Theme: Thoughts from the New Testament Epistles – Galatians & Ephesians
In This Issue
- “Paul’s Defense of the Gospel Through a Defense of His Apostleship” ( Gal. 1:11 – 2:21) by Dillon Jarrett
- “Justification by Faith Apart from Works of the Mosaical Law Defended” ( Gal. 3:1 – 4:31) by Sean Cavender
- “God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Eph. 1:3 – 3:21) by Jordan Shouse
- “Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose” (Eph. 4:1 – 6:24) by Hannah & Sarah Crawford
“Paul’s Defense of the Gospel through a Defense of His Apostleship” (Gal. 1:11 – 2:21)
Understanding many of Paul’s writings can be tedious and difficult as Peter explains in 2 Peter 3:15-16 when he states, “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Note the difference in the manner he addresses the Galatians in the 1st and 2nd chapters.
That difference is his approach. Often, as in other letters, Paul will begin his discussion with salutations and commendations to his audience. He does not waste any time in this letter, however, in addressing his point and is quite clear on his intentions. He says, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me.” There are two distinctions made illustrating where this letter will go in the coming paragraphs. First, who he is “an apostle—not from men nor through man,” and where the validity of his presentations will arise, “Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Secondly, the next sentences regarding his concern for their lack of desire for the truth are made apparent. He states, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:6-9).
When those points are made initially, it only makes sense why he begins to provide a detailed Defense of the Gospel through his Apostleship. Please allow me to explain.
Our first explanation comes immediately in verses 11-16. It is astounding to Paul, as it certainly is today in our society, how quickly people depart from the truth by which they were called. In the case of the Galatians, they were swayed by a mockery and a perversion of the Gospel from what it was, God’s word. As we know of Paul along with the other writers of the New Testament, the words, which they spoke unto the early church and unto us today, are from the mouth of God. We know that from many passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Everything we need to know about God is given to us through his teachings. In the times of the early century, that which the Galatians should have known was directly from the mouth of God, not from the devious and conniving minds of the Judiazing teachers. He makes that point by illustrating it through his background as an apostle. Galatians 1:11-16 state, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” These points immediately address the problem and expose the nature of the teachings they were receiving involving a perversion of the gospel. Notice the points:
1. What he knew of the gospel wasn’t from men.
2. Becoming an apostle was at great cost, but worth it to him based on the result in his life.
3. Everything he learned of Jesus and the gospel couldn’t have come from the other disciples and apostles because he intentionally spent time away from them.
Knowing these three points, the Galatians would need to ask two questions: 1) If he had received the teaching he did, but not from the other apostles, then how could it not be the truth? 2) Would it have made sense for him to leave those old teachings behind in Judaism if it weren’t for a specific reason? Paul again offers more validity to his apostleship (and in turn the gospel) through his next paragraph. He says, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” Again, Paul explains that it wouldn’t make sense for him to have received the teachings of this new gospel if it hadn’t been from Jesus. The timing of everything is important to note as well. Notice the amount of time he spends away before he even consults with any of the other apostles and disciples. Now, in knowing this, again, he portrays more evidence that his teachings and beliefs could not have come from a secondary source. Those who had seen and walked with Jesus could not have given the depth of knowledge he received. There is further evidence provided that even when he made contact with the brethren in Jerusalem, he did not meet with all of the apostles. He only met with Peter and James. The point in all of this is magnified in his final sentence, “And they glorified God because of me.” Why? Because they knew who he was and what he had done. However, for whatever reason, as he had already explained in previous times, this was all for the glory of God. How else could one man receive the depth of teaching he understood without divine revelation.? It is simply this: unfathomable.
Our final point in this defense is made in the beginning of the 2nd chapter. We read the following in verses 1-10, “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” He finally draws the point to a momentary close in these verses. There is reference to more years in service. There is explanation as to why his apostleship was different than those before him in regards to the Gentile brethren that he and Barnabas had taught. He goes on to add that even though strong and influential men opposed them to their face, they did not yield to proclaim the truth. Case in point, Paul was not interested in monetary gain of acquiring anything from his teachings except for this: furtherance of the gospel.
If that meant losing his life and previous reputation, so be it. In contrast, losing Christians to the enemy because their minds had been perverted either in ignorance or stupidity was unacceptable. The Galatians were falling into myths and teachings much like those in Colossae had become prey to. He says in Colossians 2:1-14, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” The Judaizing teachers were something Christ and the Father knew were going to come. Difficulty arose when people had to make a choice. They had to decide who to trust and who spoke the truth. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” That which the Galatians had received from Paul represented the truth because of its source. The nature in which he becomes an apostle along with the events that follow lead to the conclusion Paul hoped they would understand. Whatever men may speak unto them had to be verified. What they had seen and heard in Paul represented the truth because of his history and again, the origin of his teachings. It wasn’t about Paul. It was about the furtherance of the gospel. This time, the only difference is he found it necessary to make it personal by using his past experience to illustrate a point.
Many words will be spoken to us just as the Galatians had seen or heard in the first century. The question we must ask ourselves as they did when we read his defense is this: Is what I am being taught from the teachings of God or the teachings of men? The question will at many times in your life define your discipleship. Remember who you are and who has called you. He (the Lord) provides all you need in the scriptures. However, those words and teachings will never help you unless you meditate on them daily. So, stay at it and may all the glory and praise be given to our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Justification By Faith” (Gal. 3:1-4:31)
Sean P. Cavender
Paul addresses the issues within the churches of Galatia in a straight forward manner, dealing with the root of their problems (Galatians 3:1-5). They had “begun,” but now were attempting to be perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:3). These churches had been led astray by the preaching of the Judaizing teachers, who were perverting the gospel of Christ. The Judaizing teachers were adding the requirement upon the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses as essential in order to be saved. Paul’s frustration is clearly seen as he is dealing with this problem. He then sets forth a strong argument for justification apart from the Law of Moses.
Abraham Was Justified By Faith
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Paul appeals to the example of Abraham and how he was justified by faith. The conclusion is presented rather simply: those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). The Scripture attests to the justification of the Gentiles upon the condition of faith, and not upon the condition of keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:8). Abraham was justified by his faith in God, not by keeping circumcision and matters of the law. His faith was a remarkable faith, one which was alive, demonstrated, and obeyed. It was faith in God that led Abraham to obedience (Hebrews 11:8). It was by his works that he was justified (James 2:24). This must be the kind of faith that we demonstrate to be justified in God’s sight.
The Law Served Its Purpose
Faith in Christ is what justifies a man, but that faith was previously hidden. The law was given in order to bring us to Christ. The Law of Moses was given as a schoolmaster, or a tutor (Galatians 3:24). It was given to teach us of concepts about obedience, sacrifice, sin, judgment, grace, and forgiveness. It also taught the need for a Savior. However, now faith has been revealed and we are no longer in need of the schoolmaster. By the gospel, we are in the full participation and knowledge of the things the law was striving to teach. It is incorrect to assume that the Law of Moses was pointless. The Law of Moses had a purpose, primarily the purpose of teaching. It had a purpose, but now that purpose was accomplished in Christ. Christ came to fulfill the law, not to rebel against the law (cf. Matthew 5:17). After the fulfillment of the law had come the law was no longer necessary. The Law of Moses was incomplete until Christ came. Justification and completion is through the faith in the Son of God (Galatians 3:26; Colossians 2:10; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, the Judaizing teacher is deferring back to something that was always incomplete. In context of the issues that Paul was dealing with, he is rendering the agenda of the Judaizing teachers as incomplete and pointless.
Christ Redeemed Those That Were Under The Law
Consider the role of the old law and how it had concluded all to be under sin (Galatians 3:22). Jews and Gentiles had the problems of sin and both groups needed justification. Christ came to redeem all of mankind, but He came to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:5). The Law of Moses had concluded that all were under sin and in need of salvation. Therefore, the law was imperfect due to the transgressions of the people that were under that system of law. Christ came to redeem the people that were under that law. Why would the Judaizing teachers attempt to bind the Gentiles with a system that they themselves needed to be redeemed from? It was irrational and unfair for the Judaizers to require Gentiles keep the Law of Moses to be saved.
Justification Produces Liberty
The grandest result from being justified by faith in Christ is our freedom. Those who are binding heavy burdens of the Law of Moses rule upon fear, inequality, and unfairness. Those things are done away through the gospel of Christ. It is by faith that we are made free. Paul presents an inspired allegory based upon Sarah and Hagar, the mothers of Abraham’s children (Galatians 4:24-31). Hagar was a servant of Sarah, the mother of Ishmael. She was not the mother of the child of promise, neither was she free. Sarah was the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac, who was the promised child. Paul argues that the justified are the children of promise. Therefore, we are children of the freed woman (Galatians 4:31). The wonderful blessing of liberty in Christ Jesus must never be squandered nor wasted. We ought to appreciate and be thankful for the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Through careful study and consideration of these matters, we can begin to understand the wonderful scheme of redemption. God has acted out of love and grace to free us from our sins. Our justification is by faith in Christ. If we will believe in the Son of God, the promise of forgiveness, and we obey God, then we can be assured of our liberty.
“God’s Eternal Purpose in Christ” (Ephesians 1-3)
Paul’s letter to the brethren in Ephesus begins with the description of God’s eternal purpose, which was fulfilled in Christ. This may sound like an intimidating thought, but what it simply means is that God had a plan before beginning of the time (eternal), and it was a plan which came about (fulfilled) through Jesus.
It is an impressive thought, that before the beginning of time God had a plan concerning us. Paul would reference this eternal plan in phrases such as:
• “…chose us in Him before the beginning of the world,” (1:4)
• “…predestined us to adoption as sons” (1:5)
• “…having been predestined according to His purpose” (1:11)
• “…which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (2:10)
• “…in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out..” (3:11)
Before we were created, before the world was formed, God had a plan concerning the world. God works all things after the counsel of His will (1:11), or according to His purpose/plan. So God has had a plan from the beginning, and has kept to that plan or will in all He does. This ought to reminds us of the wisdom and intelligence of God. His eternal plan involved us, people guilty of sin, separated from God. His plan also involved Jesus. As 3:11 states, the eternal plan was carried out or accomplished through Jesus. Paul would again make reference to this fact through several verses such as:
• “…adoption as sons through Jesus Christ..” (1:5)
• “In Him we have redemption..” (1:7)
• “…which He purposed in Him” (1:9)
• “…In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (1:11)
• “In Him…” (1:12)
• “…which He brought about in Christ” (1:20)
• “…made us alive together with Christ” (2:5)
• “..raised us up with Him….in Christ Jesus” (2:6)
• “…kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (2:7)
• “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10)
• “But now in Christ Jesus….brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)
• “by abolishing in His flesh….so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man” (2:15)
• “might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16)
• “for through Him we both have our access… (2:18)
• “…fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus” (3:6)
• “…which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11)
As you can see from the verses cited, God’s eternal purpose came about by Jesus. Through His sacrifice upon the cross, God’s plan could be accomplished, fulfilled. This leads us to the question, “What is this eternal purpose which God fulfilled in Jesus?” God’s plan was the redemption of mankind, the forgiveness of their sins through the death of Jesus on the cross, as the atoning sacrifice. Notice how this is described in the words of Paul:
• “…blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3)
• “…would be holy and blameless before Him.” (1:4)
• “…adoption as sons..” (1:5)
• “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (1:6)
• “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (1:7)
• “…having obtained an inheritance” (1:11)
• “…who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,” (1:14)
• “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins….but God being rich in mercy, because of His great love which He love us, even when we were dead in our transgression, made us alive together with Christ” (2:1, 4-5)
• “raised us up with Him…seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (2:6)
• “…show the surpassing riches of His grace” (2:7)
• “For by grace you have been saved through faith..” (2:8)
• “…you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)
• “For He Himself is our peace…” (2:14)
• “…might reconcile them both in one body to God” (2:16)
• “…have access in One Spirit to the Father” (2:18)
• “so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints…” (2:19)
• “…being built together into a dwelling of God” (2:22)
• “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6)
What was the eternal purpose of God in Jesus? It was a spiritual purpose, planned for the reconciliation of man to man (Jews and Gentiles), and of God and man (forgiveness of sins). God had the plan to bring all people of all nations together, united in one spiritual kingdom, His church, forgiven of their sins; a people purposed to offer spiritual sacrifices of worship to God (1 Peter 2:9). Does this plan involve you? Yes! God’s plan to redeem mankind of their sins includes you. God wants you to be forgiven, which He proved through Jesus (Rom. 5:8). God wants you to be in His Kingdom, the church. We belong to a wonderful, loving, wise God who knew what we needed before we were even made, and set about to bring that purpose to completion, even though it involved His Son on the cross. With the cross we have forgiveness, hope, and a future. All of this God purposed from the very beginning. It is His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.
“Life in Keeping With God’s Eternal Purpose (Ephesians 4-6)
Hannah and Sarah Crawford
In the first part of chapter 4 (verses 1-6), we are told how to walk in a manner worthy of serving the Lord and that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (vs. 5). By doing so, we are an example to others and allow our lights to shine in the world so that others may see the glory of God and come to Him. At the same time, it shows us that we are one in the Lord and that we are to have a sense of unity.
This chapter later goes on to say that we each have gifts, “some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (vs. 11). At times it is easy to feel that we aren’t as good as some other people in our service to the Lord. Everyone has been equipped “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (vs. 12) and it is up to us to find what we are good at and how we can serve others. Some are great song leaders while others prefer to preach a sermon and some converse easily with others while some are better at working behind the scenes (cards, phone calls, etc.). Each person and their task have a place in “which every part does its share, caus[ing] growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (vs. 16).
By putting on Christ, we no longer walk in the ways of the world. We have made a vow to turn away from sin and live our lives in accordance with God’s will. Verses 31-32 convey it well by saying “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
We are also commanded not to give the devil an opportunity to corrupt us (vs. 27). Many times we find ourselves rationalizing a poor decision. For example, “It’s okay if I watch this show that uses profanity as long as I don’t say anything bad”. Even if we don’t intend to sin, if we place ourselves in a situation where we know there will be sin occurring then we’ve basically shown the devil to our house and invited him to come in. The old saying, “Bad company, corrupts good morals” is also something we have to watch out for. Just because people we know at work or school are friendly doesn’t mean they act Christianly. By spending extra time at parties or get togethers where we know sin will be conducted, then we have condoned those actions even if we don’t participate in them. Just following God’s word and hoping that others will learn from our example is not enough. We have to stand up to sin and say no. By refusing to take part in these activities we are letting the world know that their actions are not acceptable and what God’s will is.
The section headings in my Bible for the beginning of this chapter say “Walk in Love” (vs. 1-7), “Walk in Light” (vs. 8-14), and “Walk in Wisdom” (vs. 15-21). In walking in love, we must turn from the ways of the world and not emulate them. There are many people that will twist the Bible or totally disregard its authority but we are told to “let no one deceive you with empty words for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (vs. 6-7). A majority of the world is walking in darkness, but in following Christ, we walk in the light. Part of that is “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (vs. 10) and this requires us to study. This leads to verse 17 which states “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” By doing these things, we can better serve the Lord and one another.
The end of the chapter compares the relationship between husband and wife to Christ and the church. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (vs. 23)…”For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (vs.30). This is another reason we are to walk in unity. How are we to spread God’s word and teach others what is right if we, as a group of Christians, are stumbling and lacking in wisdom and knowledge? We must be ready to answer questions and study the Bible with others at any time. We don’t know when someone may be curious about our faith in God, but if we aren’t ready then what will that teach others? We would be sending out a message that we don’t know what we believe or worse, we might turn them away from the gospel and that person’s soul might be lost. Now ask yourself, is losing someone’s soul worth the time you spent playing video games or goofing off on the internet instead of studying the Bible? Our immediate reaction is “No, of course not”, but too many times have we looked back at the end of the day and thought we could have done more. God’s given us specific instruction in chapter 6 on what we can do.
The Whole Armor of God – people put on armor to prepare themselves for battle. The world we live in hosts a spiritual war in which we must be properly girded for combat; this means we must take care of our armor and use our weapons, not neglect them or leave them in their sheath. This is necessary so that we may “stand against the wiles of the devil” (vs. 11) and “be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (vs.13). As mentioned earlier, we don’t know when we’ll be attacked and have to defend ourselves. We must take the time daily to polish our weapons and practice with them so that we will have the skill and tools necessary to overcome the devil and the deceit he’s placed in the minds of others. As Paul said in verses 18-19, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel”.
We leave you with this thought, are you prepared with the knowledge and boldness to go out as an example to the world, spreading God’s word?