Students who study from a dictionary.
Students who study by the topic (grammar, idioms, business communication etc). Excel in one field but overall language development is stilted and unnatural.
It might help temporarily for a test but once the test is over, it’s of little use and doesn’t help much with overall improvement.
My recommendation: read!
We can be like that in church. We tend to focus on topics – what does the Bible say about guidance or dating or spiritual gifts or missions or end times etc etc? Like my students who are studying for a test, this might be helpful in the short term but it does little for overall development.
The Bible wasn’t written in topics! Ever wondered why? The Bible was written as a series of books and letters which form a ‘whole’ – which we miss out on if we insist on only focussing on individual topics.
So while we will continue to focus on topics like ‘discipleship’, today we will also start to methodically work through the book of Galations to try to get the ‘whole’ of what God is saying to us through that book.
1:1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—
There are some amazing truths right here in verse 1 that many of us would just gloss right over.
i. Paul identifies himself and associates himself with the gospel right from the get-go. There is no anonymity in the faith. As I mentioned in Tuesday’s church mail, an ongoing public confession of our faith is an essential part of living out our salvation. Paul begins with this, with his calling as an apostle of God, and with the very heart of the gospel – that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is where it all begins.
1:2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,
Paul is not a lone wolf. He is not some maverick trying to break ranks and go it alone. There is a warning here. We need to be aware of those who come into a church claiming to be someone on their own without the backing and support of others known in the faith. (I’ve learnt!) Paul is writing with the full support and knowledge of his brothers and sisters in the faith. (Paul is also writing to a church which he helped establish – the readers already knew Paul well.)
1:3-5 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul combines his greeting to the church with the essence of the gospel. This is a fine way to start the letter. It is a fine way to begin a testimony in church. But let’s be level-headed: it is probably not the best way to start a conversation in general terms.
David: “Hi Andrew, how are you this week?”
Andrew: “Grace and peace to you, David, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Even in church that would be awkward. Imagine how awkward it would be with outsiders. In visiting other churches, I’ve met people who seemed incapable of speaking about anything other than the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. I appreciate the truth of the statement and our conversation should be godly, but such lofty words in conversation can make it difficult to build a relationship. In the gospel records, Jesus seemed to have a much more casual (but meaningful) way of speaking with people.
v4 “to rescue us from the present evil age”
This is an apt reminder that we are not just saved from our sins in a general, cosmic sense and then we just get on with our lives otherwise unchanged and no different from those around us. We have been “rescued from the present evil age”. It means we no longer involve ourselves in the drunkenness and promiscuity and gossip and cheating and lying and the general me-first selfishness of this present evil age. We’ve been rescued from all that. Why dabble in it any longer? Why even let ourselves be entertained by it? Embrace the rescue from it!
v5 ‘Amen’ is not the end! ‘Amen’ means ‘I agree’ or ‘let it be so’. How often do we receive a word from God and let that be the amen-end of it when God has so much more to offer! Imagine if the readers of Paul’s letter stopped reading when they got to this amen! How much they would have missed!
When you have a quiet time and you’re before the Lord and He speaks to your heart, don’t just say thank you, put the Bible down and go on your merry way. I believe that is nearly always just the entree. Stay for the main course! And the dessert! Don’t cheat yourself by hurrying God. Take your time before Him. Be still. Wait on Him. Listen carefully. Receive fully.
1:6-10 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Here Paul is talking about the importance of staying true to the true gospel. It is not a work of man, and we can be thankful it is certainly not the work of a church committee. It is the revelation of God. It is not to be changed, softened or deviated from.
In Paul’s day, people – believers – were trying to pervert the gospel by insisting that to truly be saved people had to be circumcised. Salvation was perverted as ‘Jesus and circumcision’.
In the middle ages, the gospel was perverted by elements of the church where salvation could only be secured by purchasing official church ‘pardons’ from sin. Salvation was perverted as ‘Jesus and the church pardon’.
Today we have believers like Rob Bell putting out messages through glossy, best selling books which promote ‘universal reconciliation’ – that is, that everyone goes to heaven regardless of what they believe or how they live; a loving God would have it no other way. Salvation is perverted as ‘Jesus and the denial of hell’. (John Piper: “Goodbye Rob Bell”) But that is not what the gospel teaches. That is not the message that Jesus taught.
And Paul tells us plainly here that If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (9)
So this calls for us to know our Bibles well. We need to know the gospel well so that we are not swayed or mislead by false attractive-sounding gospels. We can know our Bibles well by reading them daily – ideally with the aid of a recognised Bible study book, and by coming to church and having the pleasure of listening to people like me and Mike and others explain passages and elucidate meanings for you:)
Paul’s final point in his introduction and the point that I will finish on today too is that of living to please God, and not to please people.
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Pleasing People: How Not to Be an “Approval Junkie” by Lou Priolo (2007)
i. An approval junkie fears the displeasure of man more than the displeasure of God.
ii. He desires the praise of man above the praise of God.
iii. He studies what it takes to please man as much as (if not more than) what it takes to please God.
iv. His speech is designed to entice and flatter others into thinking well of him [rather than of God].
v. He is a respecter of persons (he respects certain persons above others).
vi. He selfishly uses the wisdom, abilities, and gifts that have been given to him for God’s glory and the benefit of others for his own glory and personal benefit.
vii. He invests more of his personal resources in establishing his own honor than he does in establishing God’s honor.
viii. He is discontented with the condition and proportion that God has appointed for him.
The bottom line here, as Paul says, is that we cannot be a disciple of Christ if we are still trying to please people, rather than God.
John 12:42, 43
At the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
Let us be devoted to
– knowing the true gospel,
– living as people who have been rescued from this world, and
– pleasing God in all we do and say.
- 行い、発言のすべてにおいて神を喜ばすこと に専念していきましょう。