This is the first part of a verse by verse study of Galatians from Learning to Walk in Freedom
I will be posting a new part every Monday morning by Noon. All unreferenced scripture quotes are from my own paraphrase, “Modern Viking Paraphrase” [MVP]
Letter of Paul to the Galatians: Chapter One
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor by man, but sent by Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead) and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus our Messiah, who offered himself for our sins to deliver us from these evil times, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. [MVP]
Here we have a quick and brief statement of who Paul is. This is coupled with a standard religious greeting among the believers.
I used the word siblings instead of brethren or brothers, because the term in the Greek, according to the footnote in the NIV means: “The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers” in the NIV) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church.”
We must be very careful to recognize the strong male slant provided by most of the translations. It isn’t there in the original Greek—but is common in the translations we use. We need to pray for wisdom and check to be sure.
The word used here is poneros: full of labours, annoyances, hardships; bringing toils, annoyances, perils; of a time full of peril to Christian faith and steadfastness; causing pain and trouble; in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad. The word aion is also used, which has come to us as eon.
Aren’t all times before Jesus returns evil? Does the phrase evil times apply to today?
- Corrupt government
- Rampant immorality
- Attacks on marriage
- Christians ridiculed
- Immoral leadership
- Corporate greed
God, by his grace through his Messiah, called you to become His people. So I am appalled that you are turning away so quickly and believing something different than the gospel. [MVP]
Short intro, strong punch! Paul’s greeting seems almost terse. He has no time for chit-chat. Paul is really upset and lets them have it right up front. This is a major problem as far as Paul is concerned. He sees heresy and is determined to stop it before it spreads and becomes a real problem.
There really is no other gospel, you’re just dealing people who are deliberately twisting the truth [MVP]
Again, Paul just lays it out there. As far as he is concerned, the Galatians are being attacked by preachers and teachers who are evilly twisting the truth to promote their personal perversion of the Good News.
Today, we still must be very careful of this. This is the reason I am so adamant that you need to be praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and searching the scriptures for yourself so that you are not deceived while studying.
This is why you must read the entire New Testament (and the Old Testament) like a novel or any good book [without studying it] so that your mind and spirit are immersed in the inspired words of scripture. Then you start studying. If you are familiar with the Bible, false prophets and teachers will not be able to pull the wool over your eyes and fool you into false beliefs.
Is bad teaching evil?
How much of it is ignorance? How much is a conscious perversion of the truth?
Remember James 3:1
Brothers and sisters: not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.
But we must always be on guard. Paul says this to us over and over again—as do Peter, James, and John. Be wary of any preacher who does not tell you to check out the scriptures for yourselves. Look at the doctrinal trouble some denominations have gotten into by strongly discouraging reading and studying of the Bible by the laity. That and the belief in infallible human leaders will get you into serious trouble very quickly.
All denominations have problems resulting from the organization itself. In the years I have been a believer, I have been a member of several denominations. I find that the original inspiration and leadership normally had a clear vision of the truth. It is just the modern interpretations that get so far off base.
How are we supposed to deal with organizational error? Are whistle blowers Godly? How does Revelation 22:11 fit into this discussion?
The problem with the denominations is simple and most eloquently covered in a great book, Love Not the World, by Watchman Nee. He was convinced (as am I) that as soon as the original anointed leadership is gone, the church becomes an institution. An institution is an organization that is self-perpetuating. It has lost its physical connection to the original anointed vision. It is possible for an institution to have good leadership on down the road of its life, but those times tend to be rare. Look at the time of the Kings in the Old Testament. There were a few good kings, but none of them had the vision of David or Solomon.
But it is even more serious than that. How many Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons really believe they are using accurate scriptures and are completely swept up in the delusions of those denominations—while remaining convinced that they are Christians?
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. [NKJV]
I used the New King James here for a little historical oomph. There are a couple items of interest. First of all, Paul is absolutely convinced of the inspiration and anointing that attended the original presentation of the Gospel to the Galatians by Barnabus and himself. We do not know why he feels so strongly about this, but it is probably tied to the results of those original presentations, the persecutions that followed, an inner witness in his spirit from the Holy Spirit, and other confirmations.
However, it is absolutely clear that Paul believes he accurately and fully shared what the Lord was doing in those congregations of believers. His apostleship required this clarity of vision. God made him responsible for the doctrinal direction of the entire church—up to this day.
God knew what He was doing by calling Paul. God knew what was coming in the next couple of millennia. He is not surprised at where we are today. And it is all based on what He gave Paul to share nearly 2000 years ago. This is not paranoid egotism on Paul’s part—but conscientious stewardship of a valuable and important vision.
Please notice the humility: Paul does not see himself as impervious to error. He does not discount the possibility that he could fall into error. Note how he says that even if he should come back to them and preach something different than what he taught them in the beginning, that he must be ignored. What he taught originally was true and accurate. They can rely on that. We continue to rely on the accuracy and truth of his revelation today.
Obviously, I’m not trying to convince or please humans, but God. If pleasing or being acceptable to people were my goal, I would not be Jesus’ slave.
This is the biggest danger of the modern American megachurch—this necessity of being relevant, hip, and attractive to the heathen. Churches are expected to preach Jesus and him crucified. Believers and preachers are supposed to call the world to repentance and deliverance from sin. Our goal is to please God—nothing else matters.
- Is this possible?
- Is this what God wants from us?
- Does our modern marketing build the Kingdom or the church?
- Can we safely promote the entertainment value of events?
- Can we eliminate the mention of sin and repentance?
No one is saved except by the Holy Spirit. No one’s life changes except by the power of the Spirit. I have listened to immensely well-put-together and direct expositions of the Gospel, what Jesus did, and who He is. When all was said, it did not appear to have any affect at all. Paul explains how this works in I Corinthians 2:1–5
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. [NASB]
Paul clearly understands the foolishness of expecting effective ministry by pleasing the audience. He knows that what is necessary is the direct, anointed speaking of the truth as given by God without awareness or concern for the consequences. It is the anointing that matters!
What’s a good sermon?
How would you define a good sermon?
We do not want our listeners and readers to respond with “good sermon!” It really doesn’t matter if they are impressed. We want to be able to see changed lives that continue to grow and mature. That only comes as a result of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Please add your questions and comments. The next part will be released on the day after the New Year 1/2/12