Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Contrary to what the President Ahmedinajad (boy, that is a long name) alleges, the age of Ishmael is not at all crucial to either the Jewish or the Christian theological viewpoint. There is no magic to the age of 14, or 17 in his incorrect calculations. The reason Isaac, not Ishmael, is the son of promise is "election", God's sovereign choice.
God elected, or chose, Abraham to be the father of his people, which we often call his "chosen people". He also elected to form this covenant people beginning with this man through his covenant marriage with his wife, Sarah. The Bible is clear about this. In Genesis 17:15, God told Abraham: As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her. So, not only did God elect Abraham as the father of his people, but Sarah as their mother.
Abraham clearly understood this, and, thus, understood Ishmael was not the son of the promise, for he replied to God "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing". (v. 18) God answered that he would establish his covenant with Isaac as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
In other words, God confirmed to Abraham that the chosen line for the blessing would come through Isaac all the way to Christ. Because Ishmael was also Abraham's son, and because Abraham asked him, God did bless Ishmael and made him a great nation, just not God's chosen nation.
Further, all through the Old Testament, God refers to himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This was the chosen line. He revealed himself to Moses this way, and to the Israelites in slavery in Egypt.
Paul also explained for us in the New Testament that Isaac is the son of the promise. That is the message of the passage in Galatians 4 that led to the President's post. This is an illustration of the doctrine of election, that runs all the way through the Bible. God elects whom he will. He elected, or chose, Abraham out of all the men on earth to do his will and to form a people for his glory. He chose Isaac over Ishmael. He chose Jacob over Esau. Romans 9 tells us this.
Now, in our day, God elects who will know him through Christ. Those he chooses become the church. 1 Peter 2:9 says "But you (believers in Christ) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to god, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
God chose his son, Jesus Christ, to be the heir of the promise to Abraham. All is fulfilled in Christ. Those who want to inherit the promise of God to Abraham must do so in Christ, whether Jew, Arab, or a mutt like me. I invite you to receive Christ as God's only son, who died for our sins according to the scriptures, who was buried, and who was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures. There is no other way to escape God's judgment on sin and to receive eternal life.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Since your comment on my Galatians Sunday School lesson is too long to reply to in comments, let me reply here. Actually, you raise several points, so it will take several posts to reply to them all.
First, let me thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule creating nuclear energy and giving speeches about destroying Israel to comment on my humble post.
Your comment on Genesis 21:14 and following is interesting. I can only say that the Good News Version made a translation error in saying that Abraham put Ishmael on Hagar's back. I think your initial calculation that Ishamael was 14 at the time is correct, but you cannot add 3 years for weaning to get to 17. First, it is not in the Scripture. Second, the preceding chapters show that Abraham was circumcised when he was 99 and Ishamael was 13. He had Isaac when he was 100, so Ishamael was either still 13 or had turned 14, depending on when in the year his birthday fell. Either way, certainly 13 or 14 is too old to be carried.
However, most of the translations do not say he was carried. Most say that Abraham placed the water skin on Hagar's shoulders and gave him the boy and off they went. The TEV says he was placed on her shoulders, but not the New International Version, the New American Standard Version, the King James Version, or the New Century Version. So, I don't think, as you maintain, that this was modified later, I think it is a matter of how you interpret the Hebrew.
I also don't think the passage speaks of Ishmael as if he is a baby. Certainly, the readers would have know the earlier chapter shows him to be 13. Further, the word for "boy" is "yeled" (transliterated). It appears many times in Genesis, interpreted as child, boy, youth, young man or offspring. It never appears to my knowledge in Genesis as baby or infant.
I don't know why the TEV missed the translation, but clearly Ishamael was a young teenager and Abraham put him away with his mother, giving her provisions she could carry, bread and water, and sending her in the morning in hopes that she would find food and shelter before the day got too hot.
Thanks for reading. I'll post on the other issues as soon as I can get to them.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
Having now covered the theological ground, Paul makes a personal application to the Galatians. In verse 8, he reminded the Galatians that, before they became believers, they were enslaved to false gods. They were probably worshippers of the Roman gods and other idols. Now that they have become believers, or are “known by God, they should not return to the elementary principles that enslaved them. So, he asked them a rhetorical question, “how could you?”
I think it is interesting here that Paul corrects himself. He first says that you have come to know God, but corrects himself to say “known by God”. I don’t know for sure what Paul was thinking, but we often put even spiritual things in human terms, since we are by nature self centered. The extreme of this is those who teach that Christ is primarily interested in your earthly success and riches, or those who say we can by our words make things happen.
But, the truth is, the Bible tells us God is in control and God is the initiator. Those who believe are “known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 says “…the man who loves God is known by God” (NIV). Jesus said “I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep and am known by my own. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10: 14, 27.
So, Paul said, now that you have entered into this relationship with God through Christ, so that He knows you and you know him, how could you contemplate going back to your life of slavery to other things? Why would you trade a relationship with the Living God for legalism?
Paul pointed out that the Galatians were observing special days, months, seasons and years. The Romans had many special days set aside to honor their gods, and they became times of celebration for the people. For example, there was Saturnalia.
Saturnalia was celebrated on December 17, and came to take up a whole week. There were sacrifices to Saturn, who had a temple in Rome, a large dinner or banquest, a holiday from school, and giving presents. They even had a greeting, "io (pronounced “vo”, Saturnalia!", meaning "Ho, praise to Saturn". Saturday is named after Saturn. Now you can buy a car named after him also.
Sol Invictus means “the Unconquered Sun", or Deus Sol Invictus ("the Unconquered Sun God") was worshipped in Rome, including by the emperor Constantine.
The Romans held a festival on December 25 called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, "the birthday of the unconquered sun." December 25 was also considered to be the date of the winter solstice, the day the Sun proved itself to be "unconquered" despite the shortening of daylight hours. The emperor Aurelian introduced an official cult of Sol Invictus, making the sun-god the premier divinity of the empire. Emperors began to wear radiated crowns to identify themselves with this god. He founded a college of pontifices. He dedicated a temple to Sol Invictus. The Romans began to celebrate a festival called dies natalis Solis Invicti, "birthday of the undefeated Sun", on the 25th December. Constantine even named a day after it, called “dies Solis”, or Sunday. It was a Roman day of rest. The government and the shops closed. This continued until paganism was abolished by Theodosius I in 390.
Some think Paul is referring to Jewish days of observance, rather than Roman days, and that days refers to Sabbaths, months to new moons, seasons to feasts or festivals, and years to jubilee years.
Paul told them they had been liberated from having to observe such days and they should not go back, whether it was to Roman holidays or Jewish holidays. The legal observance of those days was no longer a part of their faith.
He will now drop this argument until verse 21, to make a personal appeal.
4:12-16 How Paul Came To Them
12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Paul evidently came to Galatia because he was sick. Even though Paul was sick, the Galatians received him and considered him a blessing because he brought the gospel to them. Now, he says, after becoming a blessing for telling you the truth of the gospel, have I become an enemy for telling the same truth?
Paul urged the Galatians to imitate him, to hold on to their freedom from legalism and to hold to Christ, not to the Jewish law.
4:17-20 Up To No Good
17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
The Judaizers zealously pursued the Galatians. They made much of them, probably by flattery. But, they did this for a bad purpose, to pull these believers away from the truth. It reminds me of cults who work to befriend lonely or consuded people, then lead them away from truth and into a cult. It’s fine to be courted, but only for a good purpose.
Paul feels like a parent toward these believers in Galatia, but, unfortunately feels that he will again experience the anguish of childbirth, until they have forsaken this error of legalism and begun to live again by faith. He wished, instead, to be with them and find the correctly living by faith, so he could change his tone and not be perplexed by their turning to the law.
4:21-31 Allegory of Sarah and Hagar
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;  she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
Paul begins this section by saying, in verse 21, that these people who want to be under the law are not reading the law correctly. He asked a rhetorical question, “do you not listen to the law”, meaning “you do not listen to the law. This is like saying to a bad driver, “didn’t you take driving lessons?” That means you drive so badly you must not have taken driving lessons.
So, he goes on to explain the law, and uses an allegorical interpretation of the story of Sarah and Hagar to make his point. An allegory is an extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The characters are personifications of traits or ideas. So, the allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. The most famous one in philosophy is Plato’s allegory of the cave.
More well know to you is likely Pilgrims Progress, by John Bunyan, the great English Baptist (and Calvinist). There is a story of a man making a journey, but it is an allegory for the Christian life. The full title of the book is actually The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come. The main character travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The characters have names to indicate who they are in a theological sense, such as the character Christian, and the place “Vanity Fair”.
The difference here is that Paul takes a true story from Genesis. The characters are Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac, the son of promise she bore him. The other is Hagar, the concubine, whom Sarah gave to Abraham to have a son, and who bore him Ishmael.
Paul reminded them of the real historical characters. Sarah bore the child of promise, Isaac. Hagar had a son according to the flesh, Ishmael, who was born of the flesh when Abraham and Sarah doubted the Lord and tried to create an heir in their own way.
Allegorically speaking, Paul said that Hagar is a slave, so her son is born in slavery. She corresponds to Mt. Sinai, where the law was given, the old covenant and earthly Jerusalem, where the law was practiced. The Judaizers would understand that Paul is saying they are not part of the covenant family.
Sarah, on the other hand, stands for the new covenant, the Heavenly Jerusalem. This is the “age to come” and our redemption in Christ. This is the Heavenly Jerusalem that will descend to earth at the end of all things, as set out in Revelation 21:2. This Jerusalem is free, that is, free from the law, in contrast to the earthly Jerusalem, which is in slavery to the law.
It was this heavenly Jerusalem that Abraham himself sought, not the earthly one. Hebrews 11 tells us this. Hebrews 11:10 says “For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Then, in verse 16 says of all those mentioned in the faith hall of fame, “But, as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” That city is the heavenly Jerusalem. We also wait for that city. Philippians 3:20 reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven. Hebrews 12:22 says “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”
Believers physically dwell here on earth, but are citizens of that heavenly city. We already have the right to dwell in the heavenly city, but that right is not realized until the next age begins.
The poem Paul recites in verse 27 says the children of the promise will be more than the children of slavery. This is a reference to Isaiah 54:1. This is not speaking of Arabs and Jews, it is speaking of the church, the believers, as the children of the “desolate one”, that is, Sarah, and the children born into slavery, those who are enslaved to the law, which would be the Jews. Abraham was promised that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in heaven, and that is fulfilled in the church with believing Jews and Gentiles filling out that great assembly.
4:28-31 Children of Promise
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Paul reminded them, and us, again, that believers are the children of promise, not the children of slavery to legalism. Those born according to the flesh represent those Jews who want to live by the law, or legalism. Those born according to the Spirit, are those of the church, those who have been born again.
Yet, as verse 29 says, the children of legalism will persecute the children of faith. In Paul’s time, it was the Judaizers who persecuted the children of faith. But, in all times, there will be those who want to take away your freedom in Christ and impose legalism on you, giving you lists of things you must do as a Christian, or not do, and the things on those lists will take precedence over faith in the gospel. Don’t let them do it.
Friday, June 22, 2007
It is a shame to see this un-Christlike behavior from one charged with the affairs of a state convention, attacking people who believe in the glory of God the Father, the saving blood of Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the inerrancy of the Word of God.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
For the uninitiated, SBC churches are notorious for having large membership roles on which are many people who cannot be found and haven’t been to church in years. Years ago, we had a fund raising campaign we called “Avenues For Advance”. This was a take off on our name, Travis Avenue Baptist Church.
Part of the gig was to visit every member of the church on the rolls and tell them about the campaign (ok, hit them up for money). I made a lot of visits, say 30-40. It was interesting. Some of the folks did not know they were on our church roll and wanted off. Some had quit coming because they got mad. Either someone did not choose them for the softball team or the preacher said something the did not like or it was Tuesday.
One lady told me she had not been in years, but if you cut her heart open, she would “bleed Travis Avenue”. She told me she loved Dr. Naylor more than anyone. I pointed out that he had not been the pastor for a couple of decades. I should point out here that, a few years ago, we began to clean up our rolls and the church is now half the size it once was, but we know where a lot of them are.
Churches also have people who come, but aren’t members. They also have people who came by “statement” or by “transfer of letter” and their beliefs aren’t necessarily tested. Also, many churches have lots of people who filled out a card and “prayed that “prayer”, but have little idea what they were getting into.
At the same time this is going on, the leadership is the SBC (and by that I mean those in charge) is continually crying about church members who are not involved, especially in evangelism, which has become the Holy Grail for SBC leadership. But, hey. Lots of these poor folks never heard the Gospel, lots were never required to sign on to it, and others came because their emotions were shamelessly manipulated.
When you go visit someone for “follow up” after an evangelistic event, what do you find? Many won’t talk to you. Most are not interested in coming to church. Others got what they wanted, which was a get out of Hell free card, and they don’t want anything more. What happened there? What didn’t happen might be more important. There was no conversion. There was no taking up the cross to follow Christ. There was no subjecting of the self to the lordship of Christ, no since of becoming a disciple.
So, you have churches with large numbers of lost people in them. Lost people can’t be disciples or followers of Christ. No matter how many goals are set by the denominational leaders, no matter how many inspirational sermons preached by pastors to pastors, no change will happen until we honestly deal with these issues.
Let’s just be honest. Honestly.
Instead of considering a "no confidence" vote on the Attorney General (which by the way is not a recognized procedure in American government), they should consider the American people have given them one.
Most people think most congress members are greedy and motivated by self interest and, even when they want to accomplish something for the country, are totally inept and clueless about how to get it done. Earmarks, scandals, blustery rhetoric, lying and posturing are the rule of the day.
The only thing more embarassing that the existence of Congress is the fact that we voted them in.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
3:1-5 By Faith, or by Works of the Law?
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by  the flesh? 4 Did you suffer  so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—
Paul now applies his argument personally to the Galatians to develop it in more detail. He calls them foolish, as if they were gullible or unperceptive. He is astonished that they could be fooled or tricked into believing something contrary to what they had been taught.
He said Christ had been publicly portrayed to them as crucified. Why is that relevant? It is relevant because he preached to them that Christ died to pay the penalty of their sins and they were saved by faith in him, not by their own works. Paul is saying, knowing that Christ was crucified for your sins to accomplish your salvation, how can you now be fooled into thinking you can be righteous by your own works. He went on in verse 2 to put this in terms of their personal experience. He asked them “did you receive the Spirit by works or by believing in Christ (hearing in faith).
This is a rhetorical question, they were saved by faith. So, he goes on. If you began in the faith by the Spirit, can you now go forward by works? Have the rules changed? When he says “receive the Spirit”, he is again referring to salvation, which is when the believer receives the Holy Spirit. For example, Peter, in Acts 2:38, said “38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13 says “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”.
God gave them the Spirit, and worked miracles among them, as a gift in response to their faith, not because they earned it or worked for it or observed the right rituals.
3:6-9 The Witness of Abraham
6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify  the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For the Jews, the authority and example of Abraham is all important. They consider him the father of their race and religion. So, Paul used him as an example that Abraham was made righteous, saved if you will, by faith. He believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
For the Gentiles among the Galatians, Abraham is also important, because it was Jewish Christians who were claiming the Gentiles needed to observe the law to become Christians. If their founder was made righteous by faith, their argument had to fail.
When Paul wrote that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, he is quoting Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have a son and God counted it to him as righteousness.
Paul made the same argument in Romans 4:1-5. He said:
“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Abraham’s faith and God’s crediting it as righteousness happened before the advent of circumcision, which was given in Genesis 17. Remember it is circumcision and the other requirements of the law the Jewish Christians wish to impose on the Galatians. Again, Romans 4 deals with the same issue. In Romans 4:9-12, Paul wrote:
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Paul goes on to extend the application of faith. He said, since Abraham was justified by faith, the children of Abraham are not his physical descendants, but those who have faith in God. This, I think, also has great implications for those who claim that modern day Israel is still the chosen race and the covenant children of Abraham.
Paul goes further. He says the Old Testament scripture specifically included the Gentiles in the promise of faith, way back to the time Moses wrote the first books. (God, of course, included them all along and revealed it to Abraham.) In verse 8, Paul said the Scripture, which would be the Old Testament in this case, foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. It preached the gospel to Abraham by saying all nations will be blessed in you. So, God revealed to Abraham that, not only was he justified by faith, but the Gentiles would be brought into the kingdom also by faith. So, Abraham truly became the father of a great multitude, because he was the father of all who believed and were credited with righteousness.
We don’t become righteous because of our works. Righteousness is credited to us through faith in Christ. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. This is justification. Romans 4:22 says:
That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification
3:10-14 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit  through faith.
The problem with trying to keep the law is that you have to abide by all the law or you fall under the curse of the law. Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26. In fact the purpose of the law was to reveal sin and judge the guilty, not to justify or acquit them. God did not give the law in anticipation that men would obey it fully and be justified, then change course when they didn’t and send Christ. In fact, with the law, God gave requirements for sacrifices that would atone for sin.
We know we have all sinned. Therefore, we are all under the curse of the law. Death and separation from God follow from sin. God set out the specifics of the curse in Deuteronomy 28 as it applied to Israel. By the time of Christ, and then Paul, the Jews felt the weight of that curse. They were captives in their own land, completely in subjugation to the pagan Romans. Eventually, the Romans would destroy their country and their temple. Deuteronomy 28:49-51 said:
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, 50 a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. 51 It shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; it also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your herds or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish.
But, in verse 13, Paul said Christ redeemed us from this curse by becoming the curse. He died for us, in our place, taking our sins and our curse upon him.
Isaiah 53:6 put it this way: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Romans 3:23-25 says: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
John 1:16-17 says And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
So, by faith, the blessing of Abraham, justification, came to the Gentiles by faith and we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe. This is what the Lord demonstrated through Peter, when he sent Peter to preach to Cornelius and those at his house. They believed the gospel and were saved. Acts 10:44-48 says:
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
3:15-18 The Law and the Promise
15 To give a human example, brothers: [or brothers and sisters] even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Paul makes the point in verse 15 that a covenant lasts forever. It is not annulled or changed once it has been made. He said even a man made covenant is this way, meaning that, if it is that way with men, it is more so with God. If God makes a covenant, he keeps it. The covenant cannot be changed.
Now, skip to verse 17, because verse 16 is a sort of parenthetical statement on another topic and we’ll deal with that in a minute. Verse 17 applies to principle stated in verse 15 to the covenant God made with Abraham and the law. God made a covenant with Abraham and it cannot be modified or changed in any way and it lasts forever. The law came after this promise, but it did not annul the promise of covenant God made with Abraham or make the covenant void.
In verse 18, Paul said the inheritance promised to Abraham does not come by the law, but by the promise, God’s promise. God promised Abraham, or set the terms of a covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 12:3, that he would bless all nations or families of the earth in him (Abraham). Abraham believed God, or that God would do what he said, and God credited that belief to Abraham as righteousness. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:18-22.
400 years later, God gave the law to Israel through Moses. The giving of the law did not annul the promise to or the covenant with Abraham. Remember, Paul said the covenant could not be modified or annulled. So, despite the giving of the law, the promise or covenant with Abraham continued undiminished.
Now, go back to verse 16. Paul says the covenant or promise was given to Abraham and his offspring, and that offspring was Christ. The offspring, the recipient of the promise in addition to Abraham, was not the Jews, but Christ. Paul is telling the Jews their thinking is wrong. The Abrahamic covenant is not going to be fulfilled in the Jews as a nation, but in Christ.
You can see this even more clearly if you relate it to Genesis 3:15. After the Fall, God promised Eve that a savior would come from her that would defeat Satan. That savior is Christ. He would come through the line of Abraham, as God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
This is all relevant to Paul’s contention that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews and observe the law to become part of God’s family. The Jews believed that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in the Jews, so you had to become a Jew to become part of the covenant family. But, Paul said no, the promises are fulfilled in Christ, so you only have to become part of Christ to become part of God’s family. The entrance to God’s family is not through the Jews, it is through Christ. John 1:12 tells us this also: But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John the Baptist even warned the Jews not to think that, because they were physical descendants of Abraham, that they would be saved. In Matthew 3:7-9, we hear John’s sermon to them. It says “7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
So, you ask, why then did God give the law? And, as usual, Paul anticipated that would be the next question, so he answered it beginning in verse 19.
3:19 The Purpose of the Law
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
The law was added because of transgressions. I think that means God gave the law to define sin and set before men and women his standards of righteousness. In Romans 7:7, Paul said “I would not have known sin except through the law.” (NKJV) God had chosen Israel, called them and redeemed them from slavery. They had lived for years in the midst of the pagan Egyptians. God said I have called you out of that and redeemed you and this is how you are to live. He gave them the law as a covenant. He would be their God and they would live according to his standards. If they did, he would bless them. If they did not, he would punish them.
The giving of the covenant of the law was not to replace the covenant of grace that God made with Abraham, promising to bless all nations through him. It was subordinate to it. It was subordinate in two ways: first, it was given to the Jews through an intermediary, Moses, and by angels, not from God directly, whereas God made the covenant with Abraham directly; second, it was temporary, compared to the permanent covenant of grace. Verse 19 tells us the law would only exist until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, Jesus. Once Jesus came, the law would cease to exist as a covenant.
Remember, Paul said a covenant could not be annulled or added to. So, what makes a covenant go away or no longer apply? That happens when it is fulfilled. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law. He fulfilled all the types of the ceremonies.
3:21-22 Does the Law Overrule the Promise?
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The law is not contrary to and does not overrule the promises. They have different purposes. The promise to Abraham and Christ, made before the law, is not overruled by the giving of the law. The promise came first and supercedes the law. The law came second. It was not designed to give eternal life. Paul says, if it had been designed for that, that is how we would obtain righteousness. Instead, the law prepared the law for the fulfillment of the promise. The law revealed sin and showed us that we all sin and are incapable of righteousness. It prepared us to believe Christ and to receive salvation and eternal life from him.
Again, Paul is showing the Jewish believers are wrong to force the law on the Gentile believers, for the law cannot give them life.
3:23-29 The Law Was the Guardian
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave  nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
The law functioned as a guardian or custodian. I think this is a picture of the Greek pedagogue. He was usually a slave appointed by the parent to educate and care for the child until he was of age. When the child reached the age of adulthood, he was no longer under the care and discipline of the pedagogue.
When Christ came, we became sons through faith. We are no longer under the authority of the custodian, the law. We have “put on” Christ. Our righteousness is from him. We take off the garments of our sinful life and put on the garments of Christ’s righteousness. The sign of this sonship is baptism, not circumcision.
All believers are sons, or children of God. Within this family, there are no distinctions. The difference between Jew and Greek is obliterated. There is no reason for the Gentile to become a Jew, in the church there are no Jews, only sons. Likewise, there are no males and females. There are only sons, or children. We are all one in Christ. If we are Christ’s, we are, by definition, Abraham’s offspring, heirs to the promise of blessing. No one else gets the blessing, except those who are Christ’s.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Remember Baby Jessica? Remember how we all sat in front of the television and prayed that they would rescue the 18 month old toddler that fell down an abandoned well in Midland, Texas? Having lived in Midland in the past made the story memorable for me.
Well (pardon the pun), "Baby Jessica" is now 21 with a child of her own, believe it or not. You can read about her on MSN.
It's ironic that we bond to strangers in trouble, pray for them, hope for them, rejoice with them when they are rescued, and grieve with their families when they are not rescued. Television news exposes us to people all around the world.
And yet, for every Jessica, there are many who suffer and die and no one knows or helps. That is the greater pity.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Those who want to go to San Antonio for a resolution that speaking in tongues in not Biblical might be shocked by a survey on that subject from LifeWay Research. Remember that anything with "LifeWay" on it is SBC stuff, like the old Baptist Book Store, which is not the LifeWay store. (Even the convention does not want people to know it is Southern Baptist.)
Anyway, this survey revealed that about half of Southern Baptist pastors believe the Holy Spirit gives some people a special prayer language from the Lord. Dwight McKissic has a lot more support than Paige Patterson thought he did.
This survey included 405 senior pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention and 600 non-SBC senior pastors. (No word on whether the non-senior pastors had to ask the senior pastors how to respond.)
43 percent of the pastors said the Holy Spirit does not give a private prayer language. So, it looks like Dwight beats Paige on the numbers at least.
Seven percent didn't know (and said "I'm not a theologian, just a pastor.) I'm surprised that number wasn't higher. Also, no word on how many pastors couldn't be reached for the survey because they were out playing golf.
In keeping with those numbers, 41 percent of SBC pastors identify themselves as "cessationists". The definition of that may have been skewed, however, as they discussed "those who believe the spiritual gifts, including tongues, have ceased." Cessationists don't generally believe all spiritual gifts have ceased, just the miraculous ones.
Seven percent of those surveyed said they were not Cessationists and believed the Union should stay together.
I have to say I'm not sure it is worth the time and attention of the convention to discuss this issue, especially under the guise of coming up with a rule to prevent it. Baptists are divided over it and it is not a primary issue. However, it might detract the Fundamentalists from trying to kick out the Calvinists. That would allow me to teach Sunday School for another year.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I went to a lunch today for men at our church. There was a speaker, Dr. Wes Black, from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a member of our church. He talked about differences between men and women and why men don't come to church as much as women. He said it in an indirect fashion, but his conclusion was that the church is too feminine.
Dr. Black showed clips from several movies men like. One was Air Force One, where Harrison Ford fights the bad guy and knocks him out of the plane. When he did, about 10 guys said in unison with Ford, "get off of my plane". He also showed the clip of Rooster Cogburn shooting the bad guys with both hands, although he blipped out the money quote. There was also a clip from Remember the Titans, and another football movie, where a kid crawls and carries another kid on his back for 100 yards. There were some others. It was funny, because you could hear the men either cheering or saying "alright" at the pivotal moments.
I think there are lots of feminine things the church does that men don't like, unless they have become feminized, which many have. One is "boyfriend songs". We sing "I love you, I need you, I can't live without you" as a worship song. (We did that.)
Another is, and our pastor has done this, saying you need to "fall in love with Jesus". That grosses out a lot of men with a sort of latent homosexual tinge.
Another one is holding hands across the aisle. (I don't think even women like that one, and it freaks the kids totally. Who's idea was that, anyway?)
Men need to go to church and lead in the church and serve in the church. But, they still need to be men.
Monday, June 04, 2007
When they came to another homeless person, Clinton decided to help. She gave the homeless person directions to the welfare office. She then reached into Thompson's pocket and got out $20. She kept $15 for her administrative fees and gave the homeless person $5.
There is a difference.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
2:11-14 Bowing To Peer Pressure
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Despite the fact that Peter, or Cephas as he is referred to here, acknowledged the gospel of grace in the assembly of apostles, when he faced the Jews in Antioch, he caved. And, in caving, he led the other Jews in Antioch, including Barnabas, to cave in to this false gospel, and they separated themselves from the Gentile believers in Antioch. All of a sudden, there is a split in this growing, dynamic church. There is a split between Jewish and Gentile believers.
Paul jumped into the breach by confronting the problem. He went directly to Peter and accused him of being a hypocrite. Peter did not live like a Jew, observing the law and rituals. He lived like a Gentile, in the sense that he lived as one freed by grace. Paul said, if you live like a Gentile, how in the world can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews? That must have been embarrassing for Peter on several fronts.
First, it had to embarrass him in front of the Judaizers, who now knew he had not been observing the law as they believed one should. Second, it had to embarrass him in front of the Gentiles, to have his rejection of them pointed out. Third, it had to embarrass him in front of his Savior, who had given him a vision of the unity of Jews and Gentiles in a vision. That is recorded in Acts 10, and Peter realized that God sought Gentile believers and well as Jewish ones. Yet, he deserved it and confrontation was needed because he was not acting in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter who is preaching, as much as it matters what is preached, and practiced.
2:15-16 Justified by Faith
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Paul and Peter were both Jews by birth. They were not Gentiles. They called the Gentiles sinners because they did not possess the law and, therefore, could not keep it. They had no way to be righteous. Yet, being Jews, they realized they could never meet the requirements of the law, so they could not be justified by observing the law, but only through faith in Christ. Paul may be referring here to Psalm 143:2. That verse says “Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.” The Psalmist recognized that no one could obtain righteousness on their own.
Let’s remind ourselves what justification is. It is being declared not guilty. We know we are guilty. Romans 3:10 says “none is righteous, no not one”. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However, even though we are guilty, God declares us not guilty when we receive Christ. Romans 3:24 tells us and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. He also imputes divine righteousness to us. See Romans 4:22-25. He can do this because he lived a perfect life, yet died for us.
There are groups today that want to add works to faith for salvation. There are some that require membership in a certain group. There are some who say if you do not support Israel you are going to hell. Paul said, you are justified if you believe.
2:17-21 Not a License To Sin
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
One practical argument people like the Judaizers make against justification by grace, is to say it is a license to sin. I had an argument with an Assembly of God preacher once about security of the believer. He did not believe in it. This is, in a sense, adding works to grace, because you say that God’s grace is only effective if your works are pleasing to God. He was very practical, because he said if salvation was permanent and eternal, people could sin all they want.
This idea ignores the concept of change, that a person who comes to Christ is changed. He is no longer a slave to sin, and wants to please the Lord with his life. He is also changing, as process of sanctification makes him more and more Christlike. The Christian life is also a life of gratitude, being thankful to God for salvation you do not deserve. It is also a life of love for God. All these work to keep us from sinking back into a life dominated by sin. Paul said we died to the law, so that we might live to God.
When Paul said “if I rebuild what I tore down”, he might actually be referring to Peter, who, in siding with the Judaizers, tried to rebuild the law after the coming of grace. However, in doing so , he becomes a transgressor, because he is denying the gospel.
Instead, we die to the law through the law. The law drives us to Christ. When we unite with him, we die with him. So, Paul says I have been crucified with Christ. Paul’s sin was placed on Christ, who died for it on the cross. He was then indwelt with Christ, who lived in him. He lived his life through faith in Christ, not in the flesh, sinning greatly because he was not bound by the law.
Paul’s final point, in verse 21, is dramatic. If you could obtain righteousness from the law, then it was pointless to send Christ as our savior and he died for no purpose. The Judaizers were saying, in effect, that the death of Christ on the cross was not sufficient to save people from their sins.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
The terrorists targeted the airport because of the popularity of John F. Kennedy. They also thought it would cripple the U.S. economy. You wouldn’t want to do any profiling, but three of the four arrested suspects are named Abdul Kadir, Kareem Ibrahim and Abdel Nur. There are three other men involved outside the United States.
The Justice Department said the men began planning the attack on January 6. They were involved with an international network of Muslim extremists from the United States, Guyana and Trinidad.
You should also note that an important part of the detection and prevention of this attack was the taping of telephone conversations. The plot was actually discovered when the terrorists attempted to recruit a law enforcement informant.