromise the gospel message. “Peter’s conduct in Antioch produced a tense face-to-face confrontation between two Christian leaders.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) In fact we discover that “Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.” By golly Peter was very human in his actions, wasn’t he? He was just like many of us! He tried to blend in with the “in” crowd instead of taking a stand for his faith. Paul would have none of it and was disgusted that even “The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” How awful that a beautiful soul like Barnabas was being lead into their duplicity! But this is what happens when we willingly compromise our faith for the sake of being accepted by others; we influence others into a weaker faith practice and walk. This is why I am glad that Paul was willing to stand up to anyone who would say otherwise!

EXAMPLE: “Stand up!” shouted the drill instructor to the young man who lay prone at his feet. “Stand up and be counted, be the man you are meant to be sailor!” Perhaps this is what Jesus is saying to those who say they have placed their faith and trust in him but back away from declaring it when confronted by others. We are to stand up and be the believers we are meant to be in him. The spiritually weakened world needs a strong faith that does not turn back. Paul was willing to stand up to anyone who would say otherwise!

In standing up to those who would try to confuse the gospel message with works or returning back to the law…

II. Paul knew it is only our faith in Jesus that justifies us! (Vv 14-16)

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing 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 observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

1. There are some things in life that a person should never back away from and one of them is what one believes about Jesus. Paul was adamant about what he believed concerning Jesus and his salvation by faith alone. For Paul it was foundational. Everything else one does in their faith walk comes from the fact that it is faith alone that saves a person. So, Paul continued by telling the Galatians, “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.'” Paul confronted Peter with his past and his present situation. Peter was a Jew, yet his faith was the same as a Gentile’s faith! And Peter did not live any longer as a strict Jew; he lived in the freedom of his faith in Jesus, not by the chains of the law! How was it then, that Peter would “force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” What hypocrisy! Paul then got a bit sarcastic in his admonishment of Peter and publically reminds him, “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” If the law could have saved anyone by following all of its rules and regulations then Jesus did not have to come and die for anyone! Paul was intimately aware of this fact because he had been enslaved by his Jewish customs all of his life! Peter should have known this as well! Like Paul Peter had lived his entire life under Jewish law and now was free in his faith of Jesus! This is why he related, “So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” Peter was denying his Christian liberty in order to be accepted by his fellow Jews instead of Jesus! Such behavior needed to be exposed and Paul willingly did it because Paul knew it is only our faith in Jesus that justifies us!

EXAMPLE: It is easy to try to blend in to the world around us. It is in our human nature not to stand out in any way in order to protect ourselves. In doing so we begin to acquiesce or compromise our faith around others in order to be liked. We also begin to justify our sinfulness. Peter had begun to do this very thing and in doing so he was telling new believers that it was Jesus plus something else. Our faith is never Jesus plus anything else. Paul knew it is only our faith in Jesus that justifies us!

Being justified is one thing but afterwards there is more to life and this is why…

III. Paul knew it was our duty to live for Jesus! (Vv. 17-21)

If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

1. Now Paul knew the arguments the Judaizers would put forward: Namely that Paul was promoting sin. So Paul bluntly related, “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?” Of course it did not so Paul vehemently retorts, “Absolutely not!” On the contrary, “If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.” If any believer would return to the law after trusting Christ alone for salvation, that law would only demonstrate that he was a sinner, a lawbreaker. Going back to a works oriented faith would have destroyed his witness as a Christian and proven that his faith was worthless and that Paul was a lawbreaker! Yet Paul knew that it was “through the law” that he had “died to the law so that [he] might live for God” alone! Paul had come to Christ by dying to the law, why would he return to that which was no longer any good for anyone? Paul comes back to what he knew to be true and reminds the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul’s life was now completely found in Jesus. In fact he tells them, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary relates, “It is then faith and not works or legal obedience that releases divine power to live a Christian life.” For Paul this was the Christian life, this was what faith meant, therefore Paul did “not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” And Jesus did not die for noting, he died to set us free from the law that we might live for him! Paul knew it was our duty to live for Jesus!

EXAMPLE: In our day and age we have begun to equate our faith with feelings and this is a dangerous thing to do. Old habits die hard. Peter had fallen back into what he knew instead of relying on his faith. By doing so he had nullified his faith and had begun to rely on how he felt about himself as he desperately tried to appease others. Peter had returned to a worthless ritual instead of living faith. Paul would have none of it and told Peter so to his face. For Paul it did not matter what others thought of him only what they thought of Jesus. Paul knew it was our duty to live for Jesus!

Conclusion:

Paul was willing to stand up to anyone who would say otherwise! Paul knew it is only our faith in Jesus that justifies us! Paul knew it was our duty to live for Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Set apart! – Galatians 2:1-10

Set apart! – Galatians 2:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 19, 2016

What do you do when folks spread awful rumors about you that are not true? What do you do as a believer when others spread unfounded rumors and lies about Jesus or your brothers and sisters in Christ? Recently the local media did a story about a “Christian” pastor who related that Christians are to be accepting of anyone and that this was what Jesus preached. Sounds good until you realize that the pastor was gay and was saying that the message of Jesus meant inclusion of ungodly lifestyles, which it does not ever. The good news is not about everybody getting along and accepting each other’s perverted proclivities. We are set apart to preach the good news that God has sent Jesus to save those who are lost in sin and separated from God.

Paul fully understood that and knew that if people tried to add to the good news or to take away from the simple gospel message they were to be thoroughly condemned. Pau knew this to be true because he had once been part of those who tried to destroy the early church of Jesus. He was one of those in all out warfare against the gospel message, Jesus, and his body the church. Yet God had other plans for Paul and Jesus set him apart for a special purpose. Let’s discover what that was…

READ: Galatians 2:1-10

We live in a culture where everyone thinks their little darling is “special” when in fact while for you that may true, it may not be correct in the real world. Not everyone is “special” nor is everyone cut out to excel in sports, education, science, or industry. Few of us will impact or be remembered by more than just few folks and even then after a few short years, our passing will have no consequence whatsoever. Yet, those who are called by Christ are set apart by God and we learn that…

I. Paul was set apart to preach the good news to the gentiles! (Vv. 1-5)

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

1. Last week I mentioned that it was Barnabas who finally took Paul to meet the other Apostles and here Paul writes that again “Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.” Paul defended his calling to the apostolic ministry and now he writes about how they were unified in the gospel. We are introduced to Titus who would later become one of the early church’s first pastors. Paul writes, “I took Titus along also.” But why would Paul go now? He continues, “I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” There has been a lot of debate on the identification of this trip Paul took to Jerusalem with Barnabas, a Jewish believer, and Titus, a Gentile believer. The Book of Acts mentions five Jerusalem visits made by Paul after his conversion. I do not believe it truly matters however the reason was obvious for Paul, he was headed to convert Gentiles. Paul admits that he “did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.” Paul went because God directed him to, not because the Jerusalem leaders had summoned him. He went privately in order to discuss with them God’s calling him to preach to Gentiles instead of just Jews. I believe he did not want to be hindered by any Jewish constraints that did away with faith alone. The Judaizers, those who would burden new converts with Jewish legalism were active. And now we understand why Paul also brought along Titus, “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek”, a gentile! He writes that “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” Acts 15:1 relates that these ungodly men had followed Paul before and were trying to teach new converts, “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This was wrong! Paul stood firm and relates, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” Paul was set apart to preach the good news to the gentiles!

EXAMPLE: Paul is remembered because Paul made an impact with his life. Paul had been very successful and we learned that he had been “advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of [his] own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of [his] fathers.” (Galatians 1:14) Yet this was not how Paul would impact future generations. What he had done in the past was no longer of any importance. What he did from now on would influence people well into the future! This is true for anyone who is transformed by their faith in Jesus. I have known auto mechanics, businessmen, scientists, teachers, lawyers, doctors, builders, and very common folk who were changed by their faith and have tremendously influenced future generations. If you claim Christ, you are set apart to proclaim Christ. Paul was set apart to preach the good news to the gentiles!

Lest we forget the good news is not some means so you can have a happier life, it is the very words of God given to us through him in Jesus! Unlike and contrary to what liberal theologians and pastors would have you think the gospel message is a life-changing one. And it was specifically because of this that…

II. Paul was set apart by God! (Vv. 6-10)

As for those who seemed to be important–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance–those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

1. When Paul went to Jerusalem to speak with the other apostles and leaders it was simply to inform them of God calling him to preach the good news to the gentiles. And he wanted the Galatians to know that “As for those who seemed to be important” (the Apostles and leadership) “whatever they were makes no difference to me”. Paul wanted his readers to fully understand that God came to save them not by their outward appearance nor by anything they could do, rather, he tells them that “God does not judge by external appearance [and] those men added nothing to my message.” The early church realized Paul being set apart by God! Paul was not awed by the past or present stations of James, Peter, and John. We discover that they fully endorsed Paul’s message and received him as an equal in proclaiming the gospel and so Paul writes, “On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.” The leadership had no problem with Paul’s ministry because they had seen for themselves the success Paul had in winning the Gentiles to Jesus! “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.” Seeing believes and they were not so narrow-minded that they would have refused to see God working in Paul’s life and also seeing Titus had shown them the truth of God’s calling of Paul to preach the good news to anyone! In fact, Paul related that “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.” Therefore the disciples finally came to see something special in Paul’s ministry and Paul relates that “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Not only would these offerings ease suffering, but it would also demonstrate genuine concern on the part of Gentile Christians for Jewish Christians thus promoting unity and love among believers and help prevent the heresies which were undermining the Galatians. Paul was set apart by God!

EXAMPLE: The good news is the message given us from God! Why would anyone want to add to it or take away from it, yet there have always been those who are jealous, who are not transformed, who do not care about the cause of Christ and who do everything they can to water the message down or circumnavigate it. They try to turn people “to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all”! All they want to do is throw people into confusion and “pervert the gospel of Christ”, like Paul related earlier. If God calls each of who have believed, which I believe he does, then why would we allow anyone to pervert the message of God? Paul was one not to set by and allow anyone to pervert such an important message! The reason was obvious to him: Paul was set apart by God!

Conclusion:

Paul was set apart to preach the good news to the gentiles! Paul was set apart by God!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Paul’s past, present, and future! – Galatians 1:11-24

Paul’s past, present, and future! – Galatians 1:11-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 12, 2016

Everyone who comes to Jesus has a personal testimony they can relate to others. I came to the Lord one night at work after a co-worker and friend challenged me to read the Gospel of John. I went out at lunch, purchased a Bible, and begin reading it. I could not put it down. The next evening I accepted Christ on my own in between a couple of noisy greasy machines.

When I speak of Paul’s past, present, and future of course what I am talking about is his personal testimony. It is perhaps the most famous Christian testimony there is and Paul uses it on several occasions in his letters in order to get across the particular lesson he wanted his readers to learn. So this morning as we look at Paul’s past, present, and future let’s learn from his testimony in order that we may gain some insight in using our own.

READ: Galatians 1:11-24

There are those in our world today that think the Bible is just one of many good books that can help us be better people. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Scriptures were not given to us so we might be better people; rather, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit so that we would have God’s eternal truth and know the way of salvation. Paul absolutely understood this and in his personal testimony he relates that…

I. Knowing about the truth of God is different from believing the truth of God! (Vv. 11-14)

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

1. Paul begins this section by writing, “I want you to know”. He did not want them to feel, he did not want them to emote, and he did not want them to get in touch with their inner selves; he wanted them to completely understand “that the gospel”, the good news he “preached” was “Not something that man made up.” There were those who evidently were trying to discredit Paul by lying and saying that he had made up what he was teaching the church about Jesus! There are those today that would have you believe that the good news was just a made up story or that what Paul teaches is not what Jesus taught! They would have you equate Jesus’ message with a good way to live perhaps that some good people wrote about Jesus, but not the actual words of Jesus. It is not just a good way to live. Paul fully understood what, whom, and why he had placed his faith and trust in Jesus because Paul was nobody’s fool. Paul bluntly tells them, “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Paul had met Jesus on the road to Damascus and then was personally instructed by Jesus; not Peter nor any other disciple. In fact, he had been on the fast track to be one of the best educated Pharisees alive! He reminds them, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” He had been taught by one of the most highly respected Jewish rabbis of his day, Gamaliel. He had been extremely passionate for his Judaism! He had been under personal orders to go to Damascus and persecute the church there when he met Jesus and was changed! Paul had been a spiritual smart aleck but he soon learned that knowing about the truth of God is different from believing the truth of God!

EXAMPLE: You can know all about how an airplane works. You can even be the best Microsoft Flight pilot there is and know how to fly any kind of aircraft on a computer or tablet but you are not a pilot. You can know all about the ailerons, the flaps, the stick, lift and trust but until you actually fly an airplane you do not know what it means to fly an airplane! The same is true concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul understood this after experiencing it for himself. Knowing about the truth of God is different from believing the truth of God!

Far from just another way to live life, the truth of God as found in Jesus spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and physically changes a person. There is no going back if you truly have believed. In fact, Paul relates in his personal testimony that…

II. The truth of God changes lives forever! (Vv. 15-17)

But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

1. It was not man’s wisdom nor had anything Paul had garnered on his own that had saved him. Paul would later write in amazement, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8 NIV) and here some of that same amazement seeps out as he writes, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace”. Paul was constantly humbled by the fact God saw fit to save someone like him who had mistreated his church simply out of his mercy for Paul as a sinner! He would marvel, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV) Paul also understood that God the Father “was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles”. Paul’s life was changed and God displayed himself in Paul through Jesus just as he does with all who trust Jesus! That is what God does! Again, Paul reiterates the fact that his life had been so changed by Jesus that he “did not consult any man, nor did [he] go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before” he had been made an Apostle by Jesus! But instead he “went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.” I doubt that Paul went there to evangelize the lost but rather to be away from anyone and alone with the Lord for his personal study, meditation, and to receive further instruction. Paul’s life had been totally turned upside down. Paul now understood that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30 NIV) Paul now understood that the truth of God changes lives forever!

EXAMPLE: I am puzzled by those who would make excuses for others who claim Christ but they do not live or act like it. The Scripture directly teaches us that when a person comes to Jesus by faith they are changed completely, forever. Paul would declare, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Jesus taught that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again! (John 3:3) Paul would therefore write that believers “are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9 NIV) Paul had experienced this transformation for himself this is exactly why he knew that the truth of God changes lives forever!

There are far too many folks who think that just coming to church, enjoying worship, and going home “filled” is all there is to their Christianity. They are wrong. After salvation one enters into the body of Christ and then is expected to be about their Master’s business. Paul understood this and shares that…

III. The truth of God calls one to action! (Vv. 18-24)

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.

1. Maturity in the Lord does not happen overnight. Far too often because we live in a time of instant gratification when everyone expects everything to happen immediately there are those who think deep discipleship comes as soon as they come to Christ. It does not. It comes with hard work in learning more about Jesus through constant study, daily prayer, and life’s successes and failures. It is a life that is lived in the Lord not sitting on one’s behind! Paul took the time to learn and “Then after three years”, he writes, “I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.” In fact, Paul relates that he “saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.” Interestingly Luke writes that “When [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” (Acts 9:26 NIV) And Luke relates that it would finally be wonderful Barnabas who would befriend Paul and introduce him to the other apostles! Perhaps the Judaizers were spreading the lie that Paul either taught something different than the other disciples or that he had not met with them. This was simply not true and he writes, “I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.” However, Paul was not content to sit back and bask in the presence of the Apostles or stay in Jerusalem: “Later [he] went to Syria and Cilicia.” Sadly, ungodly lies often race faster than the truth does and because Paul “was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.'” Yet after his hard work and his willingness to serve Jesus, Paul exclaimed, “they praised God because of me.” Paul related through his own testimony that the truth of God calls one to action!

EXAMPLE: We are not all called to missions or intense ministry but we are all called to service. We are all called to go and share the good news of Jesus with those God sends our way. We are called to daily seek to serve Jesus and to do otherwise is a wasted life in the Lord! Think these are harsh words? Think about Paul. He was born into a very well off family of traders; he came from Tarsus on the coast. He was a disciple of one of the preeminent rabbis of his day and on the fast track to be a respected pillar of the Sanhedrin. And then he met Jesus while entrusted to destroy the church of the one he met. He then became the premiere Apostle to the gentiles and wrote most of the New Testament. Paul would many years later tell the Ephesians, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24 NIV) The truth of God calls one to action!

Conclusion:

Knowing about the truth of God is different from believing the truth of God! The truth of God changes you forever! The truth of God calls one to action!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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