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LOVING THE LORD JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW (REJECTING HIM VIOLATES IT)

       The Lord Jesus taught something quite radical in the perception of His contemporaries: He had apparently reduced the entire Law of Moses and the Prophets down to only two commandments.

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THE PROBLEM

        This obviously drove the strict religionists, those who couldn’t see spiritually past the end of their nose, right up a wall. They were invested up to their eyeballs in their voluminous religious knowledge. By this teaching He not only seemingly bypassed the entirety of Holy Writ, or at least put the vast law checklist in dubious perspective; He also completely subverted, in their eyes, the capacious and multifaceted oral law, of which only a distinct few were aware. To their chagrin, and with this instruction, He broke down the walls of the sheepfold and made the basis of spiritual knowledge and truth available for everyone.  

         But there is something else He did then that most of the Jewish teachers and many strict Trinitarian Christians miss. He once again equated Himself with God.        

         “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” [Luke 10:25-28]

         Did you catch that? The Lord Jesus told the lawyer the same thing He told Moses:

       “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.” [Leviticus 18:5]   

         Let’s look at another passage:

         But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:34-40]

THE REACTION

         Of course, the Lord never eliminated any part of the Law but He did fulfill it. He continued to honor all the commandments. He opened the eyes of many and brought the Law and Prophets into proper perspective by assigning priorities. For those, however, who were unwilling or unable to be led to quiet waters and lie down in green pastures, they insisted on their own imposed status quo and it blinded them to further truth.

         Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET?”’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. [Matthew 22:41-46]

         Judging by the extreme reaction of those great Pharisee teachers, something really strange took place on that occasion. One can almost see the popping and sparking of cerebral synapses and smoke coming out of their ears. They were at a complete loss and had no idea how to answer. Their vast repertoire of knowledge had nothing from which to draw. Their data base was empty of information on the topic. They had no idea, according to their own perception and understanding, how the Messiah could be both David’s Lord and his Son. They were absolutely flummoxed.

THE SOLUTION

          If one sees the Lord Jesus as God, then one will see that He must be loved with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind. If one sees the Lord Jesus as merely a secondary personage who is somehow less than God, then one must love Him as he loves himself. Whatever the case, one must at least apply the Golden Rule to the Lord Jesus OR BE IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW. And if one understands that the Lord Jesus truly is God, then one must love Him with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind OR BE IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW.

         From this there is the inescapable conclusion that our lives are arranged and bear spiritual fruit in direct relation to how we treat the Lord Jesus and whether or not we love Him exactly as He loves us. He already demonstrated His love for us by giving His perfect life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins, which we could never do, and by this He purchased our salvation. He said doing this was the greatest love. Therefore, He has already fulfilled the Golden Rule for every single human being who has ever lived or ever will live.

         But He did more than that. Though He did not need to, according to a strict interpretation of the Law, He actually applied not only the Golden Rule to us but the greatest commandment as well, in that He gave everything He had on our behalf—He loves us with all His heart, soul, strength, and mind.

         The Scriptures say God is Love. The Scriptures also say Jesus is God. Thus, the Scriptures say that Jesus is Love and He obviously demonstrated that love way back then but has also demonstrated it ever since then and still demonstrates it right now. He loves you.

         Even so, because the circumstances of this fallen world and the reality of this life are what they are, we are sometimes subjected to not so good things beyond our control. But there is no detrimental circumstance that has any bearing on His love for us. His love is greater than any such circumstance. Sometimes through faith we can overcome an adverse circumstance. But the first thing we do by faith is accept the possibility of real relationship with Him and move toward it. We take Him at His Word. We establish trust with Him. To complete the relationship-with-God transaction we love the Lord Jesus as He loves us. Whatever He did for us we must be willing to do for Him.

         Follow His example—Love and obey Him with all your heart just as He loved and obeyed “the Father.” That is the answer, my friends.

         Love never fails. [1Corinthians 13:8] [1]   

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

 

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DEFINING SIN: The Lord Jesus Endorsed the Old Testament Definition of Sin (2)

        Many Christians erroneously believe the Old Testament has been eliminated by the New Testament but the Lord Jesus NEVER said this. In fact, He said the following:

         “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:17-19] [1]

         In this passage, the Lord Jesus grants full approval of the entire Torah, accepts it in every respect without question, and allows for no elimination of any single law. He is saying that the Law of Moses is perfect and complete, just as the apostle Paul later taught in his writings, and He endorses the Law wholeheartedly. The Lord Jesus put His entire ministry and mission on the line by doing this, tying Himself entirely and absolutely to the Torah and its existence at least until heaven and earth passes away.

         Therefore, the notion that the Old Testament or the Law of Moses is no longer viable or in play could not be more wrong: Every definition of sin regarding personal human behavior is still 100% in effect. So if people say, “Well, since Jesus never said anything about this sin or that sin, it must be okay to practice such,” the correct response is that He actually did since He endorsed the Law and the Prophets. If the Law of Moses said something was a sin, it is still a sin to this day and the Lord Jesus agrees.

         Also, if the Torah said a particular action or behavior was a gross sin, or a complete violation of God’s intent, or an abomination, then it was and remains an abomination. You can tell which sins were the worst by the penalties attached to them. The worst sins had the sentence of death as the penalty, signifying the outright heinousness of the behavior and ultimately the total contempt for the Lord and His Law.

         Therefore, even though the Gospels do not address every single specific sin or the worst sins that required the death penalty, the Lord endorsed the written Torah, which does.

THE ORAL LAW

         Of course, the original written Torah was added to in a sense and amended with the addition of the unwritten oral law, which began about the time of the Babylonian Captivity and grew in content until the first century A.D. This oral law did not change the written Law (the Torah—the Law of Moses) which remained intact, but it had changed and corrupted the original intent of the written Law. The Lord Jesus addressed this corrupting influence on many occasions, rebuking those Torah-teachers who advocated for its use in altering the original.

         (Many Christians are guilty of the same practice, having altered the original teachings of the Lord Jesus to suit their own taste and limited understanding, and in some cases changing His intent and meaning entirely.)

         Since the New Testament thus defines sin by the Lord’s support of the Law and the Prophets, there is actually no distinction between the two in defining sin. Sin is still what it has always been and it still incurs a penalty. Many people do not understand they are paying a penalty for sin in some form or another at present based on some past or present sin, which they do not recognize as sin. They do not consciously make the cause and effect connection between the two.

         But God is not mocked. What we plant is what we will harvest. The ultimate penalty for unconfessed sin comes after physical death. It is not the Lord’s fault if people choose to die in their sins having rejected the only cure and the only cleansing agent—the Blood of Jesus.

         The worst sins require the death penalty. The Lord Jesus paid that death penalty in full on our behalf. He fulfilled the requirements of the Law regarding sin and whoever applies the penalty He paid toward their own sins will have their long list of violations against God and man expunged, and their official record of sin will be erased as if it never existed.

         This is the Lord’s grace. This is His mercy. This is His love.

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued…]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS POWERFUL SERIES:

DEFINING SIN: The New “Evil is Good-Good is Evil” Paradigm (1)

Galatians Relations—Dismiss the Bris: Abraham’s Real Descendants (Part 2)

         Paul continues here in Chapters 4-6 of Galatians explaining sonship. It is especially gratifying that the Lord Jesus chose a man of Paul’s stature—a spiritual giant though most likely standing under five feet tall—to explain and teach this topic, since he was not only up to the task but brilliant in his knowledge and approach.

         There is still much of this subject that flies over our heads but it is not due to Paul’s teaching; rather, it is due to the overlaid and muddled teachings of subsequent imposters very unclear on the concept—those who have shrouded the simplicity of such a deep subject as expressed here. Others have discounted Paul’s teachings completely. As in so many other areas within the Lord’s pure curriculum that express pure truth, a teaching on this subject cannot possibly please everyone, though some make the attempt and seriously muddy the waters in the process.

         The Lord shines a light on darkness and reveals truth, which puts darkness and untruth in a very uncomfortable place. The Gospel is offensive. Some will run to the Light, others will insist on darkness and remained unmoved. As mentioned in a recent post The Fix Is In: Delusion Illusion (Part 2), the heart of non-disciples is described as being “fat,” and an uncircumcised heart is precisely that.

         A spiritual circumcision of the heart removes the hardened, callous fatty tissue (representing the sinful flesh), and the heart becomes lean, healthy, honest, upright, and without guile. Just as those who undergo corrective heart surgery may feel new life and energy afterwards, so does a new disciple feel the removal of an enormous weight, becoming light on his feet and filled with joy. 

         This illustration of salvation through the application of the death of the Sacrifice Lamb explains well the before and after heart condition of new disciples. The Lord Jesus offered a perfect sacrifice. He lived a sinless life. He obviously also kept the Law of Moses, fulfilling it completely, something no one had ever done. But His focus was not necessarily on keeping an external law or properly completing a religious checklist. However, His focus was certainly on the spirit of the two great commandments. As the Son of God, He loved the Father with all of His heart, mind, soul, and strength, and He loved His neighbor as Himself.

         This proper focus was what Paul explained in Galatians. As shown by the following verses from two other epistles, it is the difference between the spirit and letter of the law:

         For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. [Romans 2:28-29]

         For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. [Romans 7:5-6]

         Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

         Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

         But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. [2 Corinthians 3:1-9]

         Please read these verses in context and become fully familiar with Paul’s teachings on this subject.

         Now, regarding the keeping of the Law of Moses according to the letter, if the Pharisees represented the best at doing this, one can see what happens when people with unrepentant, uncircumcised hearts trust in their religious works and commandment-keeping as their saving grace. It’s not a pretty picture. One can never be saved from sin through these things because such efforts never address the heart of the matter and never remove the underlying cause.

         It is the attempt to treat a disease that has no cure, since the actual cure has been rejected, and then believing in and exalting the faux treatment of the disease, and deceiving oneself and others as to the treatment’s effectiveness, which only makes the disease worse. The Pharisees were actually violating the Torah by lying about its effectiveness as a cure for sin, when the Law expressly states it is a violation of the Law to lie and deceive!

         Prior to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, throughout “Old Testament times,” salvation was gained through an acknowledgement of one’s sin, followed by great repentance, and then followed by pure faith and trust in God and obedience toward Him. This resulted in an actual relationship with God, and the fruit of that relationship showed up through the outflow of one’s heart. It is what Abraham did, and an excellent example of this took place in the life of King David.

         Therefore, those who had such faith were made righteous (characterized as the faith of Abraham), in that a sacrifice would be made for them at a future date, a sacrifice they believed in and looked forward to. This is why the sacrifice of the pure and sinless Lamb of God applied to the furthest points of both the past and the future, and is why Abraham could be saved from the power of sin almost 2,000 years prior to Calvary and why we in the present can be saved as well 2,000 years since.

         Regarding sonship, Paul also explains in Galatians what it takes to be a real child of God and defines the actual “Sons of Abraham.” Recall that John the Immerser told members of the nation of Israel that they could not make the claim to be sons of God simply by being descendants of Abraham:

         “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” [Matthew 3:8-9]

         The apostle further explains that our Lord Jesus was born under the Law in order to redeem those under the Law to receive the adoption as sons who become sons through God and heirs along with Abraham, who was made righteous by faith, not by keeping the Law, which did not even exist at that time.

         Read on as Paul explains to the Galatian Gentiles about Abraham’s two sons and what each represents, and even what the city of Jerusalem represents. And always remember—our Lord Jesus died to give us freedom, to make us free, and to remain forever free. Beware of the ever-bewitching yoke of religious bondage and slavery.

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GALATIANS

Chapter Four:

         Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.

         But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

         However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

         I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.

         Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?

         They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.

         My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

         But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

         For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.”

         And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.

         But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.”

         So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

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Chapter Five:

         It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

         Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

         For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

         You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

         But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

         For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

         But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

         But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

         But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

         Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

         But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

         Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

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Chapter Six:

         Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.

         The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

         Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

         See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

         Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

         For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

            From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen. [1]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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RECOMMENDED MUST READS:

REAL CIRCUMCISION: HEARTS SEWN UP WITH BLUE (Part 1)

REAL CIRCUMCISION: HEARTS SEWN UP WITH BLUE (Part 2)

Galatians Relations—Dismiss the Bris: Abraham’s Real Descendants (Part 1)

         Brother Paul, the one who would not be stopped, the one who insisted on the truth, the one who was revered and respected by all and whose discipleship set a bright glaring standard for the early community of the Lord, had his first go at epistle-writing with his extraordinary, incisive, and revelatory letter to the Galatians.

         He wrote it somewhere in the vicinity of 48-52 AD, probably around the year 49. It had only been about a decade and a half since the Lord’s resurrection and Pentecost, and Paul was already having to apply major corrections to the believers in Galatia and Christians in general.

         They had been subjected to Judaizers, up from Jerusalem (See Acts 15), who insisted upon the adoption of long-held Jewish religious traditions and practices as mandatory for salvation. Though believers in the Lord, they had yet to see the full light of the Gospel and the liberty all followers of the Lord had been called to.

         Paul applied a strong corrective with this first letter to make the rounds, and explained it not only from a Gentile point of view, but from a strong Jewish perspective as well, since he, as a Jew and former Pharisee, was at least the equal of those who were adamant about circumcision et al, and most likely far superior.

         Consider the newness of the times then, all that was being sorted out, and the powerful spiritual warfare taking place with reference to the doctrinal realm and the truth of the Lord’s teachings. And then, apply this short masterwork to today, and consider its full implications concerning the need to return to first principles, the simplicity of the Gospel, and the power of truth to set us free from false doctrine and dead religion.

         I’ve divided the book into two parts—Chapters 1-3 in Part 1, and Chapters 4-6 in Part 2. Be blessed.

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GALATIANS

Chapter One:

         Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:

         Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

         I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing 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 what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

         As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

         For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

         For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

         But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

         Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)

         Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they were glorifying God because of me.

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Chapter Two:

         Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

         But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

         But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

         But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

         But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

         But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

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Chapter Three:

         You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

         So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

         For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

         Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

         What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

         Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

          For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [1]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued.]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

RECOMMENDED MUST READS:

REAL CIRCUMCISION: HEARTS SEWN UP WITH BLUE (Part 1)

REAL CIRCUMCISION: HEARTS SEWN UP WITH BLUE (Part 2)

Throwing Down the Hammer: Conviction of Sin (1)

         “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” [Jeremiah 23:29]

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         “I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” [Revelation 2:23]

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         Almost everyone on the planet thinks he is a good person. There will almost always be someone in someone’s circle of family and friends to honor him regardless of his faults or transgressions. Many continue to honor family members and friends in this way after they pass on. In most cases, like at most funerals, those who have passed on are perceived as veritable saints. They are commended for their personalities, work habits, virtues, or seemingly inherent goodness. It’s rare that someone is not honored at his funeral.

         There is thus a natural defense mechanism in those who defend the ones who cannot defend themselves, and to pay tribute to those who they deem good and have lived a good life. Because there is an emotional connection and love, and because feelings are tender, we always have a tendency to remember the good.

         But such remembrances are usually not complete. God certainly sees the good things we have done, but He also sees the bad things. He knows our virtues, but He also knows our vices. Like most of us, I don’t think His intention is to trash fallible human beings at such a time, those who have done many good things in life and had good intentions or possessed what may be referred to as a “good heart.” He proved this by becoming one of us and giving His life on our behalf.

         But He will never simply cover over our sins or refuse to acknowledge them as most of us would do. That is our foible. It is up to each individual to face the facts in this regard.

         …For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… [Romans 3:23]

         Sin is the most uncomfortable aspect of humanity. We all know we do things we would rather not (excepting, of course, the super saints among us), and many are actually so bound by sin and out of control they are helpless to stop bad behavior. Other people try everything they know to be righteous and often succeed from a human standpoint, but are haunted by failures they cannot overcome. Here’s a guy with this exact problem:

         “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” [Romans 7:19] [1]

         Since there seems to be no cure whatsoever, the solution for many is to simply redefine sin. If all the bad we do is actually not sin (something wrong or evil), then such actions are merely basic and indigenous expressions of humanity. In other words, if there is no such thing as sin then there is no such thing as sinners. It is relatively simple and easy to deceive oneself regarding this, but even easier when society as a whole teaches and enforces the idea, since individual sinners find comfort and security in numbers. Hence, the trashing of longstanding moral codes that have proven to be very effective historically at keeping people and societies moral. This is especially true of the Law of Moses.

         The Torah has POWER in that it brings CONVICTION.

         But conviction of sin is not comfortable. Humans would rather not believe they are perpetrators of evil. Thus, the acknowledgement of sin is opposed by self-righteousness, and the self-righteous are currently winning the battle since they have become the majority. The concept of sin is no longer a viable issue within society as a whole. The truth of sin has generally been rejected.

         But why is this idea just as strong among “Christians?” Why have so many church officials and congregations redefined sin and even eliminated it? Before the Lord brings conviction of sin to the world, He must first bring conviction of sin to Christians. When He does, all who pay attention find out who the real Christians among us are, because real Christians respond to the conviction. Real Christians respond with real repentance, since they acknowledge their sins and feel anguish, distress, and sorrow as a result. Barring such a response, all non-responders, including unreal Christians, remain unconverted, are no different than unregenerate humanity, and remain in their sins.

         The Word of God shines a light upon us outwardly and inwardly, to the depths of our hearts and down to the very genetic and DNA structure. If one has any sin, the Word will reveal it. This is why conviction of sin is a GREAT thing, because it shocks every individual with knowledge of their disease. And sin is the worst of any and all diseases, metastasizing even to the soul.

         Many people have virus protection for their computers. Also, people go to the doctor and get checkups. They have routine medical examinations. And such examinations, like scanning one’s computer, are so thorough and all-encompassing that anything possibly wrong is rarely missed. The technology for detecting problems, even at a very early level, is impressive.

         Now imagine the Word of God as a sin detector. God searches the soul the way doctors and medical technicians examine the physical body. While their means are impressive, His methods are perfect.

         But they can only work if we make an appointment.

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Two Days Before the Cross

         “I’m concerned about Him. It seems He has a death wish.”

         The noise of the city had died down considerably as evening descended. There was a slight cool in the air as the two men sat discussing the events of the day.

         “I’ve never heard Him say anything against Moses. He honors Abraham. He speaks well of our prophets. Someone did a good job of raising Him in the beliefs of our fathers.”

         “Yes, but He has also said some things that seem to oppose those beliefs. I was listening to Him one day several months ago and He seemed to discount our law. He was teaching against the concept of an eye for an eye. It seems He was saying there is a better way to go about things.”

         “But how can anything be better than what Moses has given us?”

         “Well, sometimes it seems we have to honor aspects of our law that go against a better outcome. I mean, if a man loses an eye through the accident of another, through the actions of a man who had no intent to do such a thing, such a man must be forced to pay with an eye anyway. Shouldn’t he be allowed to plead his case?

         “But that would violate the law, would it not?”

         “And why should a man of God ride a donkey into the great city in the manner He did? What was that?”

         “It was another one of those coincidences that point toward prophecy. You know the scripture.”

         “Yes, I know, I know. But then right after that His actions were completely unfounded. What man can come into our holy temple area and do what He did? Where is the justification for all the mayhem He caused? People were shocked at His behavior, many of them the same people who had been praising His arrival just before that. And you know He will never get away with it. It’s been two days now, and I fear for His safety. The men, the men He is dealing with will never stand for such actions.”

         “Do you know of something stirring?”

         “I feel it stirring in my heart. This man Yehoshua has not only attacked our traditions, He has attacked a cabal of powerful people, men whom even I fear.”

         “But we both know there is graft and usury, and these men have become rich in the process. Between you and me, in these moments of hidden conversation, can we not at least mention the violations before us? This prophet, or whatever He may be, He saw as we see. Yet we would never make any attempt to correct the wrongs as He did. He has displayed a power of character and a courage we do not have.”

         “And unless He has left the area, I fear He will pay for His courage. This whole thing against our religious traditions has continued building over time. He seems like a man who is starting a war. I had kept hearing reports of him, and also heard with my own ears on occasion, that He is constantly opposing some aspect of our religion, and has even railed against our holy men.”

         “Yes, He has. But no holy man of ours ever had a viable retort. His teachings keep trumping our traditions…”

         “But some of the things He’s done make a mockery of justice. I heard that He refused to press charges against a lowlife woman who was clearly caught and exposed in the very act of adultery. She should have been stoned according to our law. Moses gave no exceptions.”

         “But I remember His answer. Its profoundness and simplicity still amaze me. Very clear…”

         “That only one who has no sin can apply the sentence? How many times have such sentences been carried out in our long history? Were those who threw the stones always without sin? This idea makes a mockery of justice. Who is without sin?”

         “Those who make the proper sacrifices, that’s who. Those who live a pure and clean life. Those who keep the Torah. It is the burden of the righteous.”

         “I don’t know about that anymore. I have always believed in those things and supported our way of life and laws, but He has showed me that our application and interpretation of the law is not so pure. He keeps showing us holes and inconsistencies and misapplications within our traditions. He is showing that while the law may be perfect, we often do not do a very good job in its application.”

         “You think she should not have been stoned? Isn’t it clear the law says she should be?”

         “Yes. It says that. But they all dropped their rocks and walked away. They decided they could not be the ones who carried out the sentence.”

         “But how did that happen? They had all been so sure.”

         “It’s the same reason I’m wondering about all these things just now…”

         By then the night had fallen. The streets outside had grown quiet and a cool breeze touched their faces. It was one of those moments when one respected the silence and comfort of the evening, when work was done, and when one thought of things usually not possible during the busy day.

         The two men sat motionless, somewhat deep in thought. They happened to be looking east out a large window from a second story room, toward the Mount of Olives. Occasionally, one of them would take sip of tea. As they pondered the subject before them, not wanting to disrespect what seemed to be a holy time and a moment of reflection, they beheld an astounding sight.

         There before them, peeking up from the high eastern ridge, was a bright orange waxing moon, almost full. In a few seconds they were bathed in light. The darkness of the room and city streets vanished but their eyes remained fixed on the natural wonder before them. Brighter and bigger it became until it lifted off completely from the earth, as in a slow ascent toward heaven. In that moment their thoughts also shoved off into the air, and they saw things a little clearer.

         They could not express it, though. Both of these men knew there was something different about the Man of their discussion. They did not understand, what with all the competing thoughts and different doctrines and contrary applications of the great law. But each of them knew on a deeper level that this former carpenter from Nazareth, of all places, had captured their hearts.

         And in the deep darkness of ancient Jerusalem, on an early spring night long ago, the Light had come.

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

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         [Thanks to all for visiting. Stay tuned. The third part and conclusion of this series, The Hebrew Month of Nisan: Atonement and Resurrection, will be posted tomorrow.]