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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
I'm publishing this lesson one day early because I headed north to attend to my mother's medical needs as her Power-of-Attorney. She is not doing well. I'm not sure how long this will take, so HBS could be down for more than a week or two. But take heart, there are plenty of Bible lessons in the archives for you to explore until my return.
Introduction to Galatians 5
David Meade created a sensation with all the hype about the world ending on 9/23/17.
But that day came and went, so now 10/15/17 is the new date for the end of the world, according to Mr. Meade...
We can add this gentleman’s name to the rather long list of false prophets who have taken it upon themselves to predict the date of the Lord’s Second Coming since His Ascension and failing. The Lord said the “deceivers” would come: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt 24: 23-24)
The real question is: “Why did anyone listen to him to begin with?” I understand unbelievers are “clueless” when it comes to spiritual truths, but if Believers took this man at his word, they should have known better. When the Lord’s disciples asked, “…what will be the sign of Your (second) coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3b) The Lord said, ““But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).
Now, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Rapture of God’s one Church are two separate events on God’s timeline. These events are mentioned in scripture but the timing is not. The Rapture will occur after the fullness of the Gentiles is complete (Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Second Coming of Christ occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation as described in Revelation 19:11-16). These are both end time events, they are similar in that they both involve Jesus Christ returning, but they are separate events and there are important differences to recognize.
I mention the Rapture here specifically because we’re getting ready to study the last two chapters of Galatians and it affects the Church directly. Since we do not know “the day or the hour” of the Lord’s return, instead of predicting when it will happen, I teach my classes we are to trust in what the Lord said and live our lives accordingly, because the day of the Lord’s return is imminent. Our Apostle Paul believed he would be alive to see the day (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 5-22). Believers should “follow suit;” i.e. live each day as though the Lord’s return was about to happen.
While I’m on this track, when recently polled, the majority of Americans said they believed this country, “this house,” was “going to hell in a hand basket.” In other words, “Has the country gone crazy, or what?” In light of the obvious insanity or what we’ve witnessed taking place in society just in this last generation or so, some of which has been ruled legal by our judicial system, and has permeated every facet and sphere of life affecting the family, marriage, sexuality, bathroom uncertainty, etc. reminds me of the words of our Apostle Paul regarding life as we know it in the 21st century.
After writing to the Believers in Thessalonica about “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1), he explains a great rebellion against God must take place first (v3). Then he mentions “the man of lawlessness” being revealed and the great restraining influence in the world being removed (v3-7). The battle between the returning Christ and the antichrist is mentioned in verse 8 and then comes the explanation for why so many people on earth decided to embrace the antichrist (and the lie) rather than the truth or the Lord Jesus Christ: because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12).
The people of the world are becoming delusional. For some time now people have embraced lies and fraudulent ideas which are so easily refuted. People across all borders believe their own opinions, perceptions, and views. They replace the truth that is always right there in front of them for a lie. They persist in believing a falsehood in face of strong contradictory evidence, which means they are delusional and this is part and parcel of God’s plan for lost humanity.
This isn’t news. Looking to scripture, in the book of Exodus, Pharaoh was introduced to the truth by Moses and he rejected it. Rejection of the truth is never a good idea. The LORD God introduced Pharaoh and the Egyptians to ten plagues (Exodus 7-12). Only the Egyptians were affected by these plagues the Israelites were left untouched.
(The time of God’s wrath is out in front of humanity. A 7 year period in which this world will experience more death and destruction than it has ever known because people have rejected God and His offer of free grace through His Son’s sacrifice. But every Believer, the living and the dead, will be left untouched as the Lord will come for them in the clouds at the Rapture).
After the fifth plague ended Pharaoh still would not let the Israelites go; the result was a hardening of his own heart against the Israelites. By the time you get to the sixth plague the language changes to “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” God sent strong delusion upon Pharaoh as he and his chariots chased after the Israelites. The power of Egypt was crushed by the Red Sea and the fear of the LORD spread through the surrounding nations (Joshua 2:9-11).
Centuries later, the prophet Isaiah records a breathtaking vision of God in chapter 6. The voice from the throne of God says, “Whom shall I send…?” and Isaiah volunteers. Then he is given a message for the Israelites. “Go and tell this people:
“Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ “Render the hearts of the people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10).
This passage was written to the nation of Israel but it is a “wake-up call” to the arrogant world–at-large and Believers who desert the truth. The truth will confront the people but God will make it impossible for them to see it or hear it. In the N.T. Jesus cited this passage when His disciples asked Him why He taught in parables. Truth is in the parables but those who rejected His message were left in spiritual blindness; they could not perceive the truth if they tried because God prevented them from seeing it (Matthew 13:10-17).
This is an inflexible biblical teaching, which makes it a difficult subject to teach because people don’t like to hear it. But it is what it is. Sometimes God prevents people from accepting the truth even though it is right in front of them by sending a strong delusion. The Greek word used in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 translated delusion is Plane (plan’-ay), Noun, Feminine, Strong’s Greek #4106, and it literally means: a wandering; aimless and fruitless – reminiscent of the wilderness wanderings of the Hebrews following their exodus from Egypt.
Stop and take a good look around you. Is America not experiencing the consequences of rejecting God? Christians have sat back and allowed their religious freedoms to be curtailed by their elected governmental officials to such a degree that that the very mention of God of Jesus has been banned from schools, public meetings, and the workplaces and public cursing is more acceptable than a humble prayer. Furthermore, a Playboy magazine is more welcome at work than the Bible.
See the absurd denial in the face of facts:
1) With all the real problems facing this nation are you seriously telling me educated adults have to stop and consider the bathroom choice of a mentally confused child in the school system? When a child can’t decide which bathroom fits his or her sex, this isn’t a legal issue it’s a medical problem. It’s not for a judge to decide. The child needs to seek professional medical help and the parents too, evidently.
2) Since Roe vs Wade, abortions have been made legal in the U.S., thanks again to the Supreme Court, who according to the Constitution has no power to make law, only to offer an opinion, millions of unborn children have been murdered; most of them females, and enough of them to match the population of Canada. There went America’s future!
3) Then there’s the sweeping acceptance of homosexuality despite the overwhelming proof that those who practice it are subject in phenomenal numbers to STD’s in general and AID’s in particular, and let’s not forget to mention suicide. I know no one from the LGBT group wants to discuss God, but He has said homosexuality is an abomination.
4) The war on American families continues unabated with Satan leading the charge and the Supreme Court of these United States assisting. On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 made Same-Sex Marriage a right nation-wide. If you read the U.S. Constitution, marriage isn’t even discussed in it. There is “no constitutional right to marriage of any kind.”
5) Then there’s the exploding national deficit that every knowledgeable adult knows cannot be justified or sustained and is a national disaster for future generations waiting to happen. Yet the elected, so-called leaders in government continue to spend money we don’t have and print money that has little value.
6) Let’s not forget to mention the unbelievable but true drift towards socialism (see Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, ObamaCare, Global Warming etc.) despite the glaring reality that socialism has never brought about positive results for the people. The truth is quite the opposite. It has always brought the people misery, destroyed all their hopes and dreams, enslaved, and killed millions.
The hardest fact to absorb is not all the folks who deny these truths are unbelievers many are Christians. This serves bring us to Galatians chapter 5. Obviously the parenthetical period of time known as the “fullness of the Gentiles” is winding down. Until the Lord comes to gather His Church together to Him at the Rapture, Our Apostle Paul is telling the Galatians (and us) all true Believers are to live their lives in the freedom of the Spirit, as the children of the free woman, who were born by the power of the Spirit (4:29). We must learn to express our freedom in Christ Jesus by walking in the Spirit. We must not submit to slavery under the law or gratify the desires of the flesh. Identity is the basis of behavior: For you were called to freedom… walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:13a, 16).
Walk by the Spirit
Please open your Bible at Galatians 5:1.
Paul has spent some time and a lot of ink expressing his thoughts regarding our freedom in Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:21-31). The Galatians’ needed to hear this message because they were in the process of deserting the gospel and their freedom in Christ Jesus just as many people in the church today are doing as they too turn to legalism. This is why this Galatian letter is so important, especially these next two chapters.
As time marches on, I’ve noticed more and more people in this nation either ignore their freedoms guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States or they simply take them for granted. So permit me to direct your attention to the final words of the Declaration of Independence:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States... And for the support of this declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
To read these stirring words of our founding forefathers is to recall that freedom is not free. Our history is a witness to us that freedom and independence are always attended by struggle. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots…” Meaning, it will cost this nation fortune, lives, and sacred honor. Bondage is easy, but freedom demands constant vigilance and courage. Their sincere desire to be free demanded of the signers of the Declaration of Independence that they go to war with a superpower. I hope none of us are so foolish as to believe that freedom of any kind is ever the “natural” state of humanity. Just as electricity and water take the “path of least resistance” humans always lean towards slavery to sin. We have to struggle for our freedom. Think this through. A man diagnosed with cancer fights to be well. A married couple in deep financial debt fights to be free of it. You may know one or two people who are fighting an addiction of some sort. All of us are struggling to free ourselves from the “rat race” and its incessant demands to control every facet of our lives. Every true Believer is in a daily struggle against the spiritual forces of evil. Our Apostle Paul instructs Believers to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and to oppose the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:10-18), relying on God’s power, not our own.
This brings us to our spiritual freedom as sons and daughter of God: “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36). This too demands a struggle, a willingness on our part to take a stand and fight.
In our study of the book of Galatians, we have come to a place where our Apostle Paul uses some of the strongest language in the Bible to insist that those who read his words make the choice to stand for freedom and reject slavery. Freedom, as we well know, doesn’t just happen, and this brings us to our Bible text – Galatians 5:1-4. For Galatians fall into these three sections:
Chapters 1-2: Personal
Chapters 3-4 Doctrinal
Chapters 5-6 Practical
As we begin let’s recall Paul’s remark at the close of chapter: 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
1: It was for (what) freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (John 8:32, 36).
Paul has established the true Believer in Christ Jesus as a child of freedom by virtue of their identity as a child of the free Jerusalem, whose children come into being through the Abrahamic promise.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free – the Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver all those who would believe, set us free, from the judgment of the law of God, and we no longer live under its long list of do’s and don’ts. In the imagery of the preceding story of Hagar and Sarah, we are not children of the bondwoman, who stands for slavery under the Law of Moses; we are the children of the freewoman, who stands for the promise.
To be clear, freedom, as Paul uses it in Galatians, refers to freedom from the frustrating struggle to keep the law in order to gain God’s favor. It is the freedom of knowing you are accepted by God; not because of anything you’ve done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for everyone. But here’s the thing people don’t love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They don’t love their neighbors as themselves, so there’s a huge problem. That problem is sin. We couldn’t overcome the effects of it on our own. This book says anything we try to do on our own to overcome sin is like “filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). That’s why God the Father sent His Son to live a perfect life and to die for the sins of all. Through our faith in Christ, the righteousness of God is given to those who believe. This is called “imputed righteousness” (Romans 3:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Galatians 3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” -- -
The Lord Jesus Christ paid an enormous price in sacrificing Himself to set us free. We are free indeed; free from condemnation: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, 1410-12; 1 Corinthians 11:31-32; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11; Colossians 3:23-25).
Paul goes on to say, “therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” This isn’t a suggestion; it’s a command: keep standing firm. In other words, give no ground to the enemy.
Keep standing firm is from the Koine Greek word Steko (stay’-ko), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4739. It’s a military term which has the idea of a soldier being at the tip of the spear in battle, to be stabilized there, unmovable. So, Paul is saying stand your ground in the midst of battle; hold your position while under direct attack.
Let’s be clear about what Paul is not saying. He’s not saying Believers are to stand firm in their holiness or in their righteousness. He is saying, stand firm in your freedom or liberty. We are to defend and guard our liberty in Christ Jesus. We know this is what he means to say because of this statement: keep standing firm -“and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”
What is the yoke of slavery? I’m glad you asked. Peter talked about this same yoke of slavery in his speech at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:10: "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples (the Gentiles in Antioch) a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
The Judaizers compelled the Gentiles to adopt the Mosaic Law as a means to a right standing before God so Peter’s saying this was to “tempt God” by putting these Gentiles under a yoke that even the Jews could not bear. The yoke of the law is a yoke of slavery, because it places those under it under a burden of 613 Mitzvoth commandments, plus the laws in the Midrash, or complicated regulations the Pharisees added, that they could not possibly keep and thus under a curse.
The "yoke of slavery" means to be bound to a system that requires perfection because to fail brings condemnation and judgment. So, in a sense, we could say Christ has set us free to failing. He willingly placed Himself “under the wrath of God” by His substitutionary sacrifice for all, and we have been given His place “under the blessing of God” through faith. This means we can fail and still enjoy freedom from condemnation. This doesn’t mean we should adopt a “carefree attitude” towards our failures, but it is to say we have to have this freedom before we can stand fast in the freedom in Christ. Put another way, we can’t lose through our failure what Christ has purchased for us through His sacrifice. Thus, we are free indeed.
The particular bondage the Gentiles in Galatia were being influenced to accept was the rite of circumcision. The Judaizers were saying if you really wanted to be in right standing with God, then you must be circumcised.
2: Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Behold I, Paul say– here Paul is reminding the Galatians he is the Apostle to the Gentiles; called to service by the risen Lord Himself, and he speaks for Christ (Galatians 1:1-3).
We’ve established Paul is speaking to the Gentile Believers in Galatia so they are the “you” in this verse; the very ones he just commanded to “stand firm.” His warnings are given to those who are considering circumcision. The present tense indicates this process has just begun. The Galatians were beginning to submit to the Judaizers prerequisites for obtaining salvation or at least perfection as they saw it (Galatians 3:1-2). Paul wants it to stop before the “outpatient surgery” procedure commences because it’s being done for all the wrong reasons.
Circumcision was only one aspect of the entire Jewish religious system or works righteousness. Paul circumcised Timothy in Acts 16:3 in order that he might minister to Jews. But Paul has said true circumcision is of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4), by the Spirit of God and not the body (Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11). So, you see, Paul’s saying the issue isn’t the physical act of circumcision but how a person is brought into a “right standing” with God.
I was taught so very long ago circumcision was a “boundary marker” for the Jewish race, i.e. it identified the individual as a Jew. But here’s the thing, Many of Israel’s pagan neighbors also practiced circumcision. Moreover, circumcision is invisible under normal circumstances… How many Jews bathed with their pagan neighbors? Not many, I’d say. The other thing is circumcision doesn’t appear to be a proof or symbol of the LORD’s activity, or a sign to remind of His obligations toward His people (Genesis 9:16-17). If you consider all that’s involved with this covenant, and the words of the LORD in Genesis 17: 9-14, it seems to be a sign for the sake of the “one” circumcised, starting with Abraham. It reminds the Israelite “as they walk before the LORD God they are to be blameless.”
Keeping that thought in mind, how would cutting off a part of one’s body make them whole or blameless before the LORD?
The answer lies in Abram and Sarah’s acts of faithlessness or disobedience in Genesis 16, 17:17-18. Circumcision may be a symbolic means to perpetually restrain Abraham’s desire to achieve the LORD’s purposes through self effort, or his flesh. The LORD God commanded Abraham and his seed to “cut” the very instrument that Abraham used to try to fulfill the Genesis 15 promise of the seed by taking Hagar as his wife and impregnating her, and she in turn giving birth to Ishmael (the son of his own effort) believing he was to be the promised seed (Genesis 17:17-21).
But the LORD, while promising to multiply Abraham exceedingly or bless him worldwide through Abraham’s blameless walk (Genesis 17:1) simultaneously restrains Abraham’s natural inclination to achieve the LORD’s purposes on his own. Thus the purpose of the covenant of circumcision is to remind Abraham that the LORD God will make a name for him (Genesis 12:2, 17:5), he is not to make a name for himself (See Genesis 11:4). It also serves to remind his seed of the danger of being “cut off,” if they should break this covenant (Genesis 17:14). So, circumcision is both a sign and a warning of fleshly weakness for the Jews and a stimulus to faith in the one true God and in what He has said. The LORD can achieve His purposes without any help from man. (John 15:5; Roman 4:11-12, 17-19; 2 Corinthians 3:4-5).
Christ will be of no benefit to you – if you are a true Believer Christ has certainly been a benefit to you. He has provided you with the priceless gift of eternal life. Here Paul is saying you cannot mix law and grace. If this is the avenue you’ve chosen to gain God’s favor, Christ does not benefit you. If you believe you can be justified in any other way than by believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your sins, then of course you don’t need Him, and your rejection of the truth is in fact a rejection of Him. Therefore, Christ will be of no benefit to you.
3: And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.
I testify again – Paul had probably stated this when he had preached the gospel to the Galatians the first time around. He now solemnly bears witness to the same truth again.
Every man who receives circumcision – please don’t take this literally. Paul isn’t speaking literally he’s speaking metaphorically of every man or woman who believes they themselves can be declared righteousness or in “right standing with God” through their own self effort.
he is under obligation to keep the whole Law – if one chooses to go the way of human effort, the he or she must keep the whole Law perfectly from the age of responsibility (bar-mitzvah, age 13 for boys; bath-mitzvah, age 12, for girls) to their death (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10). The Bible informs us since no one has ever accomplished this deed (except Jesus Christ), everyone else since Adam and Eve falls into the category of lawbreakers, i.e. sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 22-23, 6:23, 5:8, 11:32).
4: You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
This is one of the most abused texts in scripture because people misunderstand Paul’s meaning People use it to establish the false premise that someone who had been previously “justified by grace” can, afterwards, lose their salvation gained by that justification.
Paul’s statement above has absolutely no connection to these folk’s false claim that those who “trust Christ” and then sin have “fallen from grace.” Paul’s talking about how humans find salvation in Christ (alone). Always bear in mind Paul is dealing with a legalistic attitude toward salvation and perfection in this letter; not once has he said these Galatians were in danger of losing their salvation. If Paul were saying people could lose their salvation here, then he would be contradicting himself and God. Since scripture is God’s Word, it cannot contradict itself. So, Paul did not mean falling from grace is falling from one’s position as a child of God.
What does this book say?
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
And 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, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
Considering these two passages and others in scripture written just as plainly God’s message is quite clear, “once saved, always saved.” Therefore, fallen from grace means a Believer who reverts to human effort to earn God’s favor” has fallen from a present experience of grace. While their position in the grace of God is forever secure, their experience of His grace is not.
The word translated fallen is (Ekpipto), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1601, meaning: to fall away (as in withered flowers that fall to the ground). In this context, it is used figuratively and refers to the loss of one's grip on grace as a principle to live by. When we hear the word "grace," most of us have been taught to think of it as: "Free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only condemnation and judgment." That is one meaning of grace, but it's not the only meaning. Grace is also used in the Bible to mean: "God's power that enables us to deal with life's circumstances" (1 Corinthians 15:10). The Galatians weren’t dealing with life’s circumstances very well.
However it’s a fact that every church has Believers and unbelievers in attendance. Some folks just come in out of the weather or out of curiosity, but they all enter as sinners with mental baggage, and uncertainties and wind up hearing the gospel. Evidently some of these folks hung around. But here’s the thing, when an individual decides to look for salvation in another, if they decide to go back under the Law, they have in effect renounced God’s grace and rejected Christ. Wherever you put your trust, this is what you are depending on to save you. The fact that some of these folks were turning away from Christ and the gospel and attempting to be justified by the Law instead could indicate their faith was never genuine to begin with.
The chief problem with the world-at-large is they don’t think… they don’t think about God or their need for God. This verse stands as a promise to the humble and a warning to the proud. Pride is an attitude of self-sufficiency toward God. Humility is an acknowledgement of the truth; we are in agreement with the Creator God that we in and of ourselves are inadequate, unworthy, and weak. To the humble, God promises grace. God has a major problem with pride. Pride is the sin of sins. Pride brought Lucifer low, made him the “father of lies,” and our number 1 enemy (Ezekiel 28:12-19). This principle runs throughout scripture: “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12; James 4:10).
(To be continued)
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