Showing posts with label Galatians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Galatians. Show all posts

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Flyover Country: Galatians

Justification before God is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Any requirement beyond the exercise of faith reduces the Christian gospel to the level of the world’s false religions, making salvation to whatever degree a work of man rather than a work of God.

In Galatians, Paul argues that to import even the smallest human work into salvation is to be severed from Christ and to desert God. Christ-plus-anything is a recipe for spiritual disaster and eternal loss.

That makes Galatians one of the most important letters ever written. It is literally a life-saver.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Unbearable Heaviness of Individuality

“Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king's house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place …”

“Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place …”

Ah, the kings of Israel. Their history is very much like that of all the idolatrous nations around them. Somebody gets the kingship, then somebody else murders him and takes over. And each one is as bad as the last.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” as Roger Daltrey famously intoned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

A One-Sentence Prayer

“The Lord be with your spirit.”

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

This first quote is the last line of 2 Timothy. The second is the last line of both Galatians and Philemon. Paul liked to close with it when writing people he cared about passionately, meaning that it wasn’t a throwaway sentiment or a meaningless spiritual cliché. It’s more than a fond wish; it’s a one-sentence prayer, or a blessing.

So what is he saying exactly?

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Doesn’t Always Mean What We Think It Means (8)

Compare the usage of the word “condemn” in the following two passages:

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.”

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.”

Assuming you are familiar with both verses in their original contexts, you will probably agree with me that the word is being used to describe two distinct degrees of hazard, one considerably more severe than the other.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Bible Study 08 — Context [Part 2]

Another instalment in the re-presentation of our 2013-2014 series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

The second Bible study tool we are discussing is context. For justification, see the previous post on this subject.


It should come as no great surprise that the Bible is full of quotations, most of which are from some other book of the Bible. New Testament writers especially tend to reinforce their points with quotations from the Old.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

In Due Season

The author, on one of his better days.

I get tired.

I’m a little tired right now, as a matter of fact. There are days and weeks when I seem to be doing the same thing over and over again, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. And I think, “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” I’ve asked the Lord about it, I’ve prayed for a resolution, and yet …

Yeah, you guessed it: every week, it’s just more of the same.

It’s a special sort of modern, western, slightly self-indulgent “tired”, when you think about it. Persecuted Christians get tired too, I’m sure, but in a very different way. Despair and exhaustion are a far cry from boredom and ennui.

But we in western Christian culture have the malaise of repetitive, often (apparently) ineffectual service to contend with nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (15)

In our early twenties, my cousin and I would get together once a week or so to study the Bible and debate theology. Our discussions were mostly amiable but a little frustrating for both of us. Because we attended churches that held very different views about the meaning of Bible prophecy and the future prospects of God’s earthly people, our underlying assumptions about the meaning of the texts we studied together were sharply at odds far too frequently for comfort.

One regular bone of contention was the meaning of the word “Israel”. My cuz used it figuratively, I used it literally, and back and forth we went. We never did resolve our debate. Funnily enough, I am still thrashing this out on a regular basis, just with different people.

And ... here it is again.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Wikipedia vs. Baptism

Where does one begin on the subject of baptism?

If there is a more misunderstood Christian practice in all of the New Testament, I cannot think what it might be. I suspect even speaking in tongues can’t touch it with respect to the degree of confusion produced by the teaching about it currently circulating.

How widespread and how deeply rooted are the misconceptions surrounding baptism? I suppose one might look at different denominational opinions on the subject and assess them one by one, but I’m really more interested in what the man on the street (and perhaps even in the pew) thinks than in esoteric positions held by theologians that have failed to make an impression on the masses.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Which Sense Makes the Most Sense?

In my internet wanderings, I frequently come across believers who are utterly convinced that the spiritual not only trumps the natural but invalidates it entirely.

There is indeed something to the first part of that: the spiritual is bound to be more important to the Christian than that which is merely natural. If we must choose, for instance, between responding to the promptings of flesh or Spirit, of course Spirit wins every time ... or ought to.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Unbearable Heaviness of Individuality

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Written On Their Hearts

“Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham …”

“Scripture imprisoned everything under sin …”

Yes, the scripture is indeed the word of God. All the same, I have great confidence in assuring you that scripture — graphē, if you prefer Greek — did not do a single thing described in these verses. Not literally. A piece of paper, papyrus or animal skin does not “foresee”. It does not “preach”. It does not “imprison” anyone.

It can’t. It couldn’t. Ink, paper, the printed medium — these things are inanimate.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Castle and the Cave

It is often said that the three enemies of the human soul are the world, the flesh and the devil. The first and last members of this triad are instantly understood; the middle one ... well, not always.

In the New Testament, the word “flesh” (Gk: sarx) possesses a range of related meanings from merely natural (“the two will become one flesh”) to expressly wicked (“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these”).

This being the case, when we come across references to “the flesh” we may find it helpful to ask ourselves in which sense it is being used.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elementary, My Dear Christian

The giving of the law to Israel through Moses at Sinai was a truly spectacular event, attended by “blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them,” as the writer to the Hebrews so eloquently puts it.

The law that God gave on that grand occasion is described in glowing terms by the psalmist: wondrous, delightful, sufficient for all sorts of situations, sweeter than honey, perfect, sure, right and true. Of all legal codes by which men have ordered their societies down through the centuries, the law of Sinai was the very best.

But law itself did not originate at Sinai. Laws were no new thing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Flitting Sparrow

Just more hot air ...
Most curses are just bunches of empty words. After all, a curse can’t do any real damage without the cooperation of the divine Third Party whose power they attempt to invoke.

In any case, we’re not big on curses in our modern world. Oh, I don’t mean profanity: as a culture we’re pretty much over the top with that, as anyone with Netflix will easily confirm. But the real deal — the Old Testament “God is gonna getcha” kind of curse — is rare. And that’s a good thing, I think.

All the same, some curses are very powerful indeed. One or two are even of historic import.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Inbox: Timing Is Everything

God’s timing is always impeccable.

The gospel spread like wildfire in the first century precisely because God had put all the pieces in place centuries prior. As James noted when the apostles and elders gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of imposing the Law of Moses on Gentiles, “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues”.

Ironically, the fact that the whole world of James’ day had access to an obscure set of Jewish laws was a function of Israel’s disobedience.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Christianity Without Christ

If you missed the goings-on in the streets of San Jose last week outside a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump, you might have been the only one. Protesters waved Mexican flags and were caught on camera burning Trump hats, egging, punching and kicking Trump supporters and calling them “racists” and “fascists”. One police officer was assaulted. Video clips on YouTube show victims almost uniformly white and attackers almost uniformly Hispanic.

A minor skirmish, really, but we’re only in June. It’s a long way to November, and there’s no guarantee the election of a new president — no matter who he or she may be — will do anything to substantially ease racial tensions.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

John Piper, Social Activism and ‘Doing Good’

Debt in the Americas by % of GDP
(hint: black is not good)
Extracted from their original context, many verses may be stretched to the point where they say almost anything we’d like them to.

John Piper, for instance, finds social activism in scripture in places where, try as I might, I just don’t see it:

“It is right and good to pursue obedience to Galatians 6:10, which says: ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.’ ”

With you so far, John. But now things get dicey. In Mr. Piper’s view, “doing good” is a pretty broad term.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

It’s Alive!

Sometimes you can learn as much by the way something is said as you can from the content of the message itself.

The incidental assumptions upon which the teaching of the apostles is based are often as fascinating and revealing as the assertions of truth themselves. Their absolute conviction with respect to the source, nature, reliability and accuracy of the word of God is the bedrock upon which every Christian doctrine rests.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rhetoric and Dialectic

Cry of the Prophet Jeremiah, Ilya Repin, 1870
If we were to read only the King James Version of the Bible, we might be forgiven for imagining that there is some sort of distinctive manner in which its characters converse or write on God’s behalf; some sort of major communication hurdle which either repels us or needs to be laboriously surmounted over time.

Of course a moment’s reflection would tell us this idea is nonsensical. When accurately rendered in a current iteration of English or any other language, the Bible is much easier to read and understand than is often thought. Its translators do their job more efficiently and with increasing frequency as years go by, which is very much to our benefit.

In fact, we often make understanding the Bible far more difficult for ourselves by failing to recognize in it the same features of language that we employ day after day in our own conversations.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Due Season

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

‘Sola Fide’: Can It Be Enough Just To Believe?

Many denominations and sects teach that putting faith in Christ is not enough to save.

They claim that in order to gain or to keep one’s salvation it is necessary to try and keep at least part of the Old Testament Law. 

So what does Scripture say?

Since the beginning man’s pride has driven him to try and please God by his own efforts. The Bible says that man must cease wanting to boast of his own righteousness and recognize that he can do nothing to merit God’s favor: salvation is by God’s grace alone.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Wikipedia vs. Baptism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bible Study 08 — Context [Part 2]

The most recent version of this post is available here.