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The Galatian Warning

The Warning of Galatians: Adding On

There is a basic and critical question that every Christian needs to answer for themselves: “What am I trusting for my salvation?”

In my youth and some of my adulthood I was taught and promulgated the Five Step Plan of Salvation. What could possibly be the danger in that? Well, we are to trust solely in Jesus for our salvation, and if we overemphasize checking off the boxes in the Five Steps over faith in Jesus, we run the risk of trusting the Plan instead of the Savior! “Trust” is one of the primary meanings of “pistis”, the Greek word translated “faith”.

Let’s see what Paul taught in Galatians 5 on this subject.

(Gal 5:2-6 ESV) “I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

Now many will jump to say that Paul is only talking about the Law of Moses, and they would be half right. Paul certainly has the Torah in mind, but look at the basis for his argument.  Why is it that insisting on circumcision as a condition for salvation leads to a false gospel? Because Paul says that circumcision doesn’t count for anything. The only thing that counts is “faith working through love”. Because circumcision is neither faith nor love (even though someone might endure circumcision to show his love or faith in God), it doesn’t count. As a result, it destroys faith.

Really. Period. “You who would be justified by the law; you have fallen from grace.”  Is this because there is something terrible or sinful about the law? No! The Law was perfect. The reason, as stated by Paul, is that the Law is not faith in Jesus.  Paul didn’t say, “You are following the wrong law.” He said “You’re following Law rather than faith in Jesus working through love.”

Adding circumcision to faith in Jesus as a requirement of salvation damns. And that’s a false gospel, as Paul declared in Galatians 1.

So what’s the difference between requiring acapella singing or weekly communion, or a plurality of elders as a condition of salvation? Both add to faith in Jesus. Both make faith insufficient. None are faith working through love.

That is not to say that obedience and works don’t matter, but that they aren’t the path to salvation. They are, rather, evidence of salvation because they are fruit of the Spirit, which only the saved have. We should teach what we believe regarding worship or church organization. But we are not authorized to make those views conditions of salvation. They aren’t faith in Jesus working through love. They just aren’t!  The saved will inevitably seek to obey and be fully committed disciples.

They will get some of it right, and some of it wrong. Perfection will not be achieved in this lifetime, and grace more than covers our mistakes, both moral and doctrinal. Just hold to faith in Christ and let His love work in you as a fruit of the Spirit. But do not add to what is required for salvation. It is faith working through love. Period.

Exalted Titles!

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:6-12 NASB

Is this passage about not taking exalting titles to be recognized as being spiritually superior to others, or is it about what you can or can’t call somebody? What we miss when looking too simply! Ephesians says there is an office of Teacher, so can we not call a teacher a teacher, or a leader a leader, or a spiritual father a spiritual father (like Paul saying he was their spiritual father in 1 Corinthians 4:15).

In Matthew 23 Jesus condemned the spiritual leaders for their spiritual pride. That’s the point of the text! We should drop all exalting titles! You can say “this is Jim and he’s one of our pastors” instead of giving the title of Pastor Jim. This is especially true of the title Reverend. (Psalms 111:9 – “He sent redemption unto his people:

he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.)That’s a title belonging to God alone!

Yet have any of us heard a sermon about never calling anyone Leader, Teacher, or Rabbi? Thankfully I have heard teaching about not using the title of Reverend for a man.

If we are going to not call a man “father”, then be consistent and drop all titles that cause any to be exalted above another!

The Cost of Adoption

Back in 1965, my parents had 7 children, of which I was the youngest. We were 6 boys and 1 girl. In order to have another girl, my parents did the math and decided that perhaps adoption would be a way to have a second girl in the family. A chain of events happened in God’s providence that led to them adopting four children (2 boys & 2 girls) from a terminally ill member of the church in the Bay Area who wanted to know her children would be able to stay together and be raised in a good Christian home. She signed over custody of the children a few weeks before passing away. Later that year my parents went through the formal court proceedings and adopted the children into our family. Since that day they have always just been my brothers and sisters, and not secondary in any way.

In 2015 Adoptive Families Magazine surveyed 1,100 families who adopted a child in 2012-2013 and reported:

• Average Total Cost: Adoption Agency – $39,966; Independent Adoption – $34,093

For international adoptions, the costs can be even higher, and as a consequence they are slowly becoming less common.

Average Total Cost of International Adoption by Country 2010-2011/2012-2013

• China: $36,338

• Ethiopia: $45,960

• South Korea: $43,795

• Ukraine: $40,067

As you can see, the cost of adoption is high, and yet thousands of families choose to adopt children anyway. Why? Because when they look into the eyes of that child, they are overwhelmed with love and compassion, and the expense becomes totally worth it to give this child a family.

Yet the expense for our adoption was so much higher for God that it is for human families.

Galatians 4:4-7

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Whenever we look at the bread and the fruit of the vine during communion, they represent the price that was paid so that we could be adopted as full members and heirs in the family of God. This should make us eternally grateful that Christ was willing to suffer and die on the cross to pay the price for our sin and to enable our adoption out of slavery and into sonship!

Was Jesus A Street Preacher?

Was Jesus Really A Street Preacher?

I have heard it said by some that “Jesus was a street preacher”. We should not assume this, or anything, is accurate until we examine it in the Scriptures, no matter how good it sounds. Now by “street preacher”, I am talking about someone who stands there yelling or shouting into a bull horn at people whether they are listening or not. I am not talking about preaching in a public place to a group of people who have gathered to hear what you have to say. So let’s begin in the Old Testament with a messianic prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 42:1-2. 

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.

“He will not cry out or raise His voice,

Nor make His voice heard in the street.”

Wow! It says specifically that Jesus would not be a street preacher, crying out in the street at people! Just in case anyone questions whether or not this verse is speaking about Jesus, it is quoted directly about him in Matthew 12:19.

“He will not quarrel nor cry out,

Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.”

We have numerous examples of Jesus teaching publicly to those who had come to hear him, who got his attention, or privately to others whose homes he visited. What Jesus didn’t do, however, was stand on the street shouting at passers by to attract attention. To do so would have meant that he was not fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 42.  

So if you want to preach to a group of people publicly, where you can be overheard, then fine. Teach people one to one? Great! But standing on the street yelling at people is not what Jesus did! Don’t like that? Your argument is with the Bible, not with me.

Naked People in Heaven

Thoughts about priorities and heaven on this 9/11.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Instant bad mood.  I search around for my screaming phone on the floor under my bed.  The damn alarm clock continues to scream at the top of its lungs.  Slowly gaining control of my sleeping body, I step out of bed, pick up my phone and turn off the alarm.  The pain of waking up.  In heaven, I will roll over and enjoy the waking up process just as much as snuggling into bed and drifting off to sleep.  (That is if we sleep in heaven.)

My world runs about me in fast forward.  Honking impatiently at the slow moving car, spending what we don’t have for the newest item that hits the shelves, driving around our children to some place other than home.  Why do I join the insanity of the crowd?  I do believe in busying oneself with hard work, but that is not what is happening here…

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Remarried People

There is a fact that cannot be ignored in today’s society. A lot of people have been divorced, and quite a few have remarried. Not the ideal situation by any means, but still this is the reality in western culture. More often than not, it is the children, not the parents, who end up being the victims in these divorces, which I believe is a big reason God hates divorce.

But there are some today who, in their zeal to enforce biblical standards, have gone too far, and in some cases we are talking “Pharisee far”. They would say, based on an encounter Jesus had with the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 19, that in order to be saved, a married couple where one or both were previously married and divorced for reasons other than adultery must divorce as part of the repentance process. Otherwise, it is argued, they are in a perpetual state of adultery and will be lost. 

Well let’s take a look at what is recorded in Matthew 19, and also look at another passage where Jesus actually engages in a dialog with a divorced person and see what we can glean from it. 

Matthew 19:3-12

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her A certificate of divorce and send her away?” He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

First of all, in context, Jesus is answering a question specifically about the Law of Moses that was put to him by the Pharisees. His answer is specific to the Law and the covenant which they were under at that time. If we can’t use the thief on the cross to discuss salvation because it was said under the Old Law, then we can’t use this, either to condemn those whose marital lives have been marred by the pain of divorce. Furthermore, NOWHERE in the New Testament does Jesus or any of the Apostles tell someone to get a divorce prior to baptism or else they could not be saved! To add that as a requirement is to add to the Scriptures! 

Rather than use Matthew 19’s conversation with the Pharisees, let’s look at an episode where Jesus actually addresses a divorced person’s life situation and see what he says to her! 

John 4:16-18

He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

In this woman’s life, she had been married five times, and was now cohabiting with a sixth man. Now according to the modern day legalists Jesus would have told her to be a eunuch for the kingdoms sake and never remarry. In their view, she would be an adulteress to remarry because God doesn’t recognize divorces that don’t involve sexual immorality, and she would in effect have five husbands simultaneously. But notice carefully what Jesus says to her. “You have had five husbands”, not you “have” five husbands. Jesus, who only said what the Father said, addressed her as an unmarried woman. He spoke nothing of perpetual adultery, a phrase unknown to Scripture. 

We’re some of her divorces due to immorality? Possibly, but we cannot read into the Scripture something that is not there. Such practices are dangerous and hermeneutically unsound. No, Jesus met her where she was at and talked about a new life. 

The Roman world was replete with divorce and remarriage, and yet the Apostles, who earlier had witnessed this encounter in Samaria, never once told someone to divorce their spouse prior to baptism. Not one single time in Acts or in the Epistles! That is a fact that is significant by its absence. Do we really want to imply that murdering your spouse is preferable to divorce because then you are free to remarry?

So what do we say to those who have gone through the pain of divorce and have remarried? We should live them and point them to Jesus. Make disciples and show them how to pray and study the Word of God. But to tell them to divorce will bring shame and disrepute upon the name of Christ, as we gain a reputation for splitting up families. If they are now married, they should pray and discern whether or not they have the ability from God to stay single for the Kingdom, or to remarry. But support their decision and don’t attempt to persuade them either way to violate their renewed conscience. 

  

Why Weekly Communion?

At the outset, let me say that I think there is more depth to, and power in, the Lord’s Supper than many of us realize. It’s not that we are not being fancy enough about it, or that it needs to become a complex religious ritual. But in its simplicity we can dive deep into the symbolism and significance of the bread and the wine and derive much benefit from it. So here are my reasons for deepening our understanding of Communion, and doing so weekly.

Reason #1: this is a “communion” feast.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. (I Corinthians 10:16, 17 NKJV)

The word Paul uses in verse 16 that is translated “communion” is koinonia. This is not just something we do simultaneously. It is a reinforcement of our bond together as members of the Body of Christ. This bread and wine symbolize our joint participation in the Body, and with each other. Why would anyone NOT want to do that every week? Our fellowship, or koinonia, was purchased on the cross and we need to be strengthened in that as we remember the source of our fellowship, Jesus. For that reason, I believe it is entirely appropriate and even desired to wait until all are served and then partake together. It’s not some legalistic requirement, but does drive home the point.

Reason #2: This blessing can become a curse if taken lightly!
Our fellowship together and our joint sharing in the divine nature with Christ are very important to God. After all, look at what this cost! Because of that, this very “cup of blessing” from chapter 10 can turn into a curse for those who fail to discern that fellowship and its importance. Paul prefaces his warnings in chapter 11 of First Corinthians by addressing their lack of true fellowship.

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. (I Corinthians 11:18-20 NKJV)

They were eating a supper all right, but it was not the Lord’s supper! No, the Lord’s Supper was not to proclaim their own worthiness, but to proclaim the Lord’s death, which is the basis for that worthiness!

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (I Corinthians 11:26 NKJV)

(By the way, those out there who claim Jesus returned in 70 AD and won’t be coming back, why do you still partake of the Lord’s Supper? Does His death no longer need to be proclaimed?)
I frequent and/or casual observance of the Communion meal will lessen its importance in the minds of those who partake. This is a sin against God with serious repercussions. Paul goes on to tell them what communion around the Lord’s Supper is truly about, and ends with this warning:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:27-32 NKJV)

Not discerning the Lords body, the one broken on the cross and His body in those sitting around you, can be lethal! God will discipline His children, and He is not going to let one of us be guilty of the body and blood without judging it.

I realize that this is a heavy subject, but we need to take the weekly observance of the lord’s Supper/Communion very seriously. To those who judge themselves and discern the sacrifice that was made and our basis for fellowship because of that sacrifice, it will truly be a “cup of blessing”. But if you don’t know The Lord and are not saved and part of His body, it would be better for you to abstain from taking it. It would be BEST to come to Christ, become part of His body, and the partake every week!

We should approach Communion with a deep sense of joy, gratitude and awe. Not in a somber, “religious” way, but in true appreciation for our own salvation and that of those around us who, together with us, are parts of the Body of Christ.

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